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 6, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 7 to 62, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 63 to 69, inclusive, answered orally.

Electricity Generation.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

70 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he is satisfied that current available generating capacity is adequate to meet requirements; if he proposes changes to ensure continuity of supply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6617/06]

Security of electricity supply is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation under Article 28 of the European Communities (Internal Market in Electricity) Regulations 2005.

In the performance of its monitoring and corrective functions the Commission is advised by ESB National Grid-EirGrid as the transmission system operator. The transmission system operator's report on generation adequacy 2006-2012 has indicated that the margin between capacity and demand is tighter than normal this winter.

In the medium term the generation adequacy position should be manageable from 2006 to 2008 provided new generation plant comes on stream as scheduled, plant availability performance improves and there are no unexpected closures of existing plant. The conclusion of the TSO is that in 2009 and beyond the addition of new generation capacity would be prudent. The importance of improving plant availability is emphasised in the report.

External generation can make a significant contribution to capacity in the future through the planned new North-South and east-west interconnectors. There is no room for complacency in relation to either plant capacity in the medium term and plant availability performance in the short term. I will look to the Commission for Energy Regulation and the transmission system operator to keep me regularly advised on the results of ongoing monitoring and analysis.

Mobile Telephony.

Seán Crowe

Question:

71 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on whether it is essentially businessmen or businesswomen, with their post pay mobile phones, who are the real winners as pre-pay customers in view of a company’s (details supplied) announcement regarding mobile phone roaming charges; and if so, the measures which are being used to combat same. [6699/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

89 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the measures being taken in view of a company’s (details supplied) recent statement that it will abolish mobile phone roaming fees in order that the Border cannot be used as an excuse to overcharge customers. [6702/06]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

102 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the measures which have been devised to encourage other Irish operators into following a company’s (details supplied) lead regarding the positive moves on roaming charges from April 2006. [6700/06]

Willie Penrose

Question:

124 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources re the recent abolishment of inadvertent mobile phone roaming charges between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland; the measures he is proposing at EU level to tackle international roaming charges; his views on the recent advice of the British regulator (details supplied) for British mobile users to use pre-paid cards when abroad to avoid international roaming charges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6713/06]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

132 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has had communication with the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs regarding the hidden charges of mobile phone companies; and if there are plans within his Department to examine the practice of delivery charges within the industry. [6744/06]

Gay Mitchell

Question:

137 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he expects further progress in the development of integrated telecommunication networks on an all-island basis having particular regard to the welcome announcement of the abolition of roaming charges by a company (details supplied); the way in which he sees such developments progressing in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6612/06]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

161 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if, due to the fact that EU pressure is being put on unscrupulous mobile phone operators to reduce or even remove their roaming costs, the pressure being put on Irish operators by the Government, following a company’s (details supplied) recent announcement. [6701/06]

John Deasy

Question:

169 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the steps he intends to take to ensure that the quality of mobile phone services here are brought up to that available in other jurisdictions, notwithstanding recent progress by a company (details supplied) in regard to roaming charges; if he expects other service providers to follow this pattern; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6641/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71, 89, 102, 124, 132, 137, 161 and 169 together.

The regulation of telecommunications operators, including regulatory issues surrounding pricing for mobile services and quality, is the responsibility of the Commission for Communications Regulation in accordance with the requirements of the Communications (Regulation) Act 2002 and regulations made under the EU regulatory framework for electronic communications.

All our EU partners are also subject to the same EU regulatory framework. Under this framework telecommunications markets are regulated on a national basis by independent regulators who have an accountability to this House. Ofcom is responsible for the regulation of telecommunications operators in Northern Ireland and ComReg regulates the sector here.

Any changes to the existing EU regulatory framework would be subject to negotiations at EU level. The EU regulatory framework is currently being reviewed at EU level. I have already raised and will continue to raise the issue of roaming with my EU counterparts and Commissioner Reding. I am not satisfied the high levels of roaming charges — for voice and text — are justified and I would like to see a much greater focus by the Commission on this issue.

I welcome the EU initiative announced by Commissioner Reding whereby the Commission hopes to have a regulation in place by 2007, which will provide that international roaming charges should be no higher than national roaming charges. In addition to this, I point out that there is close co-operation between both regulators and Governments.

I have prioritised roaming charges as an issue that is of concern to people on the island. My Northern counterpart, Minister Angela Smith and I have had a number of meetings with the regulators who are working with the operators North and South and looking at ways to address the issue of inadvertent roaming. These discussions have focused on improving network coverage and exploring tariff options. I realise this is an issue that involves business decisions which is a matter for the operators but I consider that it is totally unacceptable for any person to be incorrectly charged for roaming.

For my part, I have already taken the opportunity in meetings with the operators to raise this issue and will continue to do so. I will also continue to pursue the issue with the Northern Ireland Minister Angela Smith. I welcome the recent announcement by O2 that it will tackle the roaming issue both for bill pay and pay-as-you go users. O2's decision brings desirable competitive pressure on other mobile phone companies to also step up to the mark. However, I would like the broader issues addressed in relation to roaming as I consider the roaming charges generally are far too high.

My officials have written to the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs and highlighted the issue of individuals being charged international rates for inadvertent cross-Border roaming when they were actually making national calls. The recent announcement by O2 highlights that the solution to this matter rests with the operators.

Fisheries Protection.

Seán Ryan

Question:

72 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if measures will be brought forward to establish a buy-out scheme for drift-netting to protect Irish salmon stocks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6707/06]

The question of how best to manage the future fishing for wild Atlantic salmon is being reviewed in the context of setting the total allowable catch, TAC, for 2006. I am awaiting the advice of the National Salmon Commission in this regard and while it is disappointing that it did not arrive at a consensus at its meeting last week, I hope it can reconvene in time to submit appropriate advice on a timely basis.

The Government has to date consistently ruled out buyout as an effective means of achieving the restoration of salmon stocks and has instead, since 2002, promoted the application of quotas on commercial fishing and bag limits on angling to achieve catch reductions as the best instrument available to achieve this objective.

The Deputy will be aware of the Oireachtas joint committee's acknowledgement that any compensatory schemes should largely be funded by those stakeholders who would be the main economic beneficiaries of more salmon being free to return to the rivers. I also draw the Deputy's attention to the committee's comment that "public moneys spent must have, as a primary aim, ensuring the survival of the salmon species and that this precept must be regarded as more important than any economic gain to any sector that may accrue".

It is clear to me that future policy must be designed to ensure the survival of the species, while balancing the interests of various stakeholders in relation to the quantum of catch that appears to be possible within the independent scientific advice and taking account of the detail of that advice in relation to location and types of fishing.

I sound a note of caution about any possible compensatory scheme designed to address the financial impact of compliance with the scientific advice. There may be no legal requirement to introduce any compensation scheme in the event of a curtailment of fishing effort and in that context expectations of high levels of monetary compensation are unrealistic. Similarly and in consideration of equity in the matter, some meaningful contribution would be expected from the economic beneficiaries of a reduction in commercial fishing whether that is delivered in cash or in kind.

Energy Policy.

Bernard Allen

Question:

73 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position on an all-island energy policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6602/06]

Government policy on the creation of an all-island energy market is set out in the all-island energy market development framework which I jointly published with my Northern counterpart in November 2004.

The framework document provides the policy context for the actions needed to create an all-island energy market. The process is overseen by a joint steering group comprising my Department, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland and the two regulators.

The key priority within the framework is to have an all-island wholesale electricity market in place by 1 July 2007. The two regulators have already agreed the high-level principles governing the operation of this market and are now working on the detailed rules. This process involves close consultation with stakeholders.

A critical immediate priority for both Governments is to ensure that an appropriate legislative framework is in place to underpin the single electricity market. Delivery of the new single market by July 2007 presents a very challenging timeframe in which the necessary parallel legislation must be enacted. My officials are working intensively with their Northern colleagues and the two regulatory authorities to ensure that this target is met.

While the short-term priority is the creation of the single electricity market, the framework document also sets out a range of objectives requiring action in the short to medium term. The delivery of an all-island market in natural gas is one such objective and the two Departments are currently progressing the various actions to achieve this in conjunction with the two regulators.

Work is also under way to develop a long-term strategy for renewable energy on an all-island basis. A joint North-South public consultation on an all-island vision for renewable energy by 2020 and beyond has been undertaken. The aim is to develop an agreed joint policy paper this year on long-term sustainability of energy supplies, with a particular focus on renewable electricity generation.

Enhancement of gas and electricity infrastructure is a key enabler for the all-island energy market. Bord Gáis Éireann will complete the construction of the South-North gas pipeline from Gormanston to Belfast this year. The two electricity transmission system operators are also progressing the second North-South electricity interconnector project which is scheduled to be operational by 2012.

Co-operation on energy research and development and the coordination of energy emergency planning arrangements are also being advanced.

Mobile Telephony.

Liz McManus

Question:

74 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if measures will be brought forward to incorporate the regulation of premium rate telephone services under the direction of the communications regulator, ComReg; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6714/06]

The Office of the Regulator of Premium Rate Telecoms Services, RegTel, which authorises and supervises the content and promotion of premium rate telecommunications services within the Irish market is independent and does not report to me as Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. I, therefore, have no plans to amend RegTel's statutory basis nor have I received any request to do so. In addition, the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg has no role in relation to content. The area of consumer protection within which RegTel operates falls mainly under the remit of my colleague the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs.

Postal Services.

Simon Coveney

Question:

75 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if all outstanding matters of concern at An Post have been resolved to the satisfaction of all; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6607/06]

The recent developments at An Post, where the parties have accepted the Labour Court recommendations of 22 November last leading to a resolution to the industrial relations difficulties at An Post, are most welcome. I understand that both parties have recently signed off on the implementation plan which has given the green light to the implementation of the recovery strategy in line with the Labour Court's recommendation.

On foot of this recommendation, the company has paid the outstanding increases due last year under Sustaining Progress to all employees and pensioners and has agreed to pay all future increases as they fall due.

The company has also accepted the court's recommendation that all retrospective payments, relating to the 5% Sustaining Progress increase paid by An Post from 1 January last year, be made to its employees and pensioners as soon as the company is returned to reasonable and sustainable profit and when commercial circumstances permit.

I now look forward to the parties working together to implement the change programme that is so essential to the company's future financial viability and to providing the quality of service which customers are entitled to expect.

Energy Reserves.

Dan Boyle

Question:

76 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the procedures for reporting new oil and gas discoveries here; if his Department has received confirmation of new gas discoveries in the Lough Allen basin in the North West; and the potential reserves that might be involved and the returns which would accrue to the State as a result of such a find. [6741/06]

A new discovery resulting from petroleum exploration is reported to the petroleum affairs division, PAD, of my Department. The PAD holds regular meetings with the operators of all exploration authorisations to monitor the progress of the work programmes attached to each authorisation.

What the Deputy refers to in his question as new gas discoveries in the Lough Allen Basin is an article in a business magazine reporting an estimate of the resource potential which was carried out for the operator. This is a stage in the exploration process and may form the basis or justification for further exploration. Unfortunately, this estimate does not constitute a discovery.

My Department has not yet had sight of the reserves estimate and the work supporting it and I am not, therefore, in a position to comment on the estimate. The main benefits to the State of such a discovery would be an indigenous energy reserve and consequent security of supply for our future energy needs. This would mean a reduced dependence on gas imports at a time when our main supplier to date, the UK, is becoming a net importer as its reserves become depleted.

EU Directives.

John Gormley

Question:

77 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the measures he intends taking to ensure compliance with the proposed new European energy efficiency directive which will set a targeted 20% increase in energy efficiency by 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6748/06]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

105 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his proposals and targets for energy conservation and energy efficiency for the periods 2010 and 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6737/06]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

153 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if, in view of the European Commission directive on energy end-use efficiency and energy services that was adopted in December 2005 a national action plan has been drawn up; if not, the reason therefor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6706/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 77, 105 and 153 together.

The proposed directive on energy efficiency and energy services sets national indicative targets for energy saving and requires member states to produce energy efficiency action plans from 2007. The target is to save an annual quantity of energy equal to 1% of the quantity of energy supplied and-or sold to end customers, amounting to a 9% improvement in energy efficiency over the nine year period of application. We will meet this target through the accelerated development and promotion of targeted energy efficiency measures building on the programmes already successfully run by Sustainable Energy Ireland.

The Commission's Green Paper on energy efficiency sets a target of 20% increase in energy efficiency by 2020. The consultation phase of the Green Paper will conclude next month. Ireland fully supports the thrust of the Green Paper and I would not disagree with its conclusion that 20% energy efficiency target is both necessary and achievable for the EU.

In the context of the EU initiatives and our own national energy policy challenges, energy efficiency is a key strategic priority for me and the Government. I have mandated my Department and SEI to accelerate work in this area. In particular, work is under way to develop a comprehensive national energy efficiency campaign for 2006 and forward years which I will launch in the autumn.

Television Advertising.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

78 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he intends to introduce legislation on the prohibition of television advertising of unhealthy foods to children to other media; if there has been progress at EU level in changing the Television Without Frontiers Directive in order that advertising restrictions could apply to the satellite broadcasters which insert advertising aimed at the market here but who are located outside the State. [6745/06]

There are no existing legislative provisions prohibiting television advertisements that are directed at children in relation to food products. Section 19(1)(c) of the Broadcasting Act 2001 provides that the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland shall prepare a code specifying standards to be complied with and rules and practices to be observed, in respect of advertising which relate to matters likely to be of direct or indirect interest to children.

The commission published a children's advertising code, which came into effect on 1 January 2005. The drafting, monitoring and review of the code, are functions which the Oireachtas has provided the commission with statutory responsibility for and in respect of which I have no role.

The principal aim of the EU Commission's proposal to amend the Television Without Frontiers Directive is to put in place a new regulatory framework that takes account of advances in technology and market developments in a platform neutral manner. In the area of jurisdiction over broadcasters, the Commission has not proposed any significant amendments. Accordingly, the amended directive would still provide that where a broadcaster in one member state operates a service that primarily targets an audience in another member state that it is the national rules of the member state in which the broadcaster is based that shall apply to that broadcasting service.

This does not address the concerns raised by Ireland along with a number of other member states. Ireland will continue to strongly make the case for amending the directive to ensure that broadcasting services that primarily target Irish audiences would be subject to Irish rules.

Postal Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

79 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the continuing deterioration in postal delivery service here; if the universal service obligation is being fully implemented; the steps he is taking to ensure the universal service obligation is upheld; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6710/06]

I have no statutory function in this matter. Matters relating to quality and levels of postal service are a matter in the first instance for the management and board of An Post.

Question No. 80 answered with QuestionNo. 69.

Consultancy Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

81 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which he or his Department or subsidiary agencies rely on services offered by consultants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6647/06]

My Department is particularly mindful of the value for money imperative and the need to develop and deploy in-house skills as far as possible to minimise the requirement for consultancies. The Department also seeks to avail of skills and experiences of other Departments or other parts of the public sector where appropriate.

My Department's policy is to engage consultants or commission reports only in the following circumstances: where specialised knowledge or expertise not available in the Department or in the wider Civil or public service is required for a temporary period; where a need for objectivity and-or independence is deemed essential; where a consultancy study is required by an external body, for example, the EU; where a specialist study-project must be completed within a very short time scale; where the specialised knowledge or expertise may be available within the Department but an in-house solution would involve a prohibitive opportunity cost and-or would be impractical, for example, if staff would need to be diverted from other essential duties. The question of agencies' use of consultants is an operational matter which is outside my function.

Broadcasting Services.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

82 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the progress made in regard to the development of TG4 as a stand alone and independent broadcasting service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6614/06]

The external advisers appointed to assist in the preparation of a detailed implementation plan for the establishment of TG4 as an independent entity have submitted their final report to my Department. That report considers the most appropriate methodology and structure for giving effect to the separation of the assets and trade of TG4 from RTE and establishing TG4 as an independent entity. The report also considers issues relating to the transfer of staff, legal issues, taxation issues and funding issues. The consultants report has been considered by my Department which is in the process of finalising its recommendations to me.

Energy Reserves.

Joe Costello

Question:

83 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if, in view of the signing of an agreement between companies (details supplied) to explore the Dunquin project in the Porcupine Basin and the other reported major discovery in the County Sligo region, he will bring forward measures to change the licensing and regulatory regime for the exploration and exploitation of natural resources here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6705/06]

The Dunquin prospect is situated in the Porcupine Basin off the south west coast. The acreage in which this prospect lies is currently held by Providence Resources plc and Sosina Exploration Limited under frontier exploration licence 3/04. Although this prospect looks promising, there is still a substantial amount of work required to establish the extent of the hydrocarbons in place and whether such hydrocarbons can be commercially exploited.

Similarly, in relation to the two onshore petroleum exploration licences in the north west, more work will be required before commerciality can be established. The history of this resource may be summarised. Gas was first discovered in the 1960s by Marathon which found it uneconomic to develop and subsequent exploration-appraisal efforts were made in the 1980s by Aran Energy and the early 2000s by Evergreen Resources Inc with similar unsuccessful results. Evergreen has a strong track record in developing similar gas basins. It drilled two wells of a planned three, then relinquished its licence. Neither of these events constitute a discovery let alone a commercial find.

In these circumstances, I see no basis to change the present terms governing petroleum exploration and development in Ireland and its offshore. However, these terms are kept under constant review by my Department in light of the international market in which Ireland seeks to attract exploration companies.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

84 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if, in view of the reported bid by Bord na Móna to purchase EON’s Edenderry power plant the company is being transformed from a peat harvesting and production company to a broader based energy operation with renewable energy and waste management interests; if so, the implications for Bord na Móna’s long-term commercial status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6715/06]

The current core businesses of Bord na Móna plc — peat stock supply and horticultural products — are finite businesses due mainly to economic and environmental factors. Bord na Móna will continue to operate its existing peat supply, solid fuels and horticultural businesses to optimise value to the group while implementing new strategic directives.

I agree with the company's board and management that Bord na Móna should move to strategically diversify to underpin sustainable long-term viability for the company and ongoing shareholder value. The company has identified a number of strategic opportunities in emerging and expanding sectors around which to develop, expand and diversify the group's business.

Bord na Móna has, therefore, developed detailed future strategy proposals which I recently approved in consultation with my colleague, the Minister for Finance. This future strategy aims to transform Bord na Móna to a group in the energy, environmental and waste management sectors.

The identified strategic opportunities focus on: development of a waste management business; the potential for co-fuelling with biomass to extend the life of the peat-fired generating stations beyond the lifetime of the existing public service obligation contracts; growth of the alternative and renewable energy business through joint ventures in wind farming and potential supply of biomass in place of peat-stock to the peat-fired generating stations; possible ownership of peat-fired power stations; and research and development.

The proposed new strategic direction reflects the maturity of Bord na Móna's current businesses and its requirement to generate new commercial activities. Bord na Móna has historically had a mandate to operate commercially and the approved strategy is fully consistent with that mandate.

The taking forward of individual projects under the strategy will be subject to board approval and the requisite shareholder approvals from myself and the Minister for Finance. I have not as yet received any formal proposals on individual projects including any which have been the subject of recent media speculation.

Broadcasting Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

85 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his preferred options on the future development of the television industry with particular reference to free to air coverage of specific sporting events, such as the Ryder Cup; his plans for the future of terrestrial television; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6599/06]

In March 2003 the Broadcasting (Major Events Television Coverage) Act 1999 (Designation of Major Events) Order 2003 specified the events designated as events of major importance to society for which the right of a qualifying broadcaster to provide coverage on free television services should be provided in the public interest. Section 9 of the Broadcasting (Major Events Television Coverage) (Amendment) Act 2003 requires me to carry out a review of designated events not later than three years after the passing of the 2003 Act, that is to say, not later than April 2006. I announced my intention to commence this review in December 2005. The purpose of the review is to consider if the list of events designated in 2003 should be amended.

As part of the review, I initiated a public consultation process. My Department wrote to the sporting organisations that organise the events already designated, along with the European Tour and Ryder Cup, informing them of the review and seeking their views. My Department has also sought the views of broadcasters.

I have received submissions from event organisers, broadcasters and members of the public via written submission, e-mail and on an Internet forum. The submissions received have been made available on my Department's website. A report on the review is being prepared in my Department and I intend to complete the review shortly.

If, following the review, I decide to amend the list of designated events, then, in accordance with the provisions of the Broadcasting (Major Events Television Coverage) Act 1999, I will publish my intention to do so and seek the views of interested parties. This would involve a further formal consultation with event organisers and broadcasters. EU approval would also be required before I could lay an order before both Houses of the Oireachtas to give effect to the designation.

My core policy objectives for the development of the broadcasting sector are set down in my Department's statement of strategy 2005-07. This strategy was drawn up following consultation with key players in the industry and is available on my Department's website www.dcmnr.ie. Irish viewers will be best served by a broadcasting environment that includes a strong public service broadcasting presence, together with private broadcasters.

Departmental Schemes.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

86 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the status of the lost at sea compensation scheme; the amount of compensation awarded to date under the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6717/06]

Subject to specified criteria, a scheme to allow the capacity of a fishing vessel lost at sea before the coming into operation of the sea-fishing boat register to be accepted as replacement capacity, was launched in June 2001. The closing date for applications under the scheme was 31 December 2001.

It is incorrect to describe the scheme as a compensation scheme. It was not intended to and did not compensate qualifying applicants for the loss of life or of fishing vessels. Its purpose was to enable qualifying applicants, who were otherwise unable to do so for financial or related reasons, to provide replacement capacity for the purposes of introducing a replacement vessel to continue a family tradition of sea-fishing. The scheme did not provide financial support for the acquisition of a fishing vessel itself.

All applications received under the scheme were assessed and decisions made were communicated to the applicants. Some 68 applications were received and six were successful. The amount of capacity made available was based on the capacity of the lost vessel which was the subject of the application. There was no specified limit on the amount of capacity available for allocation under the scheme but the introduction of the scheme took into account the requirement that Ireland was required to keep within EU limits on the size of national fishing fleets. The total amount of replacement capacity made available to the six successful applicants was 283.7 gross tonnes and 1071.01 kilowatts.

Energy Policy.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

87 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he is proposing to bring forward measures to develop cross-Border renewable energy supplies after recent comments by the Northern Secretary, Mr. Peter Hain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6726/06]

The Northern Secretary recently underlined the imperative for Northern Ireland to develop a sustainable energy strategy which protects the environment, invests in renewables and delivers for consumers. We share those objectives North and South. We are progressing the sustainable agenda together in the context of the all-island energy market as well as driving ahead with our respective renewable energy funding schemes.

Both Governments are firmly committed to the creation of an all-island energy market to meet the challenge of ensuring safe, secure and sustainable energy supplies obtained through competitive energy markets. The all-island energy market development framework of 2004 gives concrete expression to that commitment. We have agreed a range of development priorities for the short to medium term.

The immediate priority is the establishment of the single electricity market by 2007 as a critical element of a successful all-island market. There are a number of medium term priorities which are also being progressed. These include maximising the benefits of sustainable energy in line with our respective and EU sustainable energy policies and targets. Work is well under way to create an all-island vision for renewable energy by 2020 and beyond. Targets post 2010 for the contribution of renewable energy to electricity production will be agreed in the framework of the all-island vision.

I will shortly launch the renewable energy grant scheme of €65 million which was announced in the budget and which will support domestic and industry take-up of biomass, geothermal and other renewables. The Northern Secretary has confirmed that he will be announcing a similar renewables package for Northern Ireland shortly.

Post Office Network.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

88 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will report on the number of post offices which have been closed in the past year here; the implications of this for local communities and especially for senior citizens and people with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6709/06]

I refer the Deputy to the following table which outlines the post offices closed or converted in the past year. The matter of post office closures is in the first instance an operational matter for the board and management of An Post and one in which I have no statutory function.

Post Office closures — 1 Jan 2005 to 31 December 2005

Sub-Office

County

Aghabog

MONAGHAN

Ardlogher

CAVAN

Brandon

KERRY

Brickens

MAYO

Broadford

KILDARE

Cadamstown

OFFALY

Clooneyquinn

ROSCOMMON

Coolbawn

KILKENNY

Cregganbaun

MAYO

Four Mile House

ROSCOMMON

Inch

WEXFORD

Killiney

DUBLIN

Loughan

MEATH

New Inn

CAVAN

Rahara

ROSCOMMON

Rathfeigh

MEATH

Strand

LIMERICK

Tagheen

MAYO

Question No. 89 answered with QuestionNo. 71.

Energy Policy.

Tom Hayes

Question:

90 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the full extent of grant aid available for energy production from biomass; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6639/06]

Michael Ring

Question:

98 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the discussions he has had with the Departments of Agriculture and Food, Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Transport and Finance with a view to the development of an attractive energy policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6628/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90 and 98 together.

The renewable energy grants package includes funding support for domestic renewable heat technologies, including wood pellet boilers, as well as medium and large scale biomass boilers for the services, business and industrial sectors building on last year's pilot scheme. The detailed measures to roll out the programmes are being finalised and I intend to launch the schemes in the near future.

The majority of biomass energy in Ireland is derived from wood products converted into heat. The biomass sector has attracted the largest level of support under Sustainable Energy Ireland's renewable energy research and development programme. A number of headline projects have been supported under the measure which are stimulating interest in solar and wood heating systems around the country.

To date Ireland has also achieved just over 20 MW of installed generating capacity from renewable biomass technologies operational on the electricity network. This is a promising start and the objective is to steadily increase the contribution from renewable energy sources, including biomass, to total electricity production. I am putting in place a new support programme that will move from competitive tendering under the alternative energy requirement, AER, programme to a fixed price based system to be known as the renewable energy feed in tariff, REFIT. The support programme will underpin the growth of the renewable energy contribution to electricity generators.

My Department is working closely with all relevant Departments, State agencies, the energy sector and industry generally in the development of strategies to underpin renewable and alternative energy policy objectives. The work of the group on bioenergy strategy and the renewable energy development group have been two important mechanisms for developing cohesive policy options taking account of the various sectoral perspectives.

Corrib Gas Pipeline.

Michael Noonan

Question:

91 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the degree to which outstanding matters affecting the development of the Corrib gas project have been addressed to date; if particular recommendations have been made or accepted; if changes have been proposed or made with a view to early resolution and utilisation of the resource; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6620/06]

As the Deputy is aware, I commissioned an international consulting company, Advantica, on 25 August 2005, to carry out a thorough and independent safety review of the onshore, upstream section of the Corrib gas pipeline. Advantica are world leaders in the area of advanced hazard and risk assessment technologies for gas pipelines. The consultants were asked to conclude whether or not the proposed installations will comply with recognised international "best practice" and will deliver a facility that is "fit for purpose".

In parallel with this safety review, I established a public consultation process to ensure that the concerns of the community would be fully addressed in this review. As part of this process, a two-day public hearing was held in Geesala on 12 and 13 October, chaired by Mr. John Gallagher SC, during which the community was given the opportunity to express its concerns directly to the consultants.

The safety review explicitly took into account the concerns expressed to the consultants at the public hearing and addressed each of these thoroughly. The final results of the safety review were recently forwarded to my Department by Advantica. My Department's technical advisory group has considered them and made recommendations to me. I am considering the implications of these findings for the project as a whole. I hope to make the necessary decisions shortly, taking these reports and recommendations fully into account.

As the Deputy is also aware there is an ongoing mediation process put in place through which it is hoped to resolve any difficulties the parties might have in relation to the Corrib on-shore pipeline. I hope this process will conclude successfully in the near future.

Telecommunications Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

92 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason delivery of broadband services have been so slow; if he has given instructions or directives in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6645/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

96 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he proposes to take action to improve Ireland’s performance in regard to the provision of broadband facilities having particular regard to the need to keep pace with developments in other countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6586/06]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

106 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the steps he has taken or instructions he has given through ComReg or directly through service providers with a view to achieving a higher and accelerated performance in regard to provision of broadband services with the objective of bringing Ireland back into serious contention as a leader in the European context in the area of modern telecommunications such as broadband and mobile telephony; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6619/06]

Michael Noonan

Question:

116 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he expects broadband availability here to catch up with the leading European countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6621/06]

Gay Mitchell

Question:

146 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has satisfied himself that the availability of broadband is adequate to meet industrial and domestic needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6613/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92, 96, 106, 116 and 146 together.

The development and roll-out of telecommunications technology is primarily a matter for the industry itself in a liberalised market. In comparison with other European countries, broadband service providers in Ireland were slow in launching competitive, affordable broadband. However, the situation is improving rapidly. In late 2004, the Government set a target of 400,000 broadband subscribers to be achieved by the end of 2006. I have, however, challenged the industry to strive for 500,000 subscribers by that stage. The Government's broadband target is to be within the top half of EU countries by the end of 2007.

The rate of broadband uptake is dependent on a combination of factors including access by the private sector service providers to suitable infrastructure, as well as competition between broadband service providers and demand conditions for broadband in the economy. Since 2004, broadband subscriber numbers have more than doubled and the current take-up for broadband is in the region of 10,000 per month. Latest ComReg figures for broadband subscribers are 250,000.

In addition to setting challenging targets to the telecommunications industry, the Government has taken a number of policy and investment initiatives to improve broadband availability. In March 2004, a number of policy directions were issued to ComReg relating to competition, broadband, wholesale and retail line rental, interconnection-leased lines, and national and cross-Border roaming.

The direction on broadband required ComReg to use regulatory and enforcement tools, to support initiatives to develop broadband and to remove regulatory barriers, if any exist, to such initiatives. One significant barrier to the delivery of broadband services is the slow pace of local loop unbundling, LLU. Responsibility for LLU is a matter for ComReg. I have no powers to issue instructions to service providers in this matter.

The Government is addressing the lack of investment by the sector by building high-speed open access fibre-based metropolitan area networks, MANs, in 120 towns and cities nationwide, on a phased basis in association with the local and regional authorities using European and Government funding. Phase one of this programme has so far delivered fibre optic networks to 27 towns and cities throughout the country. This programme has been extended to over 90 towns in various locations nationwide. These networks will be completed during 2006 and 2007. They allow the private sector to offer world-class broadband services at competitive costs.

My Department also offers funding for smaller towns and rural communities through the county and group broadband scheme. The scheme is technology-neutral, allowing the community to select the most suitable broadband delivery platform for the area. To date, over 150 projects have been approved for funding under this programme. A joint industry-Government fund of €18 million has been established for the broadband for schools programme, which will provide every school in the country with broadband during 2006.

Broadcasting Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

93 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has received communications from representative groups requesting the provision of subtitling in respect of television services; if he intends to respond to such proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6632/06]

My Department has from time to time received communications from representative groups and interested parties on the matter of subtitling on television services. Section 19(11) of the Broadcasting Act 2001 provides that the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland shall make rules requiring each broadcaster to take specified steps to promote the understanding and enjoyment by persons who are deaf or hard of hearing of programmes transmitted by that broadcaster.

Section 53 of the Disability Act expands this provision and provides that the rules shall require each broadcaster to take specified steps to provide access to audio-visual material to people with sensory impairments by means of specified services. The Disability Act lists a number of services, such as sign language, teletext, subtitling and audio description and requires that broadcasters have regard to whether the material is being provided daily or at other regular intervals, at popular viewing times and for news and news related matters as well as for other matters.

The access rules drawn up by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland were developed following a comprehensive public consultation process and came into effect on 2005. As the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland is an independent statutory body, I had no role in the making of these rules.

Mobile Telephony.

Damien English

Question:

94 Mr. English asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason mobile telephone services in terms of quality and cost cannot compare favourably with services in other European countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6635/06]

John Deasy

Question:

101 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason mobile telephone charges here should be higher than in the rest of Europe and have poorer quality of service; his proposals to address these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6640/06]

Paul McGrath

Question:

114 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which comparisons have been made in respect of electronic transmission costs here as compared with those throughout Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6642/06]

Gerard Murphy

Question:

145 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he expects deregulation in the telecoms industry to manifest itself in terms of increased competition and benefit to the consumer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6605/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

159 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his proposals to improve the quality and coverage of mobile telephony here and availability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6585/06]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

165 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has issued directives or intends to so do with the objective of improving the quality and coverage of the mobile telephone service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6608/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94, 101, 114, 145, 159 and 165 together.

I have no function in regulating pricing for services or quality of service in the telecommunications market. The regulation of telecommunications operators, including regulating of pricing and quality for mobile phone services is the responsibility of the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg, in accordance with the requirements of the Communications Regulation Act 2002 and regulations which transpose the EU regulatory framework for electronic communications.

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

As Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, I have responsibility for overall telecoms policy. My main goal in this policy is to create conditions for sustainable growth and competition that will benefit the economic and social development of Ireland and facilitate competitive services.

Improving the market conditions to enhance competition is the best way to drive down mobile phone charges. The more competitive telecoms services that are on offer, the better in the long run for consumers, the sector and the economy.

In addition, ComReg has, as one of its key objectives, under the Communications Regulation Act 2002, the promotion of competition in the exercise of its functions. Competition in the fixed and mobile markets will drive down prices for consumers.

I have no information to say that Irish mobile charges are generally the highest in Europe. However, ComReg's quarterly key data for the Irish communications market for quarter three 2005 indicate that the average revenue per user, ARPU, for Ireland is €47 per month, second only to Switzerland at €48 per month. The EU ARPU is €30 per month.

Consultancy Reports.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

95 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when the Deloitte & Touche report on the future of the ESB will be published; the reason there has been such a delay in its publication; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6708/06]

Denis Naughten

Question:

158 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he expects to publish the Deloitte & Touche report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6624/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 95 and 158 together.

I recently received the Deloitte & Touche report on the electricity sector. I am currently considering the report in the context of the energy policy consultation paper which is being drawn up by my Department. I intend to publish the report in that context in the coming months.

Question No. 96 answered with QuestionNo. 92.

Electricity Sector.

Liam Twomey

Question:

97 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the nature of discussions which have taken place between his Department, the ESB or other energy providers with particular reference to the ESB’s role in the generation and transmission of electricity in the future; if it is intended to publish the Deloitte and Touche report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6653/06]

Denis Naughten

Question:

115 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the nature of discussions he has had with unions, management or other groups or interests in regard to the future structure and role of the ESB; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6625/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

338 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which he or his Department have had discussions with the ESB and other energy producers in regard to the future structures of the electricity industry here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6695/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

369 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the nature of discussions which have taken place between his Department, the ESB or other energy providers with particular reference to the ESB’s role in the generation and transmission of electricity in the future; if it is intended to publish the Deloitte and Touche report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7096/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

381 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which he or his Department have had discussions with the ESB and other energy producers in regard to the future structures of the electricity industry here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7121/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97, 115, 338, 369 and 381 together.

Last year I appointed Deloitte & Touche to carry out a comprehensive independent review of the electricity sector. The review included a detailed examination of the ESB's vertically integrated utility structure and its dominance in the sector, particularly in the area of power generation. The consultants were also requested to make specific recommendations as to the most appropriate institutional arrangements and company structures, including ownership models, for the ESB and, to the extent appropriate, for the electricity sector in general. As part of their terms of reference the consultants also undertook a comprehensive consultation process with industry stakeholders, including the ESB to underpin the review.

I recently received the Deloitte review. I am currently considering the report in the context of the energy policy consultation paper being drawn up by my Department. I intend to publish the report in the context of the energy policy paper.

Question No. 98 answered with QuestionNo. 90.

Broadcasting Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

99 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the amount of surplus funds currently available to the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland; the manner in which it is anticipated to spend such funds in the context of the development of the broadcasting service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6627/06]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the broadcasting funding scheme operated by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, BCI. The Broadcasting (Funding) Act 2003 provides that the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland prepare a scheme or schemes for the funding of grants to support certain television and radio programmes. The EU Commission notified Ireland in November 2005 of its decision that it considers the scheme to be compatible with the relevant provisions of the EU treaty. I subsequently wrote to the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland approving the scheme entitled Sound & Vision. I understand that the first round of applications under this scheme has taken place.

The amount payable annually under section 4(2) of the Broadcasting (Funding) Act 2003 is equal to 5% of net receipts of broadcasting licence fees. The amount available under the scheme now stands at in excess of €25 million.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

100 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when there will be a decision on the amending of the list of designated sporting events under the Broadcasting Amendment Act 2003, especially in relation to the upcoming 2006 Ryder Cup; when he expects the review to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6727/06]

David Stanton

Question:

127 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has had discussions with the Ryder Cup promoters-organisers, television interests or other sporting authorities or agencies with a view to meeting the expressed wishes of various interests in respect of broadcasting rights for the Ryder Cup; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6703/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 127 together.

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 85 of 21 February 2006.

Question No. 101 answered with QuestionNo. 94.
Question No. 102 answered with QuestionNo. 71.

Ministerial Appointments.

Richard Bruton

Question:

103 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of positions on boards, agencies or bodies under his aegis to which he has made appointments in recent times; the number of such appointments outstanding; his plans to fill same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6598/06]

The information requested by the Deputy on appointments made to the boards of State-sponsored bodies since September 2004 is set out in the following table. The number of vacancies currently existing is set out in the second table. It is my intention to fill these vacancies at the earliest opportune time.

Appointments to the Boards of State-sponsored Bodies under the aegis of the Department of Communications, Marine & Natural Resources made since September 2004

An Post

Board Member (Elected Employees)

Appointment Date

Expiry Date

Mr. Jerry Condon

01.11.2004

31.10.2008

Mr. Patrick Compton

01.11.2004

31.10.2008

Mr. Patrick Davoren

01.11.2004

31.10.2008

Mr. Thomas Devlin

01.11.2004

31.10.2008

Mr. Terry Keller

01.11.2004

31.10.2008

Aquaculture Licence Appeals Board

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. Sean Murphy

01.01.05

31.12.07

Mr. Lorcan Ó Cinneide*

01.01.05

31.12.07

Mr. Mario J. Minehane*

01.01.05

31.12.07

Ms Mary McMahon

01.01.05

31.12.06

Ms Karin Dubsky

01.01.05

31.12.06

Mr. Damian McDonald

01.01.05

31.12.06

Bord na Móna

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. Fergus McArdle (Chairman)

28.09.04

27.09.09

Ms Anne Heraty

28.09.04

27.09.09

Mr. Gabriel Cribbin

09.09.05

08.09.08

Bord Iascaigh Mhara

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Ms Rose McHugh

29.09.04

23.04.07

Broadcasting Complaints Commission

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Michael McGrath (Chairperson)

18.10.05

17.10.10

Sean O’Sullivan

18.10.05

17.10.10

Eucharia Meehan

18.10.05

17.10.10

David Tighe

18.10.05

17.10.10

Miriam O’Callaghan

18.10.05

17.10.10

Susan Nolan

18.10.05

17.10.10

Phil Brady

18.10.05

17.10.10

Central Fisheries Board

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

David Mackey (Chairman)

24.06.05

24.06.2010

Ms Mary Bohan

24.06.05

24.06.2010

Éamon de Buitléir

24.06.05

24.06.2010

Myles Kelly

24.06.05

24.06.2010

Naul McCole

24.06.05

24.06.2010

John Henry McLaughlin

24.06.05

24.06.2010

Commission for Energy Regulation (CER)

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. Tom Reeves (Chairman)

14.10.04

09.09.09

Mr. Michael Tutty

14.10.04

12.10.09

Ms Regina Finn

01.02.05

31.01.09

Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg)

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. Mike Byrne

01.12.2004

30.11.08

The Digital Hub

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. Joe Murphy

29.09.04

29.09.07

Drogheda Harbour Board

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. Paddy Traynor (Chairperson)

20.12.04

19.12.09

Ms Maria O’Brien Campbell

23.05.05

22.05.10

Mr. Cormac Bohan

29.09.04

28.09.09

Cllr. Paul Bell

04.08.04

03.08.09

Dublin Port Company

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Cllr. Kevin Humphries

10.09.04

09.09.09

Cllr. Christy Burke

10.09.04

09.09.06

Cllr. Paddy Bourke

10.09.04

09.09.09

Dundalk Port Company

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. Kevin Meenan

05.04.05

04.04.10

Electronic Communications Appeals Panel*

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Hugh Mohan SC

21.09.04

Contract expired

Margaret Heneghan BL

21.09.04

Contract expired

Catherine Woods BA

21.09.04

Contract expired

Mary Sadlier

23.05.05

23.05.06

Sean Barrett

23.05.05

23.05.06

Paul Burns SC

23.05.05

23.05.06

Finbarr Fox SC

23.05.05

23.05.06

Patrick Butler SC

24.05.05

24.05.06

Liam Cahill

20.06.05

20.06.06

Brian O’Moore SC

14.07.05

14.07.06

Eileen Barrington JC

15.06.05

15.06.06

*Pool from which 3 persons will be appointed by Minister to an appeal panel. Two Panels currently exist, each with its own chairperson.

Eirgrid

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Ms Martina Moloney

15.09.04

15.09.09

Mr. Maurice Holly (staff representative)

21.09.04 (re-appointed)

21.09.09

Ms Emer Daly

20.03.05 (2nd term)

19.03.08

Mr. David Mackey

20.03.05 (2nd term)

19.03.08

Mr. Dermot Byrne CEO (ex officio)

04.07.05

03.07.12

Ms Bernie Gray

08.09.05

07.09.10

ESB

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. Brendan Byrne

01.09.04

31.08.09

Mr. Tadhg O’Donoghue

07.09.05 (2nd term)

06.09.10

Ms Georgina Kenny

18.05.05 (2nd term)

17.05.10

Galway Harbour Board

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Cllr. Joe Tierney

13.08.04

12.08.09

Cllr. Sean Kyne

05.04.05

04.04.10

Marine Institute

Board Member

Appointment Date

Expiry Date

Ms. Terry Fleming

29.09.04

28.09.09

Mr. Kevin Bonner (Chairperson)

24.06.05

23.06.08

Ms Dairine McFadden

19.12.05

18.12.10

National Salmon Commission

Board Member

Appointment Date

Expiry Date

Mr. Joey Murrin (Chairperson)

30.09.05

31.05.08

Jim Curran

30.09.05

31.05.08

Brian Curran

30.09.05

31.05.08

John H. O’Brien

30.09.05

31.05.08

Peter Hunt

30.09.05

31.05.08

Vincent Roche

30.09.05

31.05.08

Michael Keatinge

30.09.05

31.05.08

Derick Anderson

30.09.05

31.05.08

Noel Carr

30.09.05

31.05.08

Lal Faherty

30.09.05

31.05.08

Martin McEnroe

30.09.05

31.05.08

Luke Boyle

30.09.05

31.05.08

Jerome Dowling

30.09.05

31.05.08

John Doherty

30.09.05

31.05.08

Michael Conners

30.09.05

31.05.08

Seamus De Burca

30.09.05

31.05.08

Carmel Lynn

30.09.05

31.05.08

Frank Flanagan

30.09.05

31.05.08

Peter Dunn

30.09.05

31.05.08

Richie Flynn

30.09.05

31.05.08

New Ross Port Company

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Cllr. Larry O’Brien

26.11.04

25.11.09

Port of Cork Company

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Cllr. Michael Hegarty

04.08.04

03.08.09

Port of Waterford Company

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Ms Lola O’Sullivan

29.08.04

28.08.09

Mr. Derek Madigan

16.03.05

15.03.10

Radió Telefís Éireann Authority

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Fintan Drury

21.06.05

20.06.2008

Maria Killian

21.06.05

20.06.2008

Patricia King

21.06.05

20.06.2008

Ian Malcolm

21.06.05

20.06.2008

Úna Ní Chonaire

21.06.05

20.06.2008

Stephen O’Byrnes

29.06.05 (2nd term)

20.06.2008

Patrick Marron

29.06.05 (2nd term)

20.06.2008

Emer Finnan

14.09.05

20.06.2008

Joe O’Brien

14.09.05

20.06.2008

Southern Regional Fisheries Board

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. Pat Bowe

14.12.04

31.12.05

Regional Harbour Authorities

Arklow Harbour

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Cllr. Sylvester Bourke

28.09.04

At date of next local elections

Cllr. Pat Doran

28.09.04

Cllr. Peter Dempsey

28.09.04

Cllr. Donal O’Sullivan

28.09.04

Mr. James Tyrell

28.09.04

Mr. Lorcan O’Toole

28.09.04

Mr. Austin Gaffney

28.09.04

Ms. Ann Lee

28.09.04

Mr. Paddy Mordaunt

28.09.04

Cllr. Pat Fitzgerald

28.09.04

Cllr. Pat Sweeney

28.09.04

Annagassan Harbour

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Cllr. Tommy Reilly

28.09.04

At date of next local elections

Cllr. Finnan McCoy

28.09.04

Cllr. Pearse McGeough

28.09.04

Cllr. Jim Lennon

28.09.04

Mr. Terry Butterly

28.09.04

Ms Rosemarie Coyle

28.09.04

Mr. Liam Reilly

28.09.04

Mr. Tommy McGrory

28.09.04

Mr. Gerard Sheridan

28.09.04

Baltimore & Skibbereen Harbour

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Cllr. Tadgh O’Donovan

28.09.04

At date of next local elections

Cllr. Joe Carroll

28.09.04

Cllr. Brendan Leahy

28.09.04

Cllr. Brendan McCarthy

28.09.04

Mr. Michael Harte

28.09.04

Mr. Vincent O’Driscoll

28.09.04

Mr. Danny O’Driscoll

28.09.04

Mr. Dermot Sheehy

28.09.04

Mr. Kieron Cotter

28.09.04

Bantry Harbour

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. John O’Riordan

28.09.04

At date of next local elections

Mr. Michael Hennebry

28.09.04

Cllr. Eugene Cronin

28.09.04

Cllr. Patrick Kelly

28.09.04

Mr. John O’Shea

28.09.04

Mr. Donal Casey

28.09.04

Mr. Aiden McCarthy

28.09.04

Mrs. Kathleen Tessyman

28.09.04

Ms Letty Baker

28.09.04

Mr. Mario Minehane

28.09.04

Mr. Tim Minihane

28.09.04

Dingle Harbour

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr . Tom Fitzgerald

28.09.04

At date of next local elections

Mr. Eoin Ó Catháin

28.09.04

Mr. Paddy Flannery

28.09.04

Mr. Denis O’Connor

28.09.04

Mr. Tom Kennedy

28.09.04

Cllr. Seamus Fitzgerald

28.09.04

Cllr. Breandán Mac Gearailt

28.09.04

Dr. Fionnbar O’Shea

28.09.04

Mr. Timothy O’Sullivan

28.09.04

Kinsale Harbour

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. Billy Lynch

28.09.04

At date of next local elections

Mr. Charles Hendeson

28.09.04

Mr. Kevin Murphy

28.09.04

Cllr. Alan Coleman

28.09.04

Mr. Eamon O’Neill

28.09.04

Mr. Frank Kiernan

28.09.04

Mr. John Twomey

28.09.04

Mr. Courtney Good

28.09.04

Mr. Michael T. Frawley

28.09.04

River Moy Harbour

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. John Keane

28.09.04

At date of next local elections

Mr. Dessie Padden

28.09.04

Mr. Jimmy Sheridan

28.09.04

Cllr. Annie May Reape

28.09.04

Mr. John Farrell

28.09.04

Mr. Edward Melvin

28.09.04

Mr. Tommy Ginley

28.09.04

Mr. Paddy Jackson

28.09.04

Mr. Judd Ruane

28.09.04

Cllr. Jimmy Moloney

28.09.04

Mr. Michael McDonagh

28.09.04

Sligo Harbour

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. Albert Higgins

28.09.04

At date of next local elections

Mr. Patsy Barry

28.09.04

Ms Veronica Cawley

28.09.04

Mr. Jonathan McGoldrick

28.09.04

Mr. Gerry McCanny

28.09.04

Mr. Stephen Rundle

28.09.04

Mr. Seamus Monaghan

28.09.04

Mr. Jim McMorrow

28.09.04

Mr. Gene O’Carroll

28.09.04

Mr. Liam Gannon

28.09.04

Mr. Pádraic Branley

28.09.04

Tralee & Fenit Harbour

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Expiry Date

Mr. Roland Blennerhassett

28.09.04

At date of next local elections

Mr. Con Casey

28.09.04

Mr. Dermot Crowley

28.09.04

Mr. James Browne

28.09.04

Ms Norma Foley

28.09.04

Mr Michael Moriarity

28.09.04

Mr. John Wall

28.09.04

Ms Toireasa Ní Fhearaíosa

28.09.04

Mr. Christopher Lynch

28.09.04

Mr. Vincent Locke

28.09.04

Mr. Liam Sullivan

28.09.04

Table 2

Vacancies currently outstanding on Boards of State-sponsored Bodies under the aegis of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources

Vacancies

Communications

An Post

2 vacancies

Broadcasting Complaints Commission

1 vacancy

Digital Hub

3 vacancies

Electronic Communications Appeals Panel

4 vacancies

RTE

1 vacancy

Natural Resources

Bord Gáis

2 vacancies

ESB

2 vacancies

Marine

BIM

1 vacancy

Loughs Agency

1 vacancy

Regional Fisheries Boards (RFBs)*

Eastern RFB

3 vacancies

Northern RFB

1 vacancy

North-Western RFB

1 vacancy

Southern RFB

3 vacancies

South-Western RFB

7 vacancies

Western RFB

1 vacancy

*Terms of office of all members of Regional Fisheries Boards terminated as of 31st December 2005. However this period of time was extended and will continue until midnight on the day on which the results of the next election for elected members of the Boards is declared or at such a time as the Board becomes a Regional Advisory Board under the proposed restructuring plans for the sector, whichever is earlier.

Broadcasting Services.

Bernard Allen

Question:

104 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in regard to the development of digital terrestrial television; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6603/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 144 on 25 January 2006.

Question No. 105 answered with QuestionNo. 77.
Question No. 106 answered with QuestionNo. 92.

Telecommunications Services.

Paul McGrath

Question:

107 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the schemes, groups or organisations deemed to have been most successful in the provision of broadband services; the extent to which delivery is taking place through such proposals; his plans for the future in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6643/06]

Phil Hogan

Question:

122 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of areas currently having broadband access through the MANs or similar schemes; his future plans in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6601/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107 and 122 together.

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

A principal reason for the slow roll-out of broadband services generally has been the lack of investment by the private sector in the necessary infrastructure to deliver broadband to all areas. The Government is addressing the infrastructure deficit in the regions by building high-speed, open-access metropolitan area networks, MANs, in 120 towns and cities nationwide. Phase one of this programme has delivered fibre optic networks to 27 towns and cities throughout the country.

This programme has been extended to more than 90 towns in various locations nationwide. It is expected that these MANs will be completed during 2006 and 2007. These networks will allow the private sector to offer world-class broadband services at competitive costs.

My Department also offers funding assistance for smaller towns and rural communities through the county and group broadband scheme. The scheme is technology-neutral allowing the community to select the most suitable broadband delivery platform for the area. To date, more than 150 projects have been approved for funding under this programme.

A joint industry-Government fund of €18 million has been established for the broadband for schools programme, which will provide every school with broadband by the beginning of 2006. This is a crucial strand in the strategy of integrating ICT into teaching and learning and my Department's wider vision of promoting the use of broadband technologies in local communities. The construction-installation phase is now under way, and the project is on target for completion within the set timeframe.

In 2004 there were more than 80 Internet service providers, today there are more than 156 companies, with at least 45 different broadband offerings. Wireless broadband technology is improving rapidly, and the lowering of equipment prices has made this technology much more attractive of late. The use of fixed wireless local access is increasing, especially in rural areas that cannot obtain ADSL connectivity, and the development of Wi-Max offers considerable potential in the future.

Post Office Network.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

108 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the proposals for An Post to establish a new banking operation in conjunction with a Belgian-Dutch financial services group (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6734/06]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

113 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of bodies or agencies with whom discussions have taken place in regard to possible integration of services with An Post; if an evaluation has been done of the most likely compatible joint service providers with the prospect of ensuring the continuous viability of An Post; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6610/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 and 113 together.

I asked An Post to bring forward a strategy for the long-term development of the post office network that satisfies the needs of existing customers, while attracting new customers into the post office. The overriding objective is to put the network on a long-term financially sustainable footing while maintaining a nationwide post office network.

An Post appointed consultants in early 2005 to identify a potential joint venture partner to establish and operate a jointly owned company to supply a wide range of retail financial services through the An Post branch network using the An Post brand and other An Post assets. Following a detailed process which saw 28 initial expressions of interest, the company identified a preferred bidder late last year.

The Government has recently approved the board and management of An Post to enter exclusive negotiations with the company's preferred bidder to expand the range of retail financial services available through the post office network with a view to increasing the levels of post office business. This proposal provides the company with the opportunity to generate a substantial and strategically important new revenue stream which could support the network of rural and urban post offices. It would also aim to support and grow the income of Irish postmasters. An Post is now entering exclusive negotiations with the preferred bidder and any proposal arising from the negotiations will be subject to Government approval.

Fisheries Protection.

Jack Wall

Question:

109 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if measures will be brought forward to establish a fisheries sustainability impact assessment based on consultation with all major stakeholders to be brought before Dáil Éireann on an annual basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6721/06]

Irish, EU and other international scientists collaborate on an ongoing basis in order to provide detailed assessments of the biological status of all relevant fish stocks, including those that are found around the Irish coast. Scientists from the Marine Institute, the agency charged with marine research and development in Ireland, participate extensively in this work. This co-ordinated work and the results emanating from the assessments are made available widely through the International Council for the Exploration for the Seas, ICES. The Marine Institute also publishes a stock book annually which provides the latest scientific advice on the commercially exploited fish stocks of interest to Ireland, and the levels of catches which can be sustainably exploited.

In recent years, in the context of the annual total allowable catch, TAC, negotiations at the Fisheries Council in December, the Marine Institute has made presentations on the scientific advice pertaining to fish stocks to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. Consultations with the relevant stakeholders are also a regular feature of the work of the Marine Institute. These existing structures provide an effective approach to the assessment of fisheries sustainability and in these circumstances I have no plans to introduce further measures in this area.

Telecommunications Services.

Shane McEntee

Question:

110 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of occasions on which the electronic communications appeal panel have overturned decisions made by ComReg; the implications this has for the development of this industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6655/06]

In total, 11 appeals have been referred to appeal panels. One appeal by Hutchison 3G Ireland Limited was determined by an appeal panel finding in favour of the appellant. Six appeals concluded following the annulment of ComReg's decisions by an appeals panel. These six appeals related to findings of joint dominance by ComReg against Vodafone and O2. Four appeals were withdrawn prior to a determination by an appeal panel. These appeals were all brought by Eircom. Details of these appeals are available at www.ecap.ie. Matters arising from the outcome of ECAP appeals are primarily a matter for ComReg, which is independent in the exercise of its functions under the provisions of the Communications Regulation Act 2002.

However, as part of my overall policy-making role for the telecommunications sector, I keep the operations of all the bodies under the aegis of my Department under review and where improvements are necessary to develop the overall environment in which the sector operates I will make them.

Postal Services.

John Perry

Question:

111 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he expects An Post to be in a position to meet the challenge of full liberalisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6637/06]

Liberalisation of the postal sector, as set out in two European Union postal directives, has already commenced in Ireland with some sectors such as outbound international mail already fully subject to competition. An Post, like all other postal operators, will face more intense competition on full opening of the market, which the European directives propose to happen, subject to political approval, on 1 January 2009. It is imperative, therefore, that An Post is on a secure financial footing to successfully meet the challenges of competition.

The key imperative for An Post is to be in a position to offer products and services which meet customer needs in a competitive environment. The recently agreed restructuring plan will play an important part in the process of placing An Post on a more secure financial footing. It is imperative that all sides now work together to ensure that the plan is fully implemented.

Billy Timmins

Question:

112 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has issued instructions in regard to the future development of the postal services with particular reference to opening or closing post offices or extending or reducing the scale of services available through An Post; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6646/06]

This Government, as clearly set out in the programme for Government, and the board of An Post, are committed to the objective of securing a viable and sustainable nationwide post office network. The future development of the post office network and the delivery of services through that network is the responsibility, in the first instance, of the board and management of the company. In regard to the closure of post offices specifically, this is an operational matter for the company and one in which I have no function.

It is the Government's objective to maintain the largest, economically sustainable post office network possible. The challenge for all stakeholders in An Post is to generate sufficient profitable business to maintain the network at its current size.

I have asked the company to ensure that any strategy for the development of the company should ensure the long-term viability of the post office network. In this light, An Post is currently working on a new initiative which would see the development of An Post financial services, APFS. Its aim is to supply a wide range of retail financial services through the branch network. If successful, it could lead to a significant increase in post office business and contribute to the viability of the network.

Question No. 113 answered with QuestionNo. 108.
Question No. 114 answered with QuestionNo. 94.
Question No. 115 answered with QuestionNo. 97.
Question No. 116 answered with QuestionNo. 92.

Corrib Gas Pipeline.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

117 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he intends making a decision with regard to the provision of consent for the laying of the Corrib onshore gas pipeline. [6740/06]

Damien English

Question:

147 Mr. English asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in regard to the Corrib gas field; when he expects all the difficulties surrounding the project to be resolved to the satisfaction of all; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6634/06]

Joe Sherlock

Question:

164 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position regarding the Corrib gas pipeline dispute; the stage the mediation process is at; when an agreed resolution will allow the project to proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6712/06]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

330 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a person (details supplied) has made contact with a company; if not, if contact will be made; if he has instructed this person to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6496/06]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

331 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will call a halt to the Corrib gas pipeline project due to the non-viability of the project as presently configured and as acknowledged by Shell and everyone else due to the lack of community consent for this project, due to health and safety fears and in view of their being no compelling need to proceed with this project due to recent large gas finds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6497/06]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

332 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will refuse to give further consents for the Corrib gas project in view of the present non-viability of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6498/06]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

333 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on whether proper mediation is the only way the Corrib gas project dispute can be resolved; his further views on whether proper mediation is necessary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6499/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

356 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he expects issues affecting the Corrib gas pipeline to be resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7065/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 117, 147, 164, 330, 331, 332, 333 and 356 together.

I commissioned an international consulting company, Advantica, on 25 August 2005 to carry out a thorough and independent safety review of the onshore upstream section of the Corrib gas pipeline. Advantica are world leaders in the area of advanced hazard and risk assessment technologies for gas pipelines.

In parallel with this safety review, I established a public consultation process to ensure that the concerns of the community would be fully addressed in this review. As part of this process, a two day public hearing was held in Geesala on 12 and 13 October, chaired by Mr. John Gallagher SC, during which the community was given the opportunity to express its concerns directly to the consultants. The consultants also made a separate site inspection of the pipeline route.

The results of this review have now been forwarded to my Department and I am considering it and an additional report from my Department's technical advisory group in this regard. I hope to make a decision regarding the outstanding consents for the pipeline in the near future.

Deputies will also be aware that following consultation with relevant parties Mr. Peter Cassells was engaged as a mediator in relation to the issues in dispute. The mediation process, including any role for the Mediators' Institute, is a matter for Mr. Cassells and I do not wish to comment on the process at this stage.

The reference in one question to recent large gas finds arises from an article in a business magazine reporting an estimate of the resource potential which was carried out for one operator and from reportage of a farm-in agreement in an offshore licence. Both references are to the potential resources in the areas and do not constitute discoveries, much less commercial finds.

Common Fisheries Policy.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

118 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the infringement proceedings which have been initiated or raised by the EU in relation to the obligation of Ireland under the Common Fisheries Policy over the past five years; and his views on same. [6656/06]

There are four current cases in which the European Commission has initiated court action or infringement proceedings against Ireland in relation to alleged overfishing or inadequate implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy, CFP. Of these cases, the European Court of Justice, ECJ, has issued a recent judgment against Ireland in respect of one case, while the Commission has issued a reasoned opinion in one case and letters of formal notice in the other two, all three of which may proceed to the ECJ.

These cases are under Article 226 of the European Treaty but, where there is an adverse judgment, there is a possibility of further action by the Commission under Article 228 of the treaty. An adverse judgment under Article 228 may involve very substantial lump sum and periodic penalties being imposed by the ECJ, as occurred in a recent case involving another member state. It is, therefore, imperative that Ireland is able to maintain a vigorous and robust legal and operational framework in relation to control and enforcement under the CFP.

In respect of the case where a judgment has been delivered under Article 226, the Commission has written to Ireland under Article 228 of the treaty to enforce the earlier judgment. Ireland responded to this letter last week outlining details of the measures that either have been taken or will be taken in response to the judgment. These measures, which involve additional staff and new technology, will deliver systematic improvements.

In respect of previous cases initiated by the Commission against Ireland in recent years, there has been one judgment issued by the ECJ under Article 226 which was delivered in 2004. In this case, the Commission also wrote to Ireland under Article 228 and I understand that the Commission, after consideration of Ireland's reply, decided against pursuing further proceedings under Article 228.

To address issues identified by the Commission in these infringement proceedings, the Department has invested heavily in fisheries control resources and information technology in recent years. It is also strengthening its legal framework with regard to enforcement of fisheries law through the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill which is currently before the House, as the current legal situation following recent Supreme Court judgments has left Ireland particularly vulnerable in respect of its obligations under the CFP.

Broadcasting Services.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

119 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when consultants Deloitte & Touche and solicitors (details supplied) will report on an implementation plan for the establishment of TG4 as an independent statutory body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6720/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 82 of today.

Liam Twomey

Question:

120 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to extend availability of radio and television transmissions outside this jurisdiction on a free to air basis or otherwise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6652/06]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

150 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the progress which has taken place in regard to the provision of RTE television coverage abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6611/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 and 150 together.

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 115 of 16 November 2005.

Common Fisheries Policy.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

121 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he was able to raise concerns at the recent European Council meeting regarding the lack of effective quota information in relation to foreign sea fishing boats being available to naval services in the policing of the Common Fisheries Policy; and if he received a commitment to a change in Common Fisheries Policy regulations in this regard. [6749/06]

Under the Common Fisheries Policy, CFP, each member state has delegated responsibility to manage its quotas as it sees fit. The system of allocating the quotas differs widely from member state to member state. Ireland allocates the fishing quotas for defined periods of time while other member states divide the national quota between fishing representative organisations or to individual fishing vessels. This mixture of systems does not lend itself to a situation whereby the entitlements of every fishing vessel may be known throughout the Community.

However, there are a number of systems already in place that facilitate control of fishing vessels of other member states. Certain information is available to the Irish control authorities on the fishing entitlements of other member states' vessels. For instance, member states inform each other of the fishing entitlements of individual vessels by way of circulated lists of fishing vessels with entitlement to participate in the individual fisheries. These lists are circulated to the Naval Service and land-based inspectorate of the Department. Where a member state has put in place a prohibition on any fishery, for example, when the quota is exhausted, this is notified by the Commission to all member states so that the control authorities in the member states are aware that a fishing stop is in place for that species.

The reformed CFP contains a specific chapter dealing with control and sets a variety of requirements that all member states must implement to ensure that fisheries resources are adequately protected. In addition, the Fisheries Council agreed in 2005 to establish a Community fisheries control agency to improve cooperation and co-ordination between the control authorities of member states. The agency is to be based in Vigo, Spain and is expected to become operational before the end of 2006. This will lead to a greater deal of information being available to member states' control authorities in respect of each other's fishing entitlements.

There should be greater information exchange on quotas and catches and I consider that this matter should be progressed as part of an overall effort of strengthened control at European level. In that regard, I wish to inform the Deputy that the subject was raised at our meeting with Commissioner Borg yesterday.

Question No. 122 answered with QuestionNo. 107.

Energy Policy.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

123 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which he proposes to emulate the energy targets recently set in Sweden; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6615/06]

By international standards, Sweden and its economy has a small dependence on oil and has recently announced its intention to eliminate this dependency completely by 2020. In this context, it is important to compare like with like. For instance, in Sweden the fuel mix for electricity production is about 45% nuclear and 47% hydro which is in stark contrast to our situation where we have very limited natural resources and have decided against developing nuclear power.

In so far as oil dependence is concerned, Sweden has an indigenous car manufacturing base and consequently has the opportunity to influence the development of alternative fuel vehicles. I will publish an energy policy consultation paper in the coming months which will set out medium and long-term perspectives for national energy policy, including targets for increasing renewable energy and for increasing energy efficiency.

Question No. 124 answered with QuestionNo. 71.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

125 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the overall target for renewable energy supply for 2020 and 2050; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6730/06]

The current target for the increased use of renewable energy technologies in the electricity market is to more than double the current contribution from approximately 5% of total consumption to 13% by 2010.

Targets beyond 2010 will be determined in the context of the development of an all-island electricity market. A joint North-South public consultation process on an all-island vision for renewable energy by 2020 and beyond has been undertaken. Work is ongoing to develop the process taking into account views of industry stakeholders. The aim is to develop a long term strategy for renewable energy on the island as a whole.

Fuel Storage Facilities.

Pat Breen

Question:

126 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the full extent to which he envisages storage facilities in respect of gas and oil to be improved with a view to having a reasonable and improved stand-by supply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6650/06]

Joan Burton

Question:

131 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his proposals for the development of natural gas storage facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6732/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 126 and 131 together.

As a member of the IEA, Ireland is required to maintain emergency oil stocks equivalent to at least 90 days of net imports of crude oil equivalent in the previous year. The EU imposes a similar requirement based on consumption. At 1 December 2005 Ireland's oil stock reserves were estimated at 102 days net imports — IEA methodology.

Since its establishment in 1995, the National Oil Reserves Agency, NORA, has acted as the agent of the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and its function is to arrange for the holding of national strategic oil stocks at a level determined annually by the Minister. Such stocks may be held either at home and-or abroad directly by the agency and-or on its behalf by third parties. Ireland meets its EU and IEA obligations through a combination of: stocks owned and held by NORA, either in Ireland or abroad; stock tickets held by NORA under commercial contracts, in Ireland or abroad, which include an option to purchase the oil in the event of an emergency; and operational stocks held in Ireland by industry-large consumers but not including stocks within the distribution networks which are deemed to be consumed.

As part of Ireland's emergency oil reserves planning, a number of bilateral oil stockholding agreements have also been concluded with other European Union member states — Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Sweden. Such agreements allow for the storing of Irish oil stocks within these jurisdictions under guarantee by the host country that it would not oppose the transfer of the oil in question to Ireland in the event of an emergency.

All oil stocks, including those held by NORA, are held in commercial tankage either in Ireland or abroad. I am satisfied that Ireland's emergency stock levels are sufficient to ensure that we would be in a position to participate effectively in any internationally co-ordinated response in the event of an international oil supply disruption, or manage any short-term disruption specifically impacting on the Irish market.

Turning to natural gas, in the context of the all-island energy market development framework, the scope for a common approach on storage and liquefied natural gas is being progressed jointly in conjunction with both regulatory authorities.

Under the Gas (Interim) (Regulation) Act 2002, the Commission for Energy Regulation, CER, has the function of licensing natural gas storage facilities. In carrying out its functions, the commission must have regard to the need to ensure that there is sufficient capacity in the natural gas system to enable reasonable expectations of demand to be met; and to secure the continuity, security and quality of supplies of natural gas.

CER is in discussion with Marathon Oil Ireland Limited in relation to the development of natural gas storage facilities at south west Kinsale. CER has recently completed a public consultation on the proposed regulatory regime for the storage facility. A further consultation on a natural gas storage licence will commence shortly. It is planned that the storage facility will be operational by the middle of 2006.

Question No. 127 answered with QuestionNo. 100.

Common Fisheries Policy.

Joe Costello

Question:

128 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason over the past three years the Irish fisheries statistical returns and reports were not sent by his Department to the EU Commission as required under the Common Fisheries Policy of the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6735/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

166 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason he failed to provide the quota on fishing efforts in Ireland over a three year period since 2002 as highlighted in the most recent report of the EU on serious infringements of the Common Fisheries Policy and thereby exposed Ireland to major EU fines. [6657/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 128 and 166 together.

The Court of Justice of the European Communities in case C-38/05 entered a judgment in December 2005 against Ireland which related to the provision of catch and fishing effort reports for the years 1999 and 2000. However, in so far as these reports are concerned, the Department had prior to that judgment submitted these to the Commission, first, on 29 April 2005 — effort reports under Article 19i of Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2847/93 of 12 October 1993 and, second, on 27 May 2005 — catch reports under Articles 15(4) and 18(1) of Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2847/93 of 12 October 1993.

The general situation is that due to staffing shortages and the need to develop new technology to respond to a greatly increased and more complex reporting requirement to the Commission, particularly in relation to fishing effort, it had not proved possible for some time to submit all of the various reports required under the Common Fisheries Policy within the various deadlines. The Department recognised that there was a need to secure improved delivery of the necessary reports and it kept the Commission periodically apprised of its plans to secure such improvement.

I am pleased to report that such improvement has now been secured. This has resulted from, first, advances in staffing terms from a complement of some 27 administrative and specialist control staff in 1999 to a planned 101 by early next year and, second, there has also been considerable investment on the installation of new technology in the form of the integrated fisheries information system, IFIS, which embraces all the key information requirements on catches and fleets. Through a combination of these two developments in particular, which have involved extensive work over a period of years, Ireland is now in a position to discharge its reporting obligations to a very large extent in a timely manner. Catch reports for 2005 were submitted on schedule throughout last year and insofar as the effort reports for 2005 are concerned, all 12 of these were submitted to the Commission last week as well as the January 2006 effort report.

It is appropriate to emphasise that the CFP reporting requirement is highly complex and extensive and it will continue to pose a strong organisational challenge in the future. The Department, therefore, intends to continue to develop the reporting functions of the new IFIS system so as to facilitate compliance with all reporting obligations in relation to the Common Fisheries Policy.

Telecommunications Services.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

129 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the investment, infrastructural or otherwise, which is planned to improve broadband service provision in Kildare; the place Kildare will take in the context of an overall national strategy concerning same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6560/06]

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

It has been clear for some time that the sector has failed to invest at the level necessary to keep pace with the demand for broadband, so my Department's regional broadband programme is addressing the infrastructure deficit by building high speed open access broadband networks, in association with the local and regional authorities, in the major towns and cities. These metropolitan area networks, MANs, will allow the private sector to offer world-class broadband services at competitive costs.

Some 27 MANs have been completed under phase one and 24 are currently being operated by E-Net, the management services entity. The second phase of the programme involves the building of MANs in a further 93 towns with a population of 1,500 and above that do not have a satisfactory broadband offering from the sector. Kildare is developing nine projects in respect of the following towns: Kildare, Newbridge, Rathangan, Sallins, Maynooth, Clane, Monasterevan, Kilcock and Prosperous. The route designs are currently being finalised prior to issuing the detailed design invitation to tender. Construction on these projects is expected to commence in 2006.

For rural communities and the hinterlands of larger towns, my Department offers funding under the county and group broadband scheme to enable these communities to become self-sufficient in broadband, in association with the service providers. To date 12 schemes have been approved across Kildare County representing total capital investment of €396,750, making broadband available to 68 communities and 17,790 people. Full details of the scheme, including application procedures, are on the website www.gbs.gov.ie.

My Department's website www.broadband.gov.ie lists all service providers offering broadband services in all towns in Kildare and gives contact details for each company together with prices for the various service levels on offer.

Kildare Briefing

9 MANs projects

1. Kildare

2. Newbridge

3. Rathangan

4. Sallins

5. Maynooth

6. Clane

7. Monasterevan

8. Kilcock

9. Prosperous

12 GBS projects

1. Timahoe

2. Cloncurry

3. Balraheen

4. Cadamstown

5. Johnstown

6. Kilteel

7. Rathmore

8. Straffan

9. Castledermot

10. Kilkea

11. Kilbride

12. Clane

There are a large number of operators in the Kildare area. Names are not available by county. However, the providers in each town in Kildare are listed at www.broadband.gov.ie. For example, in Kildare town, the website lists: DSL — BT; UTV Internet; Digiweb DSL; Leap Broadband DSL; Netsource; Perlico Communications; Pure Telecom DSL; Strencom; COM1 DSL; Imagine Broadband; and Access Telecom. Satellite — Digiweb Satellite; Mediasat; Applied Solutions; Orbitlink; Pure Telecom Satellite; e3 Broadband; ehotspot; Avonline; eircom; BROADBAND4IRELAND; and Fastnet Broadband.

Electricity Generation.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

130 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will provide details on the proposed development of a new 400 megawatt power station and a natural gas pipeline in the north west region; when this project will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6733/06]

Dan Boyle

Question:

148 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the process by which the location for new power plants is decided and the relevant role of his Department and the Commission for Energy Regulation is in that process in view of recent reports that the Government are due to appoint consultants to examine the feasibility of the building of a new gas fired power plant in the north west. [6742/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 130 and 148 together.

My Department has recently published a request for tenders for a gas to the north west study, in the context of the Government's objective for regional policy in the national development plan and having regard to the national spatial strategy.

The scope of work of this study is first to determine the feasibility of bringing gas from the Mayo-Galway pipeline to Donegal town via Sligo, considering three specified alternative routes, second to examine and assess options for and issues surrounding the development of gas-fired power generation along the pipeline routes and finally to present options for the provision of gas pipeline infrastructure and gas-fired power generation, with recommendations as to how best the options may be pursued.

The alternative pipeline routes under consideration to bring gas from the Mayo-Galway pipeline to Donegal town are: via Ballina and Sligo, via Castlebar, Claremorris, Knock and Sligo, or via Claremorris, Ballyhaunis, Ballaghaderreen and Sligo.

The tender document specifies that account will be taken of the regulatory framework for the development of new generation capacity, including the Commission for Energy Regulation's role in ensuring security of electricity supply and the development of competition in the power generation sector. The recommendations of the study will therefore be consistent with the regulatory framework.

Locations at the appropriate nodes in the high-voltage electricity grid will be assessed for their capacity to accommodate power generation and their potential to contribute to the economic viability of the proposed natural gas pipeline routes.

A range of gas-fired generation plant sizes and types will be considered for each location. These locations are in or close to Bellacorick, Ballina, Sligo Town, Donegal, Castlebar, Claremorris and Ballaghadarreen.

The cost benefit analysis will include consideration of the Government's regional development policy. In considering the benefits of the recommended options, the study will take into account the role of enhanced energy infrastructure in facilitating regional development and the national spatial strategy objectives.

In addition to considering the widest possible range of options for the provision of energy infrastructure in the north west region, this study will also deliver on the Government's commitment to consider extending the natural gas network to Sligo town. I expect that the gas to the north west study will be completed this year and will inform future policy decisions across the range of issues to be considered in relation to north west energy infrastructure.

Question No. 131 answered with QuestionNo. 126.
Question No. 132 answered with QuestionNo. 71.

Telecommunications Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

133 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will report on the MANs; the take-up on the MANs; the long-term strategy for managing the MANs in the context of the overall communications infrastructure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6725/06]

The Government is addressing the local infrastructure deficit by building high-speed open access metropolitan area networks, MANs, in 120 towns and cities nationwide, on a phased basis in association with the local and regional authorities. Phase one of this programme has delivered fibre optic networks to 27 towns and cities throughout the country, which were built on time and under budget.

This programme has been extended to a further 90 towns in various locations nationwide. Design and procurement has already commenced in several regions and construction is due to start in 2006. It is expected that these MANs will be completed during 2006 and 2007. These metropolitan area networks will allow the private sector to offer world-class broadband services at competitive costs.

Further to a competitive, public tender process, E-Net was awarded the contract to manage, maintain, market and operate the phase one MANs for a period of 15 years in June 2004. E-Net is an independent company based in Limerick established solely for this purpose.

Under phase one of the MANs programme, 24 networks have now been completed and handed over to E-Net. A further three MANs are nearing completion and due for handover to E-Net in quarter one 2006. Activity has now begun on the networks with several customer contracts being signed by E-Net, including arrangements for backhaul and 19 of the 24 MANs have been lit to date. The details of these contracts are commercially sensitive and are a matter for E-Net.

E-Net's contractual obligations for the management, operation and maintenance of the MANs are set out in the concession agreement between my Department and E-Net. Tight controls exist within the concession agreement to closely monitor E-Net's performance. E-Net formally reports to my Department on a quarterly basis and is obliged to file various documents throughout the contract term dealing with its activities. E-Net also publishes an annual set of accounts. My officials closely monitor E-Net to ensure it is fulfilling its obligations in line with the concession agreement.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

134 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if measures will be brought forward to strengthen the regulation of the .ie domain including the .ie domain reseller programme in view of the recent successful launch of the .eu domain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6718/06]

The management of the .ie domain name is carried out by the IE Domain Name Registry Limited, IEDR. It is responsible for the setting of the fees and for the day to day management of all aspects of the administration of the registry. I have no role in the day to day operation of the IEDR.

I recently concluded a consultation process, which contained proposals on the regulation of the .ie domain name. These proposals formed part of the Electronic Communications Miscellaneous Provisions Bill, which I hope to be in a position to bring to the House in the near future.

Energy Conservation.

Michael Ring

Question:

135 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the full extent of financial assistance available for installation or conversion purposes in respect of houses with low insulation or energy conservation ability; the full extent of such payments to date, those pending or required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6629/06]

John Gormley

Question:

156 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when the announcement of the multi-annual domestic energy package to support renewable energy as allocated by the Department of Finance can be expected; if he intends including domestic level wind energy turbines within the forthcoming package. [6747/06]

Phil Hogan

Question:

160 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his proposals for conservation measures in the area of domestic heating costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6600/06]

Pat Breen

Question:

321 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to provide grant aid for people buying stoves for burning wood chips, installing solar panels, installing geothermal heating systems and for other sources of renewable energy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6531/06]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

328 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he will roll out the promised grants for householders with regard to the €65 million made available in budget 2006 for renewable energy schemes; the details of such grants; and if certain projects will be given greater priority. [6457/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

380 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the full extent of financial assistance available for installation or conversion purposes in respect of houses with low insulation or energy conservation ability; the full extent of such payments to date, those pending or required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7120/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135, 156, 160, 321, 328 and 380 together.

The multi-annual financial package for renewable energy announced in budget 2006 includes a grant aid package for the domestic sector, which will provide for individual grants to install renewable energy technologies including wood pellet boilers, solar panels and geothermal heat pumps. All the technologies are being given equal priority as one comprehensive scheme. The scheme is aimed primarily at the renewable heat sector, rather than electricity generation projects such as turbines.

My Department, in conjunction with Sustainable Energy Ireland, SEI, is developing the necessary detailed measures to roll out the new programme, which will be announced shortly. Under the SEI House of Tomorrow research, development and demonstration programme, financial support is already directed at encouraging developers of housing, both new-build and refurbishment, to incorporate design and technology features, which deliver significantly superior energy and CO2 performance. A total of €5 million was expended on research and development, international collaboration and public good research to December 2005 with outstanding commitments of €10.5 million. To date, 55 housing demonstration projects and 2,650 have benefited from this programme. The technologies installed include: condensing oil and gas boilers, 1,984 homes; solar water heating, 687 homes; heat recovery ventilation, 633 homes; ground source heat pumps, 392 homes; and wood pellet boilers, 344 homes.

SEI also runs a low income housing programme to assist with the establishment of a national plan of action to address the issue of fuel poverty in low-income households in Ireland. This provides the context for co-ordinated action to ensure such households have access to adequate cost effective heating and hot water, and energy efficient lighting and appliances. A total of €3.6 million has been expended on over 8,000 homes since the programme commenced. There are eight operational community based organisations that actively completed homes in 2005. An additional four groups were approved in December 2005 and they are currently recruiting staff and undergoing training. It was announced in the budget that an additional €2 million is to be made available under the low income housing programme to tackle fuel poverty.

Telecommunications Sector.

Liz McManus

Question:

136 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if urgent measures for reform of the regulatory system of the telecommunications sector will be brought forward; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6728/06]

I will shortly bring forward proposals in the form of a Bill to enhance the regulatory powers of ComReg in relation to the telecommunications sector. In addition to these proposals, the EU Commission is undertaking a review of the telecoms regulatory framework and I will be contributing to that review in due course.

Question No. 137 answered with QuestionNo. 71.

Digital Hub.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

138 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in regard to the development of the digital hub; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6644/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 119 of 25 January 2006.

Telecommunications Services.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

139 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the studies which have been carried out with a view to meeting the telecommunications requirements of the residents of the Black Valley, County Kerry, and other residents similarly affected here; if a determination has been made in respect of the most suitable technology in such circumstances; if suitable available funding has been identified with particular reference to public service obligations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6648/06]

This is an operational issue for the service provider concerned. Responsibility for the regulation of electronic communication service providers rests with the independent regulator, the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg, in accordance with the requirements of the Communications Regulation Act 2002 and the regulations, which transpose the EU regulatory framework for electronic communications. I have no function in the matter.

Seán Crowe

Question:

140 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the fact that the Commission for Communications Regulations most recent trends report recorded that home Internet penetration was static at 37% and that the EUROSTAT broadband survey has claimed Ireland has a broadband penetration of only 1.7%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6698/06]

Seán Crowe

Question:

341 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources what is creating the difficulty in the roll out of broadband here in view of the EUROSTAT broadband survey, which found Ireland’s broadband penetration to be a mere 1.7 %. [6791/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 140 and 341 together.

The development and roll-out of broadband technology is primarily a matter for the industry itself in a liberalised market.

In comparison to other European states, broadband providers in Ireland were slow in launching competitive, affordable broadband. The lack of competition between providers and the reduction in investment in the aftermath of the dotcom crash weakened the initial roll-out by providers here. However, the situation is improving rapidly and the current level of take-up is consistent with the stage of development of the market.

The rate of broadband uptake is dependent on a combination of factors including access by the providers to suitable infrastructure, competition between providers and demand conditions in the economy. Since 2004, broadband subscriber numbers have more than doubled and the current take-up is in the region of 10,000 per month. ComReg figures to end December 2005 are estimated at 250,000.

Another barrier to the delivery of broadband services is the slow pace of local loop unbundling, LLU. Responsibility for LLU is a matter for ComReg. I have no powers to issue instructions to service providers in this matter.

The Deputy will be aware of the broadband demand report which recently issued on my Departments website. This consultation document is an opportunity to assess the demand side, of the broadband market in Ireland. It reviews the level of demand in the market; key demand factors for consumers, and lists possible examples of demand measures including measures to increase PC ownership that could be introduced by Government and industry if they are necessary.

I encourage all interested parties to read the report and invite them to make submissions before the closing date of 1 March 2006.

Energy Resources.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

141 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the development of a single regulator for the all-Ireland energy market which becomes effective in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6738/06]

The all-island energy market development framework is the roadmap for the development of the all-island energy market across a range of strategic areas in the short and medium term.

In the context of the framework, the development of a single regulatory body is identified within the detailed development programme as a longer-term strategic goal. An examination of the benefits and requirements for the creation of an all-island regulatory body is scheduled for 2009-2010.

Broadcasting Services.

Shane McEntee

Question:

142 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the discussions he has had with the regulator or other interests in regard to the development of radio and television services here in the future with due regard for both the public and private sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6654/06]

In drawing up my statement of strategy for the development of the broadcasting sector from 2005 to 2007, I consulted the key stakeholders in the industry. The statement of strategy is available on my Department's website.

In the day-to-day work of my Department there is ongoing engagement between my officials and the statutory bodies under the aegis of my Department in relation to a wide range of broadcasting issues.

Telecommunications Services.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

143 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if, in view of the recent achievement of 100% availability of broadband in Northern Ireland the measures he is bringing forward to achieve the same level of availability in the Republic of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6723/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 189 of 25 January 2006.

Energy Resources.

Tom Hayes

Question:

144 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the status and potential capacity of east-west electricity interconnectors with particular reference to the availability of the means whereby energy that is surplus to needs can be disposed of economically and that incoming requirements can be equally facilitated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6638/06]

Security of energy supply is a key imperative for Ireland and the European Union. The relatively small size of the Irish electricity market underlines the need for greater interconnection as a means of enhancing security of supply, promoting competition and integrating the Irish electricity market into the wider European market. In this context, the east-west electricity interconnector project is a priority for the Government.

The Commission for Energy Regulation, CER, is finalising proposals on the financial, technical, commercial and procurement aspects of the development. A decision on how best to commission the east-west electricity interconnection project is the next step informed by the advice of CER. Decisions are needed now to ensure that the target date of 2011 for operation of the interconnector is met.

East-west electricity interconnection would also, in theory at least, allow for the export of wind-powered electricity which could be surplus to national requirements due to the variable nature of the wind resource. However, the overall amount of wind-powered capacity which could be safely connected to the national grid after the commissioning of an east-west electricity interconnector would depend on a variety of factors including the amount of wind-powered capacity connected in the UK, the nature and point of the interconnection and protocols for operating the interconnection and accessing or allocating the available capacity.

Question No. 145 answered with QuestionNo. 94.
Question No. 146 answered with QuestionNo. 92.
Question No. 147 answered with QuestionNo. 117.
Question No. 148 answered with QuestionNo. 130.

Fishing Industry Development.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

149 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the procedures for the allocation of funding under the fisheries harbour development fund; when it was decided to approve the €3.2 million grant allocation to works in Greencastle Harbour on 14 February 2006, the €300,000 allocated for works in Buncrana Harbour on 6 February 2006 and the €884,500 that was allocated to Burtonport Harbour on 24 January 2006; the cost benefit analysis conducted in relation to each of these approvals; the other funding which has been agreed for the 2006 programme; and when this funding was committed. [6743/06]

The National Development Plan 2000-2006 provides for an investment of €84.35 million over the period of the plan for the development and construction of fishery harbour and related facilities at key strategic fishery harbours and the construction and improvement of berthage at smaller harbours and landing places. Major fishery harbour projects proposed for funding are submitted in the Department's multi-annual capital programme and are approved for funding on that basis. Feasibility studies and-or cost benefit analyses are carried out in all cases before sanction is granted to proceed with these major projects. Funding of €22.5 million is available for the fishery harbours development programme in 2006, of which approximately €2 million is being assigned to the programme for funding of small fishery harbours.

The Greencastle development is estimated to cost in the region of €33 million. This project is being managed by the Department's engineering division on behalf of Donegal County Council. A cost benefit analysis was carried out in 2005. Expenditure of €3.2 million this year, of which the Department's contribution is €2.4 million, has been approved to commence stage one of a four stage development.

Under the small fishery harbours programme, the Department receives proposals from local authorities in relation to harbours under their ownership on an ongoing basis. Local authorities tend to prioritise their proposals and Donegal County Council identified Burtonport and Buncrana as requiring urgent works. The Department allocated €225,000 for works at Buncrana to construct a breakwater at the harbour to improve access to the harbour by the fishing industry and the RNLI lifeboat. Some €585,000 is allocated to Burtonport to continue phase two of the dredging at the harbour. The remainder of the allocation for the small harbours programme is under consideration at present.

A list of projects approved under the fishery harbours development programme for 2006 follows.

Fishery Harbour Programme 2006

Location

Project

Total Cost

DCMNR Contribution

Castletownbere FHC, Cork

Dinish Wharf extension & offices

12,000,000

12,000,000

Castletownbere FHC, Cork

Effluent treatment

700,000

700,000

Castletownbere FHC, Cork

Mainland Quay

100,000

100,000

Clogherhead, Co. Louth

Port Oriel development

5,503,268

4,127,451

Greencastle, Donegal

Harbour development

3,200,000

2,400,000

Cromane, Kerry

Development

266,667

200,000

Dunmore East FHC, Waterford

Development

600,000

600,000

Dunmore East FHC, Waterford

Repair to East Pier

300,000

300,000

Knightstown, Kerry

Co-funded with DCRGA

800,000

400,000

Buncrana, Donegal

Construction of breakwater

300,000

225,000

Burtonport, Donegal

Harbour dredging Phase 2

780,000

585,000

Total

24,549,935

21,637,451

Question No. 150 answered with QuestionNo. 120.

Telecommunications Services.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

151 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the steps he has taken to ensure an adequate provision of broadband to private and commercial users in the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal. [6746/06]

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

Market forces, and the availability of suitable infrastructure and backhaul, will determine whether a company offers broadband in any area. A principal reason for the slow roll-out of broadband services generally has been the lack of investment by the private sector in the necessary infrastructure to deliver broadband to all areas.

My Department is addressing the infrastructure deficit by building high speed open access metropolitan area networks, MANs, in 120 towns and cities nationwide, in association with the local authorities, using Government and European Regional Development Fund funding under the National Development Plan 2000-2006. MANs have already been completed in Gaoth Dobhair and Letterkenny, and are being operated by ENet, the management services entity. MANs for Buncrana and Carndonagh are at the detailed design stage and construction of these networks is due to commence during the summer months. These metropolitan area networks will allow the private sector to offer world-class broadband services at competitive costs.

The Government, last autumn, directed Departments to examine what could be done to alleviate the employment situation in the county, with particular focus on infrastructure development. Officials from my Department have since met with representatives from Donegal County Council as well as local interest groups and are currently examining a number of options.

My Department's website www.broadband.gov.ie gives full details of broadband availability in all areas, including digital subscriber lines, cable, fibre, satellite and fixed wireless. The website also lists prices of the various service levels on offer and contact details for each service provider.

Fish Quotas.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

152 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if there will be reduction in the mackerel quota available to the fleet here in 2006 as a result of the alleged under reporting of mackerel landings by Irish vessels at the Scottish port of Peterhead in recent years. [6750/06]

I met Commissioner Borg, EU Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs yesterday with Minister Dempsey and advised him of information provided to the Department in relation to undeclared landings of mackerel by Irish fishing vessels landing into Scotland. The Commission is examining the information provided. Necessary actions, including a reduction in Ireland's 2006 mackerel quota, and further reductions in future years, are likely to be required in line with the provisions of Council Regulation 2371/2002 (Article 23(4)), Council Regulation 2847/93 (Article 23(1)) and Council Regulation 847/96 (Article 3).

Question No. 153 answered with QuestionNo. 77.

Postal Services.

John Perry

Question:

154 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which evaluation has been done in regard to the extension of facilities compatible to those currently provided by An Post with a view to preparation for liberalisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6636/06]

I have no function in this matter. Decisions relating to products and services are operational matters for the board and management of An Post.

Environmental Policy.

Martin Ferris

Question:

155 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will make a statement on the judgment by the EU Commission that the decision to use explosives for the laying of the pipeline across Broadhaven Bay was in contravention of Articles 12 and 16 of the habitats directive. [6688/06]

The administration of the habitats directive is a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and not an area in which I have a function.

Question No. 156 answered with QuestionNo. 135.

Telecommunications Services.

Seán Ryan

Question:

157 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the measures he is proposing to tackle the ongoing broadband deficit in view of the fact that his recent broadband demand report stated that only 17% of the long-term potential broadband market here had signed up for broadband by the end of 2005. [6724/06]

The Deputy will be aware that the broadband demand report, which recently issued on my Department's website, is a consultation report. In that regard, no measures will be decided upon until all the submissions have been received, reviewed and evaluated.

I encourage all interested parties to read the demand report and invite them to make submissions before the closing date of 1 March 2006.

Question No. 158 answered with QuestionNo. 95.
Question No. 159 answered with QuestionNo. 94.
Question No. 160 answered with QuestionNo. 135.
Question No. 161 answered with QuestionNo. 71.

Energy Resources.

Mary Upton

Question:

162 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the proposals he is considering in relation to the development of wave and tidal power; the timeframe for the launch of the new national energy policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6736/06]

I will publish an ocean energy strategy shortly, which will outline a development path for ocean energy technology in Ireland. The development of ocean energy possibilities is currently being progressed by Sustainable Energy Ireland, SEI, and the Marine Institute. Demonstration projects and studies funded to date include: research and development support for three separate wave energy device developers, including support for wave tank testing of model devices; assessment of the tidal energy resource; assessment of the wave energy resource; development of a quarter scale test site in Galway Bay; assessment of economic benefits from development of ocean energy; and participation in IEA ocean energy implementing agreement.

I will publish an energy policy consultation paper by mid year which will set out medium and long-term perspectives for national energy policy and which will take account of the considerable and complex challenges for future Irish energy policy.

Postal Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

163 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he intends to issue guidelines in regard to the use of postcodes with particular reference to excluding the use of socioeconomic or personal information; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6651/06]

Following from the recommendations of the working group report on postcodes, I asked the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg, to appoint project managers to support the postcode project by providing technical and economic advice including assessing the costs and benefits of the introduction of a postcode.

The terms of reference for the project managers stipulate that the code be structured spatially and consequently the code will not be based on any socio-economic or personal information.

Question No. 164 answered with QuestionNo. 117.
Question No. 165 answered with QuestionNo. 94.
Question No. 166 answered with QuestionNo. 128.

Post Office Network.

Dan Neville

Question:

167 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the optimum number of post offices to be retained, upgraded or downgraded by An Post; his further views on the way such proposals are likely to affect the delivery of services in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6622/06]

I have no statutory function in this matter. It is an operational issue for the board and management of An Post.

Postal Services.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

168 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the way in which he envisages the development of the postal services in the future in view of the existence of competition, public service obligations and the availability of network and delivery services currently available or proposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6649/06]

An Post operates within a regulatory framework as enshrined in EU and Irish law and therefore, the universal service obligation, which includes nationwide postal delivery requirements, is a statutory requirement for An Post, as the designated universal service provider. This is set out in Statutory Instrument 616 of 2002 European Communities (Postal Services) Regulations. Furthermore, these regulations also provide for the liberalisation of the postal market.

A study is currently being undertaken by the European Union on the impact on the universal service of the full accomplishment of a liberalised postal market. Based on the outcome of this study, the Commission will present a report to the European Parliament and Council by 31 December 2006 accompanied by a proposal confirming, if appropriate, the date of 2009 for the full liberalisation of the postal market or to determine alternative steps in light of the study's conclusions.

Issues that will be important for Ireland in the context of this new directive will include the protection of the universal service in a liberalised market, ensuring that Irish citizens continue to receive a broad suite of postal services and the continued viability of An Post in the face of open competition. Competition has already arrived to certain parts of the sector and can be expected to intensify in the coming years and at present there are 29 firms operating in Ireland with a postal service authorisation from ComReg.

The postal sector in Ireland needs competition, especially in light of the many internationally traded sectors operating in the country but it also needs An Post to be competitive. I believe that liberalisation and the expected increase in competition will ultimately be good for both An Post and consumers and that the company can continue to be a significant and strong player in the market post-liberalisation.

Question No. 169 answered with QuestionNo. 71.

Energy Resources.

David Stanton

Question:

170 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has examined the implications of intention by some oil companies to cease business here; if this is likely to have implications for oil and gas exploration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6704/06]

The oil industry can be classified in terms of upstream exploration and production, and downstream distribution, including importation, and retail.

In terms of downstream activities, the oil industry in Ireland is fully privatised, liberalised and deregulated. There is free entry to the market subject to normal planning requirements, health and safety regulations, and customs and excise regulations. In this context decisions regarding entry and exit to the Irish market are made by companies based on their own commercial strategies. I have no function in the area. Companies have entered and exited the market over the years and such activities have not impacted adversely to the supply of oil into the Irish market.

Downstream activities in Ireland are undertaken by a combination of Irish affiliates of oil majors, Esso, Statoil, Texaco and ConocoPhillips, six medium sized Irish companies and some smaller Irish companies and independent retailers. With, to date, no indigenous oil, production companies located in Ireland source their oil requirements under commercial contracts with oil producers and refiners located overseas, primarily in the UK and Norway.

The decision by one oil company to sell its petroleum retail interests in Ireland is not expected to have any implications for that, or any other, company's interest in exploration offshore Ireland.

Broadcasting Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

171 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which he has discussed the various options available in regard to the future development of both the public and private broadcasting services with particular reference to the structures he has in mind and their likely impact on the industry in general; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6633/06]

My core policy objectives for the development of the broadcasting sector are set down in my Department's statement of strategy, 2005-2007. This strategy was drawn up following consultation with key players in the industry. My objectives are: to create an environment that encourages the maintenance of high quality Irish radio and television services by both independent broadcasters and RTE; to secure a viable future for high quality public service broadcasting in the Irish market; and to seek to retain access to a range of high quality programming in analogue and digital form, on a universal and free-to-air basis.

Irish viewers will be best served by a broadcasting environment that includes a public service broadcasting presence, together with private broadcasters.

Fishing Industry Development.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

172 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his strategy for maintaining and developing fishery harbours here; the reason there has been such long delays in the appointment of harbour masters in certain harbours, including Howth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6729/06]

The National Development Plan 2000-2006 provides for an investment of €84.35 million over the period of the plan for the development and construction of fishery harbour and related facilities at key strategic fishery harbours and the construction and improvement of berthage at smaller harbours and landing places, with a key role in maintaining jobs in fishing, aquaculture and ancillary activities. Under the fishery harbours development programme a total of €120 million approximately was spent up to the end of 2005.

The criteria for selection of fishery harbour projects are: the development of infrastructure and facilities at priority fishery harbours, to cater for larger vessels and developments in landing and work practices, in particular in the context of EU requirements; the development of local harbours, and the upgrading of local harbour infrastructure with a key role in creating and maintaining jobs in fishing, aquaculture and ancillary activities; the protection and preservation of existing infrastructure at selected local harbours especially in remote coastal areas where fishing or aquaculture has an important socioeconomic role; and the establishment of an adequate and reliable ice supply network around the coast.

There is substantial scope for increasing fishing activity operating out of Irish fishery harbours through exploiting our geographical competitive advantage. As energy costs increase the global fishing industry will have to change patterns of travelling long distances to fish off Ireland. There is an opportunity to capitalise on location and to attract a much greater proportion of EU landings and downstream activity through Irish fishing ports.

This points to the need for integrated seafood industry support centres with good harbour infrastructure, competitive purchasing structures and logistics services at the fishery harbour centres. Purchasing and marketing strategies also have to be developed to attract the additional landings from vessels operating off the Irish coast. The focus will be on value added from supply and support services to those vessels and processing the catches of those vessels.

A key policy objective is therefore to develop the infrastructure, operational efficiency and range of supply and support services at the five fishery harbour centres and other key fishery harbours with a view to maximising the levels of economic activity and returns from these facilities.

In addition, I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the three harbour master posts at Castletownbere, Dunmore East and Howth fishery harbour centres were filled last autumn. Harbour masters were already in place at Killybegs and Rossaveel fishery harbour centres. The assistant harbour master is currently filling the position in Killybegs in an acting capacity.

Common Fisheries Policy.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

173 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the procedures which exist that would allow him to raise at head of Government level the need for further reform of the European common fisheries policy to ensure greater control across national boundaries of quota management and other enforcement regulations; and his views regarding the lack of such a co-ordinated control system at the upcoming European Council meeting. [6513/06]

Under the Common Fisheries Policy, CFP, each member state has delegated responsibility to manage its quotas as it sees fit. The system of allocating the quotas differs widely from member state to member state. Ireland allocates the fishing quotas for defined periods of time while other member states divide the national quota between fishing representative organisations or to individual fishing vessels. This mixture of systems does not lend itself easily to a situation whereby the entitlements of every fishing vessel may be known throughout the Community.

However, there are a number of systems already in place that facilitate control of fishing vessels of other member states. Certain information is available to the Irish control authorities on the fishing entitlements of other member states' vessels. For instance, member states inform each other of the fishing entitlements of individual vessels by way of circulated lists of fishing vessels with entitlement to participate in the individual fisheries. These lists are circulated to the Naval Service and land-based inspectorate of the Department. Where a member state has put in place a prohibition on any fishery, for example when the quota is exhausted, this is notified by the Commission to all member states so that the control authorities in the member states are aware that a fishing stop is in place for that species.

As a general rule, I agree with the Deputy that it would be desirable to secure improved co-ordination and exchange of quota information between member states in order to combat over-fishing. While there is some scope available under current circumstances to exchange information on catches, it tends to be rather limited. In that regard, I want to clarify to the House a point made in a reply to a similar question from the Deputy on 25 January 2006 when reference was made to Ireland's control services advising the flag member state of the logged catches of vessels boarded. Currently, this is not established practise in all cases. This matter should be progressed as part of an overall effort of strengthened control at European level and I wish to inform the Deputy that the subject was raised at our meeting with Commissioner Borg yesterday.

The objective of securing a more co-ordinated control system was a key feature of the CFP reform process in 2002. The reformed CFP contains a specific chapter dealing with control and sets a variety of requirements that all member states must implement to ensure that fisheries resources are adequately protected. In addition, the Fisheries Council agreed in 2005 to establish a Community fisheries control agency to improve co-operation and co-ordination between the control authorities of member states. The agency is to be based in Vigo, Spain and is expected to become operational before the end of 2006. This agency may indeed provide a very useful mechanism to progress this issue of better information exchange on quotas and catches and I wish to inform the Deputy that at yesterday's meeting, the Commission indicated that it intended that this and related control issues should be discussed at an early date under the auspices of the agency.

Unemployment Levels.

Denis Naughten

Question:

174 Mr. Naughten asked the Taoiseach the number of persons on the live register in counties Roscommon and Leitrim in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6595/06]

The live register figures for the counties of Leitrim and Roscommon for the period 2001 to date as requested by the Deputy are set out in the following tables.

The live register series gives a monthly breakdown of the number of people claiming unemployment assistance, unemployment benefit and other claimants registered with the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Figures are published for each county and each local social welfare office. The most recent information available is for January 2006.

It should be noted that: (a) the live register is not a definitive measure of unemployment as it includes part-time workers, seasonal and casual workers entitled to unemployment assistance or benefit. Statistics on unemployment are measured at regional level by the quarterly national household survey; (b) the exact area covered by each local office is not limited to the immediate locality of the particular office. For instance, in the Tallaght local office there may be registered, persons from the Blessington area.

Live Register: Co. Leitrim 2001 to 2006

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2001

1,272

1,227

1,212

1,186

1,145

1,184

1,203

1,208

1,047

1,041

1,082

1,108

1,160

2002

1,144

1,112

1,128

1,099

1,212

1,306

1,384

1,363

1,278

1,218

1,212

1,247

1,225

2003

1,241

1,211

1,193

1,177

1,132

1,233

1,290

1,319

1,205

1,159

1,154

1,231

1,212

2004

1,205

1,196

1,197

1,152

1,115

1,169

1,244

1,244

1,095

1,009

976

1,028

1,136

2005

1,062

1,037

1,017

1,021

1,000

1,074

1,150

1,163

1,032

1,016

1,040

1,109

1,060

2006

1,132

Live Register: Co. Roscommon 2001 to 2006

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2001

1,527

1,485

1,460

1,440

1,372

1,466

1,528

1,535

1,408

1,367

1,385

1,502

1,456

2002

1,569

1,545

1,534

1,482

1,477

1,564

1,627

1,657

1,472

1,438

1,435

1,513

1,526

2003

1,519

1,477

1,422

1,420

1,372

1,493

1,569

1,611

1,379

1,349

1,316

1,389

1,443

2004

1,403

1,366

1,322

1,314

1,285

1,332

1,453

1,486

1,274

1,232

1,191

1,266

1,327

2005

1,327

1,301

1,284

1,197

1,148

1,264

1,328

1,354

1,158

1,138

1,151

1,190

1,237

2006

1,223

Live Register: State total 2001 to 2006

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2001

142,071

139,515

135,885

136,561

133,691

140,865

147,101

149,439

140,550

141,835

147,121

152,406

142,253

2002

159,960

162,337

162,252

156,237

154,944

164,277

172,098

173,563

161,432

157,706

158,636

166,142

162,465

2003

170,701

171,394

168,059

170,940

166,105

177,852

185,447

185,953

170,822

166,552

164,541

170,604

172,414

2004

174,529

173,127

168,880

164,660

161,972

168,952

177,501

175,816

160,466

155,476

151,966

158,816

166,013

2005

160,543

158,649

157,675

151,619

150,826

159,300

168,509

169,393

153,335

149,644

150,073

155,833

157,117

2006

160,139

Source: Live Register, Central Statistics Office.

Public Procurement Policy.

Enda Kenny

Question:

175 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if his Department has a corporate procurement plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6341/06]

Existing procurement policies provide for procurement of the goods and services required by the Department in a manner which seeks to optimise the value for money of the purchases concerned and which is in accordance with public procurement guidelines as set out by the Department of Finance.

There is a requirement to produce an annual corporate procurement plan as part of the national public procurement policy framework, which was issued by the Department of Finance in May 2005. In response to that requirement, my Department has commenced the process of developing a corporate procurement plan which will be completed this year. It is expected that the analysis and evaluation of current processes which this will entail will provide an opportunity to identify and subsequently introduce any improved procurement practices which would assist the Department in maximising value for money in its procurement of goods and services.

Departmental Contracts.

Enda Kenny

Question:

176 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach the progress made within his Department on reviewing existing contract specifications awarded by all Departments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6356/06]

Recent Department of Finance guidelines on public procurement and capital appraisal require formalised contract review of projects more than €30 million. My Department does not have any contracts which fall within the ambit of this requirement.

Immigration Issues.

Paul McGrath

Question:

177 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Taoiseach the estimated number of non-Irish citizens resident here; and if he will compare this with the findings of each of the past three census returns. [6385/06]

The 2002 census was the first in which a question was asked on nationality. According to the results of that census, some 224,300 persons, representing 5.8% of the usually resident population, indicated a nationality other than Irish.

Based on migration trends between April 2002 and April 2005 it is estimated that non-Irish nationals numbered about 330,000 in April 2005, that is, 8% of the total population of 4.13 million.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Finian McGrath

Question:

178 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Taoiseach if assistance will be given to the family of the late Mr. Pat Finucane in their efforts for truth and justice; and if the British Government will be challenged on this issue. [6392/06]

The family of Mr. Pat Finucane have our full and continuing support in their tireless efforts over many years to achieve the full truth in this disturbing case. The Government continues to support a full independent public inquiry into the murder of Mr. Patrick Finucane. We have made clear that we want to see the standard agreed at Weston Park and set by Judge Cory adhered to. We continue to share the concern of the Finucane family that the new Inquiries Act, under which the British Government intends to have the Finucane case investigated, will not meet these standards. We have raised these concerns with the British Government.

Finian McGrath

Question:

179 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Taoiseach if he will urgently push for inclusive negotiations in getting the Executive up and running in the North of Ireland. [6472/06]

The Government remains fully committed to the peace process and the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. I met the British Prime Minister, Mr. Blair, in Farmleigh on 26 January. The close and concerted co-operation between the two Governments remains vital as we seek to bring finality to outstanding issues and achieve the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. In our joint statement following this meeting, we emphasised the importance of making progress in 2006 and we indicated that the forthcoming talks with the Northern Ireland political parties would have the aim of setting out the arrangements and timetable for the restoration of the institutions as soon as possible. We made clear that the early restoration of the devolved institutions is in the best interests of everyone in Northern Ireland.

Unemployment Levels.

Denis Naughten

Question:

180 Mr. Naughten asked the Taoiseach the number of persons who were termed as long-term unemployed in counties Roscommon and Leitrim in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6594/06]

The exact information as requested by the Deputy is not available. Statistics on employment and unemployment are compiled from the quarterly national household survey. Sub-regional statistics of the kind requested by the Deputy are not available from the survey.

The live register, age by duration series, gives a bi-annual breakdown of the number of people claiming unemployment assistance, unemployment benefit and other claimants registered with the Department of Social and Family Affairs and is classified by duration on the register. Figures are available for each county and each local office. The most recent information available is for October 2005.

It should be noted that the live register is not a definitive measure of unemployment as it includes part-time workers, seasonal and casual workers entitled to unemployment assistance or benefit. Statistics on unemployment are measured at regional level by the quarterly national household survey.

Furthermore, the exact area covered by each local office is not limited to the immediate locality of the particular office. For instance, there may be persons from the Blessington area registered in the Tallaght local office.

The live register, age by duration figures for counties Leitrim and Roscommon for the period 2001 to 2005, inclusive, as requested by the Deputy are set out in the following tables.

Live Register — Age by duration data for October each year 2001 to 2005

County Leitrim Total

On Register

Year

Under 1 year

1 year or more

Total Register

2001

795

240

1,035

2002

984

248

1,232

2003

877

265

1,142

2004

629

383

1,012

2005

763

256

1,019

State Total

2001

96,100

45,403

141,503

2002

114,692

42,973

157,665

2003

117,803

46,772

164,575

2004

109,367

44,677

154,044

2005

106,302

43,540

149,842

Source: Live Register Age by Duration, Central Statistics Office.

Live Register — Age by duration data for October each year 2001 to 2005

Country Roscommon Total

On Register

Year

Under 1 year

1 year or more

Total Register

2001

922

450

1,372

2002

1,000

434

1,434

2003

961

378

1,339

2004

794

405

1,199

2005

854

311

1,165

State Total

2001

96,100

45,403

141,503

2002

114,692

42,973

157,665

2003

117,803

46,772

164,575

2004

109,367

44,677

154,044

2005

106,302

43,540

149,842

Source: Live Register Age by Duration, Central Statistics Office.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

181 Mr. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the office or unit within his Department and associated unit that is due to be decentralised; the number of posts and staff in tabular form from each unit within his Department and associated agency who have chosen to decentralise with their parent organisation; and the number of people willing to move who have been assigned their new posts. [6665/06]

There are no proposals to decentralise any part of my Department or any of the bodies under its aegis.

Social Partnership.

Michael Lowry

Question:

182 Mr. Lowry asked the Taoiseach his views on the absence of an organisation (details supplied) from partnership talks; his plans to ensure that the group return to the talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6755/06]

The process of negotiations on a successor agreement to Sustaining Progress was formally launched with a plenary meeting of all of the social partners in Dublin Castle on Thursday, 2 February. This was followed by a round of bilateral meetings with each of the four pillars, trade union, business-employer, farming and community and voluntary, at which the pillars set out in greater detail their key issues and priorities for a new agreement.

The bilateral meeting with the farming pillar took place on the morning of Wednesday, 8 February. On the afternoon of that date, the named organisations informed my Department that they were suspending their participation in the negotiations as they had become aware that an advertisement was to be placed in the Irish Farmers’ Journal regarding the implementation of the regulations introduced to implement the nitrates directive. The Government has noted this suspension.

The Government invites the social partners to participate in talks. It is for each organisation to decide if it will participate.

Child Care Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

183 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when funding will be allocated to the various county child care committees to enable those involved in the provision of child care facilities to plan for September 2006 onwards; if grants towards the building of such crèches are awarded retrospectively; and the maximum amount payable involved. [6422/06]

The National Child Care Investment Programme 2006-2010 is being implemented by the newly established office of the Minister of State with responsibility for children, under the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Brian Lenihan. The new programme aims to provide a proactive response to the development of quality child care supports and services which are grounded in an understanding of local needs.

To achieve this, arrangements are being put in place with the city and county child care committees to facilitate the initial development stage of applications for grant assistance for child care facilities at local level. It is envisaged that both private and community or not-for-profit sector child care providers will apply for large-scale capital funding under the new programme through their local child care committees and that the committees will provide any necessary assistance to applicants in developing their application to the pre-appraisal stage.

To assist in correlating the distribution of funding with local child care needs at county level, a strategic mapping exercise is being undertaken to inform the approach of each child care committee in working to achieve the objectives of the programme. While this is being completed, the initial stages of the application process will continue to be dealt with at central level in the coming months. In addition to ensuring a more strategic approach to matching child care needs with child care services, the new approach is expected to bring increased efficiency to the application process and shorten the timeframe in which new child care places are provided. At the appropriate stage in the process, applications will be forwarded by the child care committees to Pobal, which administers the programme on behalf of the office of the Minister of State with responsibility for children and, in due course, will be decided on within the office, under the Department of Health and Children.

Private sector child care providers may apply for grant assistance of up to €100,000 towards the capital cost of developing a child care service facility in a catchment area where there is a demonstrated child care need. An applicant may apply for more than one grant under this scheme provided the subsequent child care facilities are in different catchment areas and subject to an overall ceiling of €500,000 per applicant. In each case, an applicant must provide at least 25% of the total funding for the project and all grant payments are subject to the relevant criteria having been met. Community or not-for-profit child care providers may apply for grant assistance up to €1 million per project based on a demonstrated child care need in the area. The level of funding granted will be determined by the number of places which the group proposes to provide and the sustainability of the project, and will be subject to the relevant criteria having been met.

Health Services.

John Perry

Question:

184 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the circumstances (details supplied); the avenues which are available for those involved to pursue regarding transport assistance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6445/06]

John Perry

Question:

210 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the circumstances (details supplied); the avenues which are available for those involved to pursue regarding transport assistance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6446/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 184 and 210 together.

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

Gay Mitchell

Question:

185 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange for an extra two hours per week home help to be provided to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6309/06]

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 reply directly to the Deputy .

Food Labelling.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

186 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether the food sold in country markets under the aegis of Country Markets Limited is healthy and wholesome and whether the labelling requirements such as those imposed on large commercial enterprises are not appropriate for the type of direct selling conducted by country markets; her further views on whether country markets have a track record of first-class produce with the highest standards of hygiene and quality control and that they also work within the guidelines published by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and welcome visits from environmental health officers; and her further views on whether in all these circumstances the labelling system operated by country markets gives sufficient information to customers to comply with Irish and EU law. [6310/06]

Country Markets Limited and its associated operations fall within the definitions of a food business operator and a food business under food safety legislation. Food businesses bear the primary responsibility for food safety and are obliged to ensure that food they place on the market is safe and complies with relevant legislation, which includes labelling regulations. The general labelling of foodstuffs in Ireland is controlled by the European Communities (Labelling, Presentation and Advertising of Foodstuffs) Regulations 2002 to 2005.

Current labelling requirements are based on the principle that the labelling, presentation and advertising of food should not mislead consumers. Labelling rules are designed to inform consumers so that they can make informed choices. Consumers have the right to be adequately informed about the properties of the food they buy, for example, ingredients, presence of allergens, date of minimum durability and so forth, wherever that food is purchased. Current regulations apply to the labelling of all pre-packaged foodstuffs for sale to the ultimate or final consumer. Food sold at Country Markets Limited businesses is not exempt from these labelling requirements.

However, the Deputy should note that the full extent of labelling requirements does not apply in all circumstances. Foodstuffs sold loose without pre-packaging need only indicate the name of the food either on the label, or displayed on a notice near the food. Foodstuffs that are pre-packaged on the premises, for example, a stall from which they are sold, need only indicate the name of the food on the label. If the foodstuff is packed on the premises, for example, a stall, at the request of the consumer, for example, sandwiches made up at the customer's request, only the name of the food needs to be indicated on the label or on a notice near the food.

I have no reason to believe that food sold by Country Markets Limited is not of a high standard. However, as food business operators, Country Markets Limited, like all food business operators, must ensure that the food it produces is safe. Various sectors of the food industry have developed guides to good hygiene practice as a means of complying with the hygiene legislation and Country Markets Limited has worked closely with the National Standards Authority of Ireland and regulatory authorities to develop the Country Markets Limited guide to good hygiene practice. This guide is relevant to food producers working on a domestic scale in premises used primarily as a dwelling house and who prepare or produce food for sale or supply to the public.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland and the official agencies, which work under a service contract arrangement with the authority, will continue to ensure that the legal requirements are being complied with in all food businesses to maintain and protect the interest of the consumer. The authority is willing to provide advice or further assistance to Country Markets Limited on labelling of foodstuffs should this be required.

Health Service Allowances.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

187 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Meath has not been granted the domiciliary care allowance by the Health Service Executive. [6311/06]

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 a reply on this issue sent directly to the Deputy.

Pension Provisions.

Liam Twomey

Question:

188 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 304 of 31 January 2006, if retired nurses should receive payment of deducted pensions during the period 1 May 2005 to 20 October 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6312/06]

The Pensions (Abatement) Act 1965 provides the legislative basis for the suspension or reduction of an allowance or pension where, after retirement, a scheme pensioner is employed in an agency or organisation in which the superannuation scheme paying the pension applies. Remuneration plus pension for the specified period should not exceed the up-rated remuneration for the post from which the pensioner retired.

My Department issued circular 21/2005 in October 2005. The new arrangements mean that, in effect, pensioners working in agencies or organisations covered by the scheme from which their pensions are paid can earn up to 50% of the up-rated remuneration of the former post before abatement applies. The date of application is under review.

Hospital Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

189 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive or former health boards had direct involvement in the management of hospitals that were penalised for failing to reach targets under the case mix system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6313/06]

Case mix analyses the mix of patients hospitals treat by collecting data on the diagnoses and procedures relating to individual patients and the cost of treating them and categorising them into diagnoses related groups. Case mix is used as part of the budgetary process in order that funding is based on measured costs and activity and to fund hospitals for the patients actually treated. In calculating these costs, account is taken of each hospital's unique issues and unique patients.

The case mix programme does not set hospital targets. Case mix hospitals are divided into four peer groups of similar hospitals. This is to allow fair clinical and cost comparison of like with like and take full account of each hospital's different mix of cases. Benchmarks such as cost per case, are generated by direct reference to both the national data and each hospital's peer group of hospitals, that is, the hospital's data sets the benchmarks used. A percentage of each hospital's budget is adjusted based on its peer group case mix performance. The consequence of this is that some hospitals may lose funding while others may gain.

As case mix quantifies the mix of cases each hospital treats, it is a hospital rather than a health board programme. However, the programme is managed with the active participation of all stakeholders, including individual hospitals and their respective hospital networks, the national hospitals office and the Health Service Executive. All stakeholders are actively encouraged to participate in the process. They are also encouraged to establish structures to advise on the operation and implementation of the programme.

As case mix allows for the collection, categorisation and interpretation of hospital patient data related to the types of cases treated to assist hospitals to define their products, measure their productivity and assess quality, a central tenet of the programme is that all data collected from individual hospitals is shared among all participating hospitals, the national hospitals office and the Health Service Executive. This ensures that the value-added benefit that accrues from such a comprehensive database of hospital data can be fully utilised.

There are 37 hospitals within the national case mix programme, comprising both voluntary and former health board, now HSE hospitals. The Health Service Executive has responsibility for the funding of all 37 hospitals. Former health board hospitals come under the direct management of the HSE while voluntary hospitals have their own management structures. It is a matter for each hospital to review its case mix outturns in consultation with the HSE, as funder, and to take whatever action deemed appropriate.

I remain committed to rewarding good performance and, as case mix is the most internationally accepted performance related acute hospital activity programme, it is agreed between my Department and the Health Service Executive that case mix will be used as a central pillar in acute hospital funding policy.

Medicinal Products.

Liam Twomey

Question:

190 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 201 of 31 January 2006, if she will confirm that the recommendations referred to in this question are Government policy; and if the Health Service Executive has been instructed to implement same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6314/06]

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 report to which the Deputy's question refers was prepared by the benzodiazepine committee at the behest of the then Minister for Health and Children and published in 2002. The committee was comprised of representatives from the Department, former health boards and relevant professional bodies and was chaired by the then assistant chief executive officer of the East Coast Area Health Board, now the HSE eastern area.

The report, which was undertaken under action 41 of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008, contains 24 recommendations which are addressed to the Department, the Health Service Executive, the General Medical Services (Payments) Board, general practitioners and other professional bodies and fall to be considered for action by the body to which the action is addressed.

One of the key recommendations of this report was the dissemination of good practice guidelines to clinicians on the prescribing of benzodiazepines. These guidelines have been circulated widely to the Health Service Executive areas and to general practitioners throughout the country. In addition, arrangements have been put in place by Health Service Executive drug treatment clinics and general practitioners to reduce sources of multi-prescribing to known drug users. The Department is also considering what legislative changes are appropriate in light of the UN convention.

Health Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

191 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the breakdown of capital spending by month and the current spend in each health board area of the Health Service Executive for 2005. [6315/06]

The latest figures available to me for spending by the Health Service Executive in 2005 were included in the executive's December 2005 returns to the Department of Finance, which were submitted to me on 17 January 2006. These figures fall to be revised when the executive consolidates figures for inclusion in the 2005 annual appropriation account for Vote 40.

The monthly spending from the capital subheads within the Health Service Executive's vote, Vote 40, for 2005 per the December 2005 return of voted capital expenditure is outlined in the following table.

Month

Amount paid

€m

January

5.148

February

25.438

March

46.076

April

29.288

May

48.517

June

35.391

July

29.826

August

42.293

September

23.253

October

7.310

November

69.900

December

144.165

Total

506.605

The non-capital spending by each HSE regional area and HSE corporate for each month in 2005 per the December 2005 return of non-capital voted expenditure is set out in the following table.

Month

HSE Corporate

Eastern

Midland

Mid Western

North Eastern

North Western

South Eastern

Southern

Western

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

January

0.128

181.307

30.047

52.237

52.303

57.506

60.825

103.636

68.872

February

1.322

160.213

40.995

52.667

51.252

54.810

68.262

80.923

83.522

March

2.332

188.825

44.419

61.149

58.017

56.700

68.116

105.265

81.459

April

1.913

164.754

54.751

54.915

63.813

60.748

79.030

82.098

77.064

May

1.490

158.134

36.100

52.500

56.563

42.493

73.508

98.370

73.765

June

2.112

192.308

59.740

44.547

57.466

55.082

67.646

93.416

79.579

July

2.312

167.373

44.321

57.534

47.263

52.377

69.952

97.241

73.310

August

1.668

195.629

41.003

56.327

56.127

44.441

69.502

114.198

74.667

September

0.796

198.647

52.265

42.984

61.567

24.444

77.133

77.890

105.614

October

2.250

149.857

43.506

70.716

52.180

54.036

65.991

89.605

79.345

November

0.687

165.918

43.145

56.814

56.629

72.509

74.741

103.570

70.757

December

(8.760)

221.457

39.760

92.380

69.173

39.204

103.585

114.695

112.023

Clinical Indemnity Scheme.

Liam Twomey

Question:

192 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 231 of 31 January 2006, the cap on the extent of professional indemnity cover that is provided to consultants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6316/06]

The clinical indemnity scheme is based on the principle of enterprise liability. It therefore covers consultants employed in public hospitals for the treatment of their public and private patients in hospitals covered by the scheme. The cover is provided to the hospital concerned rather than to the individual consultant. This cover is unlimited.

The scheme does not extend to the treatment of patients outside public hospitals and associated clinics. Consultants who see patients in private hospitals, off-site clinics or consulting rooms must arrange and pay for their own professional indemnity cover. To maintain the cost of this cover at an affordable level, the Government decided in January 2004 that limits should be placed on the level of cover that consultants would be required to purchase. There is a general limit of €1 million for each claim. A lower limit of €500,000 for each claim was put in place for consultant obstetricians. In addition, the limit on claims against consultant obstetricians is subject to an annual aggregate annual limit of €1.5 million per individual. Following the findings of a study undertaken in 2005 by consultant actuaries to the clinical indemnity scheme, the Government decided to apply the €500,000 limit on individual claims, including the annual aggregate limit of €1.5 million to consultant neurosurgeons and consultant orthopaedic surgeons undertaking spinal surgery.

Liam Twomey

Question:

193 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if consultants in public hospital must pay private medical insurance to look after private patients in public hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6317/06]

Private patients in public hospitals are patients of the hospital as well as patients of the consultant treating them. As such, their treatment and care is covered by the clinical indemnity scheme. Consultants do not need to take out separate professional indemnity cover for this element of their practice. One of the objectives in establishing the clinical indemnity scheme was to eliminate the need for patients taking personal injury claims to name all the separate parties involved in their care in the claim. This measure will significantly reduce the legal costs involved in defending claims by eliminating the multiple parties on the defence side. It should also speed up the settlement of claims.

Hospital Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

194 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans for St. Luke’s Hospital in Dublin if she follows through on closing the hospital and moving radiotherapy services to two other hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6318/06]

Liam Twomey

Question:

195 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if in view of the excellent radiotherapy facilities available at St. Luke’s Hospital, she will support the development of radiotherapy services in other regions first; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6319/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 194 and 195 together.

My objective in the development of a national network for radiation oncology services is to increase capacity as early as possible and to ensure that all cancer patients will receive care to the best international standards. St. Luke's Hospital board and its executive management team are fully committed to supporting the Government's decisions regarding the development of radiation oncology. In addition, all consultant radiation oncologists at St. Luke's have fully endorsed the decision to provide new centres on the campuses of St. James's and Beaumont hospitals.

The Government has decided that the capital investment involved will be funded mostly through public-private partnership on a design, build, finance, manage and partially operate basis. I am confident that this will have the advantage of offering greater synergies, innovation, transfer of risk and assurance that all centres will be compatible to deliver modern multi-modality integrated cancer care. I do not consider that the achievement of this objective should be delayed. The practical reality is that radiation oncology staff and services at St. Luke's Hospital will relocate to the St. James's Hospital facility on a managed and phased basis. It is important that the necessary planning encompasses continuity of care, human resources, professional development and change management. With regard to the future use of the site and facilities at St. Luke's, my objective will be to ensure that these resources are utilised in the best interest of the health service. I will discuss this issue in due course with the Health Service Executive and the hospital board.

Departmental Expenditure.

Liam Twomey

Question:

196 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the organisations to which her Department or the Health Service Executive provided funding during 2005; the amount given to each organisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6320/06]

The amount of non-capital funding paid to each organisation by my Department in 2005 is set out in the following table.

Organisation

Amount paid in 2005

€ million

Board for Employment of the Blind

0.696

BreastCheck

10.606

Crisis Pregnancy Agency

7.399

Food Safety Authority of Ireland

17.160

Food Safety Promotion Board

6.370

Health Research Board

27.147

The Institute of Public Health in Ireland

1.469

Interim Health Information and Quality Authority

0.335

Irish Health Services Accreditation Board

2.342

Irish Medicines Board

3.886

Mental Health Commission

5.980

The National Cancer Registry Board

1.870

National Council on Ageing and Older People

1.347

National Council for the Professional Development of Nursing and Midwifery

4.220

National Social Work Qualifications Board

0.511

The National Treatment Purchase Fund

64.000

Office of Tobacco Control

1.838

Ombudsman for Children

1.018

Postgraduate Medical and Dental Board

7.088

Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council

2.236

Special Residential Services Board

2.101

The Women’s Health Council

0.609

The capital grants paid to organisations funded by my Department in 2005 are set out in the accompanying table.

Organisation

Amount paid in 2005

€ million

BreastCheck

1.236

Food Safety Authority of Ireland

0.128

Health Research Board

2.066

The National Treatment Purchase Fund

1.759

Office of Tobacco Control

0.450

Ombudsman for Children

1.217

Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council

0.850

Public Procurement Policy.

Enda Kenny

Question:

197 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department has a corporate procurement plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6342/06]

The national public procurement policy framework which was published recently by the Department of Finance includes the requirement that public bodies should develop an annual corporate procurement plan. My Department is now working on this and will be developing and compiling its corporate procurement plan over the coming months.

Consultancy Contracts.

Enda Kenny

Question:

198 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress made within her Department on reviewing existing contract specifications awarded by all Departments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6357/06]

The directions issued by the Minister for Finance have been noted and circulated to all relevant agencies for appropriate action. At present, the Department of Finance is in consultation with the industry on the matter and further directions are awaited.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

199 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the major public health issues involved concerning empty houses (details supplied) in County Limerick. [6378/06]

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 reply directly to the Deputy.

Finian McGrath

Question:

200 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) was left in a ward with MRSA patients; the procedures relating to same; and if this person will be transferred to St. Claire’s Ward. [6379/06]

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 reply directly to the Deputy.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

201 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the funding which has been sought by the Health Service Executive to refurbish or rebuild a health care facility in Dublin 12; when it is proposed to complete these works; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6386/06]

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 reply directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

202 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to introduce insulin pump therapy for diabetics in the Mid-Western Health Service Executive area similar to that available in the greater Dublin area; the number of type one diabetics in the mid-western Health Service Executive area; her views on the introduction of such therapy if there are no existing plans; the number of times diabetic children msut wait in the mid-western Health Service Executive area for check-ups; when she expects such waiting periods to be reduced to three months as an internationally recognised standard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6389/06]

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 reply directly to the Deputy.

Enda Kenny

Question:

203 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive is liable for the acts of the former health boards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6393/06]

Part 10 of the Health Act 2004, sections 56 to 72, inclusive, provides for the dissolution of certain health bodies, including health boards, and the transfer of functions and employees to the Health Service Executive. Sections 62 to 67, inclusive, in particular ensure that the executive is liable for property, contracts, legal proceedings, orders, notices, rules and records of the former health boards.

Richard Bruton

Question:

204 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her estimate of the cost of providing one hour of home help during working hours and the cost of providing one hour in the evening and at the weekends; her estimate of the number of home help hours that should be funded in ordinary working hours and out of hours; and if she has made adjustments in her Department’s budget allocation to the Health Service Executive to reflect same. [6408/06]

An investment package of an additional €150 million has been put in place for services for older people and palliative care for 2006 and 2007, of which an additional €33 million full-year cost was allocated to the home help programme, €30 million of which will be for 2006. This funding will enable the Health Service Executive to provide an additional 1.75 million hours nationally in 2006. It should be noted that €55 million was also allocated towards the provision of an additional 2,000 home care packages in 2006, which may also include an element of home help service.

The funding outlined above was provided to the HSE, which is responsible for the delivery of the home help service. The Department has forwarded the Deputy's question to the parliamentary affairs division of the executive and has requested that it reply to her directly.

Bernard Allen

Question:

205 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that the number of dentists operating from the Grattan Street health centre in Cork under the Health Service Executive has been reduced from three to one and, as a result, children attending national schools in the Donoughmore and surrounding areas are not having dental inspections as in the past; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6409/06]

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 reply directly to the Deputy.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

206 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the qualifying conditions for people with special needs to acquire aids and appliances; if only people with medical cards qualify; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6410/06]

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. Part of this responsibility covers the assessment of and entitlement to aids and appliances.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

207 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, where general practitioners have entered into a co-operative agreement to deal with after hours calls from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. and cover for weekends, it is mandatory that the general practitioner on cover or call attends persons who, while on holiday or visiting the region where the agreement is in place, take ill; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6432/06]

General practitioners who hold general medical services scheme contracts for service with the Health Service Executive undertake to provide general practitioner services for their assigned patients for a total of 40 hours to cover surgery and domiciliary visits on five or more days per week as agreed with the executive. They are also obliged to put in place arrangements that enable contact to be made with them or a deputy or locum for emergencies outside these times. Their contract also includes a requirement to treat eligible persons temporarily resident in their area or visitors to Ireland covered under EU regulations.

To fulfil their out-of-hours commitment as specified in the general medical services scheme contract, general practitioners may choose to participate in co-operative arrangements where cover is provided for attendance on the patients of the participating general practitioners.

Mental Health Services.

John Perry

Question:

208 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the direction she has issued to the Health Service Executive officials in the north west region concerning St. Columba’s Hospital Sligo and the provision of a psychiatric unit on the campus of Sligo General Hospital, which has been planned for a number of years with tender document issued; her views on whether the development of psychiatric services there has been ignored for too long; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6442/06]

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 reply directly to the Deputy.

John Perry

Question:

209 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take to further develop psychiatric services where it is accepted that one in four of the population will suffer a psychiatric or psychological condition at some stage in their lives, which reflects the enormous level of suffering for too many families, in view of the recent announcement regarding mental health institutions here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6443/06]

The report of the expert group on mental health policy, A Vision for Change, was launched on 24 January 2006. The report proposes a holistic view of mental illness and recommends an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to addressing the biological, psychological and social factors that contribute to mental health problems. It proposes a person-centred treatment approach which addresses each of these elements through an integrated care plan reflecting best practice and evolved and agreed with service users and their carers. Special emphasis is given to the need to involve service users and their families and carers at every level of service provision.

This policy envisions an active, flexible and community-based mental health service where the need for hospital admission will be greatly reduced. It will require substantial funding but there is considerable equity in buildings and lands within the current mental health system which could be realised to fund this plan. Therefore, the report recommends that steps be taken to bring about the closure of all psychiatric hospitals and to invest the resources released by these closures in the mental health service. The closure of large mental hospitals and the move to modern units attached to general hospitals, together with the expansion of community services, has been Government policy since the publication of Planning for the Future in 1984.

The Health Service Executive, which has primary responsibility for implementing the recommendations of the expert report, has stated that the national mental health directorate within the executive will immediately establish an implementation group to ensure that the recommendations are realised in a timely and co-ordinated manner.

Question No. 210 answered with QuestionNo. 184.

General Register Office.

John Perry

Question:

211 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the avenues which are available to a person to obtain his birth certificate (details supplied). [6453/06]

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

Under current civil registration legislation, any life event, including a birth, that occurred in England cannot be registered in Ireland, irrespective of whether the event was registered in England or not. Births occurring in England fall to be registered there and any birth that was not registered at the time of the event may be registered by the appropriate British authority. To have his birth registered and to obtain a birth certificate, I am advised that the person should contact the General Register Office in the United Kingdom where he will be advised of the procedures involved. The contact details for that office are Births and Deaths Section, Room D209, General Register Office, Trafalgar Road, Southport, PR8 2HH; telephone +44 0 151 471 4805, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Health Service Staff.

Marian Harkin

Question:

212 Ms Harkin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of Parkinson’s nurse specialists here and their location. [6460/06]

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

Marian Harkin

Question:

213 Ms Harkin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there are provisions in place to increase the number of Parkinson’s nurse specialists here. [6461/06]

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.

Marian Harkin

Question:

214 Ms Harkin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there are provisions in place for extra training for Parkinson’s nurse specialists. [6462/06]

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

Child Care Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

215 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of licensed crèches or child care facilities; the number of inspections carried out during 2005 to ensure that appropriate standards were being maintained; the number of prosecutions initiated as a result of such inspections in respect of each county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6463/06]

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.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Bernard Allen

Question:

216 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a situation regarding a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be investigated; and if the Health Service Executive will be instructed to provide the coated steroids. [6474/06]

There is a common list of reimbursable medicines for the general medical services and drug payment schemes. This list is reviewed and amended monthly as new products become available and deletions are notified. The product referred to by the Deputy has not been deleted from the list.

An agreement is in place between the Department of Health and Children, the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association, IPHA, and the Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of Ireland, APMI, which sets out the supply terms and prices of medicines supplied to the health services. The agreement covers all reimbursable prescription medicines in the general medical services and community drug schemes as well as all medicines supplied to hospitals and the Health Service Executive. A price freeze is in place for products supplied under the terms of the agreement.

The original manufacturers of the product referred to by the Deputy divested ownership of the product to another company. The new owner subsequently increased the price of the product without prior consultation with my Department and in breach of the pricing agreement. Following negotiations with the company concerned, agreement has been reached on a revised price which will come into effect in March. In the meantime, people with a medical card who are experiencing financial difficulty in obtaining this medicine should contact the local office of the Health Service Executive.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

217 Mr. McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress which has been made to begin the process of core funding community employment positions supporting personal social services for people with disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6489/06]

In the Estimates for 2006, significant additional funding totalling €100 million has been included for the improvement of health services for people with disabilities. As part of this provision, funding of €10 million has been made available to address core under-funding and core staffing issues in services provided by the non-statutory sector. The Health Service Executive has been 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 any urgent case for funding of necessary services which may be made by the Irish Wheelchair Association.

Hospital Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

218 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the €70 million allocated to her ten-point plan for the accident and emergency crisis in 2005 is a recurring annual cost; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6490/06]

Additional funding of €70 million was provided in 2005 to support the actions identified in the ten-point plan for accident and emergency services. This funding remains in the Health Service Executive's Vote.

Health Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

219 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount of rent in arrears for the new health centre in Ballymun; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6491/06]

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:

220 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of staff within the Health Service Executive who are on paid leave for more than a year; the breakdown of the titles of persons on paid leave for more than a year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6492/06]

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 its parliamentary affairs division to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Enda Kenny

Question:

221 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of new Health Service Executive managerial or administrative posts that have been created since the establishment of the Health Service Executive; the number and breakdown of posts that have been abolished since the Health Service Executive’s establishment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6493/06]

The human resource management issues raised by the Deputy are a matter for the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. The executive's parliamentary affairs division has been asked to investigate the issues raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Enda Kenny

Question:

222 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of people in the public health services who are in receipt of an on-call allowance; the breakdown of the titles and grade of the staff in receipt of this allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6494/06]

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 its parliamentary affairs division to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Enda Kenny

Question:

223 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of Health Service Executive staff who have the title “co-ordinator and facilitator”; the salaries for such posts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6495/06]

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 its parliamentary affairs division to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

224 Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in the payment of the nursing home refunds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6508/06]

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 have died since 9 December 1998 will have the charges repaid in full. The scheme will not allow for repayments to the estates of those who died prior to that date. 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 the Government in December and were approved. The draft heads have been submitted to the Office of the 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.

In the preparation of the legislation there were many complex issues which required clarification. My Department had consultations with a wide range of Departments and agencies to ensure that the provisions of the scheme adequately addressed these issues. These provisions included exempting repayments to those who are alive from income tax, to allow for repayments to take account of inflation by use of the consumer price index and to allow repayments to living persons and their spouses to be disregarded in means assessment for health and social welfare benefits. Consultation with the probate office of the High Court has also resulted in a streamlined process where a grant of probate is required for an application on behalf of a deceased person. The provisions of the Bill will also provide appropriate safeguards for those who are not in a position to manage their own affairs.

There has also been extensive consultation with the oversight committee appointed to provide an independent input into the design and monitoring of the scheme. The committee is fully briefed on all aspects of the scheme and has provided valuable input into the legislative process to date.

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 an independent transparent and thorough appeals process.

Irish Blood Transfusion Service.

John Deasy

Question:

225 Mr. Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Irish Blood Transfusion Service has received the results of the tests requested by them from the University of Edinburgh for a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; when these will be released to the family; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6512/06]

The issue of test results is a clinical matter and is personal to the individuals concerned as well as or instead of their physicians. The Irish Blood Transfusion Service has advised that it will contact the person directly regarding their test results.

Decentralisation Programme.

Enda Kenny

Question:

226 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the location of the health information and quality authority, HIQA, headquarters; if it is to be fully or partially decentralised to County Cork; the progress to date in 2006 on this project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6516/06]

On 8 July 2004, the Minister for Finance announced the locations for the decentralised health sector and information and communications technology, ICT, jobs. As part of this decentralisation programme, the headquarters of the health information and quality authority, HIQA, will be located in Cork city involving the decentralisation of 50 jobs.

The new authority has not yet been established. However, heads of a Bill to provide for the establishment of the HIQA and the establishment of the social services inspectorate function, as part of the HIQA, on a statutory basis, are at an advanced stage of drafting in my Department. I will be submitting these draft heads to the Government shortly, following which my intention is to engage in a consultation process on the proposals prior to commencing the drafting of the Bill.

In March 2005, I established the interim health information and quality authority, iHIQA, to make the organisational plans and preparations for the new authority. Among the matters being attended to by the iHIQA are consultation with the National Cancer Registry and the Irish Health Services accreditation board, the functions of which bodies will be amalgamated with the new authority. Additionally, the iHIQA has been in discussion with the Department of Finance about the decentralisation programme and is liaising with the Office of Public Works in identifying suitable accommodation in Cork for the new authority.

Enda Kenny

Question:

227 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of jobs that have been decentralised to the Health Service Executive headquarters in Naas, County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6517/06]

The Government decided on 6 July 2004 that up to 300 staff of the Health Service Executive would locate to Naas under the decentralisation programme. Section 6 of the Health Act 2004 states that the Health Service Executive is a corporate body. 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.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

228 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will seek an explanation from the medical bureau as to the reason persons (details supplied) in Dublin 9 of a flat complex were told they would have to bring their sick child to the bottom of the complex staircase to be seen by the visiting doctor if the lift wasn’t working; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6518/06]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

229 Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if core funding for community employment staff supporting essential services will be made available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6521/06]

Enda Kenny

Question:

280 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the core funding promised in the 2006 Estimates and referred to by her in Question No. 202 of 29 November 2005 will be provided to the Irish Wheelchair Association to mainstream services provided by community employment participants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6948/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

286 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if further funding can or will be offered for community employment positions supporting personal social services for people with disability in the Irish Wheelchair Association sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7067/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 229, 280 and 286 together.

In the Estimates for 2006, significant additional funding totalling €100 million has been included for the improvement of health services for people with disabilities. As part of this provision, funding of €10 million has been made available to address core under-funding and core staffing issues in services provided by the non-statutory sector. The Health Service Executive has been 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 any urgent case for funding of necessary services which may be made by the Irish Wheelchair Association.

Health Services.

Ivor Callely

Question:

230 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the waiting list for a centre (details supplied) in Dublin. [6527/06]

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.

Ivor Callely

Question:

231 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the average waiting time for assessment and treatment of autistic children; and if there is a timeframe for assessment and treatment of autistic children. [6528/06]

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.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Ivor Callely

Question:

232 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the average waiting time in accident and emergency in Beaumont and the Mater Hospitals. [6529/06]

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.

Ivor Callely

Question:

233 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the measures that have been taken to improve waiting times; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6530/06]

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.

Liz McManus

Question:

234 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the inadequate staffing levels for the treatment of cystic fibrosis as highlighted by the Pollock report and outlined in Question No. 52 of 21 June 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6535/06]

As part of the overall funding for health services in 2006, additional revenue funding of €4.78 million has been allocated specifically for the development of cystic fibrosis services.

I wish to see significant improvement this year in the level of services available to persons with cystic fibrosis. The current service deficits in this area are widely acknowledged and have been identified, most notably in the Pollock report, and by the Health Service Executive working group which is examining this issue. My Department is advised that the working group is due to report shortly and will make specific recommendations regarding a range of service improvements required for persons with cystic fibrosis, in particular the need to increase the level of clinical, nursing and allied health professional staffing in cystic fibrosis units throughout the country. As part of the implementation process I have asked the HSE to address in particular the identified deficits at the national adult referral centre at St. Vincent's University Hospital, Dublin.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Pat Carey

Question:

235 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if it is normal practice for over 70s to be charged a fee of €35 for a medical report which is necessary for a driving licence renewal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6548/06]

Under the terms of the general medical services scheme, GMS, contract, participating general practitioners undertake to provide a range of treatments and general practitioner services for the patients on their GMS panel. Their GMS contract obliges them to provide the first and last certificates to explain work absence for their patients. All other requested certificates in respect of requirements for driving licences or life assurance policies may incur charges.

Charitable Funding.

Denis Naughten

Question:

236 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the funding provided to a charity (details supplied) in County Galway in 2005 and the projected allocation for 2006; the funding which will be provided in 2006 to address existing service deficits and to develop new services in the Ballinasloe area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6563/06]

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.

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

237 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to the Health Service Executive reply to Question No. 361 of 28 September 2005, if she will provide an update for 2005 and the service provision for 2006; the new services planned for 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6566/06]

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.

Child Care Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

238 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 334 of 26 January 2005, if the child care report has been finalised; if training issues for pre-school inspection staff will arise as a result of the requirements of the revised regulations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6567/06]

The review of the Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 1996 and Child Care (Pre-School Services) (Amendment) Regulations 1997 has been completed. I expect to be in a position to introduce the revised regulations in the near future. I understand that work is in progress in the Health Service Executive to address training issues for pre-school inspection staff in anticipation of the introduction of the revised regulations.

Food Safety.

Denis Naughten

Question:

239 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to the Adjournment debate of 14 February 2006, the action which was taken by the official agencies who were presented with a copy of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland report; the conclusions of such action in each case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6573/06]

The official agencies concerned are the Department of Agriculture and Food, the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, the Health Service Executive and various local authorities. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland, FSAI, provided each of these agencies with a report on the premises under their supervision which were visited as part of the audit and it has confirmed that they took follow-up action by way of additional visits and inspections and that the matters which required attention have been rectified.

A related outcome of the audit identified by the FSAI was the need to strengthen controls in the areas of recall, traceability and labelling. Subsequently, the authority devised and delivered training sessions to more than 500 field staff in the official agencies. This training was designed to allow enforcement officers to gain an improved understanding of the type of audit carried out, the issues which arose in the context of the audit and to enable them to carry out similar labelling, traceability and recall audits on an ongoing basis.

Consumers must be confident that Irish food business operators not only produce safe food but food which is properly labelled and traceable. The FSAI has informed me that it will continue to ensure that consumers' interests are protected by ensuring adequate enforcement of regulations in this area. In addition, my officials have asked the FSAI to consider how such reports may be made available routinely.

Health Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

240 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the chiropody service which is available to senior citizen medical card holders in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary; her proposals for expanding chiropody provision for these patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6574/06]

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.

Nursing Home Charges.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

241 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 89 of 9 February 2006, if she will reply in detail to the question raised with particular reference to the individual circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6587/06]

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 have died since 9 December 1998 will have the charges repaid in full. The scheme will not allow for repayments to the estates of those who died prior to that date. 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 the Government in December and were approved. The draft heads have been submitted to the Office of the 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.

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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

242 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of a new community hospital for Dingle, County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6658/06]

The Dingle community hospital project is at pre-tender stage and is included in the HSE capital plan for 2006 as part of the rolling capital programme 2006 to 2010. The capital plan has been approved by the HSE board and was recently submitted to the Tánaiste for consideration. The Department is in discussion with the HSE on the plan.

Hospital Accommodation.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

243 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of an extension to Kenmare Community Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6659/06]

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.

Medical Cards.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

244 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of applications to date from County Kerry for the doctor-only medical card; the number of applications which have been successful; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6660/06]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

245 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons in County Kerry in possession of a medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6661/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 244 and 245 together.

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

Cancer Screening Programme.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

246 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the roll-out of BreastCheck to the south and west of the country; if the service will be nationwide in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6662/06]

The roll-out of the national breast screening programme to the remaining regions in the country is a major priority in the development of cancer services. BreastCheck has advertised for lead consultant radiologists and radiographers for the two new units at the South Infirmary and Victoria Hospital, Cork and University College Hospital, Galway. The recruitment of other key clinical posts will commence shortly.

The design process for the two new units is progressing. The applications for planning permission for both clinical units have been lodged with the relevant local authorities and decisions are expected in March. It is anticipated that the design process, including the preparation of tender documentation, will be completed by mid-2006. Following the selection of contractors, construction of the two units will commence. BreastCheck is confident that the target date of 2007 for commencement of the roll-out will be met.

Hospital Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

247 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the estimate of the accident and emergency attendances, in-patient admissions and the number of day cases in 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6663/06]

The information sought by the Deputy is set out in the following table.

Acute Hospital Summary Activity Data, 2005

Number

A&E Attendances

1,247,192

In-Patient Admissions

569,851

Day Cases

505,588

Note: All figures are provisional.

Source: Integrated Management Returns (IMRs) Dept of Health & Children.

Richard Bruton

Question:

248 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of inpatient beds and hospital day beds in publicly funded hospitals at year end 2005. [6664/06]

I refer the Deputy to the Health Services Executive's National Service Plan 2006 that has been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, which states that there are 53 public acute hospitals with a total of 13,771 beds — inpatient and day places — in October 2005.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

249 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the office or unit within her Department and associated unit that is due to be decentralised; the number of posts and staff in tabular form from each unit within her Department and associated agency who have chosen to decentralise with their parent organisation; and the number of people willing to move who have been assigned their new posts. [6666/06]

My Department is not one of the Departments earmarked for decentralisation under the Civil Service decentralisation programme. Therefore, the issue of staff who have chosen to decentralise with my Department does not arise.

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

250 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of home care packages made available in each Health Service Executive area and in Counties Roscommon and Leitrim in 2005 respectively; the corresponding numbers who availed of such packages via stepdown from the acute hospital services and who were either resident in a nursing home or in the community prior to availing of the scheme; the planned figures under each category for 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6689/06]

A sum of €55 million was allocated to home care packages in the 2006 budget. This is a full year cost, €30 million of which is for 2006, during which an additional 2,000 packages will be provided by the Health Service Executive across the country. The priority will be older people living in the community or who are inpatients in an acute hospital who may otherwise require admission to residential care. The home care packages will also be available to those older people who have been admitted to long-term care and who now wish to return to the community.

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.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Michael Lowry

Question:

251 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the changes made to the nursing home subvention scheme; the breakdown of changes for people who have applied for subvention; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6758/06]

The Nursing Home (Subvention) Regulations 1993 are administered by the Health Service Executive. There are currently three rates of subvention payable, that is, €114.30, €152.40 and €190.50, for the three levels of dependency which are medium, high and maximum.

The changes that were announced on budget day were incorporated into the Nursing Homes (Subvention) (Amendment) Regulations 2005. These regulations amended the thresholds contained in the 1993 regulations by increasing the value of assets to be disregarded for the purposes of subvention assessment from £6,000 or €7,618 to €11,000, increasing the asset threshold above which subvention may be refused from £20,000 or €25,394 to €36,000 and increasing the threshold of principal residence value above which subvention may be refused from £75,000 or €95,230 to €500,000 or more, where the residence is located in the Dublin area, or €300,000 or more, where the residence is located outside the Dublin area, provided that the applicant's income is greater than €9,000 — this was previously £5,000 or €6,349. These regulations were signed by the Tánaiste on 14 December 2005 and came into law effective from that date.

The HSE continues to retain the discretion to impute an income of 5% of the estimated market value of the principal residence of an applicant for subvention, unless the residence is occupied by a spouse or son or daughter aged less than 21 years or in full-time education or in receipt of the disabled person's maintenance allowance, blind person's pension, disability benefit, invalidity pension or old age non-contributory pension, and generally does so unless there are exceptional circumstances. However, the residence value above which it may automatically refuse to pay a subvention has been increased substantially, as outlined, to take account of increased property values.

The Department has discussed the regulations with the HSE, both during their preparation and since their coming into law, and it falls to the HSE to implement the regulations in the various HSE regions.

Michael Lowry

Question:

252 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the criteria for assessing an application for enhanced nursing home subvention in each area of the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6759/06]

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.

The nursing home subvention scheme was introduced in 1993 on foot of the Nursing Homes (Subvention) Regulations 1993 which were made under section 7 of the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990. These regulations laid down the criteria for assessing a person's eligibility for subvention, as well as the maximum amounts of subvention that may be paid to an eligible person. The Nursing Home (Subvention) Regulations 1993 are administered by the Health Service Executive. There are currently three rates of subvention payable, that is, €114.30, €152.40 and €190.50, for the three levels of dependency which are medium, high and maximum.

The HSE has discretion to pay more than the maximum rate of subvention relative to an individual's level of dependency in a case, for example, where personal funds are exhausted. The application of these provisions in an individual case is a matter for the HSE in the context of meeting increasing demands for subvention, subject to the provisions of the Health Act 2004. The average rate of subvention paid by the HSE generally exceeds the current approved basic rates.

Michael Lowry

Question:

253 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the various levels of enhanced nursing home subvention in each area of the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6760/06]

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. I have outlined details of subvention and, in particular, the criteria for assessing an application for enhanced subvention in a separate reply to another question from the Deputy.

Parliamentary Questions.

Michael Ring

Question:

254 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the reason no response has issued from the Health Service Executive in respect of a previous question (details supplied) which was asked almost a month ago will be investigated; and when a reply will issue to the query. [6780/06]

I understand that the Health Service Executive has issued a reply directly to the Deputy dated 20 February 2006.

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

255 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a reply will issue to correspondence (details supplied); the reason for the delay in same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6783/06]

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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Tom Hayes

Question:

256 Mr. Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when confirmation of commitment to phase II PCCC capital developments at Our Lady’s Hospital, Cashel, County Tipperary, will be given. [6794/06]

Our Lady's Hospital, Cashel, is included in the HSE capital plan for 2006 as part of the rolling capital programme 2006-10. The capital plan has been approved by the HSE board and was recently submitted to the Tánaiste for consideration. The Department is in discussion with the HSE on the plan.

Tom Hayes

Question:

257 Mr. Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when confirmation of revenue funding for phase 1 PCCC developments at Our Lady’s Hospital, Cashel, County Tipperary, will be given. [6795/06]

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.

Liam Twomey

Question:

258 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a reply to Question No. 167 of 11 October 2005 will be issued; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6865/06]

The information sought by the Deputy in Question No. 167 of 11 October 2005 related 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 HSE has advised my Department that it has provided the requested information to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

259 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a dedicated transport system for cancer patients has been rejected by her; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6866/06]

The executive has in place several options for the transportation of patients who require radiotherapy and other oncology services, including the use of designated oncology transport vehicles and transport by air. These services and their development relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to provide relevant details to the Deputy. I understand that the executive will review the transport needs of all patients, including cancer patients, and the associated resource requirements.

The National Service Plan 2006 of the Health Service Executive provides a commitment to develop proposals to support patients who have to travel long distances to access specialist services, with particular focus in 2006 on those travelling for radiotherapy treatment. I approved this plan in December and it was laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas last month. I made available an additional €9 million to the executive for developments in cancer services in 2006, inter alia, to facilitate better access to radiation oncology services, including dedicated transport arrangements.

Hospital Staff.

Liam Twomey

Question:

260 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of orthopaedic surgeons who are present at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6867/06]

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.

Liam Twomey

Question:

261 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of consultant positions approved and the location of approved new posts by the Health Service Executive since it was established in January 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6869/06]

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.

Liam Twomey

Question:

262 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of patients who were transferred from St. Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny, Wexford General Hospital and Clonmel Hospital to have an emergency CAT scan performed; the hospitals these sick patients were transferred to; the clinical indication for transfer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6870/06]

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 Service Staff.

Liam Twomey

Question:

263 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the public only contract means no private patients in public hospitals or no public only consultants in any private hospital whatever the location; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6872/06]

Proposals for a new employment contract for consultants working in the public health system were recently tabled by the management side in the context of the consultants' contract negotiations. The new contract will be a first step towards the introduction of a consultant provided service and the appointment of large numbers of dedicated public hospital and community based consultants, working in teams. This will be matched by a reduction in the number of non-consultant hospital doctors.

A consultant provided service is dependent on consultants assuming a new role. The contract will set out the terms and conditions associated with employment as a consultant dedicated exclusively to the public health service. It will recognise consultants as senior employees with lead responsibility, within established best practice, for decisions on patient care and treatment.

As part of a consultant provided service, consultants will treat all patients and will be remunerated exclusively on a salaried basis, that is, they will not receive additional remuneration for treatment delivered to insured patients. A commitment to public sector service alone means consultants treating patients only within the public hospital or public community facility.

Health Services.

David Stanton

Question:

264 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive will be requested to make speech therapy provision to a child (details supplied) in County Cork; when this service will be made available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6873/06]

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.

Bullying in the Workplace.

Liam Twomey

Question:

265 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the changes which were made to the running of a hospital (details supplied) in County Dublin as a result of a court action for bullying in 2002 and subsequent allegations made regarding the treatment of elderly patients such as taping the mouths of elderly patients, which was known by the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6882/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services in a particular hospital, which is 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 on the points raised by him.

Specifically in regard to the allegations referred to by the Deputy, the HSE has advised that, following complaints made regarding the hospital, a review was carried out by the former health board in which the hospital is situated. A copy of the review findings was forwarded to the complainant. The file was then forwarded to the director of complaints and appeals, who met the complainant. The complainant has agreed to meet the relevant local health office manager to discuss the matter relating to an independent review.

Liam Twomey

Question:

266 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has fully investigated allegations of lack of care and abuse of elderly patients at a hospital (details supplied) in County Dublin made by a former employee; if she is satisfied that this and previous allegations have been fully investigated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6883/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services in a particular hospital, which is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. The HSE has advised that, following complaints made regarding the hospital, a review was carried out by the former health board in which the hospital is situated. A copy of the review findings was forwarded to the complainant. The file was then forwarded to the director of complaints and appeals who met with the complainant. The complainant has agreed to meet with the relevant local health office manager to discuss the matter relating to an independent review.

Liam Twomey

Question:

267 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she received reports on the case of bullying of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6884/06]

I have not received a report on this case, nor have I received correspondence from the person referred to by the Deputy. 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.

Hospital Staff.

Liam Twomey

Question:

268 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she ascertained the period of time that a significant number of porter staff at a hospital (details supplied) in County Dublin were not on duty due to their attendance in court in January and February 2002; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6885/06]

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.

Health Service Staff.

Liam Twomey

Question:

269 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether she is creating a management vacuum at the centre of the senior management systems in place in the health services with the establishment of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and where the chief executive officer operates two distinct lines of managers in two different locations, and the risks this causes good corporate management if the present chief executive officer were to leave his post for any reason with no full-time deputy chief executive officer present; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6891/06]

I would remind the Deputy that, as provided for in the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive, HSE, has taken over responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services from the Eastern Regional Health Authority, the health boards and a number of other specified agencies. This single structure facilitates a more streamlined and effective organisational management system for the health service.

Organisational structures within the HSE are a matter for the chief executive officer and the board of the executive itself. I am advised by the HSE that it does not operate two distinct lines of managers in two different locations. The executive has three defined interdependent functional areas — health services, support services and reform and innovation. At its centre are three health service delivery units: primary, community and continuing care, PCCC; the National Hospitals Office, NHO; and population health.

The services delivered by the PCCC and NHO are organised through the same four administrative areas: western, southern, Dublin-north and Dublin-mid-Leinster. Personnel in these areas have a direct reporting line to their national office. Support services have a local presence in these four areas as required and personnel report directly to their national office. The HSE considers that this configuration of administrative areas will promote seamless integration between the three health service delivery units, while maintaining national consistency.

Under section 18(3) of the Health Act 2004, the board may appoint an employee from time to time to perform the functions of the chief executive officer when the chief executive officer is absent or the position is vacant.

Liam Twomey

Question:

270 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if Comhairle na nOspidéal is still functioning as a separate body within the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6892/06]

In line with section 57 of the Health Act 2004, the functions of Comhairle na nOspidéal were transferred to the Health Services Executive on its establishment on 1 January 2005. I requested the members of Comhairle na nOspidéal to remain in position under the national hospitals office during 2005 to complete outstanding reports. As the functions of Comhairle na nOspidéal have transferred to the Health Services Executive my Department has forwarded your question to the parliamentary affairs division for direct reply.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John Perry

Question:

271 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Sligo will be called for a hip operation in Sligo General; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6911/06]

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.

Pat Carey

Question:

272 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress which has been made by the Health Service Executive in addressing the increasingly common practice by chiropodists of charging a top-up fee of up to €35 for chiropody treatment to medical card holders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6932/06]

There is no statutory obligation on the Health Service Executive, HSE, to provide chiropody services to GMS patients. However, in practice arrangements are made to provide these services. Before the establishment of the HSE the nature of the arrangements for chiropody and the level of service provided was a matter for individual health boards and so a degree of variation in practice developed over time. Priority is usually given to certain groups of people, including people who are medical card holders aged 65 years and over. In several regions the service is provided by private chiropodists by arrangement with the HSE.

I consider that it is inappropriate for private chiropodists who are providing services on behalf of the HSE to charge patients a top-up fee, and I have conveyed this view formally to the HSE. My Department requested the HSE to initiate a review of the fee arrangements in place for the provision of chiropody services, with a view to ensuring that such additional fees will no longer be levied on persons in receipt of this service. The HSE has recently advised me that it has initiated a review of chiropody services.

Pat Carey

Question:

273 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will establish with the Health Service Executive the extent of present provision of speech and language therapy services and physiotherapy services; if she will confirm that there is a waiting time of 16 to 18 months to see consultants and specialists at Temple Street University Hospital, Dublin 8; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6936/06]

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.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

274 Mr. McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when greater consistency will be brought to the different levels of enhanced nursing home subvention support throughout the country as outlined in the budget 2006 speech; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6937/06]

The Nursing Home (Subvention) Regulations 1993 are administered by the Health Service Executive. There are three rates of subvention payable —€114.30, €152.40 and €190.50 — for the three levels of dependency, which are medium, high and maximum. The HSE has discretion to pay more than the maximum rate of subvention relative to an individual's level of dependency in a case, for example, where personal funds are exhausted.

The application of these provisions in an individual case is a matter for the HSE in the context of meeting increasing demands for subvention subject to the provisions of the Health Act 2004. The average rate of subvention paid by the HSE generally exceeds the current approved basic rates. An additional €20 million has been provided for subvention payments this year including addressing the variations in payments in different areas.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

275 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when an authorisation form will issue for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [6938/06]

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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

276 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when tenders will be invited for the proposed new hospital in Dingle, County Kerry, following the Government’s announcement on 18 June 2005 that the hospital was approved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6939/06]

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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

277 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of patients in Kerry awaiting hip replacement surgery, cataract operations and vascular surgery; the corresponding figures for February 1997; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6940/06]

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 issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

278 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the waiting time for orthodontic assessment; the waiting time for orthodontic treatment for persons in need of orthodontic assessment and treatment in Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6941/06]

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.

Infectious Diseases.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

279 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of reported cases of MRSA infection at Kerry General Hospital in recent years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6942/06]

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.

Question No. 280 answered with QuestionNo. 229.

Care of the Elderly.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

281 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the report of the working group, arising out of the Mercer report and the review of the nursing home subvention, on policy options for long-term care of the elderly has been received; if so its chief recommendations; the steps being taken to implement same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7010/06]

As the Deputy will be aware the Tánaiste, Deputy Harney, and the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Brennan, established a working group to identify the policy options for a financially sustainable system of long-term care, including improvements in community care and home care packages. The report of the working group on the future financing of long-term care has been presented to Government and is being considered by the Cabinet.

Health Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

282 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of the ten pilot primary care centres both individually and collectively; how successful they have been; her plans to extend the service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7011/06]

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 Accommodation.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

283 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of trolley beds being counted as hospital beds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7012/06]

Trolleys in accident and emergency departments are not counted as inpatient beds or day beds. However, a trolley in a day ward which is used in the course of a day procedure is counted as a day place. My Department carried out a bed census in 2003 which identified 313 trolleys in acute hospitals which were being used in day wards to treat patients as day cases.

Hospital Services.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

284 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if commitments will be made to use additional resources to deal with the well publicised difficulties occurring at Tallaght Hospital, Dublin 24, in respect of the accident and emergency department; her views on whether effective action is clearly needed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7030/06]

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 Centres.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

285 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to previous parliamentary questions relating to Millbrook Lawns Health Centre, when works will commence; and the new services which will be provided at the redeveloped centre. [7031/06]

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.

Question No. 286 answered with QuestionNo. 229.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

287 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the orthodontic appeal hearing will be heard in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who was identified as being in need of treatment nine years ago; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7069/06]

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:

288 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a person (details supplied) is undertaking work on a regular basis on behalf of the Health Service Executive; and her views on whether it is appropriate that the Health Service Executive should engage this person. [7083/06]

I am aware that the person referred to by the Deputy facilitated the agreement brokered between the Health Service Executive, HSE, and the IMPACT trade union in December 2004 with regard to the reassignment of senior managers from the health boards to positions under the new unitary structures of the HSE, and that he is still involved on an occasional basis in dealing with residual issues under that agreement.

Section 24 of the Health Act 2004 empowers the HSE to engage such advisers as it considers necessary for the performance of its functions. Accordingly, it is entirely a matter for the executive to decide whom to engage to undertake work on its behalf.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

289 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children how far advanced her plans are for the roll-out of a cervical screening programme; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that we have in Ireland one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in western Europe; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7129/06]

Incidence and mortality rates for cervical cancer in Ireland are in the mid-range of rates observed across Europe. Data supplied by the national cancer registry for the period 1994 to 2002 show that the average annual incidence of cervical cancer in this country was 170 and the average annual number of deaths from the disease was 80.

I am fully committed to the national roll-out of a cervical screening programme in line with international best practice. My Department has requested the Health Service Executive to prepare a detailed implementation plan for a national programme. The plan is to have cervical screening managed as a national call and recall programme via effective governance structures that provide overall leadership and direction, in terms of quality assurance, accountability and value for money. All elements of the programme, call and recall, smear taking, laboratories and treatment services must be quality assured, organised and managed to deliver a single integrated service.

Significant preparatory work is well under way involving the introduction of new and improved cervical tests, improved quality assurance training and the preparation of a national population register. My Department made available an additional €9 million to the executive for cancer services development in 2006, including the continuation of preparations for the roll-out.

I consider that the programme should be best rolled out in the primary care setting, subject to affordable and acceptable arrangements being agreed. A review of the contractual arrangements for the provision by general practitioners of publicly funded primary care services is being conducted at present, under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. I have requested that the general practitioner elements of a national cervical screening programme be tabled at these discussions. Any remuneration arrangements agreed must be capable of delivering a high uptake among women. Payments must be primarily based on reaching acceptable targets.

Emergency Care Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

290 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the terms of reference of the review of the Dublin fire brigade services which is under way; when she expects to receive the report; and her priorities for the development of policy in this area. [7130/06]

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. Pre-hospital emergency care services in the eastern region are provided by the executive and Dublin City Council through Dublin fire brigade.

My Department is advised by the executive that a review of command and control arrangements in the eastern region is being undertaken by representatives from the executive and Dublin City Council. My Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have a reply prepared and issued directly to the Deputy with regard to the review.

Smoking Ban.

Denis Naughten

Question:

291 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will review the legislation covering the smoking ban to consider the introduction of a fine for persons found breaking the law on licensed premises; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7131/06]

The Public Health (Tobacco) Acts 2002 and 2004 provide for the imposition of a fine on a person found guilty by the courts of a breach of the smoke-free workplace legislation: the maximum fine that may be imposed is €3,000. The decision to prosecute a person for an alleged breach of the legislation is a matter for the authorised officers from the appropriate enforcement agencies. As individual smokers are already liable to prosecution, I have no plans to review this legislation.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

292 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 who has waited two years for an appointment with an eye specialist in the Mater Hospital and who has had that appointment for 14 February 2006 postponed until August 2006; her views on whether such delays indicate unacceptable inadequacies in the provision of specialist eye services; the action open to this person to secure earlier medical attention; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7133/06]

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.

Martin Ferris

Question:

293 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there was a uniform pay scale for managers and child care workers in residential homes after 1985; and if so, the salary scale between 1985 and 2000. [7134/06]

Full details of the pay scales sanctioned by my Department for child care worker, or house parent, grades in respect of the years 1985 to 2000 are given in the attached table. Details of the pay scales sanctioned by my Department for grades of managers of children's residential centres are shown for the years 1997 to 2000. This grade had not been included in my Department's consolidated pay scales prior to this time. However, the Deputy will wish to be aware that an earlier agreement in 1987 had provided for the application to resident managers of the salary rates for clerical grades v and vi.

House Parent, Assistant

01/01/1985

01/07/1985

01/09/1985

01/05/1986

01/01/1987

01/05/1987

01/01/0988

01/01/1989

01/07/1989

01/01/1990

01/04/1990

8,089

8,341

8,517

8,773

8,948

9,127

9,372

9,622

9,853

10,113

10,286

8,325

8,575

8,756

9,019

9,199

9,383

9,633

9,888

10,125

10,390

10,568

8,552

8,809

8,993

9,263

9,448

9,637

9,892

10,152

10,396

10,667

10,850

8,779

9,042

9,231

9,508

9,698

9,892

10,152

10,418

10,668

10,944

11,132

9,002

9,272

9,468

9,752

9,947

10,146

10,412

10,683

10,939

11,220

11,412

9,230

9,507

9,705

9,996

10,196

10,400

10,617

10,952

11,215

11,502

11,703

*9455

*9,739

*9943

*10,241

*10,446

10,655

10,931

11,212

11,481

11,773

11,970

9,680

9,970

10,179

10,484

10,694

10,908

11,189

11,475

11,750

12,048

12,250

9,909

10,206

10,421

10,734

10,949

11,168

11,454

11,746

12,028

12,331

12,542

01/10/1990

01/01/1991

01/05/1991

01/01/1992

01/03/1992

01/09/1992

01/12/1992

01/01/1993

01/12/2003

01/06/1994

01/06/1995

10,466

10,885

11,320

11,581

11,908

12,235

12,333

12,672

12,795

13,051

13,312

10,754

11,184

11,631

11,892

12,228

12,563

12,671

13,010

13,146

13,409

13,677

11,039

11,481

11,940

12,201

12,546

12,890

13,008

13,347

13,496

13,766

14,041

11,327

11,780

12,251

12,512

12,866

13,219

13,347

13,686

13,848

14,125

14,408

11,613

12,078

12,561

12,822

13,184

13,547

13,685

14,024

14,198

14,482

14,772

11,903

12,379

12,874

13,135

13,507

13,878

14,026

*14,365

*14,552

*14,843

15,140

12,185

12,672

13,179

13,440

13,820

14,200

14,357

14,696

14,895

15,193

*15,497

12,469

12,968

13,487

13,748

14,137

14,526

14,693

15,032

15,244

15,549

15,860

12,762

13,272

13,803

14,064

14,462

14,860

15,037

15,376

15,601

15,913

16,231

01/06/1996

01/10/1996

01/01/1997

01/04/1997

01/07/1997

01/04/1998

01/07/1998

01/07/1999

01/07/1999

01/04/2000

01/10/2000

13,647

13,852

13,991

14,761

15,022

15,130

15,470

15,702

16,016

16,176

17,066

14,021

14,231

14,373

15,324

15,585

15,707

16,060

16,301

16,627

16,793

17,717

14,395

14,611

14,757

15,815

16,076

16,210

16,575

16,824

17,160

17,332

18,285

14,769

14,991

15,141

16,310

16,571

16,718

17,094

17,350

17,697

17,874

18,857

15,144

15,371

15,525

16,810

17,071

17,230

17,618

17,882

18,240

18,422

19,435

15,521

15,754

15,912

17,317

17,578

17,750

18,149

18,421

18,789

18,977

20,021

*15,887

*16,125

*16,286

*17,815

*18,076

*18,260

*18,671

*18,951

*19,330

*19,523

*20,597

16,258

16,502

16,667

18,325

18,586

18,783

19,206

19,494

19,884

20,083

21,188

16,639

16,889

17,058

18,849

19,110

19,320

19,755

20,051

20,452

20,657

21,793

LSI:

19,226

19,487

19,707

20,150

20,452

20,861

21,070

22,229

House Parent

01/01/1985

01/07/1985

01/09/1985

01/05/1986

01/01/1987

01/05/1987

01/01/1988

01/01/1989

01/07/1989

01/01/1990

01/04/1990

8,656

8,916

9,103

9,376

9,564

9,564

10,013

10,276

10,523

10,796

10,981

8,935

9,203

9,397

9,679

9,873

9,873

10,334

10,603

10,857

11,137

11,327

9,214

9,490

9,689

9,980

10,180

10,180

10,654

10,930

11,192

11,478

11,675

9,495

9,780

9,984

10,284

10,490

10,490

10,977

11,259

11,529

11,822

12,025

9,773

10,066

10,278

10,586

10,798

10,798

11,297

11,586

11,864

12,164

12,373

10,053

10,355

10,572

10,889

11,107

11,107

11,613

11,913

12,199

12,506

12,720

10,334

10,644

10,867

11,193

11,417

11,417

11,741

12,242

12,536

12,849

13,069

10,613

10,931

11,162

11,497

11,727

11,727

12,264

12,572

12,874

13,194

13,420

10,892

11,219

11,455

11,799

12,035

12,035

12,584

12,898

13,208

13,535

13,767

01/10/1990

01/01/1991

01/05/1991

01/01/1992

01/03/1992

01/09/1992

01/12/1992

01/01/1993

01/12/2003

01/06/1994

01/06/1995

11,173

11,620

12,085

12,346

12,694

13,043

13,165

13,504

13,659

13,932

14,211

11,527

11,988

12,468

12,729

13,088

13,448

13,583

13,922

14,092

14,374

14,661

11,880

12,355

12,849

13,110

13,481

13,852

13,999

14,338

14,524

14,814

15,110

12,235

12,724

13,233

13,494

13,876

14,257

14,416

14,755

14,957

15,256

15,561

12,589

13,093

13,617

13,878

14,271

14,663

16,834

15,173

15,390

15,698

16,012

12,943

13,461

13,999

14,260

14,664

15,068

15,251

15,590

15,823

16,139

16,462

13,299

13,831

14,384

14,645

15,060

15,475

15,670

16,009

16,258

16,583

16,915

13,655

14,201

14,769

15,030

15,456

15,882

16,090

16,429

16,693

17,027

17,368

14,008

14,568

15,151

15,412

15,849

16,286

16,506

16,845

17,125

17,468

17,817

01/06/1996

01/10/1996

01/01/1997

01/04/1997

01/07/1997

01/04/1998

01/07/1998

01/07/1999

01/07/1999

01/04/2000

01/10/2000

14,568

14,787

14,935

15,756

16,017

16,150

16,513

16,761

17,096

17,267

18,217

15,030

15,255

15,408

16,426

16,687

16,837

17,216

17,474

17,823

18,002

18,992

15,490

15,722

15,879

17,017

17,278

17,442

17,834

18,102

18,464

18,649

19,675

15,953

16,192

16,354

17,616

17,877

18,056

18,462

18,739

19,114

19,305

20,367

16,415

16,661

16,828

18,221

18,482

18,677

19,097

19,383

19,771

19,968

21,066

16,876

17,129

17,300

18,829

19,090

19,300

19,734

20,030

20,431

20,635

21,770

17,340

17,600

17,776

19,445

19,706

19,931

20,379

20,685

21,099

21,310

22,482

17,804

18,071

18,252

20,067

20,328

20,569

21,032

21,347

21,774

21,992

23,202

18,265

18,539

18,724

20,690

20,951

21,207

21,684

22,009

22,449

22,674

23,921

LSI:

21,104

21,365

21,632

22,119

22,451

22,900

23,129

24,401

*Qualification Bar

Manager Childrens Residential Centre

01/01/1997

01/07/1997

01/04/1998

01/07/1998

01/07/1999

01/04/2000

01/10/2000

23,230

23,491

23,811

24,346

25,206

25,458

26,858

23,735

23,996

24,328

24,876

25,754

26,012

27,443

Cat — 1

24,341

24,602

24,950

25,511

26,411

26,675

28,142

24,846

25,107

25,467

26,040

26,959

27,229

28,727

25,351

25,612

25,985

26,569

27,507

27,782

29,310

25,856

26,117

26,502

27,099

28,055

28,336

29,894

01/01/1997

01/07/1997

01/04/1998

01/07/1998

01/07/1999

01/04/2000

01/10/2000

24,240

24,501

24,846

25,405

26,302

26,565

28,065

24,846

25,107

25,467

26,040

26,959

27,229

28,727

Cat — 2

25,351

25,612

25,985

26,569

27,507

27,782

29,310

25,957

26,218

26,602

27,205

28,165

28,447

30,012

26,563

26,824

27,227

27,840

28,822

29,110

30,711

27,169

27,430

27,848

28,475

29,480

29,775

31,413

01/01/1997

01/07/1997

01/04/1998

01/07/1998

01/07/1999

01/04/2000

01/10/2000

25,351

25,612

25,985

26,569

27,507

27,782

29,310

25,957

26,218

26,606

27,205

28,165

28,447

30,012

Cat — 3

26,563

26,824

27,227

27,840

28,822

29,110

30,711

26,159

26,420

27,813

27,416

29,480

29,775

31,413

27,775

28,036

28,469

29,110

30,138

30,439

32,113

28,381

28,642

29,091

29,745

30,795

31,103

32,814

Hospital Accommodation.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

294 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the measures she is taking to alleviate overcrowding at Cork University Hospital; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that on the week commencing 6 February 2006 there were 35 patients on trolleys waiting for beds in the hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7140/06]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Dan Boyle

Question:

295 Mr. Boyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to introduce a weekly cost of disability payment to address the reality that people with disabilities have higher fuel, transport and general cost of living expenses. [7146/06]

Under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, an interdepartmental working group, chaired by the Department of Health and Children, was established to examine the feasibility of introducing a cost of disability payment — PPF3.10.11. The National Disability Authority, on behalf of the working group, and in line with its own remit, commissioned research into the feasibility of a cost of disability payment in Ireland. The purpose of this research was to advise regarding: the additional costs incurred by people with disabilities, owing specifically to the direct or indirect costs of the disability; and the appropriate mechanisms, or instruments by which to address identified additional costs. The resultant report, Disability and the Cost of Living, was published by the NDA early in 2004.

The working group in March of 2005 produced a position paper, which gave an overview of the work they have undertaken to date. It outlined the group's current thinking and gave an indication of the next steps the working group intends taking. The working group recommended that urgent steps be taken to improve the quality of data relating to disability in Ireland, for example, adjustment of existing data gathering exercises undertaken by the Central Statistics Office or other relevant bodies to include questions on the numbers per household with disabilities, the nature of the disability, severity of impairment etc.

The working group considers that it is vital that comprehensive data are available on which to base consideration of the feasibility of a cost of disability payment. Given its advisory and research remit, the working group considers that the National Disability Authority has an important role to play in addressing these data gaps with other relevant bodies.

The working group acknowledges that a number of Departments and agencies have previously carried out reviews of the various supports and payments for people with disabilities. However, these reviews have tended to focus solely on the operation of individual schemes, without taking a broader overview of how these measures fit into the overall system of disability supports. The working group is examining the scope for rationalising and streamlining the various disability supports measures, with a particular focus on mitigating the additional costs of disability for a greater number of people with disabilities, particularly in the case of those who wish to move from a position of total welfare dependence to one of greater economic independence.

Care of the Elderly.

Dan Boyle

Question:

296 Mr. Boyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to introduce an automatic right to an assessment of need for older people as was recommended in the recent national economic and social forum report on care for older people. [7147/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, the NESF report on care for older people was launched on 29 January 2006. The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children and I have received copies, as have officials in the Department, and we will consider the report in the context of overall policy development around services for older people.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Brennan, established a working group to identify the policy options for a financially sustainable system of long-term care, including improvements in community care and home care packages. The report of the working group on the future financing of long-term care has been presented to Government and is being considered by Cabinet.

Tax Code.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

297 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Finance his views on removing the VAT on non-resident artists who perform in border counties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6591/06]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

312 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Finance his views on removing the VAT on non-resident artists who perform in border counties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6592/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 297 and 312 together.

The VAT treatment of goods and services is governed by EU law with which Irish VAT law must comply. European law does not allow for the zero rating or exemption of these fees. Performance fees charged by musical or theatrical performers are therefore liable to VAT at the standard rate of 21%.

The VAT Act lists a range of activities that are exempt from VAT. Included in the list is the promotion of and admissions to live theatrical or musical performances. This very broad exemption is allowed under Article 13(1)(n) of the sixth VAT directive. In effect this means that the promoter realises the full value of admission fees as no VAT is applied to them. In this regard, the current exemption is very generous and covers a broad range of activities accessible to the wider public.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

298 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance the amount raised in VAT revenue by privately purchased school coaches in 2005; and his views on introducing a VAT waiver for schools as they seek to upgrade their vehicles to higher safety standards. [6906/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the amount of VAT collected in respect of the sale of school coaches cannot be identified in the overall yield of VAT, as the information furnished on VAT returns does not require this to be identified.

On introducing a VAT waiver for schools, educational institutions recognised by the State are exempt from VAT under the EU sixth VAT directive. This means that they do not charge VAT on the services they supply and cannot recover VAT on the goods and services that they purchase. Essentially, only VAT-registered businesses which charge VAT are able to recover VAT.

It is normal for State funded services, such as schools or hospitals, to bear VAT on their purchases. However, Exchequer funding for such services, including primary and secondary schools, takes account of VAT when allocations are being made by the Government.

Public Sector Pay.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

299 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if bonuses were paid to higher civil servants in the Garda Síochána; if so, the amounts paid; and if he will provide details of recipients and the reason for such payments. [6340/06]

I understand that the Deputy is asking about performance-related awards paid to the members of the Garda Síochána. Following recommendations made by the review body on higher remuneration in the public sector, a scheme of performance-related awards was introduced for the deputy commissioner and assistant commissioner ranks in the Garda Síochána. Similar schemes of performance-related awards were introduced for the levels of deputy secretary and assistant secretary in the Civil Service and the ranks of brigadier general and major general in the DefenceForces.

The awards schemes are based on performance by reference to demanding targets. The pool for performance awards is 10% of the pay bill for the group concerned. Within that overall limit individuals can receive payments of up to 20% of pay. Decisions on awards are made by the committee for performance awards, CPA, which includes a majority of private sector members. The main roles of the committee are to monitor the application of the scheme of performance-related awards and to bring independent judgment to bear in approving objectives for the persons covered by the scheme and in approving recommendations for awards.

Details of the procedures, the numbers covered by the schemes, the range of awards and the total amounts paid in the Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces and Civil Service Departments are outlined in the annual reports of the committee, available on the website www.finance.gov.ie. The committee does not identify the amount paid to individuals as this is regarded as personal information.

Departmental Expenditure.

Enda Kenny

Question:

300 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if his Department has a corporate procurement plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6343/06]

My Department is taking steps to produce a corporate procurement plan for 2006.

Departmental Contracts.

Enda Kenny

Question:

301 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the progress made within his Department in reviewing existing contract specifications awarded by all Departments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6358/06]

I take it that the Deputy is referring to the action taken in respect of contracts within my Department arising from particular aspects of my address to the Dublin Chamber of Commerce on 20 October 2005 on value for money and the peer review process for ICT projects over €5 million announced by the Government on 11 October 2005.

I also assume that the particular aspects of my address to which the Deputy refers are formalised contract review of projects over €30 million, and retendering of extension of service contracts where the extension would be more than 50% of the original contract or would exceed €250,000, whichever is the lower. My Department does not have capital projects over €30 million or ICT projects costing €5 million or more. As regards extension of service contracts, arrangements are being put in place in my Department to ensure compliance with the terms of the circular letter of 25 January 2006.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

302 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is not being allowed income tax relief in respect of tuition fees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6371/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the college for which tuition fees the taxpayer is claiming relief has not been approved by the Minister for Education and Science for the purposes of the relief.

Departmental Expenditure.

Enda Kenny

Question:

303 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the progress made on the reform process announced by him on 20 October 2005, focused on achieving value for money in public expenditure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6372/06]

Enda Kenny

Question:

304 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if he has instructed all Departments to produce performance tables for the extent of project outcomes versus budgets on contracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6373/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 303 and 304 together.

I wrote to my ministerial colleagues on 20 October 2005 enclosing a copy of my address of the same date to the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and requesting them to ensure that their Departments take all necessary steps to implement measures set out in my address.

My Department issued a circular letter to all Departments on 25 January outlining in detail the requirements to give effect to the measures in my address of 20 October 2005, as well as decisions made by Government on ICT and consultancy procurement. The circular letter included a requirement for project performance tables with particular reference to project outcomes versus budgets. These will in future be incorporated in the annual reports of Departments and agencies and in the public capital programme published by my Department.

Disabled Drivers.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

305 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the reason a person with one arm does not qualify for VAT exemption on a motor vehicle, while a person with one leg does; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6411/06]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme that provides relief from VAT and VRT on the purchase of a car adapted for the transport of a person with certain disabilities, as well as relief from excise on the fuel used in the car up to a certain limit.

The disability criteria for eligibility for the tax concessions under this scheme are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. A person must be severely and permanently disabled and satisfy one of the following conditions: a) be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs; b) be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs; c) be without both hands or without both arms; d) be without one or both legs; e) be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg; f) have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

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

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

In respect of the long-term recommendations, which included the qualifying disability criteria, given the scale and scope of the scheme further changes can only be made after careful consideration. For this reason, the Government decided in June 2004 that the Minister for Finance would consider the recommendations contained in the report of the interdepartmental review group in the context of the annual budgetary process, having regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme. The best way of addressing the transport needs of people with disabilities, including the effectiveness, suitability or otherwise of the disabled drivers scheme in that regard, will be progressed in consultation with the other Departments who have responsibility in this area. A car tax concession scheme can obviously only play a partial role in dealing with this serious issue.

Financial Services Regulation.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

306 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance his proposals to meet the concerns of the Waterford League of Credit Unions in regard to the IFSRA proposed restrictions of the investment options available to credit unions (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6438/06]

My Department has been informed by the Registrar of Credit Unions that he is continuing his review of the appropriate investment framework for credit unions, in consultation with the representative bodies for credit unions. Once submitted to my Department, the registrar's recommendations on a revised investment framework for credit unions will be examined by the Credit Union Advisory Committee, the advisory body on credit union matters under the Credit Union Act 1997.

Decentralisation Programme.