Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies received from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Road Tolling.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

11 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport the way in which and when he intends to legislate for open road tolling; and the distinction drawn between barrier free tolling and open road tolling. [35896/05]

Open road tolling, that is, the collection of tolls by automated means in a barrier free environment, is the optimal means of toll collection where the traffic volumes and toll revenues justify the investment required.

My Department is currently reviewing the need to change, where necessary, the legislative framework so as to facilitate the introduction of open road tolling. In particular, it is likely that legislation will be needed to implement appropriate deterrents for non payment of tolls in an open road tolling environment. I anticipate, subject to the other priorities on the legislative programme, that the draft legislation will be introduced early next year.

Open road tolling implies that there are no toll booths for manual collection, that is, all tolls are collected by automated means. The only route where a move to full open road tolling, that is, no manual collection and barrier free, is being considered is the M50. Automated toll collection is currently in use on existing toll plazas and provides for one toll lane in each direction dedicated to the automated collection of tolls. A physical barrier is used on the lanes to prevent non-payment of tolls. A mixed operation toll plaza could involve both manual and automated lanes but without barriers on the automated lanes. I have made clear to the NRA that I am anxious to move to barrier free tolling on the M50 as quickly as possible.

Public Transport.

Seán Ryan

Question:

12 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Transport his Department’s involvement in the sanctioning of fare increases or the setting of maximum fares in respect of annual commuter tickets; the role that his Department has played in the setting of maximum fares and the setting of fare structures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35971/05]

Although there is no statutory basis for it, there is a long-standing convention that increases in standard single CIE fares of CIE and the RPA are approved by me. This control covers only the basic standard single journey fares for adults and children. It does not extend to return fares or to weekly, monthly or annual fares or to other concessionary, premium or promotional fares. The level of discount applied to these fares is a discretionary commercial decision for the board and management of CIE and its operating companies. Fare structures are a matter for the individual operating companies. The fares of private operators are not regulated by me.

Light Rail Project.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

13 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport the cost benefit analysis he has completed in respect of individual projects mentioned in Transport 21. [35970/05]

The projects within Transport 21 will be subject to: normal statutory procedures where required; capital appraisal in line with the Department of Finance guidelines; and the value for money initiatives set out in the Minister for Finance's speech of 20 October last. Some elements of the overall investment programme, including metro north and the rail investment programme for the greater Dublin area, have had business cases prepared for them by their promoting agencies. These business cases included an economic evaluation.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

14 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Transport the reason the metro line proposed to run from Tallaght via Terenure and Kimmage to the city centre has been dropped under the Transport 21 strategy. [36015/05]

Plans for a metro line from Tallaght via Kimmage to the city centre have not been dropped. Transport 21 provides for feasibility studies for this and other projects, including the proposed Luas line from the city centre to Dundrum via Terenure, over the course of the programme. While Transport 21 involves a very large commitment of financial resources, those resources are also finite. It has, therefore, been necessary to prioritise the investments to be made over the ten-year period. Tallaght is served at present by the Luas red line. The other areas mentioned by the Deputy are currently served by two QBCs, Rathfarnham and Tallaght, and a significant number of bus services.

Transport 21 includes a substantial financial provision for the development of bus services and for the doubling of the quality bus network over the period of the programme.

Question No. 15 answered with QuestionNo. 9.

Public Transport.

Seán Crowe

Question:

16 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied with the provision of public transport for rural areas under the transport plan. [35796/05]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

169 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Transport if funding will be provided in 2006 under the rural transport initiative to provide a transport service to cover the north east Galway region to enable elderly persons with no transportation of their own be provided with transport to local towns and services as is available in south east Galway in order that all citizens of Galway are treated equally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36091/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 16 and 169 together.

The Government's ten-year transport investment framework, Transport 21, which was launched recently, provides for significant funding for an expansion of public transport infrastructure and services. At the same time I will provide significant additional funding under the rural transport initiative, RTI, for public transport in rural areas.

Since 2002, my Department has been operating the RTI, a pilot rural transport programme. Under the initiative, funding is provided for 34 rural community organisations throughout the country to address the public transport needs of their areas through the provision of local transport services.

Area Development Management Limited, ADM, administers the RTI on behalf of my Department. ADM and the individual RTI projects are solely responsible for all the operational aspects of the initiative, including the areas to be served by the RTI projects, and neither I nor my Department have any role in these matters.

I have provided €4.5 million in funding for the RTI in 2005, which is a 50% increase on the 2004 allocation and I will provide €5 million for the initiative in 2006. By the end of 2005 total funding for the initiative will have been over €13 million which compares with the original proposed allocation of €4.4 million in the National Development Plan 2000-06.

Earlier this year I announced the extension of the pilot phase of the initiative to the end of 2006. In this I was taking account of the principal recommendation of the appraisal of the RTI, carried out in 2004. I also announced that from 2007 onwards I intend to put the scheme on a permanent footing. Pending the conclusion of the pilot phase of the RTI, it is not proposed to expand the number of RTI projects.

I have already announced that in parallel with the implementation of Transport 21, I will double the cash funding available to the scheme by 2007. Thereafter, I will steadily increase the funding available for rural transport services, ultimately to a cash level about four times what it is this year.

Proposals for the roll-out of a permanent structure for the delivery of rural transport services in the post 2006 period are currently under consideration in my Department. When finalised, they will be the subject of a public consultation process. In developing these proposals, I will pay particular attention to the transport needs of rural areas that are not currently served by public transport.

Light Rail Project.

Billy Timmins

Question:

17 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Transport when construction of the Luas line to Bray, County Wicklow, will commence; if this is being done by the State or by private investment; the area in which the line will end in Bray; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35805/05]

Transport 21 includes the completion of the Luas line from Sandyford to Cherrywood by 2010 and from Cherrywood to Bray by 2015. Subject to compliance with the relevant statutory procedures, I expect construction of the Cherrywood extension to start during 2006. On 7 November 2005, I received an application from the Railway Procurement Agency for a railway order in respect of a proposed Luas extension from Sandyford to Cherrywood. I have directed that a public inquiry be held into the application and an inspector to conduct the public inquiry has been appointed.

While the proposed extensions will not be developed as public private partnerships, I expect that the private sector will fund a significant proportion of the cost through, inter alia, levies on developers under the Planning and Development Act 2000. Pending completion of planning work, public consultation and the statutory approval process, it is not possible to be precise about the location of the terminus at Bray.

Park and Ride Facilities.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

18 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the level of funding which has been secured for the provision of increased park and ride facilities nationally; the amounts and location of each individually proposed park and ride facility; the number of applications which his Department has received from parties interested in providing such facilities; if such projects will receive Exchequer capital grants; the number of increased park and ride facilities envisaged; when same will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35997/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

30 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the reason park and ride or adequate shuttle bus services are not being provided at all rail stations, particularly in the commuter belt with the objective of encouraging motorists towards rail transport with particular reference to the obvious need to double traffic on all commuter lines immediately thereby relieving road traffic congestion with consequent benefit to all sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35930/05]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

40 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Transport his plans to build or encourage private industry to build park and ride structures along the main national primaries as they join the M50; his views on whether such facilities would minimise the traffic chaos in the centre of Dublin and maximise the bus corridors, which are clearly under utilised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35883/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18, 30, and 40 together.

It is a key aim of the Department of Transport to develop an integrated transport system that will be an attractive alternative to the private car and help to minimise traffic congestion in urban areas. Provision of adequate park and ride facilities at appropriate locations around the country is an essential component in achieving this goal. In this context, Transport 21 includes substantial funding for traffic management measures, including a provision for doubling of park and ride sites in the greater Dublin area and for park and ride sites in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford. Furthermore, this summer I approved the Dublin Transportation Office, DTO, strategy for the development of rail-based park and ride facilities in the greater Dublin area, GDA, and included a provision that bus-based park and ride will also be considered.

I am happy to be in a position to say that my Department will provide capital funding for the development of new park and ride facilities across the country. The allocation of funding to specific projects will be subject to the submission to my Department of proposals from private or public bodies based on comprehensive business cases. Among other criteria, applications will be evaluated in the light of the strategic benefit of each proposed location from the perspectives of public transport provision and traffic congestion relief. It is not possible to say at this juncture that park and ride facilities at each and every railway station will be appropriate.

Financial provision has been made for park and ride in Transport 21. However, it is not possible pending the receipt of specific applications to predict the cost of individual proposals or the total number of spaces which will ultimately be made available. My Department has received several expressions of interest regarding potential park and ride projects, and expects to receive specific proposals in the near future, which will then be evaluated.

Apart from specific proposals for funding which may be submitted on the basis set out above, park and ride will also be provided as part of major transport projects, such as the Cork suburban rail and Kildare route projects. The question of providing shuttle bus services to rail stations will be considered as part of the bus investment programme under Transport 21. As I indicated at the launch of Transport 21, the role of the bus will change as the major rail investments are completed, with a greater emphasis on orbital, feeder and local bus services.

Question No. 19 answered with QuestionNo. 9.

State Airline.

Finian McGrath

Question:

20 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the situation at Aer Lingus. [30219/05]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

32 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport when he proposes to complete the sale of Aer Lingus. [35973/05]

Bernard Allen

Question:

57 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Transport if he supports the view expressed by Aer Lingus’s chief executive officer that the partial sale of a share in Aer Lingus must take place at least by the third quarter of 2006; if he is working toward such a deadline and will achieve same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36009/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

178 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the position in relation to the future of Aer Lingus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36246/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos 20, 32, 57 and 178 together.

As the Deputies will be aware, in its decision of 18 May the Government agreed to the State disposing of a majority shareholding in Aer Lingus and retaining a stake of at least 25% to protect strategic interests provided that both myself and the Minister for Finance are satisfied that this level of disposal is warranted on foot of the analysis prepared by the Department's advisers for the transaction.

Following a competitive tender process, UBS and AIB Capital Markets were appointed to provide financial advice and assistance to both myself and the Minister for Finance in relation to an Aer Lingus sale-investment transaction. William Fry Solicitors and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer were appointed as legal advisers for the assignment.

Work on phase 1 of the assignment is currently at an advanced stage and is expected to be completed in December 2005. This phase involves recommending the most appropriate transaction mechanism, including advice on its size, type and timing which will then be considered by myself and the Minister for Finance. Phase 2 of the advisers assignment will involve the execution of the chosen transaction.

For its part, in accordance with the Government decision of 18 May, Aer Lingus is currently preparing a plan for future growth on the basis that additional equity capital will be available within a reasonable timescale. The company has appointed Goldman Sachs and Merrion Capital as financial advisers to provide advice and assistance in the context of the investment process.

Specifically in relation to timing, and subject to the views and recommendations put forward by the advisers, I recognise the need for an early completion of a transaction to support Aer Lingus's new plan for growth and in the context of a move to open skies.

Proposed Legislation.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

21 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport his proposals on bus licensing reform; the way in which these discussions with interested parties have progressed during 2005; and when he will be introducing primary legislation in this regard. [35898/05]

John Perry

Question:

66 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on the progress made to date in 2005 in relation to the establishment of a public transport commission; the deadline for when such a commission will be fully operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36008/05]

John Perry

Question:

97 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Transport if officials from his Department have met private sector bus operators in relation to the introduction of competition in the Dublin bus market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36007/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21, 66 and 97 together.

I am committed to the delivery of a high quality, effective public transport system in which buses will continue to play a central role. At the launch of Transport 21, I said that I was convinced that we need a new approach to transport in the greater Dublin area, delivered through a single authority with the power to ensure joined-up thinking and delivery across all transport modes. In pursuit of that objective, I have appointed a team chaired by Professor Margaret O'Mahony to finalise the remit, structures and human resource requirements of the proposed authority. When considering the remit of the authority, I have asked the team to have regard to the importance of timely and effective implementation of the Transport 21 investment programme in the greater Dublin area, of delivering an integrated transport system and of ensuring effective inter-agency co-operation and co-ordination.

As regards modernising the regulatory framework governing public transport, officials in my Department have held extensive discussions with representatives of Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus and the private bus sector, along with other stakeholders during 2005. In the light of my proposals for a Dublin transport authority, there is also a need to ensure that proposals in that regard are coherent with the institutional arrangements being made for the implementation of Transport 21, particularly in the greater Dublin area. I will review how best to proceed with public transport reform and the proposal for a public transport commission after Professor O'Mahony's team has reported and the Government has made decisions on the proposed transport authority for the greater Dublin area.

Traffic Management.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

22 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport the interim measures he is taking to deal with traffic congestion in the greater Dublin area pending the full implementation of Transport 21. [35902/05]

Since 1997, this Government has been implementing a sustained programme to develop key elements of our transport system and reduce congestion. Transport 21 has secured funding for a major public transport investment programme designed to inject a large amount of additional capacity into the public transport network over the next ten years. Existing programmes, such as my Department's traffic management grants scheme will ensure continued and enhanced funding, through the DTO, to local authorities and the quality bus network office, for investment in traffic management schemes throughout the greater Dublin area. The main objective of this scheme is to improve operating conditions for the fleet of buses serving the GDA. A major investment in additional bus capacity is also planned which will be used to meet the immediate and short term requirements for additional public transport while other infrastructure is being put in place.

The opening of the Dublin Port tunnel in mid-2006 will have a positive impact on Dublin's traffic removing substantial volumes of heavy goods vehicles daily from our roads. This will not only help to ease congestion on the roads network but will also ensure greater road safety in the city centre and residential areas. There will also be significant benefits from the DART upgrade project which has seen DART capacity double in recent years.

As part of the Government's ongoing efforts to deal with congestion in Dublin, my Clare Street initiative, CSI, will promote additional measures to progress effective implementation of traffic management and related measures in the greater Dublin area and to bring added value to major transport investments that are under way and planned.

Public Transport.

Richard Bruton

Question:

23 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport if he has instructed Dublin Bus to fast-track the delivery of real time information on its bus services in the capital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36012/05]

I advise the Deputy that a pilot real time passenger information, RTPI, scheme is currently in operation on Dublin Bus routes in west Dublin where 30 RTPI units are fitted to bus stops. I understand Dublin Bus is reviewing the operation of this pilot scheme before deciding how to proceed with the wider application of RTPI across the Dublin Bus network.

Road Safety.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

24 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Transport the way in which and when he proposes to provide for the commitment in the road safety strategy to amend section 22 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 to provide for greater charges for convicted drink drivers. [35905/05]

Gay Mitchell

Question:

82 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport when random breath testing will be introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36014/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 24 and 82 together.

The question of the adoption of changes in the circumstances where the driver of a vehicle can be made the subject of a preliminary roadside breath test has been the subject of considerable debate and consideration for some time.

The current road safety strategy recommends that the introduction of random breath testing should be pursued within its operational time frame of 2004 to 2006. Against that background, my Department is examining the development of a scheme for a more general basis for roadside testing in close consultation with the Office of the Attorney General.

Drink driving laws are regularly challenged in the higher courts so it is important that any such initiative can withstand legal challenge. This requires that a balance be struck such that measures aimed at reducing road fatalities, which are clearly for the common good, are proportional in that they have proper regard to the legal rights of the individual.

I wish to find an approach to extending the scope of roadside breath testing in a manner which, both has regard to the legal concerns regarding proportionality, but also gives gardaí significant additional scope to demand that motorists submit to roadside breath testing.

I recently met the Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and party spokespersons for a discussion focused solely on this issue at which I outlined the legal concerns as I understand them. I am endeavouring to work with my colleagues on the committee to find a solution to this issue which crosses party boundaries.

In the meantime, gardaí are empowered to require that all drivers involved in road collisions or detected committing any traffic offences must submit to road-side breath tests. This is in addition to the power to demand that a driver who in the opinion of a garda has consumed alcohol must submit to such a test.

The proposal in the road safety strategy to advance random breath testing represents one of a number of linked initiatives in the area of drink driving that will be pursued together. These include a specific proposal for an increase in the charge imposed by the courts under section 22 of the Road Traffic Act 1994, on those convicted of drink driving as a contribution towards the costs of the medical bureau of road safety in carrying out their analysis.

Question No. 25 answered with QuestionNo. 9.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

26 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport if he has had correspondence with the parents of a person (details supplied); if not the reason for same; if he will discuss with them their concerns in relation to road safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36032/05]

My Department and the NRA have received correspondence, both directly and indirectly, from the parents of the person who tragically lost her life in a road accident on the N59 at Murrivagh, Westport in December 2004. The concerns raised in this correspondence relate mainly to the possible contribution of road conditions at the scene of the accident and the adequacy of the supervision of improvement works carried out by local authorities. These concerns have been brought to the attention of the NRA which is responsible for the improvement and maintenance of the national road network. I understand that the NRA has updated and reissued guidance to local authorities in relation to pavement improvement works and resurfacing. Both I and my Department would be glad to consider the views of the family involved on road safety generally.

Staff Pensions.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

27 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport the progress he has made in meeting the concerns of the Retired Aviation Staff Association regarding pension shortfalls. [35897/05]

The Irish airlines — general employees — superannuation scheme is a multi-employer scheme which, in addition to Aer Lingus and the Dublin Airport Authority, formerly Aer Rianta, also includes a private sector company, SR Technics, formerly FLS Aerospace-Team Aer Lingus. I have met representatives of RASA on a number of occasions and I appreciate that they have genuine concerns about their pensions.

Pension entitlements for employees of commercial State bodies, including Aer Lingus and the Dublin Airport Authority, are matters for the trustees, members of the relevant scheme and the company or companies involved. The State is not involved in the funding of these schemes. It is my understanding that the company recently met with representatives of RASA concerning this matter.

Transport Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

28 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which a proper evaluation and feasibility study has been undertaken in respect of his recently announced Transport 21 programme, with a view to achieving full integration between air, road, rail, tunnel and underground system with the objective of avoiding the cost overruns and the disjointed results of previous similar initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35931/05]

Damien English

Question:

46 Mr. English asked the Minister for Transport the reason he is not in a position to provide start dates for the commencement of projects set out in his Transport 21 strategy; if the completion dates set out for such projects can be realised in the absence of the latter dates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36023/05]

John Gormley

Question:

72 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Transport his reasons for not making the Transport 21 plan available for public comment; his plans for the publication of the plan; and the cost incurred in the creation of the plan. [36061/05]

Joan Burton

Question:

81 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport when he expects to be in a position to provide detailed costings of the projects promised under Transport 21. [35886/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

182 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the criteria it is intended to apply to ensure that no overspends or wastage occurs in the context of Transport 21; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36262/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

187 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his plans to ensure that Transport 21 does not entail the kind of overspend associated with previous traffic plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36267/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28, 46, 72, 81, 182 and 187 together.

Transport 21 is a fully costed programme. The €34.4 billion cost is based on the aggregate cost of the constituent projects and these are in turn primarily based on costs provided by the transport agencies. However, I do not propose to release this commercially sensitive information until the public procurement processes for the individual projects are completed. Some elements of Transport 21, such as traffic management, have global financial provisions rather than individual project allocations.

Since 2002 the Department has undertaken substantial work on integration in consultation with other Departments and State agencies. This work takes account of Government policy documents, particularly the national spatial strategy 2002 and the regional planning guidelines. The result was a set of guiding principles for integrated transport policy, which is published in our current statement of strategy. These principles provided a policy backdrop for the preparation of the integrated investment strategy contained in Transport 21.

In addition, in preparing Transport 21, my Department took account of the work already done on investment priorities under the existing capital envelope to end 2009 and of the various strategic studies already completed by my Department and its agencies, including A Platform for Change, the strategic rail review and the national road needs study. The Department also engaged with Córas Iompair Éireann, the Railway Procurement Agency, the National Roads Authority, the Dublin Transportation Office and relevant Departments in order to identify the broad direction and priorities of the investment framework.

The result of this work is a transport investment strategy which for the first time addresses Exchequer capital expenditure in an integrated way across modes, and which emphasises connectivity and which provides for the development of an integrated transport network in the greater Dublin area.

My Department will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of Transport 21 by the various transport agencies and local authorities. A monitoring group is being established which will be chaired by my Department. The group will include representatives of the Department of the Taoiseach, the Department of Finance and other relevant Government Departments and agencies. It will be responsible for the high-level monitoring of Transport 21 and for reporting annually to Government on issues such as financial and physical progress.

I am convinced that we also need a new approach to transport in the greater Dublin area, delivered through a single authority, with real powers to ensure joined up thinking and delivery across all the transport modes. A team, chaired by Professor Margaret O'Mahony and reporting directly to me, has been appointed and charged with finalising a structure for the new transport authority, detailing its remit and responsibilities as well as identifying the human resources which are critical to the success of the body taking into account best practice and best experience internationally.

In recent times, the majority of transport projects have being coming in on budget, with many ahead of schedule, and this augurs well for the implementation of Transport 21. Nevertheless significant safeguards will be implemented to ensure that Transport 21 is delivered within budget.

In the first instance, projects within Transport 21 will be subject to capital appraisal in line with Department of Finance guidelines and the value for money initiatives set out in the Minister for Finance's speech of 20 October last. Transport 21 clearly sets out the completion dates of key projects. On the basis of the preparatory work that has been undertaken, I am satisfied that those dates are both realistic and achievable. My primary focus is on ensuring that the completion deadlines are fully met. It is the responsibility of the relevant implementing agencies to identify the project milestones necessary to achieve these completion deadlines. The structures that I am putting in place — the new transport authority for Dublin and the high-level monitoring group — will assist in ensuring that projects are delivered in the timeframes already published.

There has been no shortage of public debate about the future direction of transport investment policy. A number of significant studies have been published which contributed to that debate, including the strategic studies I mentioned earlier and other studies such as those on the western rail corridor. The Government has taken account of all these inputs and has decided the future direction of transport investment. The focus now needs to be on delivery and not on further debate. Of course, the individual projects included in Transport 21 will be the subject of public consultation and the normal statutory approval processes.

No consultancy costs were incurred by my Department in the development of Transport 21 as the Department did not engage any consultants or other advisers for this purpose. However, my Department did benefit from the advice of Goodbody Economic Consultants who were engaged before work on the investment framework commenced, to review the business cases submitted by Iarnród Éireann in support of various projects, including its greater Dublin integrated rail network proposals, much of which is included in Transport 21.

I intend to publish a more detailed document on Transport 21 in due course and this will involve printing and translation costs. Also, there were costs associated with the launch of Transport 21, details of which I gave to the House in response to Parliamentary Question No. 277 of 9 November 2005.

Rail Network.

Martin Ferris

Question:

29 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Transport the reason Navan and Dublin are not proposed to be linked by rail under the new transport plan. [35799/05]

Transport 21 provides for the reopening up of the Navan rail line in two phases. The first phase involves reopening 7.5 km of railway line running off the Maynooth line, at Clonsilla, to the M3 interchange at Pace, near Dunboyne. Three stations are proposed at Hansfield, Dunboyne and a major park and ride facility at the M3 interchange at Pace. Subject to further studies, it is proposed to extend the rail line to Navan within the ten-year framework of Transport 21.

Question No. 30 answered with QuestionNo. 18.

Staff Pensions.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

31 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Transport if he intends to make the honouring of pension commitments to former staff part of the conditions of sale in the event of Aer Lingus being sold. [35797/05]

The Irish airlines (general employees) superannuation scheme, established in 1954, is a multi-employer scheme which, in addition to Aer Lingus and the Dublin Airport Authority, formerly Aer Rianta, also includes a private sector company, SR Technics, formerly FLS Aerospace/Team Aer Lingus.

Pension entitlements for employees of commercial State bodies, including Aer Lingus and the Dublin Airport Authority, are matters primarily for the trustees, the members of the relevant scheme and the company or companies involved. The State is not involved in the funding of these schemes.

Following the Government decision of 18 May 2005 to allow the sale of a majority shareholding in Aer Lingus, the Government's advisers are examining a range of issues impacting on a possible third party investment in Aer Lingus. In examining the pensions issue, the Government advisers will take account of the most recent valuation of the scheme carried out earlier this year.

The Minister for Finance and myself will consider all of the issues involved when the report from the Government advisers is received.

Question No. 32 answered with QuestionNo. 20.

Road Signage.

Seán Ryan

Question:

33 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the progress that has been made in completing the new traffic signs manual; when same is expected to be completed; the cost of the consultants engaged in this work; and the principal changes envisaged. [35972/05]

The traffic signs manual, which was published in December 1996, is currently the subject of a comprehensive review. That review is being carried out by consultants, under the direction of my Department, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the National Roads Authority, at a cost of €380,000.

The review has focused in the first instance on the issue of the traffic signage system applied to road works sites. A draft of the chapter of the manual relating to those signs is in the process of being issued to local authorities and other interested parties to afford them the opportunity to provide input before its publication, which is expected in the first quarter of 2006.

The review will ensure that the manual will provide information or guidance in relation to the use of all traffic signs, including those that relate to initiatives that have taken place since the publication of the current manual and developments in signage technology, in particular the use of variable message signs.

Progress has also been made in the preparation of the remaining chapters of the manual and it is proposed that those chapters will be published in the third quarter of 2006. It is envisaged that at the time of publication the manual will be placed on my Department's website. This will facilitate the process of readily updating the manual in future.

Airport Development Projects.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

34 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the development of a second terminal at Dublin Airport, when he anticipates work will begin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36019/05]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Dublin Airport Authority, DAA, announced two months ago its medium term plans for new infrastructural provision at Dublin Airport, including a new second terminal and other related developments.

I am informed by the DAA that it is working to meet the Government objective to have T2 operational in 2009. Currently, the DAA is involved in tender processes for the selection of project management and design consultants and separately commissioned cost consultants for the project. I understand that announcements on these can be expected early in the new year.

Road Safety.

Liz McManus

Question:

35 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Transport the progress he has made in providing a legislative basis for the introduction of on the spot fines for licensing and tachograph offences by drivers of heavy goods vehicles and buses; if he has satisfied himself with road safety legislation on heavy goods vehicles and buses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35909/05]

Section 16 of the Road Transport Act 1999 provides for an on-the-spot fine in lieu of prosecution for offences under the Road Transport Acts and EU regulations on drivers' hours and rest periods.

The commencement of this section has been the subject of discussions with the Office of the Attorney General and the advice now is that a provision in primary legislation will be required to ensure compatibility with current fixed penalty charges legislation before the proposed fines system can be brought into effect.

My Department is currently in contact with the Attorney General's office with a view to including a suitable provision in the Road Safety Authority Bill. Such a provision would provide the basis for introduction of the fines system by ministerial regulations.

With regard to road safety legislation, the European Union rules governing drivers' hours and the use of tachograph recording equipment in heavy goods vehicles and large buses, promote road safety by prescribing minimum breaks and rest periods and limiting the amount of time spent driving. Enforcement of these rules is by the Garda Síochána and by a dedicated team of transport officers from my Department at the premises of the operator and at roadside.

The EU Commission has tabled proposals to update the existing drivers' hours rules and to significantly increase the quality and quantity of enforcement checks that must be carried out by member states. These proposals are currently in the conciliation procedure between the Council and the European Parliament with a view to finding a compromise leading to final adoption. I am satisfied that once adopted, the measures proposed will result in greater levels of drivers' hours monitoring and, through the introduction of the digital tachograph, a more secure and tamper proof system of controlling drivers and ensuring adequate rest and breaks.

While enforcement of drivers' hours rules clearly makes a contribution to safer driving, the ultimate qualification standard is the HGV driver licence, which shows that a driver has trained and passed a recognised level of competence in relation to the particular vehicle classification covered by the licence.

EU Directive 2003/59/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the training of professional drivers, will require professional bus and lorry drivers to follow a programme of professional driver training. The training will be compulsory for all persons seeking to become professional drivers and will comprise of training for an initial qualification followed by periodic refresher training equivalent to one day training per annum. Member states have until 10 September 2006 to bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this directive. Such enhanced training regimes will make a further contribution to road safety in relation to the operation of heavy goods vehicles and buses.

As regards vehicle standards, an extensive range of requirements must be satisfied in order to use a HGV or bus in a public place. In this regard, all HGVs and buses are required to comply with statutory requirements relating to the construction, equipment and use of vehicles as set out in the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 1963 to 2002, the Road Traffic (Construction and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 2003 to 2004 and the Road Traffic (Lighting of Vehicles) Regulations 1963 to 1996.

Safety standards applied under these regulations relate, inter alia, to maximum dimensions, overall vehicle weight and axle weight limits, the fitment of speed limiters, and, in the case of buses, maximum passenger accommodation including the circumstances where standing passengers may be carried. Notwithstanding the general speed limits that apply to vehicles, HGVs and single deck buses are subject to a maximum speed limit of 80 km/h with double deck buses subject to a maximum speed of 65 km/h. HGVs and buses over one year old are liable to annual roadworthiness testing in accordance with the European Communities (Vehicle Testing) Regulations 2004.

Departmental Estimates.

Mary Upton

Question:

36 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the 9% decrease in subhead C3 in the Estimates 2006; and the way in which this will impact on the establishment of a Dublin Transport Authority. [35969/05]

David Stanton

Question:

69 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport the way in which he envisages to deliver the Transport 21 strategy, on time and on budget, in view of the decision to cut funding to enabling transport agencies in the Estimates 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36030/05]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

76 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport if the proposed new transport authority to be established by Ms Margaret O’Mahony of Trinity College Dublin will have a national remit or if it will exclusively be involved in transport planning within the greater Dublin area; the proposed future role of the Dublin Transportation Office in relation to the new authority; and the way in which the new authority will be able to incorporate land use planning considerations in its role. [36063/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 36, 69 and 76 together.

The reduction in funding in 2006 under subhead C3 of my Department's Vote arises because the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, will not require any operating subsidy for the Luas. Additionally, the RPA had to make an exceptional payment in 2005 towards the funding of a pension scheme deficit which will not recur in 2006. The capital and current funding provided in 2006 will be adequate to enable the RPA carry out its remit under Transport 21.

On 6 November last, I announced the appointment of a team led by Professor Margaret O'Mahony, charged with establishing a new transport authority for the greater Dublin area.

The team will finalise a structure for the new transport authority, detailing its remit and responsibilities as well as identifying the human resources which are critical to the success of the body, taking into account best practice and best experience internationally. In this context, it will be a matter for the team to make recommendations in relation to the Dublin Transportation Office. The new authority will have responsibility for transport in the greater Dublin area. However it is not intended that the authority will have a role in land use planning.

No provision has been made in my Department's 2006 Estimate for the proposed transport authority for Dublin pending the outcome of the work being undertaken by the establishment team. However, I intend to bring proposals to the Government for decision as soon as I have considered the report of the team. The funding requirements for the new authority will be considered by the Government at that time.

Road Network.

Shane McEntee

Question:

37 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Transport if the review of the National Roads Authority policy toward service stations on motorways has been completed as requested by him; the outcome and recommendations arising from this review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36037/05]

Earlier this year, my Department requested the National Roads Authority, NRA, to review its policy on the provision of motorway service areas. Specifically the NRA was asked to consider the merits of locating such service areas on motorways, as well as at, or close to, motorway interchanges. I expect to receive the results of this review shortly.

Cycle Facilities.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

38 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport his plans to improve cycle facilities in Dublin in view of the high levels of informal cycle parking in the city centre indicating an insufficient number of cycle parking facilities and the correlative huge increase in bicycle thefts in 2005. [36060/05]

The Government is committed to promoting cycling, as is made clear in the Programme for Government, and it is Government policy to make provision for the bicycle as a separate mode in the design and maintenance of roads. The provision of cycle ways and cycle parking is, in the first instance, a matter for the relevant local authorities.

In the greater Dublin area, GDA, funding for cycling is provided to local authorities in the area through the Dublin Transportation Office, DTO, traffic management grants scheme. Some €29 million has been provided by the Exchequer for the provision of cycling facilities in the GDA since 1994. Overall, there are now 300 kilometres of cycle networks in the GDA.

There is evidence of a decline in cycling over recent years, although the decline in the greater Dublin area, where cycling investment is highest, is not as pronounced as in other cities. Funding for cycling facilities will be provided through the enhanced traffic management grants provision in Transport 21, subject to the outcome of a review of cycling policy, including the effectiveness of existing public investment.

Question No. 39 answered with QuestionNo. 9.
Question No. 40 answered with QuestionNo. 18.

Heavy Goods Vehicles.

Mary Upton

Question:

41 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Transport the progress he has made in persuading industry on the retrofitting of blind spot mirrors on older heavy goods vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35906/05]

In April 2005, I wrote to the Irish Road Haulage Association, IRHA, the Society of the Irish Motor Industry, SIMI, and the Irish Business and Employers' Confederation, IBEC, requesting them to consider retrofitting vehicles with blind spot mirrors or indirect vision devices. In addition, I asked that in advance of the 26 January 2007 deadline all new HGVs being put on the market would meet the higher standards for drivers' fields of vision. The IRHA responded positively indicating that for the past number of years it has actively encouraged its members to fit convex mirrors to their vehicles and to request these on their new vehicles. In this regard, the IRHA informed me that it wrote to the main importers of HGVs requesting the fitting of these mirrors as standard equipment, but was disappointed by the responses received.

As I have no record of receiving a response from SIMI or IBEC, I wrote to them again about the matter earlier this month.

Public Transport.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

42 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the 20 buses provided to Dublin Bus as part of Transport 21; the cost of these buses; the amount provided by his Department for these 20 buses; the number of buses to be retired or otherwise put out of service once these buses become operational; the date when these buses will become operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35893/05]

I have recently approved a request from Dublin Bus for funding for 20 buses before the end of this year. This will provide an immediate injection of additional capacity for bus services in Dublin. The Exchequer is providing €6.9 million for the purchase of the buses. These buses will be additional to the existing Dublin bus fleet and I understand from Dublin Bus that they are expected into service by year-end. In addition, the subvention related to the operation of these buses will be provided to Dublin Bus with effect from 2006.

Transport Policy.

John Gormley

Question:

43 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Transport if the proposed Sandycove to Sutton coastal route was included for consideration under the Transport 21 plan; the estimated cost for the completion of this project; the authority which would have the lead role in progressing such a plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36062/05]

Funding of a programme of traffic management projects in the greater Dublin area through the DTO traffic management grants scheme has been ongoing for a decade and will carry on under Transport 21. Transport 21 will continue the implementation of a range of traffic management, bus priority and car restraint measures in the greater Dublin area, such as construction of quality bus corridors, QBCs, cycle and pedestrian facilities and traffic management systems.

Last year, the DTO traffic management grant committee approved an allocation of €50,000 towards funding of a preliminary design study and environmental report on the Sutton to Sandycove cycleway proposal. Final comments on the draft final report are being assembled by the DTO and will be forwarded to the consultants in the near future. It will then be a matter for the relevant local authorities to decide on the project.

Any application for financial assistance will be a matter for the DTO traffic management grants committee to consider.

Flight Itineraries.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

44 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport if planes (details supplied) entered Irish air space in the period since January 2003; the landings, departure and destination of each of the planes in each case; the information available to him as to the purpose of each of the landings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35807/05]

In general, in accordance with international aviation law, overflights or non-traffic stops by an aircraft of an ICAO state, engaged in non-scheduled or private services may operate without prior permission from my Department. My Department would not normally have any information about them.

However, arising from previous parliamentary questions and inquiries about the possible carriage of prisoners, my Department is aware that aircraft with the registration numbers N379P, N8068V, N313P and N4476S have made technical stops at Shannon on a number of occasions in 2003 and 2004. The information about dates and routings is commercially sensitive and could not be released without the approval of the operators.

I understand that the US authorities have confirmed to the Department of Foreign Affairs that the US has not used Irish airports for the transit of prisoners. I also understand that the US authorities have confirmed that they would not transit Irish airspace or use Irish airports for this purpose without seeking the authorisation of the Irish authorities.

National Car Test.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

45 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport the reason he has not yet published the recommendations arising from the review of the national car test; when same will be published; and the timeframe for legislation, primary and secondary, arising from this review. [35974/05]

I received the report on the outcome of the mid-term review of the national car testing service conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers for my Department earlier this month. My Department is now in discussion with the national car testing service with a view to implementing the recommendations early in 2006. I intend to publish the report on my Department's website shortly.

Question No. 46 answered with QuestionNo. 28.

Road Traffic Offences.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

47 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if, in relation to his recent announcement to expand the number of penalty point offences in operation in 2006, his officials have consulted with the Garda Síochána in relation to this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36013/05]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

50 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Transport the new penalty point offences he intends to implement in 2006; if he has set out deadlines for the implementation of each of the remaining 65 penalty point offences, as yet unimplemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36005/05]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

59 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport when the extension of penalty point categories with representatives of the Garda Síochána were last formally discussed; and if he has satisfied himself with the level of cross-Departmental co-operation on this issue. [35901/05]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

61 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport the secondary legislation, apart from that associated with penalty point categories, that he plans to proceed with once the fixed charge processing system is fully operational. [35895/05]

Willie Penrose

Question:

77 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport the proposed timescale for the addition of the remaining 65 offences to the penalty points scheme. [35913/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 47, 50, 59, 61 and 77 together.

The operation of the penalty points system commenced with effect from 31 October 2002 in respect of speeding offences and has subsequently been extended to apply to the offences of driving without insurance, careless driving and offences relating to the non-wearing of seat belts. Since its introduction over 278,700 drivers have incurred penalty points.

Extensive ongoing consultation is taking place between my Department, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Courts Service and the Garda Síochána, in order to finalise draft regulations and a commencement order for the extension of the fixed charge and the penalty point systems respectively. A meeting of all the agencies involved took place on 17 November.

The extension of the penalty point system to other offences under the Road Traffic Acts will be progressively commenced once the appropriate Garda Síochána IT processing system is fully operational and related administrative supports are in place. The delivery of those measures is a matter for the Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform respectively.

The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Síochána have indicated to my officials that the systems in question will be operational by April next year. I have asked my officials to continue liaising with their colleagues and those agencies, to seek to advance the date of next April if at all possible.

The majority of penalty point offences will also attract fixed charges. Therefore, in addition to the making of orders to facilitate the application of penalty points to offences from a particular commencement date, regulations to extend the operation of the fixed charge system to relevant penalty point offences will also be made. Those regulations will also facilitate the application of the fixed charge system to all of the offences that are currently the subject of the on the spot fine system.

Proposed Legislation.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

48 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Transport the progress being made in relation to the introduction of legislation to allow for the full roll-out of speed cameras nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36006/05]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

87 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport when he expects to have legislation passed and commenced providing for the out-sourcing of speed cameras; the safeguards he is proposing to ensure that the measure does not become a revenue raising exercise. [35900/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 48 and 87 together.

A working group chaired by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and representing my Department, the Garda Síochána and other relevant agencies, has carried out an in-depth examination into the issue of the engagement of private sector interests in the operation of speed cameras.

The group's report, which was published by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on website www.justice.ie on 2 August 2005, provides a clear template for the pursuit of this initiative on the grounds of the promotion of road safety.

The group's recommendations include the establishment of clear management structures both at the strategic and operational levels under the general supervision of the Garda Síochána. In addition, it proposes that the Garda Síochána will make the site selection for the placement of cameras with the assistance of the National Roads Authority. The criteria for site selection will be grounded on collision history and the history of speeding incidents. The group has also recommended that there can be no connection between the receipts of fixed charge payments resulting from detections by privately operated cameras and the funding of the operation.

My Department is currently preparing legislative provisions for the necessary amendment of the current Road Traffic Acts to support the engagement of private sector personnel in the detection of speeding offences. On the completion of that work, I will include those provisions in an appropriate Bill for the consideration of the House.

Rail Network.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

49 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Transport the reason the proposed electrification of the Kildare line will only run as far as Hazelhatch; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36016/05]

The electrification of the Kildare line as far as Hazelhatch is only one element of the investment programme to extend and improve capacity, frequencies and integration of services on the DART network. Complementary projects include the interconnector, the city centre station in the docklands, the electrification of the Maynooth and Dunboyne lines, as well as the northern line as far as Balbriggan, and the quadrupling of track on the Kildare line as far as Hazelhatch. The decision to limit the geographical scope of the DART network to Hazelhatch on the Kildare line is based on the view that service provision is sufficient to meet capacity demands in the medium term beyond 2015.

Question No. 50 answered with QuestionNo. 47.

Road Accidents.

Michael Noonan

Question:

51 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Transport if he has received any of the reports into the Meath bus tragedy; if so, the actions he intends to take on foot of any recommendations contained in the report, given the critical nature of safety for school children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36002/05]

Three separate inquiries were undertaken into the tragic school bus accident in County Meath: one by the Garda authorities; one on behalf of Bus Éireann; and one by the Health and Safety Authority. I have not yet received a report from any of these inquiries.

National Car Test.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

52 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport if he could clarify that under the terms of the tender, the NCT is to operate under accreditation by the Irish National Accreditation Board within four years of the commencement of operation; and if so, the reason it is not currently the case. [36059/05]

It was provided for in the car testing tender documents that the company selected to operate car testing would be required to achieve and maintain accreditation to EN 45004 standard. At the time of the preparation of the contract documents, work was proceeding on the development of parameters specific to vehicle testing for inclusion in EN 45004 standard and it was considered that it would be an appropriate standard for the service. However, by the time car testing came into force in Ireland, the EN 45004 standard had not evolved to specifically cater for vehicle testing. It was, therefore, decided that alternative quality assurance arrangements would apply for the service to be operated by the Department's supervision service contractor for NCTS. The provisions of standard EN45004 will be taken into consideration when the contract comes up for renewal.

Rail Services.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

53 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide a cost estimate for the proposed new rail interconnector from Spencer Dock to Heuston Station as proposed in the Transport 21 plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36064/05]

An initial feasibility study on the proposed interconnector between Heuston Station and the docklands was carried out on behalf of Iarnród Éireann 2003. This examined possible alignments for the interconnector as well as preliminary cost estimates. I have asked Iarnród Éireann to begin immediately a more detailed technical analysis of the project.

Transport 21 includes a financial provision to cover the anticipated cost of the project. However, I do not propose to release this commercially sensitive information until the public procurement process for this project is completed.

Public Transport.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

54 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if his Department intends to fulfil its commitments under the national development plan to Dublin Bus in terms of the allocation of additional, as opposed to replacement buses, before the end of the lifetime of the national development plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35998/05]

The National Development Plan, NDP, provides for an increase in capacity and the improvement in the quality, reliability, frequency and speed of bus services in the Dublin region. The investment programme involved the expansion of the bus network to meet demand, through the phased purchase of additional buses to increase passenger capacity and meet the development requirements of the network.

Significant changes have taken place in Dublin since the start of the national development plan. These changes include substantial increases in rail capacity, such as the Luas, commuter rail services and the DART upgrades, together with ongoing demographic changes.

It is in this context that Dublin Bus is carrying out a review of the bus network in Dublin. The company has advised me that the bus network review will be completed early next year. The company is, in the first instance, assessing how to maximise the utilisation of its existing bus fleet.

Pending completion of this review, I have already approved funding for an initial tranche of 20 additional buses which will go into service before the end of the year. My Department has had preliminary discussions with Dublin Bus regarding future network and service developments. The company is expected to submit a business case for additional fleet requirements shortly which will need to have regard to the emerging findings of the network review. The financial provisions for bus investment in Transport 21 will now supercede the provisions in the NDP.

Road Tolling.

Michael Noonan

Question:

55 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Transport, in relation to the recent announcement that the new Kilcock-Kinnegad motorway will lift its toll barriers if there is a build-up of five or more cars, his views on whether this new arrangement should be extended to the East and West Link toll bridges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36022/05]

The statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll by-laws and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads is vested in the National Roads Authority, NRA, under Part V of the Roads Act 1993, as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000.

I am informed by the NRA that a strict performance regime is provided for in current PPP contracts — for example, the M1 and M4/M6 Kilcock-Kinnegad — to ensure compliance with requirements, including level of service provisions. Defaults in performance by the PPP company lead to the imposition of a financial penalty together with the award of points under a penalty points system which may trigger increased levels of monitoring at the PPP company's cost and ultimately contract termination. These provisions incentivise the PPP company to maintain high service levels but the agreement does not require the lifting of barriers if queues arise.

As regards the West-Link toll bridge, the service obligations contained in this agreement, which date back to the 1980s, are not as developed or as comprehensive as those contained in current PPP contracts. In the context of the overall upgrade of the M50, the NRA is currently engaged in negotiations with NTR on the upgrade of that section of the M50 operated by NTR, including a move to open road tolling at Westlink. Issues relating to the operation of the East Link bridge are matters for Dublin City Council and NTR.

Airport Development Projects.

Richard Bruton

Question:

56 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport if another round of funding for regional airports or any additional funding to such airports is envisaged by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36003/05]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

58 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the sharp drop in funding for regional airports in the 2006 Estimates; and the way in which this will impact on services. [35903/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 56 and 58 together.

The reduction in current expenditure for regional airports in the 2006 Estimates reflects the reduced level of subvention required under the new PSO air service contracts, which came into force in July 2005.

Under the new PSO regime, annual subvention required for all six PSO routes is reduced from approximately €20 million to approximately €15 million. The reduction in subvention was achieved taking account of an expenditure review of the escalating costs of the PSO regime and following the development of revised programme specifications and a competitive procurement process.

There should be no negative impact on PSO services under the new programme. The service timetables and frequency of flights remain largely unchanged from arrangements in previous years. New standards of punctuality and operational performance have been introduced which should contribute to a general improvement in service provision.

The 2006 Estimates also make provision for operational and capital grant assistance for the regional airports. Some €2.24 million will be available towards operational expenditure and €4 million will be available to assist with safety and security related infrastructure under the NDP.

The approved NDP projects, which I announced earlier this year, are being undertaken in the 2005-07 period and total funding of €12 million will be available for this purpose.

Any additional funding for regional airports in subsequent years under Transport 21 will be considered in the context of Department of Finance capital appraisal guidelines and EU guidelines on financing of airports and start-up aid to airlines departing from regional airports.

Question No. 57 answered with QuestionNo. 20.
Question No. 58 answered with QuestionNo. 56.
Question No. 59 answered with QuestionNo. 47.

Traffic Management.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

60 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport the progress made to date in 2005 by his Department in regard to allowing hard shoulders be utilised by public transport operators; if it is intended to roll out this policy nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36021/05]

Hard shoulder use by buses will be piloted at a number of locations including the northbound and southbound approaches to Dunshaughlin, at Bracetown between Dunshaughlin and Clonee in County Meath, and at various locations on the Naas Road in the South Dublin County Council area.

I understand from the quality bus network office that construction works are being carried out in 2005 on the following hard shoulder bus lane schemes: Navan Road, approaches to Dunshaughlin and Bracetown section; Naas Road, Kingswood Interchange to Kylemore Road.

To facilitate usage of hard shoulders in the manner proposed, my Department included a provision in the Road Traffic Act 2004 to enable local authorities to apply different speed limits to separate lanes on a road, and in April of this year I issued statutory guidelines for the application of special speed limits.

Earlier this year, my Department, in conjunction with the National Roads Authority and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, devised road signs for use at the pilot locations. National roll-out of the measure will depend on the success of the pilot schemes.

Question No. 61 answered with QuestionNo. 47.

Rail Services.

Phil Hogan

Question:

62 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Transport the progress made on the development of a new train depot in Portlaoise; the cost of this project; if a successful tenderer has been chosen; the completion date for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36024/05]

The project for the new train depot in Portlaoise is at design and tender preparation stage and is proceeding on time. Iarnród Éireann has sought planning permission for the depot from Laois County Council. Subject to the compliance with the relevant statutory procedures, the completion date for this project is 2007.

Transport 21 includes a financial provision to cover the anticipated cost of the project. However, I do not propose to release this commercially sensitive information until the public procurement process for this project is completed.

Road Fatalities.

Willie Penrose

Question:

63 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on the estimated economic cost of each road death; and the breakdown of this figure. [35912/05]

The measurement of accident costs formed part of a study carried out in 2004 by Goodbody Economic Consultants on behalf of my Department. The report entitled Cost Benefit Parameters and Application Rules for Transport Project Appraisal suggests an economic cost of €2.018 million in respect of each road death. This estimation encompasses consideration of lost output, human costs, suffering and pain, and medical costs. A copy of the report is available on my Department's website at www.transport.ie .

Rail Network.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

64 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Transport the progress which has been made in relation to the commencement of construction work on the re-opening of the western rail corridor; the budget for this project as envisaged under the Transport 21 strategy; when this project will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36033/05]

Following the launch of Transport 21, I have asked Iarnród Éireann to commence the design and planning stages of the western rail corridor from Ennis to Claremorris. The line will be developed on a phased basis, with Ennis to Athenry being completed in 2008, Athenry to Tuam in 2011 and Tuam to Claremorris in 2014.

Transport 21 includes a financial provision to cover the anticipated cost of the project. However, I do not propose to release this commercially sensitive information until the public procurement process for this project is completed.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

65 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport when the appointment of an inspector to hold the public inquiry required under the Transport (Railway Infrastructure) Act 2001 can be expected (details supplied). [36053/05]

CIE submitted to me an application for a railway order for the Kildare route project on 5 October under the terms of the Transport (Railway Infrastructure) Act 2001. I have directed that a public inquiry be held into the application and on 28 October I appointed Mr. Pat Butler SC as inspector to the inquiry. I understand that the inspector will begin the inquiry early in 2006 and that the findings will be submitted to me soon after its conclusion.

Question No. 66 answered with QuestionNo. 21.

Public Transport.

Jack Wall

Question:

67 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Transport the projects, including the roads and public transport projects which contributed to the €100 million underspend in 2005; the amount each individual project contributed to this total; and the impact of this underspend on delivering infrastructure projects on time. [35910/05]

The estimated carryover of up to €100 million in capital funding for transport projects from 2005 to 2006, which amounts to approximately 6% of the total capital invested in transport projects in 2005, is attributable to less than anticipated expenditure on the national roads programme due to delays in concluding land deals, delays in the tendering processes for projects and delays on projects such as the Waterford city by-pass and Clonee-Kells on the M3. It is not possible at this stage to assign specific amounts to individual projects. The delays reflect timing issues and the challenges associated with managing contingency provisions in a complete multi-annual programme. As the multi-annual capital envelope process is in use it is not expected that there will be a significant impact on the delivery of the programme.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

68 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport when he expects to have legislation passed and commenced providing for an increase in bus licensing fees. [35899/05]

I refer the Deputy to my previous replies to Questions Nos. 228 on Thursday, 27 October 2005, and 316 on Wednesday, 9 November 2005. It is my intention to bring forward proposals for increasing bus licence fees in the new year.

Question No. 69 answered with QuestionNo. 36.

Dan Neville

Question:

70 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Transport if proposals to construct a metro line from Shananagh to the city centre have not been dropped completely; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36028/05]

Plans to upgrade the Luas line from St. Stephen's Green to Bray to metro have not been dropped. Transport 21 provides for feasibility studies for this and other projects. While Transport 21 involves a substantial commitment of financial resources, those resources are finite. It has therefore been necessary to prioritise the investments to be made over the ten year period.

Luas line B1, one of the first projects to be rolled out in the implementation of Transport 21, involves a 7.5 km extension to the Luas green line southwards from Sandyford to Cherrywood. Transport 21 also provides for the extension of the Luas line from Cherrywood to Bray by 2015. These extensions will be implemented having regard to the continuing strategic objective of upgrading the line to metro in due course.

Question No. 71 answered with QuestionNo. 7.
Question No. 72 answered with QuestionNo. 28.

Industrial Relations.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

73 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Transport if he has had any contact with management and workers regarding the possible strike action by bus drivers. [35798/05]

Industrial relations issues in Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus are matters for the management of the companies. I do not propose to meet with the management and workers on matters where there are agreed internal and State mechanisms to resolve such issues.

Road Traffic Offences.

Bernard Allen

Question:

74 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Transport his proposals in co-operation with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to tackle the increasing problem of drug driving; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36001/05]

The Road Traffic Act 1994 provides that a member of the Garda Síochána may, where he or she is of the opinion that a person in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place is under the influence of a drug or drugs to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of that vehicle, require that person to go to a Garda station and further require that person submit to a blood test or to provide a urine sample which will then be subject to analysis by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety.

Moreover, the Medical Bureau of Road Safety continues to analyse blood and urine specimens received under the Road Traffic Acts for the presence of a drug or drugs where the level of alcohol determined is under the legal limit of 80 mg/100 ml in blood and 107 mg/100 ml in urine or when a specific request for drug analysis has been received from gardaí when the alcohol result is above the legal limit. The number of blood and urine samples analysed to the end of September 2005 was 527, which is 32% higher than the same period to September 2004.

In September 2004 the director of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety and head of forensic medicine at University College Dublin commenced teaching a post graduate course in the Higher Diploma in Forensic Medicine at the university's faculty of medicine. This course includes teaching on drugs, alcohol and driving including drug recognition. The first cohort of graduates has completed the course and will graduate formally in December 2005.

Preliminary discussions have also been held in 2005 between the Garda national traffic bureau, the Medical Bureau of Road Safety and the department of forensic medicine at UCD with a view to the training of gardaí in the recognition of driving under the influence of drugs.

Integrated Ticketing.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

75 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the amount which has been allocated in the 2006 Estimates for integrated ticketing; and when he expects the project to be completed. [35884/05]

Shane McEntee

Question:

92 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Transport if a tenderer has been selected to introduce integrated ticketing on bus and rail services in the greater Dublin area; if not, when he expects this will happen; his views on whether the introduction of such a service by early 2006 is possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36038/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 75 and 92 together.

The Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, is the statutory body responsible for integrated ticketing. Following an inconclusive procurement process earlier this year, the RPA submitted proposals for a revised procurement strategy to my Department. These proposals are under discussion and will determine a revised target implementation process and timescale for the phased roll-out of integrated ticketing. While integrated ticketing will be introduced on a phased basis, I understand from the RPA that it is unlikely that the full integrated system will be in place by the end of 2006.

The overall capital allocation for my Department for 2006 will be finalised in the budget to be presented by the Minister for Finance in December. Funding for this project will be decided as part of the overall allocation process for public transport and having regard to the implementation discussions already referred to.

Question No. 76 answered with QuestionNo. 36.
Question No. 77 answered with QuestionNo. 47.

Road Traffic Offences.

Joan Burton

Question:

78 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport the progress he has made in reaching an agreement with the British and Northern Ireland authorities on mutual recognition of penalty points. [35888/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 150 on the 19 October 2005. The North-South work programme which was agreed by the North-South Ministerial Council, included a commitment to examine the mutual recognition of penalty points between the Republic of Ireland and the North. However, in addition to the fact that separate penalty point systems operate in the two jurisdictions on this island, the system that operates in Northern Ireland differs from that applying in Great Britain. For that reason, it was agreed early in 2003 that it would be more appropriate to pursue the question of mutual recognition of penalty points on the basis of the operation of the three systems and that it would also be more appropriate that it would be dealt with under the auspices of the British-Irish Council. As Northern Ireland has the lead role for transport matters in the BIC, the authorities in that jurisdiction are taking the lead in considering this issue.

The development of a system of mutual recognition of penalty points presents complex legal questions and will require the negotiation of a bilateral agreement between the two Governments and probably the passage of primary legislation to support such an agreement. For that reason, my Department has sought and obtained the advice of the Attorney General's Office in relation to this issue which will inform future consideration of the issue.

Road Network.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

79 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Transport if, as Minister with responsibility for the National Roads Authority, NRA, he will formally request the NRA to supply quarterly reports on its road-building and upgrading activities in view of the commitment given by the authority to a recent meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36034/05]

The NRA has undertaken to provide, on a regular basis, information to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport on the national roads improvement programme. The last NRA report to the committee was in May 2005. The NRA proposes to submit an updated report to the Committee shortly. In the circumstances a request to the NRA, as suggested by the Deputy, is not considered necessary.

Railway Stations.

Simon Coveney

Question:

80 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Transport if he has been informed by Iarnród Éireann as to the chosen location for a new rail station in the docklands; the cost of such a station; the way in which the cost of such a station will be financed; if this project has been offered out to tender to date in 2005; when it will begin construction and when it will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36026/05]

I understand from Iarnród Éireann that having examined a number of options, the board will decide shortly the preferred location for the construction of a new docklands railway station. I expect to receive proposals from the company, including construction cost, soon after board consideration.

Transport 21 provides that the Exchequer will fund construction of the new station. Subject to compliance with the statutory approval process, construction is expected to start in 2006 and be completed in 2009.

Question No. 81 answered with QuestionNo. 28.
Question No. 82 answered with QuestionNo. 24.

Driving Tests.

Joe Costello

Question:

83 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Transport his policy on registration, vetting and education of driving instructors; and if a clear policy will be set out to driving instructors in order that such procedures can be adopted by them in advance of legislation.

Proposals developed by my Department for the regulation and quality assurance of driving instruction will involve a test of the competence of individual instructors. A working group comprising representatives of my Department and of instruction interests has formulated the design of the standards that a driving instructor must meet. The standard will set out criteria for entry to the driving instructor profession and the three part exam comprising a written exam, a practical driving test and a test of instructional capability that instructors will have to pass in order to be registered.

Responsibility for implementing the standard of driving instruction and establishing a register of driving instructors will be with the proposed road safety authority. I am considering what arrangements will be put in place to oversee implementation of the standard in the context of the establishment of the authority. As part of this process the standard referred to will form the basis for a consultation document to be issued early next year which will set out the requirements with which driving instructors will have to comply in order to be registered.

Public Transport.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

84 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the way in which he proposes to increase bus capacity in the greater Dublin area by 80,000 places. [35894/05]

Transport 21 provides for significant investment in increased bus capacity in the greater Dublin area.

Substantial demographic changes have taken place in Dublin in recent years, and there has also been a significant increase in rail capacity, Luas, commuter rail services and the DART upgrade. For these reasons, it is necessary to identify what should be the response of bus to these and future changes. Therefore, I asked Bus Átha Cliath earlier this year to review the bus network, with a view to deciding on future fleet requirements and how services can best be configured to meet the changing needs of the market. I expect the review to be completed early in 2006.

Pending completion of this review, I have already approved funding for an initial tranche of 20 additional buses which will go into service before the end of the year. My Department has had preliminary discussions with Dublin Bus regarding future network and service developments. The company is expected to submit a business case for additional fleet requirements shortly which will need to have regard to the emerging findings of the network review.

Traffic Management.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

85 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport if a detailed outline will be provided of the options being explored by the National Roads Authority in their current negotiations with National Toll Roads in respect of traffic management on the M50; the measures which are being explored to alleviate congestion in advance of open road tolling becoming available for the M50; the arrangements which will be in place to lift the West Link toll barriers if congestion on the M50 causes blockages in the Dublin Port Tunnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35885/05]

Traffic management in general is a matter for the appropriate local authority. By agreement with the other local authorities and the National Roads Authority, NRA, the day-to-day traffic management on the M50 is the responsibility of Dublin City Council. The tolling of the West Link bridge and agreements relating thereto are matters for the National Roads Authority, NRA, and the toll operator, National Toll Roads, NTR.

The NRA, in the context of the proposed upgrade of the M50, is in negotiation with NTR regarding the upgrade of that section of the M50 operated by NTR. These negotiations address the upgrading of both the road section and the tolling arrangements. The NRA is aware of my objective to secure significantly enhanced capacity and an increased level of service on the M50 for road users, including through an early move to barrier free tolling.

Driving Tests.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

86 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport his proposals for tackling the backlog of applications for driving tests; and the timescale for each of these measures. [35891/05]

In order to reduce the current unacceptable and exceptional backlog of persons awaiting a driving test, my Department and the Department of Finance developed a package of measures to deal with the problem. The package includes a bonus scheme for driver testers, the recruitment of additional testers as well as the outsourcing of a block of tests. The package has the potential to deliver up to 80,000 additional driving tests with 40,000 tests being delivered by outsourcing.

Tenders for a contract to conduct driving tests have been received and a preferred tender has been selected. However, the matter has been referred to the Labour Relations Commission to facilitate conciliation under Sustaining Progress. The first conciliation hearing was held on 21 October 2005 and reconvened on 25 October 2005.

The conciliation hearing has been adjourned until 25 November to allow a detailed examination by both parties of the feasibility of having tests carried out by staff redeployed on a short-term basis from outside the Department of Transport. In this period the Department will also explore issues around the outsourcing proposal.

The recruitment process for testers is under way and I expect additional testers to be trained and operational by May 2006. The bonus scheme is designed to deliver 40,000 additional tests in a 12 month period and I anticipate that another 40,000 tests could be delivered by July 2007 through outsourcing.

Question No. 87 answered with QuestionNo. 48.

Public Transport.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

88 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Transport the percentage of his Department’s Vote for 2006 devoted to roads projects and the percentage devoted to public transport projects; his views on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35907/05]

As outlined in the recently published Abridged Estimates 2006, the 2006 Estimate for the Department of Transport amounts to €2,180 million of which €1,394 million, 64% relates to roads and €750 million, 34%, relates to public transport.

The amount available for roads in 2006 is unchanged on 2005 while the amount available for public transport is up 3%. In keeping with what has now become established practice, the Minister for Finance will announce a new five-year capital envelope on budget day. This will incorporate the increased investment on transport in 2006 arising under Transport 21.

Driving Tests.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

89 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport the action he is taking to ensure a greater gender balance among driving testers; the consideration he has given to promotional measures in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35975/05]

I refer the Deputy to my previous answer to Parliamentary Question No. 168. The future gender balance and promotional arrangements for the driver tester posts will be a matter for the Road Safety Authority to consider once established.

Public Transport.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

90 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport if the new buses promised under the Transport 21 plan will be equipped to run on biofuels. [36057/05]

Responsibility for the procurement of new buses rests with the bus companies concerned and I have no function in the matter.

Transport 21, however, includes funding for a range of sustainable transport initiatives over the period to 2010. The purpose of these initiatives is to facilitate the mainstreaming of sustainability criteria into transport investment decision-making and to make cleaner, more environment-friendly vehicles available, embracing the haulage industry, taxis and, of course, public transport operations. These initiatives contain pilot projects for sustainable buses including: hybrid-electric buses; biofuel buses, 100% biofuel; biofuel buses, 5% biodiesel blend. As in the past, these pilot projects will help uniform future acquisition policy.

Road Traffic Offences.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

91 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Transport the progress he has made in providing a legislative basis for the control of mobile phone use by drivers. [35904/05]

Mobile phone use while driving a motor vehicle is under examination in my Department in the overall context of in-vehicle information and communications technologies. Subject to the outcome of that examination, it is my intention to include proposals related to the use of mobile phones by drivers in the next appropriate Road Traffic Bill.

Question No. 92 answered with QuestionNo. 75.

Road Safety.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

93 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport why key recommendations of the national road safety strategy remain unimplemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36000/05]

The Government Road Safety Strategy 2004-06 sets a primary target of a 25% reduction in road collision fatalities by the end of 2006 over the average annual number of fatalities in the 1998-2003 period. Achievement of the target would result in no more than 300 deaths per annum by the end of the period of the strategy. This is an ambitious target and one which will require the continued commitment to a strategic, integrated approach by all of the road safety agencies.

The recent increase in road deaths, however, is a cause of concern and places the challenge of meeting the target set for the end of 2006 into stark focus. As of midnight on 21 November, 353 people lost their lives on our roads this year, an increase of 22 fatalities on the same period last year. If we are to realise the end 2006 target, a significant reversal of this worrying trend must be achieved.

Progress depends in the first instance on a continued emphasis on the approach that underpins the strategy. A major independent review of the previous strategy confirms that basing the primary target on the achievement of progress in the areas of speeding, drink driving and seat belt wearing remains the correct approach and these remain the key areas of the new strategy.

Significant initiatives identified in the strategy that have been realised to date include the introduction of a new system of metric speed limits through the passage of the Road Traffic Act 2004 and the establishment of the new Garda traffic corps. The new speed limits structure featured a reduction in the speed limit in all rural, regional and local roads from 60 mph to 80 km/h, which equates to 50 mph. The establishment of the dedicated traffic corps last year by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform under a distinct management structure under the command of an Assistant Commissioner addresses a particular commitment given by the Government. The corps, when it is fully staffed, will provide the basis for the achievement of the significant gains in road safety that emanate from consistent high levels of traffic law enforcement.

Other major proposals identified in the strategy such as the plans to establish a system of private sector operation of speed cameras under the auspices of the Garda Síochána, and the further extension of the operation of the penalty points and fixed charge systems are being advanced and the question of the introduction of a more general basis for the carrying out of preliminary roadside alcohol testing of drivers is being considered.

We are making progress across the wide range of initiatives identified in the strategy and I am satisfied that all of the agencies involved are fully committed to the achievement of the goals that underpin the strategy.

Air Services.

Damien English

Question:

94 Mr. English asked the Minister for Transport if the public service obligation contracts awarded to airlines to operate services to and from regional airports contain performance targets to be achieved by the airlines awarded such contracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36004/05]

Earlier this year, I announced the award of public service obligation, PSO, contracts for the operation of air services on six regional air routes. Following an EU procurement process, Aer Arann was awarded the contracts to provide services on routes linking Dublin with Kerry, Galway, Sligo and Donegal, while Loganair was awarded the contract for the Dublin to Derry and Dublin to Knock routes.

The PSO contracts contain the following key performance standards. The number of flights cancelled for reasons directly attributable to the air carrier must not exceed 2% of the minimum number of flights specified in respect of each route. The number of flights delayed by more than 30 minutes for reasons directly attributable to the carrier must not exceed 20% of the minimum number of flights specified in respect of each route. A minimum of 80% of the daily passenger seat capacity must be made available by the carrier at a fare not exceeding 75 each way. In addition to the above standards, carriers are also required to report on passenger numbers and load factors on each route, on a monthly basis.

Light Rail Project.

Barry Andrews

Question:

95 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide details of the timescale for construction of the Sandyford Luas line extension to Cherrywood, broken down into its various stages over the next few years. [36044/05]

Barry Andrews

Question:

100 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Transport the progress which has been made so far in negotiations on a public private partnership for the construction of the Sandyford Luas line extension to Cherrywood. [36045/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 95 and 100 together.

Having announced a new transport investment programme, Transport 21, on 1 November 2005, I received, on 7 November, an application from the Railway Procurement Agency for a railway order in respect of the proposed Luas extension from Sandyford to Cherrywood. I have directed that a public inquiry be held into the application and an inspector to conduct the public inquiry has been appointed.

Transport 21 includes the completion of the extension of the Luas line from Sandyford to Cherrywood by 2010. Subject to compliance with the relevant statutory procedures, I expect construction to start during 2006. While, the proposed extension will not be developed as a public private partnership, I expect the private sector will fund a significant proportion of the cost of the line through, inter alia, levies on developers under the Planning and Development Act 2000.

Cross-Border Projects.

Joe Costello

Question:

96 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Transport the progress he has made in reaching an agreement with the British and Northern Ireland authorities on mutual recognition of driver disqualification. [35889/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 193 of the 3 November 2005. The framework for the mutual recognition of driving disqualifications imposed in Great Britain or Northern Ireland and this State is contained in the European Union Convention on Driving Disqualifications. Legislation to support the application of the convention is contained in the Road Traffic Act 2002. The convention relates to disqualifications arising from a range of specified traffic offences including drink-driving, speeding and dangerous driving. Arrangements for the mutual recognition of driving disqualifications are being considered in the context of the British-Irish Council.

Question No. 97 answered with QuestionNo. 21.
Question No. 98 answered with QuestionNo. 9.

Departmental Expenditure.

Liz McManus

Question:

99 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Transport the estimated cost and average weekly cost of Operation Freeflow for 2005; and the actual cost for all previous years. [35908/05]

Operation Freeflow has been conducted for ten years now and involves contributions by a variety of organisations. These include the Garda Síochána, the Dublin Transportation Office, the four Dublin local authorities, Dublin Bus, Iarnród Éireann, and, in more recent years, the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, as well as private organisations.

Costs for the operation of these agencies are not readily separated from other operational expenditure. I have met with some of the agencies and indicated we should identify ongoing costs associated and ensure adequate budgets are in place.

This year, my Department will make limited grant assistance available. We have not yet received all grant applications, and it is therefore not possible to give a final figure at this stage. I will advise the Deputy of the final cost to the Department when all grant applications have been processed.

Question No. 100 answered with QuestionNo. 95.

Light Rail Project.

Pat Breen

Question:

101 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport if a public sector benchmark has been prepared in regard to the financing of the metro project as a public private partnership; the details of the way in which such a PPP will operate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36029/05]

Transport 21 includes a metro line from the city centre to Swords via Dublin Airport, metro north, and an orbital metro route, metro west, linking Tallaght with Clondalkin, Blanchardstown and Ballymun. Metro north and west will be developed as public private partnerships, PPPs. It is likely that the infrastructure will be procured on the basis of a design, build, finance and maintain, DBFM, PPP, with a separate PPP contract for the operation of services. The PPP consortia that win the infrastructure contracts will finance the capital cost of the project, probably through a mix of borrowings and equity. The consortia will be paid by the Exchequer over a period of years, usually in the region of 25 years. Payments will not begin until the service commences, thus incentivising the consortium to deliver early. These payments will cover the costs of the consortia including construction, infrastructure maintenance and renewal and financing costs. The consortia will be responsible for ensuring that the projects are delivered on time and that the infrastructure is available for service over the full period of the contract to the required standard.

The Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, is at present preparing a detailed implementation plan for the metro north line. This includes the preparation of a public sector benchmark. The implementation plan will also include public consultation, which will commence in early 2006.

Traffic Management.

Denis Naughten

Question:

102 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the progress which has been made to date in 2005 in regard to the Clare Street initiative; the recommendations which have been made by the initiative; when such recommendations will be implemented on the ground; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36017/05]

As the Deputy will recall from the reply I gave on Wednesday, 19 October, 2005, 37 projects were tabled by members of the Clare Street initiative, CSI, in the advance of the inaugural meeting on 5 October 2005. Workshops were held to consider those projects in detail and a short list of projects, in some cases involving an amalgamation of individual projects, was identified.

Announcement of a final project list requires that the bodies identified as implementing agencies for individual projects confirm that they are prepared to carry forward those projects. This process is currently in hand. When the implementing agencies have decided on the individual projects, the list of projects will be formally announced.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

103 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the basis on which the State is appealing an award of legal costs, which have already been adjudicated by the Taxing Master, in the compensation tribunal case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36236/05]

My Department has no knowledge of the case to which the Deputy refers, and has no role in either approving or appealing legal costs to persons who have made claims to the hepatitis C and HIV compensation tribunal. The Department's sole function in relation to legal costs in compensation tribunal cases is to make payment on the instructions of the Office of the Chief State Solicitor.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

104 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the precise date in May 2005 when she or officials from her Department met with a private hospital group from Dundalk; and if an agreement was made at that meeting. [36097/05]

I met the group proposing to develop a private hospital in Dundalk on 4 May 2005. No agreement was made at our meeting. In July I issued a policy direction to the board of the Health Service Executive in regard to private hospital developments that would free up new public beds. The HSE is now working on the implementation of this policy.

Hospital Services.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

105 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of patients who were treated on trolleys in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital between 1 January 2005 and 31 October 2005. [36098/05]

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.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

106 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has set a date to meet a delegation from Dundalk Town Council in relation to Louth County Hospital as promised in May 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36099/05]

As the Deputy will be aware, I met a delegation from Dundalk Town Council and local Oireachtas members last May at which a number of service issues relating to Louth County Hospital were discussed. I indicated to the delegation my intention of visiting the hospital and I intend to do so as soon as possible.

Health Service Reform.

Enda Kenny

Question:

107 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the way in which the final determinations in respect of each health board for 2004 were discharged and in particular the way in which the proportion formerly paid in the following year under subhead 5 of her Department’s Vote was dealt with following the dissolution of the boards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36100/05]

Following the enactment of legislation to establish the Health Service Executive, HSE, from 1 January 2005, the HSE became a Vote holder. That legislation also provided for the dissolution of the health boards and required the HSE to prepare the final annual financial statements, AFS, for the former health boards. The legislation also provided for the transfer of health board assets and liabilities to the HSE.

In December 2004, final determinations were notified to the health boards for that year, as required under the Health (Amendment) (No. 3) Act 1996. The Abridged Estimates Volume, AEV, for 2005, published in November 2004, provided for that portion of the health boards' approved 2004 final determinations paid in the following year in the sum of €685.458 million, under subhead B5. The establishment of a separate HSE Vote 40 in the Health Act 2004, as published in the Revised Estimates volume, REV, 2005, provided for the same sum of €685.458 million. However, this sum was apportioned across the new subheads B1 to B9 in REV 2005, thus eliminating the previous subhead B5 but making full provision for 2004 balances.

The funding in Vote 40 for 2005, therefore, provided that specific sum for the full discharge of liabilities coming forward from the former health boards for payment in 2005. It follows that Vote 40 will in future contain a provision for the discharge of its liabilities coming forward from the previous year.

Medical Cards.

Michael Ring

Question:

108 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person who holds a medical card must pay the doctor for a sick certificate or a doctor’s letter which has been requested by a third party. [36101/05]

Under the terms of the general medical services scheme, GMS, contract, participating GPs undertake to provide a range of treatments and general practitioner services for the patients on their GMS panel. Their GMS contracts obliges them to provide the first and last certificates to explain work absence for their patients. The provision of any other certificates or documentation may incur a charge.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

109 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons in County Mayo who are waiting for speech and language therapy; the average length of time spent waiting to be assessed once the referral is sent; the numbers waiting for assessment; and the average length of time after assessment before therapy commences. [36102/05]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

110 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the cutback in the funding to the Lucan Disability Action Group is withdrawn. [36103/05]

The Tánaiste and I am aware of, and acknowledge, the services provided by Lucan Disability Action Group. The Tánaiste has met this group in recent months. The group has been in receipt of funding from FÁS for the past numbers of years under the social economy programme. I understand there is potential for the organisation to seek continuing funding from FÁS, albeit at a reduced rate, for 2006.

While Lucan Disability Action Group has not been in receipt of funding from the Health Service Executive, HSE, to date in respect of the services that they provide, these services complement the range of supports already provided by the HSE to persons with disabilities in the Lucan area. Accordingly, it is appropriate that the group should engage with the HSE with a view to entering into an agreement for the provision of services to be funded by the executive in accordance with its functions under the Health Act 2004. The group has been made aware of this.

Health Services.

Seán Ardagh

Question:

111 Mr. Ardagh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the residential homes of the religious orders which are under-utilised in the Crumlin, Drimnagh and Walkinstown areas will be acquired for the purposes of providing nursing homes in the community. [36122/05]

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.

Organ Retention.

Liam Twomey

Question:

112 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the final Madden report regarding organ retention will be published; if she intends to publish the final Madden report, if so, when she intends publishing the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36128/05]

Liam Twomey

Question:

113 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the recommendations issued by the faculty of pathology of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland for the guidance of pathologists and other health care professionals in the area of post mortem consent and the retention and disposition of organ and tissue samples have been implemented in all hospitals around the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36129/05]

Liam Twomey

Question:

116 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount of funding that was provided for Parents for Justice in the 2006 Estimates; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36132/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 112, 113 and 116 together.

Government approved the appointment of Dr. Deirdre Madden, a distinguished expert on medical law and ethics, on 3 May 2005 to provide me with a report on post mortem policy and practice by 21 December 2005. I understand Dr. Madden will meet her deadline and I intend that, subject to legal advice, her report will be made public.

In late 1999, my Department wrote to all health boards and hospitals requesting that they ensure a policy of informed consent should operate regarding the retention of organs following post mortem examination, pending the issue of guidelines by the faculty of pathology. These guidelines for post mortem consent and retention of tissues at post mortem examination were issued by the faculty in February, 2000. The Health Service Executive has confirmed that guidelines and protocols are in place for families in the case of both coroners' and non-coroners' post mortems. In accordance with these guidelines, families are to be informed when retention takes place in a coroner's post mortem and permission is to be sought to retention in the case of a non-coroner's post mortem.

Funding for Parents for Justice, PFJ, is now a matter for the Health Service Executive, HSE, and the HSE is in talks with PFJ regarding future funding. I am aware, however, that Parents for Justice received approximately €1.3 million in funding since 2000, which includes funding of €330,000 for 2005.

Health Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

114 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons in Sligo and Leitrim who require radiotherapy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36130/05]

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.

Liam Twomey

Question:

115 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the discussions that are taking place involving clinicians and managers at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry and Letterkenny General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36131/05]

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

Question No. 116 answered with QuestionNo. 112.

Departmental Reports.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

117 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of the report by a person (details supplied) on the psychiatric profile of prisoners here; and when same will be published. [36149/05]

The report referred to by the Deputy was not commissioned or funded by my Department. I understand that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will arrange for its publication on the website of the Irish Prison Service.

Community Development.

John McGuinness

Question:

118 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a social worker will be provided for a number of hours each week at a housing estate (details supplied) in County Kilkenny, to deal with all relevant issues and to assist the community. [36162/05]

The Deputy's question appears to refer to matters of estate management which fall within the remit of my colleague the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government. My Department has contacted that Department and requested that a response issue to the Deputy on the issues raised.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

119 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the way in which the existing core service staffing and funding deficits for voluntary organisations will be financed with regard to the enactment of the Disability Act 2005 and the implementation of the national disability strategy, which outline a structure to develop responses to people with disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36165/05]

In the Estimates for 2006 which were recently published, significant additional funding was included for the improvement of services for people with disabilities. As part of this provision, funding will be made available to address core under-funding and staffing issues in services for people with disabilities provided by the voluntary sector. The principles underpinning the allocation of this funding will be the subject of further discussion between the relevant officials of my Department and the HSE.

Care of the Elderly.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

120 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of residential nursing homes in County Mayo; the number of these which have respite beds; the number which have permanent respite beds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36168/05]

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.

Health Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

121 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the department within the Health Service Executive West region which received the financial allocation for carers; the areas in which these funds have been distributed; if they have not yet been distributed when the money will be available; the way in which a person can avail of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36169/05]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Michael Ring

Question:

122 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure continuity of essential core services provided to people with disability by core funding of staff on community employment funded projects. [36195/05]

In the Estimates for 2006 which were recently published, significant additional funding was included for the improvement of services for people with disabilities.

As part of this provision, funding is being made available to address core under-funding and core staffing issues in services provided by the non-statutory sector. The Health Service Executive will be asked to allocate this funding on an equitable basis, having regard to the needs of people with disabilities. I expect that the executive's consideration of these needs will take into account those services which are currently staffed through community employment schemes.

Health Services.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

123 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive has a legal responsibility to plan for the continued provision of speech therapy, language therapy and psychological services for children as they move from primary school education to secondary school education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36203/05]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

124 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department has a legal responsibility to ensure that the Health Service Executive has adequate resources to plan for the continued provision of speech therapy, language therapy and psychological services for children as they move from primary school education to secondary school education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36204/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 123 and 124 together.

The Deputy's questions relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services. The Health Act 2004 provided for the creation of the Health Service Executive, HSE, which was established on 1 January 2005. Pursuant to the Health Act 2004, the HSE has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal services. This includes responsibility for all health-related supports. The Health Services Executive has its own Vote so the question of my Departments responsibility for its resources does not arise.

Grant Payments.

Joe Walsh

Question:

125 Mr. Walsh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a grant for a day care centre (details supplied) in County Cork will be approved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36208/05]

My Department received an application for a grant from the health and children allocation of National Lottery funds from the organisation referred to in April 2005.

There is a protocol in my Department for processing applications for National Lottery grants. When the completed application form is received in my Department it is registered in the finance unit and forwarded to the relevant service division for their assessment, evaluation and recommendation. All applications are then considered in the context of the recommendation and the overall level of funds available to me. The application is one of many under consideration for a grant from my Department and the organisation will be informed as soon as a decision has been made.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Willie Penrose

Question:

126 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take to ensure that a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 who is on the national purchase treatment fund list will have the procedure carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36230/05]

As the Deputy's question relates to the operation of the national treatment purchase fund, my Department has asked the chief executive of the fund to respond to the Deputy in relation to the information requested.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

127 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36278/05]

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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

128 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36279/05]

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.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

129 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of former employees who have been brought back to work on contract, or others employed on contract to do work which has traditionally been done in-house amongst her Department and the agencies under her authority; and the way in which this practice fits with the intention of an embargo on recruitment. [36453/05]

Employment information for the health service is collected through the health services personnel census on a quarterly basis and the latest available verified data is in respect of end-June 2005, when employment levels stood at 100,934 personnel in whole-time equivalent terms. The census collects data in respect of actual employment and does not include information on persons working on a contract for service.

The Deputy should note that there is no embargo on recruitment in the heath service and that approved employment levels for the health service have been adjusted in line with Government policy on public sector employment and also to take account of specific policy measures aimed at increasing service levels for patients. The employment ceiling for the health service currently stands at 97,550, in whole-time equivalent terms. This ceiling reflects not only the 600 post adjustment required by the Government decision on public sector numbers in 2002 but also includes an increase of 1,200 posts in respect of the opening of new units in 2005. Further increases in the employment ceiling for the health service in 2005 are being finalised by my Department and the Department of Finance in respect of both the accident and emergency initiative and the Disabilities Act 2005.

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, HSE, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the management of health service staffing in line with the employment ceiling, service plan priorities and new developments. Accordingly, my Department has requested the HSE's acting national director of human resources to investigate the matter raised and reply directly to the Deputy in respect of the HSE.

My Department currently holds a short-term contract with a past employee to provide specialist expert advice on medical equipment, and uses the services of a past employee of a voluntary organisation to provide advice in respect of intellectual disabilities. The information requested by the Deputy in relation to agencies directly under the aegis of my Department is being sought from each of the agencies concerned, and I will revert to the Deputy in the matter as quickly as possible.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

130 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he will remove the condition that has been imposed on many confined competitions that all successful candidates must undertake to decentralise in order that the principle of the voluntary nature of decentralisation can be maintained. [36109/05]

The Government's decentralisation programme announced in budget 2004 provides for the transfer of 10,300 Civil Service and public sector posts from Dublin to other locations. Almost all Departments are involved, either wholly or partly. A number of semi-State organisations are also involved in the programme.

The programme is voluntary, that is, staff may opt to decentralise with their post or to another post in a decentralised location, or they may opt to remain in Dublin. The relocation requirement that the Deputy refers to is not in any way inconsistent with the voluntary nature of the decentralisation programme. The general principle that promotees should, in view of the Government's decentralisation programme, be asked to accept their new appointment on the basis of agreement to relocate with their posts is the subject of continuing discussions between management and the Civil Service unions.

A draft agreement on the filling of posts through promotion has been under discussion between management and the Civil Service unions for some time. The draft agreement covers both inter-departmental promotion competitions and internal promotions. In relation to inter-departmental promotions, all appointees from such competitions must agree to re-locate with their new post. In relation to internal promotions, where a Department is decentralising in its entirety, from 52 weeks before decentralisation, all promotions in the Department will be made on the basis of a written commitment by promotees to relocate; where a Department is partially decentralising, from 52 weeks before decentralisation, one half of all promotions will be made on that basis.

Pending final agreement with the Civil Service unions and to ensure that the staffing needs of Departments and offices continue to be met, inter-departmental competitions are currently being held on the basis of this draft agreement. In addition, Departments and offices have been asked by the Department of Finance to follow the procedures in the draft in relation to internal promotions. It is expected that the agreement will be finalised shortly.

The Deputy should be aware that there are also a number of particular cases in which Civil Service unions and staff are seeking confined competitions to appoint unestablished staff, who are, in many instances, employed on contract, to established posts within the Civil Service. As the general principle that promotees should be asked to agree to decentralise is now being implemented in both inter-departmental and internal promotions in accordance with the draft agreement, it is clearly essential that the possibility of applying the same condition in these cases should also be considered. These cases are being examined by the Department of Finance and the relevant Departments and Office. They are also being discussed with the relevant trade unions.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

131 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the number of former employees who have been brought back to work on contract, or others employed on contract to do work which has traditionally been done in-house amongst his Department and the agencies under his authority; and the way in which this practice fits with the intention of an embargo on recruitment. [36116/05]

My Department has, on a small number of occasions, re-engaged former employees for short periods of time, two in 2004 and two in 2005. These re-engagements have been on the basis that they were of short duration, and the former employees were brought back on the basis of the skills or expertise they were able to bring to particular projects. Given the small number and duration of these re-engagements, I am satisfied that these do not have any impact on staffing or on recruitment or numbers policy.

In relation to other offices or agencies under my Department, I understand that neither Ordnance Survey Ireland, the Commission for Public Service Appointments nor the Public Appointments Service have re-engaged former employees on contract.

Decentralisation Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

132 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance if correspondence from a person (details supplied) was responded to; the date on which the response was furnished; the contents of the reply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36160/05]

The letter, of June 2004, referred to was from a trade union to the Department of Finance about the issue of inter-changeability of the grades of higher tax officer and executive officer in the context of decentralisation. The issue was covered in the continuing discussions between the Department of Finance and the staff panel of trade unions, of which the union in question is a part, at a special sub-committee of general council on the question of inter-changeability of grades. Proposals about the issue have now been tabled and the response of the staff panel is awaited as part of the discussions on decentralisation. In the light of this, a written reply was not considered necessary.

Denis Naughten

Question:

133 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the reason the higher tax officers and tax officer grades are excluded from the decentralisation programme; if he will review this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36161/05]

The grades of higher tax officer and tax officer are not excluded from the decentralisation programme.

The intention of the central applications facility has always been to allow staff, in all participating organisations, of which the Revenue Commissioners is one, to apply for transfer to locations in the decentralisation programme. The central applications facility is open to all Revenue staff to make an expression of interest in decentralising.

The exact terms and conditions which will allow access from one sector to another and across professional streams are the subject of ongoing detailed discussions with the trade unions.

Mobile Telephony.

John Gormley

Question:

134 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Finance when he expects to complete discussions with two mobile operators in respect of de-activating the mobile phone base stations on a house (details supplied); and when this de-activation will take place. [36253/05]

The Commissioners of Public Works are still in discussions with the relevant mobile operators in relation to their telecommunications equipment installed on the building referred to. It is not possible, at this stage, to say when these discussions will conclude.

Harbours and Piers.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

135 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his Department has had any approaches from Howth Yacht Club in relation to extending its area on land or sea at Howth Harbour. [36167/05]

Howth Yacht Club has expressed an interest in acquiring additional berthing space within Howth fishery harbour centre. The matter is under consideration by the Department. A decision will be made when all aspects of the proposal have been examined in detail.

Fishing Vessel Licences.

Martin Ferris

Question:

136 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will make a statement on the future of 65 foot polyvalent licences; and his plans to prevent holders of these licenses from catching pelagic species. [36170/05]

I am currently examining proposals that have been submitted to me by the fishing industry concerning the mackerel fishery by polyvalent vessels. This examination is not confined to polyvalent vessels under 65 feet and will include vessels both above and below this size threshold.

The overriding objective of the examination is to ensure a rational and orderly exploitation of the available mackerel quota and I hope that it will prove possible to achieve this objective in a manner which will, subject to available quota, enable vessels from either size category to continue to catch mackerel in the future.

Mobile Telephony.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

137 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will make a statement on the progress to date in establishing an all-Ireland mobile phone roaming charge. [36205/05]

I have no function in the setting of pricing for phone services. Pricing is a matter, in the first instance, for the mobile phone operators. The regulation of telecommunications operators, including regulatory issues surrounding pricing by mobile operators, is the responsibility of the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg, in accordance with the requirements of the Communications (Regulation) Act 2002 and regulations made under the EU regulatory framework for electronic communications.

Post Office Network.

Dan Boyle

Question:

138 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of post office robberies that have occurred since 1 January 2004; and the measures his Department has taken to avoid future occurrences. [36239/05]

The matter of post office robberies is an operational matter for the board and management of An Post and one in which I have no statutory function.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

139 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of former employees who have been brought back to work on contract, or others employed on contract to do work which has traditionally been done in-house in his Department and the agencies under his authority; and the way in which this practice fits with the intended embargo on recruitment. [36454/05]

My Department has four unestablished geologists on contracts which are, under the Fixed Term Working Act 2004, of indefinite duration, who are engaged on in-house work in the geological survey and exploration and mining division. My Department also employs a temporary radio officer in the Irish Coast Guard, covering for an employee on long-term sick leave. Under public service policy on staff numbers overseen by the Department of Finance, which does not entail an embargo on recruitment, my Department may recruit and employ staff, within authorised numbers. This includes the employment of contract staff working on short-term or once-off projects not related to in-house work. My Department has requested information from the agencies and I will revert to the Deputy when it is available.

Richard Bruton

Question:

140 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of former employees who have been brought back to work on contract, or others employed on contract to do work which has traditionally been done in-house in his Department and the agencies under his authority; and the way in which this practice fits with the intended embargo on recruitment. [36455/05]

The Department occasionally re-employs, on a temporary basis, a small number of former officers, including some who have retired, in order to meet short-term needs and exceptional work demands. Examples of such demands are special tasks for the EU Presidencies, for specialised UN-related work such as the law of the sea, and for archival scanning and research. The number of former employees who were brought back to work on contract in each of the past five years are outlined in the following table.

Year

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

Former employees re-employed on contract

2

5

4

2

3

3

It is not the practice in my Department to re-employ former staff on a contract basis to deal with core work of the Department.

There are no public bodies or agencies under the aegis of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Richard Bruton

Question:

141 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of former employees who have been brought back to work on contract, or others employed on contract to do work which has traditionally been done in-house in his Department and the agencies under his authority; and the way in which this practice fits with the intended embargo on recruitment. [36456/05]

I am not aware of any instances of former employees being re-employed on contract to attend to work traditionally done in-house by my Department since its establishment in June 2002.

Employment of staff by the agencies under the aegis of my Department is a matter for the agencies themselves.

EU Directives.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

142 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will confirm that EU Directive 2004/112/EC will be implemented before 14 December 2005; if the directive will not be implemented by said date, the reason Ireland will not meet its obligations to implement it before the deadline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36137/05]

Council Directive 2004/112 of 13 December 2004 is concerned with adapting to technical progress and relates to Council Directive 95/50/EC on uniform procedures for checks on the transport of dangerous goods by road.

This directive is due for transposition into Irish law by 14 December 2005. My Department is currently examining the proposed draft regulations prepared by the Health and Safety Authority to transpose this and other directives entitled, Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road Regulations 2005.

The draft Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road Regulations 2005, impose duties on the various participants associated with the carriage of the dangerous goods. They contain requirements for the vehicles, tanks, tank containers, receptacles and packages containing the dangerous goods during their carriage. They require that the drivers and others involved in the carriage of the dangerous goods by road, including their packing, loading, filling, transport and unloading be adequately trained and, in the case of drivers, hold certificates of such. The draft regulations also contain provisions on an EU harmonised approach to the road checks aspect of their enforcement.

I expect to be in a position to refer these draft regulations to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel shortly for legal settlement and ultimately transposition into Irish law in 2006.

Industrial Relations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

143 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is satisfied that all entitlements, pensions and promotional opportunities accruing to Irish Shell employees will not be diminished in the aftermath of the sale of the company, in view of the fact that these matters are not before the Labour Court, other than a redundancy issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36252/05]

The Labour Court is an independent statutory body and acts independently in carrying out its functions. I am therefore not at liberty to discuss individual cases that are due to be heard by the court even if I had reason to do so. However I understand that a recommendation on more than just the issue of redundancy was issued by the Labour Court to the parties on 21 November 2005. This recommendation, LRC18404, is confidential until 29 November 2005 to allow both parties time to consider its contents. The Deputy may wish to inform himself of the outcome of this hearing. However, if the Deputy has any specific information of which my Department should be aware, I invite him to supply it.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

144 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of former employees who have been brought back to work on contract, or others employed on contract to do work which has traditionally been done in-house in his Department and the agencies under his authority; and the way in which this practice fits with the intended embargo on recruitment. [36457/05]

A small number of former employees of my Department and its agencies have been brought back to work on contract, or others employed on contract to do work which, in some cases, was traditionally done in-house. This includes a number of temporary staff engaged each year to provide cover for staff availing of term-time work options, to provide maternity cover and staff engaged on short-term contracts to undertake specific assignments.

It is not the practice of my Department or its agencies to engage former employees and, or others on a contract basis unless it is absolutely necessary to do so and only occurs where the relevant expertise would not be currently available in-house. Where such staff are engaged, it is not done with the intention of circumventing the Government's staff numbers reduction programme rather it is to ensure that an optimum quality of service continues to be provided.

The Government decided in December 2002 that overall public service staffing levels be reduced by 5,000 in the period 2003 to 2005. In July, 2003, the Government requested that all Departments and public bodies contribute to the overall reduction in staff numbers. My Department and the agencies under its remit are meeting their commitments in this regard.

Social Welfare Benefits.

John Perry

Question:

145 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will intervene with the Health Service Executive, north-western area, on behalf of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo. [36198/05]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is administered my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. My Department has no function with regard to decisions on individual claims.

To be eligible for rent supplement, applicants must have a housing need that they are unable to meet either from their own resources or through accommodation available to them from another source, including local authority housing.

The north-western area of the executive has advised that it rejected a claim for rent supplement from the person concerned, on the basis that she had vacated her local authority house in June 2005 and had failed to satisfy the executive that she had a valid reason for doing so. It is open to the person concerned to appeal this decision to the designated appeals officer of the executive.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when the full dietary allowance will be restored in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36277/05]

The diet supplement scheme is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive, and neither I nor my Department has any function in relation to individual claim decisions. The Dublin-mid-Leinster area of the executive has advised that, following a review of his entitlements, it determined that the person concerned was entitled to a reduced rate of diet supplement. His payment was adjusted accordingly in July 2005. The person concerned has appealed to the executive against the decision to adjust his claim. The appeals office has found in favour of the applicant who will be awarded the higher rate of supplement as previously approved. Any arrears outstanding will be reimbursed to the person concerned.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

147 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason adoptive benefit is awarded only to an adopting mother or a single male who adopts a child; his plans to revise the eligibility criteria of this payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36092/05]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

148 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, where adoption directly follows a period of foster care he will relax the eligibility criteria for adoptive benefit to allow persons who are not in employment directly before the adoption to receive same in view of the small number of cases this affects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36093/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 147 and 148 together.

Entitlement to adoptive benefit is contingent in the first instance on entitlement to adoptive leave. The right to adoptive leave is established under the adoptive leave legislation, which is the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. That legislation requires that the adopting parent's employer certifies entitlement to adoptive leave. Eligibility for adoptive benefit is confined to an adopting parent, as defined under social welfare legislation, which is in turn tied into the provisions of adoptive leave legislation. An adopting parent is an employed adopting mother, an employed sole male adopter, or, where an adopting mother has died, an employed adopting father.

Under the provisions of social welfare legislation, periods of adoptive leave attract a payment from my Department, subject to certain contribution conditions. He or she must have paid a minimum number of contributions at the relevant contribution classes. Foster parents are not excluded from entitlement to adoptive leave and in turn adoptive benefit but the eligibility criteria prescribed in both pieces of legislation must be fulfilled to establish their entitlement to adoptive benefit.

The adoptive benefit scheme has been significantly improved in the last four years in terms of both the duration of the payment and the level at which it is paid. In 2001, in line with a commensurate increase in maternity leave and benefit, the duration of adoptive leave and benefit was increased by four weeks to a total of 14 weeks. Last year, it was further extended by two weeks to a total of 16 weeks. Just as significantly, the period of unpaid adoptive leave was increased by four weeks to eight weeks, bringing the total period of adoptive leave to which a woman is entitled to 24 weeks. Over the same period, the estimated cost of the adoptive benefit scheme rose from €260,000 to €609,000 per annum. These improvements reflect the ongoing enhancements in adoptive leave provisions.

Departmental Funding.

Denis Naughten

Question:

149 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if funding will be provided for an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36181/05]

The main source of funding available from my Department to groups providing counselling comes through the scheme of grants to voluntary organisations providing marriage, child and bereavement counselling, administered by the Family Support Agency. Funding for 2005 under the scheme amounted to some €8.4 million and over 500 groups throughout the country received financial support under this scheme. I understand that no application has been received to date from this organisation.

The 2006 scheme will be advertised early in the new year and applications are welcome from all groups providing counselling services in the community. Should the group wish to be included on the Family Support Agency mailing list in relation to the 2006 grant scheme, it should contact the agency at St. Stephen's Green House, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2, or by phone at01 611 4100.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Richard Bruton

Question:

150 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the value of the national fuel supplement and the smokeless fuel premium in each year since 1997. [36212/05]

A fuel allowance of €9 per week is payable to eligible households during a 29 week winter heating period from end-September to mid-April each year. An additional €3.90 per week is payable in the designated urban smokeless fuel zones. Approximately 274,000 households receive a fuel allowance, and some 123,000 of these also receive a smokeless fuel supplement. The scheme is expected to cost €85.4 million this year. Expenditure and numbers qualifying for the fuel allowance scheme from 1997 to 2005 are set out in the following table.

In addition to fuel allowance, over 300,000 pensioners and other households qualify for electricity or gas allowances through the household benefits package, payable toward their heating, light and cooking costs throughout the year, at an overall cost of €108.8 million in 2005. There is also a facility available through the supplementary welfare allowance scheme to assist people who have special heating needs. Numbers receiving a standard fuel allowance, smokeless fuel supplement and annual expenditure on the scheme.

Year

Standard Fuel Allowance

Smokeless Fuel Supplement

Scheme cost

Nos.

Nos.

€m

1997

286,800

97,000

57.1

1998

277,000

98,000

57.0

1999

274,300

106,000

55.8

2000

270,000

109,000

55.5

2001

265,000

108,000

61.1

2002

259,000

115,000

80.5

2003

270,000

118,000

83.2

2004

272,000

121,000

84.7

2005

274,000

123,000

85.4

Social Insurance.

Richard Bruton

Question:

151 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the cost of increasing the threshold for social insurance from €127 to €200 and €300, respectively; when the threshold was first introduced; and its value in 1997 and 2000. [36213/05]

The PRSI-free allowance for employees paying the ordinary rate of PRSI was first introduced in 1995. For that year, a weekly non-cumulative threshold of £50, €63.49, per week applied to employees covered under classes A, E and H and with weekly pay exceeding £178, €226.03. A corresponding allowance for individuals in classes B, C, D and S was £10, €12.69.

In 1997, the PRSI-free allowance for employees in classes A, E and H and with weekly reckonable earnings above £197, €250.15, was £80, €101.58, per week and £20, €25.39, per week for employees in classes B, C, D and S. In 2000, the PRSI-free allowance for employees in classes A, E and H and with weekly reckonable earnings above £226, €287, was £100, €127, per week and £20, €25.39, per week for employees in classes B, C, D and S. It is estimated that an upward change in the current €127 allowance threshold to €200 or €300 would reduce employee contributions to the social insurance fund by €186 million or €440 million, respectively.

Richard Bruton

Question:

152 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the cost of increasing the exemption level for social insurance from €287 to €400 and to €500 respectively; when this exemption was first introduced; and its value in 1997 and 2000. [36214/05]

The PRSI exemption on low earnings was first introduced in 2000. For that year, employees covered under classes A, B, C, D, E and H, with reckonable weekly earnings of not more than £226, €287, were exempt from paying PRSI for that week. The exemption threshold has not changed since. It is estimated that an upward change in the current €287 exemption level to €400 or €500 would reduce employee contributions to the social insurance fund by €103 million or €251 million, respectively.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Richard Bruton

Question:

153 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the cost of increasing child benefit by €40 per month across the board; and the cost of increasing child benefit by €40 per month for those children aged under 5 years of age alone. [36215/05]

The estimated cost of increasing child benefit by €40 per month across the board is €530 million in a full year. The cost of increasing child benefit by €40 per month for children aged under 5 years of age is estimated at €144 million in a full year.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

154 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason for refusal of farm assist in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36242/05]

The person concerned claimed farm assist on 18 April 2005. He was asked to supply certain documentation and information in connection with his claim. He failed to supply the relevant information. His claim was disallowed on the grounds that he failed to prove, to the satisfaction of the deciding officer, how he supported himself and his wife since February 2003, given that he has no recorded income. Notification of the decision and of his right to appeal issued to him on 9 November 2005. No appeal has been received to date.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

155 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason rent allowance and supplementary welfare allowance is not being awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36282/05]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Neither I, nor my Department, have any function in deciding entitlement in individual cases.

The Dublin-mid-Leinster area of the executive has advised that the person concerned applied recently for a supplementary welfare allowance. It has no record of a claim from him for rent supplement, or of any appeal by him in relation to the terminated supplementary welfare entitlements at his previous address. The executive is awaiting additional information from the person concerned in order to determine his entitlements in his current circumstances.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

156 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of former employees who have been brought back to work on contract, or others employed on contract to do work which has traditionally been done in-house in his Department and the agencies under his authority; and the way in which this practice fits with the intention of an embargo on recruitment. [36458/05]

I understand that the Deputy's inquiry relates to recruitment policy in my Department, and the agencies for which I have responsibility, with particular regard to the decision taken by Government in December 2002 which set targets for staffing levels in the public service.

In this regard my Department, the Family Support Agency, the Pensions Board, the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman and Comhairle have not re-employed any former staff on a contract basis to carry out work for which the Department or the agencies are routinely responsible. The Combat Poverty Agency does from time to time employ former staff members to carry out special short term projects but does not replace staff owing to the Government's public service numbers policy.

Air Services.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

157 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied that a company (details supplied) is fully compliant with and will be offered indemnity under the terms of the Air Navigation and Transport (Indemnities) Act 2005; the inspections which have taken place at the aerodrome since the Bill was enacted regarding compliance; the discussions which have taken place between his Department and management and owners of the company regarding compliance with the Act and the implications of the Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36124/05]

The Air Navigation and Transport (Indemnities) Act 2005 is a precautionary measure that allows the Government, in exceptional circumstances, to make an Order declaring that a state of difficulty exists in aviation insurance such that essential insurance is not generally available. This is not a decision that the Government will make lightly. It will be necessary to take into account the overall international situation including possible developments at EU level or at the level of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

If the Government makes such an Order the Act will allow the Minister to issue indemnities to the Irish aviation industry if they are unable to obtain essential insurance in the commercial market. My Department has not received any request for an indemnity under the Air Navigation and Transport (Indemnities) Act 2005. Until a request is made the question of eligibility does not arise.

Light Rail Project.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

158 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the financial evaluation which has been undertaken by the Department of Finance in relation to the costing of proposed metro north project; when this project will go to tender; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36202/05]

The timing of the tendering process for metro north and other Luas and metro projects is a matter for the Railway Procurement Agency and therefore I have no function in this regard. The Railway Procurement Agency is at present preparing a detailed implementation plan for the metro north line. Transport 21 provides for the completion of the project in 2012. I understand that public consultation will commence early in 2006.

Driving Tests.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

159 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport his policy on registration, vetting and education of driving instructors; and if a clear policy will be set out to driving instructors in order that such procedures can be adopted by them in advance of legislation. [36210/05]

Proposals developed by my Department for the regulation and quality assurance of driving instruction will involve a test of the competence of individual instructors. A working group comprising representatives of my Department and instruction interests has formulated the design of the standards that a driving instructor must meet. The standard will set out criteria for entry to the driving instructor profession and the three part examination comprising a written examination, a practical driving test and a test of instructional capability that instructors will have to pass in order to be registered.

Responsibility for implementing the standard of driving instruction and establishing a register of driving instructors will be with the proposed Road Safety Authority. I am considering what arrangements will be put in place to oversee implementation of the standard in the context of the establishment of the authority. As part of this process, the standard referred to above will form the basis for a consultation document to be issued early next year which will set out the requirements that driving instructors will have to comply with in order to be registered.

Road Traffic Offences.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

160 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the progress he has made in reaching an agreement with the British and Northern Ireland authorities on the mutual recognition of penalty points. [36211/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 150 on 19 October 2005. The North-South work programme which was agreed by the North-South Ministerial Council, included a commitment to examine the mutual recognition of penalty points between the Republic of Ireland and the North. However, in addition to the fact that separate penalty point systems operate in the two jurisdictions on this island, the system that operates in Northern Ireland differs from that applying in Great Britain. For that reason, it was agreed early in 2003 that it would be more appropriate to pursue the question of mutual recognition of penalty points on the basis of the operation of the three systems and that it would also be more appropriate that it would be dealt with under the auspices of the British-Irish Council. As Northern Ireland has the lead role for transport matters in the BIC, the authorities in that jurisdiction are taking the lead in considering this issue.

The development of a system of mutual recognition of penalty points presents complex legal questions and will require the negotiation of a bilateral agreement between the two Governments and probably the passage of primary legislation to support such an agreement. For that reason, my Department has sought and obtained the advice of the Attorney General's office in regard to this issue which will inform future consideration of the issue.

Public Transport.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

161 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the reason the Rathfarnham Luas line, as included in the Platform for Change Transport Strategy, does not form part of Transport 21; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36083/05]

I announced a new transport investment programme, Transport 21, on Tuesday, 1 November. This ambitious programme underlines the Government's commitment to develop a world-class transport system for the 21st century.

However, the Dublin Transportation Office's, A Platform for Change, continues to provide the strategic framework for the development of the greater Dublin area's transport system. In that context, feasibility studies and planning work will also be undertaken over the period of Transport 21 on other projects, including the proposed Luas line from the city centre to Dundrum via Rathfarnham, not included in this programme, but contained in A Platform for Change. Funding to bring such projects to construction is not included in the ten-year envelope.

Air Services.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

162 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport the discussions his Department had with the Department of Defence and the Irish Aviation Authority in regard to recent changes at Weston Aerodrome; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36084/05]

I understand that there are proposed changes at Weston Aerodrome which have the potential to affect military airspace. My Department has not discussed this with the Department of Defence as it is not a matter for which the Department of Transport has responsibility. This issue, and many other aspects of this proposal concerning the interface between military air traffic, traffic from Weston and other civil users of the airspace, will be considered in discussions between the principal interested parties, that is, the Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, Weston airport management and representatives of the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces. Neither has my Department had any discussions with the IAA on any changes at Weston as these are not matters for which the Department of Transport has responsibility.

Weston Aerodrome is a privately owned aerodrome which has been operating since 1938. It is licensed by the Irish Aviation Authority in accordance with the Aerodrome and Visual Ground Aids Order, SI No. 334 of 2000, and in issuing the licence the authority's remit extends to aviation safety standards. The IAA licenses Weston having regard to the standards laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation in annex 14 to the Chicago Convention. The IAA applies international standards to the regulation of aviation safety, including matters such as airspace design and rules of the air.

The local authorities are responsible for land use planning at and in the vicinity of Weston aerodrome in accordance with the Planning and Development Act 2000. In addition, the Irish Aviation Authority is a notice party under the planning and development regulations, SI No. 600 of 2001, so that any development with the potential to endanger or interfere with the safety, or safe and efficient navigation of aircraft is sent to the Irish Aviation Authority. I understand that the authority is quite satisfied with the safety levels at Weston Aerodrome.

Public Transport.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

163 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport the additional funds which have been sought by his Department to fund subventions in 2006 for bus based transport in the greater Dublin area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36085/05]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

166 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport if a subvention has been paid to Dublin Bus for the 20 additional buses announced in Transport 21; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36088/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 163 and 166 together.

In 2006, the subvention to CIE will increase by 5% from €270 million to €283.5 million. The allocation of the subvention to the operating companies of Bus Éireann, Bus Átha Cliath and Iarnród Éireann is a day-to-day operational matter for CIE.

However, a further €1.7 million will be allocated to Bus Átha Cliath in 2006 to operate the 20 additional buses for which I gave approval recently and which are due to be delivered before the end of this year. I am also awaiting proposals from Bus Átha Cliath for additional buses over and above the 20 already committed. Such proposals will also raise a requirement for additional subvention which I will consider at the appropriate time.

Rail Network.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

164 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport the preliminary costings for the establishment of an interconnector between Dublin’s Connolly and Heuston train stations; the routes which were considered for the interconnector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36086/05]

Transport 21 includes a financial provision to cover the anticipated cost of the project. However, I do not propose to release this commercially sensitive information until the public procurement process for this project is completed.

An initial feasibility study on the proposed interconnector between Heuston Station and the Docklands was carried out on behalf of Irish Rail in 2003. This examined possible alignments for the interconnector as well as preliminary cost estimates. The proposal submitted to me by Irish Rail was incorporated in the business case for the integrated rail network for the greater Dublin area and included the preferred alignment serving Heuston Station, High Street, St. Stephen's Green, Pearse Station and a new underground station in the Docklands. The preferred alignment is also an integral part of the DTO's strategy, A Platform for Change, and is supported by the Dublin regional planning guidelines.

All aspects of the project including the route alignment will be subject to public consultation and a statutory approval process under the Transport (Railway Infrastructure) Act 2001.

Public Transport.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

165 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport if a grant scheme will be introduced to local authorities for bus pull-in bays, filter lanes, and other traffic management measures in areas where there are significant volumes of traffic and where a modest investment could have a significant traffic management benefit attached; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36087/05]

My Department's traffic management grants provides funding, through the DTO, to local authorities and the quality bus network office, for investment in traffic management schemes throughout the greater Dublin area, GDA. Projects funded range from simple traffic management interventions such as banned right turns to more comprehensive schemes such as quality bus corridors.

The main objective of the traffic management grants is to improve operating conditions for the fleet of buses serving the GDA. Clearly funds are available to local authorities in the GDA for traffic management measures as outlined in the question.

Question No. 166 answered with QuestionNo. 163.

Air Services.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

167 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport if he has satisfied himself that Weston Aerodrome is fully compliant with and will be offered indemnity under the terms of the Air Navigation and Transport (Indemnities) Act 2005; the inspections which have taken place at the aerodrome since the Bill was enacted regarding compliance; the discussions which have taken place between his Department and the management and owners of Weston Aerodrome regarding compliance with the Act and the implications of the Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36089/05]

The Air Navigation and Transport (Indemnities) Act 2005 is a precautionary measure that allows the Government, in exceptional circumstances, to make an order declaring that a state of difficulty exists in relation to aviation insurance such that essential insurance is not generally available. This is not a decision that the Government will make lightly. It will be necessary to take into account the overall international situation, including possible developments at EU level or at the level of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

If the Government makes such an order, the Act will allow the Minister to issue indemnities to the Irish aviation industry if they are unable to obtain essential insurance in the commercial market. My Department has not received any request for an indemnity under the Air Navigation and Transport (Indemnities) Act 2005. Until a request is made the question of eligibility does not arise.

Taxi Regulations.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

168 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Transport if taxi licences will be issued to existing hackney licence holders in a location (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36090/05]

The operation and licensing of small public service vehicles, including taxis and hackneys, and their drivers, is currently controlled through the Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations 1963 to 2002. Since 26 September 2005, responsibility for the regulation of small public service vehicles now rests with the Commission for Taxi Regulation under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003. Taxi licences are currently granted by individual local licensing authorities in respect of designated taximeter areas only. The location mentioned in the question is not currently a taximeter area. The Commission for Taxi Regulation is responsible for the declaration, extension and alteration of taximeter areas, following a statutory consultation process. In this regard, the commission has indicated that it intends to put in place new taximeter areas on a phased basis in 2006, has recently published a consultation document Taximeter Areas and Taxi Fares and has invited submissions on the matter by 19 December 2005. Any decision regarding the declaration of a taximeter area at the location mentioned in County Galway is a matter for consideration and decision by the Commission for Taxi Regulation.

Question No. 169 answered with QuestionNo. 16.

EU Directives.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

170 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport if he will confirm that EU Directive 2004/51/EC will be implemented before 31 December 2005; if the directive will not be implemented by said date, the reason Ireland will not meet its obligations to implement this directive before the deadline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36135/05]

Significant progress has been made on the work transposing Directive 2004/51/EC on the development of the Community's railways and I will be finalising it in the coming weeks.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

171 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport if he will confirm that EU Directive 2005/11/EC will be implemented before 31 December 2005; if the directive will not be implemented by said date, the reason Ireland will not meet its obligations to implement this directive before the deadline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36136/05]

It is my intention to have regulations made before end December 2005 which will transpose Directive 2005/11/EC, amending for the purposes of its adaptation to technical progress, Council Directive 92/23/EC relating to tyres for motor vehicles and their trailers and to their fitting. The directive will allow laboratories of tyre manufacturers to be accepted as approved test laboratories pursuant to framework type approval Directive 70/156/EEC.

Question No. 172 answered with QuestionNo. 8.

Light Rail Project.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

173 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the Dublin suburbs that will be directly served by the proposed orbital metro under Transport 21; the way in which Finglas will be accommodated in such plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36221/05]

Transport 21 includes a metro line from the city centre to Swords via Dublin Airport and an orbital metro route linking Tallaght with Clondalkin, Blanchardstown and Ballymun. The detailed planning work, public consultation and the statutory approval process will determine the precise route what metro west will take. Transport 21 also provides for feasibility studies to be undertaken on a range of projects, including an examination of the extension of a Luas line from Liffey Junction via Finglas to Sillogue

Departmental Estimates.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

174 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide a breakdown of subhead F of the 2006 transport Estimates for each separate category under appropriations in aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36222/05]

The breakdown of subhead F in the 2006 transport Estimates is:

2006 Appropriation-in-Aid Subheads

Amount

€ ’000’s

F1

Recoupment for Seconded Staff

237

F2

Road Transport Licenses

601

F3

IAA refund of subs

5,331

F4

IAA recoupment of rents

305

F5

Recoupment of IAA associated costs

1,552

F6

Recoupment of IAA safety audit

1

F7

Miscellaneous Receipts

153

F8

Driving test fees

7,300

F9

National Toll roads

18,000

F10

Vehicle Testing

801

F11

LGF Recoupment

1,680

A-in-A’s Total

35,961

Driving Licences.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

175 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the amount allocated to date in 2005, with a breakdown for each year, for the introduction of a plastic card driving licence; the amount expended to date in 2005; the original estimate for the project; when he expects it to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36223/05]

In June 2003 a notice requesting the submission of tenders to supply a plastic card licence was published in the EU Official Journal. A number of developments took place following receipt of tenders and the proposals were reviewed in the light of these developments. These developments included the publication of a draft EU directive on driving licences in October 2003 proposing the issuing of new licences in plastic card format only and allowing the introduction of an optional microchip on the driving licence. There have also been developments concerning anti-fraud protection measures and possible developments in e-Government.

Having considered these matters it was decided not to proceed with the tender invitation of 16 June 2003. Preparation of a revised request for tender, to take account of these developments is underway in my Department. There has been no specific expenditure to date on the project itself. Estimates and target completion dates will be agreed based on the results of the tendering process. I expect significant progress to be made in 2006.

Rail Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

176 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if consideration has been given to restoring the rail link between Sallins and Naas in view of increased passenger requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36243/05]

Iarnród Éireann has no proposals for a rail link between Sallins and Naas. However, the Sallins-Naas area will benefit from a significant increase in capacity from the upgrading of the Kildare route which is currently the subject of a railway order application.

Under the requirements of the Transport (Railway Infrastructure) Act 2001, I have directed that a public inquiry be held into the proposed works on the Kildare route. I have appointed Mr. Pat Butler SC as inspector to the inquiry and he will begin the inquiry early in 2006.

Public Transport.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

177 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he has received a request for or will issue a directive in response to such request from Bus Átha Cliath for the provision of bus services to the outer perimeter of all towns in north Kildare which have experienced population increases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36245/05]

The provision of public bus services on specific routes, in response to demand for public bus services, is a commercial and operational matter for bus operators.

The only application on hand from Bus Átha Cliath for the north Kildare area is a request for permission, in accordance with section 25 of the Transport Act 1958, for changes to their existing 67/67A services which operate between Celbridge and the city centre. The application is currently being finalised and a decision will be made shortly.

Question No. 178 answered with QuestionNo. 20.

Air Navigation Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

179 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the progress in meeting his commitment given in Seanad Éireann during the course of the Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) Bill 2005 to consult with industry in relation to meeting the concerns expressed by many indigenous companies regarding the implications for competitiveness of firms here if the Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) Bill 2005 passes unamended; the outcome of such discussions; and the way in which he proposes to meet these concerns. [36248/05]

The main purpose of the Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) Bill 2005 is to give effect to the International Convention relating to Co-operation for the Safety of Air Navigation signed at Brussels on 13 December 1960, as consolidated by the protocol signed at Brussels on 27 June 1997. The revised Eurocontrol convention was concluded following several years in negotiation. The changes represent a major revision of the convention and are designed to update the convention to take into account progress made in the area of air navigation services.

Articles 5 to 9 of annex IV to the revised Eurocontrol convention refers to the issues of attaching the en-route charge as a lien on the aircraft and making the operator and owner jointly and severally liable. Ireland is under no compulsion to legislate for creation of liens or joint and several liability as to operator and owner of the aircraft and has not made provision for this in the published Bill. By not so introducing the creation of a lien and joint and several liability, Ireland cannot be said not to be discharging its obligations under the new Eurocontrol convention, as it is matter of choice for a contracting party to introduce domestic law to this effect. The passage of this Bill in its current form would not impact on our current powers relating to detention and sale of aircraft for unpaid charges, which have been in place since 1988.

Representations have been received, however, from a number of aircraft leasing companies regarding the powers of detention and sale contained in earlier legislation, specifically the Air Navigation and Transport (Amendment) Act 1998. Their concerns stem from the situation that aircraft leasing companies can be made liable to pay substantial charges incurred by airlines and which allow for the aircraft, engines and equipment they own or finance to be seized and sold to clear those debts in disregard of their ownership or secured lender position. This is the fundamental issue of concern to aircraft lessors and they have asked that it be rectified in the Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) Bill 2005.

My Department has had a number of discussions with aircraft leasing companies and these discussions are ongoing. Following advice received from the Attorney General's office, discussions have also taken place with the Irish Aviation Authority, the Dublin Airport Authority and Eurocontrol. Further discussions with interested parties will take place over the coming weeks following which a decision will be taken on the need for amendments to the Bill prior to its consideration in the Dáil.

Road Network.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

180 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport further to the last paragraph of Parliamentary Question No. 165 of 10 November 2005, if he will provide details of the works proposed under the upgrading of the West Link section of the M50, and in particular the changes that will be made to the toll bridge and toll barriers during and upon completion of this specific upgrade. [36249/05]

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects, including the upgrade of the M50 and the move to barrier free tolling at the West Link bridge, is a matter, in the first instance, for the National Roads Authority.

A design and build contract for the upgrading of the West Link section of the M50, that is, 3.2 km of motorway between the Galway road junction and the West Link toll plaza, is expected to be advertised in early 2006 and works are due to be completed by mid 2008. The conversion of the toll plaza and the installation of barrier free tolling on the M50 will be the subject of a separate contract. The timing of the move to barrier free tolling will depend on the outcome of negotiations currently underway between the NRA and NTR.

Driving Tests.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

181 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the amount spent annually on compensation payments to learner-drivers for costs incurred due to the fact that the test could not proceed as scheduled, for instance in the circumstances where a tester is unavailable; the number of such compensation payments in a year; the number of cancelled tests in a year where the fault did not lie with the applicant; the way in which this expenditure is accounted for in the annual estimates and the specific subhead applying; the policy in respect of compensating applicants in this fashion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36257/05]

The information sought by the Deputy is not readily available and will be compiled and forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Question No. 182 answered with QuestionNo. 28.
Question No. 183 answered with QuestionNo. 8.

Transport Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

184 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which he has studied Transport 21 with a view to speedier and more efficient rail and road access to Dublin Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36264/05]

Transport 21 provides for the construction of a new metro line between St. Stephen's Green and Swords and serving Dublin Airport. This line will provide a quick and efficient service to Dublin Airport from the city centre. Journey time from St. Stephen's Green will be approximately 17 minutes and trains will run every four minutes. Metro north will link up with the metro west line at Ballymun, and with Luas, DART and suburban rail services in the city centre. This will provide direct rail access to the airport from the wider rail network in the greater Dublin area.

Road access to Dublin Airport, which has improved substantially in recent years as a result of the ongoing development of national roads in the greater Dublin area, will be further enhanced as a result of the M50 upgrade provided for in Transport 21.

Air Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

185 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if it is intended to increase and improve air transport between Dublin Airport and the provinces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36265/05]

Under EU rules, the development of new air services is entirely a matter for commercial decision on the part of airlines, in consultation with the relevant airport authorities. Member states are allowed to provide financial compensation for the operation of public service obligation air services to regional airports, where it would not be economically viable for airlines to operate on a commercial basis. Earlier this year, I announced the award of contracts for the provision of PSO services on six regional routes for the next three years.

Aer Arann was awarded contracts to continue operating scheduled services on routes linking Dublin with the regional airports in Galway, Kerry, Sligo and Donegal. The Scottish regional carrier, Loganair, was awarded the contract for the operation of routes linking Dublin with Knock and City of Derry Airports. Under the new PSO contracts, Aer Arann will provide three daily return services on the Galway and Kerry routes and two daily return services on the Sligo and Donegal routes. Loganair will provide two daily return services on the Derry route and one return service each day on the Knock route. The total maximum contracted subvention for the three-year contract term on all routes will be €45.8 million. It remains open to the appointed air carriers to provide additional non-PSO services on the routes in question.

Question No. 186 answered with QuestionNo. 8.
Question No. 187 answered with QuestionNo. 28.

Road Safety.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

188 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if his proposals to ban super trucks will be in accord with European court principles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36268/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Priority Question No. 2 of today. EU law permits member states to have national weight and dimension limits for road vehicles provided they do not conflict with European law. The recent judgment of the European Court of Justice, to which the Deputy refers, related to the prohibition by the Austrian authorities on the use of certain motor vehicles over 7.5 tonnes in weight on a section of motorway in the Tyrol region. This limit was lower than the weight limit specified in the relevant EU directive on vehicle weights and dimensions. The issue I am dealing with relates to the reintroduction of a statutory maximum height for vehicles in excess of a limit of 4 m, which is the current threshold at or below which the free circulation of vehicles within the European Union must be permitted by member states. If it is decided to reintroduce a statutory height restriction for vehicles, it will be necessary to submit the draft regulations to the European Commission for consideration and for referral to other member states in accordance with the technical standards and regulations directive — Directive 98/34.

Road Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

189 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the action he proposes to deal with the situation arising from the fact that the port tunnel is unable to accommodate larger trucks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36269/05]

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects, including the Dublin Port tunnel, is a matter for the National Roads Authority and the local authorities concerned. It is the view of Dublin City Council and the NRA that the Dublin Port tunnel will facilitate almost all of the HGV traffic using Dublin Port. The issue of routing vehicles unable to use the tunnel through the city will be addressed in the context of the heavy goods vehicle management strategy being prepared by Dublin City Council.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

190 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the way in which it is intended to divert heavy trucks from the N11, N9, N7 and N4 to the port tunnel in view of the severe traffic congestion on the M50; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36270/05]

Traffic management in general is a matter for the appropriate local authority and the traffic management and control arrangements that will apply following the opening of the Dublin Port tunnel are a matter for Dublin City Council. In parallel with the opening to traffic of the Dublin Port tunnel, Dublin City Council will introduce a heavy goods vehicle traffic management strategy to ensure maximum traffic benefits are secured from the Dublin Port tunnel.

My Department's formal role will be to put in place the necessary regulatory framework relating to traffic and parking management and road signage to support the strategy. In addition, my Department will continue to liaise with Dublin City Council as the strategy is finalised, so that I may be assured that the primary objective of the Dublin Port tunnel — to provide a high quality access route to Dublin Port for heavy goods vehicles — is achieved in a manner which maximises the overall traffic benefit of the tunnel.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

191 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the conventional wisdom for opting for extra toll roads in view of the cost and congestion at the M50; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36271/05]

Transport 21 envisages that a proportion of the national roads programme will be implemented by means of public private partnerships, PPPs, which will involve private sector funding, remunerated in part by user tolls. Through PPPs, private sector innovation will be harnessed in the areas of scheme design, construction and long-term operation and maintenance and will ensure earlier delivery of vital national road infrastructure. User tolls are now in widespread use throughout the developed and developing world and are particularly favoured where rapid expansion in major road networks is required.

The National Roads Authority's current PPP programme comprises ten projects. There is limited capacity over and above the projects already identified to support viable tolling arrangements. Nevertheless, the cost of the national roads programme, combined with the demands of the other sectors which limit the capacity to allocate more Exchequer funding, require that all possibilities for generating additional funding to accelerate the implementation of the national roads programme be considered. The NRA considers that new tolled roads will deliver time-savings, journey time certainty, and an overall high level of service to users for the toll charge levied. Users will therefore derive identifiable benefits from their use of the tolled road, but at all times will continue to have available the existing untolled route. The provision of tolled routes will be an expansion of current route choice options.

I am informed by the NRA that a strict performance regime is provided for in current PPP contracts — for example, the M1 and the M4-M6 Kilcock-Kinnegad projects — to ensure compliance with requirements, including level of service provisions. Defaults in performance by the PPP company lead to the imposition of a financial penalty together with the award of points under a penalty points system which may trigger increased levels of monitoring at the PPP company's cost and ultimately contract termination. These provisions incentivise the PPP company to maintain high service levels. With regard to the West Link toll bridge, the service obligations contained in this agreement, which date back to the 1980s, are not as developed or as comprehensive as those contained in current PPP contracts.

Rail Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

192 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his plans to deal with the serious overcrowding on commuter trains from Kilcock, Maynooth, Leixlip, Confey, Sallins and Hazelhatch stations enroute to and from the capital; his views on the serious disincentive this represents to encouraging passengers onto rail transport, as well as a potential health and safety risk; the steps he will take to ensure an increased capacity and frequency in respect of trains using the stations concerned with immediate effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36273/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

193 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the need to address the issues of serious overcrowding on commuter trains to and from north Kildare; if he has given instructions to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36274/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 192 and 193 together.

No domestic or EU regulations govern the number of passengers that can be carried on an individual railway carriage. However, I expect the railway safety Bill to be enacted before year-end, and the Railway Safety Commission will then have power to make regulations in this area. Iarnród Éireann has indicated the issue of crowding is one of discomfort and inconvenience, rather than a safety concern and this view is in line with the consensus in the railway industry worldwide. A significant increase in rail capacity has been provided in recent years in the areas referred to by the Deputy and Transport 21 identifies projects which will further enhance services on these lines. Iarnród Éireann will shortly begin the construction of a new railway station in the Dublin docklands, which will facilitate an increase in services on the Maynooth line while the Kildare route project is the subject of a railway order procedure. The company also proposes to expand its suburban rolling stock to meet the demands on all routes into Dublin.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

194 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he has received requests for or given permission to Iarnród Éireann, Bus Átha Cliath and Bus Éireann for the augmentation of a dedicated shuttle bus service to rail stations at Kilcock, Maynooth, Leixlip, Confey, Hazelhatch, Sallins, Newbridge and Kildare with a view to alleviating road traffic congestion and providing an efficient and effective alternative with the objective of achieving maximum capacity at all stations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36275/05]

The day-to-day operation of bus services by Bus Átha Cliath and Bus Éireann is a matter for the individual companies. However, since 10 January 2001 both Bus Átha Cliath and Bus Éireann are required by ministerial direction to notify my Department of proposed new services or proposed changes to existing services at least four weeks prior to their introduction. My Department has not received any notification from Bus Átha Cliath or Bus Éireann for shuttle bus services to the rail stations mentioned. However, such notification would be looked at favourably by my Department, subject to compliance with the necessary regulatory requirements and with the provisions of section 25 of the Transport Act 1958, concerning competition with licensed private operators.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

195 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the number of daily commuters using the rail stations at Kilcock, Maynooth, Leixlip, Confey, Monasterevin, Kildare, Newbridge, Sallins and Hazelhatch; the extent to which this can be increased with immediate effect with a view to meeting modern commuter requirements arising from population increase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36276/05]

I have been informed by Iarnród Éireann that the number of commuters using rail services through these stations is 5,000 each morning. This has increased considerably over recent years, as rail services have been improved and population has increased. The company has also informed me that it proposes to introduce additional services on the introduction of their new timetable in December. These will provide the opportunity for more than 2,000 additional commuters to use its services daily on the Maynooth line. Enhancements will also be introduced to Kildare line services at that time further increasing capacity along that line. Plans under Transport 21 provide for major upgrades of service along these two lines, increasing service frequency and capacity to DART-like standards. Detailed delivery plans including timescales are currently being prepared by Iarnród Éireann and it is anticipated that there will be another significant increase in capacity in 2007 on the delivery of more units of rolling stock.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

196 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the number of former employees who have been brought back to work on contract, or others employed on contract to do work which has traditionally been done in-house by his Department and the agencies under his authority; and the way in which this practice fits with the intention of an embargo on recruitment. [36459/05]

My Department has the following number of former employees who have been brought back to work on contract, or other employed on contract to do work which has traditionally been done in-house:

Grade

Number

Former Employees

Retired Driver Tester

6

Yes

Engineer Inspector

1

No

IT Contractors

2

No

My Department's commitment to adhere to the Government's decision on Civil Service numbers will not be affected by the engagement of the above contract staff. With regard to employees in semi-State bodies, this is an operational matter for the agencies concerned.

Departmental Funding.

Máire Hoctor

Question:

197 Ms Hoctor asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his Department has given funding to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul from 1998 to date in 2005; if such funding was given by his Department, to supply the details thereof and the conditions attached by his Department, relating to its proper distribution thereto. [36108/05]

Provision has been made in the Revised Estimates Volumes, published since the establishment of my Department for annual payments to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Under these provisions, my Department has paid the society €1.27 million annually in 2002, 2003 and 2004. A further payment for 2005 is being prepared. Prior to the establishment of my Department an annual amount was paid to the society by the then Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs. The funding is expended in accordance with needs as assessed by the society in the light of requests for support received. Annual reports and audited accounts are received each year from the organisation, which acknowledge receipt of funds from this Department. As in the case of all voted moneys, funding provided to the society is subject to routine audit by my Department's internal audit unit. The internal audit unit has an internal audit strategy in place and undertakes its work on a risk analysis basis.

In addition, my Department has paid the society €127,000 in respect of a conference research support and development project subject to the submission of satisfactory progress reports and expenditure breakdown. Individual conferences of the society received €540,000 under the scheme of community support for older people in respect of 2002, 2003, and 2004 and €22,700 under programme of grants for locally-based community and voluntary organisations over the same period. My Department requires that groups awarded funding in respect of the scheme of community support for older people and for the programme of grants for locally-based community and voluntary organisations provide receipts to the total value of the grant awarded and a statement signed by the chairperson and treasurer to the effect that the grant was used for the purpose it was awarded.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

198 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of former employees who have been brought back to work on contract, or others employed on contract to do work which has traditionally been done in-house among his Department and the agencies under his authority; and the way in which this practice fits with the intention of an embargo on recruitment. [36460/05]

Currently, no former employees of my Department have been brought back to work on contract, or are employed on contract to do work which has traditionally been done in-house. I am informed that one former employee is currently on contract to Foras na Gaeilge for a three year period.

EU Directives.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

199 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will confirm that EU Directive 2005/13/EC will be implemented before 31 December 2005; if the directive will not be implemented by said date, the reason Ireland will not meet its obligations to implement this directive before the deadline; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36138/05]

The statutory instrument transposing EU Directive 2005/13/EC into national law is being drafted at present and will be signed by the Minister before 31 December 2005.

Pension Provisions.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

200 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food further to Parliamentary Question No. 347 of 16 November 2005 regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly, if she has satisfied herself that this person has been paid by her Department since they were removed from their place of employment on 7 October 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36155/05]

The person in question is being paid pension rate of pay in accordance with the terms of the Civil Service sick leave and pension regulations.

Grant Payments.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

201 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding the special beef premium application for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [36171/05]

The person named submitted two applications under the 2004 special beef premium scheme, in respect of a total of 19 animals. The first application, in respect of ten animals, was received on 4 May 2004 and the second application, in respect of nine animals, was received on 7 January 2005.

Following computer validation, it was found that eight of the animals on the second application were non-CMMS compliant, meaning they were not recorded as being in the herd of the person named on the date of receipt of the application by the Department, a regulatory requirement of the scheme. The ninth animal was found to have died prior to application. Under the governing regulations, the eight non-CMMS compliant animals were liable to be rejected, that is, not paid premium, and a reduction penalty applied to other premia payments to the person named. The ninth animal was not eligible for payment and was deleted as an innocent error.

Correspondence with the person named having failed to resolve the matter, an official of my Department has been in direct contact with the person named, following which the position regarding the non-compliance has been satisfactorily resolved. This application is now being further processed with a view to payment of the eight eligible animals at an early date.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

202 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding REP schemes (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36172/05]

The EU regulations governing the single payment scheme make specific provision for farmers who were obliged, because of agri-environmental undertakings such as REPS, to reduce their stock numbers. Such farmers are entitled to apply to my Department to have their single payment entitlements calculated on the period before they destocked. My Department is currently processing applications from farmers who sought to have this provision applied to them.

Turbary Rights.

Michael Ring

Question:

203 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if there is bog available for rent or lease either on a short-term or long-term basis in a certain area for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [36194/05]

Bogland is generally disposed of under section 8 of the Irish Land Commission (Dissolution) Act 1992. My Department is not aware of available bog in the vicinity of Foxford. However, the person named should contact my Department inspector at the Square, Castlerea, County Roscommon with a view to exchanging details.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

204 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of former employees who have been brought back to work on contract, or others employed on contract to do work which has traditionally been done in-house among her Department and the agencies under her authority; and the way in which this practice fits with the intention of an embargo on recruitment. [36461/05]

There are currently no former employees of my Department brought back to work on contract to do work traditionally undertaken by my Department's staff. A number of retired Department of Agriculture and Food veterinary staff are contracted by my Department as temporary veterinary inspectors to provide veterinary inspection services to augment my Department's existing authorised complement of veterinary staff or to provide temporary cover where necessary. The engagement of temporary veterinary inspectors does not impact on my Department's authorised staffing level of full-time veterinary inspectors.

Visa Applications.

John Perry

Question:

205 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will address the specific question raised in correspondence with regard to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36254/05]

The application in question was received by my Department on 28 September 2005. Having given full consideration to the matter, this application was refused because my Department was not satisfied, on the basis of the documentation provided that the applicant would adhere to the visa conditions. Furthermore, in this particular application the college in which the applicant intended to study was not a private fee paying institution.

It is of course open to the applicant to appeal the decision and to provide any additional information and or documentation to support that appeal. Appeals must be in written form and forwarded to the visa appeals officer at my Department. Only one appeal may be lodged in respect of any application and must be received within two months of receipt of refusal notice. In this particular application the final date is 1 January, 2006. In the event that an appeal is lodged in this case the application shall be fully reconsidered taking into account any additional information and documentation received.

For further information and student requirements I would suggest that the applicant refers to my Department's website at www.justice.ie where there is a dedicated link which covers the queries outlined, and provides all the information a student would require when submitting an application for a visa.

Citizenship Applications.

John Cregan

Question:

206 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way in which a person (details supplied) can apply for citizenship and the length of time it would take to process this application. [36119/05]

Section 8 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, provides that the spouse of an Irish citizen who was Irish other that by naturalisation, honorary citizenship or by virtue of an earlier marriage to an Irish citizen is entitled to make a declaration of Irish citizenship as post-nuptial citizenship following three years of marriage. In the case of the person concerned, it was open to him to exercise such an entitlement at any time between July 1986, when the provision was extended to include men, and the time of his wife's death. Unfortunately, that option is no longer open to him.

The only other option open to the person concerned to obtain Irish citizenship is naturalisation. Section 15 of the Act provides that an applicant for naturalisation must: be of full age; be of good character; have had a period of one year's continuous residency in the State immediately before the date of the application and, during the eight years immediately preceding that period, have had a total residence in the State amounting to four years. Section 16A of the Act provides that no period of residence shall be reckoned in respect of which an applicant does not have permission of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to remain in the State or where such permission is for the purposes of study or to seek recognition as a refugee within the meaning of the Refugee Act 1996; intend in good faith to continue to reside in the State after naturalisation; have made, either before a judge of the District Court in open court or in such a manner as the Minister, for special reasons allows, a declaration in the prescribed manner, of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State.

Section 16 of the Act provides that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is empowered to waive some or all of the statutory requirements, including the residency requirements, where the applicant is of Irish descent or Irish associations. In the particular circumstances outlined by the Deputy, I will certainly give consideration to utilising my discretionary powers, including waiving part of the residency requirement, in respect of any application submitted by the person concerned.

Further information and the necessary application forms may be obtained from my Department's website www.justice.ie or by telephoning the citizenship section helpline on Tuesdays or Thursdays between 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. at lo-call 1890 551 500 or 01 6167700. Should the individual referred to wish to enter the State in advance of obtaining Irish citizenship, he will, as a US citizen, be subject to the normal immigration controls prevailing at the time of his entry into the State.

Registration of Title.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

207 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for registration for a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36121/05]

I have requested the Land Registry to contact the Deputy directly concerning the current position of the application in question.

EU Directives.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

208 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will confirm that EU Directive 2003/110/EC will be implemented before 5 December 2005; if the directive will not be implemented by said date; the reason Ireland will not meet its obligations to implement this directive before the deadline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36133/05]

Council Directive 2003/110/EC of 25 November 2003 on assistance in cases of transit for the purposes of removal by air falls within Title IV of the Treaty of the European Union, the Amsterdam Treaty, and therefore does not automatically apply to Ireland or the UK unless and until we exercise a positive opt-in to the measure. As Ireland has not yet exercised its right in this regard, the final implementation date of the directive, 6 December 2005, does not apply to Ireland. It might be noted that neither has the UK exercised its right in this regard.

The specific approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas is required before Ireland can participate in the measure. Active consideration is being given to this matter and a decision will be made shortly in relation to seeking the approval of the Houses of the Oireachtas with regard to opting in to this and other return measures that fall under Title IV above.

Child Care Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

209 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if funding will be provided for a committee (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36139/05]

I recently announced the approval of €682,400 in capital grant assistance, under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006, EOCP, in respect of an application from the group in question. This approval is subject to the group's satisfactory compliance with a number of conditions regarding the development and completion of the project. I understand that the group has been advised of the decision by the child care directorate of my Department.

Area Development Management Limited which is engaged to administer the EOCP on behalf of my Department, will be in contact directly with the group regarding the conclusion of a contractual agreement necessary in order to draw down the grant.

Crime Levels.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

210 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of house burglaries and car thefts in the Kill area of County Kildare in the past five years; the detection rate for each; the number of gardaí allocated to duties in the Kill area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36147/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of Kill Garda station as at 22 November 2005 was three, all ranks. Kill Garda station is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily. When the station is not open, the public access call box and call diversion systems enable access to the district headquarters at Naas.

Local Garda management are satisfied that the current policing arrangements at Kill are adequate to meet the present policing needs of the area. Numbers of Garda personnel, together with overall policing arrangements and operational safety, are continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the general public.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the following table shows the number of unauthorised taking of vehicles and burglary of dwellings offences recorded and the detection rate for the Naas garda district from 2000 to 2004. Kill Garda subdistrict is included in the Naas garda district.

Burglary (dwellings only) and Unauthorised Taking (vehicle) offences recorded and percentage detection rate for years 2000 to 2004* in Naas Garda District.

Burglary (dwellings only) Recorded

Detection Rate

Unauthorised taking (vehicle) Recorded

Detection Rate

%

%

2004*

412

16

261

11

2003

432

15

231

9

2002

447

11

273

11

2001

393

13

416

5

2000

346

13

349

3

*Figures provided are provisional-operational and liable to change.

Prison Medical Service.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

211 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the report by a person (details supplied) on the psychiatric profile of prisoners here; when same will be published. [36148/05]

The report referred to by the Deputy entitled Mental Illness in Irish Prisoners is the result of a survey undertaken by a team from the national forensic mental health service at the Central Mental Hospital under the supervision of the clinical director of the hospital. The Irish Prison Service was pleased to facilitate and part-fund the study. Decisions in regard to publication are a matter for the authors but I understand that the Irish Prison Service would, subject to the agreement of the authors, be willing to facilitate dissemination by placing the report on the IPS website when the authors are willing to release it.

Garda Deployment.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

212 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí on duty at the Point Depot on 10, 16 and 17 November 2005, respectively; their rank and if they were in uniform. [36150/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the gardaí on duty at the location on the dates mentioned are as follows: 10 November 2005 — two gardaí; 16 November 2005 — one sergeant and four gardaí; 17 November 2005 — one sergeant and ten gardaí. I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that all gardaí on duty were uniformed gardaí.

Garda Recruitment.

Bernard Allen

Question:

213 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí that have been recruited from outside of Ireland who had already served in other police forces; the training they undertook before being put on duty; and the duration of the training. [36151/05]

I regret it has not been possible in the time available to obtain the information requested by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy again when the information is to hand.

Bernard Allen

Question:

214 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of recruits that have graduated from Templemore training college in the past 12 months; the number of conferring ceremonies that have taken place on each occasion that a class qualified; the stations they have been allocated to on a county basis. [36152/05]

I regret it has not been possible in the time available to obtain the information requested by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy again when the information is to hand.

EU Programmes.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

215 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the titles of all measures emanating from the Hague programme that have been passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas; the dates on which each was passed; and if so, the stage each measure was debated. [36156/05]

The Hague programme for strengthening freedom, security and justice, the successor to the 1999 Tampere programme, is a five year programme which provides the framework for the further development of the Union as an area of freedom, security and justice. The programme provides the work programme for the areas which come under Title IV of the treaty establishing the European Community and Title VI of the Treaty on European Union.

Proposals deriving from the ongoing work programme in these areas, referred to the Oireachtas since the Hague programme was agreed by the European Council on 5 November 2004 are included in the following tables.

Table 1 includes the proposals which were submitted to the Oireachtas Sub-Committee on European Scrutiny in compliance with the Oireachtas scrutiny arrangements. The information in the table is limited to the information available to my Department.

Table 2 includes the measures which were considered by the Oireachtas in the context of approval sought under Article 29.4.6 of the Constitution.

Table 1.

Title

Date of Sub-Committee Meeting

Date Examined by the Relevant Sectoral Committee, where Applicable

Proposed Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on certain aspects of mediation in civil and commercial matters

25 November 2004

1 June 2005

Proposed Council Decision providing for certain areas covered by Title IV of Part Three of the Treaty establishing the European Community to be governed by the procedure referred to in Article 251 of that Treaty

25 November 2004

1 December 2004

Proposed Decision on the exchange of information extracted from the criminal record

16 December 2004

Proposed Framework Decision on simplifying the exchange of information and intelligence between law enforcement authorities of the member states of the EU, in particular as regards serious offences including terrorist acts

16 December 2004

Proposed Framework Decision on the recognition and enforcement in the European Union of prohibitions arising from convictions for sexual offences committed against children

27 January 2005

Proposed Council Regulation amending the lists of insolvency proceedings, winding-up proceedings and liquidators in Annexes A, B and C to Regulation (EC) No 1346/2000 on insolvency proceedings

27 January 2005

Proposed Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the Visa Information System and the exchange of data between Member States on short stay visas

17 February 2005

Proposed Council Framework Decision on the fight against organised crime

14 April 2005

27 July 2005

Proposed Council Framework Decision on taking account of convictions in the Member States of the European Union in the course of new criminal proceedings

14 April 2005

21 September 2005

Proposed Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down rules on local border traffic at the external land borders of the Member States and amending the Schengen Convention and the Common Consular Instructions

28 April 2005

Proposed Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a European Institute for Gender Equality

28 April 2005

Proposed Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a European Small Claims Procedure

28 April 2005

1 June 2005

Proposed Council Decision on the signing of a Protocol to the Agreement between the European Community, the Republic of Iceland and the Kingdom of Norway, concerning the criteria and mechanisms for establishing the State responsible for examining a request for asylum lodged in a Member State or in Iceland or Norway

2 June 2005

Proposed Council Decision on the conclusion of a Protocol to the Agreement between the European Community, the Republic of Iceland and the Kingdom of Norway, concerning the criteria and mechanisms for establishing the State responsible for examining a request for asylum lodged in a Member State or in Iceland or Norway

2 June 2005

Proposed Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing for the period 2007-2013 the specific programme “Fight against violence (Daphne) and drugs prevention and information” as part of the General programme “Fundamental Rights and Justice”

16 June 2005

Proposed Council Decision establishing for the period 2007-2013 the specific programme “Fundamental rights and citizenship” as part of the General programme “Fundamental Rights and Justice”

16 June 2005

25 October 2005

Proposed Council Decision establishing for the period 2007-2013 the specific programme “Criminal justice” as part of the General programme — Fundamental Rights and Justice

16 June 2005

25 October 2005

Proposed Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing for the period 2007-2013 the specific programme “Civil justice” as part of the General programme “Fundamental Rights and Justice”

16 June 2005

4 October 2005

Proposed Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the European Refugee Fund for the period 2008-2013 as part of the General programme ’solidarity and management of migration flows’

16 June 2005

29 June 2005

Proposed Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the External Borders Fund for the period 2007-2013 as part of the General programme ’solidarity and management of migration flows’

16 June 2005

Proposed Council Decision establishing the European Fund for the integration of third-country nationals for the period 2007-2013 as part of the General programme ’solidarity and management of migration flows’

16 June 2005

29 June 2005

Proposed Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the European Return Fund for the period 2007-2013 as part of the General programme ’Solidarity and management of migration flows’

16 June 2005

29 June 2005

Proposed Council Decision establishing the specific Programme “Prevention, Preparedness and Consequence Management of Terrorism” for the period 2007-2013 — General Programme “Security and Safeguarding Liberties”

16 June 2005

25 October 2005

Proposed Council Decision establishing the specific Programme “Prevention of and fight against crime” for the period 2007-2013 — General Programme “Security and Safeguarding Liberties”

16 June 2005

Proposed Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment, operation and use of the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II)

27 July 2005

Proposed Council Decision on the establishment, operation and use of the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II)

27 July 2005

Proposed Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council regarding access to the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II) by the services in the member states responsible for issuing vehicle registration certificates

27 July 2005

Proposed Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European year of equal opportunities for all (2007) : Towards a Just Society

27 July 2005

Proposed Council Framework Decision on the European enforcement order and the transfer of sentenced persons between the Member States of the EU

27 July 2005 21 September 2005

16 November 2005

Proposed Council Regulation establishing a European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

21 September 2005

18 October 2005

Proposed Council Decision empowering the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights to pursue its activities in area referred to in Title VI of the Treaty on European Union

21 September 2005

18 October 2005

Proposed Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Regulation (EC) No 1348/2000 of 29 May 2000 on the service in the Member States of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil or commercial matters

21 September 2005

Proposed Council Decision concerning the signing of the Agreement between the European Community and the Kingdom of Denmark extending to Denmark the provision of Council Regulation (EC) No 1348/2000 on the service in the Member States of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil or commercial matters

21 September 2005

Proposed Council Decision concerning the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Community and the Kingdom of Denmark extending to Denmark the provision of Council Regulation (EC) No 1348/2000 on the service in the Member States of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil or commercial matters

21 September 2005

Proposed Council Decision concerning the signing of the Agreement between the European Community and the Kingdom of Denmark extending to Denmark the provision of Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 on the jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgements in civil and commercial matters

21 September 2005

Proposed Council Decision concerning the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Community and the Kingdom of Denmark extending to Denmark the provision of Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 on the jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgements in civil and commercial matters

21 September 2005

Proposed Council Decision on the improvement of police cooperation between the member states of the European Union, especially at the internal borders and amending the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement

21 September 2005

25 October 2005

Proposed Council Framework Decision to strengthen the criminal law framework to combat intellectual property offences

6 October 2005

Proposed Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council introducing a simplified regime for the control of persons at the external borders based on the unilateral recognition by Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia of certain documents as equivalent to their national visas for the purposes of transit through their territories

27 October 2005

Proposed Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a simplified regime for the control of persons at the external borders based on the unilateral recognition by the member states of certain residence permits issued by Switzerland and Liechtenstein for the purpose of transit through their territory

27 October 2005

Proposed Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council relating to measures envisaged to facilitate the procedures for applying for and issuing visas for members of the Olympic family taking part in the 2006 Olympic and-or Paralympic Winter Games in Torino

27 October 2005

Proposed Council Decision on the signing, on behalf of the European Community, of Council of Europe Convention No. 198 on laundering, search, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds from crime and on the financing of terrorism

27 October 2005

Proposed Council Decision on the establishment of a mutual information procedure concerning Member States’ measure in the areas of asylum and immigration

17 November 2005

Proposed Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on common standards and procedures in member states for returning illegally staying third-country nationals

17 November 2005

Table 2.

Title

Date

Stage Approval was Sought

Proposed Council Decision providing for certain areas covered by Title IV of Part Three of the Treaty establishing the European Community to be governed by the procedure referred to in Article 251 of that Treaty

1 December 2004

Pre-adoption

Proposed Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on certain aspects of mediation in civil and commercial matters

1 June 2005

Pre-adoption

Proposed Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a European Small Claims Procedure

1 June 2005

Pre-adoption

Proposed Council Decision on the exchange of information and co-operation concerning terrorist offences

28 June 2005

Pre-adoption

Proposed Decision of the European Parliament and the Council establishing the European Return Fund for the period 2007-2013 as part of the General programme ’Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows’

29 June 2005

Pre-adoption

Proposed Decision of the European Parliament and the Council establishing the European Refugee Fund for the period 2008-2013 as part of the General programme ’Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows’

29 June 2005

Pre-adoption

Proposed Council Decision establishing the European Fund for the integration of third-county nationals for the period 2007-2013 as part of the General programme ’Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows’

29 June 2005

Pre-adoption

Proposed Decision of the European Parliament and the Council establishing for the period 2007-13 the specific programme “Civil Justice” as part of the general programme “Fundamental Rights and Justice”

4 October 2005

Pre-adoption

Proposed Framework Decision on the European Evidence Warrant for obtaining objects, documents and data for use in criminal matters

22 November 2005

Pre-adoption

Visa Applications.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

216 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application for a person (details supplied) for their parents to be granted residency here. [36164/05]

The visa applications referred to by the Deputy were lodged with the Department of Foreign Affairs on 19 November 2005. It was received by my Department on 22 November 2005.

As we have an obligation to provide the best possible service to all our clients and to deal objectively with all applications received in a fair and transparent manner, applications are not, as a rule, given priority over earlier application in the queue. In exceptional circumstances prioritisation of one or more applications may be warranted however it does not appear that any such circumstances exist in this case. The applications will be examined and considered by a visa officer in my Department, Applications are currently taking between three to four weeks on average to process and the applicant will be notified of the decision at that time. The applications in question are for a single journey visa and not for residency as implied in the parliamentary question.

Registration of Title.

Michael Ring

Question:

217 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Land Registry Office will be instructed to expedite a dealing application for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and when same will be complete. [36166/05]

I wish to inform the Deputy that I have requested the Land Registry to contact him directly concerning the current position of the application in question. I understand that, in circumstances where the completion of an application in a particular case is urgent, the Land Registry will make every reasonable effort to facilitate such requests on receipt of a written explanation as to the reason underlying the urgency.

Garda Stations.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

218 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on the situation on the future location of the gardaí presently working at Dromad Garda station, County Louth. [36173/05]

The Deputy will be aware that the gardaí attached to Dromad Garda station have, for stated health and safety reasons and as a temporary measure only, relocated to Hackballscross Garda station. I am advised by the Garda authorities that there will be no diminution of Garda services provided in Dromad.

I am assured that the Office of Public Works, which has responsibility for such matters, are making every effort to urgently source and secure alternative accommodation for the Garda in the Dromad area which will allow them return at the earliest possible opportunity.

Garda Investigations.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

219 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on the progress to date in 2005 in investigating the illegal diesel laundering and the dumping of toxic sludge on the roadside in County Louth which has resulted in Louth County Council spending over €250,000 in disposing of this sludge. [36178/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that investigations into illegal diesel laundering in the Border area are ongoing in conjunction with Customs and Excise and the environmental unit at Louth County Council. The toxic sludge is a residue from a diesel laundering operation which has been dumped along the border area of County Louth. The Garda authorities inform me that the prime suspects reside in Northern Ireland and along the Border area within this jurisdiction.

Departmental Funding.

Denis Naughten

Question:

220 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if funding will be provided for an organisation (details supplied). [36180/05]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 503 of Tuesday 22 November 2005 and the written reply to that question. The position remains unchanged.

Garda Operations.

Tony Gregory

Question:

221 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action the gardaí can take when cars and vans without tax or insurance certificates are left in residential streets; the number of such cars and vans in a cul-de-sac (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36183/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that on 22 November 2005 there were 33 vehicles parked at the location mentioned. Four vehicles had no tax displayed and an additional four vehicles had no tax or insurance certificate displayed. Fines on the spot notices are issued to unattended cars that are not displaying current tax discs. Any such vehicles when found to be in use at the location are seized under section 41 of the Road Traffic Act 1994. The location receives regular and ongoing attention from both mobile and foot patrols.

Crime Levels.

Tony Gregory

Question:

222 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there has been a spate of vandalism to cars in a street (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if persons have been charged arising from same. [36184/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are nine recorded incidents of criminal damage to cars at the location concerned since the beginning of 2005. Two culprits have been made amenable for two of the incidents. One culprit is currently charged and before the courts and the second culprit is being dealt with under the juvenile diversion programme.

I am further informed that there is nothing to suggest that a spate of vandalism is occurring at the location mentioned. The location receives and will continue to receive regular and ongoing attention from both mobile and foot patrols.

Residency Permits.

John Perry

Question:

223 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if correspondence has been received in relation to a person (details supplied); when a decision will be made regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36189/05]

I refer the Deputy to the reply I gave to Parliamentary Question No. 502 on Tuesday, 22 November 2005. My position remains the same.

Garda Strength.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

224 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí in the Ardee and mid-Louth area for each year since 2000; the number and location of these gardaí; the hours of opening of each Garda station in mid-Louth for each year since 2000 and the changes made to these opening hours; the Garda overtime bill for each year to date in 2005 since 2000 for mid-Louth including the amount spent on Garda overtime so far in 2005 in mid-Louth including Ardee; the number and category of offences committed in mid-Louth including Ardee for each year since 2000; the number and category of prosecutions for each category for each year since 2000; if his attention has been drawn to the increasing demand for more gardaí in mid-Louth including Ardee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36191/05]

I regret that it has not been possible in the time available to obtain the information requested by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy again when the information is to hand.

Prison Accommodation.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

225 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if security is being provided for the Thornton Hall farm purchased as a site for a prison and the weekly costs thereof. [36207/05]

A professional security company has been engaged to control and monitor access to the site. The contract was placed following a competitive tender process. The weekly cost of the contract is approximately €970 per week.

Strategic Management Initiative.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

226 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on the proposed reorganisation of the Garda in County Louth; the changes proposed to Garda organisation and Garda barracks; and his proposals for Drogheda Garda barracks under the SMI proposals. [36226/05]

The Garda SMI report makes recommendations on the reorganisation of Garda regions, divisions and districts throughout the country. However, the position has changed significantly since the consideration of these issues under the strategic management initiative, in that the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which enables the most fundamental modernisation of the Garda Síochána since the foundation of the State, provides that the Commissioner will have enhanced responsibilities in preparing proposals for organisational reform. It would be premature to anticipate at this stage what proposals, if any, might be developed by the Commissioner in this context. I have sought further information from the Garda Commissioner, particularly regarding gardaí in County Louth, and I will contact the Deputy again when the information is to hand.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

227 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position of the application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36231/05]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in the citizenship section of my Department on 12 July 2005. The average processing time for such applications is 24 months at the present time. It is likely, therefore, that the case will be finalised in or around the middle of 2007. I will be in touch with both the Deputy and the applicant when I have reached a decision on the matter.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

228 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36232/05]

A declaration of acceptance of Irish citizenship as post-nuptial citizenship was received in the citizenship section of my Department on 21 July 2005 from the person referred to in the Deputy's question. I understand that my officials recently wrote to the person concerned to clarify some matters on the declaration. Processing of the declaration will continue when a reply to the letter is received and I will advise both the Deputy and the applicant when the matter has been concluded.

Refugee Status.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

229 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the application for family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36233/05]

The refugee in question made an application for family reunification in November 2004. A decision has recently been made on this application and the person in question has been informed of same.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

230 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36234/05]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in the citizenship section of my Department on 2 June 2005. Based on the volume of applications on hands, it is likely that the application of the person concerned, who has been granted refugee status, will be finalised in or around the end of 2006. I will be in touch with both the Deputy and the applicant when I have made a decision in the matter.

Refugee Status.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

231 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the application for refugee status which has been refused in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath will be reconsidered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36235/05]

The applicant in question applied for permission to remain in the State on the basis of having an Irish-born child prior to 1 January 2005, in accordance with the revised arrangements announced by me on 15 January 2005. One of the conditions of these revised arrangements is that the parent must have been continuously resident in the State since the birth of the Irish-born child and that documentary evidence of same is submitted with the application. Initially the applicant did not supply satisfactory evidence of continuous residence in the State since the birth of her Irish-born child and accordingly she was refused permission to remain in the State in October 2005. Additional correspondence has since been received from the applicant and her case is being reviewed in light of this new correspondence. Following this review, officials of my Department will contact the applicant.

Garda Operations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

232 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to a parliamentary question of 9 November 2005, if his attention has been drawn to the overall significant reduction in Garda breath testing for drink driving in 2004 compared with 2002; and the reason for same. [36237/05]

The information provided in the parliamentary question of 9 November 2005 refers to breath tests taken at Garda stations using an intoxilyser. These tests are taken after an arrest for drink-related driving has been made. The decision as to whether a breath test using an intoxilyser or whether a blood or urine sample is required is a matter of discretion for the arresting Garda. This is established under section 13 of the Road Traffic Act 1994.

The Deputy will be aware of a constitutional challenge to the Road Traffic Act 1994 in 2004, where it was asserted the legislation underpinning evidential breath testing was unconstitutional. The High Court ruled that the system does not infringe constitutional rights. To date all challenges to the legislation underpinning evidential breath testing heard in the High Court and Supreme Court have been unsuccessful.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the overall arrest rate for drink driving is continuing to rise. In the period 1 January to 18 November 2005, there have been 11,110 recorded incidents of driving while intoxicated, including intoxicated while in charge of a vehicle, an increase of 15% over the same period last year.

Judicial Appointments.

Dan Boyle

Question:

233 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of barristers who have applied in their own right for consideration for appointment as District, Circuit and High Court judges since January 2004. [36238/05]

The Judicial Appointments Advisory Board was established pursuant to the provisions of the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995 to identify persons and inform the Government of the suitability of those persons for appointment to judicial office. Information on the number of applications received for the various judicial offices may be found in the annual reports of the board, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas Library. The most recent report is in respect of the year 2004. Information on applications made to the board during the course of the current year will be made available in due course in its annual report for 2005.

Registration of Title.

Willie Penrose

Question:

234 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason lands contained in a folio and originally in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath when in fact they were consolidated with another folio, remain registered in the name of another person; if he will ensure that the title to a folio is duly updated to take account of the situation which pertains; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36255/05]

I have requested the Land Registry to contact the Deputy directly concerning the current position of the application in question.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

235 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of former employees who have been brought back to work on contract, or others employed on contract to do work which has traditionally been done in-house amongst his Department and the agencies under his authority; and the way in which this practice fits with the intention of an embargo on recruitment. [36462/05]

In light of the short timescale and the number of agencies under the Department's remit, it has not been possible for my Department to prepare details of the number of former employees currently employed on contract. In 2004 the number of former, that is retired, civil and public servants employed on a contract basis was 23. The majority of people employed on this basis are assigned to short-term projects outside of the traditional work of the Department, where particular expertise is required, and do not form part of the Department's overall staffing numbers.

A number of these employees — seven in 2004 — were recruited directly by my Department by way of a special open competition to work in the asylum area. My Department operates within the staffing numbers approved by the Minister for Finance and these employees form part of my Department's authorised numbers.

School Materials.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

236 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that many second level schools have not received the DVD pack of Irish State films and guidelines to go with it and that there is no supply left in the education centres across the State; and if the pack will be made available and delivered directly to each second level school which requires same. [36104/05]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

237 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that many second level schools have not received DVDs of Clare sa Spéir an Irish short story which is on the new leaving certificate Irish course; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36105/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 236 and 237 together.

The DVD is entitled Gearrscannáin and it contains nine films in the Irish language. One of these films is Clare sa Spéir. This film is on the new prescribed literature course in Irish for leaving certificate which was introduced in schools in September 2004, for first examination in June 2006. The development of this DVD was funded by the Irish Film Board and TG4. Approximately 1,200 copies were distributed to schools through the education centre network in October 2004.

The response to this DVD from schools has been very positive and some requests for additional copies have been made. Arrangements are being made by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and the Irish Film Board to copy the DVD in quantities to meet the demands of teachers and schools.

Planning Issues.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

238 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science the discussions she or her Department has had with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government with regard to proposed changes to Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000 as amended in 2002. [36106/05]

The Deputy will be aware that the provisions of the Planning and Development Act 2000 do not place any onus on developers to provide school sites other than at market rates. I am keeping an open mind as to whether legislative change might be of assistance or prove the best way forward here. In this regard, my Department has commenced exploratory discussions with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. I remind the House, however, that any changes in this area would require careful consideration in the context of constitutional protection for private property and in weighing up how any reduction in the price per acre of any land given for schools development might impact on the unit costs and affordability of houses developed on the remaining lands.

Departmental Funding.

Máire Hoctor

Question:

239 Ms Hoctor asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department has given funding to St. Vincent de Paul from 1998 to date in 2005; if such funding was given by her Department, to supply the details thereof and the conditions attached by her Department relating to its proper distribution, thereto. [36107/05]

My officials are currently examining the matter and will make direct contact with the Deputy in the coming days.

Higher Education Grants.

Jack Wall

Question:

240 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science if there are mechanisms available to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare with regard to obtaining grant or financial assistance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36117/05]

My Department funds three means tested maintenance grant schemes for third level education students in respect of attendance on approved courses in approved third level institutions and one grant scheme in respect of post leaving certificate courses. These are the higher education grants scheme, the vocational education committees' scholarship scheme, the third level maintenance grants scheme for trainees and maintenance grants scheme for students attending post leaving certificate, PLC, courses.

The decision on eligibility for third level grants is a matter for the relevant local authority or VEC. These bodies do not refer individual applications to my Department except, in exceptional cases, where, for example, advice or instruction regarding a particular clause in the relevant scheme is desired. It appears that no such advice or instruction has, to date, been sought in the case of the student, referred to by the Deputy.

Officials of my Department have contacted both Kildare County Council and Kildare VEC and they have no record of receiving an application from the candidate in question. The candidate should therefore apply to his or her relevant awarding body in the first instance. If an individual applicant considers that he or she has been unjustly refused a maintenance grant, or that the rate of grant awarded is not the correct one, he or she may appeal to the relevant local authority or VEC.

Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down, in writing, by the relevant local authority or VEC, and remains of the view that the body has not interpreted the schemes correctly in his or her case, a letter outlining the position may be sent to my Department. Alternatively, as already indicated, the local authority or VEC may, in exceptional circumstances, seek clarification on issues from my Department. However, it is not open to me, or my Department, to depart from the terms of the maintenance grants schemes in individual cases.

Apart from the funding provided through the student support maintenance grant schemes, financial assistance is also available from my Department through the student assistance fund. The objective of the fund is to assist students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise, due to their financial circumstances, be unable to continue their third level studies. Further information on this fund is available from the student access officer at the college being attended.

Special Educational Needs.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

241 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the position with regard to a special needs assistant application for a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36118/05]

As the Deputy is aware the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, which was established recently and which has been operational since 1 January 2005, is responsible for processing applications for special educational needs, SEN, supports. My officials have been advised by the NCSE that no application for special needs assistance support for the pupil referred to by the Deputy has been made to the SENO. It is open to the school to contact the SENO directly regarding any special education needs that the pupil may have.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

242 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in view of the increase announced in the education budget in the 2006 Estimates on 17 November 2005 a school (details supplied) in County Mayo and schools in the surrounding areas, will benefit from this increase; if spending in areas such as special needs assistance will be increased in order to reinstate special needs assistants who have already lost their jobs where cutbacks have occurred; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36127/05]

I can confirm that there are now over 5,000 teachers in our primary schools working directly with children with special needs, including those requiring learning support. This compares with fewer than 1,500 in 1998. Indeed, one out of every five primary school teachers is now working specifically with children with special needs.

I can also confirm that there have been no cutbacks in the allocation of special needs assistants, SNAs, to schools and any SNA posts that have been terminated have been terminated as a result of the pupils for whom such support was originally granted no longer requiring such support. In fact the number of SNAs in our schools increased significantly in 2005 and there are now over 6,000 SNAs in the primary school system compared to some 300 in 1998.

I can confirm that I will continue to prioritise the issue of special needs education and, in co-operation with the National Council for Special Education and the education partners, ensure that all children with special needs are adequately resourced to enable them to meet their full potential.

Third Level Fees.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

243 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in County Kerry who has lived here for four years is entitled to an exemption from fees in order to attend the general nursing programme at the institute of technology in Tralee. [36154/05]

The person referred to by the Deputy does not hold EU nationality or official refugee status and, therefore, does not qualify for free tuition fees under the free fees initiative.

Inquiry into Child Abuse.

Mary Upton

Question:

244 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to a report from a person (details supplied) which her Department received in January 1967 regarding the industrial and reformatory schools; if the documentation in her Department relating to the report contains reference to correspondence and a meeting in autumn 1964 between the author of the report and the then Minister for Justice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36188/05]

My Department has records of correspondence in the period 1965 to 1967 between the person mentioned by the Deputy and the then Minister for Education with regard to juvenile offenders and problems encountered by those who subsequently emigrated to Britain. The Department has no record of any report on the matter from the person concerned nor does it have any record of a meeting with the then Minister for Justice on the matter. The correspondence was not provided to the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse as it was not deemed by legal counsel to be directly relevant to the inquiry and did not come within the scope of commission discovery orders.

Mary Upton

Question:

245 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science the date on which her Department first became aware of a complaint from a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; the steps her Department have taken to have the matter investigated; if and when her Department gave the Garda documents from its files to assist in the investigation of the matters subject of this complaint; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36190/05]

Records indicate that my Department was first advised in 1991 by the principal of the school referred to by the Deputy of this complaint and the investigation involving the school and the health board into it. This investigation concluded that the allegations were unfounded. Following the subsequent referral of the matter to the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse by the complainant, my Department commissioned an independent assessment of the initial investigation. This assessment concluded that the initial investigation was seriously flawed and that its outcome was not satisfactory. In 1994, following fresh allegations of abuse of children at the school, a Garda investigation was carried out. At the conclusion of this investigation, the Director of Public Prosecutions directed that there was no evidence to support these allegations.

As part of an overall investigation into allegations of abuse at the school the Garda, in conjunction with the Eastern Health Board, my Department and the management of the school initiated a look-back investigation in 1996. This involved interviews with a sample of former residents and identified a number of allegations of abuse. Arising from this investigation, files were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions regarding allegations of abuse at the industrial school. My Department provided every possible assistance to the Garda and made available all relevant records in this regard.

Road Safety.

Paul McGrath

Question:

246 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of money allocated towards road safety measures at primary schools in each of the past five years. [36196/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

247 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the primary schools in County Westmeath which received grant aid for road safety flashing lights in each of the past five years and the schools concerned in each case. [36197/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 246 and 247 together.

The issue of road safety measures outside the vested site areas of primary schools would be a matter that should be raised in the first instance with the relevant local authority. Local authorities have the power to decide on road safety measures outside schools and should ensure that measures are in place to protect the safety of local school children. It is open to the boards of management of schools to make an application for funding under my Department's summer works scheme should safety measures be required within school boundaries.

Special Educational Needs.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

248 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department has a legal responsibility to provide for the continued provision of speech therapy, language therapy, occupational therapy and psychological services where children in need of such services move from primary to secondary school education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36218/05]

Section 7 of the Education Act 1998 confers a function on the Minister for Education and Science to ensure that appropriate education and support services are provided to children, including children with special educational needs. The State delivers therapies through the Health Services Executive, HSE, which is funded by the Oireachtas to provide such services. This is made clear by sections 7(5) and (6) of the Education Act 1998, as amended by the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 and Health Act 2004.

These provisions state that, following consultation with the Minister for Health and Children, the Minister for Education and Science can call on the HSE to assist her in providing, planning and co-ordinating support services, and the HSE is obliged to comply with this request. These provisions took effect on 14 July 2005. Section 9 of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 will also have a relevance in this context, when it is commenced. It provides that where a child who has an education plan is to be transferred from one school to another, there must be consultation between the schools before the transfer takes place. This is intended to ensure that the second school knows the content of the education plan and is assisted in amending the plan, where this is necessary, having regard to the special educational needs of the child and the operation of that school.

Where an amendment to the education plan is proposed in these circumstances, the principal of the new school will consult with the relevant special educational needs organiser if requested to do so by the parents. If necessary, the needs organiser can reconvene the education plan team for the purpose of reviewing the content and implementation of the plan and may, as a consequence of that review, amend the plan.

Recoupment of Legal Costs.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

249 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science if it is the standard procedure of her Department to inform litigants pursuing cases related to educational services that her Department will seek their costs to be reimbursed; if the pursuance of such costs is not the standard procedure of her Department; if consideration will be given to such action on a case-by-case basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36225/05]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

250 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science if the State has, in the past, successfully sought and been awarded costs where litigation has been pursued with the aim of securing educational services for children; if so the instances in which this has occurred; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36227/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 249 and 250 together.

The Deputy refers to litigation taken against the State in which my Department is a named party. While I cannot comment on any individual case, it should be understood that each set of proceedings is examined on a case by case basis. In litigation where the State believes it has fulfilled its constitutional and legal obligations to the plaintiff by making available appropriate educational provision and support services, it may be quite appropriate for the State to seek its costs. In such cases, it is obviously correct to put the plaintiff's legal advisors on notice of this intention.

Special Educational Needs.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

251 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the parts of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 which have not yet been commenced; the reason they have not commenced; when these parts are intended to be commenced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36241/05]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

253 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science when each part of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 was commenced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36259/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 251 and 253 together.

The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 was enacted in July 2004. Sections 1, 2, 14(1)(a), 14(1)(c), 14(2) to 14(4), inclusive, 19 to 37, inclusive, 40 to 44, inclusive, and 50 to 53, inclusive, of the Act were commenced on 14 July 2005. Separate establishment day orders were made in respect of the National Council for Special Education and the special education appeals board, setting their establishment dates as 1 October 2005 and 3 April 2006, respectively. A further commencement order was signed to commence sections 45 to 49 with effect from 1 October 2005, abolishing the council established under section 54 of the Education Act 1998 and replacing it with the council established under the 2004 Act. Those sections could not come into effect prior to the establishment of the new council under section 19 of the 2004 Act.

The remaining sections — 3 to 13, inclusive, 14(1)(b), 14(1)(e), 14(1)(f), 15 to 18, inclusive and 38, relate mainly to the statutory assessment and education plan process for which the Act provides. They cannot come into effect without the council having an opportunity to present an implementation report to the Minister, which it must do before 1 October 2006. The National Council for Special Education published a call for submissions on the implementation of the Act in the national media on 21 October 2005. The closing date for submissions is 13 January 2006. If the Deputy wishes to advise any interested groups on the suggested format in which submissions can be made, information in that regard is available from the council.

Higher Education Grants.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

252 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the higher education grant has not been awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36258/05]

Under the terms of the higher education grants scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students who meet the prescribed conditions of funding, including those which relate to nationality, residency, means and previous academic attainment. The nationality requirement, which is set out in clause 4.5 of the 2005 higher education grant scheme guidelines, provides that candidates must hold EU nationality; have official refugee status; have been granted humanitarian leave to remain in the State; have permission to remain in the State by virtue of marriage to an Irish national residing in the State or be the child of such person, not having EU nationality; have permission to remain in the State by virtue of marriage to a national of another EU member state who is residing in the State and who is or has been employed or self-employed in the State, or be the child of such a person, not having EU nationality; or be nationals of a member country of the European Economic Area or Switzerland. Officials from the Department of Education and Science have received an appeal from the candidate who was turned down by Kildare County Council, which is the awarding body in this case. As the candidate referred to by the Deputy is a non-EU national who has been granted permission to remain in the State on the basis of parentage of an Irish-born child, I regret that she does not comply with the above conditions and is ineligible for grant assistance under the nationality requirements of the scheme. There are no plans to extend the nationality clause of the student support schemes. Any extension to the scope of the maintenance grants scheme can be considered only in the light of available resources and in the context of competing demands within the education sector.

Question No. 253 answered with QuestionNo. 251.

Special Educational Needs.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

254 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the statutory responsibility and authority the NCSE had prior to the enactment of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004; the way in which these responsibilities and authority have been altered by the enactment of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36260/05]

The National Council for Special Education was established under the provisions of section 54 of the Education Act 1998. The council's functions are set out in the National Council for Special Education (Establishment) Order 2003, SI No. 270 of 2004. The council is charged with conducting and commissioning research on matters relevant to its functions and, as it considers appropriate, publishing in such form and manner as it thinks fit the findings of such research; advising the Minister for Education and Science on any matter relating to the education of children and others with disabilities, if it is requested by the Minister to do so; making available to the parents of children with disabilities information about their children's educational provision; consulting with schools, health boards and other relevant bodies about the provision of education and support services to children with disabilities; carrying out from time to time general assessments and reviews of the provision of education and related support services to children with disabilities; monitoring the educational progress of children with disabilities and ensuring it is reviewed at regular intervals; and disseminating to schools and parents information about best practice, nationally and internationally, in the education of children with disabilities. In carrying out its functions, the council and its employees are required to act in accordance with any policy direction issued by the Minister.

The functions of the National Council for Special Education, as set out in section 20 of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004, are to disseminate to schools, parents and such other persons as it considers appropriate information on best practice, nationally and internationally, concerning the education of children with special educational needs; to plan and co-ordinate the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs, in consultation with schools, the HSE and such other persons it considers appropriate; to plan for the integration of education for students with special educational needs with education for students generally, in consultation with schools and with such persons as the council considers appropriate; to make available to the parents of children with special educational needs information about their entitlements and the entitlements of their children; to ensure that the progress of students with special educational needs is monitored and reviewed at regular intervals; to assess and review the resources required in respect of educational provision for children with special educational needs; to ensure that a continuum of special educational provision is available as required in respect of each type of disability; to review generally the provision made for adults with disabilities to avail of higher education and adult and continuing education, rehabilitation and training and to publish reports on the results of such reviews, which may include recommendations on the manner in which such provision could be improved; to advise all educational institutions on best practice regarding the education of adults who have disabilities; to advise the Minister on any matter relating to the education of children and others with disabilities; to consult with such voluntary bodies as the council considers appropriate, as long as the objectives of such bodies relate to the promotion of the interests of or the provision of support services to persons with disabilities, for the purposes of ensuring that their knowledge and expertise can inform the council's development of policy and planning and provision of support services, and to conduct and commission research on matters relevant to the functions of the council and, as it considers appropriate, to publish in such form and manner as the council thinks fit the findings arising out of such research.

The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 also confers functions on the council relating to a new statutory assessment and education plan process. It also confers on the council the power to require schools to admitchildren with special educational needs and gives it functions relating to planning for the future educational needs of children for when they become adults. These sections will be commenced having regard to the council's implementation report, which must be presented to the Minister before 1 October 2006. The National Council for Special Education published a call for submissions on the implementation of the Act in the national media on 21 October 2005. The closing date for submissions is 13 January 2006.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

255 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of former employees who have been brought back to work on contract, or others employed on contract to do work which has traditionally been done in-house amongst her Department and the agencies under her authority; and the way in which this practice fits with the intention of an embargo on recruitment. [36463/05]

Some 28 former employees have been brought back to work on contract in the Department of Education and Science since 2000. Two former employees were brought back to work on contract in this period on the basis of information supplied by the agencies under my authority. Short-term employment contracts of this nature are not considered as part of the overall numbers employed by the Department.

Defence Forces Reserve.

Bernard Allen

Question:

256 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No. 367 of 9 November 2005, the reason a newspaper (details supplied) was not amended for 1 October 2005; the person who is commanding the new reserve service support units from 1 October 2005 to date pending the formal appointment of reserve unit commanders; and the position regarding the posting of enlisted personnel. [36157/05]

As I said in response to Question No. 367 of 9 November last, formal notification of the posting of officers to appointments in the Defence Forces, including Reserve Defence Force officers, is effected by means of an amendment to the Gazette. Such amendments are normally published monthly in arrears. The military authorities have informed me that the publication of a special Gazette amendment, which will include all Reserve Defence Force officer appointments encompassing 671 officers, will occur in the near future. The magnitude and complexity of the restructuring of the Reserve Defence Force and the large number of officers involved has lead to the slight delay in publication of the Gazette amendment. I was also asked about the appointment of officers, including commanding officers. General officers commanding have appointed officers to all appointments. The military authorities have advised me that consistent with instructions issued by the deputy chief of staff — support — all enlisted personnel have been provided for in the new organisation.

Bernard Allen

Question:

257 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the level of confusion, dissatisfaction and uncertainty among officers arising from the failure to conclude proper arrangements for all appointments in the new reserve in view of the fact that the reorganisation of the Reserve Defence Force was in train since 1996. [36158/05]

The Reserve Defence Force review implementation plan was formally launched by my predecessor, Deputy Michael Smith, in July 2004. The plan, which was formulated following extensive consultation, received broad support, particularly from the representative association of the Reserve Defence Force. The plan, which will be implemented between now and the end of 2009, will significantly enhance the capability of the Reserve Defence Force. The recent reorganisation of the Reserve Defence Force, which represents a critical milestone in the implementation plan, involved root and branch changes in the Reserve Defence Force. It necessitated the disestablishment of the FCA and Slua Muirí and the establishment of a dedicated Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve. The reorganisation, which involved restructuring the Reserve Defence Force along similar lines to the Permanent Defence Force, necessarily involved unit amalgamations. The military authorities issued comprehensive procedures to provide for the assignment of all reservists, including officers, to units of the Reserve Defence Force. I am aware that any significant organisational change, such as that in the Reserve Defence Force, can lead to concern and uncertainty. Such concerns and uncertainty were evident when the Permanent Defence Force was recently reorganised. There is a broad consensus that the changes brought significant improvements to the Permanent Defence Force, however. I am confident that the plan for the Reserve Defence Force will do likewise.

Bernard Allen

Question:

258 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Defence the number of FCA officers who did not apply for any appointment in the new reserve; the position regarding same; if he has satisfied himself that all potential candidates for Lt. Col. were properly notified regarding all positions open to them. [36159/05]

Some 108 officers in the Reserve Defence Force did not apply for appointments in the Reserve Defence Force. The military authorities issued comprehensive procedures to provide for the assignment of reservists, including officers, to the Reserve Defence Force. The officers who did not apply for appointments have been appointed, where vacancies exist, to a unit in their area. Other officers were facilitated to the nearest unit to their home address or held supernumerary on the establishment. The military authorities have informed me that comprehensive instructions were issued by the deputy chief of staff, support, to provide for the promotion of commandants to the newly established Lieutenant Colonel posts in the Reserve Defence Force. I have been informed that all officers eligible for promotion in accordance with the criteria laid down in the aforementioned instructions were notified.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

259 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Defence the number of former employees who have been brought back to work on contract, or others employed on contract to do work which has traditionally been done in-house among his Department and the agencies under his authority; and the way in which this practice fits with the intention of an embargo on recruitment. [36464/05]

A former member of the Army Medical Corps, who has been appointed as medical advisor to the Civil Defence Board, is paid an annual fee of €6,400 for this service. No other employees of the Department of Defence have been brought back on contract to do work that has traditionally been done in the Department.

EU Directives.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

260 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will confirm that EU Directive 2003/122/EURATOM will be implemented before 31 December 2005; if the directive will not be implemented by said date the reason Ireland will not meet its obligations to implement this directive before the deadline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36134/05]

Council Directive 2003/122/EURATOM of 22 December 2003, which relates to the control of high-activity sealed radioactive sources and orphan sources, requires member states to introduce the legislative and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the directive before 31 December 2005. Ireland is on schedule to meet the transposition deadline.

Local Authority Housing.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

261 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of single applicants who are on the Louth local authorities housing waiting lists. [36110/05]

The assessment of housing need that was undertaken in 2002 indicated that there were 378 single persons on the waiting lists of the three local authorities in Louth. The results of the most recent assessment, which was undertaken in March, are being finalised and will be published in the near future. The results will provide information on the number of single persons who are deemed eligible for local authority or voluntary housing.

Housing Developments.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

262 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department will issue guidelines to planning authorities in order to standardise the instances in which conditions for the maintenance or management of proposed developments are applied to planning permissions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36125/05]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

267 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to introduce the necessary legislation or regulation to eliminate the necessity for management companies in new housing estates (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36179/05]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

270 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department will issue guidelines to planning authorities in order to standardise the instances in which conditions for the maintenance or management of proposed developments, including the establishment of a company or appointment of a person or body of persons to carry out such maintenance or management, are applied to planning permissions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36192/05]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

271 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has considered the long-term implications of transferring the maintenance responsibility of housing estates from developers to other private persons or bodies such as management companies; if his attention has been drawn to instances where such management companies have failed to live up to their maintenance responsibilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36209/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 262, 267, 270 and 271 together.

A working group of the Law Reform Commission is examining a range of legal issues relating to the management of multi-unit structures. The Government will consider the recommendations of the final report, including the necessity, if any, for new legislation in this area. Management companies operate in the majority of apartment developments, in some other higher density developments, often with a mix of designs, and in a very small number of standard housing developments. The role of management companies is to maintain the common property, including buildings, sewers, water pipes, public lighting, roads and footpaths contained within the boundaries of the overall property. When housing developments are taken in charge, it is the responsibility of the local authority to maintain public infrastructure such as roads, footpaths, sewers, water mains and public lighting. The existence of a management company should not override the legal obligation on developers to complete estates and, where required by the planning permission, to maintain estates until they are taken in charge.

Section 34 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 introduced a number of provisions designed to ensure that housing estates are finished as soon as possible, maintained to a satisfactory standard for the benefit of those living in them and taken in charge by local authorities. The section recognises the common practice of establishing management companies, control of which is transferred to the owners of the housing units, to maintain or manage residential developments. Individual planning authorities must make their own judgments, based on local circumstances and policies, about how and to what extent they should use the new framework planning legislation provisions in particular cases. The Department has asked planning authorities for a report on their policies on the attachment of conditions relating to management companies to planning permissions for various types of residential developments.

Land Acquisitions.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

263 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the draft sales agreement in relation to the purchase of lands on the Great Blasket Island furnished to the Office of Public Works over three months ago have been signed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36146/05]

I understand that the acquisition of property interests on An Blascaod Mór is currently being addressed by the Office of Public Works in consultation with the Chief State Solicitor's office. This would include consideration of the draft agreements referred to in the question.

Urban Renewal Schemes.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

264 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that funds from the urban and village renewal measure of the regional operational programmes 2000-2006 have never been used to underground ESB 220 kv cables. [36163/05]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 668 of 15 November 2005.

Detailed information on undergrounding of electric cables in the context of urban and village renewal projects is not available to my Department. Such projects are not however likely to have entailed undergrounding of high voltage 220 kv cables.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

265 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the situation pertaining to a scheme (details supplied) in County Galway; if approval will be given for the scheme to proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36174/05]

Ballygar water supply scheme was eighth on the list of water schemes submitted by Galway County Council in response to my Department's request to all local authorities in 2003 to undertake assessments of the needs for capital works in their areas and to prioritise their proposals on the basis of the assessments. The priority lists were taken into account in the framing of the Water Services Investment Programme 2004-2006, published in May 2004. Given the ratings afforded to the scheme by the council, it was not possible to include it in the current programme. I envisage that local authorities will be afforded an opportunity in 2006 to undertake fresh assessments of their needs and priorities, which can then be taken into account in subsequent phases of the programme.

Waste Disposal.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

266 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a statement on the illegal diesel laundering and the dumping of toxic sludge on the roadside in County Louth which has resulted in Louth County Council spending over €250,000 in disposing of this sludge. [36177/05]

Enforcement in relation to illegal diesel laundering activities is primarily a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. However, over the last two years my Department has provided funding of €823,930 to Louth County Council on an exceptional basis in recognition of the particular difficulties which arose for that authority in responding to instances of illegal dumping of oil-laundering residues, particularly in relation to costs incurred by them in arranging for the safe disposal abroad of the hazardous materials involved.

I recognise that a complete solution to this problem is difficult to arrive at and must necessarily involve more effective and co-ordinated enforcement of the law from both a revenue and waste management perspective. In that context, my Department has recently met with representatives of the Revenue Commissioners, the local authorities concerned and the Office of Environmental Enforcement to seek to identify more effective enforcement solutions, and these contacts will continue. I am also aware of enhanced co-operation on this and other waste management issues between the relevant enforcement authorities on both sides of the Border, involving the Garda Síochána, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and other enforcement agencies, through the enforcement network which has been established by the Office of Environmental Enforcement.

Question No. 267 answered with QuestionNo. 262.

Planning Issues.

Tony Gregory

Question:

268 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the need to strengthen tree protection measures will be considered particularly in urban areas in view of the very weak protective measures available at present. [36182/05]

Section 205 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 strengthened the powers of planning authorities to issue tree preservation orders, which in their opinion are required in the interests of amenity or the environment. These orders, inter alia, can place a prohibition on the cutting down or removal of trees or can require the owner or occupier of land to work with the planning authority to ensure the proper management of specific trees.

It is also open to planning authorities to protect trees through the planning control system when dealing with applications for development in sites containing trees. Having regard to this extensive range of powers, there are no proposals to amend the legislation in this regard.

Local Authority Housing.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

269 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if more youth community workers will be provided in Dundalk RAPID housing estates to tackle anti-social behaviour as requested by a community council (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36186/05]

My Department does not have specific information on the proposal referred to. My Department provides funding under the housing management initiatives grant scheme to fund innovative and practical pilot projects designed to improve housing management performance by local authorities and other bodies with housing management functions. A number of projects in County Louth were approved earlier this year. These include the appointment of a tenant liaison officer and an investigations officer to carry out work in Dundalk and Drogheda as well as in the county area. I also approved a project submitted by Dundalk Town Council to formalise housing management activity in respect of a number of housing groups in the Toberona area.

Dundalk Town Council is undertaking regeneration projects to two large local authority estates in the town. Consultants have been appointed for the project at Cox's Demesne while consultants are due to be appointed shortly for the Muirheavnamore estate. A steering group has been established to oversee the development of the proposals for the regeneration.

My Department recently agreed to a contribution of €300,000 towards the provision of child care facilities at Muirheavnamore. Planning permission is currently being sought for the facility with construction expected to commence before the end of the year.

Questions Nos. 270 and 271 answered with Question No. 262.

John Gormley

Question:

272 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason the proposed scheme for sale of local authority flats has not been approved; if he has received representations from persons within a local authority not to proceed with this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36216/05]

John Gormley

Question:

273 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the sale of local authority flats has not been approved due to the possibility of developing the flats in a public private partnership deal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36217/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 272 and 273 together.

I refer to the replies to Questions Nos. 1326 and 1389 of 28 September 2005 and to Question No. 551 of 4 October 2005. The position remains unchanged. I have not received any representations as referred to in the question nor is consideration of this matter influenced by any concern relating to public private partnerships.

Planning Issues.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

274 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will consider amending Article 28(j) of SI 600 of 2001 to require local authorities to notify the National Roads Authority when they receive a planning application that they consider could materially affect an impending road improvement, such as the widening of the M50; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36256/05]

Article 28(j)(ii) of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 provides that planning authorities must notify the National Roads Authority about applications for permission for development that might give rise to a significant increase in the volume of traffic using a national road. I consider that this provision is sufficient in its current form to ensure the authority is notified of key planning applications. Accordingly, it is not proposed to amend the regulations in this regard.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

275 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of former employees who have been brought back to work on contract or others employed on contract to do work which has traditionally been done in-house among his Department and the agencies under his authority; and the way in which this practice fits with the intention of an embargo on recruitment. [36465/05]

At present six former employees are working in my Department under contract arrangements, in addition to our permanent staff of 1,363 whole-time equivalents. All are paid an appropriate daily rate which is abated to keep the total of fee and pension payments within the relevant salary. All the contractors involved were formerly employed in professional grades in relation to which delays in recruitment are regularly experienced by my Department. My Department continues to deliver its work within authorised staffing numbers.