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 9, inclusive, answered orally.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

10 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the way in which she will ensure against cross-contamination if genetically modified potatoes are grown in County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5974/06]

The notification made by BASF to trial genetically modified potatoes at Summerhill, County Meath was made to the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA. This application is in accordance with Part B of EU Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release of GMOs into the environment but not for entry to the food chain.

Responsibility for making a decision on the application is a matter for the Environmental Protection Agency. Under the Genetically Modified Organisms (Deliberate Release) Regulations, S.I. No. 500 of 2003, which transposes Directive 2001/18/EC, stringent requirements on both the notifier and the agency are laid down. These include a formal notification to the agency, an advertisement by the notifier and determination by the agency of the notification within 90 days of its receipt.

In reaching its determination the EPA will have regard to compliance with the regulations, any observations or representations received and a scientific evaluation of the risks for human health and/or the environment which are posed by the proposed deliberate release. In this regard, the agency may grant consent, either with or without conditions, or refuse consent. Following trial of the crop, in the event that the notifier wishes to get the GMO authorised, there is a lengthy procedure involving the Commission and all member states before it could be authorised for commercial use.

While my Department is responsible for developing coexistence arrangements between authorised GM and non-GM crops, it has no role with regard to experimental trials such as the one applied for in County Meath. This is a matter solely for the EPA.

With regard to coexistence, all member states, including Ireland, have been engaged in a process of drawing up strategies and best practices to provide for effective arrangements. In August 2003 an interdepartmental group, comprising representatives of the Department of Agriculture and Food, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Teagasc and the EPA, was established to examine issues relating to coexistence and to develop proposals for a national strategy and best practices for coexistence arrangements here.

I received the report and recommendations from the working group in November and in early December I arranged for the placing of the report on my Department's website and invited further observations from all interested parties. I have now extended the closing date for observations until the end of March. In finalising the coexistence measures for adoption here I will take into consideration all observations received on the issue.

To sum up, the EPA is the responsible body for ensuring that there is no cross contamination where a genetically modified organism is released into the environment under the experimental release section of the directive, as is proposed in the County Meath trial. In the event an application is made to grow an authorised GM potato variety here in Ireland, my Department is the responsible authority and any such application will be considered within the context of coexistence measures which are being finalised.

EU Directives.

Denis Naughten

Question:

11 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the grant aid which will be made available to small farmers to manage rainwater under the nitrates action plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5652/06]

As part of the arrangements to enable farmers meet the additional requirements of the nitrates directive, I have sought EU state aid approval for a revised farm waste management scheme which shall include the removal of any minimum income requirements from farming from the scheme so that all small farmers can participate in the scheme. Under the current scheme, farmers must have a minimum of 30 income units, of which 20 income units must come from farming, to be able to participate in the scheme. I expect that the revised scheme will be introduced at an early date.

Under the revised scheme, such farmers will be able to avail of a standard grant rate of 60%, with 70% being available in the four zone C counties, for both animal housing and slurry storage. The maximum eligible investment will be increased from €75,000 to €120,000 per holding. I am also proposing to extend the scheme to new sectors, such as the pig and poultry sectors, for the first time. The technical specifications operated by my Department for the purposes of the scheme require the installation of adequate arrangements for the separation of clean and dirty water as part of the conditions of any new investment.

Animal Diseases.

John Gormley

Question:

12 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding the incidence of Johne’s disease here; if her attention has been drawn to a new test using genome sequencing to get results from dung or milk which yields results in 72 hours rather than the current six to 18 weeks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5977/06]

Johne's disease is widespread in the cattle population in most of the EU member states and, indeed, worldwide. Until 1992, strict import conditions ensured that Johne's disease was relatively rare in Ireland. However, since 1993, the increase in the number of cattle imported in the aftermath of the single market contributed to a significant increase in the numbers of reported cases of the disease. A national randomised survey, utilising blood samples taken as part of the brucellosis eradication campaign, is being analysed to establish the current incidence and distribution. Results from this survey should be available before the end of 2006.

Various techniques and gene-probes are and have been marketed over a number of years by commercial companies following the successful genome sequencing of the organism causing Johne's disease. Some of these tests show promise, particularly in speeding up the availability of test results. Staff in the laboratory are familiar with the techniques involved in such tests, can perform them and keep in touch with the technological advances. However, there is a need for further assurances as to accuracy of the various techniques. There is also a danger of an over-emphasis being given to tests which are costly and which are unlikely to improve the situation in regard to the incidence of Johne's disease in the absence of on-farm management controls to prevent infection of the next generation of breeding animals.

In an effort to raise consciousness of the disease and to promote higher standards of purchasing policy, hygiene management practices and calf rearing, my Department published and distributed booklets on Johne's disease. One of these is aimed at the farmer and the other at the private veterinary practitioner. Articles have also been published in the veterinary and farming press. Advice on Johne's disease is available at all district veterinary offices and on the Department's website.

My Department is currently engaged in an exercise to marshal the resources of all the key interested parties so as to give a new direction and momentum to efforts to tackle diseases such as Johne's in the national herd and to enhance the prospects of making real progress in this area in the future.

Grant Payments.

Pat Breen

Question:

13 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the measures she intends to take to address the problems experienced by farmers in the Shannon Callows as a result of current proposals which do not allow them to split their lands for grant aid purposes between REP scheme funding and funding allocated under the special areas of conservation and special protection area designation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5639/06]

The designation of land under the EU birds and habitats directives is a function of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The question of compensation for farmers in the Shannon Callows area is a matter, in the first instance, for that Department, and I understand that discussions on the matter with the farming bodies have been going on for some time and are still continuing.

As far as REPS is concerned, arrangements are already in place designed specifically to address the situation of farmers in the Shannon Callows. Farmers in this area who wish to join REPS but believe that the REPS payments do not fully offset any income loss arising from the restrictions placed on their farming activities because of designation under the birds and habitats directives, may now also apply to the national parks and wildlife service of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government for additional compensation. Before this arrangement was introduced in September 2004, such farmers had to choose between REPS and the compensation arrangements operated by NPWS but could not benefit from both.

This further concession was additional to the inclusion of a new supplementary measure in REPS when REPS 3 was introduced in June 2004. Designated areas are already eligible for payments under REPS Measure A of €242 per hectare for the first 40 hectares and lesser amounts for areas over 40 hectares, and the new supplementary measure provides for an additional payment of €100 per hectare on particular sites in the Callows which are important corncrake habitats. Those sites are monitored by BirdWatch Ireland and REPS farmers can qualify for the additional payment by subscribing to BirdWatch Ireland management prescriptions for them.

I believe that the arrangements I have outlined should address the situation in the Shannon Callows adequately as far as my Department is concerned. Nevertheless I have asked my officials to examine the issue again in the context of the current consultation process on REPS, out of which proposals will be sent to the Commission for a revised scheme.

EU Directives.

Mary Upton

Question:

14 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will provide all legally relevant documentary evidence that the European Union institutions are of the view that S.I. 788 of 2005 wholly or partly transposes the nitrates directive into Irish law and therefore fulfils either wholly or partly Ireland’s EU obligations in respect of transposing that directive; if S.I. 788 of 2005 purports wholly or partly to transpose the nitrates directive into Irish law; if partly, the other legislation which, either passed or to be passed, is necessary to transpose wholly the nitrates directive into Irish law; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5993/06]

The implementation of the nitrates directive is a matter in the first instance for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Following difficult and intense negotiations with the European Commission, the Minister, Deputy Roche, made regulations on 11 December 2005 giving legal effect to Ireland's national action programme under the nitrates directive.

The need for the action programme and the regulations arises from the directive itself, which imposes specific obligations on all member states of the European Union to protect waters against pollution from agricultural sources. In 2004, a judgment of the European Court of Justice held Ireland to be in breach of the directive by failing to implement a nitrates action programme. Failure by Ireland to address the situation would have resulted in an application from the Commission to the court to have very substantial daily fines imposed.

I am not aware of documents as described by the Deputy.

Afforestation Programme.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

15 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she is taking to encourage the planting of forestry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5647/06]

A comprehensive range of incentives and supports is available from my Department to encourage the planting of forestry. Grants are available under the forestry grant and premium scheme which cover 100% of planting costs, so it costs landowners nothing to invest in forestry. In addition, under the current scheme farmers are entitled to a 20 year premium — 15 years for non-farmers — of up to €500 per hectare, depending on the species planted. As a further incentive, income earned from commercial woodlands is exempt from tax. In the case of individuals, the timber asset is also exempt from capital gains tax.

Under the single farm payment scheme, I was able to negotiate concessions, which enable farm-foresters to plant up to 50% of their eligible claimed areas with forestry, while still being in receipt of their full single farm payment. Supports are also available for the growing forest in the form of grants for the shaping of broadleafs and pruning of conifers, with expenditure in 2005 on these schemes of €10.5 million. Grants are also available for the construction of forest roads to facilitate access for management and harvesting operations. Expenditure on forest roads in 2005 came to €3.3 million.

In addition to these direct supports, funding is provided for research, advisory services and promotion. In conjunction with the Irish Forest Industry Chain, IFIC, the forest service of my Department is about to embark on an 18 month promotional campaign to further encourage take-up in the above mentioned grant and premium scheme along with any future afforestation scheme administered by my Department. IFIC aims to engage a full-time project manager dedicated to these promotional initiatives in the next few weeks.

The new rural development programme for 2007-13 will continue to provide generous supports for forestry in terms of both afforestation and improving the competitiveness of existing forests. In the current year, I have provided for a budget of €137 million for forestry. I urge landowners to strongly consider forestry as a sustainable investment for the future.

Food Industry.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

16 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views regarding EU food security due to excessive dependence on imports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5933/06]

I am satisfied that the EU is not excessively dependent on imports of food and that there is no reason for concern regarding security of supply either at the present time or for the foreseeable future. The EU is a major trading bloc and, as such, is both a major exporter and importer of food. It is self sufficient in many commodities and is a significant exporter of surplus production to third countries. The EU imports products which it does not produce, such as tropical products. Established patterns of trade take place also for historical reasons and the Community's willingness to enter into preferential agreements with developing countries rather than from a necessity to address deficiencies in domestic supplies.

In so far as food safety is concerned, detailed EU legislation lays down the conditions that member states must apply to the production of and trade in food products of animal origin as well as to imports of these products from third countries. It is a requirement that animal products imported from third countries meet standards at least equivalent to those required for production in, and trade between, member states. All such imports must come from third countries or areas of third countries approved for export to the EU.

I fully support the policy that all products of animal origin imported into the EU from third countries meet standards at least equivalent to those required for production in, and trade between, EU member states. Irish farmers are required to ensure that their production systems and farm practices fully comply with a wide range of EU directives on important matters including traceability, animal health and welfare and consumer protection. These all have significant in-built cost factors and bearing in mind that our beef farmers are in competition on European and international markets from some low cost producing third countries, I will continue to seek real equivalence in these areas, both in discussions within the EU and in the context of the WTO talks on market access.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Liam Twomey

Question:

17 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans to evaluate the economic implications of the use of genetically modified organisms; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5634/06]

Teagasc has an ongoing programme of research that investigates the potential risks and benefits associated with the growing of GM crops in Ireland including, inter alia, the economic implications. Preliminary research completed by it to date does indicate that the cultivation of certain crops with certain modifications may provide a financial incentive to the Irish farmer.

To establish greater clarity in the matter I requested Teagasc to carry out an evaluation of the possible national economic implications for the agri-food industry from the use of GMOs in crop and livestock production. Teagasc has recently completed its study which it based on two scenarios: the economic implications of only allowing the importation into Ireland of certified GM-free soybean and maize livestock feed ingredients; the economic implications of GM-free crop cultivation in Ireland.

In the first scenario the study showed that substantial additional costs would be placed on the livestock sector, particularly on specialist dairy and beef farmers, if they were to use certified GM free soya and maize only in feeding stuffs. In the second scenario the study examined five hypothetical GM crops which could be grown here — herbicide tolerant sugar beet, septoria resistant winter wheat, fusarium resistant winter wheat, rhyncosporium resistant spring barley and blight resistant potatoes. This study showed that increased profits could be generated for growers of these crops compared to their conventional equivalent. However, the study showed that there is a significant cost in identity preservation for conventional growers in a coexistence arrangement.

EU Directives.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

18 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the nitrates regulations will damage farming here and the rural economy; and her views on whether the research imposing fertiliser limits on farmers is not conclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5681/06]

The implementation of the nitrates directive is a matter in the first instance for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Minister, Deputy Roche, has recently made regulations giving legal effect to Ireland's national action programme under the directive.

There has been much comment and speculation in recent days and weeks about the effect of the nitrates regulations on farming. I am aware that the implementation of the regulations will be challenging for some farmers. I am also aware that there is a serious information deficit on some aspects of the matter. Clearly, this is not in the interests of farmers themselves and I am anxious to bring clarity to the situation as soon as possible. As a first step, my Department has placed advertisements in the farming press explaining the main provisions of the regulations in clear and straightforward terms. A handbook is being finalised and will be sent to every farmer as soon as possible. Officials of my Department have already had discussions with Teagasc about arrangements for the delivery of information which will further help farmers to understand the practical aspects of the new regulations.

The Government is committed to giving the farming community all the practical help it can. Following from commitments made in the Sustaining Progress agreement, which related explicitly to the nitrates directive, payment rates in REPS increased by 28% on average in 2004. The number of farmers in REPS reached record levels last year. My Department's Estimate for 2006 includes a provision of €323 million for REPS, the highest ever.

We also introduced improvements to the farm waste management scheme and the dairy hygiene scheme in 2004, and I have tabled proposals to the Commission for further major improvements to the farm waste management scheme which will provide a far more attractive package to farmers than that which was previously available. Only last week in Brussels I met Commissioner Fischer Boel and impressed on her the need for early Commission approval of the scheme as submitted. I have secured an Estimates provision of €43 million in 2006 for the revised scheme.

Most of the controversy in recent days has centred on the nutrient management provisions of the regulations. These were finalised following difficult negotiations with the Commission's scientific experts, with both Departments making use of the advice provided by Teagasc. It was the Commission, however, that determined the final content of the regulations. Teagasc has recently indicated that it may be possible to review part of the advice it had given on the application of phosphorus, in a way that could improve the effectiveness of the regulations. The Government and the European Commission saw merit in allowing Teagasc time to elaborate this new advice and, accordingly, the Minister, Deputy Roche, announced a brief de facto deferral of the implementation of Part 3 of the regulations.

Teagasc has been requested to provide, as a matter of urgency, the necessary scientific case to support any revision of the phosphorus tables in the regulations. The two Departments will carefully consider any submission received from Teagasc while also bearing in mind that any proposals for revision of the phosphorus tables will have to respect the environmental requirements associated with the nitrates directive and meet with the agreement of the European Commission.

Teagasc has not been specifically requested to review its advice on nitrogen issues. However, to the extent that its revised submission on crop nutrient requirements suggests any further beneficial adjustments to the regulatory regime, these will, of course, be considered. The possibility of such further adjustments will also depend on their respecting the environmental requirements involved and on their acceptance by the European Commission.

A central issue arising from the nitrates directive is the need to secure a derogation which will allow certain farmers to operate, under appropriate conditions and controls, up to a level of 250kg of organic nitrogen per hectare. The proposal was given an initial presentation to the EU nitrates committee in December, and further scientific data have been supplied to the Commission following bilateral discussions. The proposal will need to be discussed again at future meetings of the nitrates committee before approval can be obtained. Securing this derogation is vital for the most productive dairy farmers, in particular, and it is important that the position on the regulations is clarified at an early date so that the negotiations on the derogation can proceed.

Grant Payments.

John Perry

Question:

19 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when all farmers will be issued with the single farm payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5629/06]

One of my main objectives since assuming office as Minister for Agriculture and Food was to ensure the implementation of the decoupled single payment scheme — the most significant change to agricultural support since our accession to the European Community. This huge task was successfully implemented when over €1 billion in single payments issued to 118,500 farmers last December meeting the target we had set ourselves of making the payments on the first possible date. This was a major undertaking and the outcome, after painstaking preparatory work in establishing individual entitlements, was, by any standards, a major achievement.

Under the 2005 single payment scheme, 143,000 applications were received. In addition to those applicants seeking to both activate their entitlements and also receive payment, applications were received from farmers seeking only to activate their entitlements. It will be recalled that farmers who did not seek to activate their entitlements in 2005 would, under the EU rules, forfeit these entitlements to the national reserve.

In common with the coupled schemes, which the single payment scheme replaced, delays in processing can be caused by many factors, including incomplete application forms, errors on applications and discrepancies highlighted following computer validation, which must be resolved via correspondence with the applicant. In many cases, payment could not be made because applicants did not submit an application to transfer the single payment entitlements, with lands, by way of inheritance, gift, lease or purchase. Many of these applications were only received after my Department made direct contact with the farmers in question, during recent weeks, and some have yet to be submitted.

At present, total payments amount to €1,126 million with 97% of farmers, who hold entitlements and applied for the single payment scheme, paid. A number of payment runs continue to be made weekly as the more complicated files are cleared. My ongoing objective is to make payments to all of those farmers who have yet to receive their payment or are entitled to a supplementary payment as soon as their cases are clear for payment. Every effort is being made by my Department to clear the outstanding cases but many of these are extremely complex and, in other cases, my Department is still awaiting documentation and applications for the transfer of entitlements before payment can be made.

The changeover to the single payment was undertaken while work continued on winding up the coupled schemes. The successful introduction of the single payment scheme in Ireland in 2005 is testimony to the efforts of all concerned. It is my intention that this success will be built on into the future, to the benefit of all concerned.

EU Directives.

Mary Upton

Question:

20 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will provide copies of correspondence between her Department and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government which refer to the implementation of the nitrates directive since 1 January 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5923/06]

Damien English

Question:

74 Mr. English asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the discussions she or officials of her Department have had with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on the nitrates implementation plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5619/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

81 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the discussions she has had with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government prior to the signing into law of the nitrates directive; the dates of such discussions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5605/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 20, 74 and 81 together.

The implementation of the nitrates directive is a matter in the first instance for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Minister, Deputy Roche, made regulations giving legal effect to Ireland's national action programme under the directive on 11 December 2005.

My Department, in consultation with Teagasc, has worked closely over a long period with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in developing the action programme and the regulations. Negotiations have now begun with the European Commission with a view to securing a derogation that will allow certain farmers to operate, under appropriate conditions and controls, up to a level of 250kg of organic nitrogen per hectare. My Department, with the assistance of Teagasc, is taking the lead in this matter but is again working closely with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government toward achieving a successful outcome.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

21 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the advice provided to the Government by Teagasc on the enactment of the nitrates directive into Irish law; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5603/06]

Simon Coveney

Question:

26 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the discussions she has had with the director of Teagasc prior to the signing into law of the nitrates directive; the dates of such discussions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5604/06]

Willie Penrose

Question:

60 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will furnish the full scientific information provided to her Department on the nitrates directive by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; if she will also furnish the complete scientific information provided to her; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5924/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21, 26 and 60 together.

The implementation of the nitrates directive is a matter in the first instance for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, recently made regulations giving legal effect to Ireland's national action programme under the directive.

Officials from my Department and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government worked closely with Teagasc throughout the entire process of developing the action programme, the regulations and the derogation application. A series of meetings, involving Teagasc and both Departments, took place during 2005 to examine a number of issues and to facilitate submission of the draft regulations to the Commission. In the negotiations which followed, and which were frequently difficult, both Departments made use of the advice provided by Teagasc. Documents provided by Teagasc, including a note on aspects of the proposed nitrogen fertilisation rates for grassland in Ireland, were provided to the Commission.

It was the Commission which determined the final content of the regulations. Teagasc has recently indicated that it may be possible to review part of the advice it had given on the application of phosphorus, in a way that could improve the effectiveness of the regulations. The Government and the European Commission saw merit in allowing Teagasc time to elaborate this new advice and, accordingly, the Minister, Deputy Roche, announced a brief de facto deferral of the implementation of Part 3 of the regulations.

Teagasc has been requested to provide, as a matter of urgency, the necessary scientific case to support any revision of the phosphorus tables in the regulations. The two Departments will carefully consider any submission received from Teagasc while also bearing in mind that any proposals for revision of the phosphorus tables will have to respect the environmental requirements associated with the nitrates directive and meet with the agreement of the European Commission.

Teagasc has not been specifically requested to review its advice on nitrogen issues. However, to the extent that its revised submission on crop nutrient requirements suggests any further beneficial adjustments to the regulatory regime, these will, of course, be considered. The possibility of such further adjustments will also depend on their respecting the environmental requirements involved and on their acceptance by the European Commission.

Veterinary Service.

Billy Timmins

Question:

22 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she is taking to provide a countrywide and weekend veterinary service for the issue of prescriptions for animal remedies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5632/06]

Veterinary practices are primarily commercial entities and their locations are driven by commercial realities. However, in so far as State involvement is concerned, I can point to a number of recent measures which will alleviate difficulties which may arise in certain parts of the country.

First, under the new Veterinary Practice Act which came into effect on 1 January 2006, provision is made to enable the Veterinary Council for the first time to recognise qualifications from applicants in third countries generally. This, taken with the recent enlargement of the EU, will make for improved availability of practitioners to meet shortfalls that may arise on the supply side. Second, the Animal Remedies Regulations 2005, which I signed into law on the 17 November 2005, contain a number of measures which will enable veterinary practitioners and their farmer clients to avoid difficulties in this area. These include changes to the prescribing rules in terms of the need to clinically examine an animal and extended validity of prescriptions, the details of which I have already outlined in the House.

The regulations also include a provision which, in a genuine emergency situation and subject to appropriate safeguards, will enable a pharmacist to supply a prescription medicine in advance of receiving a written prescription. Finally, I understand that Údarás na Gaeltachta provides funding to subsidise veterinary practices in some remote areas in consultation with the local farming community.

Sugar Beet Production.

Michael Ring

Question:

23 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she is taking to protect sugar beet growers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5611/06]

The EU sugar reform package agreed in November provides for compensation to beet growers of up to 64% of the reduction in the minimum price for beet. This compensation, which will be paid as part of the single farm payment, will be worth approximately €123 million to Irish beet growers over the next seven years. I announced recently that, subject to adoption of the regulations on the reform, I intended to fix the reference period for the single payment compensation for beet growers as the three year average of the individual farmer's contracted tonnage of beet in the years 2001, 2002 and 2004. These years are considered to be the most advantageous for sugar beet growers.

Diversification funds of almost €44 million will also become available to growers in the event that sugar beet production completely ceases in Ireland. In that event also an aid package of up to €145 million becomes available for the economic, social and environmental costs of restructuring of the Irish sugar industry, including factory closure and renunciation of quota. A decision on beet growing in 2006 and future years is a matter for beet growers and Irish Sugar Ltd. having regard to the reformed EU sugar regime, which will apply from 1 July.

The EU legal texts giving effect to the reform agreement could not be considered and approved by the Council of Ministers until the opinion of the European Parliament had been received. That opinion was delivered on 19 January and it is now anticipated that the legal texts will be ready for approval by the Council of Ministers next week. Meanwhile, the EU Commission is working on preparation of detailed implementation rules which can only be finalised once the Council texts have been adopted.

Single Payment Scheme.

Billy Timmins

Question:

24 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when entitlements will issue under the national reserve; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5631/06]

Michael Noonan

Question:

33 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans for the allocation of entitlements under the national reserve; when she intends to issue the entitlements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5616/06]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

49 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the rules covering the allocation of the national reserve with the farming organisations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5618/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 24, 33 and 49 together.

The position is that there are four main categories under which farmers have applied for entitlements from the 2005 national reserve. Category A applies to farmers who inherited or otherwise obtained a holding free of charge or for a nominal sum from a farmer who retired or died before 16 May 2005 where the holding was leased out to a third party during the reference period. Category B(i), B(ii), B(iii) and B(iv) apply to farmers who made an investment between 1 January 2000 and 19 October 2003, which resulted in an increase in production capacity. Investments can include purchase or long-term lease of land, purchase of suckler and/or ewe quota or other investments.

Category C applies to farmers who sold their milk quota into a restructuring scheme between 1 January 2000 and 19 October 2003 and who converted to a farming sector for which a direct payment under the livestock and/or arable aid schemes would have been payable in respect of the years 2000 to 2002. Category D applies to new entrants to farming since 31 December 2002 and farmers who commenced farming in 2002 but who received no direct payments in that year. The applicant's total income may not exceed €40,000 and any off-farm income may not exceed €20,000. Farming qualifications are also required for this category and priority may be given to farmers under 35 years of age.

In addition, the cost of funding successful applicants under the following measures will have to be met from the pool of money in the national reserve: active dairy farmers who, because of force majeure, were unable to supply milk during the 2004/05 milk quota year and were therefore allowed to temporarily lease out all or part of their quota — the cost of awarding the equivalent of the decoupled dairy premium to these farmers must be met from the national reserve; sheep farmers with commonage land who, while farming very extensively, were prevented from expanding production during the period 1999-2002 pending the publication of commonage framework plans.

There are mandatory and non-mandatory categories in the reserve. In Ireland's case the mandatory categories are categories A, B(i) B(ii) B(iii) B(iv) and C. The non-mandatory categories are category D, new entrants, and certain hill sheep farmers who were prevented from increasing production during the reference period pending the publication of commonage framework plans. Separate application arrangements were in place for this latter group.

In allocating entitlements to successful applicants in the mandatory categories, the member state must apply objective criteria and ensure equal treatment between farmers. In the case of categories A and B(i), qualifying farmers will have declared hectares of land in 2005 that were free of entitlements and the intention to make an allocation in respect of those hectares based on objective criteria. It is envisaged that qualifying applicants under categories B(ii) B(iii) B(iv) and C will have their existing entitlements topped-up by a sum of money again determined on the basis of objective criteria.

In allocating entitlements to successful applicants in the non-mandatory categories, the member state must ensure that the allocation does not have the effect of increasing the value of any existing entitlements above the regional average value of entitlements. Similarly, the value of any new entitlements allocated to non-mandatory categories must not exceed the regional average. The member state is allowed to determine what will constitute the regional average.

I established a single payment advisory committee comprising representatives of the farming organisations, Teagasc and officials from my Department to consider various aspects of the national reserve arrangements. These included the objective criteria that should be used in making allocations from the reserve to the mandatory categories and also the most appropriate way to determine what will constitute the regional average value of entitlements in the case of the non-mandatory categories. I will make a formal announcement in this regard shortly. It is intended that allocations will be made to successful applicants during March.

EU Directives.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

25 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the way in which the proposed nitrates regulations will impact on the economic viability of Irish farming and the Irish food sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5701/06]

The implementation of the nitrates directive is a matter in the first instance for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Minister, Deputy Roche, has recently made regulations giving legal effect to Ireland's national action programme under the directive.

There has been much comment and speculation in recent days and weeks about the effect of the nitrates regulations on farming. I am aware that the implementation of the regulations will be challenging for some farmers. I am also aware that there is a serious information deficit on some aspects of the matter. Clearly, this is not in the interests of farmers themselves and I am anxious to bring clarity to the situation as soon as possible. As a first step, my Department has placed advertisements in the farming press explaining the main provisions of the regulations in clear and straightforward terms. A handbook is being finalised and will be sent to every farmer as soon as possible. Officials of my Department have already had discussions with Teagasc about arrangements for the delivery of information which will further help farmers to understand the practical aspects of the new regulations.

The Government is committed to giving the farming community all the practical help it can. Following from commitments made in the Sustaining Progress agreement, which related explicitly to the nitrates directive, payment rates in REPS increased by 28% on average in 2004. The number of farmers in REPS reached record levels last year. My Department's Estimates for 2006 includes a provision of €323 million for REPS, the highest ever.

We also introduced improvements to the farm waste management scheme and the dairy hygiene scheme in 2004, and I have tabled proposals to the Commission for further major improvements to the farm waste management scheme which will provide a far more attractive package to farmers than that which was previously available. Only last week in Brussels I met Commissioner Fischer Boel and impressed on her the need for early Commission approval of the scheme as submitted. I have secured an Estimates provision of €43 million in 2006 for the revised scheme.

Most of the controversy in recent days has centred on the nutrient management provisions of the regulations. These were finalised following difficult negotiations with the Commission's scientific experts, with both Departments making use of the advice provided by Teagasc. It was the Commission, however, that determined the final content of the regulations.

Teagasc has recently indicated that it may be possible to review part of the advice it had given on the application of phosphorus, in a way that could improve the effectiveness of the regulations. The Government and the European Commission saw merit in allowing Teagasc time to elaborate this new advice and, accordingly, the Minister, Deputy Roche, announced a brief de facto deferral of the implementation of Part 3 of the regulations. Teagasc has been requested to provide, as a matter of urgency, the necessary scientific case to support any revision of the phosphorus tables in the regulations. The two Departments will carefully consider any submission received from Teagasc while also bearing in mind that any proposals for revision of the phosphorus tables will have to respect the environmental requirements associated with the nitrates directive and meet with the agreement of the European Commission.

Teagasc has not been specifically requested to review its advice on nitrogen issues. However, to the extent that its revised submission on crop nutrient requirements suggests any further beneficial adjustments to the regulatory regime, these will, of course, be considered. The possibility of such further adjustments will also depend on their respecting the environmental requirements involved and on their acceptance by the European Commission.

A central issue arising from the nitrates directive is the need to secure a derogation which will allow certain farmers to operate, under appropriate conditions and controls, up to a level of 250kgs of organic nitrogen per hectare. The proposal was given an initial presentation to the EU nitrates committee in December, and further scientific data have been supplied to the Commission following bilateral discussions. The proposal will need to be discussed again at future meetings of the nitrates committee before approval can be obtained. Securing this derogation is vital for the most productive dairy farmers, in particular, and it is important that the position on the regulations is clarified at an early date so that the negotiations on the derogation can proceed.

Question No. 26 answered with QuestionNo. 21.

Infectious Diseases.

Bernard Allen

Question:

27 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she is taking to prevent an outbreak of avian flu here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5627/06]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

40 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on further precautions which are necessary to prepare for a possible outbreak of avian influenza; her further views on the fact that the disease is now spreading to African countries; the impact this may have on further spread of the disease; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5928/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 27 and 40 together.

My Department has been and is continuing to review and modify its contingency arrangements to, in the first instance, minimise the risk of an outbreak of avian flu in Ireland and, thereafter, to control and eradicate any disease outbreak should that occur. In this regard, my Department is informed by the most up-to-date expert scientific and veterinary advice available. In particular, regard is being had to the spread of the virus and the developments of the past week, including the confirmation of outbreaks in swans in a number of member states.

This is a matter of obvious concern and the further spread of the virus has increased the risk of the introduction of the virus into Ireland. In view of this increased risk, I have set up an expert group to provide ongoing advice on avian control measures. This group will be chaired by Professor Michael Monaghan of the faculty of veterinary medicine at UCD and will include members with veterinary, scientific and ornithological expertise from within and outside this Department. Given the role of migratory wild birds in spreading the virus there are obvious limitations on what can be done in terms of preventing the virus's introduction to the country. Therefore, much of my Department's precautionary focus is on equipping ourselves to identify any outbreak quickly and to move to ensure its speedy eradication if it arrives here.

To date, a range of EU and national measures has been put in place and others are under active consideration, including a requirement for the compulsory housing of domestic poultry, as has been done in some other European countries closer to the recent outbreaks. The latter is provided for in EU legislation in certain defined circumstances and I will have no hesitation in introducing such a requirement here as soon as I believe it is appropriate. I am asking the expert group for advice on this.

We have also introduced a register of poultry flockowners and owners of other birds and it is now a statutory requirement that all poultry flockowners register with my Department. While we have received a very encouraging response to the register, there are certainly some who have yet to register and they should do so as a matter of urgency. The register will be of vital importance to us in identifying the precise locations of neighbouring flocks to any disease outbreak and will be of enormous assistance in ensuring that the necessary control procedures are fully in place. Poultry flockowners who fail to register are not alone compromising the well-being of their own flocks but also their neighbours' flocks and will do nothing to assist my Department in its efforts to ensure the speedy eradication of any disease outbreak.

My Department has been maintaining a vigilant approach to the threat posed by avian flu and has introduced a series of incremental measures commensurate with the risk. Additional measures are under active consideration and I will not hesitate to introduce any such additional measures as are appropriate in the face of an increased threat. At this stage, I am satisfied that the measures in place are appropriate to the current level of risk but the situation is clearly evolving and is being kept under constant review with a view to introducing such additional precautionary measures as are warranted.

EU Directives.

Damien English

Question:

28 Mr. English asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans to amend the nitrates implementation plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5620/06]

The implementation of the nitrates directive is a matter in the first instance for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Minister, Deputy Roche, has recently made regulations giving legal effect to Ireland's national action programme under the directive.

The regulations were finalised following difficult negotiations with the European Commission's scientific experts, with both Departments making use of the advice provided by Teagasc. It was the Commission, however, that determined the final content of the regulations. Teagasc has recently indicated that it may be possible to review part of the advice it had given on the application of phosphorus, in a way that could improve the effectiveness of the regulations. The Government and the European Commission saw merit in allowing Teagasc time to elaborate this new advice and, accordingly, the Minister, Deputy Roche, announced a brief de facto deferral of the implementation of Part 3 of the regulations.

Teagasc has been requested to provide, as a matter of urgency, the necessary scientific case to support any revision of the phosphorus tables in the regulations. The two Departments will carefully consider any submission received from Teagasc while also bearing in mind that any proposals for revision of the phosphorus tables will have to respect the environmental requirements associated with the nitrates directive and meet with the agreement of the European Commission.

Teagasc has not been specifically requested to review its advice on nitrogen issues. However, to the extent that its revised submission on crop nutrient requirements suggests any further beneficial adjustments to the regulatory regime, these will, of course, be considered. The possibility of such further adjustments will also depend on their respecting the environmental requirements involved and on their acceptance by the European Commission.

Food Safety Standards.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

29 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the advice and support her Department has provided to food and feed producers arising from the introduction of the hygiene package; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5925/06]

The food and feed hygiene legislation which came into effect from the beginning of this year brings together, updates and consolidates EU food and feed legislation. The legislation covers all food business operators throughout the food chain from farmer to retailer and the controls involved are operated by a number of Departments and official agencies in Ireland.

With regard to those coming within the remit of my Department, there has been ongoing consultation with the relevant stakeholders on the implications of the legislation and their obligations. In addition, the FSAI has prepared an information pack on the new food law which is available to all members of the public.

Food Labelling.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

30 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the progress which has been made on the introduction of full labelling of all meat and meat products; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5929/06]

An enabling provision to allow for the extension of our comprehensive beef labelling regulations to include a requirement for information on the country of origin of beef to be provided to the consumer at the point of choice, by establishments in the retail, restaurant and catering sectors, including food business operators, is at present before the Oireachtas by way of a proposed amendment to section 54 of the 1947 Health Act through the Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.

My Department is well advanced in drafting the consequential beef regulations which will be required and is currently in consultation with the Department of Health and Children and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland on the details, including enforcement. While the regulations will then have to be submitted for EU approval, it is hoped that this process will not delay the making of the final regulations. In the meantime, the representative bodies for hotels, restaurants and pubs have agreed to recommend to their members to provide the information on a voluntary basis.

I have also written to the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection requesting that consideration be given to extending the rules in regard to country of origin labelling for poultry meat at EU level. I had previously raised the subject in the Agriculture Council some time ago and will continue to seek progress on the matter.

While the proposed enabling legislation currently before the House will facilitate the extension of country of origin labelling to all meats, because of different traceability systems and some import/export complexities, it is not as straightforward as it is for beef. As with beef, EU approval would also be required. Notwithstanding these issues, I intend to pursue the matter of country of origin labelling at EU and national level.

Sugar Beet Production.

John Deasy

Question:

31 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans for the sugar industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5621/06]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

36 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on prevailing upon Greencore to convert its sugar beet processing facility into a bio-ethanol fuel from sugar beet factory; her further views on using the 2006 sugar beet crop for the production of bio-ethanol; the steps she is prepared to take to see that this occurs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5934/06]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

39 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the role her Department should play in encouraging Greencore to convert the Carlow sugar factory into a bio-ethanol plant; and the action she has already taken in this regard. [5973/06]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

44 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will ensure that the growers who supplied the Carlow sugar factory will receive fair compensation under the reform of the sugar regime. [5972/06]

David Stanton

Question:

53 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the additional services and supports her Department intends to make available to beet growers for the development of the biofuel industry here in view of the fact that following the signing of the EU reform package the production of beet for sugar is no longer commercially viable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6024/06]

Dan Boyle

Question:

62 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the measures she intends to take at Brussels level to encourage farmers to remain in the industry and compensate farmers who will leave in view of the fact that Ireland’s sugar beet farmers do not know if they should or should not plant beet in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5971/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 31, 36, 39, 44, 53 and 62 together.

A decision on sugar beet growing in 2006 and future years is a matter for beet growers and Irish Sugar Ltd., having regard to the reformed EU sugar regime which will apply from 1 July. The production of ethanol is a possible alternative use for sugar beet. A major extension of the excise duty relief for biofuels was announced in the last budget which should act as an incentive to encourage the production of biofuels, including bioethanol. However, the question of producing bioethanol at the sugar beet processing facility in Mallow from the 2006 beet crop or a future beet crop is a matter for commercial decision by Irish Sugar Ltd.

The sugar reform package agreed in November provides for compensation to beet growers of up to 64% of the reduction in the minimum price for beet. This compensation, which will be paid as part of the single farm payment, will be worth approximately €123 million to Irish beet growers over the next seven years. I announced recently that, subject to adoption of the regulations on the reform, I intended to fix the reference period for the single payment compensation for beet growers as the three year average of the individual farmer's contracted tonnage of beet in the years 2001, 2002 and 2004. This reference period applies irrespective of the factory to which the beet was delivered.

Diversification funds of almost €44 million will also become available to growers in the event that sugar beet production completely ceases in Ireland. In that event, also, an aid package of up to €145 million becomes available for the economic, social and environmental costs of restructuring of the Irish sugar industry, including factory closure and renunciation of quota. At least 10% of the restructuring aid shall be reserved for sugar beet growers and machinery contractors to compensate notably for losses arising from investment in specialised machinery.

The final legal texts giving effect to the reform agreement could not be considered and approved by the Council of Ministers until the opinion of the European Parliament had been received. That opinion was delivered on 19 January and it is now anticipated that the legal texts will be ready for approval by the Council of Ministers next week. An issue which arose in recent texts was the inclusion of a requirement to deliver beet in the year preceding the year of quota renunciation in order to qualify for restructuring aid. At Ireland's request this requirement was dropped. Full details of the reform agreement will not be available until these regulations are adopted in Council.

Food Industry.

Simon Coveney

Question:

32 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of meetings of the Food Agency Co-Operation Council in 2004 and 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5644/06]

The Food Agency Co-operation Council has met on 20 occasions since its inception in 2000. During 2004 and 2005 priority was given instead to meetings of the food development agencies directly concerned with the food programme components of the National Development Plan 2000-2006. Two such meetings took place in 2004 and one in 2005 to assess progress on the plan in preparation for meetings of the NDP monitoring committees.

My Department has been examining the role and format of the Food Agency Co-Operation Council and the manner in which the various food agencies can most effectively co-operate to develop the agri-food industry, in the light of the more market orientated CAP framework, the 2015 Agri-Vision report and the enterprise strategy report. A number of initiatives are planned at regional level which will see the various agencies engage and co-operate with my Department to develop the food industry. The first of these initiatives, the North West Food Forum — Market Focus for Small Food Enterprises, took place in Killybegs on 4 November. At the forum, significant time was allocated for the agencies to network with the industry's stakeholders and to showcase the services available to assist food company development in the region.

Similar events focused in other regions as well as other initiatives involving inter-agency co-operation to promote the development of the food industry at all levels will be rolled out during 2006.

Question No. 33 answered with QuestionNo. 24.

EU Directives.

Liam Twomey

Question:

34 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the status of Ireland’s application for a derogation under the nitrates directive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5635/06]

The implementation of the nitrates directive is a matter, in the first instance, for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, who signed regulations giving legal effect to Ireland's national action programme on nitrates on 11 December 2005. Ireland is proceeding with its request for a derogation designed to allow certain farmers to operate, under appropriate conditions and controls, up to a level of 250kg of organic nitrogen per hectare per annum. My Department is taking the lead in this matter and, with the support of Teagasc, will continue to work with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government towards achieving a successful outcome.

The proposal was given an initial presentation to the EU nitrates committee in December and further scientific data have been supplied to the Commission following bilateral discussions. The proposal will need to be discussed again at future meetings of the nitrates committee before approval can be obtained. Securing this derogation is vital for the most productive dairy farmers, in particular, and it is important that the position on the regulations is clarified at an early date so that the negotiations on the derogation can proceed.

Food Industry.

Liz McManus

Question:

35 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the action she intends to take to protect the consumer here from unknowingly purchasing food of non-Irish origin described as Irish; her views on the concept of substantial transformation and the limits of its applicability; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5927/06]

A range of actions have already been undertaken by my Department in implementing the recommendations of the food labelling group which examined in detail the complex area of food labelling. One of the more important recommendations which has been implemented is the centralisation of overall responsibility for the enforcement of food labelling legislation in the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. Food business operators who mislead consumers into believing that food which is not of Irish origin is Irish may be committing an offence under existing food labelling legislation and any such instances should be brought to the attention of the FSAI.

The issue of substantial transformation, whereby products following import into the EU may be described after processing as a product of a particular member state, is of particular concern to me. I have raised this issue directly with the Commission on a number of occasions and, indeed, was in contact with the EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Mr. Kyprianou, again last month about the matter. I understand that the Commission intends to publish a consultation paper in March addressing consumer concerns on food labelling. In the context of this review my Department will continue to pursue this matter.

Question No. 36 answered with QuestionNo. 31.

Dairy Sector.

Dan Neville

Question:

37 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she intends to take to protect the dairy industry here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5609/06]

Dan Neville

Question:

73 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the discussions she has had at EU level to protect dairy supports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5610/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37 and 73 together.

The Irish dairy industry continues to contribute very substantially to the national economy, with an annual output value of some €2.3 billion. Last year Irish dairy exports performed exceptionally well totalling €1.82 billion, despite downward adjustments to market management supports brought about by the implementation of the Luxembourg agreement on the reform of the CAP.

World prices for both butter and skimmed milk powder in 2005 averaged 8% above 2004 levels and this solid market performance meant that usage of intervention was particularly low for both products. The casein market also performed very well with an average price increase of 25% over the previous year.

When the Commission moved aggressively to reduce internal aids and export subsidies to the new intervention price levels last year, which caused a high degree of volatility, I very strongly resisted and pressed the Commissioner at the Council of Ministers to redirect policy and restore market stability. With the support of other Ministers I succeeded in having the market for the remainder of 2005 stabilised and market competitiveness restored.

As we move towards the further agreed intervention price reductions next July I will continue to emphasise the need for stability in the market. I have frequently discussed this matter with the Commissioner bilaterally and she is fully aware of my view that market stability is essential to allow the dairy industry time to adjust to the current market realities and adapt its business strategies accordingly.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Enda Kenny

Question:

38 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she is taking to develop the biofuel sector; the discussions she has had with the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5651/06]

The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources has overall responsibility for energy policy and is primarily responsible for the promotion and development of renewable energy, including biofuels. Nonetheless, the development of the biofuels sector is a matter that impinges on several other policy areas, including agriculture, transport and taxation, and involves various Departments and agencies. My Department has been represented on a number of interdepartmental groups considering the matter and there is also ongoing contact between my Department and the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, for example, in regard to the EU Commission's biomass action plan and strategy for biofuels, which will be discussed at next week's Council of Agriculture Ministers' meeting.

I am very conscious of the central role that agriculture can play in supplying the necessary raw materials for the production of biofuels. Oilseed rape, wheat and sugar beet can be used for the manufacture of liquid transport biofuels, while forestry by-products and other farming and food by-products, such as meat and bonemeal and tallow, can be used for energy-heat generation. Tallow can also be used in biodiesel production. Factors such as the increasing cost of oil, the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and the opportunity for farmers to explore alternative land uses following CAP reform, mean that the potential of this area must be fully explored.

For the purposes of contributing to the development of policy on biofuels, my Department, in conjunction with COFORD and Teagasc, has examined the potential of energy crops, wood biomass and farming and food by-products. In general, the production of energy crops for biofuels will have to be demand led and production by farmers will only occur if the economic returns are greater than those offered by traditional crop enterprises. In the absence of fiscal incentives, the production of liquid biofuels from energy crops is not economic at current oil price levels. The budget announcement by the Minister for Finance of a major extension of the mineral oil tax relief scheme to cover, when the relief is fully operational, some 163 million litres of biofuels per year should further stimulate the production of crops for the manufacture of liquid biofuels. This initiative will benefit the environment in terms of a reduction in CO2 emissions and it will enhance security of supply of fuels and create jobs and outlets for agricultural production.

Within my own area of responsibility, a range of developments are already under way or in the pipeline that will encourage the production and use of biofuels. These include: grants to promote and develop sustainable forestry, including alternative timber use to reduce dependence on fossil fuels; promoting the use of wood biomass, for example, by the installation of a wood heating system at my Department's offices at Johnstown Castle; funding of forest-to-energy pilot projects; willow planting promotion; supporting biofuels research under the research stimulus programme; grant aiding the application of new technologies such as anaerobic-aerobic digestion and fluidised bed combustion, with a renewable energy dimension; and the use of by-products for incineration and co-incineration in place of fossil fuels.

A number of important developments are also on the horizon at EU level. The Commission has recently produced a biomass action plan and a strategy for biofuels. These are on the agenda for next week's meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers. In this context I will be seeking a review of the operation of the energy crops scheme.

Question No. 39 answered with QuestionNo. 31.
Question No. 40 answered with QuestionNo. 27.

Sugar Beet Production.

David Stanton

Question:

41 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food, further to the publication of the final EU legal texts of the sugar reform proposals, with regard to the distribution of the compensation package, the steps she intends to take to ensure that all parties who will be affected by the reform of the industry are given an opportunity to put forward their case on the way in which the package will be distributed; the position with regard to the restructuring levy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6023/06]

Denis Naughten

Question:

199 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food, further to comments attributed to her spokesperson in a newspaper (details supplied) on 11 February 2006, the position regarding the distribution of the €145 million compensation package; if specified percentages are to go to the stakeholders, including the workers; the specified percentage to be allocated to each category; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6163/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 41 and 199 together.

The political agreement on reform of the sugar regime reached last November provides that in the event of a decision to cease sugar production in Ireland, a restructuring fund of up to €145 million would become available for the economic, social and environmental costs of restructuring the Irish sugar industry. The fund is subject to the submission of a detailed restructuring plan for the industry involving factory closure and the renunciation of sugar quota. The political agreement on reform of the EU sugar regime provides that at least 10% of the restructuring fund shall be reserved for sugar beet growers and machinery contractors to compensate notably for losses arising from investment in specialised machinery. That proportion may be increased by member states after consultation with interested parties, provided that an economically sound balance between the elements of the restructuring plan is ensured.

The agreement provides that the restructuring scheme will be funded by a restructuring levy payable by sugar processors in each of three marketing years, starting in 2006-07. The levy amounts, per tonne of quota allocated, shall be set at: €126.40 per tonne of quota for the marketing year 2006-07, €173.80 per tonne of quota for the marketing year 2007-08, €113.30 per tonne of quota for the marketing year 2008-09.

The Commissioner clarified recently that sugar produced in the first year of the reform will be liable for the restructuring levy but in the event of the quota being renounced for the second year the levy will not be payable in that or subsequent years. The levy will have no impact on the minimum price for sugar beet for 2006 set out in the agreement.

The EU legal texts giving effect to the reform agreement could not be considered and approved by the Council of Ministers until the opinion of the European Parliament had been received. That opinion was delivered on 19 January and it is now anticipated that the legal texts will be ready for approval by the Council of Ministers next week. Meanwhile, the EU Commission is working on preparation of detailed implementation rules which can only be finalised once the Council texts have been adopted. This will be a complex measure to implement and until all the various legal texts have been adopted it will not be possible to provide details of the definitive implementation arrangements.

Animal Cruelty.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

42 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food, further to Question No. 124 of 4 October 2005, the steps she intends to take on the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5656/06]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

70 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food, further to Question No. 162 of 23 June 2005, the steps she intends to take on the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5657/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 42 and 70 together.

I have outlined in detail to the House on a number of occasions the circumstances surrounding this unusual case. I wish to restate the key aspects. First, the actions by my Department at the time were designed to protect public health by ensuring that animals treated with a prohibited substance did not enter the food chain. Second, my Department obviously wanted to see the animals disposed of in a humane manner and offered to permit the animals to be brought to a slaughter plant. However, the person in charge of the animals chose the manner by which the animals were to be slaughtered and my Department endeavoured to ensure that he did this in a way that the welfare of the animals was not compromised. In view of the fact that the matter is sub judice, I do not propose to comment any further on the case at this stage.

Export Subsidies.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

43 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding the abolition of export credit refunds by the EU; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5655/06]

The framework agreement for the next WTO round which was concluded in Geneva in August 2004 committed member countries, including the EU, to negotiate detailed rules, including an end date for the parallel elimination of all forms of export subsidies and for the introduction of disciplines on export measures with equivalent effect. At the WTO Hong Kong ministerial conference, which took place in December 2005, member countries agreed to the parallel elimination of all forms of export subsidy by the end of 2013. The end date relates to export refunds, export credits, the trade distorting practices of state trading enterprises and certain food aid practices. The date will only be confirmed on completion of all modalities for the new round.

Question No. 44 answered with QuestionNo. 31.

Social Partnership.

Dan Boyle

Question:

45 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the measures she intends to take to ensure that the Irish Farmers Association comes back into the partnership process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5970/06]

I very much regret the decision of some of the farmers' organisations to suspend their involvement in the partnership talks. They retain the option of re-joining the discussions, and I would urge them to do so, but this is a matter for them to decide.

The Government believes the farming pillar has a significant and useful part to play in the partnership process. In addition, it is very desirable that the importance of the agrifood sector is reflected in national agreements as it has been over the last 19 years. My Department will, therefore, remain fully involved in the talks with the remaining farmer organisation, and will stand ready to engage with others should they choose to rejoin the process.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

46 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the implications for agriculture here of the interim ruling by the WTO that might lead to a relaxing of the rules governing the import and sale of genetically modified organisms products; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5975/06]

I remind the Deputy that the interim report of the WTO disputes panel on GMOs is a confidential report and it would not be appropriate for me to make public comments on such a report.

A framework is in place for dealing with GMOs which includes comprehensive legislative measures, independent scientific analysis and risk assessment by the European Food Safety Authority and significant scrutiny and controls by the EU Commission and member states. This framework is one of the strictest in the world and is aimed at achieving a high degree of human health and environmental protection and at the same time safeguarding consumer choice, while being fully WTO compatible.

EU Directives.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

47 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the status of the animal remedies regulations; the discussions to date with the EU on the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5614/06]

The Animal Remedies Regulations 2005, S.I. No. 734/2005, were signed into law on 17 November 2005. I emphasised at that time that the provisions in EU Directive 28/2004 which required all veterinary medicines for food producing animals to become prescription only would not come into effect until the EU had adopted criteria for the exemption of certain products from this requirement.

In view of this, I decided to avail of another provision in the directive to retain existing national prescription arrangements until I January 2007, which means that, in effect, the regulations do not require any current off-prescription medicines to be made subject to prescription until 1 January 2007. Accordingly, these regulations confine the writing of prescriptions to veterinarians. However, I have given a commitment to review the regulations in light of the EU decision on the exemptions criteria, particularly to consider whether persons other than vets should be permitted to prescribe veterinary medicines.

With regard to the exemption criteria, the EU Commission began a public consultation process on the exemption criteria on 9 February by publishing draft criteria on its website. Consultation on this document, which is not yet a formal Commission proposal, will last until 17 March next. While my Department is currently examining the document, a preliminary analysis indicates that, as currently drafted, the criteria would place severe restrictions on the range of medicines which could remain off-prescription.

My Department had already made a submission to the Commission on this issue and will make a further submission with a view to having the draft criteria adapted to better reflect the risk and-or benefit profile of categories of products and to facilitate decisions in this regard being taken on a scientific basis. It is, of course, open to other stakeholders to engage with the Commission under the public consultation process and I would encourage them to do so.

As I have already stated publicly, I will, in consultation with stakeholders, review the national distribution arrangements in light of the outcome of the exemption criteria. A decision as to whether persons other than veterinarians may be permitted to prescribe veterinary medicines will be made when the exemption issue has been resolved with a view to ensuring competition in the marketplace while at the same time protecting public and animal health.

Farmers’ Markets.

Pat Breen

Question:

48 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she is taking to promote farmers’ markets; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5608/06]

Farmers' markets represent a real growth opportunity for farmers and small-scale food producers, as demonstrated by over 100 farmers' markets now in operation throughout Ireland.

I am committed to supporting activities to promote farmers' markets in general and was particularly pleased to launch the Origin farmers' markets initiative a few months ago in Manorhamilton, County Leitrim, on behalf of the Irish Country Markets Association. Bord Bia, which operates under the aegis of my Department, works closely with other State and local agencies to exploit the growing opportunities for markets. In co-operation with Invest Northern Ireland, it has published a comprehensive information guide on the operation of farmers' markets. Bord Bia has a dedicated person in the small business department to assist producers and individuals, and performs a vital support function through the provision of advice and mentoring assistance.

In 2005, at the suggestion of my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Brendan Smith, Bord Bia and the Office of Public Works examined the feasibility of using selected national heritage sites as possible future venues for farmers markets. On completion of that work the Minister of State, Deputy Brendan Smith, and the Minister of State, Deputy Parlon, recently launched the Bord Bia-OPW farmers' markets programme for 2006. This is a new and significant extension of the successful food at Farmleigh programme, with five regional heritage sites selected for one-day food market events. The programme commences on 26 February in Fota House and Gardens, County Cork, and other events are planned for counties Wexford, Kildare, Donegal and Laois.

Bord Bia is also liaising with Dublin City Council as part of the Smithfield regeneration programme and the proposed development of the fruit, vegetable and fish markets. Interested parties were invited to make submissions on the proposed regeneration to the Dublin City Council planner and a consultative forum, including Bord Bia, was established. This initiative will provide small food producers with direct access to the lucrative Dublin market.

Such initiatives provide producers with direct access to consumers, assist the development of local and regional speciality foods and present consumers with an alternative retail experience. There are also a variety of indirect benefits in terms of improved community spirit, increased employment and added value for tourism. In light of evolving consumer preferences and the growing demand for locally produced foods, I believe there is yet more potential for increased growth in the quantity and variety of produce channelled in this way.

Question No. 49 answered with QuestionNo. 24.

EU Directives.

Paul McGrath

Question:

50 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the nitrogen element of the nitrates directive will be reviewed, as it applies in Irish law; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5606/06]

The implementation of the nitrates directive is a matter in the first instance for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Minister, Deputy Roche, has recently made regulations giving legal effect to Ireland's national action programme under the directive.

The regulations were finalised following difficult negotiations with the European Commission's scientific experts, with both Departments making use of the advice provided by Teagasc. It was the Commission, however, which determined the final content of the regulations. Teagasc has recently indicated that it may be possible to review part of the advice it had given on the application of phosphorus, in a way that could improve the effectiveness of the regulations. The Government and the European Commission saw merit in allowing Teagasc time to elaborate this new advice and, accordingly, the Minister, Deputy Roche, announced a brief de facto deferral of the implementation of Part 3 of the regulations.

Teagasc has been requested to provide, as a matter of urgency, the necessary scientific case to support any revision of the phosphorus tables in the regulations. The two Departments will carefully consider any submission received from Teagasc while also bearing in mind that any proposals for revision of the phosphorus tables will have to respect the environmental requirements associated with the nitrates directive and meet with the agreement of the European Commission.

Teagasc has not been specifically requested to review its advice on nitrogen issues. However, to the extent that its revised submission on crop nutrient requirements suggests any further beneficial adjustments to the regulatory regime, these will, of course, be considered. The possibility of such further adjustments will also depend on them respecting the environmental requirements involved, and on their acceptance by the European Commission.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Tom Hayes

Question:

51 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans to implement the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Agriculture and Food’s report on the ERS; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5645/06]

I am still considering certain aspects of the joint committee's report on the early retirement scheme and I expect to be in a position to make announcements in due course. A number of the committee's recommendations are, as I explained in my detailed response to the report, precluded by the EU regulations under which the current scheme and its predecessor are operated.

Single Payment Scheme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

52 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the discussions she has had with the EU Commission to index link the single farm payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5636/06]

The agreement on the mid-term review of Agenda 2000 reached at the Council of Agriculture Ministers on 26 June 2003 provided a financial envelope to each member state. This envelope represented the average value of livestock and arable aid premia paid in the member state during the three-year reference period 2000-02 calculated at 2002 rates of payment.

The outcome of the agreement, which reshapes the Common Agriculture Policy and secures its future in making it more relevant to modern society and more defensible in a WTO context, was a balanced one which addressed Ireland's principal objectives. Among these objectives was the preservation of the financial benefits achieved under the Agenda 2000 agreement and the establishment of a policy framework that would allow farmers and the agrisector the flexibility to adapt to evolving consumer and market demands and international circumstances.

Index linking of the single payment scheme was not an element of the Commission's proposals. There was, however, a proposal to provide for a reduction of up to 13% in the single payment, known as degression, to meet future financing needs. I believe one of the major achievements in the negotiations was the removal of this proposal. The removal of this particular provision meant a saving of some €420 million for Ireland over the lifetime of the agreement. The compromise agreed was to allow the Council to review, from 2007 onwards, the financial situation annually if budget deficits arise.

Question No. 53 answered with QuestionNo. 31.

EU Directives.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

54 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason there is a delay in grants for farmers to equip themselves with slurry storage and other necessary means to prevent pollution in view of the fact that the nitrates directive is now law; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5969/06]

Shane McEntee

Question:

67 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when she intends to introduce new grant rates for farmers under the control of farmyard pollution scheme in view of the increasing cost of steel and the demands which will be placed on farmers due to the nitrates directive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5607/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 54 and 67 together.

EU state aid approval has been sought for a revised farm waste management scheme in order to assist farmers meet the additional requirements of the nitrates directive. Subject to receipt of the required EU approval, the proposed changes include: the introduction of a standard grant rate of 60%, with 70% being available in the four zone C counties, for both animal housing and slurry storage — the current standard grant rate for such work is 40%; the extension of the maximum income unit ceiling for farmers from 450 to 650 income units, with no upper limit being applied in the case of pig and poultry farmers; an increase in the maximum eligible investment ceiling from €75,000 to €120,000 per holding; the removal of any minimum income requirement from farming from the scheme so that all small farmers can participate in the scheme; the extension of the scheme to include horses, deer, goats, pigs and poultry, and mushroom compost; the introduction of a new 40% grant rate for specialised equipment with specific environmental advantages subject to a maximum eligible investment of €80,000 in the case of decanter centrifuge systems and feeding systems for pigs and €40,000 in the case of specialised slurry spreading tankers and related equipment; an increase in the maximum eligible investment for standard mobile equipment from €11,000 to €15,000.

Revised standard costings will be introduced when the scheme is launched to take account of factors such as the increase in steel prices.

Last July, I announced details of the proposed revised scheme. As the approval of the European Commission was required for such, from a state aid perspective, a formal application seeking approval for the revised scheme was submitted to the Commission on 30 September last. The application has been the subject of ongoing negotiations between the Commission and my Department in the intervening period. I recently had a meeting with Commissioner Fischer Boel at which I stressed the importance of this issue to Ireland. I expect that the outstanding issues will be resolved in the near future so that the revised scheme can be introduced at an early date.

Young Farmer Supports.

Phil Hogan

Question:

55 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she is taking to encourage the participation of young people in farming; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5623/06]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

65 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the measures she intends to take to halt the decline in young farmers coming to the farming industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5979/06]

It is proposed to take Questions Nos. 55 and 65 together.

Ireland has a greater percentage of younger farmers under 35 years of age, 11%, compared to the EU average of 8%. However, the Government recognises the importance of attracting young farmers into agriculture and has therefore put in place a number of incentives, as outlined below.

Under the installation aid scheme operated by my Department, a grant of €9,523 is available to young farmers who are between the ages of 18 and 35 on the date of set-up and who meet the education and income requirements of the scheme. Expenditure to date under the scheme, since its introduction in 2001, has amounted to €24.3 million.

The milk quota restructuring scheme is the principal means by which dairy farmers can acquire additional milk quota and for many years the scheme has included special provision for qualified young farmers. In the 2005 scheme almost 1,500 young farmers benefited from the provision, which grants young trained milk producers with quotas of less than 350,000 litres an additional allocation from the scheme. The young farmer allocations amounted to almost 25% of the restructuring pool in some areas where there was sufficient demand from qualified applicants.

Since 2003, young trained farmers have been able to acquire quota from the restructuring scheme to set up their own enterprise on the existing family holding provided they formed a registered milk production partnership with their parents. To date, almost 350 new entrant-parent milk production partnerships have been established. The details of the 2006 milk quota restructuring scheme will be announced before the end of March.

A broad range of taxation incentives is in place to facilitate the transfer of farms to young farmers, especially those with agricultural qualifications. Eligible farmers can avail of: 100% stock relief for young trained farmers for up to four years after set-up; 90% agricultural relief on capital acquisitions tax; 100% stamp duty relief on transfers of agricultural land and buildings to young trained farmers; full relief from capital gains tax is available for farmers over 55 years of age who transfer the farm to a child or nephew or niece; capital gains tax retirement relief for farmers over 55 years of age who have owned and farmed the land for the previous ten years. This exempts the transfer of farming assets up to the value of €500,000 from capital gains tax.

There is also a rental income tax exemption for farmers over 40 years of age to lease out land on a long-term basis. Annual relief of €12,000 for leases of five to seven years and €15,000 for leases of more than seven years is available. This encourages land mobility to allow more productive farmers to increase production.

In regard to advisory services, Teagasc offers all farmers access to a wide range of independent professional advisory services. Advisory staff are located in a nationwide network of advisory offices and local training centres. All front-line advisory staff are supported by specialists, researchers and laboratory staff from the Teagasc research and development centres. The services are focused on meeting the needs of a diverse farming community and rural society.

Teagasc provides the full suite of training for young entrants, farmers, rural entrepreneurs and executives-operatives in the food industry. The organisation has a resource of over 200 teachers and trainers operating from nine colleges, local training centres and research centres. More than 10,000 people attend Teagasc training courses each year. All education and training programmes are benchmarked to the best international standards.

Teagasc has recently completed a major review of its provision of agricultural education and training. One of the major planks of the review was to increase the attractiveness of Teagasc training programmes particularly for part-time farmers. The vocational certificate in agriculture is being restructured so as to facilitate the requirements of part-time farmers. The nine months placement has been reduced to three months on-farm placement and nine months placement on the home farm. The home farm placement can be done in conjunction with off-farm working.

In addition to the changes arising from the review, a greater degree of flexibility has been introduced into all Teagasc programmes in recent years. There is now flexibility to transfer from vocational programmes to higher level programmes and students can progress right up to honours degree level if they so wish.

Single Payment Scheme.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

56 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason for the delay in issuing the single farm payment to farmers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5630/06]

The significant task of implementing the single farm payment scheme was successfully achieved when over €1 billion in single payments issued to 118,500 farmers last December, meeting the target we had set ourselves of making the payments on the first possible date. This was a major undertaking and the outcome, after painstaking preparatory work in establishing individual entitlements, was, by any standards, a major achievement.

Under the 2005 single payment scheme, 143,000 applications were received. In addition to those applicants seeking to both activate their entitlements and also receive payment, applications were also received from farmers seeking only to activate their entitlements. It will be recalled that farmers who did not seek to activate their entitlements in 2005 would, under the EU rules, forfeit these entitlements to the national reserve.

Currently, total payments amount to €1,126 million with 97% of farmers, who hold entitlements and applied for the single payment scheme, paid. In common with the coupled schemes, which the single payment scheme replaced, delays in processing can be caused by many factors, including incomplete application forms, errors on applications and discrepancies highlighted following computer validation, which must be resolved via correspondence with the applicant. In many cases, payment could not be made because applicants did not submit an application to transfer the single payment entitlements, with lands, by way of inheritance, gift, lease or purchase. Many of these applications were only received after my Department made direct contact with the farmers in question, during recent weeks, and some have yet to be submitted.

The ongoing objective of my Department is to make payments to all of those farmers who have yet to receive their payment or are entitled to a supplementary payment as soon as their cases are cleared for payment. Every effort is being made by my Department to resolve the outstanding cases but many of these are extremely complex and, in other cases, my Department is still awaiting documentation and applications for the transfer of entitlements before payment can be made. A number of payment runs continue to be made weekly as the more complicated files are cleared.

Food Labelling.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

57 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans to establish an all-island food label; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5601/06]

I am supportive of initiatives to promote food on an all-island basis where this is of mutual benefit and leads to closer economic co-operation. Bord Bia, as part of its statutory role in promoting the development of Ireland's food and drink industry, works in close co-operation with its counterpart in Northern Ireland, Invest Northern Ireland, INI. Joint promotions and events have been successfully organised, especially in the speciality food sector. Bord Bia is currently negotiating a formal inter-agency agreement to provide for structured ongoing co-operation in food promotion at international trade fairs, retail promotions on the UK market, co-operation on developing the speciality sector on an all-island basis and market research and intelligence.

The development of an all-island animal health policy is, however, a necessary prerequisite to the establishment of an all-island food label. The development of the animal health policy is being actively pursued in the context of North-South co-operation. In addition, an all-island food label would require negotiation between the relevant authorities regarding its status and conditions for use and general acceptance from consumers and buy-in by producers and processors island-wide.

Single Payment Scheme.

Martin Ferris

Question:

58 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on whether the future for farmers here has improved since the introduction of the single farm payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5965/06]

The agreement on the mid-term review of Agenda 2000 was a balanced one which addressed Ireland's principal objectives. Among these objectives was the preservation of the financial benefits achieved under the Agenda 2000 agreement and the establishment of a policy framework that will allow farmers and the agri-sector the flexibility to adapt to evolving consumer and market demands. In particular, farmers are now free to concentrate more on market requirements and need no longer concern themselves about retention periods, quotas, stocking densities, census dates and other requirements associated with the old coupled regime.

Under the single payment scheme, the financial envelope provided for each member state represented the average value of livestock and arable aid premia paid during the three year reference period calculated at 2002 rates of payment. I am particularly pleased that the 2002 rate of payment was used to calculate the single payment as this was the highest rate payable under the Agenda 2000 arrangements.

The introduction of the single payment scheme in 2005 was a major undertaking for my Department and also involved a considerable learning curve for farmers. Payments under the scheme commenced on 1 December, the earliest date allowed in the EU regulations. Some 110,000 farmers were paid €970 million on that date. By the end of 2005, over 118,000 farmers had received €1,058 million under the scheme. The achievement in terms of delivery in the first year of a major scheme shift has been recognised all round. Ireland's performance in this regard places us in the lead group of member states.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Seán Ryan

Question:

59 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of submissions received by the 1 February 2006 deadline for receipt of submissions on the report of the working group on the coexistence of GM crops with conventional and organic farming; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5939/06]

My Department received a total of 55 communications by 1 February 2006 in response to my request of 7 December 2005 for observations on the coexistence measures set out in the working group report referred to by the Deputy. These measures are aimed at creating conditions during the cultivation, harvest, transport and storage of crops that make it possible for conventional and organic growers to keep the adventitious presence of genetically modified organisms, GMOs, in their crops below the labelling thresholds established in Community law while ensuring that farmers who want to grow authorised genetically modified, GM, crops can do so. Following the receipt of a number of requests, I am extending the closing date for receipt of observations on the report to 31 March 2006.

While the vast majority of the submissions received to date went well beyond the boundary of the request and, inter alia, called on me to establish a GM-free island or reject GM technology as being untried and unsafe, I will take into consideration all observations made in respect of the recommendations relating to co-existence when I am finalising measures for the cultivation of GM crops alongside non-GM crops.

Question No. 60 answered with QuestionNo. 21.

Farm Numbers.

Martin Ferris

Question:

61 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the forecast regarding declining farm numbers contained in the rural development 2025 report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5966/06]

The Rural Ireland 2025: Foresight report was compiled by a working group drawn from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth; University College Dublin; and Teagasc and gives its perspective on rural Ireland in the year 2025. In the "synthesis" section of the report, it states that it is unlikely that by 2025, Ireland will have appreciably more that 10,000 full-time commercial farmers and 30,000 part-time farmers. The foresight report does not contain a detailed analysis giving the rationale behind these figures.

A detailed analysis of farm numbers was undertaken for the independent agri-vision 2015 report, chaired by Alan Dukes. The report cites the figure of 105,000 farmers by 2015, a reduction of approximately 2% per annum. The Rural Ireland 2025: Foresight report appears to accept the analysis set out in the agri-vision 2015 report and omits any detailed explanation on the predicted drop in number by 2025.

The agri-vision 2015 report gives a detailed breakdown explaining the numbers and the rationale for the projected drop in farm numbers to 105,000 in 2015. Some of the contributing factors include incomes levels on farms, the rise in the popularity of part-time farming, the stabilising effects of the single farm payment and the availability of off-farm employment. These factors will underpin the continuing importance of farming and in particular part-time farming. On the issue of farm numbers themselves, it is clear that Ireland is not alone. Farm numbers are dropping in all developed countries. In fact, the rate of decrease in this country is lower than in several other European countries.

This Government is focused on ensuring that farming families have the best possible options available for them to stay on the land. That may mean as full-time farmers, if their farm size and resources are sufficient and if they choose that option. Alternatively, it may be through the combination of on-farm and off-farm income, which many smaller farmers are finding is the best route to a viable life on the land. The commitment of this Government is to support and encourage our farm families in whichever option they choose.

Question No. 62 answered with QuestionNo. 31.

EU Directives.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

63 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason guidelines are not being made available to the farmers affected in view of the fact that the nitrates directive is now law; if an explanation will be given to farmers as to their position in law; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5968/06]

The implementation of the nitrates directive is a matter in the first instance for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Minister recently made regulations giving legal effect to Ireland's national action programme under the directive. It is now important for farmers to be given as much accurate information as possible about where they stand legally and about the practical implications of the regulations.

A good deal of recent comment and speculation has been selective, and indeed misleading, and has only led to greater confusion among farmers. As a first step towards clearing up that confusion, my Department has placed advertisements in the farming press explaining the main provisions of the regulations in clear and straightforward terms. A handbook is being finalised and will be sent to every farmer as soon as possible. Officials of my Department have already had discussions with Teagasc about arrangements for the delivery of information which will further help farmers to understand the practical aspects of the new regulations.

The position of farmers with regard to the nitrates regulations is that the regulations came into law on 1 February. The organic nitrogen limit of 170 kg organic nitrogen per hectare per year applies from that date, although my Department is in negotiations with the Commission on derogation arrangements for more intensive farmers. The rules about record keeping, about soil and weather conditions for spreading fertiliser and manure and the rules about buffer zones also came into force from 1 February 2006. Prohibited application periods for the spreading of organic and chemical fertilisers come into force on 15 September 2006 for chemical fertiliser and 15 October for organic fertiliser. The manure storage requirements also came into force on 1 February, though in practice farmers have up to 31 December 2008 to comply fully with these. The only exception relates to holdings with more than 100 pigs, which must have 26 weeks' storage in place on 31 December 2006.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has, however, announced a brief de facto deferral of the implementation of part 3 of the regulations, which deals with nutrient management. These provisions were finalised following difficult negotiations with the Commission’s scientific experts, with both Departments making use of the advice provided by Teagasc — though it was the Commission which determined the final content of the regulations. Teagasc has recently indicated that it may be possible to review part of the advice it had given on the application of phosphorus in a way that could improve the effectiveness of the regulations. The Government and the European Commission saw merit in allowing Teagasc time to elaborate this new advice and it is for this reason that the implementation of this part of the regulations has been briefly deferred.

Teagasc has been requested to provide, as a matter of urgency, the necessary scientific case to support any revision of the phosphorus tables in the regulations. The two Departments will carefully consider any submission received from Teagasc while also bearing in mind that any proposals for revision of the phosphorus tables will have to respect the environmental requirements associated with the nitrates directive and meet with the agreement of the European Commission.

Teagasc has not been specifically requested to review its advice on nitrogen issues. However, to the extent that its revised submission on crop nutrient requirements suggests any further beneficial adjustments to the regulatory regime, these will, of course, be considered. The possibility of such further adjustments will also depend on their respecting the environmental requirements involved and on their acceptance by the European Commission.

Beef Imports.

Bernard Allen

Question:

64 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she is satisfied with Brazilian beef imports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5626/06]

As a member of the EU and the World Trade Organisation, WTO, Ireland is in a position to avail of opportunities for trade that are essential for the development of our open economy. Membership of these organisations also brings reciprocal trade obligations. The principle is that imported animal products meet standards at least equivalent to those required for production in, and trade between, member states. All such imports must come from third countries or areas of third countries that have been approved by the EU authorities for export to the EU. Irish farmers are required to ensure that their production systems and farm practices fully comply with a wide range of EU directives on important matters, including traceability, animal health and welfare and consumer protection.

I fully support, therefore, the policy that animal products imported into the EU from third countries meet standards at least equivalent to those required for production in, and trade between, EU member states. In this context, I wrote to the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Mr. Markos Kyprianou, concerning the sanitary rules applying to the import of livestock products, especially beef, into the EU. In his reply, the Commissioner outlined that, with respect to traceability and controls of residues of veterinary medicines, the purpose of EU legislation is not to impose on exporting third countries a system of guarantees that is equal to the EU system but that the exporting country provides guarantees that are equivalent to the standards applied in the EU.

The Commissioner indicated his service is committed to protect the health of European consumers and European livestock. It has regularly carried out inspections in Brazil also with respect to the points of concern raised in my letter and has taken appropriate measures whenever necessary. The Commission's adoption of restrictive measures in respect of the finding of residues of unauthorised substances in poultry meat and the quick and proportionate protective measures applied to imports of beef as a result of the recent outbreaks of foot and mouth disease in Brazil demonstrate the Commission's primary objective of maintaining the high sanitary status of the Community and respecting the EU's commitment under the WTO agreement on sanitary and phytosanitary measures.

In respect of the operation of EU controls on exports from Brazil the Commissioner indicated that an EU food and veterinary office, FVO, inspection to evaluate animal health and public health control systems, traceability and certification procedures in place in that country has recently been carried out. Following consultation with the Brazilian competent authorities on its findings, which is not yet complete, the FVO will issue a report. The Commissioner has assured me that the Commission will not hesitate to take the appropriate protection measures if a product imported from a third country or produced in the domestic market represents a risk for the health of EC consumers, livestock or plants.

Question No. 65 answered with QuestionNo. 55.

EU Directives.

Enda Kenny

Question:

66 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when guidelines will be issued to farmers here on the implementation of the nitrates action plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5283/06]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

76 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when guidelines will be issued to farmers here on the implementation of the nitrates action plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5602/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66 and 76 together.

There has been much comment and speculation in recent days and weeks about the effect of the nitrates regulations on farming. I am aware that the implementation of the regulations will be challenging for some farmers. I am also aware that there is a serious information deficit on some aspects of the matter. Clearly, this is not in the interests of farmers themselves and I am anxious to bring clarity to the situation as soon as possible.

As a first step, my Department has placed advertisements in the farming press explaining the main provisions of the regulations in clear and straightforward terms. A handbook is being finalised and will be sent to every farmer as soon as possible. Officials of my Department have already had discussions with Teagasc about arrangements for the delivery of information which will further help farmers to understand the practical aspects of the new regulations.

Question No. 67 answered with QuestionNo. 54.

Animal Health.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

68 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she intends to take to develop an all-Ireland animal health regime; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5612/06]

There is already a long history of co-operation between the administrations in the North and the South on animal health issues. The administrations have traditionally shared information at local and national levels on disease control and surveillance issues and have worked together to combat illegal movements of animals and animal products. The foot and mouth emergency of 2001 is a testament to the extent of co-operation and consultation that exists at official, ministerial and political levels. Likewise, both administrations are co-operating on measures relating to avian influenza.

The establishment of the North-South Ministerial Council offered an opportunity to build on existing co-operation arrangements and provided a framework for the development of an all-island animal health policy. The main objectives of the council are to foster co-operation and to devise a common, unified animal health strategy for the island as a whole. This involves the convergence of animal health policies and the development of joint strategies for dealing with animal diseases. The ultimate objectives are to establish a common import regime and equivalent internal arrangements with a view to achieving free movement of animals and animal products within the island.

A total of nine policy working groups have been established at official level under North-South arrangements to take forward various initiatives. The remit of these groups includes TB and brucellosis; TSEs, BSE and scrapie; veterinary medicines; other zoonoses and animal diseases; disease surveillance; animal welfare; import and export of live animals and animal products; animal identification; traceability; and cross-Border aspects of fraud. These groups continue to report progress in exchange of information and in implementation of initiatives aimed at policy convergence and the development of a common unified strategy for the island as a whole.

The main achievements to date are the development of a co-ordinated and complementary approach towards import policies and portal controls at points of entry to the island, the development of similar approaches to combat the introduction of animal diseases, the convergence of policies in regard to animal identification and strengthening of co-ordination and co-operation on issues such as contingency planning.

In addition to the above, there has been a significant deepening and strengthening of co-operation, information exchange and ongoing co-ordination between the two administrations on a variety of issues such as foot and mouth disease, BSE, avian influenza and cross-Border fraud while the farm animal welfare advisory council includes representation from DARD. On cross-Border fraud, the two administrations have worked together successfully in a number of joint enforcement actions and ongoing exchanges of expertise and information are taking place.

World Trade Negotiations.

Phil Hogan

Question:

69 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the status of the WTO talks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5624/06]

The negotiations on the new World Trade Organisation, WTO, agreement are ongoing. The ministerial conference, which took place in Hong Kong in December 2005, represented further progress towards the final agreement. In terms of the agriculture negotiations, the most significant development in Hong Kong related to agreement on an end date of 2013 for the elimination of all forms of export subsidy. This elimination date is conditional on the parallel elimination of all forms of export subsidy, namely export refunds, export credits, the trade-distorting practices of state trading enterprises and certain food aid practices. It was agreed that the end date will only be confirmed on completion of all modalities for the new round.

The Hong Kong ministerial conference has also set a deadline of the end of April 2006 for agreement to be reached on the full modalities of the new round. Intensive negotiations are taking place in Geneva at present with a view to making further progress and to meeting the end of April deadline. My overall objective is to ensure that the terms of a new agreement will not necessitate further reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and that the final deal is properly balanced between agriculture and non-agriculture and also within agriculture.

More specifically, my priorities in the ongoing negotiations are as follows: on domestic supports to ensure that the EU system of decoupled direct payments continues to qualify as non-trade-distorting payments under the so-called green box and so remain exempt from reductions under the new round; on export subsidies to ensure that full parallel elimination of all forms of export subsidies is delivered and that the most flexible phasing-out arrangements are achieved; and on market access to retain the maximum possible level of protection against increased imports through minimising tariff cuts, establishing sensitive product status where necessary, minimising tariff rate quota expansion and ensuring that an effective safeguard clause is in place. In respect of access, the whole area of non-trade barriers and standards is extremely important.

Question No. 70 answered with QuestionNo. 42.

Animal Diseases.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

71 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she is taking to guard agriculture here against the possibility of foot and mouth disease entering here through infected meat from Argentina; and if she will support an immediate ban on food imports from that country. [5978/06]

I am aware that the Argentine competent authorities notified the World Organisation on Animal Health on 8 February 2006 of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease on a large farm in the Corrientes province in the northern region of the county. This notification indicates control measures including quarantine, movement control, vaccination and bio-safety have been introduced and that additional measures, including stamping out, screening and zoning within the affected region, will be undertaken.

In respect of trade in agricultural products, the EU generally applies the regionalisation principle, which allows trade to continue from non-affected regions. In practice, this means that where there is a disease outbreak, restrictions on trade are applied to products from this affected region while trade can continue from other unaffected parts of the country or region. It will be recalled that this principle was applied to trade here during the foot and mouth disease outbreak in 2001.

Argentina has been regionalised for the purpose of exporting animal products. The Commission is bringing forward proposals to the standing committee on the food chain and animal health, which is meeting today, to introduce a ban on the import of meat from the Corrientes province. Ireland will be supporting the Commission's proposal.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

72 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the release of genetically modified potatoes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5653/06]

The recent notification made by BASF to trial genetically modified, GM, potatoes at Summerhill, County Meath, was made to the Environmental Protection Agency. This notification is in accordance with part B of EU Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms, GMOs, into the environment but not for entry to the food chain. Responsibility for making a decision on the application is a matter for the Environmental Protection Agency as the competent authority designated by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Since procedures under legislation are in play, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on this particular application.

My Department's role in GMOs relates to placing on the market of authorised GM feed and the cultivation of authorised GM crops. These roles are governed by binding EU legislation which was adopted over the past number of years by the Council and European Parliament. Government policy on GMOs was set out in the 2000 report of the interdepartmental group on modern biotechnology. This report recommended "a positive acceptance of the potential benefits of biotechnology tempered by a precautionary approach to the potential risks— and to ensure that, so far as possible, the benefits of biotechnology are maximized and the risks minimized without compromising on safety for people or environment".

Any application to grow authorised GM potatoes in Ireland would therefore be considered by my Department within the context of a legislative framework governing coexistence. As the Deputy is aware, I have received the report of the interdepartmental group on coexistence. I am currently seeking observations on the recommendations in the report which I will draw on in finalising our national coexistence measures.

Question No. 73 answered with QuestionNo. 37.
Question No. 74 answered with QuestionNo. 20.

EU Directives.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

75 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the status of the application for a derogation to the nitrates directive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5613/06]

The implementation of the nitrates directive is a matter, in the first instance, for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, who signed regulations giving legal effect to Ireland's national action programme on nitrates on 11 December 2005. Ireland is proceeding with its request for a derogation designed to allow certain farmers to operate, under appropriate conditions and controls, up to a level of 250 kg of organic nitrogen per hectare per annum. My Department is taking the lead in this matter and, with the support of Teagasc, will continue to work with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government toward achieving a successful outcome.

The proposal was given an initial presentation to the EU nitrates committee in December and further scientific data have been supplied to the Commission following bilateral discussions. The proposal will need to be discussed again at future meetings of the nitrates committee before approval can be obtained. Securing this derogation is vital for the most productive dairy farmers in particular and it is important that the position on the regulations is clarified at an early date so that the negotiations on the derogation can proceed.

Question No. 76 answered with QuestionNo. 66.

Proposed Legislation.

John Deasy

Question:

77 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when she intends to publish the animal health Bill; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5622/06]

Work on drafting the animal health Bill is proceeding in my Department. There is still a significant body of preparatory work to be completed and it is not possible at this stage to indicate a date for publication.

Food Labelling.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

78 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she is taking to introduce a clear and transparent food labelling system here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5637/06]

Consumers are entitled to and should be provided with full information on foodstuffs. In this context, my Department continues to give considerable attention to food labelling. Given the complexities involved, with account having to be taken of EU legislation and the Single Market, a food labelling group was established in 2002 to examine the matter in detail. Since then, my Department has pursued assiduously the implementation of the recommendations of the food labelling group. A total of 19 of the 21 recommendations, many of which were beyond the remit of my Department and some which were to be activated only after others had been completed, have been addressed. The remaining two recommendations, which relate to aspects of origin labelling, are also being addressed.

Arising from the implementation of the group's recommendations, the enforcement of all food labelling regulations has been centralised in the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, FSAI. This not only streamlines the enforcement measures but it also provides a one-stop shop for any complaints on mislabelling of food. In addition, the responsibility for food labelling policy, with the exception of fish, has been assigned to the Department of Health and Children and my Department in accordance with another recommendation of the food labelling group. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children is responsible for general labelling regulations which require information on food labels to be given clearly, accurately and in a language understood by the consumer. My Department is responsible for more detailed legislation on the labelling of specific food products, including beef and poultry meat.

An enabling provision to allow for the extension of existing comprehensive beef labelling regulations to include a requirement for information on the country of origin of beef to be provided to the consumer at the point of choice by establishments in the retail, restaurant and catering sectors, including food business operators, is at present before the Dáil by way of amendment to section 54 of the Health Act 1947 through the Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2005. The Report Stage of the Bill was debated yesterday, Wednesday, 15 February. It will now proceed to the Seanad for Report and Final Stages.

My Department is well advanced in drafting the consequential beef regulations and is currently in consultation with the Department of Health and Children and the FSAI on the details, including enforcement. While the regulations will then have to be submitted for EU approval, it is hoped that this process will not delay the making of the final regulations. In the meantime, the representative bodies for hotels, restaurants and pubs have agreed to recommend to their members to provide the information on a voluntary basis.

I have also written to the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection requesting that consideration be given to extending the rules in regard to country of origin labelling at EU level. I had raised the matter in the Agriculture Council some months ago.

While the proposed enabling legislation currently before the House will facilitate the extension of country of origin labelling to all meats, because of different traceability systems and some import-export complexities, it is not as straightforward as it is for beef. As with beef, EU approval would also be required. Notwithstanding these issues, I intend to pursue the matter of country of origin labelling at EU level and national level.

World Trade Negotiations.

Joe Costello

Question:

79 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the way in which agriculture and the consumer here can be protected from the risks associated with a more liberalised world trade in agricultural products; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5930/06]

I believe that the interests of agriculture and consumers are best protected by the Common Agricultural Policy, as it has evolved following recent reforms, which is consumer-focused and guarantees food supply to the highest standards of food safety, animal welfare and environmental sustainability. A cornerstone of this reformed Common Agricultural Policy is the recently introduced single farm payment scheme, which secures direct payments to farmers until 2013 and by means of cross-compliance, delivers environmental protection, animal health and welfare and food safety.

The current situation is threatened by the ongoing negotiations on a new WTO agreement which are aimed at liberalising trade and in reducing substantially the levels of protection and support for agriculture. My objective in the negotiations is to ensure that any new agreement will not necessitate further reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

At national level, the agri-vision report, which was commissioned by my predecessor, identified the rapidly changing nature of Irish agriculture and the issues facing the agriculture and food industries, including the need for market-driven production and greater levels of productivity. The report set out a framework for the future and the actions and changes that are required. The report placed great emphasis on meeting consumer requirements and the role of competitiveness in the context of an increasingly global market. I will be producing a plan of action in the near future that will set out a clear programme of work for my Department and other interests in the agri-food sector to enhance competitiveness and to fulfil the productive potential to meet consumer demands into the future.

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

80 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she is taking to implement the Crosby report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5617/06]

Following consideration of a technical report on possible additional costs that could arise following restocking, I sought and received approval from the EU Commission, under state aid rules, to make additional payments to flock owners who had flocks depopulated during the period December 2001 to 15 April 2003.

As the additional costs in each case are related inter alia to the number of breeding ewes in the flocks in the years following restocking, my Department issued documentation along with declaration forms to the relevant flock owners in late November last in respect of these payments for year four. Flock owners who wish to be considered for these payments were requested to return the completed stocking declaration form together with their flock register. A number of flock owners have already submitted their applications, inspections have been carried out and payments issued.

Following further consideration of the matter, I have decided to amend the arrangements already announced relating to these additional payments. Flock owners who have not already submitted declarations and registers are being advised accordingly and are being invited to do so now. Those who have already received payments will be entitled to the amended arrangements.

Question No. 81 answered with QuestionNo. 20.

Rural Diversification.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

82 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the results of a recent rural dwellers survey; the action her Department is taking to address the reported lack of entrepreneurship and diversification, as reported in the survey; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5926/06]

The National University of Ireland's report Rural Living: An Analysis of 1,249 Households in the Republic of Ireland is welcome, and provides an interesting perspective on the issue of rural diversification. Although the report itself speaks of a relative degree of reluctance by farm respondents to consider new activities or diversification, it should be noted that there is already a large degree of diversification within the farming sector. The significant numbers of farmers engaged in off-farm employment shows a clear interest by those farmers in maximising their income stream through their choice of other employment options. For many farmers and their spouses, off-farm employment is their favoured option.

The role of Government is to ensure that farmers and farm families have choices and to support them in whatever choices they make about their own futures. This Government has been very successful is providing an economic environment which enables farmers to avail of both on- and off-farm opportunities to secure their future. The advent of the single farm payment has, of course, increased the flexibility open to them and therefore will allow new options to be explored by farmers.

Animal Welfare.

Jack Wall

Question:

83 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the amount allocated and the amount which has been spent during each of the past five years on enforcing the current body of legislation oriented towards ensuring a high level of animal welfare here; the number of violations of legislative measures which her attention has been brought to in the area of animal welfare during each of the past five years; the number of these violations which were brought to court; the number of convictions under animal welfare related legislation which there have been for each of the past five years; the number of people employed by her Department to ensure compliance with the current body of animal welfare related legislation; if she will make a statement on the possibility of an inspectorate dedicated to investigating violations of animal welfare legislation; and if she will make a further statement on the question of reforming the current body of animal welfare related legislation. [5938/06]

The main statutes governing cruelty to animals in this country are the Protection of Animals Acts 1911 and 1965. Responsibility for pursuing complaints under that legislation rests with the Garda Síochána which may, on receipt of a complaint, investigate and bring a prosecution against any person alleged to have committed an act of cruelty against an animal. Officers of my Department are regularly involved in assisting the Garda in such cases.

My Department has certain statutory responsibility for the welfare and protection of farmed animals. The legislation governing this is the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes Act 1984 and the European Community (Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes) Regulations 2000. In addition there is specific legislation relating to pigs, calves and laying hens.

Information on animal welfare cases dealt with in any particular year under the foregoing headings is not compiled centrally in my Department. Cases which come to notice are dealt with, generally, by officers based in my Department's district veterinary offices. These officers deal with the implementation of animal welfare legislation as well as having responsibilities in a wide number of other areas related to animal health, disease control and so forth. It is not possible to estimate with any accuracy the time allocated by individual officers to the different activities.

The principal expenditure on animal welfare relates to the salaries and other costs of the personnel engaged in dealing with animal welfare cases. Funding is also available to deal with emergency care, feeding, transport and so forth of welfare compromised farm animals but amounts expended in any year on these aspects are relatively modest.

In 2004 the farm animal welfare council, FAWAC, introduced an early warning-intervention system, EWS, for animal welfare cases involving the Department of Agriculture and Food, Irish Farmers Association and the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals. The objective of the system is to provide a framework within which farm animal welfare problems can be spotted before they become critical or overwhelming. The new system will allow for concerned individuals to approach their local IFA representatives, their local SPCA or my Department in the knowledge that the matter will thereafter be dealt with in the most effective, timely and sensitive manner.

In addition to the foregoing, my Department makes ex gratia payments annually to organisations involved in the direct delivery of animal care and welfare services to assist in their ongoing work. In this regard, some €1.2 million was paid to 86 organisations in December last to assist them during 2006 and a provision of €1.1 million for this purpose is included in my Department’s Estimates for 2006.

Organ Donation.

Máire Hoctor

Question:

84 Ms Hoctor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will clarify the law regarding organ donations here; and her intention to introduce measures or legislation to help provide more organs for transplant (details supplied). [6121/06]

Joe Higgins

Question:

89 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she is taking to raise awareness regarding the importance of organ donation in view of the imbalance between the need for and supply of organs for transplantation. [6095/06]

Joe Higgins

Question:

90 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will review current practice with regard to organ donation in view of the fact that there is no central register of persons who would be willing to have their organs used for transplant and in further view of the fact that signing an organ donor card indicating willingness to have organs used for transplant, does not necessarily mean such organs will be used in practice. [6096/06]

Máire Hoctor

Question:

96 Ms Hoctor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will clarify the law regarding organ donations here as applied in hospitals; and her intentions to introduce measures or legislation to help provide more organs for transplant (details supplied). [6122/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 84, 89, 90 and 96 together.

The annual organ donor awareness campaign, which is organised by the Irish Donor Network and administered by the Irish Kidney Association, highlights the necessity for organ donation generally. The campaign, which is supported by my Department, highlights the need for organ donors by promoting the carrying of a organ donor card. My Department has been providing financial support to the donor awareness campaign for a number of years. The grant in 2005 amounted to €500,000.

There are two systems that can be used to ascertain an individual's wishes on organ donation: the opt-in system and the opt-out system. The former system, which operates in this country, requires that the specific consent to donation of each person, or their relatives, be obtained before organs or tissues are removed. The opt-out system presumes that all citizens consent to donation unless they have specifically expressed a wish to the contrary.

The practice in this country is that, even when a person has indicated his or her willingness to donate organs by way of carrying an organ donor card, or a driving licence marked accordingly, the consent of the next-of-kin is always sought. Even where opt-out systems are in operation, the relatives of the deceased are approached as part of the donor screening process to seek a medical history of any high-risk behaviour. Thus, the relatives will always be aware that a donation is being considered and can register an objection to the donation.

The European Commission is currently considering the question of a directive in respect of organ transplantation, including the issue of consent, and proposes to conduct a thorough scientific evaluation of the situation. It will present a report on its analysis to the Council of the European Union and it is expected that this report will inform decisions regarding the development of a legislative framework in this area.

In the context of increasing the number of donor organs available for transplant, the Health Service Executive has been asked by the Department to undertake a review and analysis of the factors that impact on organ procurement and retrieval rates in hospitals around the country.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

85 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there are schemes or benefits to assist a person (details supplied) in County Cavan; if there are schemes to assist them with transport needs; and if assistance will be given. [6140/06]

Finian McGrath

Question:

102 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in County Cavan in accessing funds and grants towards a car or other benefits. [6142/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 85 and 102 together.

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

Organ Retention.

Liz McManus

Question:

86 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the role of Parents for Justice in the working group as recommended by a person (details supplied) in their report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6069/06]

Liz McManus

Question:

87 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a guarantee will be given in public and in writing that the documents contained in the 54 boxes presented to her by a person (details supplied) on 31 March 2005 and all other documents in existence relating to the Dunne inquiry will not be destroyed; the whereabouts of the documents at present; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6070/06]

Liz McManus

Question:

88 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Parents for Justice will continue to receive funding from the Health Service Executive in order to continue supplying all support systems required by the membership of the organisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6071/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86 to 88, inclusive, together.

I intend to invite Parents for Justice to nominate a representative to the working group which I am establishing in accordance with a recommendation in the Madden report on post mortem practice and procedures. The working group's objective will be to ensure that there is appropriate adaptation of legislation, policy and procedures for the groups that were not within Dr. Madden's terms of reference, that is, babies who died before or during birth, minors and adults.

My Department received a freedom of information request on 10 February 2006 for access to the documents to which the Deputy refers. It will be processed in line with provisions of the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003. The documents in question are currently in the secure custody of my Department.

The question of funding for Parents for Justice is a matter for the Health Services Executive. 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.

Questions Nos. 89 and 90 answered with Question No. 84.

Alcohol Abuse.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

91 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the membership of the working group on alcohol referred to in Question No. 268 of 31 January 2006; and the way in which this group differs from the strategic task force on alcohol. [6098/06]

The working group on alcohol was established under the special initiative on tackling alcohol and drug misuse in Sustaining Progress to help mobilise the stakeholders through social partnership to achieve a targeted and measurable reduction in alcohol misuse. Its members included representatives from the Health Service Executive, the Garda, IBEC, ICTU, the community and voluntary pillar, Macra na Feirme, the national drugs strategy team, National Youth Council of Ireland, Children's Rights Alliance and the Departments of the Taoiseach, Transport, Education and Science, Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Health and Children. It was chaired by Mr. Peter Cassells.

While the remit of the strategic task force on alcohol was to broadly review the international research and to revert to Government with a set of recommendations aimed at reducing alcohol related harm across all harm indicators, the members of the working group on alcohol, established under Sustaining Progress, were asked to examine the areas of high risk drinking, underage drinking and drink driving and to identify actions which their organisations could adopt to address these issues with a view to developing a programme of action. The group's recommendations were put before the steering committee on the special initiative on alcohol and drug misuse in late 2005.

Hospital Services.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

92 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given in having a person (details supplied) in County Cork admitted for surgery to St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this person is a cancer patient and was due to have undergone this surgery in January 2006. [6100/06]

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

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

93 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an application for a medical card will be expedited in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [6101/06]

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.

Banned Substances.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

94 Mr. Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, arising from the banning of the sale of magic mushrooms, she is concerned about the possibility of people attempting to source these mushrooms themselves; if she will consider some public health education initiative to warn of the dangers of such substances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6116/06]

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

Health Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

95 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has received a report on the different service levels and waiting times for speech therapy services here; and her views on sanctioning a scheme for acquisition of private services for children waiting excessively long either via the National Treatment Purchase Fund or otherwise. [6118/06]

The National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF, was established as one of the key actions for dealing with public hospital waiting lists arising from the 2001 health strategy. The NTPF is used for the purpose of treating public patients who have been waiting longest for surgery. It is not intended to expand the remit of the NTPF to funding the type of treatment referred to by the Deputy.

Part of 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 a reply on this issue sent directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 96 answered with QuestionNo. 84.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

97 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans in respect of a hospital (details supplied) in County Cork. [6127/06]

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

Health Service Staff.

Enda Kenny

Question:

98 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of Health Service Executive managerial and administrative staff earning over €50,000 and €75,000 on 1 January 2005 and on 1 January 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6129/06]

The Deputy's question relates to human resource management issues within the Health Service Executive. As this is a matter for the executive under the Health Act 2004, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Charges.

Enda Kenny

Question:

99 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether persons claiming for long stay charges that were illegally taken from them in public nursing homes are not entitled to the relief claimed or to any relief; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6130/06]

The Government has agreed the key elements of a scheme for the repayment of long stay charges for publicly funded residential care. All those fully eligible persons who were wrongly charged and are alive and the estates of all those who were wrongly charged and died since 9 December 1998 will have the charges repaid in full. The repayments will include both the actual charge paid and an amount to take account of inflation using the consumer price index since the time the person involved was charged.

Draft heads of a Bill for a repayment scheme were submitted to Government in December and were approved. The draft heads have been submitted to Parliamentary Counsel for drafting and it is my intention to have the Bill published in the current parliamentary session and to have repayments commencing shortly after the Bill is approved and signed into law.

The scheme will be designed and managed with the aim of ensuring that those who are eligible for repayments receive them as soon as possible and with the minimum possible imposition in terms of bureaucracy. Priority will be given to those who are still alive. Many of those eligible for repayments have already been identified as a result of initial payments made following my announcement in December 2004. The scheme will include a transparent and thorough appeals process.

Community Employment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

100 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if core funding will be provided to allow people who are currently working on community employment schemes providing services for the disability sector to be appointed on a permanent basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6133/06]

In the Estimates for 2006 which were recently published, significant additional funding was included for the improvement of health services for people with disabilities. As part of this provision, funding is being made available to address core under-funding and 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.

Nursing Home Charges.

Finian McGrath

Question:

101 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 in relation to the nursing home charges issue; and if they will be given advice. [6141/06]

As the Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the national repayment scheme, inquiries relating to individual cases are referred to the parliamentary affairs division of the executive. My Department has asked the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 102 answered with QuestionNo. 85.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

103 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the speech therapy services will be improved for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and if this will be made a priority issue. [6143/06]

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 a reply on this issue sent directly to the Deputy.

Marketing of Alcohol.

Liz McManus

Question:

104 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of times the alcohol marketing communications monitoring body has met since her announcement of a voluntary code; and the number of times she envisages it meeting in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6144/06]

Liz McManus

Question:

105 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an annual report of the alcohol marketing communications monitoring body is sufficient for such an important matter; if there will be interim reports from the body; the action which can be taken between reports if breaches are observed; if the voluntary code is consistent with other codes such as those produced by MEAS, CCCI, The Broadcasting Complaints Commission and the ASAI; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6145/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 104 and 105 together.

The remit of the alcohol marketing communications monitoring body is to oversee the implementation of, and adherence to, the voluntary code of practice on alcohol advertising. I understand that it has met once since its establishment in January and will continue to meet over the course of the year. The decision to await the annual report of the monitoring body before deciding on further action was taken to allow the body a sufficient period in which to review compliance with and adherence to the code of practice.

The voluntary code of practice complements existing restrictions such as those of the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission and in no way impinges on the complaints procedures associated with these or other bodies. I am happy to await the outcome of the first annual report of the monitoring body and, as the Tánaiste has stated previously, legislation will be progressed if the body finds that the codes are not being adhered to.

Liz McManus

Question:

106 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if further action will be taken by her Department to regulate the sponsorship of sporting and youth related events by alcohol companies as per the strategic task force on alcohol; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6146/06]

Liz McManus

Question:

107 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied with progress on the implementation of the recommendations of the strategic task force on alcohol; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6147/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 106 and 107 together.

The strategic task force on alcohol was established in January 2002 and was given a remit to recommend specific evidence based measures to Government to prevent and reduce alcohol related harm. It published an interim report in May 2002 and a second report in September 2004. The reports provide approximately 100 recommendations across a range of sectors including research, legislative, community training, advertising and sponsorship, awareness raising measures and so forth.

Significant progress has been made across Departments in implementing the task force recommendations. I have arranged to have a summary document forwarded to the Deputy outlining details of the progress made. As the Deputy will be aware, the executive functions of this Department have transferred to the Health Service Executive, HSE. I am confident that the HSE will continue to progress the implementation of the task force recommendations.

A number of the recommendations contained in the interim report concern a reduction in the exposure of children and adolescents to alcohol advertising, marketing and sponsorship. In response to these, the Department entered into negotiations with the broadcasting, media and drinks industries while at the same time pursuing the development of legislation to restrict alcohol advertising, sponsorship and sales promotions and marketing practices. It was agreed that the industry would respond on an incremental basis.

This has resulted in the establishment of Central Copy Clearance Ireland which addresses the issue of the content of advertisements, the development of a voluntary code of practice on advertising which addresses the issue of placement and the establishment of the alcohol marketing and communications monitoring body to oversee the implementation of the voluntary code. As the Tánaiste has previously indicated, she will await the annual report of the monitoring body before deciding on future actions relating to legislation on this issue. Negotiations with the industry stakeholders are ongoing and will include the issue of sponsorship.

Vaccination Programme.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

108 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on providing free of charge a vaccination to prevent hepatitis B to members of the Order of Malta who travel abroad; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6152/06]

Responsibility for the provision of vaccinations to employees is a matter for individual employers. In the case raised by the Deputy I would advise that the Order of Malta contact the local area Health Service Executive for further information and advice on the hepatitis B vaccination.

Medical Cards.

Pat Carey

Question:

109 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that some general practitioners are refusing to sign application forms for doctor only cards; if she will establish whether this is a widespread practice which has the support of the general practitioners professional bodies; if she will ensure that this practice is not allowed to continue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6153/06]

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

Health Service Staff.

Dan Neville

Question:

110 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of suicide resource officers who are appointed to the position permanently and temporarily. [6168/06]

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

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

111 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the vacancies for occupational therapists in County Roscommon; the numbers awaiting occupational therapy assessment in each area in the county and the respective waiting times; the steps she intends to take to address the situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6169/06]

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 a reply on this issue sent directly to the Deputy.

Denis Naughten

Question:

112 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) will be called for an occupational therapist assessment; the reason for the delay in calling them for an appointment; her views on whether a five year old child should have to wait nearly 12 months for a first assessment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6170/06]

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 a reply on this issue sent directly to the Deputy.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

113 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the review of the optical service staffing requirements in Kildare and west Wicklow will be completed. [6182/06]

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.

Parliamentary Questions.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

114 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when an answer will issue in response to Question No. 477 of 25 January 2006. [6183/06]

An oversight in making the original referral was made by the Department of Health and Children. This has now been rectified and the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy. The inclusion of projects in a capital investment plan is a matter in the first place for the HSE. A number of public projects for older people are included in the HSE capital plan for 2006, which has been forwarded to the Tánaiste for consideration.

Health Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

115 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the mobile hospital service for Carbury, County Kildare, has effectively collapsed; and her plans regarding same. [6184/06]

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.

Parliamentary Questions.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

116 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when an answer will issue to Question No. 479 of 25 January 2006. [6185/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. The Health Service Executive has informed the Department that it will reply to the Deputy in the next few days.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

117 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in issuing a response to Question No. 480 of 25 January 2006. [6192/06]

I have asked my officials to check this and have discovered that my Department inadvertently omitted to refer the part of the question regarding human resource management issues for answer by the Health Service Executive. This has now been done and the information requested by the Deputy is currently being compiled by the parliamentary affairs division of the executive. It will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

118 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason phase three C of Naas General Hospital redevelopment has not been sanctioned to seek tenders. [6193/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for considering new capital proposals or progressing those in the health capital programme. Accordingly, my Department is requesting the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Staff.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

119 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of endocrinologists and clinical diabetic nurses in Waterford Regional Hospital, Cork University Hospital, Galway University Hospital and Limerick Regional Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6196/06]

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

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

120 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the assessment and provision of a new motorised wheelchair will be expedited in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [6197/06]

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 a reply on this issue sent directly to the Deputy.

Infectious Diseases.

James Breen

Question:

121 Mr. J. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason there are no precautions being taken to combat the spread of the MRSA superbug in psychiatric institutions and nursing homes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6200/06]

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

Hospital Services.

James Breen

Question:

122 Mr. J. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be called for a cartilage operation to the orthopaedic hospital in Croom, Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6203/06]

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

Nursing Home Charges.

Pat Breen

Question:

123 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a refund will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Galway in respect of nursing home charges; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6220/06]

As the Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the national repayment scheme, inquiries relating to individual cases are referred to the parliamentary affairs division of the executive. My Department has asked the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

124 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with an appointment for hip replacement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6221/06]

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

Departmental Properties.

Denis Naughten

Question:

125 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to dispose of property at St. Bridget’s Hospital, Ballinasloe; the conditions to be placed on a sale; if it is the intention of the Health Service Executive to abide by the board decision of the Western Health Board on the conditions under which a sale would proceed and the use of the capital realised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6223/06]

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

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

126 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action she proposes to take to reduce the long delays associated with applications for the disabled persons grants which are caused by a shortage of occupational therapists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6261/06]

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 a reply on this issue sent directly to the Deputy.

Site Acquisitions.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

127 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance the progress to date in 2006 in acquiring a site for a new national school for Kill, County Kildare; if a site has been identified in conjunction with officials from Kildare County Council following the meeting between the Office of Public Works and Kildare County Council officials; if negotiations are underway to purchase same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6172/06]

I refer to my response to Questions Nos. 107 of 9 February 2006 and 206 of 15 February 2006. The position remains unchanged.

Tax Code.

David Stanton

Question:

128 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance further to the new non-contributory pension for the over 66 year olds which is due to be introduced in September 2006 and the €100 earnings disregard, if he intends to allow persons who are in receipt of contributory pensions a similar earnings disregard if they take up or continue work, before their pensions are subject to taxation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6294/06]

I have no plans to introduce an income disregard for income tax purposes as proposed by the Deputy. The €100 disregard referred to by the Deputy does not relate to taxation. It is a general principle in the tax code that, as far as possible, income from all sources should be subject to taxation. In line with this principle, the majority of social welfare payments, including contributory and non-contributory old age pensions, are reckonable as income for tax purposes.

In budget 2006, I increased the contributory pension for those aged 66 or over to €193.30 per week for a single person and €342.60 per week for a person with a qualified adult who is aged 66 or over. Income generated through the take-up or continuance of work will be reckonable for taxation in addition to the income received through the contributory pension. However, I should point out that those aged 65 or over, including those in receipt of a contributory social welfare pension, are already treated more favourably under the tax code than the generality of taxpayers. This is the case irrespective of whether they are taxed under the normal system of tax credits and bands or the age exemption limits.

John Perry

Question:

129 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance, further to Question No. 385 of 18 October 2005, when a decision will be made and the stamp duty refunded to a person as the amended deed has been lodged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6075/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, in the case referred to by the Deputy, stamp duty has been refunded and a cheque for the amount due issued on 13 January 2006, in favour of the person's solicitors.

Decentralisation Programme.

Pat Breen

Question:

130 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance the progress which has been made on decentralisation in County Clare; the number of people seeking transfer; the progress being made on provision of the buildings; the completion date for the new buildings; the date on which the transfer will be complete; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6087/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners on their decentralisation to Kilrush, County Clare, that the Office of Public Works has identified a suitable property solution in Kilrush to facilitate the accommodation of 50 staff due to decentralise to that location. To date, 43 staff have confirmed acceptances to decentralise to Kilrush. The Revenue Commissioners are continuing to use the central applications facility to fill the remaining vacancies. The indicative timeframe for the provision of the building is the last quarter of 2006.

Driving Tests.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

131 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Finance if a site has been selected for a new test centre (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6128/06]

A suitable site has been identified for a new driving test centre close to Letterkenny. The site includes a dedicated compound for the provision of heavy goods vehicles manoeuvring as part of the driving test. Negotiations to acquire the site are in progress.

Tax Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

132 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when a P45 will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6158/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that it appears the person in this case was employed by a sub-contractor. However, he was not registered as an employee of that sub-contractor under PAYE. Nor has the person been issued with a C2 form which would allow payments to be made to him without deduction of relevant contracts tax. In the circumstances it seems that he should have received a relevant contracts tax deduction card form, RCTDC, from that sub-contractor on cessation of employment, rather than a P45. Attempts are continuing to contact the sub-contractor with whom the taxpayer was employed, with a view to securing the urgent issue of the RCTDC form to him.

Garda Stations.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

133 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if an independent assessor has been appointed by the Office of Public Works to consider the 98 public submissions on the new Leixlip Garda station; the timeframe for the completion of the assessment; and when the board of the Office of Public Works will meet to make a decision on the matter. [6175/06]

An independent assessor is being appointed. It is not possible to estimate how long the assessment of the Part 9 planning consultation will take but the Commissioners of Public Works should be in a position to make a decision in a number of weeks.

Flood Relief.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

134 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works has met with Kildare County Council officials with a view to identifying possible ways of advancing a flood relief scheme in Leixlip. [6180/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works will seek a meeting with officials of Kildare County Council at the earliest possible opportunity that their very heavy workload permits.

State Property.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

135 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the plans for the takeover by the Office of Public Works of a museum (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6218/06]

The Office of Public Works is investigating the possibility of taking ownership and maintenance of the building referred to by the Deputy.

Tax Code.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

136 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the tax breaks that are available for the construction, establishment and running of a new health centre or clinic providing full medical services. [6238/06]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Parliamentary Question No. 367 of 14 February 2006.

There are a number of tax reliefs currently available for the construction of certain health facilities, which include capital allowances for private hospitals, convalescent homes, private nursing homes and residential units attached to nursing homes. Various conditions have to be met for these reliefs to apply. In general there are no reliefs available for health centres but a health centre which is located in a special tax incentive area, such as a rural renewal or urban renewal area, and is located in a commercial premises may qualify for relief provided all the necessary conditions are met.

Alternative Fuels.

David Stanton

Question:

137 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance the supports and initiatives in place to encourage the development and use of biodiesel and ethanol as additives or replacements for diesel and petrol; the cost since such initiatives were introduced; if such initiatives extend to imported vegetable oils; his plans to develop and support such substitution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6264/06]

A relief from mineral oil tax was introduced in the Finance Act 2004 for biofuels produced or used in certain pilot projects. The pilot projects could be for the production of biofuel or for testing the technical viability of biofuel as a motor fuel. The relief was confined to pilot projects approved by the Minister for Finance. Following an invitation to tender from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, relief was granted to eight pilot projects for a period of two years. The cost of the relief is estimated at €3 million in each year, covering, over the two-year period, a total of 12 million litres of pure plant oil, 2 million litres of biodiesel and 2 million litres of bioethanol.

I am making provision in this year's Finance Bill for a significantly expanded five year scheme of mineral oil tax relief to commence in 2006 and end in 2010. The scope of the relief will be extended to projects which are not of a "pilot" nature. Based on the biofuel market penetration targets of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, the measure is estimated to cost €20 million in 2006, €35 million in 2007 and €50 million in each of the following three years. This relief scheme, when fully operational, is expected to support the use and production in Ireland of some 163 million litres of biofuels per year.

I also announced in the budget that provision is being made in this year's Finance Bill for a VRT relief of 50% for flexible fuel vehicles. The scheme is intended to encourage the purchase of series production flexible fuel vehicles able to use bioethanol — a blend of a minimum of 85% ethanol and petrol. This scheme will operate for a two year period from 1 January 2006 to 31 December 2007. The cost of the scheme is estimated at €1 million in 2006.

It is clear that it would not be possible for any scheme providing excise duty exemption for biofuels to make such exemption conditional upon the biofuel concerned being produced only in Ireland. This would be in contravention of Ireland's duty under EC competition law not to distort competition in the common market. Inclusion of any such condition in the new scheme would lead to refusal of our application for EU state aid approval for the exemption scheme. As for vegetable oil from non-EU countries, World Trade Organisation rules apply to its importation. The WTO principle of national treatment prohibits discrimination between national and foreign products but internationally agreed tariffs may apply to particular products.

Notwithstanding this, one of the aims of the new biofuels scheme is to create, in so far as is possible, the development of biomass or feedstock production in Ireland to support the development of a sustainable domestic biofuels industry and we must try to reflect this in the new scheme.

Coastal Protection.

John Perry

Question:

138 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when a decision will be made on the application from Sligo County Council submitted on 3 November 2004 for funding under the coastal protection programme 2003-06; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6077/06]

Responsibility for coast protection rests with the property owner, whether it be a local authority or a private individual. In November 2004, Sligo County Council submitted a proposal for funding for three coastal protection projects in the county. Its number one priority was for major repairs and reconstruction to Ardnaglass river outfall structure at Dunmoran Strand, at an estimated cost of €450,000. There was no funding available under the coastal protection programme for this project in 2005.

The question of providing funding for this project in 2006 will have to be considered in the context of the amount of Exchequer funding available for coast protection works and overall national priorities. I should point out that €3 million is available for coast protection for the entire country in 2006. The allocation of this funding is under consideration at present.

Diplomatic Representation.

Bernard Allen

Question:

139 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the 191 members of the United Nations, the number which are not diplomatically accredited to Ireland; the countries which are; if there is a reason such accreditation does not exist in each instance; and if efforts are being made to secure such accreditation. [6074/06]

Of the 191 member states of the United Nations, 76 are currently not accredited to Ireland. The following tables outline the status of accreditation of each member state to Ireland and of Ireland to those member states not accredited here. The accreditation of diplomatic missions is a matter for each Government to consider and determine. While I cannot offer reasons as to why certain countries have not yet chosen to accredit to Ireland, clearly issues such as resources, perceived national interests and location would have a bearing on the matter. The question of accreditation is routinely discussed in our diplomatic contacts with other countries and the Government generally seeks to facilitate those states which express interest in accrediting to Ireland.

The Deputy may wish to note that of the 76 member states not currently accredited to Ireland, Irish heads of mission are accredited to 13 of these states, while diplomatic relations with a further 25 are maintained, on a reciprocal basis, through the permanent missions to the United Nations in New York.

I should finally wish to mention the specific case of Burma. Burma is not accredited to Ireland, although its authorities have sought accreditation. In light of the human rights situation in that country, the Government has decided not to accept the accreditation of an ambassador of Burma at this time, nor to accredit an Irish ambassador there.

Table A — United Nations member states currently accredited to Ireland

United Nations Member States

Resident

Non-Resident

Albania

*

Algeria

*

Andorra

*

Argentina

*

Armenia

*

Australia

*

Austria

*

Azerbaijan

*

Bahrain

*

Bangladesh

*

Belarus

*

Belgium

*

Bolivia

*

Bosnia and Herzegovina

*

Botswana

*

Brazil

*

Brunei Darussalam

*

Bulgaria

*

Cambodia

*

Canada

*

Chile

*

China

*

Colombia

*

Croatia

*

Cuba

*

Cyprus

*

Czech Republic

*

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

*

Denmark

*

Egypt

*

Eritrea

*

Estonia

*

Ethiopia

*

Fiji

*

Finland

*

France

*

Georgia

*

Germany

*

Ghana

*

Greece

*

Honduras

*

Hungary

*

Iceland

*

India

*

Indonesia

*

Iran (Islamic Republic of)

*

Iraq

*

Israel

*

Italy

*

Jamaica

*

Japan

*

Jordan

*

Kazakhstan

*

Kenya

*

Kuwait

*

Latvia

*

Lebanon

*

Lesotho

*

Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

*

Lithuania

*

Luxembourg

*

Malaysia

*

Malta

*

Mexico

*

Mongolia

*

Morocco

*

Namibia

*

Nepal

*

Netherlands

*

New Zealand

*

Nicaragua

*

Nigeria

*

Norway

*

Oman

*

Pakistan

*

Peru

*

Philippines

*

Poland

*

Portugal

*

Qatar

*

Republic of Korea

*

Republic of Moldova

*

Romania

*

Russian Federation

*

Rwanda

*

San Marino

*

Saudi Arabia

*

Serbia and Montenegro

*

Sierra Leone

*

Singapore

*

Slovakia

*

Slovenia

*

South Africa

*

Spain

*

Sri Lanka

*

Sudan

*

Sweden

*

Switzerland

*

Syrian Arab Republic

*

Thailand

*

former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

*

Tunisia

*

Turkey

*

Uganda

*

Ukraine

*

United Arab Emirates

*

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

*

United Republic of Tanzania

*

United States of America

*

Uruguay

*

Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)

*

Viet Nam

*

Zambia

*

Zimbabwe

*

Table B — Diplomatic relations are maintained with the following countries through the permanent mission of Ireland to the United Nations in New York

UN Member States

UN Member States

UN Member States

UN Member States

Antigua and Barbuda

Djibouti

Kiribati

Saint Lucia

Barbados

Dominica

Maldives

Seychelles

Belize

Ecuador

Nauru

Trinidad and Tobago

Chad

Gambia

Palau

Tuvalu

Congo (Republic of the)

Guinea-Bissau

Panama

Vanuatu

Costa Rica

Guyana

Paraguay

Yemen

Côte d’Ivoire

Table C — United Nations member states not currently accredited to Ireland but where an Irish head of mission is accredited

UN Member States

UN Member States

Afghanistan

Liberia

Angola

Liechtenstein

Burundi

Mozambique

DR Congo

Tajikistan

El Salvador

Timor Leste

Kyrgystan

Uzbekistan

Laos People’s Democratic Republic

Table D — UN member states not currently accredited to Ireland and where no Irish head of mission is currently accredited.

UN Member States

UN Member States

UN Member States

Bahamas

Guatemala

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Benin

Guinea

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Bhutan

Haiti

Samoa

Burkina Faso

Madagascar

Sao Tome and Principe

Burma (Myanmar)

Malawi

Senegal

Cameroon

Mali

Solomon Islands

Cape Verde

Marshall Islands

Somalia

Central African Republic

Mauritania

Suriname

Comoros

Mauritius

Swaziland

Dominican Republic

Micronesia (Federated States of)

Togo

Equatorial Guinea

Monaco

Tonga

Gabon

Niger

Turkmenistan

Grenada

Papua New Guinea

Table E — Summary

Number

Number of UN Member States accredited to Ireland (Resident)

53

Number of UN Member States accredited to Ireland (Non-Resident)

61

Number of UN Member States where diplomatic relations are maintained through New York

25

Number of UN Member States not currently accredited to Ireland but where an Irish Head of Mission is accredited

13

Number of UN Member States not currently accredited to Ireland and where no Irish Head of Mission is accredited

38

Total Number of UN Member States (excluding Ireland)

190

Historical Documents.

James Breen

Question:

140 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a commitment will be made to purchase, on behalf of the State, documents due for auction in a forthcoming auction (details supplied) on 12 April 2006, letters and memorabilia from the 1916 to 1922 period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6205/06]

The national collecting cultural institutions, consisting of the National Archives, the National Gallery of Ireland, the National Library of Ireland, the National Museum of Ireland and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, are charged with collecting and displaying cultural objects, including historical documents and letters. These institutions are provided with funding by my Department, including funding for acquisitions. The institutions may also avail of the heritage fund, under the Heritage Fund Act 2001, and the provisions of section 1003 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 may be used for acquisition purposes.

My Department has no involvement in the acquisitions process, other than through acquiring my approval for the use of moneys held in the heritage fund as provided for in the Heritage Fund Act 2001, and in providing the secretariat and chairman for the section 1003 selection committee. The decision as to what artefacts should be acquired by these institutions, and the amount of money that should be paid for any one acquisition, is solely an operational matter for each of the individual institutions.

Tourism Industry.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

141 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his Department has received correspondence from promoters of the new Cliffs of Moher visitor centre, Clare County Council, regarding the €4 million shortfall that has emerged in the €32 million project; his plans to assist in meeting the shortfall in view of the strategic importance of the project to the Irish tourism market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6231/06]

While my Department is aware of the shortfall that has emerged with regard to funding for the new Cliffs of Moher visitor centre, it has no record of any correspondence from Clare County Council specifically on this matter.

As provided by section 8(1) of the National Tourism Development Authority Act 2003, it is a matter for Fáilte Ireland to encourage, promote and support the development and marketing of tourist facilities and services within the State. In this regard the Deputy may be aware that, in 2004, the Cliffs of Moher visitor centre project was awarded a grant of almost €10 million under Fáilte Ireland's ERDF co-financed tourism product development scheme. In the same year, my Department, pursuant to the provisions of section 106 of the Local Government Act 2001, and in consultation with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, authorised Clare County Council to borrow a sum not exceeding €15 million for the sole purpose of developing this project at the Cliffs of Moher. It remains the responsibility of the promoters to ensure that the project is completed within the parameters specified by Fáilte Ireland, which includes financial viability.

Cultural Events.

Enda Kenny

Question:

142 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the list of applications by name and location which were received for funding for festivals and cultural events in 2006 by his Department; the criteria used for assessment; the festivals and events chosen and the allocations awarded; the overall allocation made; if such allocations are on a yearly basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6448/06]

My Department is supporting and providing funding for this year's Beckett centenary festival, honouring Samuel Beckett on the centenary of his birth. Proposals were publicly invited from individuals or bodies planning events that might be incorporated into this one-off centenary programme. Funding may be allocated to assist qualifying applicants with their events but as the assessment process is currently in train I cannot provide names or figures at this time. The event locations are mainly around Dublin city and county but a number of initiatives have a wider geographical spread.

An organisation called "Shawfest 2006" has contacted my Department seeking support in marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of George Bernard Shaw in July of this year but has not, as yet, sought any specific sum and is not tied to any location. Officials from my Department will meet with the organisers to assess this application.

As a once-off, exceptional measure and in a cultural tourism context, I made an allocation of €250,000 to the Anna Livia festival in 2005 from funds that became available from within my Department's provision. Future support for this event will be a matter for either the Arts Council or Fáilte Ireland.

Responsibility for the promotion of the arts at all levels throughout the country is devolved to the Arts Council, a State body funded by my Department. Fáilte Ireland allocates funding to assist festivals and cultural events through its festivals and cultural events initiative. Further details on the festivals and cultural events initiative is available on the Fáilte Ireland website at www.ireland.ie. Both the Arts Council and Fáilte Ireland are independent of my Department in regard to their day-to-day operational matters.

Community Employment Schemes.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

143 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his policy on providing sustained support, including core funding, for community employment positions currently supporting personal social services for people with disabilities; the steps he proposes to take to allow people to take such careers onto a more satisfactory income stream with a greater degree of certainty than that which they currently enjoy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6274/06]

The main purpose of the community employment, CE, programme operated by FÁS is to provide work experience and training for the long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged persons, including those with a disability, and an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a fixed-term basis. CE helps unemployed people to re-enter the active workforce by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to a work routine, and to assist them to enhance and develop both their technical and personal skills.

The ring-fencing and prioritisation of places for health related services, including those for persons with disabilities, were introduced to maintain the delivery of essential services. As a result, health related service provision levels have been maintained at a constant level.

The aim of CE still remains as an active labour market programme with the emphasis on progression into employment. The programme is managed within this context and with consideration to the needs of participants and the community, and the demand for CE resources from those organisations delivering services. Decisions regarding the provision of core funding for personal social services are not a matter for my Department.

Job Losses.

Jack Wall

Question:

144 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is entitled to redundancy payment or any other payments in regard to their former employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6086/06]

As a general rule, a redundancy situation exists where an employer requires fewer employees to do work of a particular kind or where a company goes into liquidation, receivership, decides to rationalise or reorganise or closes down. Other examples could include: partial closing down of a company; a decrease in an employer's requirements for workers with particular skills or qualifications; or an employer who requires fewer employees due to an economic recession.

If a redundancy situation existed when the person concerned was absent on sick leave, he could apply to his employer for a statutory redundancy lump sum payment. It should be borne in mind that the employer decides in the first instance whether a redundancy situation exists in the employment and who should be made redundant. From the information available to me, it appears that the person concerned has been on sick leave since 2004. While his entitlement to holiday pay is in respect of hours actually worked, he would have been entitled to payment for any public holidays occurring during the first 26 weeks of ordinary illness.

Decentralisation Programme.

Pat Breen

Question:

145 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress in decentralisation in County Clare; the number of people seeking transfer; the progress on provision of the buildings; the completion date for the new buildings; the date on which the transfer will be complete; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6091/06]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to the Government decision to decentralise Enterprise Ireland's headquarters to Shannon. Progressing the decentralisation decision is a matter for Enterprise Ireland. I am informed that, in respect of numbers, the most recent figures released show that 19 existing employees in Enterprise Ireland have indicated their willingness to transfer to Shannon. The number of applications received from within the civil and public service, including my Department, amount to 33, thus giving a total overall of 52 persons.

The most immediate implementation step for Enterprise Ireland is to provide for a new headquarters building designed to meet the business needs of the organisation. Enterprise Ireland, working closely with the Office of Public Works, has identified but not yet acquired a site for the Shannon relocation. The preferred site consists of 13 acres owned by Shannon Development. In co-operation with Shannon Development and OPW, the site was valued and a feasibility study was carried out. The site occupies a prime position near the centre of Shannon and is considered suitable for a major landmark building or civic structure related to the town centre.

It is too early to comment definitively on a timescale for the transfer of Enterprise Ireland's headquarters to Shannon. The factors of significance in this regard will be the acquisition of property and the level of interest in the Shannon location expressed by CAF applicants. My Department is corresponding with the Department of Finance regarding the acquisition of the preferred site.

Community Employment Schemes.

Michael Ring

Question:

146 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if core funding will be provided to allow people who are currently working on community employment schemes providing services for the disability sector to be appointed on a permanent basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6132/06]

The main purpose of the community employment programme operated by FÁS is to provide work experience and training for the long-term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons, including giving those with a disability an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a fixed term basis. CE helps unemployed people to re-enter the active workforce by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to a work routine and to assist them to enhance and develop both their technical and personal skills.

The ring fencing and prioritisation of places for health related services, including those for persons with disabilities, was introduced to maintain the delivery of essential services. As a result, health related service provision levels have been maintained at a constant level. The aim of CE still remains as an active labour market programme with the emphasis on progression into employment. The programme is managed within this context and with consideration to the needs of participants and the community and the demand for CE resources from those organisations delivering services. Decisions regarding the provision of core funding for the health services generally are not a matter for my Department.

Job Protection.

James Breen

Question:

147 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the safeguards he will put in place to protect the jobs of Irish workers working on the Ennis bypass, whose main contractor is a company (details supplied), from the practice of forcing Irish employees to take wage cuts of up to €5 per hour in an effort to force them out of their jobs and replace them with lower paid foreign nationals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6201/06]

The wages and employment conditions of workers employed in the construction industry are governed and safeguarded by the Registered Employment Agreement (Construction Industry Wages and Conditions of Employment) Variation Order, which is enforced by the labour inspectorate. Labour inspectors are empowered to seek compliance with payment of the statutory minimum rates of pay specified in the agreement. However, if it is the case that certain workers are paid less than other workers for comparable work and there are no other relevant differentiating features it may be appropriate to refer the matter to the Equality Authority for consideration under equality legislation.

The enforcement of the provisions of a registered employment agreement may also be effected under the Industrial Relations Acts. A trade union, an association of employees or an individual employee may complain to the Labour Court that a particular employer is not complying with a registered employment agreement. If, after investigating a complaint, the court is satisfied that the employer is in breach of a registered employment agreement, it may order direct compliance with the agreement. Failure to comply with such an order is an offence punishable by a fine. If the Deputy is aware of any breaches of the registered employment agreement, he should contact the Labour Court or the labour inspectorate of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Denis Naughten

Question:

148 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of meat plants inspected by the metrology service in the years 2000 to 2005; the date each plant was inspected; the breaches that were found; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6224/06]

The legal metrology service has provided details in the following tabular statement of inspection and verification visits to meat plants during the period 2000 to 2005. I am also advised by the service that no breaches of the legislation requiring prosecution were found during these visits.

Year

Name & Location of Meat Plant

Visit Dates

2000

AIBP Christendon

15 May 2000

2000

AIBP Clones

10 August 2000

2000

AIBP Dromod

18 January 2000

2000

AIBP Dromod

1 February 2000

2000

AIBP Dromod

10 March 2000

2000

AIBP Dromod

12 May 2000

2000

AIBP Dromod

16 June 2000

2000

AIBP Dromod

24 August 2000

2000

AIBP Dromod

20 October 2000

2000

AIBP Dromod

10 November 2000

2000

AIBP Longford

4 February 2000

2000

AIBP Longford

17 April 2000

2000

AIBP Longford

1 May 2000

2000

AIBP Longford

8 May 2000

2000

AIBP Longford

1 June 2000

2000

AIBP Longford

16 June 2000

2000

AIBP Longford

21 August 2000

2000

AIBP Longford

12 September 2000

2000

AIBP Longford

5 October 2000

2000

AIBP Longford

19 December 2000

2000

AIBP Nenagh

17 October 2000

2000

AIBP Roscrea

2 October 2000

2000

Ashbourne, Roscrea

24 October 2000

2000

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

8 February 2000

2000

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

14 February 2000

2000

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

10 April 2000

2000

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

2 June 2000

2000

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

2 June 2000

2000

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

16 June 2000

2000

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

9 August 2000

2000

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

9 August 2000

2000

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

4 September 2000

2000

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

7 September 2000

2000

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

4 October 2000

2000

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

3 November 2000

2000

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

28 November 2000

2000

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

28 November 2000

2000

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

22 December 2000

2000

Dawn Meats, Kilmacthomas

24 February 2000

2000

Dawn Meats, Kilmacthomas

4 March 2004

2000

Fair Oak Foods Bagenalstown

16 March 2000

2000

Kepak Ballymahon

9 February 2000

2000

Kepak Ballymahon

11 February 2000

2000

Kepak Ballymahon

24 April 2000

2000

Kepak Ballymahon

5 May 2000

2000

Kepak Ballymahon

5 June 2000

2000

Kepak Ballymahon

28 August 2000

2000

Kepak Ballymahon

9 October 2000

2000

Kepak Ballymahon

9 November 2000

2000

Kepak Clonee

4 February 2000

2000

Kepak Hacketstown

24 November 2000

2000

Meadow Meats, Rathdowney

27 September 2000

2000

Meadow Meats, Rathdowney

18 October 2000

2000

Slaney Meats, Bunclody

15 February 2000

2001

AIBP Dromod

4 January 2001

2001

AIBP Dromod

16 May 2001

2001

AIBP Dromod

9 July 2001

2001

AIBP Dromod

19 July 2001

2001

AIBP Dromod

7 September 2001

2001

AIBP Dromod

3 October 2001

2001

AIBP Longford

13 February 2001

2001

AIBP Longford

8 May 2001

2001

AIBP Longford

13 July 2001

2001

AIBP Longford

10 September 2001

2001

AIBP Longford

19 November 2001

2001

AIBP Nenagh

30 January 2001

2001

Ashbourne, Roscrea

2 February 2001

2001

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

19 January 2001

2001

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

20 February 2001

2001

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

22 May 2001

2001

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

20 July 2001

2001

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

23 August 2001

2001

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

14 September 2001

2001

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

1 October 2001

2001

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

17 October 2001

2001

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

27 November 2001

2001

Dawn Meats, Ballyhaunis

26 September 2001

2001

Jennings, Ballinrobe

30 January 2001

2001

Kepak Ballymahon

5 January 2001

2001

Kepak Ballymahon

25 May 2001

2001

Kepak Ballymahon

9 June 2001

2001

Kepak Ballymahon

12 July 2001

2001

Kepak Ballymahon

15 August 2001

2001

Kepak Ballymahon

27 September 2001

2001

Kepak Ballymahon

12 October 2001

2001

Kepak Ballymahon

22 November 2001

2001

Kepak Ballymahon

12 December 2001

2001

Moyvalley Meats, Broadford

1 October 2001

2001

Vanstar, Jamestown, Co Leitrim

10 December 2001

2001

Vanstar, Jamestown, Co Leitrim

12 December 2001

2002

AIBP Bandon

11 November 2002

2002

AIBP Longford

12 February 2002

2002

AIBP Nenagh

21 March 2002

2002

AIBP Roscrea

24 April 2002

2002

Ashbourne Meats, Naas

24 April 2002

2002

Ashbourne, Roscrea

24 January 2002

2002

Ashbourne, Roscrea

19 August 2002

2002

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

24 January 2002

2002

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

29 January 2002

2002

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

22 March 2002

2002

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

19 April 2002

2002

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

16 May 2002

2002

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

20 June 2002

2002

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

19 August 2002

2002

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

30 September 2002

2002

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

26 November 2002

2002

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

6 December 2002

2002

Jennings, Ballinrobe

27 February 2002

2002

Kepak Ballymahon

12 February 2002

2002

Kepak Ballymahon

22 February 2002

2002

Kepak Ballymahon

29 April 2002

2002

Kepak Ballymahon

10 June 2002

2002

Kepak Ballymahon

28 August 2002

2002

Kepak Ballymahon

12 September 2002

2002

Kepak Ballymahon

23 October 2002

2002

Kepak Ballymahon

23 October 2002

2002

Kepak Ballymahon

12 December 2002

2002

Kepak Hacketstown

10 January 2002

2002

Meadow Meats, Rathdowney

19 December 2002

2002

Vanstar, Jamestown, Co Leitrim

26 February 2002

2002

Vanstar, Jamestown, Co Leitrim

15 April 2002

2002

Vanstar, Jamestown, Co Leitrim

10 June 2002

2002

Vanstar, Jamestown, Co Leitrim

12 June 2002

2002

Vanstar, Jamestown, Co Leitrim

23 August 2002

2002

Vanstar, Jamestown, Co Leitrim

4 October 2002

2002

Vanstar, Jamestown, Co Leitrim

24 October 2002

2002

Vanstar, Jamestown, Co Leitrim

18 December 2002

2002

Vanstar, Jamestown, Co Leitrim

30 December 2002

2003

AIBP Clones

2 September 2003

2003

AIBP Clones

22 September 2003

2003

AIBP Nenagh

15 February 2003

2003

Ashbourne, Roscrea

20 August 2003

2003

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

20 January 2003

2003

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

13 February 2003

2003

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

31 March 2003

2003

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

29 April 2003

2003

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

18 July 2003

2003

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

24 September 2003

2003

Donegal Meat Processors, Carrigans

16 July 2003

2003

Kepak Ballymahon

27 February 2003

2003

Kepak Ballymahon

8 April 2003

2003

Kepak Ballymahon

4 June 2003

2003

Kepak Ballymahon

16 June 2003

2003

Kepak Ballymahon

21 August 2003

2003

Kepak Ballymahon

12 November 2003

2003

Kepak Ballymahon

13 November 2003

2003

Kepak Hacketstown

21 February 2003

2003

Kildare Chilling, Kildare

18 February 2003

2003

Kildare Chilling, Kildare

4 April 2003

2003

Vanstar, Jamestown, Co Leitrim

5 February 2003

2003

Vanstar, Jamestown, Co Leitrim

4 April 2003

2003

Vanstar, Jamestown, Co Leitrim

8 April 2003

2003

Vanstar, Jamestown, Co Leitrim

11 June 2003

2003

Vanstar, Jamestown, Co Leitrim

12 June 2003

2003

Vanstar, Jamestown, Co Leitrim

7 August 2003

2003

Vanstar, Jamestown, Co Leitrim

28 November 2003

2004

AIBP Bandon

2 April 2004

2004

AIBP Nenagh

8 June 2004

2004

AIBP Nenagh

8 June 2004

2004

AIBP Nenagh

8 June 2004

2004

AIBP Nenagh

11 August 2004

2004

Ashbourne, Roscrea

15 November 2004

2004

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

9 October 2004

2004

Dawn Meats, Kilmacthomas

4 March 2004

2004

Dawn Meats, Rathdowney

19 February 2004

2004

Donegal Meat Processors, Carrigans

8 September 2004

2004

Donegal Meat Processors, Carrigans

14 October 2004

2004

Donegal Meat Processors, Carrigans

9 December 2004

2004

Exel Meats Kilbeggan

18 April 2004

2004

Kepak Ballymahon

23 April 2004

2004

Kepak Ballymahon

24 April 2004

2004

Kepak Ballymahon

6 August 2004

2004

Kepak Ballymahon

6 October 2004

2004

Kepak Ballymahon

7 October 2004

2004

Kepak Ballymahon

24 November 2004

2004

Kepak Ballymahon

1 December 2004

2004

Kepak Ballymahon

4 December 2004

2004

Kepak Clonee

21 January 2004

2004

Kepak Clonee

11 May 2004

2004

Kepak Hacketstown

1 March 2004

2004

Kepak Hacketstown

21 April 2004

2004

Meadow Meats, Rathdowney

19 December 2004

2004

QK Coldstores, Grannagh

5 March 2004

2004

QK Coldstores, Grannagh

6 July 2004

2004

QK Coldstores, Grannagh

27 July 2005

2004

Slaney Meats, Bunclody

23 March 2004

2004

Slaney Meats, Bunclody

24 March 2004

2005

AIBP Cahir

11 January 2005

2005

AIBP Clones

1 April 2005

2005

AIBP Clones

2 September 2005

2005

AIBP Nenagh

27 June 2005

2005

Ashbourne, Roscrea

8 June 2005

2005

Dawn Meats Ballaghaderreen

26 January 2005

2005

Dawn Meats Ballyhaunis

18 February 2005

2005

Donegal Meat Processors, Carrigans

20 October 2005

2005

Kepak Ballymahon

25 March 2005

2005

Kepak Ballymahon

26 May 2005

2005

Kepak Ballymahon

27 May 2005

2005

Kepak Ballymahon

8 August 2005

2005

Kepak Ballymahon

21 September 2005

2005

Kepak Ballymahon

6 October 2005

2005

Kepak Ballymahon

16 October 2005

2005

Kepak Hacketstown

19 May 2005

2005

Kepak Hacketstown

26 July 2005

2005

QK Coldstores, Grannagh

5 May 2005

2005

QK Coldstores, Kilmacthomas

27 July 2005

2005

Slaney Meats, Bunclody

16 May 2005

2005

Slaney Meats, Bunclody

17 May 2005

Industrial Development.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

149 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when the implementation of his new mandate for Shannon Development will commence; if talks are complete between Shannon Development trade unions and his Department regarding clarification of the new mandate; if the company will still have a role in the promotion of the Shannon Free Zone; if the company has lodged its corporate plan with his Department; and if he will make same available. [6243/06]

As I have indicated in response to previous questions, following detailed consultations with the board of Shannon Development, other stakeholders and regional interests on 28 July, I announced my decision on a future mandate for the company. Under the terms of the new mandate, Shannon Development is being given a more focused regional economic remit that will complement the roles of the national agencies, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, in attracting foreign direct investment and developing the indigenous enterprise base in the region. The company will also continue to be responsible for providing appropriate property solutions for both indigenous and overseas enterprises throughout the Shannon region and for the management and development of the Shannon Free Zone industrial estate.

Discussions are underway between the agencies to give effect to the new mandate. Talks are also ongoing between Shannon Development trade unions and officials from my Department to clarify the terms of my decision. The company has not yet lodged its corporate plan with my Department but I expect to receive this in the near future.

Social Welfare Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

150 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the way in which his Department investigated the effect or benefit of the recent increase in training allowances for single parent families (details supplied); the action he intends to take to rectify the anomaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6295/06]

Jack Wall

Question:

151 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the concerns of a group (details supplied) about the effect of recent budgetary increases and the effect on participants of the group; the action he intends or proposes in regard to the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6296/06]

Jack Wall

Question:

160 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the concerns of a group (details supplied) about rent supplement payments; and if so, the action his Department intends to take to alleviate the matter. [6297/06]

Jack Wall

Question:

161 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that recent budgetary decisions can in some instances cause problems for families who are participants in FÁS schemes (details supplied); if the anomaly will be investigated and rectified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6298/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 150, 151, 160 and 161 together.

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. The purpose of the scheme is to provide short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. Neither I nor my Department has any function with regard to decisions on individual claims.

Under the rules of the scheme, rent supplements are calculated to ensure that an eligible person has an income after the payment of rent equal to the rate of supplementary welfare allowance appropriate to his or her family circumstances, less a minimum contribution of €13 which each recipient is required to pay from his or her own resources. Where a person has an additional income as a result of participation on a FÁS training course, such as the moving on programme, the means test provides for a weekly disregard of up to €60 per week and for half of any additional income between €60 and €90 to be disregarded for means assessment purposes. This type of additional income disregard was first introduced in budget 2000 and has been increased over the years to its current level.

Lone parents who participate in the moving on programme are not penalised for doing so. For example, a lone parent with one child living in Carlow with rent of €150 per week, whose sole income is a one parent family payment of €185.10 per week, would ordinarily receive rent supplement of €134.50 per week, resulting in a net income after paying rent of €169.60 per week. If she takes up a place in the moving on programme, her total income before rent supplement and before paying rent would rise to €280.10 per week. In these circumstances, she would be entitled to €114.50 in rent supplement and her income after paying rent would be €244.60 per week. She would be €75 better off for having participated in the programme.

Improvements in the training allowance disregards combined with the increases in social welfare payments ensure that lone parents continue to benefit from budgetary increases in training allowance rates. For example, in 2005 a lone parent with one child living in Carlow with rent of €150 per week and participating on the moving on programme would have been entitled to a rent supplement of €111.50 per week and her income after paying rent would have been €212.60 per week. Following budget 2006, she is now €32 per week better off arising from the combined social welfare and training allowance increases, including a €3 per week increase in the amount of rent supplement payable. Overall I consider that the current rent supplement additional income disregards ensure that people have a financial incentive to take up training opportunities but I will continue to keep the issue under review.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Ring

Question:

152 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs about the letters a person (details supplied) in County Mayo submitted on a claim for unemployment benefit as proof of their attempts to get work; the number of letters submitted; the areas in which employment was sought; the way in which his Department stated that the person did not seek work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6135/06]

To qualify for an unemployment payment, a person must be available for and genuinely seeking employment. An unemployed person is required to provide information regarding his or her availability and efforts in securing full-time employment. On request, a recipient must demonstrate that he or she is making all reasonable efforts to find work and is not being unduly restrictive in terms of the nature or location of work for which he or she is available. The onus is on the recipient to demonstrate to the satisfaction of a deciding officer that he or she satisfies all the conditions for receipt of a payment.

Having reviewed all the circumstances of the case, including all the evidence provided by the person concerned with regard to employment seeking efforts, a deciding officer disallowed the unemployment assistance claim from 4 January 2006, on the grounds that the person is not genuinely seeking work. The person concerned failed to provide sufficient evidence to show that he had been consistently seeking full-time work.

It is open to the person concerned to appeal this decision and a form for this purpose has been issued to him. Under social welfare legislation, decisions on claims and the insurability of employment must be made by deciding officers and appeals officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Social Welfare Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

153 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the problems that groups seeking to provide job initiatives for one parent families are having in that the benefits of the applicants for such programmes will be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6198/06]

It is generally accepted that for all people in working age households, the main route out of poverty is through employment. In the case of lone parents, the income disregards put in place in 1997 allowed for income up to €146.50 to be disregarded as means, with lone parents with income between €146.50 and €293 per week still being eligible for a reduced rate of OFP.

I believe that every support should be given to lone parents to give them an opportunity to continue to increase their earnings in their efforts to improve their own lives and those of their children. That is why I was pleased to significantly increase the upper income limit for the one parent family payment by €82 per week to €375 per week in the recent budget. This measure comes into effect in July. Lone parents working at least 19 hours per week are also eligible to claim family income supplement. The budget also increased the income limit for families with one child to €465 per week, with effect from 5 January 2006.

As a result of taxation measures introduced in the last budget, lone parents will not now become eligible for tax until they earn in excess of €23,000 per annum. These policies will have an immediate positive effect on lone parents already in the work force and those who are considering employment as an option. Furthermore, I can confirm that my Department has conducted a review of the income support arrangements for lone parents which has fed into a wider review by the senior officials group on social inclusion into the obstacles to employment faced by lone parents and parents on low income.

This report, including a number of detailed proposals, is to be published in full shortly with a view to initiating a debate on the main issues. It is my hope that this process will lead to an informed consensus that will inform policy and lead to the development of proposals which will better support all lone parents.

David Stanton

Question:

154 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, further to Question No. 129 of 9 February 2006, the conditions under which recipients of the one parent family payment are entitled to retain certain social welfare payments and other secondary benefits in total or in part while they are participating in community employment schemes; the payments and benefits which can be retained; the community employment schemes to which this rule applies; if this rule also applies to community education initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6239/06]

Financial support paid to lone parents is made through my Department's one parent family payment, which was established in 1997 to provide income for lone parents, while allowing substantial income disregards for those lone parents in a position to return to employment. The income disregards currently allow for income up to €146.50 to be disregarded as means, with lone parents having income between €146.50 and €293 per week still being eligible for a reduced rate of OFP.

I was pleased to significantly increase the upper income limit for the one parent family payment by €82 per week to €375 per week in the context of the recent budget. This measure comes into effect in July. These income disregards also apply to OFP recipients on a community employment scheme.

Recipients of the OFP are also allowed retain the secondary benefits — rent or mortgage interest supplement, fuel and smokeless fuel allowance, Christmas bonus and back to school clothing and footwear allowance — on the following education and training programmes: community employment, job initiative, workplace, revenue job assist, back to work schemes, social economy programme, FÁS training, back to education allowance and the vocational training opportunities scheme.

For most people the most significant secondary benefit is rent or mortgage interest supplement, which is paid under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. An income limit of €317.43 per week applies to the retention of these supplements. However, back to work allowance and family income supplement, in cases where one or both of these are in payment, are disregarded in the assessment of the €317.43 weekly income limit.

In addition, PRSI, reasonable travelling expenses and a child care allowance payable to certain people participating in approved training courses are also disregarded in the means test. Furthermore, people taking up employment through approved employment schemes or who take up full-time employment after being unemployed for a period of 12 months may retain an element of their rent or mortgage interest supplement on the following tapering basis over four years: 75% in year one; 50% in year two; and 25% in years three and four.

An OFP recipient availing of an employment support scheme may opt to be assessed for rent or mortgage supplement under either standard supplementary welfare allowance rules or under the special retention rules and will be entitled to receive payment under whichever is the more favourable option. A person on a community employment scheme or other back to work scheme whose household income is above the €317.43 weekly limit for retention of secondary benefits may still qualify for rent supplement under the standard rules. For example, an OFP recipient with one child on a community employment scheme is allowed to disregard €60 per week and half of any additional income between €60 and €90 per week in the calculation of the rent supplement; therefore the net income will increase by that amount, €75 where weekly CE earnings are more than €90, on taking up a place on the scheme.

In addition, a special projects fund, administered by my Department's locally based facilitators, provides enhanced support to people who need additional help to progress to further training and employment. The facilitators also operate small scale family services projects in certain areas, which are designed to focus supports towards specific target groups with complex needs, including recipients of OFP, who avail of training programmes under this special projects fund and are entitled to retain their social welfare payment and rent supplement, if applicable, while attending the training course.

As the Deputy is aware, I intend to make public shortly the findings of reports analysing the obstacles to employment faced by lone parents and reviewing the income support arrangements for lone parents. I then intend to engage in a consultation process with interested parties with a view to developing proposals designed to better support and encourage lone parents in achieving a better standard of living, improved employment and education opportunities, a better future for themselves and their children, and a more appropriate social policy in the future.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

155 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when rent support will be offered in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [6255/06]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Neither I nor my Department has any function in decisions on individual claims.

The executive has advised that it received an application for rent supplement from the person concerned on 9 February 2006 and that it has requested documentation from the person concerned so that it can make a decision on the matter but that the information sought has not been received to date.

Decentralisation Programme.

Michael Ring

Question:

156 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if Dublin based personnel from his Department are being considered for transfer to PULSE; if not, reason they are not being considered for transfer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6265/06]

The staffing of the Garda information service centre in Castlebar, County Mayo, is a matter for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. My Department is liaising with that Department regarding the release of staff who are interested in transferring to the offices in Castlebar. To date, no formal offers of transfer have been received for Dublin based staff.

Social Welfare Code.

David Stanton

Question:

157 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on whether the practice whereby the additional income from a statutory contributory pension of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13 who is in receipt of a full contributory pension from his Department, is assessed and counted as income to deny the payment of fuel allowance and then is also assessed as means and so used to reduce his spouse’s non-contributory pension (details supplied) is equitable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6291/06]

David Stanton

Question:

158 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, further to the new non-contributory pension for the over 66 year olds which is due to be introduced in September 2006, his views on whether the recipients of this new pension will be entitled to amass capital of up to €35,000 or €70,000 in the case of married couples in addition to the €100 earnings disregard, before this will be assessed as means; when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13 who is in receipt of a contributory pension from his Department and also receives a statutory contributory pension from his previous employment to which he had paid obligatory contributions throughout his working life, has the additional income from the pension from his previous employment assessed as income and used to reduce his and his spouse’s access to secondary social welfare benefits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6292/06]

David Stanton

Question:

159 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, further to the new non-contributory pension for the over 66 year olds which is due to be introduced in September 2006, and the €100 earnings disregard he intends to allow persons who are in receipt of contributory pensions, such as in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13, whether a similar disregard will apply when assessing his spouse’s eligibility to a non-contributory pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6293/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 157 to 159, inclusive, together.

The couple involved is in receipt of two separate payments from my Department. The husband is in receipt of a full-rate invalidity pension of €193.30 per week while the wife is in receipt of an old age non-contributory pension, which is payable at a reduced rate of €157 per week. For the purposes of determining entitlement to the old age pension, half of the couple's joint means are assessed as the means of the wife, including, in this case, half of the husband's occupational pension.

The recent budget made provision for a number of important measures designed to target resources at older people, including pensioners in receipt of a reduced rate of payment. These included an increase of €16 per week, or 9.6%, for all non-contributory pensioners, including those in receipt of reduced rates of old age pension, and an increase of €14 per week or 7.8%, for all contributory pensioners, including those on invalidity pension and those aged 66 or over. These increases are effective from January last.

I was also pleased to announce that I propose to establish a standardised State non-contributory pension, replacing the old age pension and, for recipients aged 66 and over, blind pension, widow's and widower's pension, one parent family payment, deserted wife's allowance and prisoner's wife's allowance.

All the schemes in question feature a common means disregard of €7.60 per week, which dates back to the 1970s. The means disregard for the new non-contributory pension will be €20 per week, an increase of €12.40 per week. Over 30,000 pensioners who are currently in receipt of a reduced rate of payment will gain from this change.

In the case in question, the new enhanced arrangements will mean that the spouse in receipt of the reduced rate of old age pension will, assuming her means remain unchanged, receive a further increase of €12.50 per week from the end of September next. The increase in the general means disregard, from €7.60 to €20 per week, specifically benefits those older persons who are in receipt of reduced rate non-contributory pensions because one or both of a couple have income from occupational pensions, foreign social security pensions, capital or from some other source.

In addition, I also propose to introduce a specific additional disregard of €100 per week where the pensioner is in employment. This new disregard relating to earnings from employment is intended as an initial incentive to facilitate non-contributory pensioners who wish to continue working or to re-enter the workforce.

Furthermore, consequent on the increase in the means disregard to €20 per week, a single person, with no other means, will be able to have up to €35,000 in capital and still qualify for a pension at the maximum rate. This figure is doubled in the case of a pensioner couple.

To qualify for a fuel allowance, a person must, inter alia, be in receipt of one of the qualifying payments, living alone or with a person in receipt of a qualifying payment who would be entitled to an allowance in his or her own right and be unable along with other members of the household to provide for their heating needs in their own right.

In the latter regard, a person must satisfy a means test. Where an applicant and members of his or her household have a combined assessable income of up to €51 per week above the appropriate rate of old age contributory pension for the couple, fuel allowance is payable. Where the couple are both aged over 66 and under 80 years of age, this income limit is €393.60 per week or equivalent to €20,467 per annum.

The invalidity pensioner did not qualify for a fuel allowance for the 2005-06 fuel season as the couple's overall income, comprising the invalidity pension, the old age pension and the occupational pension, was above the income limit for fuel allowance. Assuming the couple's income remains unchanged, the old age pensioner is also not entitled to a fuel allowance as she is not living with a person who is entitled to such an allowance in his own right.

Any changes to the current arrangements for fuel allowance would be considered in a budgetary context. However, I am satisfied that the improvements for pensioners introduced in the recent budget levels are exceptional. The proposed modernisation of the current arrangements, including the enhanced provisions for persons in receipt of reduced rates of old age pension, is also a further demonstration of our commitment to all those who are elderly.

Questions Nos. 160 and 161 answered with Question No. 150.

Road Traffic Offences.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

162 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the procedure to be followed in the case of a driver being disqualified under section 49 (4) and 6(a) of the Road Traffic Acts, while the driver, a holder of a provisional licence, subsequently passed a full driving test while still under disqualification and who is now anxious to clarify the way in which to proceed to acquisition of a full driver’s licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6247/06]

Under the Road Traffic Act 1961 and the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations 1999 to 2004, it is a matter for the appropriate licensing authority to determine the eligibility of a person for a driving licence and to issue licences. Where a person is disqualified from driving following conviction for an offence under section 49 of the Road Traffic Act 1961, section 26 of that Act, as amended by section 29 of the Road Traffic Act 1994, provides that such a person is disqualified for holding any provisional or driving licence whatsoever during the period of disqualification.

Article 29(7) of the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations, 1999 requires that a person hold a provisional driving licence in the category of vehicle in which the driving test is to be carried out. A valid driving test cannot be conducted until a provisional licence has been obtained after the period of disqualification. Application for a provisional driving licence may only be made on expiry of the period of disqualification.

Decentralisation Programme.

Pat Breen

Question:

163 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport the progress that has been made on decentralisation in County Clare; the number of people seeking transfer; the progress being made on provision of the buildings; the completion date for the new buildings; the date on which the transfer will be complete; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6088/06]

Under the decentralisation programme, 100 posts in the Irish Aviation Authority are due to transfer to Shannon. To date, two employees have indicated their wish to move and 11 expressions of interest have been received from external applicants to the central applications facility. The Irish Aviation Authority has not been identified by the decentralisation implementation group as an early mover. Implementation issues, including the identification of accommodation, are being pursued by the authority itself.

Road Safety.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

164 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if measures will be brought forward to ensure that car owners undertaking the national car test are not charged for the re-checking of minor infringements such as having incorrect bulbs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6120/06]

An all-in fee of €49 is payable for a NCT inspection. In the case of a re-test where the use of test equipment is required the fee is €27.50. No fee is charged in the case of a re-test not requiring the use of test equipment such as that for a defective indicator bulb.

The car testing contract between the Minister and National Car Testing Service Limited provides for a mid-term review of the service. This review was carried out for my Department by PricewaterhouseCoopers last year. I am currently considering the report on the outcome of the review and I expect to be in a position shortly to publish it on my Department's website.

Rail Network.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

165 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport when he expects the report of the inspector appointed to carry out the public inquiry into the draft railway order for the Kildare route project. [6177/06]

I received the application for a railway order for the Kildare route project on 5 October 2005. I directed that a public inquiry be held into that application. The inquiry took place from the 24 January 2006 to 2 February 2006. It is a matter for the inspector who held the public inquiry as to when he submits his report.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

166 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport if, further to Question No. 897 of 25 January 2006, he will make a request to Iarnród Éireann to bring forward the city centre resignalling project; and if the design work was outsourced in view of the workload in Iarnród Éireann at present. [6178/06]

The detailed planning of individual rail development projects, including the city centre resignalling project, is a matter for Iarnród Éireann in the first instance. I am informed that while the design work involved will be carried out primarily by Iarnród Éireann in-house staff, the company intends to tender for additional resources as necessary, in a support capacity.

Public Transport.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

167 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport if he has received the Dublin Bus review of its network; and if he will sanction the purchase of additional buses as promised under Transport 21. [6186/06]

I understand that the company is currently finalising this network review and will submit it to my Department as soon as it is complete. On 20 January 2006, Dublin Bus submitted an application for funding to me for additional fleet requirements, which has due regard to the emerging findings of the network review. I will make a decision on this application when the assessment of the application by my Department has been completed.

Road Network.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

168 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport if shadow tolls will be introduced on the M50 West Link toll bridge until open road tolling is introduced in view of the recent announcements by him and the National Roads Authority with regard to the buy out of the National Toll Roads contract. [6194/06]

I have nothing to add to my response of 28 September 2005 to a similar question from the Deputy.

National Conference Centre.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

169 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport when his attention was drawn to the arrangement being entered into without public or tendering process by the Dublin Port Company with a private consortium (details supplied) relating to over 30 acres of Dublin Port Company lands; when a request for ministerial approval was received; the number of times the transaction was referred by him to the Attorney General; the dates various advices were received from the Attorney General; his views on whether the arrangement entered into by the Dublin Port Company was entirely inappropriate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6207/06]

As the Deputy is aware, responsibility for Dublin Port Company transferred from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to my Department on 1 January 2006. Dublin Port Company's involvement in the national conference centre competition was first mentioned in July 2004 in the chairman's interim report for the six months to end June 2004 to the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. The report briefly outlined that the company was party to one of the bids in the national conference centre competition. No request for ministerial consent or approval was initiated at that time.

On 18 May 2005, Dublin Port Company wrote to the then responsible Minister, Deputy Gallagher, seeking ministerial approval to enter into an arrangement with the Anna Livia consortium, as detailed in draft heads of terms enclosed with the letter. The proposed arrangement was that in the event that the consortium was successful in the national conference centre competition, and subject to the Minister's consent, Dublin Port Company would make a site available to facilitate the consortium's proposal for a national conference centre.

The company's request for ministerial approval was referred for advice to the Attorney General's office. The reply of 12 October 2005 from the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and my reply of 1 February 2006 to related parliamentary questions set out the dates on which the advice of the Attorney General was received.

Following approval by the Government, the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy O'Donoghue, announced on 16 November 2005 that Spencer Dock international conference centre consortium was being invited to become the provisional preferred tenderer for the provision of a national conference centre in Dublin. I understand negotiations are still underway with that consortium.

In light of this announcement, the ministerial approval requested by Dublin Port Company on 18 May 2005 is not required at this time. However, in light of the latest advice from the Attorney General of 6 January 2006, as referred to in my reply of 1 February 2006, a response to the company's letter of 18 May 2005 is currently being considered.

Rail Network.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

170 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport the progress on reopening the Ennis to Athenry rail line; if Iarnród Éireann or the competent body responsible will be requested to provide a schedule of work with deadlines to ensure the 2008 opening date; if a regular scheduled train link will be running between Limerick and Athenry on that date; if not when; the other stops including Ennis which will be opened on the route; if provision is being made to provide a link with Shannon Airport; the arrangement which will be in place to allow connection to Galway prior to the opening of the new Athenry-Galway link in 2009. [6227/06]

I await specific proposals from Iarnród Éireann on the Ennis to Athenry section of the western rail corridor. Subject to progress in planning, the indicative timescale for completion of this section is 2008. Iarnród Éireann will soon be carrying out a separate feasibility study into the Shannon rail link.

State Airports.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

171 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport if he will elaborate on his reply to Question No. 872 of 25 of January 2006 on honouring the commitment that Shannon and Cork Airports will not be burdened by debt when they become independent; the accumulated debts of Shannon and Cork Airports; if he will clarify what he means in stating that the capital structures of each of the State airports is subject to determining the optimum mechanisms for allocating airport assets among the three airports, having regard to the capital maintenance rules and other provisions of the Companies Acts. [6244/06]

Under the State Airports Act 2004, before any assets can transfer to either the Shannon or Cork Airport Authorities, the Ministers for Transport and Finance will have to be satisfied as to the financial and operational readiness of the airport authorities. Accordingly, each airport authority is required to prepare a comprehensive business plan and obtain the Ministers' approval for these plans before any assets can be transferred.

Under the provisions of the Companies Acts the only way that the assets could be vested in the Cork and Shannon Airport Authorities is for the Dublin Airport Authority to make a distribution from its distributable reserves of a sum equivalent to the value of the assets. However, DAA currently does not have enough distributable assets to dividend out the assets of both Shannon and Cork Airports at the same time.

The level of debt associated with the assets of Shannon and Cork Airports and the level of distributable reserves required to transfer those assets to the two authorities will emerge from the work currently underway on the development of business plans by the three airport authorities. The outcome of the business planning process will provide a basis for determining the most feasible options for carrying through the restructuring. The ability of the airport authorities to operate on a fully commercial basis will be fully assessed as part of this process and will be factored into the decisions made.

Road Safety.

John Cregan

Question:

172 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Transport his views on increasing the present axle weight restriction governing the movement of cranes from one local authority area to another; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6266/06]

All vehicles using public roads are required by law to comply with a range of standards in respect of their construction, equipment, use, weights and dimensions. The requirements are set out in the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 1963 to 2002 and the Road Traffic (Construction and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 2003 to 2004. These regulations apply in the interests of public safety and to protect road infrastructure.

The prescribed maximum axle and vehicle weight limits are not vehicle-specific but apply to vehicles generally. I have no plans to increase the current weight limits at this point in time. Regulation 59 of the Road Traffic (Construction and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 2003 provides for the issuing of special permits by local authorities for the use of vehicles on roads notwithstanding that they contravene certain provisions of the aforementioned regulations. A special permit may be issued for a maximum period of 12 months.

Local authorities are best placed to assess the suitability of the roads in their functional areas for use by non-compliant vehicles, the appropriate routes and itineraries to be used in the making of journeys by such vehicles and to determine the appropriate duration of individual special permits.

Air Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

173 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport his response to the suggestion that a confidential reporting system for pilots be introduced here to facilitate the reporting of unsafe practices by airlines; his plans to facilitate same by the introduction of whistleblower legislation in the transport sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6270/06]

The Department is in the process of transposing an EU directive on mandatory occurrence reporting, Directive 2003/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 June 2003 on occurrence reporting in civil aviation, into domestic legislation.

There is an optional provision for voluntary reporting of incidents that do not come under the requirement for compulsory reporting in this directive and the Department will examine the feasibility of establishing such for the whole Irish aviation system to include operators, air traffic management providers, maintenance and airport personnel.

Under the provisions of the Irish Aviation Authority orders, airlines, as a condition of an air operators certificate, are at present obliged to report all aviation safety related occurrences to the Irish Aviation Authority or in certain cases to the air accident investigation unit of my Department.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

174 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied with the regime operated by the Irish Aviation Authority in respect of the possible maximum number of hours to be worked by pilots in a 12 month period; the policy directions he has made under section 7 of the Irish Aviation Authority Act 1993 relating to pilot hours; the direction he intends to issue to the Irish Aviation Authority on pilot hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6271/06]

The regulation of flight time limitations for flight crew, including the specification of those limitations, is a matter for the Irish Aviation Authority under the functions conferred on it by the Irish Aviation Authority Act 1993, as amended. The IAA has informed the Department that flight time limitations relating to flight crew are required for international aviation under the terms of annex 6 to the Chicago Convention, which is one of the annexes delegated to the IAA in the Schedule to the Act. The matter of flight time limitations will be covered by forthcoming EU legislation on flight operations, known as EU-OPS, which is expected to be enacted this year.

I have not issued any directions to the IAA under section 7 of the Irish Aviation Authority Act 1993 on pilot hours and I have no intention currently of issuing any such directions.

National Drugs Strategy.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

175 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the person employed by the regional drugs task force under which County Mayo is covered; the resolutions this force has discovered to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6150/06]

The western regional drugs task force covers the counties of Galway, Mayo and Roscommon and this task force, in line with the other nine RDTFs, submitted an action plan to the national drugs strategy team in 2005. An initial sum of €340,000 was subsequently sanctioned to enable the task force to kick start the implementation of the actions contained in that plan. It is the intention of the western RDTF to formally launch its plan on Monday, 27 February. In the meantime, I will arrange for a copy of the plan, which outlines all the personnel involved in the task force, to be forwarded to the Deputy.

Departmental Programmes.

Denis Naughten

Question:

176 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans to review the CLÁR areas; if the town of Castlerea in County Roscommon will be included in the CLÁR area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6099/06]

I am currently considering a review of the CLÁR areas. In this regard, I have commissioned a further analysis based on the 2002 population census data to assist me in examining this matter. Until the review is complete and the results analysed, I cannot say what, if any, changes may be made to the CLÁR areas.

Irish Language.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

177 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason he has instructed that a comprehensive linguistic study be carried out on Gaeltacht areas; if he has preliminary results of the Mayo area; if he intends to redefine the Gaeltacht areas; if his Department will use the study to re-establish spoken Irish in areas which have lapsed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6148/06]

The linguistic study of Irish language usage in the Gaeltacht, which commenced in April 2004 and is scheduled for completion in September 2006, was recommended by the consultative committee established by me to advise on the actions necessary to facilitate the practical implementation of the various recommendations contained in the report of Coimisiún na Gaeltachta. The study, which is being conducted on behalf of my Department by Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, University of Ireland, Galway, in conjunction with the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis, University of Ireland, Maynooth, is examining Irish language usage in the Gaeltacht as a basis for strengthening the linguistic development of the Gaeltacht as an Irish-speaking area and a review of the official Gaeltacht boundaries.

It would be premature to make assumptions at this time as to the precise findings and recommendations that will emerge from this study regarding the issue of the Gaeltacht boundaries in general or in specific Gaeltacht areas. As I have already outlined to the House, any proposals regarding the Gaeltacht boundaries that may emerge from the study will receive detailed and careful examination by my Department before being put before Government in due course.

Single Payment Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

178 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when all farmers will be issued with their single farm payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6080/06]

The huge task of implementing the single farm payment scheme was successfully achieved when over €1 billion in single payments issued to 118,500 farmers last December, meeting the target we had set ourselves of making the payments on the first possible date. This was a major undertaking and the outcome, after painstaking preparatory work in establishing individual entitlements, was, by any standards, a major achievement.

Under the 2005 single payment scheme, 143,000 applications were received. In addition to those applicants seeking to both activate their entitlements and also receive payment, applications were also received from farmers seeking only to activate their entitlements. It will be recalled that farmers who did not seek to activate their entitlements in 2005 would, under the EU rules, forfeit these entitlements to the national reserve.

At the present time, total payments amount to €1,126 million with 97% of farmers, who hold entitlements and applied for the single payment scheme, paid. In common with the coupled schemes, which the single payment scheme replaced, delays in processing can be caused by many factors, including incomplete application forms, errors on applications and discrepancies highlighted following computer validation, which must be resolved via correspondence with the applicant. In many cases, payment could not be made because applicants did not submit an application to transfer the single payment entitlements, with lands, by way of inheritance, gift, lease or purchase. Many of these applications were only received after the Department made direct contact with the farmers in question, during recent weeks, and some have yet to be submitted.

The ongoing objective of the Department is to make payments to all of those farmers who have yet to receive their payment or are entitled to a supplementary payment as soon as their cases are cleared for payment. Every effort is being made by the Department to resolve the outstanding cases but many of these are extremely complex and, in other cases, the Department is still awaiting documentation and applications for the transfer of entitlements before payment can be made. A number of payment runs continue to be made weekly as the more complicated files are cleared.

Food Labelling.

Denis Naughten

Question:

179 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans to establish an all island food label; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6081/06]

I am supportive of initiatives to promote food on all-island basis where this is of mutual benefit and leads to closer economic co-operation. Bord Bia, as part of its statutory role in promoting the development of Ireland's food and drink industry, works in close co-operation with its counterpart in Northern Ireland, Invest Northern Ireland. Joint promotions and events have been successfully organised, especially in the speciality food sector. Bord Bia is currently negotiating a formal inter-agency agreement to provide for structured ongoing co-operation in food promotion at international trade fairs, retail promotions on the British market, co-operation on developing the speciality sector on an all-island basis and market research and intelligence.

The development of an all-island animal health policy is, however, a necessary prerequisite to the establishment of an all-island food label. The development of the animal health policy is being actively pursued in the context of North-South co-operation. In addition, an all-island food label would require negotiation between the relevant authorities regarding its status and conditions for use and general acceptance from consumers and buy-in by producers and processors island-wide.

EU Directives.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

180 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the nitrates regulations will damage farming here and the rural economy; her views on whether the research imposing fertiliser limits on farmers is not conclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6083/06]

The implementation of the nitrates directive is a matter in the first instance for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Minister has recently made regulations giving legal effect to Ireland's national action programme under the directive.

There has been much comment and speculation in recent days and weeks about the effect of the nitrates regulations on farming. I am aware that the implementation of the regulations will be challenging for some farmers and I am also aware that there is a serious information deficit on some aspects of the matter. Clearly this is not in the interests of farmers themselves and I am anxious to bring clarity to the situation as soon as possible.

As a first step, the Department has placed advertisements in the farming press explaining the main provisions of the regulations in clear and straightforward terms. A handbook is being finalised and will be sent to every farmer as soon as possible. Officials of the Department have already had discussions with Teagasc about arrangements for the delivery of information which will further help farmers to understand the practical aspects of the new regulations.

The Government is committed to giving the farming community all the practical help that it can. Following from commitments made in the Sustaining Progress agreement, which related explicitly to the nitrates directive, payment rates in REPS increased by 28% on average in 2004. The number of farmers in REPS reached record levels last year. The Department's Estimates for 2006 includes a provision of €323 million for REPS, the highest ever.

It also introduced improvements to the farm waste management scheme and the dairy hygiene scheme in 2004, and I have tabled proposals to the Commission for further major improvements to the farm waste management scheme which will provide a far more attractive package to farmers than that which was previously available. Only last week in Brussels, I met Commissioner Fischer Boel and impressed on her the need for early Commission approval of the scheme as submitted. I have secured an Estimates provision of €43 million in 2006 for the revised scheme.

Most of the controversy in recent days has centred on the nutrient management provisions of the regulations. These were finalised following difficult negotiations with the Commission's scientific experts, with both Departments making use of the advice provided by Teagasc. It was the Commission, however, that determined the final content of the regulations. Teagasc has recently indicated that it may be possible to review part of the advice it had given on the application of phosphorus, in a way that could improve the effectiveness of the regulations. The Government and the European Commission saw merit in allowing Teagasc time to elaborate this new advice and, accordingly, the Minister, Deputy Roche, announced a brief de facto deferral of the implementation of Part 3 of the regulations.

Teagasc has been requested to provide, as a matter of urgency, the necessary scientific case to support any revision of the phosphorus tables in the regulations. The two Departments will carefully consider any submission received from Teagasc while also bearing in mind that any proposals for revision of the phosphorus tables will have to respect the environmental requirements associated with the nitrates directive and meet with the agreement of the European Commission.

Teagasc has not been specifically requested to review its advice on nitrogen issues. However, to the extent that its revised submission on crop nutrient requirements suggests any further beneficial adjustments to the regulatory regime, these will of course be considered. The possibility of such further adjustments will also depend on its respecting the environmental requirements involved and on its acceptance by the European Commission.

A central issue arising from the nitrates directive is the need to secure a derogation which will allow certain farmers to operate, under appropriate conditions and controls, up to a level of 250 kg of organic nitrogen per hectare. The proposal was given an initial presentation to the EU nitrates committee in December, and further scientific data have been supplied to the Commission following bilateral discussions.

The proposal will need to be discussed again at future meetings of the nitrates committee before approval can be obtained. Securing this derogation is vital for the most productive dairy farmers in particular, and it is important that the position on the regulations is clarified at an early date so that the negotiations on the derogation can proceed.

Mary Upton

Question:

181 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the discussions she has held with farming organisations and on what dates about the nitrates directive since 1 January 2006; her response to some farmers’ organisations’ provisional withdrawal from the partnership talks; her views on the potential impact this will have on the overall partnership arrangements; the action she is taking to ensure the continued involvement of the farming organisations within the framework; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6085/06]

As indicated in the following table, since 1 January 2006, myself and the Ministers of State in the Department, along with Department officials, have met representatives of the farming organisations on issues of particular relevance to them, including the nitrates directive.

In the weeks leading up to the signing of the nitrates regulations by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on 11 December, there had been a number of meetings with representatives of the major farming organisations. These meetings were part of the consultation process on the regulations, launched by the Minister, Deputy Roche, on 7 October 2005. This was itself the culmination of a lengthy and broader consultation process on the implementation of the nitrates directive.

I very much regret the decision of some of the farmers' organisations to suspend their involvement in the partnership talks. They retain the option of re-joining the discussions, and I would urge them to do so, but this is a matter that they must decide.

The Government believes that the farming pillar has a significant and useful part to play in the partnership process. The Government's objective is to continue to use this process as a proven and effective mechanism for the achievement of economic progress. In addition, it is desirable that the importance of the agri-food sector is reflected in national agreements as it has been for the last 19 years through six partnership agreements. The Department will therefore remain fully involved in the talks with the remaining farmer organisation and will stand ready to engage with others should they choose to rejoin the process.

To this end, a significant amount of preparatory work has been undertaken by the Department in advance of these discussions. All the farm organisations have made positive contributions at the initial plenary and bilateral sessions of the partnership talks on 2 and 8 February respectively, where they raised the implementation of the nitrates directive among other issues. The IFA and the ICMSA have also submitted comprehensive papers setting out in detail their views on what is required for a successful national agreement and the Department is currently examining these documents.

Date

Group

Contact

January 17

IFA AGM

Minister Coughlan

January 18

IFA Pig Committee

MoS Smith

January 20

ICSA

Minister Coughlan

January 31

Cavan and Monaghan IFA

MoS Smith

January 31

IFA Pig Committee

MoS Smith

January 31

Wexford IFA

MoS Browne

January

IFA Pig Committee IFA Grain Committee

MoS Browne

February 2

IFA National Committee

Minister Coughlan

February 3

Waterford IFA & MACRA

Minister Coughlan

February 8

ICMSA

Minister Coughlan

Trevor Sargent

Question:

182 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason guidelines have not been made available to the farmers affected in view of the fact that the nitrates directive is now law; the position of farmers in relation to the law; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6241/06]

The implementation of the nitrates directive is a matter in the first instance for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Minister has recently made regulations giving legal effect to Ireland's national action programme under the directive. It is now important for farmers to be given as much accurate information as possible about where they stand legally and about the practical implications of the regulations.

A good deal of recent comment and speculation has been selective and indeed misleading, and has only led to greater confusion among farmers. As a first step towards clearing up that confusion, the Department has placed advertisements in the farming press explaining the main provisions of the regulations in clear and straightforward terms. A handbook is being finalised and will be sent to every farmer as soon as possible. Officials of the Department have already had discussions with Teagasc about arrangements for the delivery of information, which will further help farmers to understand the practical aspects of the new regulations.

The position of farmers on the nitrates regulations is that the regulations came into law on 1 February. The organic nitrogen limit of 170 kg organic nitrogen per hectare per year applies from that date, although the Department is in negotiations with the Commission on derogation arrangements for more intensive farmers. The rules about record keeping, about soil and weather conditions for spreading fertiliser and manure, and the rules about buffer zones, also came into force from 1 February 2006.

Prohibited application periods for the spreading of organic and chemical fertilisers come into force on 15 September 2006 for chemical fertiliser and 15 October for organic fertiliser. The manure storage requirements also came into force on 1 February, though in practice farmers have up to 31 December 2008 to comply fully with these. The only exception relates to holdings with more than 100 pigs, which must have 26 weeks' storage in place on 31 December 2006.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has, however, announced a brief de facto deferral of the implementation of Part 3 of the regulations, which deals with nutrient management. These provisions were finalised following difficult negotiations with the Commission’s scientific experts, with both Departments making use of the advice provided by Teagasc, although it was the Commission that determined the final content of the regulations.

Teagasc has recently indicated that it may be possible to review part of the advice it had given on the application of phosphorus in a way that could improve the effectiveness of the regulations. The Government and the European Commission saw merit in allowing Teagasc time to elaborate this new advice and it is for this reason that the implementation of this part of the regulations has been briefly deferred.

Teagasc has been requested to provide, as a matter of urgency, the necessary scientific case to support any revision of the phosphorus tables in the regulations. The two Departments will carefully consider any submission received from Teagasc while also bearing in mind that any proposals for revision of the phosphorus tables will have to respect the environmental requirements associated with the nitrates directive and meet with the agreement of the European Commission.

Teagasc has not been specifically requested to review its advice on nitrogen issues. However, to the extent that its revised submission on crop nutrient requirements suggest any further beneficial adjustments to the regulatory regime, these will of course be considered. The possibility of such further adjustments will also depend on their respecting the environmental requirements involved and on their acceptance by the European Commission.

Horticulture Policy.

Donie Cassidy

Question:

183 Mr. Cassidy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the progress in expanding the horticulture sector here. [6102/06]

With annual farm-gate production valued currently at €270 million and retail sales in the order of €650 million, the sector employs some 10,000 people across the production and distribution chain. The key issue that has impacted on the development of the horticulture industry as a whole in recent years is the increased concentration at retail level with the consequent significant change in the supply chain.

My Department, recognising the marketing advantages and challenges of consolidation and scale, has contributed to the development of the industry, particularly through its grant aid schemes under the national development plan. These schemes have been a catalyst for investment and growth and have assisted producers to upgrade or develop new production facilities and have also enabled commercial enterprises to improve marketing and processing facilities.

The scheme to assist capital investment on farms under the national development plan aims to promote the specialisation and diversification of on-farm activities, improve the quality of products and facilitate environmentally friendly practices and improved working conditions on farms. Since 2001 nearly €13 million in grant aid has been paid to horticultural producers throughout the country to support investments to the value of €38 million. In 2006 a further €5.5 million grant package will fund projects to the investment value of €16 million. My Department has received 174 applications which are being examined. It is planned to issue approvals to successful applicants by the end of March. All areas of horticulture are eligible for the scheme.

Demand in the consumer and food service sectors is buoyant, both for fresh and prepared chilled produce and convenient value added products. The retail value of prepared horticultural produce was estimated to be €59.8 million in 2004, representing a twofold increase on 2001 and there are real investment opportunities and challenges for development of this sector.

Under my Department's capital investment scheme for the marketing and processing of agricultural products, a total of €4.41 million has been awarded under the NDP to date in respect of 19 projects in the fruit and vegetable sector. Further awards will be made in the near future in respect of the call for proposals which issued in autumn 2005. In addition, horticulture producers benefit from EU aid under the producer organisation scheme. A sum of €5.6 million was paid to ten recognised producer organisations in 2005. The development of producer organisations under EU regulations has made an important contribution to the development of the sector as it enables producers to benefit from their combined strength in the production and marketing of their product.

Donie Cassidy

Question:

184 Mr. Cassidy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the assistance available to the seed potato sector; her plans for the sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6103/06]

In August 2005, I announced a grant aid programme for the development of the seed potato sector. The programme, which comes under the national development plan, funds capital investment projects for specialised seed production in 2005-06. A grant rate of 35% applies under the scheme. The main objective of the scheme is to improve the marketing infrastructure of the seed potato sector by providing grant assistance to producers towards the capital costs of equipment and facilities for the production, storage and marketing of seed potatoes. My main aim is to develop a competitive seed sector with strong linkages with ware growers to ensure that the €100 million potato industry continues to grow to its full potential.

To date 18 applications have been received and 14 approvals for investment under this scheme have been issued, amounting to €767,000. A total of €1 million has been provided for this scheme in the current year.

Food Industry.

Donie Cassidy

Question:

185 Mr. Cassidy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the themes of the latest round of research projects to be grant-aided under the food institutional research measure. [6104/06]

FIRM, the food institutional research measure, is a public good food research programme funded under the National Development Plan 2000-2006. Calls for proposals have issued periodically since 2000 and a total of €63 million in funding has been awarded for 137 projects, including €6.7 million, which was recently approved for 14 projects under the food safety and beverages themes.

I am convinced that high quality food research, which creates new knowledge and capacity, is of significant importance to the continued development of the agri-food sector. This week my Department issued a call through the national press inviting a new round of research proposals from institutions under the five themes of food and health, food quality and manufacturing, food safety and security of the food chain, food, the consumer and the food supply chain and new uses for food and drink by-products. The themes have been selected to highlight strategic areas of opportunity for the food sector as well as consumer and food safety needs.

The areas covered by these themes are the following: food and health includes functional foods, product reformulation for enhanced health, nutrigenomics and food surveillance; food quality and manufacturing refers to new innovative products, novel technologies for food processing and process control, food ingredients, as well as food composition, structure and sensorial properties, food waste management and new or innovative food products, including new uses for dairy fats. Proposals may incorporate meat, beverages, dairy products, prepared consumer foods, food safety and security of the food chain.

This theme aims to build on research in the areas of microbiological and epidemiological research on food pathogens, chemical residues and contaminants in food products, novel processes and ingredients for control of pathogens in food and improved detection methods for food pathogens. Proposals are also invited on risk analysis, risk communication and risk management; food, the consumer and the food supply chain includes consumer studies to support the development of the food sector and studies aimed at food supply chain efficiency and traceability; and new uses for food and drink by-products. This is left open to encourage new ideas.

The call is addressed to institutions that can demonstrate the necessary research capabilities, including universities, institutes of technology and Teagasc food centres. Proposals involving collaboration between research institutions are encouraged. Research work already funded under FIRM has led to the creation of a number of highly qualified research teams and the formation of recognised centres of excellence. The capability and critical mass that has been developed, together with the associated knowledge base, represents a major resource for industry and well as being instrumental in the development of a number of food products benefiting consumers.

My Department has arranged five briefing sessions for researchers this week — two each in Dublin and Cork and one in Galway — to assist them in formulating their project proposals. The closing date for receipt of proposals is Friday, 31 March 2006. The proposals will be evaluated by external independent expert panels and then considered by the food institutional research committee, which comprises representatives of the private and public sectors.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Donie Cassidy

Question:

186 Mr. Cassidy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the prospects of REP scheme three in 2006. [6105/06]

REPS 3 has been a major success and participation has broken previous records. Spending on REPS has increased from €208 million in 2004 to €283 million in 2005, and provision has been made in the 2006 Estimates for a further increase to €323 million this year. The increased allocation for 2006 reflects the fact that I expect that there will be further significant growth in 2006.

Live Exports.

Donie Cassidy

Question:

187 Mr. Cassidy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on progress to recommence live sheep exports to the Continent. [6106/06]

Trade in sheep between member states of the European Union is subject to the provisions of Council Directive 91/68/EEC, as amended, which provide reinforced controls on the movement of sheep and goats. Until recently, these controls provided, as a minimum requirement, that breeding and fattening sheep had to be certified by an official veterinarian as having been continuously resident on a holding for at least 30 days prior to export and that no sheep or goats had been introduced on to the holding in the 21 days prior to export. Slaughter sheep had also to be certified as having been continuously resident on the holding of origin for at least 21 days prior to export and were also subject to a "standstill" period of 21 days prior to dispatch during which no sheep or goats have been introduced on to the holding of origin.

These controls were introduced in the aftermath of the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 and came into effect on 1 July 2004. Having been aware of the difficulties that these certification requirements caused, I instructed my Department to raise the matter with the European Commission in an effort to arrive at a certification procedure that best meets the concerns of farmers and exporters, while at the same time protecting animal health. I am pleased that, in response to our approach, the European Commission submitted proposals to amend these certification requirements to allow the official veterinarian to issue certification based on a written declaration by the farmer or on an examination of the flock register and movement documents.

The proposals providing for these new arrangements were agreed to unanimously by the standing committee on the food chain and animal health on 11 November 2005 and came into force on 15 February 2006. I am confident that they will resolve most of the outstanding difficulties relating to residency-standstill certification for exports of sheep to France and the United Kingdom.

While I am happy to facilitate live sheep exports in any way I can, securing outlets and the supply and availability of transport for the carriage of livestock is a commercial matter which is not within the remit of my Department.

Research Funding.

Donie Cassidy

Question:

188 Mr. Cassidy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the grant assistance available in the bio-energy and agri-environment areas under the research stimulus fund. [6107/06]

Under the 2005 research stimulus fund programme, 12 research projects were recently awarded grant assistance totalling €4.5 million. The research projects cover a broad range of areas, including agri-environment, non-food crops and agri-food economics and will involve inter-institutional collaboration. Three of the projects selected for funding relate to research projects involving biofuels and energy crops and received total grant assistance of some €900,000.

This is an area of particular interest due to the environmental advantages of biofuels, increasing cost of fossil fuels and the opportunity farmers now have to explore alternative farm enterprises. Six of the projects selected for funding relate to the agri-environment area and were awarded total grant assistance of more than €3 million. The research involved will be of a public good nature and the results will be made freely available.

The projects now being funded should produce benefits not only for producers but for the wider rural community. They will also contribute to improved collaboration between various research institutions and to the establishment of critical mass in certain research areas.

Afforestation Programme.

Donie Cassidy

Question:

189 Mr. Cassidy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the prospects for forestry plantings in 2006. [6108/06]

The prospects for forestry planting in 2006 are positive. This is the final year for planting under the current rural development programme and farmers can avail of a 20 year premium by planting under the current forestry grant and premium scheme. The scheme provides a 100% planting grant.

I have provided for a budget of €137 million towards the cost of forestry supports in 2006, the highest ever allocation for forestry. With the possibility of more land becoming available for afforestation under the single farm payment scheme, which enables farm-foresters to plant up to 50% of their eligible claimed areas with forestry, while still being in receipt of their full single farm payment, excellent opportunities exist for any potential farm-forester to earn additional income from forestry.

Donie Cassidy

Question:

190 Mr. Cassidy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the value of the forestry sector to the economy here; and the number of jobs involved in the sector. [6109/06]

The forestry sector provides a high value input to the national economy, and makes a significant contribution to the economic well being of rural communities. The sector contributes some €698 million annually to the economy. While it is difficult to provide economic values for the non-timber benefits of Irish forests, an annual value in the region of €88 million for the recreation, carbon storage and biodiversity benefits is estimated.

In recent years more than 14,000 private plantations have been established, the vast majority of these by farmers. In 2005, a total of €58.1 million in forestry premiums was paid out to forest owners. The level of employment generated through forestry in Ireland is of the order of 16,000 people, not including forest owners.

Farm Waste Management.

Donie Cassidy

Question:

191 Mr. Cassidy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on progress on the introduction of the new farm waste management scheme to assist farmers meet the requirements of the nitrates directive. [6110/06]

A formal application seeking EU state aid approval for the revised farm waste management scheme was submitted by my Department to the European Commission on 30 September last. The application has been the subject of ongoing negotiations between the Commission and my Department in the intervening period and I recently had a meeting with Commissioner Fischer Boel at which I stressed the importance of this matter to Ireland. I expect the outstanding issues will be resolved in the near future so that the revised scheme can be introduced at an early date.

Donie Cassidy

Question:

192 Mr. Cassidy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she intends aiding digesters to deal with pig and poultry manure arising from the application of the nitrates directive. [6111/06]

As part of the financial arrangements to assist farmers meet the additional requirements of the nitrates directive, I have sought EU approval for the introduction of a pilot waste processing facilities scheme to support the demonstration of new technologies, such as anaerobic and aerobic digestion, for the treatment of livestock manures. The scheme envisages the granting of financial support for up to ten projects with a maximum eligible investment ceiling per project of €1 million and a grant rate of 40%. The scheme will be introduced as soon as EU approval is received.

Animal Diseases.

Donie Cassidy

Question:

193 Mr. Cassidy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the incidence of brucellosis in the cattle herd in 2005 compared to 2003 and 2004. [6112/06]

The incidence of brucellosis has been falling progressively in recent years. For example, the number of laboratory positives has fallen from 6,417 in 1998 to 228 in 2005. The total number of animals slaughtered under the eradication programme fell from 29,778 to 2,375 during the same period. There has been a further improvement in the position in 2005 compared with 2003 and 2004. The number of blood positives in 2005 was 228 compared with 664 in 2004 and 900 in 2003. The number of animals slaughtered fell from 14,841 and 6,195, respectively, in 2003 and 2004 to 2,375 in 2005.

The substantial improvement in the disease situation is due to a number of factors, including continued co-operation from all parties with the eradication regime, the tightening up on illegal cattle movements through the cattle movement monitoring system, the regulation of dealers, prosecutions for breaches and the imposition of penalties for failures to comply with animal disease and identification regulations. I am confident this progress can be maintained into the future with the continued operation of the existing measures and the ongoing co-operation of farmers and all involved in the livestock industry.

It is, however, vital that we continue to recognise that brucellosis is a highly contagious disease and we do not relax or relent in our efforts to eradicate it from our national herd. In view of this, we need to continue in the medium term with the existing comprehensive control and eradication measures, which have brought about positive results in recent years in terms of reduced incidence of the disease.

Food Industry.

Donie Cassidy

Question:

194 Mr. Cassidy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will comment on her initiative to promote local and regional food economies. [6113/06]

The food industry must be developed at all levels as CAP now focuses on the market. This is the reason I have established a new initiative involving the holding of regional food fora to promote local and regional food economies, complemented by research and other activities.

The first regional food forum was organised by my Department and Bord Bia with the other food development agencies in County Donegal in late 2005 on the theme of market focus for small food enterprises. Speakers shared experiences on regional food development with food enterprises from counties Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim. State agencies and service providers were on hand to assist producers and food enterprises interested in growing their business and food products from the north west were showcased to highlight the importance of food to the region's economy. I also launched the North West Food and Drink Trade Directory, a timely guide and reference source for small food business in the north west.

It is my intention to use this forum model in other areas during 2006 to ensure a continued focus on the potential for local food production. By working closely with farmers, small food producers and local agencies we can successfully promote food enterprise and innovation to develop unique products reflecting the strengths of each region.

To promote local and regional produce more widely Bord Bia will, on 11 May, host an international speciality food forum, in association with Invest Northern Ireland, at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin on regional and local foods — an opportunity for growth. The objective of the event is to support and develop sales of Irish small business and speciality food companies on the core markets of Ireland and the UK. The showcase will host up to 80 Irish speciality and premium food and drink producers on a cross-Border basis, with up to 150 trade buyers attending from Ireland and the UK. This showcase will represent the largest range of speciality Irish food and drink companies under one roof in 2006 and will provide a valuable framework for networking with innovative regional and local companies.

Varied routes to market are central to the development of small food businesses and the record growth of farmers' markets is testament to this. Building on the outstanding success of the Farmleigh Food Market, Bord Bia and the Office of Public Works have drawn up a programme of one-day seasonal food markets on five OPW heritage sites with the objectives of enhancing public awareness of heritage sites and of fostering closer ties with the local farming, business and community interests. The heritage sites selected are: Fota House and Gardens, Cork, on 26 February; the JFK Arboretum, Wexford, in May; Castletown House, Kildare, in July; Newmills, Letterkenny, County Donegal, in September; and Emo Court, County Laois, in December.

During 2006 Bord Bia will undertake research on the opportunities for Irish speciality and local foods in Great Britain, in particular the motives of speciality food consumers, to assist and orient small food companies interested in that market. Bord Bia will also undertake research into the authentic ingredients which form part of Ireland's food tradition and which could raise awareness of local and regional foods and so assist producers with production diversification.

There are good prospects for the artisan and speciality food sector nationally and in the United Kingdom where the market is forecast to reach €7.5 billion over three years. The output of the Irish artisan and speciality food sectors grew 10% in 2005 to reach €475 million. Opportunities exist for the right products making the initiative to promote local and regional food economies.

Beef Industry.

Donie Cassidy

Question:

195 Mr. Cassidy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on prospects for the beef sector in 2006. [6114/06]

The Irish beef sector in 2005 was characterised by stability, consistency and high prices. Beef prices in all categories are up 6% on average for 2005, having reached a six year high in 2004. Irish beef production reached 524,000 tonnes in 2005, a drop of 2% on 2004 levels. Of this, 487,000 tonnes, representing 93% of our production, was exported with an export value to the Irish economy of well over €1.3 billion, representing almost 20% of Irish food and drink exports. Some 192,000 tonnes or 40% of our beef exports went to EU markets, with the UK remaining our largest single destination with exports of 260,000 tonnes.

The outlook for Irish beef exports in 2006 is largely positive with the decreasing production trend throughout continental Europe leading to a beef supply deficit of 350,000 tonnes. In contrast, Ireland's beef production is forecast to increase by 5%. This presents an opportunity for Irish beef producers to further consolidate their position in the high value EU market and should maintain a steady demand for Irish beef in 2006 with price growth again being achieved.

Non-EU markets continue to be important alternative outlets for Irish beef and it is our intention to have the maximum number of third country markets open for our beef exports. The reality, however, is that continental EU and UK markets offer a much more attractive and secure outlet for Irish beef. The ending of the over 30 months scheme in the UK on 22 January 2006 further regularises the EU beef market. Certain adjustments may have to be made by Irish exporters if displacement of Irish product occurs due to the additional supplies of cow beef coming onto the UK market in 2006. It is also likely that the EU export ban on UK beef will be lifted in 2006.

Assuming there will be a change in the export rule from April 2006, UK exports are forecast to be in the region of 30,000 tonnes in 2006. With the EU beef supply deficit, this quantity should be easily absorbed into the internal market with no adverse market repercussions.

Grant Payments.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

196 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when payment of the EU single farm payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [6125/06]

The person named submitted an application under the single payment scheme on 11 May 2005. The herd owner also applied to have her entitlements consolidated under the 2005 single payment consolidation measure. Her application has been processed and payment will issue shortly.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

197 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when payment of the EU single farm payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [6126/06]

As there is no record of the receipt of an application form from the person named under the 2005 single payment scheme, an official of my Department has been in direct contact with the person named in an attempt to clarify matters.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

198 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if, regarding a person (details supplied) in County Galway, she will make a statement on the cutback by more than 50% in this person’s area aid application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6137/06]

The person named submitted an application under the single payment scheme on 13 May 2005 and also applied to have his entitlements consolidated under the scheme. The EU provisions governing the consolidation of entitlements provide that an applicant must declare a number of eligible hectares amounting to 50% or more of the entitlements granted to him.

The person named has established 121.46 single payment entitlements to the value of €9,671.86 and declared a total forage area of 41.67 hectares on his 2005 single payment application. Having processed the application for the consolidation of entitlements, the person named was notified by my Department that his application was unsuccessful as the eligible hectares declared on his 2005 single payment application were less than 50% of his entitlements.

He may re-apply for consolidation of entitlements under the 2006 single payment scheme, provided he declares a number of eligible hectares equivalent to 50% or more of the number of entitlements he currently holds. Payment in respect of 41.67 single payment entitlements amounting to €3,272.39 issued to the person named on 13 January 2006.

Question No. 199 answered with QuestionNo. 41.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

200 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the entitlements which will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Cork; her plans to rectify the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6164/06]

The EU regulations governing the single payment scheme make specific provision for farmers who were obliged, because of agri-environmental undertakings such as REPS and commonage framework plans, 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 de-stocked.

It is noted that the person named joined REPS in 1997. Due to the requirements of the scheme, he needed to construct a slatted unit for his dairy enterprise. In order to provide full slurry storage capacity for all his stock he was then advised that he needed to provide a further slatted unit for his suckler enterprise. The person named decided to sell his suckler enterprise, including his suckler quota, and concentrate on his dairy enterprise which he increased from approximately 14,500 gallons to more than 33,000 gallons. Such changes of enterprise are deemed to be a management decision and do not fall to be reviewed under agri-environmental provisions.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

201 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a person (details supplied) in County Cork has entitlements under provisions of the national reserve; if so, the amount of same; if their application for payment under force majeure will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6165/06]

The person named submitted an application on 29 October 2004 for consideration of his circumstances under the second tranche of the force majeure-exceptional circumstances measure of the single payment scheme. Having assessed the application, the single payment entitlements unit informed the person named that the circumstances outlined did not fulfil the force majeure criteria laid down in Article 40 of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1782/2003. The person named then appealed this decision to the independent single payment appeals committee which recommended that the decision of the single payment entitlements unit should be upheld.

As the person named changed his farming system during 2002, and as there is no provision under the single farm payment regulation to use 2003 and-or 2004 as an alternative reference period, the person named was advised to submit an application to the national reserve. The person named submitted an application for an allocation of entitlements from the single payments scheme national reserve under category C. Category C caters for farmers who, between 1 January 2000 and 19 October 2003, sold the milk quota into the milk quota restructuring scheme and converted their enterprise to a farming sector for which a direct payment under livestock premia or arable aid schemes would have been payable during the reference period 2000 to 2002.

More than 23,000 applications for an allocation of entitlements from the national reserve were received, when account is taken of farmers who applied under more than one category. Processing of these applications is continuing and the intention is to make allocations to successful applicants at the earliest opportunity. The Department of Agriculture and Food will be in touch with individual applicants as soon as their applications are fully processed when formal letters setting out my Department's decision will be issued.

Registration of Title.

Willie Penrose

Question:

202 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she will take to ensure that her Department is dealing with queries, which are outstanding and which are within the purview of the land division solicitor, who is dealing with Land Commission sales, and whereby queries have been raised by the Land Registry Office regarding the vesting of lands for a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath, in respect of which the necessary documents for the registration were lodged in the Land Registry Office on 17 December 1999 and have not been completed; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this is impeding the person who purchased the land from the Land Commission as far back as 1991 in dealing with same; the steps she will take to have this matter finalised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6213/06]

The Department of Agriculture and Food is in ongoing contact with the Land Registry Office to resolve this problem, which relates to a mapping query. My officials understand that the problem with the map for this vesting will be resolved in the near future.

Animal Identification Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

203 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food, further to Question No. 327 of 29 November 2005, her views on extending the provisions of the scheme, including the payment of compensation, to rams that were genotyped prior to 1 September 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6225/06]

The enhancements to the national genotyping programme, NGP, to which the Deputy refers, were aimed at encouraging greater participation in the programme. These enhancements were introduced following discussions between officials of my Department and representatives of the pedigree and non-pedigree breeders.

It was always intended, and it was made clear before their introduction, that the enhancements to the NGP would apply only in respect of those flocks and sheep that were genotyped between 1 September 2005 and 18 November 2005. There was never any question that rams which were tested before 1 September 2005 would be eligible for the flat rate of compensation that will be paid in respect of those categories of rams that are tested after that date and that are considered susceptible or highly susceptible to scrapie. Consequently, I do not intend to make the compensation payments retrospective.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Question:

204 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be awarded the single farm payment. [6235/06]

An application under the single payment scheme was received from the person named on 16 May 2005. An application to consolidate his entitlements was also submitted by the herd owner. During processing of the consolidation application, it was necessary for a Department of Agriculture and Food official to make direct contact with the person named to seek clarification of certain matters relating to his application. The person named has agreed to provide further documentation regarding the application. On receipt of this documentation, the Department will process the application of the person named and inform him of the decision in his case.

Dan Neville

Question:

205 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position concerning an application for extra suckler cow quota under force majeure from a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [6269/06]

The person named submitted an application on 6 February 2004 for consideration of her circumstances under the force majeure-exceptional circumstances measure of the single payment scheme. Having assessed the application, the single payment entitlements unit informed the person named that her application could not be accepted as she did not fulfil the force majeure criteria laid down in Article 40 of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1782/2003. The person named was advised to submit an application under the national reserve measure of the single payment scheme.

The person named submitted an application for an allocation of entitlements from the single payments scheme national reserve under category B. Category B caters for farmers who, between 1 January 2000 and 19 October 2003, made an investment in production capacity in a farming sector for which a direct payment under livestock premia and-or arable aid schemes would have been payable during the reference period 2000 to 2002. Investments can include purchase or long-term lease of land, purchase of suckler and-or ewe quota or other investments.

The position is that more than 23,000 applications for an allocation of entitlements from the national reserve were received, when account is taken of farmers who applied under more than one category. Processing of these applications is continuing and the intention is to make allocations to successful applicants at the earliest opportunity. The Department will be in touch with individual applicants as soon as their applications are fully processed when formal letters setting out the Department's decision will be issued.

Animal Feedstuffs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

206 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she is satisfied that the ban on meat and bonemeal or any other similar imports here is effective; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6280/06]

The legislative basis for the controls on the import and uses of animal by-products, including meat and bone meal, is Regulation EC 1774/2002. I am satisfied that the controls in that legislation are effectively implemented here.

Food Safety Standards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

207 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she is satisfied that all meat and meat products imported here are subjected to the same rigorous husbandry and traceability regulations applicable here and in the European Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6281/06]

Detailed EU legislation lays down the conditions that member states must apply to the production of and trade in products of animal origin, including meat and meat products, as well as to imports of these products from third countries. Under harmonised legislation a series of health and supervisory requirements are applied in the member states to ensure that animal products are produced to standards that guarantee the safety of food and the protection of human and animal health. The application of these standards in the member states is monitored by the Food and Veterinary Office, FVO, of the EU.

It is a requirement that animal products imported from third countries meet standards at least equivalent to those required for production in, and trade between, member states. All such imports must come from third countries or areas of third countries approved for export to the EU. The FVO carries out inspections to ensure that only establishments that meet hygiene and health standards equivalent to those operating within the EU are approved. Where the FVO considers that public health requirements are not being met, an establishment may be removed from the EU approved list. If outbreaks of animal diseases occur in a third country, approval to export to the EU is suspended for the infected regions of the country, or the whole country, as appropriate, until the disease risk has been eliminated.

I fully support the policy that animal products imported into the EU from third countries meet standards at least equivalent to those required for production in, and trade between, EU member states. Irish farmers are required to ensure that their production systems and farm practices fully comply with a wide range of EU directives on important matters including traceability, animal health and welfare and consumer protection.

In this context I wrote to the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Mr. Markos Kyprianou, concerning the sanitary rules applying to the import of livestock products, especially beef, into the European Union. In his reply the Commissioner outlined that, with respect to traceability and controls of residues of veterinary medicines, the purpose of EU legislation is not to impose on exporting third countries a system of guarantees that is equal to the EU system, but that the exporting country provides guarantees that are equivalent to the standards applied in the EU. The Commissioner indicated his service is committed to protect the health of European consumers and European livestock. The Commissioner has assured me that the Commission will not hesitate to take the appropriate protection measures if a product, imported from a third country or produced in the domestic market, represents a risk for the health of EC consumers, livestock or plants.

Food Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

208 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans to promote the sale of Irish beef and dairy products worldwide in view of increased competition from outside the European Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6282/06]

The Irish beef sector in 2005 was characterised by stable market conditions and satisfactory prices. Some 487,000 tonnes of Irish beef, representing 93% of our production, was exported in 2005 with an export value to the Irish economy of more than €1.3 billion or almost 20% of Irish food and drink exports. As a result of effective promotion and marketing to date, 192,000 tonnes or almost 40% of our beef exports went to continental Europe, with the UK remaining our largest single destination with exports of 260,000 tonnes.

The outlook for Irish beef exports in 2006 is largely positive with the decreasing production trend throughout the EU leading to a beef supply deficit of 350,000 tonnes. This situation presents an opportunity for Irish beef producers to further consolidate their position in the high value EU market and should maintain a steady demand for Irish beef in 2006.

Non-EU markets are important alternative outlets for Irish beef and it is my intention to continue our efforts to have the maximum number of third country markets open for our beef exports. The reality, however, is that continental EU and UK markets offer a much more attractive and secure outlet for Irish beef and we intend to continue to consolidate our position in those markets.

In this regard, last September I launched the Bord Bia "Irish Beef in Europe" campaign which is aimed at building sales of Irish beef in European supermarkets and to establish the "Irish Beef" brand firmly in the minds of consumers. This particular campaign involved on-pack promotions in over 8,000 stores which are frequented by some 40 million shoppers every week. I was happy to be in a position to provide Bord Bia with additional funding of €500,000 in 2005 for this campaign.

I participated in one of the on-site supermarket promotions myself in Italy last October. Feedback has been very encouraging in terms of improved demand in response to the promotion and Bord Bia, together with the meat exporters, are planning the details of a further promotion of this nature for our beef in 2006.

The dairy sector has enjoyed a number of successful years on international and EU markets and once again performed solidly in 2005. Some 80% of Irish dairy production is exported to world markets across a broad range of products, including butter, milk powders, cheese, infant formula, food ingredients and functional foods. Exports in 2005 amounted to €1.8 billion.

There is a continual dynamic in global dairy market development and the barriers between internal EU and external third country markets are less restrictive than is the case for beef. The competitiveness of market support measures at EU level is therefore crucial to international trading and I maintain close contact with the Commissioner to ensure that an appropriate set of internal aids and export subsidies are available to maintain the competitiveness of Irish product on world markets. The availability of these aid mechanisms will enable the dairy sector consolidate and increase its share of international markets.

New investment by Irish dairy processors in research and development will continue the drive towards greater levels of innovation and diversity in product mix and will help consolidate and increase our share of the world market. Such innovation is key to unlocking market segments currently restricted by virtue of the product mix available at present.

In terms of competition from outside the EU, the Irish dairy sector has continued to excel against stiff competition from New Zealand, Australia, the US and Argentina. Sales to third countries represent some 20% of total Irish dairy sector output. Despite increased competitive pressures, world prices are expected to remain relatively stable in 2006 and, together with forecast increased global demand for dairy products of some 2% per annum until 2010, Ireland is well positioned to take full advantage of these international trading opportunities.

Alternative Farm Enterprises.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

209 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she will take to promote the growing of biofuels; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6283/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

210 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the support available for biofuel production in the aftermath of CAP reform; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6284/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 209 and 210 together.

The Minister for Communications, the Marine and Natural Resources is primarily responsible for the promotion and development of renewable energy, including biofuels. Nonetheless, the development of the biofuels sector is a matter that impinges on several other policy areas, including agriculture, transport and taxation, and involves various Departments and agencies. My Department has been represented on a number of interdepartmental groups considering the matter and there is also ongoing contact between my Department and the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, for example, about the EU Commission's biomass action plan and strategy for biofuels, which will be discussed at next week's Council of Agriculture Ministers' meeting.

I am very conscious of the central role that agriculture can play in supplying the necessary raw materials for the production of biofuels. Oilseed rape, wheat and sugar beet can be used for the manufacture of liquid transport biofuels, while forestry by-products and other farming and food by-products, such as meat and bone meal and tallow, can be used for energy-heat generation. Tallow can also be used in biodiesel production. Factors such as the increasing cost of oil, the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and the opportunity for farmers to explore alternative land uses following CAP reform mean that the potential of this area must be fully explored.

For the purposes of contributing to the development of policy on biofuels my Department, in conjunction with COFORD and Teagasc, has examined the potential of energy crops, wood biomass and farming and food by-products. In general, the production of energy crops for biofuels will have to be demand led and production by farmers will only occur if the economic returns are greater than those offered by traditional crop enterprises. The production of liquid biofuels from energy crops, in the absence of fiscal incentives, is not economic at current oil price levels. The budget announcement by the Minister for Finance of a major extension of the mineral oil tax relief scheme to cover, when the relief is fully operational, some 163 million litres of biofuels per year should further stimulate the production of crops for the manufacture of liquid biofuels. This initiative will benefit the environment in terms of a reduction in CO2 emissions, it will enhance security of supply of fuels, and it will create jobs and outlets for agricultural production.

Within my own area of responsibility, a range of developments are already under way or in the pipeline that will encourage the production and use of biofuels. These include grants to promote and develop sustainable forestry, including alternative timber use to reduce dependence on fossil fuels; promoting the use of wood biomass, for example, by the installation of a wood heating system at my Department's offices at Johnstown Castle; funding of forest-to-energy pilot projects; willow planting promotion; supporting biofuels research under the research stimulus programme; grant aiding the application of new technologies such as anaerobic-aerobic digestion and fluidised bed combustion, with a renewable energy dimension; and the use of by-products for incineration and co-incineration in place of fossil fuels.

There are also a number of important developments on the horizon at EU level. The Commission has recently produced a biomass action plan and a strategy for biofuels. These are on the agenda for next week's meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers. In this context I will be seeking a review of the operation of the energy crops scheme.

Dairy Sector.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

211 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her future plans for the expansion of the dairy industry, with particular reference to exports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6285/06]

The Irish dairy sector has enjoyed much success on international and EU markets in recent years and performed solidly in 2005. Overall, exports of Irish dairy products and ingredients amounted to €1.82 billion, as Irish exporters responded to strong market demand worldwide.

Despite considerable policy changes at EU level export performance has been very resilient in recent years. We are now in the second year of implementation of the Luxembourg agreement on the reform of the CAP and there has been no material change in market performance nor have the predictions of price deterioration materialised. Indeed, the contrary is the case. The dairy prices and demand for Irish dairy products on EU and global markets held strong throughout the year.

World prices for both butter and skimmed milk powder averaged 8% above 2004 levels and this solid market performance meant that use of intervention was particularly low for both products. In practical terms Ireland used intervention last year only to the extent necessary to take advantage of a rising market. The casein market also performed very well with an average price increase of 25% in 2005 over the previous year.

The outlook for 2006 suggests a more challenging world market as increased output levels from Oceania, US and Argentina impact on the market. Despite this, world prices are expected to remain relatively stable. While oil prices and the value of the US dollar-euro exchange rates will be important factors in determining the competitiveness of Irish and EU traders on world markets, nonetheless global demand for dairy products is set to rise and I am convinced that Ireland is well positioned to take full advantage of these international trading opportunities.

The negotiations on the new WTO round will present challenges and opportunities alike for the dairy sector. The removal of international trade barriers will create new trade opportunities and the main challenge for the Irish dairy sector will be to make the necessary market adjustment to ensure that the sector both protects its global competitiveness and secures its share of this growing market.

I will continue to work constructively with the Irish dairy industry in addressing the competitiveness issues that it faces as it adapts to the new policy framework. In this respect the main priority will continue to be concentrated on having an appropriate market policy at EU level incorporating a competitive set of aids and subsidies that reflect the real needs of the industry and meet the challenges of export competitiveness.

Agriculture Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

212 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her long-term plans for the development of the agricultural sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6286/06]

The statement of strategy for my Department, which covers the period 2005 to 2007, sets out over 50 strategies that my Department is pursuing to help develop a sustainable, competitive, consumer-focused agri-food sector. The outcome of this work is presented in my Department's annual report. The annual report for the year 2005 is currently being compiled.

The agri-vision 2015 committee, chaired by Alan Dukes, undertook an examination of the changes likely to take place in the agri-food sector over the next ten years and made appropriate recommendations for action. In response, my Department is currently finalising an action plan for the future development of the sector. In the coming months, I will launch the 2015 action plan which will detail future plans and long-term strategies and will enable my Department and the relevant State agencies to work in tandem with farmers and the food sector to develop the full potential of this important industry in the coming years.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

213 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the countries most likely to present serious competition to Irish agricultural exports on world markets in the future; her plans to address this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6287/06]

Ireland faces a wide variety of competitors on EU and world markets for the range of products we export. The ability to compete on agricultural markets is the based on a number of factors. These include the scale of production, exchange rates, price and the degree of competition within a particular market. The liberalisation of agriculture has made the marketplace for an export-orientated country like Ireland more competitive. To survive in this environment, the Irish agri-food sector must improve its productivity, reduce costs of production, invest in greater levels of research and development, become even more responsive to the demands of customers and increase the value of output sold.

The agri-vision 2015 committee, chaired by Alan Dukes, undertook an examination of the changes likely to take place in the agri-food sector over the next ten years and made appropriate recommendations for action particularly in the area of competitiveness. In response, my Department is currently finalising an action plan for the future development of the sector. In the coming months, I will launch the 2015 action plan which will detail future plans and long-term strategies and will enable my Department and the relevant State agencies to work in tandem with farmers and the food sector to develop their full competitive potential on all markets.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

214 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans for sustainability of the agricultural sector in the future in view of the impact of the WTO and CAP reform; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6288/06]

I am satisfied that the most recent CAP reforms allied to the agreement in December last on the financial perspective for the period 2007 to 2013 will provide for a stable and sustainable agricultural sector in the years ahead. The outcome to the negotiations on the financial perspective represented a satisfactory outcome on policy for agriculture and rural development from Ireland's point of view. The overall objective of ensuring that adequate funding will be provided for the continuation of the CAP and rural development measures was achieved.

I am very conscious of the economic and social damage to Irish agriculture, the rural economy and the fabric of rural society which would result from an unfavourable outcome to the ongoing negotiations on a new WTO agreement.

The EU has positioned and prepared the CAP for the WTO negotiations through the CAP reforms of the Agenda 2000 agreement and the mid-term review. While Ireland remains committed in overall terms to negotiation of a new round, the objective is to ensure the continuation of the highest possible level of protection and support for the agri-food sector and, in particular, to ensure that the actual reductions in support and protection which the EU will be required to implement under a new round will not necessitate a further reform of the CAP. I will continue to work closely with both Commissioners Mandelson and Fischer Boel and my colleagues in the Council of Ministers to protect the interests of the Irish agri-food sector.

At national level, the agri-vision report which was commissioned by my predecessor identified the rapidly changing nature of Irish agriculture and the issues facing the agriculture and food industries, including the need for market-driven production and greater levels of productivity. The report set out a framework for the future and the actions and changes that are required. The report placed great emphasis on meeting consumer requirements and the role of competitiveness in the context of an increasingly global market. I will be producing a plan of action in the near future that will set out a clear programme of work for my Department and other interests in the agri-food sector to enhance competitiveness and to fulfil the productive potential to meet consumer demands into the future.

EU Directives.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

215 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she has had discussion with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government with a view to alleviating some of the impact of the nitrates directive, having particular regard to her Department’s interpretation as to the way in which the directive should be enforced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6289/06]

The implementation of the nitrates directive is a matter in the first instance for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Minister, Deputy Roche, has recently made regulations giving legal effect to Ireland's national action programme under the directive.

The Government is committed to giving the farming community all the practical help necessary. Following from commitments made in the Sustaining Progress agreement, which related explicitly to the nitrates directive, payment rates in REPS increased by 28% on average in 2004. The number of farmers in REPS reached record levels last year. My Department's Estimate for 2006 includes a provision of €323 million for REPS, the highest ever.

We also introduced improvements to the farm waste management scheme and the dairy hygiene scheme in 2004, and I have tabled proposals to the Commission for further major improvements to the farm waste management scheme which will provide a far more attractive package to farmers than that which was previously available. Only last week in Brussels I met Commissioner Fischer Boel and impressed on her the need for early Commission approval of the scheme as submitted. I have secured an Estimates provision of €43 million in 2006 for the revised scheme.

Most of the controversy in recent days has centred on the nutrient management provisions of the regulations. These were finalised following difficult negotiations with the Commission's scientific experts, with both Departments making use of the advice provided by Teagasc. It was the Commission, however, which determined the final content of the regulations. Teagasc has recently indicated that it may be possible to review part of the advice it had given on the application of phosphorus, in a way that could improve the effectiveness of the regulations. The Government and the European Commission saw merit in allowing Teagasc time to elaborate this new advice and, accordingly, the Minister, Deputy Roche, announced a brief de facto deferral of the implementation of Part 3 of the regulations.

Teagasc has been requested to provide, as a matter of urgency, the necessary scientific case to support any revision of the phosphorus tables in the regulations. The two Departments will carefully consider any submission received from Teagasc while also bearing in mind that any proposals for revision of the phosphorus tables will have to respect the environmental requirements associated with the nitrates directive and meet with the agreement of the European Commission.

Teagasc has not been specifically requested to review its advice on nitrogen issues. However, to the extent that its revised submission on crop nutrient requirements suggests any further beneficial adjustments to the regulatory regime, these will be considered. The possibility of such further adjustments will also depend on their respecting the environmental requirements involved, and on their acceptance by the European Commission.

A central issue arising from the nitrates directive is the need to secure a derogation which will allow certain farmers to operate, under appropriate conditions and controls, up to a level of 250 kg of organic nitrogen per hectare. The proposal was given an initial presentation to the EU nitrates committee in December, and further scientific data have been supplied to the Commission following bilateral discussions. The proposal will need to be discussed again at future meetings of the nitrates committee before approval can be obtained. Securing this derogation is vital for the most productive dairy farmers in particular, and it is important that the position on the regulations is clarified at an early date so that the negotiations on the derogation can proceed.

Asylum Applications.

David Stanton

Question:

216 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding children of people who have been granted refugee status here and who are currently residing in the country of origin, being granted permission to join their parents here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6072/06]

When a person is granted refugee status they are given comprehensive information on their rights and entitlements in the State, including information on family reunification. In addition, my Department's website, www.justice.ie, also contains a detailed information leaflet on family reunification.

Garda Deployment.

Finian McGrath

Question:

217 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a safety and security plan will be put in place along Killester Park, Dublin 5, following a spate of car wheel thefts; and if Garda patrols will be increased in the area at night. [6073/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the area referred to is actively patrolled by uniformed and plain-clothes gardaí from Raheny Garda station. I understand from the Garda authorities that three incidents of theft from vehicles have occurred at the location referred to since 1 January 2006, and these are under active investigation.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that the current policing strategies for the area are predicated on the policy of reducing and preventing incidents of public order offending, the prevention of crimes of violence against persons and property and the maintenance of an environment conducive to the improvement of quality of life. Community policing is a central feature and core value in policing policy by local Garda management. These strategies are, and will continue to be, the core value in policing plans for the area for the future.

Road Safety.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

218 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the estimated number of locations nationwide where it is anticipated that speed cameras will be located; the estimated cost of establishing such a network of cameras; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6090/06]

The purpose of the speed camera initiative is to enhance overall road safety and help reduce the numbers of deaths and serious injuries on our roads. The performance criteria to be applied will be determined by the Garda Síochána, and the deployment of cameras will be focused on locations where there is an established or prospective risk of collisions. The Garda Síochána, as the traffic law enforcement agency in the State, will be responsible for the outsourcing project.

The Garda authorities inform me that the safety camera project will commence with approximately 500 to 600 locations countrywide — about 15 to 20 locations per local authority area. Speed checks will take place at these locations at times decided by a matrix which will link the checks to speed related collision data. The number of locations will be increased as necessary to achieve the targeted road safety objectives of increasing compliance with speed limits across the entire road network, reducing the speed of vehicles at locations that have a speed related collision history and acting as a deterrent to driving at excessive speed.

With regard to the cost of implementing speed cameras, the selection of an outsource provider will be made by way of an open and competitive tendering process. In accordance with EU and national procurement guidelines a request for tender will be published in the EU journal and on the Government's procurement website. All tender proposals received will be evaluated on an individual basis in accordance with the criteria set down in the request for tender. I am not in a position at this time to indicate to the Deputy the potential cost of the project as this will depend, inter alia, on the tenders received.

Visa Applications.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

219 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Question No. 302 of 15 December 2005, if his attention has been drawn to the fact that correspondence including a copy of the appeal letter to the visa appeals officer, which was forwarded to him by this Deputy on 2 December 2005, was acknowledged on 5 December 2005; if, in view of same, the reason his reply stated that an appeal against the decision to refuse this visa application has not been received in his Department; if he will review this case as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6117/06]

The appeal in question was received as part of a representation made by the Deputy. Therefore, it did not come through the normal route through which appeal papers are provided to the visa unit of my Department.

Appeal papers and accompanying documentation provided through the normal route are immediately recorded and given to the visa appeals officer for consideration. I can inform the Deputy that a one month visit visa has been approved.

Prison Medical Service.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

220 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding tendering for the provision of medical goods for Irish jails; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6119/06]

The Irish Prison Service, IPS, currently purchases medical goods, including medical gloves, on the basis of the individual requirements of practising medical professionals within the service. However, the IPS also utilises a national contract put in place by the Government Supplies Agency, following a national tendering competition, to purchase some types of medical gloves.

The IPS is currently rationalising the procedures for the purchase of pharmacy — medicines — and ancillary medical goods, such as dressings and medical gloves. It has successfully completed two pilot projects and now proposes to run a national tender process following the same pilot models for the supply of such medical goods. It is expected that the tender process will commence within the next few months.

Deportation Orders.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

221 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will reconsider his decision to deport a person (details supplied) who has integrated into their locality and who is a volunteer youth worker with the National Youth Council of Ireland; his views on whether this person could play a positive role in society; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6149/06]

I refer the Deputy to the reply I gave to Questions Nos. 459 and 469 on Tuesday, 7 February 2006, in which I outlined the position. The enforcement of the deportation order is now an operational matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Prisoner Releases.

Joe Costello

Question:

222 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the law and practice governing the release of convicted sex offenders from custody; the nature of the monitoring that takes place; the extra measures which are in place to guard against paedophiles re-offending on release; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6154/06]

The Sex Offenders Act 2001 contains provisions under Part 2 of the Act relating to the release from prison of persons convicted of a sexual offence listed in the Schedule to the Act. In accordance with the provisions of the Act, the governor of the prison or the person in charge at the time, must advise the Garda Síochána of the impending release of such offenders. In addition, the governor of the prison or the person in charge at the time must also inform the convicted person, prior to their final release from the prison, of their obligation to notify the Garda Síochána of his or her name and address within seven days of their release from custody. Thereafter, the offender must notify the gardaí of any change of name or address within seven days of that change.

Notification of any address where the offender spends either as much as seven days or two or more periods amounting to seven days in any 12 month period must also be given to the gardaí. If the offender intends to leave the State for a period of seven days or more, he or she must inform the gardaí of this fact and the address at which he or she intends to stay, and also notify the gardaí of his or her return. The provisions of the Act also extend to any sex offenders entering this jurisdiction from abroad who have an obligation to register in their own countries.

If the court imposed an order for post-release supervision, Part 5 of the 2001 Act obliges the convicted person to undergo supervision by the probation and welfare service for a specified period and to comply with such conditions that are specified in the sentence for securing that supervision. Should a sex offender fail to comply with their obligations as outlined in the Act, the offender is guilty of an offence and subject to a fine of £1,500 or €1,905 and-or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months.

Additional measures contained in the Sex Offenders Act 2001 make it mandatory for a convicted sex offender to inform their employer or future employer of their conviction if their job entails having unsupervised access to children. The Act also allows for a chief superintendent of the Garda Síochána to request the court to make a sex offender order, whereby a sex offender can be prohibited from behaving in a particular way, where such behaviour is perceived by the court as having a potential danger to the welfare of children. It should be noted that Garda clearance is now required for potential employees in a number of occupations which entail access to or authority over children.

My Department, the Irish Prison Service and the probation and welfare service are collectively examining all the issues involved in increasing the number of sex offenders attending programmes, both in prison and in the community. As well as looking at how to get prisoners into the current programme, they are examining how the services can improve the range of interventions available to offenders, and thereby increase the number of offenders addressing their offending. Their core concern is that any approach proposed should contribute to enhancing societal and community protection.

In the context of the Good Friday Agreement and the subsequent Criminal Justice Review of Northern Ireland, an intergovernmental agreement on North-South co-operation on criminal justice matters was signed on behalf of the Irish and British Governments in July 2005. One of the items included in the work programme for the first year is the establishment of a working group to review the arrangements for exchanging information on registered sex offenders.

The first meeting of the working group of officials to implement the agreement took place in Dublin in November 2005. The meeting agreed to the establishment of a registered sex offenders advisory group. This group will evaluate the potential for sharing information, including potential benefits and barriers, and will identify areas for future co-operation. The group will consist of representatives of the Garda Síochána, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, my Department and the Northern Ireland Office. In addition, the probation and welfare service and the Probation Board for Northern Ireland are in the process of drawing up a protocol for the management of sex offenders which would establish mutual arrangements for continued enforcement of community sanctions. This development is the result of a memorandum of understanding between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Ireland on information sharing arrangements relating to sex offenders.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Joe Costello

Question:

223 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of inquiries or tribunals that have been established in the past ten years; the number that have completed their work and have issued final reports; the cost to the Exchequer of each inquiry or tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6155/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following tabular statement.

Name of Inquiry-Tribunal

Completed Yes-No

Final Report

Cost to Exchequer

Barr Tribunal — Tribunal of Inquiry into facts and circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of John Carthy at Abbeylara, Co. Longford on 20 April, 2000.

No

Expected mid-March 2006

€9,775,148.00 (to 31/12/05)

Tribunal of Inquiry into suggestions that members of the Garda Síochána or other employees of the State colluded in the fatal shootings of RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and RUC Superintendent Robert Buchanan on 20 March 1989.

No

The work of the Tribunal is ongoing.

€293,468.83 (to 31/12/05)

Inquiry carried out by Mr. Justice Francis D. Murphy under the provisions of section 21 of the Courts of Justice (District Court) Act 1946 in regard to the propriety of Judge O’Buachalla’s handling of the licensing of Jack White’s Inn and the discharge of judicial functions in certain cases brought before him by two gardaí.

Yes

November 2000

€670,000.00

National Irish Bank Inquiry — The High Court appointed inspectors under Section 8 of the Companies Act, 1990 on the application of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment with effect from 1 April 1998.

Yes

July 2004

€5,842,959.92 — this was reimbursed to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in April 2005

Ansbacher Inquiry — The High Court appointed inspectors under section 8 of the Companies Act 1990 on the application of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment with effect from 22 September 1999.

Yes

June 2002

€3.45 million —€1.25 million was reimbursed to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in early 2004.

Tribunal of Inquiry into complaints concerning some gardaí of the Donegal Division

No

Ongoing. Two reports published to date.

€21.6 million to end January 2006

Review of action taken and of relevant papers held by the Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform in relation to allegations that members of the Garda Síochána in Donegal Division engaged in criminal, unethical or unprofessional behaviour — Report by Shane Murphy SC

Yes

Report presented to the Minister in January 2002

€0.108 million

Review of action taken and of relevant papers held by the Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in relation to the making of false inculpatory statements by Mr Dean Lyons in the course of the Garda investigation into the deaths of Mary Callinan and Sylvia Sheils at Grangegorman, Dublin in March 1997 — report by Shane Murphy SC

Yes

Report presented to the Minister in July 2005

€0.074m

Hartnett Inquiry under the Dublin Police Act, 1924, into the circumstances surrounding the arrest, treatment and detention of Brian Rossiter (deceased) in 2002

No

Ongoing

€0.022m (to end January 2006)

Commission of Investigation into the circumstances surrounding the making of a confession by Dean Lyons (deceased) about the deaths of Ms Mary Callinan and Ms Sylvia Sheils in Grangegorman, Dublin in March 1997.

No

Ongoing

Nil (Established on 7 February, 2006)

Mountjoy Prison Site.

Joe Costello

Question:

224 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date in 2006 in preparing planning applications for the site at Mountjoy Prison; if he proposes to transfer some of the site to the Mater Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6156/06]

The Office of Public Works is currently assembling the expertise required to produce proposals for the future use of the Mountjoy site. Following a consultation process with the planning authority and all interested parties, it is intended that the OPW will be in a position to make a planning application for the site in the latter half of this year. I do not propose to transfer any part of the Mountjoy Prison site to the Mater Hospital.

Garda Recruitment.

Joe Costello

Question:

225 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the proposals he has for requiring new Garda trainees recruited from immigrant ethnic groups to undergo an intensive course in Irish; the reason he has changed his policy on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6157/06]

As the Deputy is aware, I made a number of changes in September 2005 to the rules governing entry to the Garda Síochána, including removing the requirement to hold a qualification in both Irish and English in the leaving certificate or equivalent, in favour of a requirement to hold a qualification in two languages, at least one of which must be Irish or English.

Irish society is increasingly diverse in its composition. The previous absolute requirement for Garda trainees to hold an academic qualification in Irish was undoubtedly a barrier to membership of the Garda Síochána for many persons. My changes to the eligibility criteria have opened up entry to the Garda Síochána to persons from all of our different ethnic communities. This is a hugely significant step which will help to ensure that future intakes of recruits to the Garda Síochána reflect the composition of Irish society, to the benefit of the force and the people it serves.

I want to make it clear, however, that Irish will continue to have an important place in the Garda Síochána. Everyone who wishes must be able to communicate with the force through our native language. The Garda Síochána has a very strong commitment to delivering a service through Irish. Indeed, proficiency in Irish is strongly promoted within the force and that will continue to be the case.

Future recruits to the Garda Síochána who do not have a qualification in Irish when commencing their period of training will, therefore, be required to achieve an appropriate standard in Irish before becoming full members of the force. Details of the Irish language training programme for Garda trainees will be finalised shortly by the Garda Commissioner, in consultation with my Department and the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy O'Cuív.

Visa Applications.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

226 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the criteria, rules, regulations, processes and procedures for a non-EU national working with residency status here to bring their child, a minor, to live with them here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6159/06]

The Deputy will be aware that at present there is no specific legislation governing family reunification for migrants who are not refugees. There is a set of administrative procedures in place for non-refugees. There has been a recent review of the provisions regarding family reunification for migrant workers and the current arrangements for the processing of such applications are set out as follows.

A non-EEA national who is not visa required and is working in the State on an employment permit or under the work authorisation scheme may apply for family reunification — spouse, minor child — immediately. A non-EEA national who is visa required and working in the State under the working visa scheme may apply for family reunification — spouse, minor child — immediately. A non-EEA national who is visa required and is working on an employment permit and working in an occupation included in the working visa-work authorisation scheme may apply for family reunification — spouse, minor child — immediately.

A non-EEA national who is visa required and is working in the State on an employment permit may apply for family reunification — spouse, minor child — on condition that he or she has been working here for at least 12 months and is likely to remain so for a similar period, that is, the work permit has been renewed. The earnings criteria which apply to such applications are detailed on my Department's website.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

227 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the application by a person (details supplied) for documentation to travel abroad will be processed; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the young scientist award-winning student in question has won a trip to the European Parliament in Strasbourg in April 2006 as part of a transition year competition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6160/06]

Arrangements are being put in place to process the application from the person concerned for the issue of travel documents to facilitate her travel to Strasbourg in April 2006.

Residency Permits.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

228 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be reached on the application for residency on humanitarian grounds of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6161/06]

The person concerned, a Nigerian national, arrived in the State on 23 June 1999 and applied for asylum. Her claim for refugee states was considered under the process then applicable and was refused by the asylum division of my Department. She was notified of the decision on 25 May 2000. She appealed this decision to the appropriate body at the time, the appeals authority, which affirmed the decision of the asylum division. She was notified of this decision on 27 July 2000.

In accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, the person concerned was informed on 27 July 2000 that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. In accordance with the Act, she was given the options of making representations within 15 working days setting out the reasons she should not be deported, that is, be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; leaving the State before the deportation order was made or consenting to the making of the deportation order. Representations setting out reasons she should not be deported were subsequently received.

I expect the case file to be submitted to me shortly for decision. This decision will be taken having regard to considerations specified in section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended. These considerations include matters relating to the common good, the person's family and domestic circumstances, as well as humanitarian considerations. Consideration will also be given to the prohibition of refoulement which is contained in section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

229 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be reached on the application of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford for residency on humanitarian grounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6162/06]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 1 February 2002 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, he was informed by letter dated 27 February 2003 that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; leaving the State before an order is made or consenting to the making of a deportation order.

His case file, including all representations submitted, will be considered under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, prohibition of refoulement. I expect the file to be passed to me for decision in due course.

Deportation Orders.

Jack Wall

Question:

230 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his position with regard to submissions (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6199/06]

Willie Penrose

Question:

233 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review a decision by his Department to deport a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6212/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 230 and 233 together.

I refer the Deputies to my response to Question No. 246 of Wednesday, 15 February 2006. The position has not changed.

Security Industry.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

231 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether further steps are necessary to ensure that persons with criminal records are not issued with licences under the Private Security Act 2004, bearing in mind that he stated in reply to Question No. 191 of 7 December 2005 that the Private Security Act 2004 had put in place stringent criteria to ensure that the private security industry operated to a high standard and that all applicants for licence had to undergo criminal record checks by the Garda Síochána; and if further legislative changes or other measures are necessary arising from recent clear breaches of security, including the one at the National Gallery. [6208/06]

The Deputy will be aware that the Private Security Authority has put stringent criteria in place to protect the private security industry from infiltration by criminals. All licence applicants will undergo criminal records checking by the Garda Síochána. This will apply to employees, principals and directors of private security companies. It is an offence not to disclose details of a conviction or convictions when applying to the authority for a licence.

Licensing for individuals employed in the private security industry will commence on 1 April this year. From that time, employees of door security and security guarding companies, along with persons employed ‘in-house' by any organisation or business to perform security duties, who apply to the Private Security Authority for a licence, will undergo a Garda criminal records check as part of their licence application. Licences for individuals will become mandatory from 1 April 2007.

I am confident that the measures put in place by the Private Security Authority, underpinned by the Private Security Services Act 2004, are geared to ensure that unacceptable persons are precluded from involvement in the private security industry.

Registration of Title.

Willie Penrose

Question:

232 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he will take to have an application for registration of Land Commission lands (details supplied) processed as quickly as possible, particularly the registration of the Land Commission allotment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6211/06]

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

Question No. 233 answered with QuestionNo. 230.

Garda Operations.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

234 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an evaluation of the pilot Garda traffic corp for Inishowen was undertaken; the findings of such a review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6214/06]

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

235 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the pilot traffic corp in Inishowen will be made permanent in view of the fact that its pilot date has now passed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6215/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 234 and 235 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that in response to the disturbing number of road fatalities in Buncrana district, a Garda traffic corps unit was established in the district on a pilot basis with effect from 20 October 2005. The unit was in addition to the traffic corps personnel already operating in the Donegal division. An interim evaluation has been conducted which indicates that there has been a reduction in the number of road traffic fatalities and an increase in the number of road traffic offences detected in the Buncrana district since the introduction of the unit.

I am further informed that Garda management is satisfied that the visibility provided by the traffic corps unit has had an influence on the reduction of certain crimes in the area, such as burglary and public disorder. I am also informed that, following this review, a decision has been made to extend the pilot scheme until 15 March 2006 when a further evaluation will be carried out.

Deportation Orders.

James Breen

Question:

236 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a deportation order on a person (details supplied) will be revoked; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6216/06]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 20 July 2001 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Office of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The person concerned was informed by letter, dated 29 August 2002, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him and afforded him three options in accordance with section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, namely, to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of a deportation order or to submit, within 15 working days, representations to the Minister, in writing, setting out the reasons he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State.

His case was examined under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 — prohibition of refoulement. Consideration was given to all representations received on his behalf for temporary leave to remain in the State. On 17 September 2003, I refused temporary leave to remain and instead signed a deportation order in respect of him. Notice of this order was served by registered post requiring him to present himself to the gardaí in Ennis, County Clare, on 20 November 2003, in order to make travel arrangements for his deportation from the State. The person concerned failed to present as required and was classified as evading his deportation. The effect of the deportation order is that he must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State.

The person referred to by the Deputy married an Irish national in Belfast on 5 November 2004. I understand he was subsequently granted temporary residency in the United Kingdom, based on this marriage to a national from another EU state exercising her treaty rights there. The person concerned attempted to illegally re-enter the State on 4 November 2005, but was refused leave to land on foot of his valid deportation order and was returned to the United Kingdom.

The person concerned has made an application through his legal representatives to my Department for the revocation of his deportation order and permission to reside in Ireland based upon his marriage. This application has yet to be decided and a reply is expected to issue soon to his legal representatives.

Garda Training.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

237 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the resources available to the Garda driving and training school, including the breakdown of the personnel involved, its equipment and budget; the extra resources proposed to deal with the backlog of those who are driving on chief’s permission; the needs of an expanding traffic corps; and when same will be put in place. [6219/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that driving courses for members the Garda Síochána are conducted at the driving schools at the college in Templemore and in Garda headquarters on an ongoing basis. The courses incorporate cars from 1.4 cc, vans and personnel carriers and also include automatic cars. In addition, courses are conducted for other vehicles used throughout the force, including VIP vehicles, four-wheel drives, tow wagons, heavy goods vehicles and motor cycles.

As the Deputy is aware, divisional officers or chief superintendents have the power to authorise a member who is a holder of a full class "B" driving licence — standard car licence — to drive official cars and vans, subject to the member being otherwise deemed suitable. This applies only to a car or van. This is known as "chief's permission".

Members who have been issued with a certificate of competency — having completed an appropriate driving course — may also be authorised by divisional officers or chief superintendents to drive official vehicles. The certificate of competency allows a member to drive official vehicles where he or she has completed a course for that particular vehicle. The fact that members who hold a current class B driving licence may, with chief's permission, drive official cars is of assistance to Garda management from an operational point of view.

The total budget allocated to the Garda Síochána for 2006 is almost €1.3 billion. As the budget is not allocated on an activity basis, it is not generally possible to identify separately the funds provided for the Garda driving and training school.

The personnel strength of the Garda driving school at the end of 2005 was 24 — all ranks. Garda management state that the staffing levels and resources of the Garda driving and training school are currently being examined, with a view to reducing the number of personnel driving on chief's permission.

Registration of Title.

Pat Breen

Question:

238 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Questions Nos. 475 and 476 of 31 January 2006, when the applications will be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6222/06]

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

Asylum Support Services.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

239 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of privately-run direct provision centres for asylum seekers in the mid-west; and if he will provide a table of the number of asylum seekers who are housed in each centre and the amount paid to each operator of the centres over each of the past five years. [6229/06]

The Deputy should note the following table outlining the information he requested. "Mid-West" has been defined under the provisions of the Local Government Act 1991 (Regional Authorities) (Establishment) Order 1993 and covers Clare, north Tipperary and Limerick county council areas and Limerick city. The table indicates the maximum occupancy of each centre and the amounts paid for each contract period.

Mid-West Region: privately-run direct provision accommodation centres for asylum seekers.

Center

From

To

Number

Clyde House, St. Alphonsus St., Limerick

26.06.2000

25.06.2002

2,502,651

100

26.06.2002

01.02.2005

2,722,720

100

02.02.2005

29.03.2005

156,800

100

30.03.2005

To Date

1,037,960

110

Total

6,420,131

Scariff Court Hotel, Main St., Scariff, Co. Clare

12.04.2001

11.10.2001

248,747

Min: 40 Max: 60

12.10.2001

18.07.2002

391,118

50

19.07.2002

07.11.2002

156,464

50

15.07.2003

12.07.2004

760,760

75

13.07.2004

31.03.2005

495,180

70

01.04.2005

To Date

671,328

74

Total

2,723,597

The Clare Lodge, Summerhill, Ennis, Co. Clare

01.04.2000

31.03.2001

1,001,060

80

01.04.2001

30.03.2002

877,220

80

31.03.2002

31.12.2002

513,084

65

01.01.2003

23.03.2004

810,992

65

24.03.2004

To Date

1,239,329

65

Total

4,441,685

Westbourne Holiday Hostel, Dock Road, Limerick

25.06.2001

31.12.2002

1,585,585

100

01.01.2003

15.06.2004

1,509,327

Min: 95 Max: 101

16.06.2004

To Date

1,746,360

100

Total

4,841,272

Trevor Sargent

Question:

240 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the annual operating costs over each of the past five years of the Government-run direct provision centre at Knockalisheen and the initial capital outlay; the number of asylum seekers who have been accommodated at the centre to date in 2006; the number currently being accommodated; and the average daily numbers accommodated in 2004 and 2005. [6230/06]

The figures for the initial capital outlay are a matter for the Office of Public Works.

The operating costs for Knockalisheen are listed as follows and include the cost of the management contract, utilities and purchases, but do not include maintenance, which is provided by the Office of Public Works: 2001 —€500,171.27 — opened on 1 October 2001; 2002 —€1,604,803.41; 2003 —€2,308,476.93; 2004 —€2,403,166.30; 2005 —€1,891,173.30; and 2006 to date —€182,270.76.

The number of asylum seekers accommodated at Knockalisheen up to 12 February 2006 is 1,542. The current occupancy at 12 February is 232. The average weekly occupancy in 2004 was 243 and in 2005 it was 247.63. The reception and integration agency, RIA, does not maintain statistics on the average daily occupancy.

Crime Levels.

Richard Bruton

Question:

241 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the crime figures and the detection rates by the Garda in 2002, 2004 and 2005, classified by headline and non-headline crimes. [6237/06]

The figures sought by the Deputy regarding 2002 and 2004 are available in the respective annual reports of the Garda Síochána. I recently published the recorded figure for headline offences in 2005, which amounted to 101,659. Figures provided for 2005 are provisional, operational and liable to change. The number of non-headline offences recorded for 2005, and the detection rate for all offences, will be published in due course.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

242 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will reconsider under other criteria an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6245/06]

I am advised by officials in the citizenship section of my Department that there is no record of an application for naturalisation having been received from the person referred to by the Deputy.

The person concerned arrived in the State in November 2001 and claimed asylum. Her application was refused in September 2002 and an appeal against this decision was refused in June 2003. She subsequently applied for permission to remain in the State on foot of her parentage of a child born in Ireland on 1 January 2005.

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2004, which came into operation on 1 January 2005, provided for significant changes in the eligibility to Irish citizenship of persons born in the island of Ireland. On the basis that the person concerned gave birth to a child on 1 January 2005, it was necessary for her to have been resident in the State for three years in the four year period prior to the date of birth of the child. Time spent in the State without the permission of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform or where such permission was for the purposes of seeking asylum does not reckon for this purpose.

Since the person concerned was in the asylum process until June 2003, she did not satisfy the three year residency requirement at the time of the child's birth and the child is not entitled to Irish citizenship. There can be no question, therefore, of the person concerned obtaining leave to remain solely on foot of the birth of this child. Furthermore, the person concerned is not eligible for naturalisation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

243 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in respect of 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. [6246/06]

In my response to Question No. 1189 of 25 January 2006, I informed the Deputy that my officials had sought clarification on aspects of the declaration lodged by the person concerned.

Although a response was recently received through the Deputy's office, the information contained therein does not satisfactorily resolve the matter. It appears that the person concerned and her husband have been living in different jurisdictions for most of their married lives and my officials wish to be satisfied that the couple were living together as husband and wife at the time the person concerned lodged a declaration of post-nuptial citizenship on 4 February 2005. The information provided to date is not satisfactory in this regard.

My officials are in the process of writing again to the person concerned with a view to having this matter resolved as quickly as possible.

Refugee Status.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

244 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the decision not to grant refugee status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin in view of the existence of clear evidence to suggest a danger to their life and well-being if returned to their homeland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6248/06]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 23 October 2003. The claim was investigated at first instance by the Refugee Applications Commissioner who concluded that the person concerned did not meet the criteria for recognition as a refugee. The commissioner's recommendation was communicated to the person concerned by letter dated 14 July 2005.

The person concerned appealed this recommendation to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which, following consideration of the appeal, affirmed the earlier recommendation. The outcome of the appeal was made known to the person concerned by letter dated 7 February 2006.

In accordance with normal procedures, the file of the person concerned has been forwarded to the ministerial decisions unit in my Department for final processing. I understand that a representative of that unit will be writing to the person concerned in the coming days to inform them of my formal decision in their case and of the options now open to them vis-à-vis their position in the State.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

245 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if extended residency will be granted in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24 who has demonstrated strong reasons to fear for his health and safety in the event of return to his homeland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6249/06]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 2 May 2003 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, he was informed by letter dated 25 April 2005 that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; leaving the State before an order is made or consenting to the making of a deportation order.

His case file, including all representations submitted, will be considered under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 — prohibition of refoulement. I expect the file to be passed to me for decision in due course.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

246 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the decision to deport in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford in view of the danger of a life-threatening situation in the event of return to that person’s homeland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6250/06]

While it is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications, the issue of deportation in this case does not arise at present.

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted. A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

247 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if extended leave to remain here will be granted in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford who has demonstrated good reason to fear for his safety in the event of deportation to his homeland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6251/06]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 14 December 2003 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, he was informed by a letter dated 3 August 2005 that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; leaving the State before an order is made or consenting to the making of a deportation order.

His case file, including all representations submitted, will be considered under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 — prohibition of refoulement. I expect the file to be passed to me for decision in due course.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

248 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if extended residency will be granted to facilitate required medical and psychological treatment in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6252/06]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 26 February 2003 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and on appeal by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Subsequently, in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, he was informed by letter dated 15 February 2005 that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him.

He was given the options to be exercised within 15 working days of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State, leaving the State before an order is made or consenting to the making of a deportation order. His case file, including all representations submitted, will be considered under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, which relates to the prohibition of refoulement. I expect the file to be passed to me for decision in due course.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

249 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason his Department has continued to insist on the transfer of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin to Belgium in view of the existence of clear proof of illness arising from torture in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that information previously given by way of reply to a parliamentary question incorrectly indicated that this person failed to submit a relevant appeal; if he will authorise an extended period of residency on medical, humanitarian and safety grounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6253/06]

I refer the Deputy to my replies to Question No. 149 of Thursday, 26 January 2006, and Question No. 181 of Thursday, 9 February 2006. In response to Question No. 149 of Thursday, 26 January last, I indicated that an appeal against the determination of the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner to transfer the asylum applicant to Belgium had not been received by the Office of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. In fact, an appeal had been made on 23 January but that information was not available to me when the answer in question was drafted. I regret that I unintentionally misled the Deputy on this point. In any event, the appeal was rejected by the appeals tribunal and the original determination to transfer was upheld. The applicant and her legal representatives have been informed of the outcome by the tribunal.

The applicant in question is not being removed to the Democratic Republic of Congo but to Belgium, where her claim will be considered. Like Ireland, Belgium is a party to and thus bound by international obligations and human rights instruments prohibiting refoulement. The current development of a common EU asylum policy is predicated on the full and inclusive application by member states of the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees and its 1967 New York protocol maintaining the principle of non-refoulement. Council Regulation (EC) No 432/2003 is based on this common policy and all regulation states are considered safe for returning third country nationals.

Having regard to these considerations and the fact that Belgium is responsible under the regulation for the examination of the woman's asylum application, which includes refoulement considerations, the transfer cannot be deemed to give rise to refoulement. I repeat that the transfer will be dealt with in a sympathetic and humane way and the woman’s medical needs will be made known to the Belgian authorities. If necessary, medical escorts to accompany her on the flight will be provided.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

250 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if extended residency status will be given in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6256/06]

The immigration division of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has recently been in correspondence with the person concerned requesting documentation in support of her application for residency. A decision will be made on the case upon receipt of all the documentation requested.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

251 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency for persons (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6262/06]

The person in question arrived in the State on 26 August 1997 and claimed asylum. She withdrew this application on 3 October 1997 and applied for permission to remain based on her parentage of an Irish-born child. She was granted residency in the State on this basis on 6 October 1997.

I understand from records available to the Department that she maintained her residency status in the State until 10 October 2001 but did not attempt to renew her permission to remain in the State until 5 June 2003. Evidence was requested to verify her presence in the State during the period in question to consider the residency renewal application but no response has been received to this request to date. The matter will be considered further on receipt of written correspondence by the Department's immigration division.

Citizenship Applications.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

252 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for citizenship for a person (details supplied) County Donegal; and when this application will be approved. [6272/06]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy was received by the Department's citizenship section in January 2004. I have been advised by my officials that the processing of the application has almost been completed and that the file will be forwarded to me for a decision in the near future. I will be in touch with the Deputy and the applicant when the case has been finalised.

Road Traffic Offences.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

253 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Question No. 493 of 31 January 2006, if he will establish with the Garda Commissioner the policy in respect of roadside breathalysers; the reason no breathalysers were used in the Dublin south and Dublin north central divisions in 2004; the reason the practice in these divisions differs from that in all other divisions; his views on the impact of this practice on the levels of drink driving in these two divisions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6273/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that use of the alcometer by a member of the Garda when forming his or her opinion about drink driving under the Road Traffic Acts 1963-2003 is not a necessary proof in such prosecutions. The failure to use the alcometer in the two Garda divisions in question has not adversely affected the rate of convictions in the divisions.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

254 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedures to be followed by a person (details supplied) who is anxious to obtain citizenship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6290/06]

The person referred to by the Deputy arrived in the State in August 2000 and claimed asylum. That application was refused in January 2001 and an appeal was not submitted within the permitted time limits. I informed the Deputy in response to Question No. 22 of 2 February last that the person was granted permission to remain in the State on 30 September 2002 on foot of her parentage of an Irish-born child. She has permission to remain in the State until September 2007.

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform may in his absolute discretion grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation as long as certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. The applicant must be of full age or, by way of exception, be a minor born in the State; 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; intend in good faith to continue to reside in the State after naturalisation; and 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.

It should be noted in the context of naturalisation that certain periods of residence in the State are excluded. These include periods of residence in respect of which an applicant does not have permission to remain in the State, periods granted for the purposes of study and periods granted for the purposes of seeking recognition as a refugee within the meaning of the Refugee Act 1996. That means that time spent in the State by the person concerned prior to September 2002 is not reckonable for naturalisation. The earliest date she is eligible to apply for naturalisation is September 2007, as long as she has maintained her permission to remain without any gaps since it was first granted in September 2002.

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2004, which came into operation on 1 January 2005, provided for significant changes in the eligibility to Irish citizenship of persons born in the island of Ireland. On the basis that the person concerned gave birth to the child in question after 1 January 2005, it would have been necessary for her to have resided in the State for three years in the four year period before the date of birth of the child. For the purposes of calculating this three year period, time spent in the State without the permission of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform or where such permission was for the purposes of seeking asylum does not reckon. Consequently, unless the child was born after 30 September 2005 — three years from the date the person concerned obtained permission to remain in the State — the child is not entitled to Irish citizenship.

Further information on the naturalisation process may be obtained from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform's website, www.justice.ie, or by telephoning the citizenship section helpline — at lo-call 1890 551500 or 01 6167700 — on Tuesdays or Thursdays between 10 a.m. and 12.30 p.m.

Psychological Service.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

255 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools which have access to the National Educational Psychological Service; if the information will be provided in tabular format according to county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6067/06]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

256 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of secondary schools which have access to the National Educational Psychological Service; if the information will be provided in tabular format according to county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6068/06]

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

All primary and post-primary schools have access to psychological assessments for their pupils, either directly from psychologists employed under the Department of Education and Science's National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, or through the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, which is administered by NEPS. Schools to which NEPS psychologists have not been assigned may avail of the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, whereby they can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, which will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly. Details of this process and the conditions which apply to the scheme are available on the Department's website.

The prioritisation of urgent cases for assessment is a matter for the school principal in the first instance. The number of NEPS psychologists has increased from 43 on establishment to 121 at present. The Public Appointments Service recently established new recruitment panels for NEPS. Regional panels are in place and the Department is in the process of appointing a number of new psychologists. Priority is being given to filling vacancies in areas of greatest need. Any increase in the number of psychologists in NEPS will depend on the availability of resources and must take account of Government policy on public sector numbers.

NEPS provides assistance to all schools and school communities which experience critical incidents, regardless of whether they have a NEPS psychologist assigned to them. NEPS processes applications for reasonable accommodation in certificate examinations from all schools and responds to queries relating to individual children from other sections of the Department and the specialist agencies. The information sought about the numbers of schools with access to NEPS is contained in the following table.

County

Primary schools with NEPS service*

Total Primary schools*

Percentage Primary with NEPS service

PostPrimary schools with NEPS service