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 14, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 15 to 44, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 45 to 47, inclusive, answered orally.
Question No. 48 withdrawn.
Questions Nos. 49 to 51, inclusive, answered orally.

Freedom of Information.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

52 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance the public bodies which remain excluded from the freedom of information legislation; his plans to extend the remit of the legislation to include them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7941/06]

It has been the practice in responding to previous questions of this nature, in the interests of currency and accuracy of information, for individual Ministers to respond in relation to their own areas of responsibility. Accordingly, I will arrange for details of bodies under the aegis of other Ministers to be supplied directly to the Deputy by each Department. The public bodies under my aegis which are not covered by the FOI Act are the Central Bank and Financial Service Authority of Ireland; the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority; the Financial Services Ombudsman Bureau; the Financial Services Ombudsman Council; the Irish Financial Services Appeals Tribunal; the National Treasury Management Agency; the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission; the National Development Finance Agency; the State Claims Agency; the Valuation Tribunal; the Disabled Driver Medical Board of Appeal; the Public Service Benchmarking Body; and the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector.

Extension of the FOI Act to the Central Bank and Financial Service Authority of Ireland, the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, the Financial Services Ombudsman Bureau, the Financial Services Ombudsman Council, the Irish Financial Services Appeals Tribunal, the National Treasury Management Agency, the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission, the National Development Finance Agency and the State Claims Agency is being considered at present.

In view of the confidential nature of the work of the Public Service Benchmarking Body and the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector, I do not propose to extend the Act to these bodies.

More generally, in October last year, I announced plans to extend the Freedom of Information Act to over 100 public bodies for which the necessary regulations will be brought forward shortly. FOI is being extended to the Valuation Tribunal as part of this exercise.

Extension of the Act to a number of other bodies is being considered at official level in consultation with other Departments. Pending the outcome of such consultation, I will not be making any comment in relation to the position of individual bodies.

Social Finance.

Joan Burton

Question:

53 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the progress made to date with regard to the plan announced by him in budget 2006 for the establishment of a €100 million fund for social finance; when the fund will be established; the amount that will be contributed by financial institutions; the way in which the money will be drawn down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7927/06]

The aim of the Government's initiative that I announced in my Budget Statement is to give an impetus to the development of social finance in Ireland. I believe the initiative can make a real contribution towards expanding social finance provision in Ireland, thereby complementing the wide range of measures that are currently in place to promote and assist community infrastructure and local development, including the establishment of micro-enterprises. It delivers, in a significant way, on commitments made in Sustaining Progress, the current social partnership agreement, and in our programme for Government.

Investment in social and community infrastructure and local development has the potential to yield significant economic and social returns. These types of projects, however, often experience difficulties in accessing finance from mainstream financial institutions. This has led to a recognition both domestically and internationally of the need for new and innovative investment mechanisms such as social finance. The essence of the social finance concept is repayable loan financing provided at affordable terms for community-based projects and local development initiatives.

There are three distinct tiers involved in the delivery of the initiative: first, the creation of a social investment vehicle that will essentially perform the role of a wholesale financial intermediary, specialising in social finance funding, second, the arrangements for the on-lending of the funds for individual projects. The idea here is to use, as far as possible, existing agencies and established networks of social finance providers, third, community and local development organisations developing individual projects for social finance support and applying for social finance loans from the retail lending intermediaries.

A practical model for social finance funding is currently being developed. The intention is to keep the administrative structures as light as possible, consistent with meeting the objectives of the initiative, and ensuring that the funds are used effectively on a value-for-money basis. With a view to developing an effective model my Department has, to date, consulted with a number of public, private and voluntary bodies currently involved or with interests in this area, in addition to its discussions with the banking community.

A key priority is early implementation of the initiative. This will provide the opportunity to market test particular options, which can in turn inform the further development of the social finance initiative.

As far as the potential sources of funding for social finance provision are concerned, there has been a positive reaction from the banking community to my invitation to support the initiative. The banks expressed at budget time a willingness to contribute seed capital funding of €25 million to the initiative. The sum of €100 million referred to by the Deputy in her question may relate to a newspaper report at the beginning of this year.

I do not at this stage have a view on the eventual scale of funding that may be warranted. It is not clear at this early stage what the level of demand may be. Experience in the UK and Northern Ireland would suggest, however, that some caution is warranted to ensure that the funds available are applied effectively and yield value for money investments. I am satisfied, therefore, that the seed capital from the banks is sufficient to meet initial requirements for the initiative in light of the available capacity and capabilities to develop suitable social finance projects and manage social finance lending. In my Budget Statement, I indicated that I was keeping the door open to other contributors.

Advice has been sought by my Department from the Office of the Attorney General on the appropriate legal framework which would clarify the objectives, roles and functions of the investment vehicle, establish the type of delivery structure judged most suitable to the long-term requirements of social finance, and also deal with such matters as governance and accountability arrangements.

Financial Services Regulation.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

54 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Finance his views of the decision of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority not to proceed with plans that would have required anyone being appointed a director or manager within the sector to produce a tax clearance certificate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7862/06]

In my role as Minister for Finance, I am responsible for the legal framework governing financial regulation. In the context of the regulatory system put in place through the establishment of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, IFSRA, under the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2003, responsibility for the operation of the regulatory regime and the fitness and probity requirements for directors or managers in the financial services sector rests with the Financial Regulator.

The Financial Regulator in February 2005 issued a consultation paper on proposals for a fit and proper test for directors and managers of financial services firms, referred to as "Approved Persons". Taking account of the responses to this consultation, the Financial Regulator in February 2006 published its proposals on fitness and probity, including its proposals for assessment of tax compliance. In opting for a formal commitment to a code of behaviour in the conduct of tax affairs, rather than tax clearance certificates, the regulator took account of responses to the consultation. Some of these questioned the actual value of tax clearance certificates, as the Revenue certification related solely to declared liabilities. The objective in the case of regulation is to assure continued appropriate conduct of tax affairs.

The Financial Regulator is now proposing that each financial services company seeking approval from the Financial Regulator for directors or managers must have in place a code of ethics including in relation to the conduct of tax affairs. There will be an obligation on all approved persons to sign a written commitment to observe the code. The Financial Regulator will expect all regulated firms to ensure compliance with the code at all times.

Furthermore, the Financial Regulator has made it clear that there is no tolerance for serious and systematic tax evasion. The 2005 Finance Act gives greater powers to the Revenue Commissioners to prosecute institutions or persons who aid tax evasion by others. The Financial Regulator proposes to amend the individual questionnaire to include a specific question in relation to tax, asking applicants whether they have been convicted, on indictment, of tax offences or of aiding and abetting tax evasion.

The Financial Regulator is also proposing that any person convicted of summary tax offences or subject to fines by the Revenue Commissioners will provide that information, together with other information, to the proposing firm and to the Financial Regulator. The Financial Regulator will make a determination on a case by case basis, having examined all of the information provided, in a manner that is proportionate and that fully respects due process.

The consultation on these amended proposals will be completed by end-April 2006 and the Financial Regulator proposes to publish guidelines on the fit and proper test for directors and managers in June 2006.

National Development Plan.

Bernard Allen

Question:

55 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Finance the preparations which have taken place regarding a replacement for the national development plan; and the way in which the inputs will be cobbled into a coherent programme. [7970/06]

Joe Sherlock

Question:

73 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance the progress of the consultation process promised in advance of the introduction of a new national development plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7871/06]

Michael Noonan

Question:

105 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Finance his plans for changes in the way in which a successor to the NDP will be drawn up. [7952/06]

Denis Naughten

Question:

127 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance his plans for the allocation of funding under the next national development plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7800/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 55, 73, 105 and 127 together.

The Government announced last August its decision to prepare a successor to the current National Development Plan, 2000-2006. The next NDP will cover the period 2007-2013 and its preparation will be co-ordinated by my Department. A high level steering group chaired by my Department and comprising senior officials of relevant Departments has been established to oversee the drafting of the plan and has met on a number of occasions to date.

An extensive consultation process on the next national development plan has commenced. My Department has written, inviting submissions on the plan from the social partners, the regional assemblies, the regional authorities and other interested parties such as the Heritage Council, Comhar and the Combat Poverty Agency. My Department has also engaged the Economic and Social Research Institute to carry out an ex-ante evaluation of investment priorities for the period of the next NDP.

The content and focus of the next NDP and the resultant allocations and prioritisation will be a matter for decision by Government. In doing so, the Government will take account of the recommendations of the ESRI study and the results of the consultation process. I envisage that the new plan will address the investment now necessary to maintain national competitiveness within a sustainable economic and budgetary framework. It will also set out a coherent investment strategy at sectoral level with particular reference to the infrastructure investment necessary to meet economic and social challenges. In addition, the plan will address the following horizontal themes: the implementation of the national spatial strategy; the all-island dimension and the potential benefits of cross-Border co-operation; the promotion of social inclusion; and environmental sustainability.

Tax Code.

Willie Penrose

Question:

56 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance the discussions he has had with the Portuguese Government concerning the taxation agreement between Ireland and Portugal that would restrict high income Irish individuals from relocating to Portugal in order to avoid paying capital gains tax since this measure has been dropped from the Portuguese Government’s legislative agenda; the status of the Irish legislation and its enforceability by the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7891/06]

The protocol to amend certain provisions of the Ireland-Portugal Double Taxation Convention seeks to retain Irish taxing rights on gains from the disposal of certain shares for three years after an individual ceases to be Irish resident and becomes resident in Portugal. When the protocol is ratified by Portugal these taxing rights will be enforceable. Protocols to double taxation agreements, like double taxation agreements, come into effect on 1 January of the year following ratification by both parties.

I am informed that the Portuguese Government has confirmed that the procedure to ratify the protocol between Ireland and Portugal amending the double taxation convention is under way and, on the assumption that the ratification process is completed this year, the protocol would then take effect from 1 January 2007, which is the earliest possible date from which it can take effect.

I would also refer the Deputy to the impact of section 69 of the Finance Act 2003. That section amended our legislation to impose a charge to capital gains tax on an individual in respect of a deemed disposal of certain assets on the last day of the last year of assessment for which the individual is taxable in the State, prior to becoming taxable elsewhere, where the individual disposes of these assets while resident outside the State and returns to the State within five years.

Decentralisation Programme.

Phil Hogan

Question:

57 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Finance the number of posts which have been vacated and scheduled to remain in Dublin as a result of the decentralisation programme; the number of people wishing to remain in Dublin who have to date applied to the Public Appointments Service in respect of these posts; and if details of the posts and respective applicants will be published in a manner similar to the central applications facility. [7942/06]

Dan Neville

Question:

68 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Finance the negotiations that have taken place regarding the placement of persons who do not opt to decentralise with their units or agencies; and the proposals the Government has made to unions. [7971/06]

Joe Costello

Question:

124 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Finance if an estimate has been undertaken of the number of civil or public servants who do not wish to relocate and who will be surplus to requirements as a result of their jobs being transferred to other locations under the Government’s decentralisation programme; the jobs that will be provided for these personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7876/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57, 68 and 124 together.

The primary mechanism for placing civil servants who are in posts which are due to decentralise but wish to remain in Dublin is by way of bilateral transfer. As staff who have applied to decentralise continue to be transferred into decentralising organisations, the posts they vacate become available to those wishing to remain in Dublin. At end-January 2006 in excess of 1,150 staff have been assigned to decentralising posts of which almost 750 are Dublin based applicants.

In addition, my Department has been in discussions with the Civil Service unions on further arrangements to facilitate the placement of Dublin based staff. The objective of these arrangements is to provide to the Public Appointments Service details of staff who wish to remain in Dublin at each grade level so that a proportion of vacancies arising in Dublin based posts may be filled by those staff. These arrangements have been recently initiated for general service grades. I will write to the Deputy with details of the number of people who have supplied details to the Public Appointments Service in this regard.

It is intended that the arrangements will continue over the full transition phase of the decentralisation programme. I would not envisage a process similar to the central applications facility for the placing of staff in Dublin posts, as I would continue to expect that a significant number of staff will be placed through the bilateral arrangements outlined as the programme is rolled out. The central resource managed by the PAS will therefore represent only a proportion of the overall arrangements for placing of staff in Dublin posts. Participation in these arrangements by Departments and offices will be influenced by their timeframe for moving, their success in placing staff through the bilateral arrangements, whether they are relocating in full or in part and the extent to which their staff can be placed elsewhere within the organisation in Dublin.

Tax Code.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

58 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether any other elements of the Irish tax code could be subject to challenge under state aid rules. [7974/06]

Article 87(1) of the EC Treaty prohibits, in general terms, the granting of aid by the state which distorts competition by favouring certain undertakings or the production of certain goods, in so far as the aid is liable to affect trade between member states. There are a number of components to this provision, all of which must be met before a particular type of support can be classified as a state aid. The principal components are that the aid in question is granted by a member state, which includes regional or local authorities or other bodies acting on behalf of the state, or through state resources in any form whatsoever; the aid confers an advantage on the recipient; the aid is selective in its application, inasmuch as it is not afforded to other undertakings in the market in general; and the aid is capable of distorting competition, usually by strengthening the competitive position of the beneficiary relative to other participants in the market, and is thus liable to have an effect on trade between member states. The EC Treaty also provides for circumstances in which state aids may be permissible in light of considerations of public policy.

The enforcement of the state aid rules across the member states is primarily a matter for the European Commission. It is not the practice of Ministers to comment on areas where, depending perhaps on interpretation of rules, changing practice or jurisprudence, the Commission might wish to take a view in relation to the Irish tax code. As far as Ireland is concerned, all new proposed tax incentives are examined in light of the state aid rules, and it has been the general practice over recent years to discuss such measures with the European Commission and to notify schemes as appropriate.

Freedom of Information.

Liam Twomey

Question:

59 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Finance his views on a consolidation of exclusions from the Freedom of Information Act 1997 as recommended by the Information Commission and to make arrangements whereby new exclusions being proposed would be brought to the notice of the commission for observation before they are enacted. [7994/06]

Richard Bruton

Question:

220 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance his plans to consider a consolidation of exclusions from the Freedom of Information Act 1997 as recommended by the Information Commission; and if arrangements will be made whereby new exclusions being proposed will be brought to the notice of the commission for observation before they are enacted. [8221/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 59 and 220 together.

I understand these questions concern a recommendation in a recent report submitted to the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service by the Information Commissioner related to that committee's function under section 32 of the Freedom of Information Act to review the operation of non-disclosure provisions in other enactments. I will consider any recommendations made by the joint committee on this or other matters when it has concluded its deliberations.

As regards the other matter raised by the Deputies, I can confirm that arrangements have been made with a view to ensuring that relevant legislation before the Houses of the Oireachtas is brought to the attention of the Information Commissioner.

Tax Yield.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

60 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the assumptions and methodology underpinning his estimate of the increase in revenue from capital taxes in 2006 (details supplied). [7987/06]

The assumptions underpinning the forecasts for capital taxes are based on the economic growth estimates in the stability programme update which is published on budget day. These estimates include GNP growth forecasts, projected changes in consumer prices and developments in the construction sector.

The methodology for forecasting receipts from capital taxes in 2006 first required my Department to estimate the outturns for the base year, in this case 2005. These projected outturns were then adjusted to take account of known once-off factors, both negative and positive, likely to impact on the yield in 2006. An example would be the discontinuance in 2006 of the bank levy, the receipts from which come under stamp duties. The figures were then refined to take account of the impact of budget measures. These various steps provide the base upon which the 2006 forecasts were built.

The base is then inflated for projected economic developments in 2006. In the case of capital gains tax and capital acquisitions tax, estimated growth is driven by the forecast change in nominal GNP and in the CPI, respectively. For stamp duties, since the bulk of the yield is from transactions in residential and non-residential property, the forecast for 2006 is largely based on estimated volume and price growth in the residential and non-residential property sectors. The methodologies used continue to be developed and my Department continually reviews any available international and domestic developments in forecasting methodologies in order to improve our approach.

Capital tax receipts are always hard to forecast as they tend to reflect movements in property markets and once-off decisions by buyers and investors. With this in mind, my Department's estimates for revenues in 2006 from capital taxes are as follows: capital gains tax, €2,035 million; capital acquisitions tax, €260 million; and stamp duty, €2,685 million. The capital gains tax estimate represents an increase of 3.8% and the capital acquisitions tax estimate an increase of 4.4% on the respective outturns for these taxes in 2005. The stamp duty estimate represents a decrease of 1.5% on the outturn for stamp duties in 2005 but this largely reflects the non-renewal of the bank levy.

The estimates for all three taxes assume a lower rate of growth in revenues from these sources this year than the significant increases experienced last year. They still assume, however, a reasonably buoyant property market this year, both residential and commercial.

Revenue Commissioners’ Audits.

Seán Ryan

Question:

61 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the number of random audits carried out by the Revenue Commissioners in 2005; the way in which this compares with each year from 2002; the number expected to be undertaken during 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7869/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that 400 cases were selected for random compliance testing as part of their 2005 programme. This includes not just the auditing of returns filed but also the testing of overall compliance with their payment and return filing obligations. To date, random testing has been completed in 327 of those 400 cases.

I am informed that Revenue's approach to random compliance testing changed significantly for their 2005 programme, and that any comparisons with previous years would need to bear this in mind. The traditional random audit programme was not carried out in 2004 due to the change in Revenue's approach following a review of the programme. However, 25 cases selected under the programme for previous years were completed in 2004.

I understand that 274 random audits were completed in 2003 and 720 in 2002. However, for these years the selection was not purely random as Revenue districts narrowed down the initial random selection based on risk criteria.

With regard to 2006, I understand that the random compliance testing programme will commence shortly and that the sample size is again expected to be 400 — the same as for the 2005 programme. The Revenue Commissioners assure me that they are pursuing a programme which is dealing in a very determined way with tax evasion by maximising the impact of their resources through focusing on risk. This is strengthened by their taxpayer compliance testing programme, which ensures that all taxpayers are exposed to the possibility of a compliance check or Revenue audit. This approach is in line with international best practice.

Price Inflation.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

62 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recent increase in the consumer price index; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7856/06]

Inflation, as measured by annual changes in the consumer price index, CPI, rose to 3% in January from 2.5% in December. The main cause of this increase was the recent rise in interest rates by the ECB. In addition, the price of oil rose throughout most of last year and this had an input on the annual rate of inflation in January.

In my recent budget, my Department forecast that CPI inflation will average 2.7% in 2006. I made no changes to indirect taxes in the budget and this will help to ensure relatively modest inflation in 2006.

On an EU basis, Ireland's harmonised index of consumer prices, HICP, was 2.5% in January, compared to an estimated 2.4% in the euro area. Ireland has been broadly in line with the euro area for some time now.

Tax Collection.

Seán Ryan

Question:

63 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the amount paid to date to the Revenue Commissioners in respect of settlements made in connection with its investigation into the use of life assurance policies for tax evasion; the progress made to date in regard to the second phase of its investigation which commenced on 23 May 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7879/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that arising from this investigation payments totalling €389 million have been made to date.

As the Deputy is aware the Revenue Commissioners are conducting their investigation into the use by taxpayers of life assurance investment products for the purposes of tax evasion in two stages. In the first stage of these inquiries taxpayers who invested undisclosed and undeclared funds in life assurance products were given until 23 May 2005 to advise Revenue of that. That part of the disclosure stage was successfully completed and about 10,000 notices of intention to make a disclosure were received from taxpayers or their agents. Some of these notices were protective. Correspondence was received from others indicating that no liabilities arose.

Revenue formally commenced the second stage of its investigation into the use of life assurance products for tax evasion on 23 May 2005. New powers were provided in the Finance Act 2005 to authorise Revenue officers to examine the records that relate to a class or classes of life assurance policies and policyholders in the course of conducting sampling exercises. Revenue has completed the preliminary work in regard to the use of these new powers and authorised officers are actively engaged in the sampling process. The information gathered in this process and from the voluntary disclosures will be used to ground applications to the High Court for orders directing insurance companies to furnish details on policyholders and policies to Revenue.

Public Service Employment.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

64 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which the target of reducing public service employment has been achieved. [7976/06]

Damien English

Question:

83 Mr. English asked the Minister for Finance his plans to set targets in respect of public service employment over the three years 2006-08. [7960/06]

Richard Bruton

Question:

86 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if the target of reducing public service employment by 5,000 was achieved; and if a target is being set for 2006-08. [7978/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 64, 83 and 86 together.

The policy on numbers employed in the public service has succeeded in cutting back on the rapid rise in public service employment in the period 1997 to 2002. From 1997 to 2001 there had been an increase of almost 43,000, or 19%, in the number of public service employees. From the introduction of the policy in December 2002 to the end of 2005, the increase has been of the order of 6,300, or just over 2%. This took place at a time of significant increases both in employment in the economy generally and in the population with the corresponding increased demand for public services.

Numbers employed in the Civil Service, defence, local authority and non-commercial State-sponsored sectors have been reduced by 3,700 and the target for this group has been exceeded. However, original targets in the health and education sectors have not been met because the Government has been prepared to increase numbers to meet priority needs in frontline and essential services, for example, new health units and the disability area in the health sector, special needs teachers in the education system and to increase the number of gardaí; this is in line with the approach stated when the policy was launched.

Total employment in the public service by the end of 2005 was close to 288,000. The Government has decided to continue to control and regulate numbers in the public service within the following agreed ceilings: Civil Service — non-industrials and industrials, 37,700; non-commercial State-sponsored bodies, 9,600; local authorities, 33,300; Defence Forces, 11,400; and Garda Síochána, 14,000. Given the nature and demands of the health and education sectors, further consultation is taking place between my Department and the relevant Departments before consideration is given to setting appropriate employment level ceilings in these sectors.

It is important that an appropriate balance is struck between the need on the one hand to provide resources to improve front-line services and the need on the other to control and regulate overall numbers in the context of providing value for money for the public expenditure involved.

Duty Free Allowances.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

65 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the thresholds for personal purchases overseas are set at unrealistic levels and are unenforceable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7980/06]

The duty-free allowances for purchases for personal consumption of goods by persons entering the State from outside the European Union are set down in EU legislation — Council Directive 69/169/EEC. Therefore, the same passenger allowances apply across all EU member states. These thresholds were last increased in March 1994 and are set out in the table below.

For alcohol, tobacco and perfume the allowances are set at certain amounts of the goods in question, while for all other goods, there is an aggregate limit of €175 per adult. In the case of these duty-free allowances it should be borne in mind that there are three tax or duty types involved, namely, customs, excise and VAT. From a fiscal viewpoint, the allowances on alcohols and tobacco products are the most sensitive and, therefore, tightly controlled.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they maintain an enforcement presence at all the principal points of entry to the State for the purpose of checking compliance with the limits to these duty-free allowances. Officers perform checks on both accompanied and unaccompanied luggage or baggage on a selective basis using intelligence and risk assessment methods. In performing such tasks, a balance must be struck between the need for enforcing controls and not imposing undue burdens on passengers arriving in this country. In the circumstances, the commissioners do not consider the enforcement of the allowance limits unduly difficult or onerous.

The Deputy might wish to note that the European Commission has, only in the last week, published a proposal with respect to revising the exemptions from VAT and excise duty applying to goods when imported by persons travelling from non-EU countries. Part of this proposal involves the €175 limit referred to above being increased to €500 in the case of air travellers. While we have yet to fully tease out all the elements contained in this Commission proposal, entitled COM 76 (2006), the proposed increase from €175 to €500 seems reasonable. Discussions on the Commission proposal will in the normal way commence at EU working group level.

Details of current duty-free allowances

Goods accompanying travellers from outside the EU

Duty-free Allowance

Tobacco

Cigarettes

200 or

Cigarillos

100 or

Cigars

50 or

Smoking tobacco

250 gms

Alcohol

Spirits with an alcoholic strength exceeding 22% by vol. (whiskey, gin, vodka, etc.)

1 litre or

Spirits, fortified wines, sparkling wines, etc. with an alcoholic strength not exceeding 22% by vol. (port, sherry, etc.)

2 litres

Still wines

2 litres

Beer

This forms part of the €175 allowance applying to non-excisable goods

Perfumes

Perfumes

50 gms

Toilet waters

250 ml

Other (non-excisable) goods

Per adult

To the value of €175

Per person under 15 years of age

To the value of €90

Wage Levels.

Tom Hayes

Question:

66 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Finance if research has been conducted into the gap between public sector and private sector pay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7959/06]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to the ESRI commentary published about a month ago dealing with public sector and private sector pay. The commentary drew on research carried out in 2004 which compared public and private wage rates, controlling for other factors that impact on wages, such as age, education and gender. The study concluded that in 2001, public sector employees earned 13% more than private sector employees — again, controlling for other characteristics associated with wages.

The study seems to be based on aggregate data on fairly broadly defined categories, for example, professional, operative. However, it does not make comparisons based on actual job responsibilities and weights. Thus, it does not show conclusively that, on a like for like basis, public servants are paid more than valid comparators in the private sector. The methodology adopted simply does not allow such a conclusion to be drawn. This is not to criticise the research; it is merely to highlight that one must not draw inferences which the study could not sustain.

The ESRI commentary also mentions a survey carried out among those who had recently graduated from third level colleges in 2004 which found that wages for this group were 20% higher in the public sector but acknowledges that the group was a narrow one. Again, we are dealing with a broad comparison.

The Government position on public service pay is very clear. The public service must be able to attract and retain a reasonable proportion of good quality staff at all levels. In this respect, it should neither lead the field, nor trail behind. The independent benchmarking process affords a means whereby painstaking comparisons between public service jobs and their counterparts in the private sector can be made and appropriate pay rates for the public service determined. This process looks at qualifications, responsibilities, hours worked and a range of other factors. On the last occasion, the benchmarking process recommended awards across and within areas of the public service of from 4% to 25%, showing clearly that the benchmarking body looked at individual jobs and related them to their comparators in the market.

A new benchmarking body has been established recently and is to report in the second half of 2007. I expect that, among the many tasks undertaken by the body, will be consideration of the significance of studies such as those quoted by the ESRI.

The ESRI commentary represents a useful contribution to the debate on public service pay. It should be understood, however, within its own terms.

Banking Services.

David Stanton

Question:

67 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance his plans to prevent financial exclusion faced by people on low incomes who often face difficulties opening bank accounts; the steps he has taken in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4653/06]

Lack of financial knowledge, particularly in relation to initiating the transaction, and the need to provide suitable identification documents to open an account, are frequently identified as the main obstacles faced by those on lower incomes when attempting to access financial services.

Financial institutions are obliged under the Criminal Justice Act 1994 to take reasonable measures to identify their customers, with a view to combating money laundering and terrorist financing. Guidelines approved by the money laundering steering committee under the aegis of my Department set out measures that might reasonably be adopted by financial institutions in this regard. These guidelines highlight that any measures adopted should not deny a person access to financial services solely on the grounds that they do not possess certain specified identification documentation. For its part, the Financial Regulator has incorporated this as a requirement in its draft consumer protection code.

Identification of a customer comprises two elements. These are name verification — typically evidenced by a photograph bearing document such as passport, driving licence or other reputable source document — and address verification. The guidance notes for credit institutions provide for those circumstances where persons cannot reasonably be expected to produce certain forms of identification, such as a passport or driving licence and/or whose name and Irish address does not appear on a utility bill, electoral register or directory.

As far as improving financial knowledge is concerned, the Financial Regulator within its statutory consumer mandate has developed a number of specific initiatives to help consumers make informed choices in terms of the financial products they choose, the amount of risk they take on and the cost of the financial products. These initiatives have been developed through the framework of the Financial Regulator's consumer awareness campaign and include publication of a fact sheet entitled How to Open a Bank or Building Society Account.

Question No. 68 answered with QuestionNo. 57.

Prison Building Programme.

Joe Higgins

Question:

69 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance the position in relation to the Mountjoy Prison site. [1869/06]

The Office of Public Works has been tasked by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform with creating a strategic plan for the development of the site when it becomes vacant after the opening of the new prison in north Dublin. This plan will address the various cultural, historic and urban planning issues relating to this unique site of national importance. The OPW is currently seeking specialists through an EU procurement process to assist it in this task.

Fiscal Policy.

Enda Kenny

Question:

70 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance when he next expects to receive a report from the working group on basic incomes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39762/05]

The examination of the issues involved in introducing a basic income scheme was undertaken by the steering group on basic income which was established as part of a commitment in Partnership 2000 for inclusion, employment and competitiveness. The group, which was chaired by the Taoiseach's Department, was comprised of representatives of all four pillars of social partnership, as well as relevant Departments including the Department of Finance. The group commissioned a number of reports and finished its work in March 2001. The group's work contributed to the development of the Government's Green Paper on Basic Income, which was published in September 2002.

Taoiseach’s Residence.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

71 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if it is intended to establish a Taoiseach’s residence; the projected capital cost and running cost of such a residence; the guidelines for its use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1040/06]

There are no plans to create a State residence for the Taoiseach. The Deputy's question may have been prompted by recent press speculation on the completion of the refurbishment of part of Farmleigh estate to further enhance the guest facilities there.

Financial Services Regulation.

Dan Boyle

Question:

72 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Finance if his Department’s attention has been drawn to the mis-selling of and excessive commission on payment protection products; the measure he intends to take in order to protect consumers, particularly those on low incomes, from mis-selling of and excessive commissions on payment protection products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7930/06]

As Minister for Finance, I am responsible for the legal framework governing financial regulation. In the context of this legislative framework, the Financial Regulator, which was set up in May 2003, has responsibility for consumer protection issues.

I am aware that the Financial Regulator has expressed its concerns about payment protection insurance, PPI. The consumer director in the Financial Regulator highlighted her concerns in relation to this financial product in the Financial Regulator's annual report in July 2005. These concerns include how payment protection insurance is sold, how the costs are disclosed to customers and how premiums are handled in the event of early repayment of a loan.

The Financial Regulator has been actively pursuing this matter and, as result, a number of actions are being taken. First, through the new consumer protection code which the Financial Regulator proposes to introduce from July of this year, a suitability test will be applied to this product. In other words, it cannot be sold to the customer unless it is suitable to that customer. Also, when taking out a loan, the loan repayments will be quoted separately to that of PPI, so that the customer will see the true cost of the product.

Second, the Financial Regulator is also currently consulting on introducing new requirements in relation to the disclosure of commission payments. Third, the Financial Regulator has produced consumer information materials on payment protection insurance, alerting consumers to the various issues they should consider in relation to this product. The fact sheet published earlier this month emphasises: that PPI is not compulsory; the high cost of cover; the very specific nature of the cover provided; and the need to ensure that the cover is in fact required.

Anyone who is concerned that they were mis-sold payment protection insurance can complain to the financial institution concerned or, if the complaint is not resolved, to the Financial Services Ombudsman.

I am satisfied that the active interest which the Financial Regulator is taking, together with the measures outlined above, will ensure that there is a high level of consumer protection and information available in the area of payment protection insurance.

Question No. 73 answered with QuestionNo. 55.

Tax Code.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

74 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance the number and percentage of income earners who are paying tax at the higher rate and the standard rate for 2005; the anticipated figures for each category for 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7863/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested by the Deputy is as follows:

Numbers of income earners on income tax record

Year

Standard Rate*

Higher Rate

Number

%

Number

%

2005

641,000

31.6

666,400

32.9

2006**

663,200

32.2

658,100

31.9

*Includes relatively small numbers of income earners entitled to marginal relief.

**Assuming the enactment of the changes announced in the 2006 Budget.

The numbers of income earners above have been rounded to the nearest hundred as appropriate. The numbers of income earners are based on actual data for 2002 projected forward in accordance with macro-economic data relating to actual and expected growth in income and employment. The percentages are expressed in terms of the numbers of all income earners on the income tax record, including those who are exempt. It should be noted that a married couple who has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

Benchmarking Awards.

Joan Burton

Question:

75 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the membership and terms of reference of the recently established Public Service Benchmarking Body; when the body is expected to report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7928/06]

On 13 January 2006 I formally announced the establishment of the Public Service Benchmarking Body as provided for in the second public service agreement under Sustaining Progress to undertake a fundamental examination of the pay of public service employees vis-à-vis the private sector.

Agreement was reached with the public service unions on the terms of reference and membership of the benchmarking body. The agreed terms of reference are set out below and its membership is as follows: chairperson, Mr. Dan O'Keeffe SC, BCL, LL.B., A.C.A; members — Mr. Billy Attley, former general secretary of SIPTU; Ms Olive Braiden, chairwoman of the Arts Council, chair of justice sector performance verification group; Mr. John Malone, former secretary general of the Department of Agriculture and Food; Mr. Thomas McKevitt, former deputy general secretary of the Public Service Executive Union; Mr. Willie Slattery, managing director, State Street International (Ireland) Ltd.; and Professor Brendan Walsh, emeritus professor of economics, UCD. The body is being asked to report in the second half of 2007.

Terms of Reference for the Public Service Benchmarking Body

Introduction

In the second Public Service Pay Agreement under Sustaining Progress the parties agreed that the benchmarking body would carry out a benchmarking review to report in the second half of 2007. The parties have agreed the following terms of reference for the benchmarking body.

Timing and scope of the examination

The Public Service Benchmarking Body is asked to examine the pay and jobs of specified grades and to produce a report containing recommendations on the pay rates for these grades in the second half of 2007.

As in the previous benchmarking exercise that took place between 2000 and 2002, the exercise should be a coherent and broadly based comparison with jobs and pay rates across the economy.

As in the previous exercise the Body will examine the roles, duties and responsibilities of jobs in the public service and in the rest of the economy and not just the pay rates applicable to jobs with similar titles, and superficially similar roles, in the private sector.

Approach

The body should conduct in-depth and comprehensive research and analysis of pay levels in the private sector on the following basis: Overall pay levels in the two sectors as well as pay rates for particular groups (such as clerical-administrative staff and technicians) and other identifiable grouping (such as graduate recruits); the overall pattern of pay rates in the private sector and employments across a range of type, size or sector; and the way reward systems are structured in the private sector.

As previously, the body, in reaching its recommendations should have regard to: the need to recruit, retain and motivate staff with the qualifications, skills and flexibility required to exercise their different responsibilities; the need to support ongoing modernisation of the public service; the need to ensure equity between the employees in both the public and private sectors and; the need to underpin the country's competitiveness and continued economic prosperity.

In this work the body should have regard to the differences between the public service and the private sector and between the various public service groups within its remit in working conditions, the organization of work, perquisites, and conditions of employment and other relevant benefits, including security of tenure and superannuation benefits.

The body should also consider any issues arising from any third party recommendations concerning benchmarking and any group on List A since the Body's first report, including, specifically, Labour Court Recommendations Nos. 17526 and 17805.

Relativities

As was the case previously, the body should have regard to the agreement made under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness and reiterated in Sustaining Progress that cross-sectoral relativities are incompatible with the benchmarking process. Within the sectors internal relativities is a relevant criterion for the body to take into account but the existence of any traditional or historic relativities should not prevent the body from recommending what it considers are the appropriate rates of pay for any particular job.

Public Service Modernisation

Continued co-operation with change and modernisation has been a feature of previous national agreements and, in the context of Sustaining Progress, detailed action plans were agreed in each sector. This reflects the ongoing nature of the work of modernisation of the public service to meet present day needs and future demands. In that context change and modernisation is a continuing requirement of a modern public service. It is, of itself, not a basis for giving an improvement in pay or conditions.

Procedures

Subject to these terms of reference the benchmarking body will determine its own procedures but these should provide for relevant employers and trade unions to have the opportunity to make written and oral submissions to the body.

The last exercise gathered large quantities of data and developed a job weighting system used by the body. In doing its work the body may draw on the previous work done in this area and use, as it sees fit, the existing database and methodology for comparing jobs.

The level of detail to be provided by the body in its report is a matter for the body itself taking into account any confidentiality constraints and its own judgement on the level of detail that should be provided. However, the body should seek to ensure the optimum level of transparency consistent with the efficient and effective operation of the benchmarking process, regarding the factors and their import, which the body took into account in determining the appropriate pay levels.

Implementation

The implementation of the outcome of the benchmarking process is a matter for the parties and will be discussed by them in the context of discussions on whatever arrangements on pay and conditions are put in place on the expiry of the current Sustaining Progress pay agreement.

Fiscal Policy.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

76 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the progress made to date with regard to the implementation of the 12 point programme to improve value for money in public spending, announced by him on 20 October 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7865/06]

As I indicated in my reply to Questions Nos. 303 and 304 on 21 February, I wrote to my ministerial colleagues on 20 October last 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 has since issued a circular letter to all Departments on 25 January last outlining in detail the requirements to give effect to the measures in my 20 October address as well as decisions made by Government in relation to ICT and consultancy procurement. I have arranged for copies of this circular letter to be placed in the library of the House. The Financial Regulator has already drawn attention to the need for consumers to choose the right type of loan for their needs. The Financial Regulator, with its statutory consumer mandate, has developed a number of specific initiatives to help consumers make informed choices in terms of the financial products they choose, the amount of risk they take on and the cost of financial products. These initiatives have been developed through the framework of the Financial Regulator's "It's Your Money" campaign and have involved publishing consumer guides on credit products, fact sheets, cost surveys on personal loans, all of which are intended to assist borrowers in making the most appropriate credit decisions given their circumstances.

While the level of indebtedness of Irish households has been increasing, the Central Bank's most recently published financial stability report concludes that a range of fundamental factors such as growing employment and incomes, falling inflation and low interest rates have supported the pattern of mortgage growth and associated debt levels in the economy. The report does, however, emphasise the importance of responsible behaviour by both borrowers and lenders to factor into their financial decision-making the prospective impact of potential changes in the future economic environment.

I share the Central Bank's assessment of the importance of maintaining financial and economic stability. In that regard, for my part I intend maintaining a responsible approach to maintaining stability in our public finances, which will ensure that the strategic direction of our economy will focus on sustainable real improvements in public services, social provision and infrastructure.

As far as overall economic and financial stability is concerned, the relevant measure of credit encompasses both public and private sector credit and debt levels. The Minister for Finance has a key role in this regard in ensuring prudent management of the budget and overall sustainability in the public finances. In this context, Ireland's fiscal performance is among the best in the developed world with government indebtedness the second-lowest in the euro area. Responsible budgetary policy has made a significant contribution to economic performance overall, to the maintenance of low unemployment and to the achievement of record employment levels.

Decentralisation Programme.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

77 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance the anticipated costs, in terms of acquiring and equipping premises and other related costs, at the latest date for which figures are available, of the original decentralisation programme announced in budget 2004 and the slimmed down version announced in December 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7875/06]

The Government is committed to the full implementation of the decentralisation programme announced in budget 2004, involving some 10,300 civil and public service jobs in more than 56 locations across some 60 Departments-offices and agencies.

My office is in the process of procuring appropriate properties in the designated locations for the Departments and agencies involved, with much progress having been made to date. Property acquisition negotiations are completed or are significantly advanced at 23 locations.

The prevailing property market conditions in each geographical area have a significant bearing on the cost of acquiring sites. As the acquisition process is still in progress, it is not possible at this stage to provide a precise estimate of the cost of the site acquisition programme. However, and for working purposes only, an indicative figure of €75 million to €100 million, excluding VAT, is being used by the OPW.

As the Deputy will know, the decentralisation implementation group, DIG, in its report of November 2004, announced the names of the Departments and organisations selected as "early movers" and set out a timetable for provision of accommodation. At the same time the group published a report on the procurement and financial aspects of decentralisation. A further report — June 2005 — updates the timetable announced in November 2004, includes a timetable for the balance of organisations comprehended by the decentralisation programme and sets out commencement and completion dates for accommodation ranging from the final quarter of 2005 to end of 2009. I am confident that this programme will be successfully implemented.

With regard to the public private partnership approach recommended by the DIG, my office has been developing a comprehensive risk-adjusted costing of project elements to measure the value-for-money of future PPP bids. Expressions of interest will be sought for the first of these major projects early in 2006.

Although property solutions will include leasing and fitting-out of existing buildings, it is anticipated that in the majority of cases, the accommodation facilities will be provided by the construction of new office buildings and cost estimation can be approached on that basis. However, in advance of actual market testing of any procurement methodology, it is possible at this time only to assign the most general measurements of cost to such a large-scale, diverse and complex programme.

It is estimated that approximately 210,000 sq. m. of office space will be required to accommodate the total numbers included in the programme. OPW cost norms — April 2005 — in respect of offices would indicate an average build-cost to fit-out standard, in the range of €1,800 to €2,200 per square metre for suburban-rural locations, and €2,500 to €3,000 per square metre in city-town centre locations. Such figures exclude VAT, professional fees and inflation. In addition, the cost of equipping the accommodation to standard office equipment levels could be estimated at approximately €4,000 per person. This would exclude the cost of information and communication technology and specialised equipment requirements.

Such general measurements of cost do not include specialised facility and equipment requirements and other variables which would arise from the spread of possible procurement methodologies. In addition, general cost indicators of this type show a snapshot in time.

It is self-evident that a firmer scale of costs for the decentralisation programme will only emerge on foot of actual cost proposals being received from the market. It will be some months yet before sufficient data can be extracted from a suitable range of tender competitions to provide a basis on which more robust estimates of the overall cost of the programme can be made. Nevertheless, it can be estimated that, generally-speaking, the cost of providing accommodation in provincial, compared to central Dublin locations, should yield considerable cost savings to the State over time in terms of site costs, capital build costs and indeed maintenance costs.

Tax Code.

John Gormley

Question:

78 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Finance the way in which the Revenue Commissioners have encountered problems with regard to the issue of tax certificates in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7935/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the issue of approximately 2.2 million individual tax credit certificates to PAYE customers has now been completed. Revenue has advised me that each year priority is given initially to the issue of new certificates to employers so that employees get the benefit of changes to tax credits and reliefs announced in the budget in December in their pay packets as quickly as possible. Once the issue to employers is completed the next priority is the issue of certificates to the individual PAYE customers.

The number of certificates to issue to both employers and PAYE customers is a major logistical operation and is of necessity spread over a period of several weeks. In addition, the budget changes involve changes to Revenue computer systems and this adds to the overall timeframe for the issuing of certificates. An added dimension for 2006 was the new PAYE computer system put in place by Revenue in October last that forms the foundation for a range of improved services for PAYE customers coming later this year.

Some situations have been identified where incorrect tax credit certificates have issued for 2006. Most of these have already been corrected and employers notified of the revised credits due. Any adjustments are automatically backdated to 1 January. I am assured that Revenue is working to fix the remaining problem cases as quickly as possible.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

79 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 65 and 227 of 13 December 2005, if his Department has examined the area of VAT refunds on conferences held in hotels here, as is practice in other countries; his views on whether this practice would enable the tourist industry here to compete on a level playing field with international competitors for the lucrative international conference and corporate business; the stage this examination is at; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7771/06]

I am not indisposed to introducing such a relief but I want to make sure any such relief can work, has a positive cost-benefit ratio, and does not open up the VAT system to other very costly demands. That examination is ongoing and I will consider it for next year's budget.

Price Inflation.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

80 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the CSO consumer price index showing that the rate of inflation has risen 0.5%, leaving the annual rate of inflation at 3% for January 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7938/06]

Inflation, as measured by annual changes in the consumer price index, CPI, rose to 3% in January from 2.5% in December. The main cause of this increase was the recent rise in interest rates by the ECB. In addition, the price of oil rose throughout most of last year and this had an input on the annual rate of inflation in January.

In my recent budget, my Department forecast that CPI inflation will average 2.7% in 2006. I made no changes to indirect taxes in that budget and this will help to ensure relatively modest inflation in 2006.

On an EU basis, Ireland's harmonised index of consumer prices, HICP, was 2.5% in January, compared to an estimated 2.4% in the euro area. Ireland has been broadly in line with the euro area for some time now.

State Property.

Mary Upton

Question:

81 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the planned sale of State property announced; the property sold to date and the amount raised; the way in which the money used has been raised; the properties it is planned to sell during 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7880/06]

As part of the transforming of State assets programme the following properties have been disposed.

Property

Method of Sale

Price

2 Church St., Dungarvan, Co. Waterford

Public Auction

337,000.00

Lad Lane, Dublin 2.

Public Tender

22,500,000.00

Blacklion Customs Frontier Post Site — Cavan

Private Treaty to Cavan County Council

21,586.23

72-76 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2.

Public Tender

52,300,000.00

Kilmacthomas GS, County Waterford

Private Treaty to Waterford County Council

100,000.00

14/16 Lord Edward Street, Dublin 8.

Public Tender

8,780,140.48.00

Thomastown GS, Co. Kilkenny

Public Auction

450,000.00

TOTAL 2004

84,488,726.71

Disposed of in 2005

Property

Method of Sale

Price

Dungloe Former SWO, Co. Donegal

Private Treaty

300,000.00

Leighlinbridge GS, Co. Carlow — disposal of part of site

Public Auction

165,000.00

Ashbourne GS — disposal of part of site

Public Auction

2,125,000.00

St. John’s Road site (Westgate)

Public Tender

44,916,551.79

Ballinskelligs Old Garda Station, Co. Kerry

Public Auction

409,693.03

Kilronan CGS, Galway. Sale of site to Údarás.

Private Treaty

1,416.53

Galway — 16 Eyre Square (Part)

Private Treaty

9,920.59

26-27 Eden Quay, Dublin 1.

Public Tender

4,205,000.00

Chantilly site, Rathmichael, Co. Dublin

CPO compensation

5,162,202.65

TOTAL 2005

57,294,784.59

Disposed of in 2006

Property

Method of Sale

Price

The former Vet. College, Shelbourne Road, Dublin 4

Public Tender

171,558,110.36

Lynch’s Lodge Hotel, Macroom, Co. Cork

Public Tender

2,300,036.08

TOTAL (To-date) 2006

173,858,146.44

The total amount raised in direct disposals since the announcement of the transforming of State assets project is approximately €315 million. The proceeds of these sales are forwarded to the Department of Finance as extra Exchequer receipts to be offset against funding for decentralisation.

Identification of properties surplus to requirements is continuously evolving; premature release of disposal information and timescales would affect the potential income from such disposals. However, below is a list of properties which are scheduled to date for disposal in 2006.

Properties identified for disposal in 2006 are as follows:

Property for Sale

Method of Sale

Guide Price / Sale Price

Muff Garda Station, County Donegal

Public Auction

€195,000

Bridgend former Customs & Excise Post, County Donegal

Public Auction

€350,000

Knocknagoshel Garda Station House, County Kerry

Public Auction

€75,000

Gardiner St. former SWO, Dublin 1 for Trinity Hall, Abbey Street.

Private Treaty

Property swap plus €2.5m payment to OPW

CPO Ballyshannon SWO, County Donegal

CPO Compensation

€2,500

Faculty Building, Shelbourne Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4

Public Tender

Commercially sensitive

Decentralisation Programme.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

82 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the number of civil servants and other public servants who applied for relocation under the Government’s decentralisation programme and who subsequently withdrew their applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7877/06]

The Public Appointments Service estimates that a small proportion of the 10,600 applications, approximately 380, have been withdrawn from the central applications facility to date. In view of the nature of the programme and the timescales involved, individual circumstances are open to change and therefore application status can fluctuate as the programme is rolled out. The picture will become clearer over the coming period as staff are assigned to decentralising organisations.

The Deputy may be interested to note that there continues to be, each week, new applications from individuals wishing to decentralise under the Government's programme.

Question No. 83 answered with QuestionNo. 64.

Film Industry Development.

Jack Wall

Question:

84 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the revisions he may be considering to the section 481 scheme for investment in film production here; the reason these revisions may be required; if section 481 relief will be extended beyond the end of 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2509/06]

Section 18 of the 2006 Finance Bill provides for an overall increase to 80% in the proportion of the total cost of film production that can qualify for relief under section 841 from the existing levels, which range from 66% for films with budgets of €5.08 million to 55% for bigger budget films. In addition, the ceiling on the amount of section 481 funding that can be raised in respect of an individual film production is to be increased from €15 million to €35 million per film. These new limits are subject to the approval of the European Commission in the context of the Commission's state aid rules and are subject to the signing of a commencement order pending such approval.

The decision to change the relief was made on the basis of a case put forward by the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism and the Irish Film Board which advised me that such changes would be necessary in light of the increasingly competitive international environment for attracting film production, including forthcoming changes in the UK tax relief for films.

This relief is not due to terminate until 31 December 2008 and no decision has been taken in regard to any possible extension of the scheme beyond that date.

Ministerial Responsibilities.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

85 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to make changes to the Civil Service code of standards and behaviour or the code of conduct for office holders in view of recent evidence of Ministers using civil servants for political purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7934/06]

I am satisfied that Ministers are aware of the responsibilities and duties of the civil servants who report to them.

The Civil Service code of standards and behaviour was introduced in September 2004 in compliance with section 10(3) of the Standards in Public Office Act 2001 and I have no plans to make changes in it. The provisions of the Civil Code of standards and behaviour form part of all civil servants' terms and conditions of employment who are expected to apply it at all times. Breaches of the code constitute a breach of the terms of employment of a civil servant and may result in disciplinary action.

Pursuant to the Standards in Public Office Act 2001, the Government drew up the code of conduct for office holders, which was published in July 2003. A person to whom the code of conduct relates shall have regard to and be guided by the code in the performance of his or her functions and in relation to any other matters to which the code relates.

If a Deputy believes that any office holder may have transgressed the code or may have done an act that is inconsistent with the proper performance of the functions of the office, he or she is entitled to avail of the remedies available under the Standards in Public Office Act 2001, which include referring the matter for examination to the Standards in Public Office Commission, an independent public body established, inter alia, for that purpose under the 2001 Act.

Question No. 86 answered with QuestionNo. 64.

Credit Unions.

Paul McGrath

Question:

87 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his plans to change policy in order to facilitate the development of credit unions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7993/06]

The Credit Union Act 1997 provides the legal framework for the regulation of credit unions. The Act was designed to provide the credit union movement with a regulatory structure that reflected and promoted the particular ethos and philosophy of the credit union movement, its strong tradition of volunteer service and the core objective of providing opportunities for saving and lending for members of credit unions. In the context of this legislative framework, the Registrar of Credit Unions, within the Financial Regulator, is responsible for the operation of the regulatory and supervisory regime for credit unions.

The Credit Union Act has provided the legal and regulatory framework within which the credit union movement in Ireland has continued to grow and develop over recent years. The assets of credit unions, largely comprising members' savings, have increased to €11.5 billion. This highlights the continued success of credit unions in meeting the financial needs of local communities and occupational groups falling within the common bond.

The rules-based approach to the regulation embodied in the Credit Union Act has served the credit union movement well by providing clarity and certainty to individual credit unions, their directors and members. It has helped support the continued stability of the credit union movement and safeguard the members' savings during a period of rapid growth. The Act does provide a significant amount of discretion to the Registrar of Credit Unions in relation to specific regulatory requirements acting either on his own initiative or in the context of regulations made under the Act.

As Minister of Finance, my role is to ensure that the legal framework for credit unions is appropriate for the effective operation and supervision of credit unions in light of the current state of development, capacity and capabilities of credit unions as a whole. A range of issues now arising in that context, including savings protection, investment rules and proposed legislative and regulatory changes, is currently under examination by my Department with the assistance of the Registrar of Credit Unions and are the subject of consultations with the representative bodies for credit unions.

I can assure the Deputy that these issues will be assessed on their own merits with a view to establishing an appropriate balance in the regulation of credit unions between the need to facilitate credit unions in adapting to the changes taking place in Irish society and ensuring the stability and financial sustainability of credit unions and the safeguarding of the very significant savings entrusted to them by their members.

My decisions in these matters will be based on the advice and information provided by the Registrar of Credit Unions, the Credit Union Advisory Committee, CUAC — the statutory advisory body on credit union matters — and the credit union movement itself.

State Property.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

88 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the reason for the sale of the Reception and Integration Agency property in Macroom, County Cork at a loss of over €2 million to the taxpayer in the context of a property market where prices have more than doubled over the past five years. [3418/06]

Lynch's Lodge Hotel was purchased for the accommodation of asylum seekers in October 2000 at a cost of €3,549,711. It was never occupied because of judicial review proceedings which were finally settled in June 2005.

At this stage it was not required for the purpose for which it was purchased. All Government accommodation requirements were looked at including decentralisation and the Health Service Executive. The property was deemed surplus to the requirements.

An agent was engaged and the property was placed on the open market for sale by public tender. There was substantial interest in the property with 19 viewings and 13 requests for tender documents. The highest bid received was €2,300,010.00. This was accepted after due consideration and taking into account the recommendation of the agent.

The sale price of €2.3 million reflected a number of factors: the general deterioration in the market value for this type of property and the lack of tax incentives; and the effects of the loss of goodwill and trade during the period when the property was not in use as a hotel.

Private Sector Debt.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

89 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the increase in 2005 in mortgage credit and in non-mortgage credit. [7957/06]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

114 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance his views on reports (details supplied) that Ireland is set to become the most indebted country in the eurozone, with private sector debt anticipated to amount to 200% of GNP before the end of 2006, and credit rising by 29% per year. [7893/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 114 together.

The Deputy's question refers to a projection relating to overall private sector debt. In evaluating the financial position of the private sector, it is too narrow an approach to consider the level of indebtedness in isolation from the asset side of the private sector's balance sheet. A high proportion of household indebtedness in Ireland, which accounts for approximately 45% of private sector indebtedness overall, relates to borrowing for house-purchase which, in turn, creates an asset for the households. In the same way, borrowing by the business sector underpins high investment levels and the creation of business assets yielding future income. It therefore reflects the strong performance of the economy and confidence in Ireland's economic prospects.

The report referred to by the Deputy makes the important point that in assessing household debt, account should be taken of Ireland's demographics, savings ratio and interest rate regime. A comparative household debt index published in the report which takes account of these factors, places Ireland's household indebtedness level at 11th out of 19 developed countries. As the Deputies will be aware, the Government has been actively promoting saving by individuals in the recent past, notably through the SSIA scheme.

As far as looking after the interests of the individual borrower and the individual investor is concerned, the function of Government is to provide an appropriate legislative framework for regulation of the financial services sector, one that is both comprehensive and robust. I am satisfied that on foot of the progress made over recent years, especially in establishing the Financial Regulator with a particular focus on the interests of the consumer, we have such a framework in place.

Within the implementation of the overall legislative framework, private sector credit growth and debt levels are, in the first instance, a matter for the Central Bank and the Financial Services Authority of Ireland. This follows from its role as part of the European system of central banks and its functions, as the Financial Regulator, in relation to the prudential supervision of financial institutions and the protection of the consumers of those firms.

The Financial Regulator has already drawn attention to the need for consumers to choose the right type of loan for their needs. The Financial Regulator, with its statutory consumer mandate, has developed a number of specific initiatives to help consumers make informed choices in terms of the financial products they choose, the amount of risk they take on and the cost of financial products. These initiatives have been developed through the framework of the Financial Regulator's "It's Your Money" campaign and have involved publishing consumer guides on credit products, fact sheets, cost surveys on personal loans, all of which are intended to assist borrowers in making the most appropriate credit decisions given their circumstances.

While the level of indebtedness of Irish households has been increasing, the Central Bank's most recently published financial stability report concludes that a range of fundamental factors such as growing employment and incomes, falling inflation and low interest rates have supported the pattern of mortgage growth and associated debt levels in the economy. The report does, however, emphasise the importance of responsible behaviour by both borrowers and lenders to factor into their financial decision-making the prospective impact of potential changes in the future economic environment.

I share the Central Bank's assessment of the importance of maintaining financial and economic stability. In that regard, for my part I intend maintaining a responsible approach to maintaining stability in our public finances, which will ensure that the strategic direction of our economy will focus on sustainable real improvements in public services, social provision and infrastructure.

As far as overall economic and financial stability is concerned, the relevant measure of credit encompasses both public and private sector credit and debt levels. The Minister for Finance has a key role in this regard in ensuring prudent management of the budget and overall sustainability in the public finances. In this context, Ireland's fiscal performance is among the best in the developed world with Government indebtedness the second-lowest in the euro area. Responsible budgetary policy has made a significant contribution to economic performance overall, to the maintenance of low unemployment and to the achievement of record employment levels.

Public Expenditure.

Liz McManus

Question:

90 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Finance the amount of public spending in terms of capital and public expenditure for 2005; the estimated spending in both categories for 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7855/06]

Details of the provisional outturn for 2005 and estimated spending in 2006 are set out in the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2006 published on 23 February. The estimate for total gross expenditure in 2006 is €50,643 million, comprised of €43,876 million in current expenditure and €6,767 million in capital expenditure. The gross provisional outturn for 2005 is €44,943 million comprised of €39,285 million in current expenditure and €5,658 million in capital expenditure. Additional to these amounts, €236 million was spent in 2005 and €289 million is being made available for spending in 2006 under the capital carryover arrangements.

The 2006 Estimates make provision for the major economic and social investment programmes which the Government has put in place including the significant increases in social welfare rates and the new child care package announced on budget day. The Estimates also provide for an ambitious programme of investment in infrastructure necessary to underpin our competitiveness into the future.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

91 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the status of his proposals to reduce the fees payable at tribunals. [7990/06]

The Deputy will be aware that in July 2004, the Government approved, on the initiative of the then Minister for Finance, reduced fees for legal representation at tribunals or inquiries established from September 2004, and to the then-existing tribunals and inquiries with effect from various dates set in the light of consultations between the Attorney General and the chairpersons of each tribunal-inquiry. The lower rates have applied to the Barr tribunal since June 2005. The dates applicable to those tribunals currently sitting are as follows: Moriarty tribunal — 30 June 2006; Morris tribunal — 30 September 2006; and Mahon tribunal — 31 March 2007.

The Tribunal of Inquiry Bill 2005 which is being brought forward by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to consolidate and reform the legislation relating to tribunals of inquiry, was published on 25 November last. This Bill will provide a statutory basis, going forward, for the regulation of tribunal and third party legal fees payable by the State. In addition, the Bill incorporates a number of provisions which should improve the operational efficiency of tribunals. For example, the Bill will enable uncontested evidence, which has been supplied in written form and circulated to relevant parties, to be simply taken as if it had been "read into" the record. I understand that Second Stage of the Bill is expected to commence shortly.

Pension Provisions.

Jack Wall

Question:

92 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the estimated average of the 2 million people at work in respect of pension cover; the number of workers who avail of tax relief-credits for pension purposes; the number and costs, in respect of pensions, including AVCs, ARFs and SSASs for each year from 1998 to date in 2006. [7894/06]

The pension coverage rate for all persons in employment aged between 20 and 69 in the first quarter of 2005 was 51.5%. These figures are based on a survey update module on pensions, which was included in the CSO Quarterly National Household Survey in the first quarter of 2005.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the relevant available information relates to the cost of tax relief on pension contributions by employers, employees and self-employed and the exemption from tax of income and gains in the pension funds. This information, together with the numbers of employee and self-employed contributors, is provided for the five income tax years 1998-99 to 2002, the latest year for which it is available. The estimates of cost in relation to contributions by employers and contributions by employees are particularly tentative as this information is not captured in such a way as to enable more precise estimates to be compiled.

The following is the information available.

Estimated Costs and Numbers of Contributors

Tax Relief

1998/99

1999/00

2000/01

2001

2002

‘Retirement Annuity Contracts’ available to the self-employed and to employees not in occupational pension schemes.

€116.2m

€180.8m

€205m

€184.7m

€250.9m

Numbers

92,900

104,500

109,300

109,600

110,600

Contributions by employers *

€533.4m

€595.4m

€646.2m

€497.7m

€623.1m

Contributions by employees *

€328.9m

€420.5m

€471.9m

€388.7m

€563.3m

Numbers of employees contributing to approved superannuation schemes.**

not available

569,220

629,800

670,500

709,300

Exemption of Net Income of Approved Superannuation Funds (Contributions Plus Investment Income Less Outgoings)*

€966.5m

€1,225.5m

€1,292.3m

€938.4m

€1,271.6m

* These are extremely tentative estimates

** Calendar year figures sourced from annual reports of the Pensions Board

It should be noted that as PAYE taxpayers were charged to tax on their earnings in the period from 6 April to 31 December 2001 and self-employed taxpayers were assessed to tax for that short "year" on 74% of the profits earned in a 12 month accounting period, the cost figures will not be directly comparable with those of earlier or later years. A married couple who has elected or has deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

Economic Competitiveness.

Phil Hogan

Question:

93 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the latest quarterly economic commentary from the ESRI, in particular its remarks on the partnership process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4075/06]

The ESRI published its most recent Quarterly Economic Commentary in January 2006. The ESRI is forecasting economic growth this year of 4.7% in GDP terms, and 4.8% in GNP terms. It is forecasting employment growth of 3.2% and an unemployment rate of 4.2%. These forecasts are broadly in line with my own Department's forecasts for 2006, which were published at budget time.

On budget day, my Department forecast CPI inflation of 2.7% in 2006, again in line with the ESRI forecast of at 2.6%. I am pleased to see, and obviously agree with, the ESRI assessment that the budget was strongly progressive in terms of the direction of tax and social welfare measures in favour of those on lower incomes.

In relation to the research on the partnership process, the ESRI commentary calls for wage restraint in the public sector under any new partnership deal and for flexibility in relation to private sector wages. The Government position on public service pay is very clear. The public service must be able to attract and retain a reasonable proportion of good quality staff at all levels. In this respect, it should neither lead the field, nor trail behind. The independent benchmarking process affords a means whereby sustainable comparisons between public service jobs and their counterparts in the private sector can be made and appropriate pay rates for the public service determined.

A new benchmarking body has been established recently and is to report in the second half of 2007. I expect that, among the many tasks undertaken by the body, will be consideration of the relevance of studies such as those quoted by the ESRI, which were fairly broad in their scope and were not based on actual job comparisons. Nonetheless, the ESRI commentary makes a useful contribution to the ongoing debate on public sector pay.

ICT Projects.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

94 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance if the promised peer review system for large ICT projects is in place; the way in which it will operate; the threshold figure above which the peer review system will operate; if the Centre for Management Organisation Development within his Department will play a role in the peer review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7864/06]

The Centre for Management and Organisation Development, CMOD, in my Department developed procedures for the peer review process and agreed these in meetings with other Departments and offices late last year. A number of projects were identified for early inclusion in the initiative and the review of two of these is now under way and initial work has commenced in two more.

The peer review is carried out at key decision points — preliminary business case assessment, detailed assessment, pre-tender, post-tender, and project close-out — by a team of experienced people external to the project board and the organisation. The process will particularly focus on examining the preparation of good business cases; cost benefit analysis; affordability within the approved budget for the organisation; detailed planning; and the governance arrangements, etc. Peer review teams will be selected by the sponsoring Department or office of each project subjected to the process. These selections are subject to agreement with CMOD. It is envisaged that such review teams will include people with relevant experience from both the public and private sector.

However, while I believe that the peer review process is a very worthwhile initiative and is an additional safeguard in the development and implementation of IT projects, it does not in any way override the accountability arrangement in place within organisations.

It is envisaged that reviews will be carried out for all projects where the development and roll out costs exceed €5 million or where the project would be likely to stretch the resources of the sponsoring Department or agency.

As well as developing and agreeing the process with other Departments and offices, CMOD will co-ordinate, administer and control the peer review process across the whole public service which will include providing a panel of peer reviewers to sponsoring organisations; selecting the number and type of projects to be peer reviewed; agreeing the composition of peer review teams; considering the peer review team's findings and the sponsoring organisation's consideration of these findings for each stage of the peer review process before making and issuing any final decision to proceed or halt; and developing a website in the future where review findings will be placed in the public domain.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Mary Upton

Question:

95 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Finance the number of special savings investment scheme accounts opened at the latest date for which figures are available; the average amount of savings per investor per month; if, on the basis of such figures, his Department will give a figure for likely cost to the Exchequer of the specials savings investment scheme; when the first payments will become due; the amount expected to be paid out by the Exchequer in each of the first 12 months after the SSIAs mature; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7890/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that all qualifying savings managers are furnishing their 2005 SSIA annual returns at present. Revenue will shortly begin analysing these returns and it is expected that final details of this analysis will be available at the end of April 2006.

All qualifying savings managers have, in advance of the annual return, provided a declaration indicating the number of active accounts held at 31 December 2005. Based on these declarations, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the total number of active accounts at 31 December 2005 was 1,082,265 and the average monthly subscription was €196. The cost of the scheme in 2005 was €597.4 million.

The first SSIAs commenced in May 2001 and will mature at the end of May 2006. As indicated in replies to previous questions, it is not possible to give a definitive answer as to the eventual cost of the scheme as it is subject to a number of variables including where participants voluntarily withdraw from the scheme or vary their monthly contributions over the remaining period of the scheme. For this reason also, it is not possible to state the cost to the Exchequer in each of the 12 months after the SSIAs begin to mature in May 2006.

As the Deputy will be aware, it is the financial institutions which will pay out funds, including the Exchequer top up, to account holders.

Tax Code.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

96 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance if reports of a stricter interpretation of tax rules for US parent companies located abroad have been investigated; and the potential impact on Ireland. [7949/06]

The interpretation of domestic tax rules is a matter for the relevant authorities of the country concerned.

With regard to the normal administration of taxes in Ireland and the US, the relevant double taxation convention between both countries allows for the exchange of information concerning the taxes covered by the convention.

As I indicated in response to Question No. 129 of 13 December last, I understand that there are currently no outstanding issues from the US authorities in this regard.

I understand that IDA Ireland, which regularly monitors international tax changes, is not aware of any recent change in US tax law that has negatively affected Ireland, or has resulted in significant concern being raised by existing US companies located in Ireland.

Financial Services Regulation.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

97 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied regarding the level of supervision of the financial sector and particularly firms operating out of the Irish Financial Services Centre especially in view of indictments issued in the United States by the corporate crime task force relating to two reinsurances designed and executed through the Dublin bases subsidy of the US company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7861/06]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

116 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Finance if allegations that some reinsurance transactions underwritten through Dublin was outside regulatory oversights have been investigated. [7947/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 116 together.

In my role as Minister for Finance, I am responsible for the legal framework governing financial regulation. In the context of the regulatory system put in place through the establishment of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, IFSRA, under the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland, CBFSAI, Act 2003, responsibility for the operation of the regulatory regime and the supervision of financial services firms rests with the Financial Regulator.

The Financial Regulator has highlighted that all regulated entities, whether engaged in international activities or domestic activities, are required to comply with best international practice. Ethical behaviour, including transparency in business dealings, is a key value expected of boards and senior management of all financial entities operating in Ireland. As far as the IFSC is concerned, the Financial Regulator has emphasised that since its inception, the IFSC has been regulated to the highest international standards for all financial activities. Moreover, the regulatory standards applied in the international financial sector are no less stringent than those that apply generally in the industry in Ireland.

As far as the reinsurance sector in particular is concerned, the Deputy may wish to note that it is only comparatively recently that the international community concluded that reinsurance should be subject to a full regulatory regime. In this context my Department and the Financial Regulator have played a full part and have been actively engaged in the process of developing a reinsurance regulatory regime at EU and international level. The EU reinsurance directive was finally published in December 2005. Ireland will be among the first countries in Europe to implement it with the directive expected to be transposed into Irish law by April 2006 — significantly in advance of the transposition deadline of December 2007. This will result in a full solvency regime for reinsurance companies in Ireland. The Irish regime will go beyond the strict minimum requirements of the directive by requiring adherence to explicit standards of corporate governance and by requiring particular disciplines in relation to finite reinsurance.

The specific issues referred to by the Deputy that have been a subject of indictments in the US were orchestrated in the US in order to overstate the capital position of the firm concerned. The Financial Regulator has worked closely at the highest levels with the regulators from the other jurisdictions involved in these transactions with the objective of ensuring that all the issues are dealt with and all the necessary actions are taken, including ensuring that any involvement in such activity no longer has a place in the industry.

The Financial Regulator is always concerned about, and has always acted to ensure, the good reputation of Ireland as a well-regulated market in view of the importance of that reputation to the success and attraction of Ireland as location for the provision of international financial services.

Tax Code.

Joe Costello

Question:

98 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that there is no benefit in kind rule for taxation purposes on the use of company helicopters or planes, as there is with company cars; his plans to close off this loophole; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7859/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that benefits in kind are chargeable to tax under either a specific benefit in kind tax charging provision, for example, as is in place for the use of cars and preferential loans, or under the general benefit in kind tax charging provision.

The private use by directors or employees of helicopters or planes supplied by their employer is within the general benefit in kind tax charging provision and the rule in relation to such benefit is that the annual taxable benefit in kind arising is calculated by reference to a sum equal to 5% of the market value of the helicopter or plane at the date it was first provided plus the annual running costs, as apportioned between business use and private use. However, where an employer charters and pays for a plane or helicopter for the private use of the director or employee, the full cost of such charter is treated as part of normal salary and taxable in full in the hands of the director or employee.

Likewise, where a director or employee charters a plane or helicopter the cost of which is paid by his-her employer, such cost is treated as part of normal salary and taxable in full in the hands of the director or employee.

As there is no loophole whereby the private use of helicopters and planes by directors or employees goes untaxed, there is no need to introduce a new tax provision.

Financial Services Ombudsman Scheme.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

99 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance his views on the 23% rise in complaints against the insurance sector and credit institutions to the Financial Services Ombudsman in 2005. [7892/06]

The Deputy may wish to note that the statutory Financial Services Ombudsman scheme, in place since April 2005, provides a wider coverage in terms of financial services than did its predecessor voluntary schemes. This is reflected in a higher level of complaints. Furthermore, increased awareness of the Financial Services Ombudsman and the reputation and increased effectiveness of a statutory scheme inevitably has the effect of encouraging consumers to avail of the scheme. The fact that people are choosing to use the Ombudsman service demonstrates that the system is working as intended in providing a mechanism within which complaints against financial institutions can be investigated and resolved.

Industrial Development.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

100 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether there is consistent neglect by the Government of the Ballina and north Mayo region and that Ballina remains a notorious employment black-spot area; his further views on whether investment in infrastructure is needed in the western area of the country; if he will ensure that the necessary infrastructure investment takes place in Ballina and Mayo by addressing the underspend and establish a tax incentive area in Ballina and surrounding areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7772/06]

I cannot agree with the Deputy that north Mayo is being neglected by the Government. However, I do recognise that the area has suffered the closure of a number of key employers over the past 18 months and efforts by the Government to attract new job opportunities have proved difficult. My colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Micheál Martin, has already outlined to the House the efforts he, his Department and the development agencies are making to deal with this difficult situation.

The latest data reported to my Department indicates that some €750 million has been spent in County Mayo under the NDP since 2000. Expenditure on housing, transport and environmental infrastructure alone has amounted to some €490 million. The Deputy will agree that this is a significant level of investment. Ambitious plans have been set for further investment in transport infrastructure under Transport 21. Transport 21 sets out targeted improvements to be made in a number of national secondary routes including the important N59 costal road which runs from Sligo through north Mayo on through Westport and into Galway city. Recently completed projects in north Mayo include phase 1 of the N26 from Ballina to Bohola with a further 18 km currently being planned by the NRA. Work on the important N5 Charlestown bypass has begun and is due for completion in 2008. Further development of the N5 will see 14 km of roadway being constructed which will bypass the town of Ballaghaderreen. In addition, a further 17 km of the N5 from Westport to Castlebar will be upgraded following completion of planning for the project. When completed, these projects will further complement the 16 km of the N17 between Knock and Claremorris which was completed in 2002 and the plans by the NRA for upgrading a further 25 km of this route from Charlestown to Collooney.

The Deputy will be aware that investments under the NDP are delivered through a number of operational programmes which are directly managed and implemented by Departments, the regional assemblies or other agencies. The responsibility of my Department is to ensure that resources are made available to meet the Government's objectives and to secure full drawdown of Ireland's allocation of Structural Funds. Departments have been asked to ensure that the investment objectives for the BMW region are prioritised. I expect that the level of planned Exchequer expenditure under the NDP will be close to target at the end of the programming period.

With respect to tax incentive schemes which come under my responsibility, I would draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that Ballina was among the 42 towns and cities that had integrated areas designated for tax relief under the 1999 urban renewal scheme, while Belmullet, Charlestown and Foxford had sub-areas and sites designated for tax relief under the town renewal scheme. Under both of these schemes tax relief is provided for the refurbishment and construction of certain residential, commercial and industrial buildings. In my Budget Statement I announced that arising from a review of the various property and area based tax incentive schemes that the following reliefs either have achieved the objectives set out for them or are no longer considered to be cost effective in terms of the objectives set out for them and are therefore being terminated subject to certain transitional provisions. These are the urban renewal, town renewal and rural renewal schemes, and the special relief for hotels, holiday cottages, student accommodation, multi-storey car parks, third-level educational buildings, sports injuries clinics, developments associated with park and ride facilities and the general rental refurbishment scheme.

This winding down of property based tax reliefs is consistent with the greater capacity of particular economic sectors nowadays to fund such investment from their own resources, and the sizeable capital investment which the Government itself is making through major new investments.

Decentralisation Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

101 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the status of the decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7799/06]

I am satisfied that good progress continues to be made on this ambitious programme. I am particularly pleased with the continuing popularity of the programme among public servants. There are about 10,600 applications on the central applications facility to date and new applications are being received each week.

I refer the Deputy to the decentralisation implementation group's July 2005 report which identified progress in relation to property, implementation planning, numbers of applicants and human resources and industrial relations issues. In line with the group's approach to phasing, the report provided indicative construction start and completion dates for the procurement of office accommodation in the new locations. The full contents of this report can be accessed at www.decentralisation.gov.ie. The final construction dates can only be confirmed when the tender process has been completed in respect of each location and are contingent on the level and quality of market interest in respect of sites, successful negotiation of contracts, receipt of acceptable planning permissions, timely completion of briefs and successful acquisition of suitable sites. I understand that the OPW is currently updating the position on the property aspects of the programme in light of experience to date.

Discussions have progressed with the Civil Service general service unions on a number of human resource and industrial relations issues. Actual movement of staff within and between Departments and offices is now under way with approximately 1,150 staff already assigned to posts which will decentralise. Discussions are continuing with the professional and technical staff representative in respect of arrangements for staff in those grades.

With regard to the State agencies, the decentralisation implementation group took the view that it would not seek to dictate every step in the process to the management of the state agencies. Although the group proposed a group of state agencies for early mover status it did not include specific timeframes in recognition of this approach and also of the fact that it is the responsibility of the board and senior management of each agency to implement Government policy. The group stated in its report that each agency included in the programme should have a successful relocation as a high level strategic objective and should prepare the next and deeper iteration of its implementation plan. In the meantime, the OPW is continuing to seek property solutions in respect of any agency that requires it.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

102 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance the timescale for decentralisation to Listowel, County Kerry; the number of applicants for relocation to Listowel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2881/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Office of Public Works has identified a suitable property solution for the accommodation of 50 Revenue staff due to decentralise to Listowel. The data from the central applications facility, published in September 2004 indicated that there were 49 applications for decentralisation to Listowel. The indicative timeframe for the provision of the building is the last quarter of 2006 and it is expected that the movement of staff to Listowel will be commenced as soon as the building is available.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Billy Timmins

Question:

103 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the stage at which his plans to bring forward legislation to incorporate uncashed bank drafts into the dormant accounts fund are at; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7992/06]

My Department is continuing to liaise with the Financial Regulator and the banking industry to determine the merits or otherwise of the proposed incorporation of uncashed bank drafts into the dormant accounts scheme.

The approach currently under consideration relates to the funds held by the banks against presentation of the drafts to avoid any change in the rules or conditions relating to the instruments themselves. However, a number of important legal and technical issues have arisen and are being examined.

First, funds representing uncashed bank drafts are held in an account in the name of the bank where it was issued and not an account in the name of the person beneficially entitled to the draft. Such accounts are inherently different to those specified under the dormant accounts legislation.

Second, bank drafts are payable on demand to the payee but the bank has no knowledge of the current holder of the bank draft and records do not always include the address of either the original purchaser or payee. This presents obvious difficulties in meeting the notification requirements which are a key feature underpinning the current dormant scheme.

Third, while bank drafts are payable on presentation, reclaims from the dormant accounts fund allow for a delay of up to 56 days. As banks will have to pay out almost immediately on drafts, it may not be feasible to oblige them to fund the payment for such a period. The assessment of these issues is continuing.

Consideration is required of whether the prospective yield from bringing uncashed bank drafts within the scope of the dormant accounts legislation as would outweigh the costs associated, in relation to regulation and compliance, as well as inconvenience to holders of these drafts.

Decentralisation Programme.

Simon Coveney

Question:

104 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Finance if the issue of confining promotions to only persons willing to decentralise has been modified as a result of recent Labour Court hearings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7943/06]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

111 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance his views on the implications of the Labour Court decision regarding FÁS’s breach of agreed industrial relations procedures on the Government’s decentralisation programme; the Departments and divisions in which applications have been withdrawn in the past six months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7931/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 104 and 111 together.

I am aware that, in its recent recommendation in a dispute between SIPTU and FÁS concerning decentralisation and FÁS contracts of employment, the Labour Court expressed the opinion that FÁS was in breach of the consultation procedure provided for in the company-union industrial relations procedure agreement. However, the court went on to recommend that the matter be referred back to the appropriate central body, at which the issues should be teased out with a view to arriving at agreed long-term solutions, in consultation with all the parties involved. I am confident that this will lead to a resolution of the issues in dispute.

The Public Appointments Service estimates that a small proportion of the 10,600 applications, approximately 380, have been withdrawn from the central applications facility to date. In view of the nature of the programme and the timescales involved, individual circumstances are open to change and therefore application status can fluctuate as the programme is rolled out. The picture will become clearer over the coming period as staff are assigned to decentralising organisations.

The Deputy may be interested to note that there continues to be, each week, new applications from individuals wishing to decentralise under the Government's programme.

Question No. 105 answered with QuestionNo. 55.

Fiscal Policy.

Pat Breen

Question:

106 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance if he has exercised his powers to block the emergence of a common corporate tax base; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7965/06]

As I informed the House on 13 December 2005, to date, the Commission has not made a formal proposal on the common consolidated corporate tax base. At the informal Ecofin in September 2004 it was agreed that the Commission should establish a technical working group to consider such matters. While we opposed such a move, we, like all other member states, are participating in the group without prejudice to our national position of opposition to the common consolidated corporate tax base. As there is no proposal currently being examined by Council, the issue of exercising a block does not arise.

National Agreements.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

107 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance his views on the financial commitments envisaged by his Department in the context of a new social partnership programme over ten years. [7953/06]

Talks on a new national partnership agreement to follow Sustaining Progress commenced recently and are ongoing. It would be imprudent to make any statement at this stage about any financial commitments which might arise in the context of a new agreement.

Pension Provisions.

Dan Boyle

Question:

108 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to ethical guidelines being put in place by the Norwegian Government for its national pension fund; his views on introducing similar criteria for the national pension fund here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7929/06]

Dan Boyle

Question:

219 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to ethical guidelines being put in place by the Norwegian Government for its national pension fund; and his views on introducing similar criteria for the national pension fund here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8068/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 and 219 together.

I am aware of Norway's policy on the investment of its government pension fund. However, the goal set for the national pensions reserve fund, NPRF, from the outset under its establishing legislation, the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000, has been to secure the optimal return over the long term, having regard to the purpose of the fund as set out in section 18(1) of the Act and the payment requirements of the fund as provided for under section 20 of the Act, provided the level of risk to the moneys held or invested is acceptable to the NPRF commission. The commission which, under the legislation, is independent of the Government, controls and manages the fund with discretionary authority to determine and implement its investment strategy.

Some so-called ethical investment funds have performed well in the past and may continue to do so. The national pensions reserve fund commission has discretion to allow its investment managers to invest in the sectors it sees fit to maximise the return to the fund consistent with prudent risk management. It is open to it to choose to invest in such funds should it consider it consistent with the goal set for it in the legislation.

I do not propose to amend the legislation to bring the NPRF into line with its Norwegian counterpart.

Consumer Price Index.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

109 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which an examination has been done of the impact on the economy in terms of inflation caused by items currently not included in the CPI, with particular reference to competitiveness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7911/06]

The director general of the Central Statistics Office has sole responsibility for and is independent in deciding the statistical methodology and professional standards to be used in compiling the consumer price index.

The CPI is designed to measure the change in the average level of the prices paid by consumers for goods and services. It measures in index form the monthly changes in the cost of purchasing a representative basket of consumer goods and services.

Maintaining a moderate rate of inflation remains a key priority of economic policy because of its importance in restoring competitiveness. I made no changes to indirect taxes in the budget and this will help to ensure relatively modest inflation in 2006.

Employment Figures.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

110 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance his views on the contrasting trends reported by the Central Statistics Office in relation to employment growth and output growth in the economy, which implies an unexplained collapse in productivity growth in the economy here. [7966/06]

The CSO's most recent employment figures, taken from the quarterly national household survey, show that average employment in 2005 was 1,952,000 people. This was an increase of 87,000 jobs, or 4.7%, on 2004. The sectors making the greatest contribution to this increase were construction, up by 30,900 or 14.4%, financial and other business services, up by 18,500 or 7.7%, wholesale and retail trades, up by 11,700 or 4.4% and health, up by 9,400 or 5.2%. On the other hand, employment in industry fell by 7,600 persons, 2.5%.

The CSO's most recent estimate shows that GDP in the first three quarters of 2005 was 4% higher than in the same period of 2004. Output in all sectors was up on 2004, with the exception of the agriculture sector. While full year data are not yet available, estimates contained in budget 2006 point to GDP growth of 4.6% for last year.

The growth in employment and GDP can be used to calculate a crude indicator of the trend in labour productivity. To do this requires comparing growth in employment and GDP in 2005, which were 4.7% and an estimated 4.6% respectively. This implies that there was little or no increase in aggregate labour productivity in 2005.

Care should be taken in interpreting differences between trends in employment and in GDP because timing differences and statistical volatility can affect the results. In particular, estimates of GDP are still subject to revision. However, there is evidence in recent years to suggest that while labour productivity levels continue to increase, the rate of growth is slower than previously.

A major factor influencing the slowdown in the rate of increase in labour productivity is the change in the sectoral composition of the workforce. Productivity growth rates in Ireland have been exceptionally high compared with other countries because of the large numbers of foreign owned high technology industries that generate very high levels of output or value added. However, much of the strong growth in employment in recent years has been in other sectors such as construction and retail, with the result that the overall productivity levels have not grown as quickly as in the past, although the total numbers employed have increased at a record rate.

While employment growth in 2005 has marginally exceeded the estimated growth in output as measured by GDP, it is too early to conclude that there has been an unexplained collapse in labour productivity. The available information is still limited and part of the fall is explained by changes in the composition of employment. However, this is something that needs to be monitored as more information becomes available.

Question No. 111 answered with QuestionNo. 104.

Tax Evasion.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

112 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the number of court prosecutions initiated as a result of tax evasion in respect of each year since 1997; the number of cases in which convictions were secured; the number of cases in which prison sentences were imposed and the sentence in each case; if he has satisfied himself regarding the level of court cases taken having regard to the high level of evasion; if he will report on the work of the investigations and prosecutions division of the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7887/06]

The following is the up-to-date position on court prosecutions initiated for tax evasion.

In 1997 there was one prosecution and one conviction. A fine of €635 was imposed with no custodial sentence. In 1998 there were six cases and eight convictions; fines totalling €42,854 were imposed. There were two custodial sentences, one of six months suspended and one of two years suspended.

In 1999 there were two cases and one conviction. In one case a fine of €19,046 was imposed with no custodial sentence. In the other the defendant was acquitted. In 2000 there were three cases and three convictions. Fines totalling €952 were imposed. There were two custodial sentences, one of two years, reduced to 18 months on appeal, and another of 12 months suspended.

In 2001 there were four cases and four convictions. Fines totalling €14,284 were imposed. There were four custodial sentences, one of 12 months, two of six months suspended and another of three months. In 2002 there were three cases and three convictions. Fines totalling €5,540 were imposed and there was one custodial sentence of six months.

In 2003 there were six cases and seven convictions. Fines totalling €29,365 were imposed and there was one custodial sentence of two years suspended. In 2004 there was one case and one conviction. A fine of €5,000 was imposed and 180 hours community service was imposed in lieu of a three months custodial sentence.

In 2005 there were eight cases finalised and ten convictions resulted — a prosecution for tax evasion can involve more than one person, or a case may involve both individual and corporate culpability. There were three custodial sentences, one of two years suspended and two of three months each. In a further two cases 240 hours and 120 hours of community service were imposed in lieu of custodial sentences of six months and three months, respectively. Fines totalling €199,287 were imposed. In another two cases guilty pleas were entered and sentencing was adjourned.

In 2006 so far there are 11 cases before the courts and a fine of €2,000 has been imposed in respect of a case adjourned from December 2005.

The Revenue Commissioners have a clear policy of prosecuting cases of serious tax evasion. This function is tasked to their investigations and prosecutions division. Following the restructuring of Revenue in 2003, all investigation activity was consolidated in this division with a remit to co-ordinate all Revenue prosecution work and, in particular, to increase the number of criminal investigations for serious tax offences and ultimately to increase the number of prosecutions. The number of investigators was also increased for this purpose.

The latest figures indicate that this approach is continuing to bear fruit. There are 58 cases under investigation for potential prosecution, the Director of Public Prosecutions is considering a further nine cases and has given directions to prosecute in another eight. In another case, a bench warrant has been issued for failure to attend court and, as I have stated, 11 cases are in the court process. I am satisfied that the above figures vindicate the decision to concentrate Revenue's prosecution resources in one area.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

113 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he has conducted an evaluation in conjunction with the Department of Health and Children of the tax relief for private hospital investment; and if it meets the public policy objectives in the health sphere. [7977/06]

The scheme of capital allowances for the construction of private hospitals was reviewed by Indecon Economic Consultants as part of the overall review of property tax incentives in 2005. Indecon consulted widely in the course of its review, including consultations with the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive. Its report was published on 6 February 2006 and is available on the Department's website. The summary of the main findings from Indecon's analysis is as follows: There has been an overall increase in planning applications and approvals for private hospitals since 2000 but most have not proceeded to date. Most of the extra investment in the sector would either not have been undertaken, or would have taken longer to come online in the absence of the tax incentive scheme. After taking account of the beneficial effects of extra investment as a result of the scheme allowing for opportunity cost and deadweight, Indecon estimates the net cost of the tax incentive to the Irish Exchequer at €23.3 million in terms of tax revenue forgone.

While it is too early to provide detailed estimates of the impact of the scheme on the supply and on the costs of hospital beds, Indecon believes the scheme has the potential to address supply shortages in the sector and to reduce costs. The net cost of this measure to date of €23.3 million estimated by Indecon will be spread over a number of years.

Private health care is a long established feature of the system of health care provision in Ireland and acts as a strong complement to the publicly funded system. Private health care provision spans from general practitioner services through private beds in public hospitals and private hospitals to private nursing homes. The Government is committed to exploring fully the scope for the private sector to provide additional capacity in the health system. The key objective is to provide the required extra capacity, whether this is in the public or private sector. A number of Government policies-initiatives support the coexistence of public and private health care such as the designation of private and semi-private beds in public hospitals; income tax relief on private health insurance premiums; income tax relief on medical-dental expenses; the National Treatment Purchase Fund sources capacity in private hospitals for public patients; and the Tánaiste's policy direction to the Health Service Executive to build private hospitals on public sites, thereby freeing up beds for public patients.

Question No. 114 answered with QuestionNo. 89.

Departmental Properties.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

115 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance if his Department instructs the Commissioner of Public Works to consult local authorities to ensure that they can obtain requisite planning permission before buying property for State projects; if this happened in the case of a hotel (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7940/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works, acting on behalf of the Reception and Integration Agency of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, purchased the property referred to by the Deputy in 2000 for the purpose of accommodating asylum seekers. It is the normal practice for OPW to satisfy itself about the planning status of any property it proposes to purchase.

Question No. 116 answered with QuestionNo. 97.

Mortgage Protection Insurance.

Michael Ring

Question:

117 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if he has satisfied himself that homeowners are facilitated in switching their providers of mortgage protection insurance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7955/06]

Mortgage protection insurance is to provide, in the event of the death of the borrower, for the payment of a sum equal to the outstanding balance of the loan, although some policies may also offer greater life cover or an investment element.

Mortgage protection policies are usually put in place at the time of drawdown of a mortgage loan and the annual or monthly premium is calculated on the assumption that the policy will continue in force over the lifetime of the loan. Typically this would be for a period between 20 and possibly 30 years.

Switching insurer would involve cancelling the policy in force and taking out a new one. Any change in actuarial factors such as the age and health of the insured person or persons, and the amount of cover and the length for which it is required, together with any commission and other sale costs, will all affect the premium charged in respect of the new policy. Accordingly, while it may be worthwhile to review the level of cover under the policy on a regular basis, switching insurer may not be an advisable course of action.

In the circumstances, the interests of consumers would be better served by seeking to ensure that they are facilitated in getting value at the time the insurance is put in place rather than seeking to facilitate switching. The Financial Regulator has already taken a number of initiatives in this regard, including its independent consumer guide to mortgages and the independent guide to life insurance, which explains mortgage protection insurance in more detail and encourages consumers to shop around.

Revenue Investigations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

118 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons, companies and trusts being investigated by the Revenue Commissioners arising from the Clerical Medical Insurance-NIB inquiry at the latest date for which figures are available; the number of cases where settlements have been agreed and the amount paid to date; the number of cases still outstanding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7888/06]

Arising from the Clerical Medical Insurance-NIB inquiry, 465 cases have been targeted for investigation. To date, 306 cases have been settled on payment of tax, interest and penalties, amounting to a total of €53.72 million. A further 122 cases have been finalised with no additional liability arising. The remaining 37 cases are the subject of ongoing investigation, in respect of which €3.25 million has been paid on account.

In the course of 2003 three cases were prosecuted, with fines being imposed in two cases and a suspended sentence imposed in the other. The individuals concerned have also settled their tax affairs and paid the outstanding tax, together with interest and penalties. A further case is under investigation with a view to prosecution.

Aggregate results of the ongoing investigations have been published each year since 1998 in the annual reports of the Revenue Commissioners. Individual details of settlements have also been published where the provisions of section 1086 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 applied.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Shane McEntee

Question:

119 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Finance the underlying assumptions which he has made in relation to the impact of consumption and on saving of the maturing of SSIAs. [7984/06]

Domestic demand, including personal consumption, was the main driver of economic growth in 2005. In the budget 2006 forecasts the Department forecast that personal consumption will continue to be a major driver of growth over the period 2006-08, supported by strong earnings and employment growth. The maturing of the SSIA accounts is expected to provide some impetus to consumption, particularly in 2007, when the bulk of the proceeds become available.

While it is difficult to be certain of the impact of SSIA maturity, economic theory and the experience of other countries suggests that it is unlikely that a once-off factor of this nature will have an undue impact on overall consumption patterns. In 2006 growth in personal consumption is forecast to be 5.8%, accelerating to 6.8% in 2007. A slightly lower growth rate of 4.6% is expected in 2008 as the effect of the SSIA scheme unwinds.

Tax Incentive Schemes.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

120 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recently published Goodbody Economic Consultants review of area based tax incentive renewal schemes; the action he intends to take as a result of the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7857/06]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

132 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recently published internal review of certain tax schemes; the action he intends to take as a result of the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7854/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

140 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recently published Indecon review of property based tax incentive schemes; the action he intends to take as a result of the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7858/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120, 132 and 140 together.

In my 2005 Budget Statement I announced that a review of a broad range of tax incentive schemes would be undertaken in 2005. The review process included studies by external consultants Indecon and Goodbody Economic Consultants, as well as internal reviews by officials from the Department of Finance and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, with the involvement of other Departments as appropriate. In the budget 2006 documentation, summaries of the recommendations of the various reviews were published. The full reviews were published by my Department in three volumes on 6 February 2006.

I have outlined in my Budget Statement and, extensively, in discussions on the Finance Bill, a wide range of actions which I am taking arising directly from this review process. For example, arising from the recommendations of the external consultants, a range of property-based tax incentive schemes are being discontinued, subject to transitional measures to avert any undue negative impact on the construction sector. A number of other tax schemes are to be retained or reintroduced, subject to amendments in some cases, and a horizontal measure is to be introduced from 1 January 2007 to limit the extent to which high earning individuals can shelter income from taxation in any one year. I am pleased that the Government's initiative in these reviews has yielded results both in terms of identifying reliefs which are to be phased out as well as those which should be maintained.

The general findings and recommendations arising from the review of tax schemes will be taken into account as appropriate in the context of the ongoing policy formulation process.

Public Service Contracts.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

121 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance the steps he intends to take to ensure that public service contracts are awarded only to those companies that meet minimum standards in terms of pay, working conditions and pension entitlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7860/06]

Public procurement guidelines issued by my Department require contracting authorities to ensure that tenderers have regard to minimum pay and other legally binding industrial or sectoral agreements when preparing tenders and that tender documents should have an appropriate reference to this.

Regulations transposing recently revised EU directives on public procurement, currently being finalised, will require contracting authorities to indicate to tenderers where information on obligations relating to employment protection and working conditions legally in force in Ireland may be obtained. Tenderers will then be requested to indicate that in drawing up their tenders they have taken these obligations into account. Contracting authorities will be required to disregard any tenderer that fails to indicate compliance with this requirement. New draft forms for construction contracts, which are the subject of consultation with the forum for the construction industry, include provisions that require contractors to ensure that pay and conditions of employment comply with the law and are not less favourable than the terms of the registered employment agreements for those employees to whom the agreements apply. The new draft contracts also include a provision which gives some support to strengthening enforcement arrangements in the construction sector.

Tax Collection.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

122 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance the amount collected to date by the Revenue Commissioners through special investigations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7870/06]

Figures for the total yield from various special investigations and initiatives by the Revenue Commissioners for the years 1998 to 2005 and updated to 31 January 2006 are set out in the following table. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that further information on the yields from the various special investigations and initiatives can be found on the Revenue Commissioners website at www.revenue.ie.

Yield from Special Investigations up to end January 2006.

Heading

Total yields

€ million

DIRT Audits

225

Bogus Non-Resident Accounts

610.2

Offshore Assets

799.9

Single Premium Policies

387

Ansbacher

55.8

NIB-Clerical Medical

57

Tribunals

36.2

Total

2,171

Note: Any apparent discrepancy in the total is due to rounding of constituent figures.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

123 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if, in regard to the almost €2.5 billion outstanding in uncollected taxes, the proportion of this which the Revenue Commissioners expect to recover; if new measures are planned to assist in the collection of outstanding taxes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7868/06]

As reported in the most recent annual report of the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and in the most recent report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, the total tax debt outstanding at 31 March 2005 was €1.2 billion, not the €2.5 billion quoted by the Deputy.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, as with any tax system, there will always be people who pay late, evade payments or are unable to pay. In this context, it is important to note that the debt of €1.2 billion on 31 March 2005 is €146 million or 10.7% less than on 31 March 2004. The figure represents 2.5% of annual gross collection and is one of the lowest percentages of any tax administration internationally. Of this figure, €278 million of the total debt is under appeal with a further €349 million under control or at enforcement. The remainder, €590 million is under active collection.

It is the goal of Revenue, as stated in its statement of strategy for 2005 to 2007, that all debt on record should be less than five years old or the subject of active enforcement or court proceedings. In this context, I am advised by Revenue that it expects the current collectible tax debt and any additional debt that will arise for periods up to 31 December 2004, through assessments made by Revenue or submission of overdue returns by taxpayers, to ultimately be substantially reduced in the next five years. That reduction will be achieved primarily by collection of debts due.

Revenue has emphasised the changing composition of the debts and the difficulty this creates in making an estimate of the likely reduction in the debt figure over a five year period. The strategies and methodologies adopted by Revenue to achieve a reduction over a five year period will be subject to an annual review and evaluation carried out within the context of its business planning process.

Question No. 124 answered with QuestionNo. 57.

Tax Code.

John Deasy

Question:

125 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Finance if he has received any fresh analysis of the tax relief availed of by top earners as revealed by the revenue study of the 400 highest earners; if he will indicate the findings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7986/06]

The Revenue Commissioners' study, Effective Tax Rates of the Top 400 Earners: Report for the Tax Year 2001, was published by my Department in March last year. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that their report on a study of the effective tax rates of the top 400 earners in 2002 is near completion. This will be published by my Department in due course.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

126 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance his contacts with the European Commission regarding its preliminary opinion that the stallion tax exemption scheme constitutes an aid that was not compatible with the Common Market; if he has received a final opinion from the Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7866/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to a similar Parliamentary Question from Deputy Costello on 9 November 2005 which set out the background to this issue with regard to ongoing contacts with the European Commission. With regard to the future of the tax exemption for stallion fees, I announced in my Budget Statement of 7 December 2005 that this provision will be discontinued from 31 July 2008, the same end date as for various property based tax incentive schemes. A new regime appropriate to the industry will be discussed with the European Commission later this year.

Question No. 127 answered with QuestionNo. 55.

Disabled Drivers.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

128 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance when the review of the disabled drivers and passengers tax concessions regulations commenced; if he plans to extend the scheme; and, if so, when. [7643/06]

I presume that the Deputy means to refer to an extension of the persons eligible for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions according to their disability status. 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: be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs; 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; be without both hands or without both arms; be without one or both legs; be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg; or 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, 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 possible future development of the scheme. The short-term recommendations in respect of the appeals process have been implemented.

In respect of the long-term recommendations, including the qualifying disability criteria, the scale and scope of the scheme means that 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 Government is committed to supporting and reinforcing equal participation in society by people with disabilities. The best way of addressing the transport needs of people with disabilities of whatever kind and the effectiveness, suitability or otherwise of the disabled drivers scheme in that regard will continue to be considered and progressed in consultation with the other Departments with responsibility in this area. A car tax concession scheme can obviously only play a partial role in dealing with this serious issue and examination of the scheme is taking place in that context.

Tax Code.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

129 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the reason the stallion tax exemption was excluded from the terms of reference of the consultants asked to consider the cost of various tax reliefs and whose reports were published on 6 February 2006; if figures are available to his Department on the cost of this exemption; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7867/06]

During the course of 2004 and 2005 the tax relief for stallion stud fees as provided for under section 231 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 was the subject of ongoing discussions between the Irish authorities and the European Commission, with particular regard to the State aid aspects of the relief. In that context, the policy background to the tax scheme was considered extensively. No separate review of the tax scheme was in the event compiled by my Department. However, in the context of the consideration of the scheme, regard was given, inter alia, to the review conducted in July 2004 by economic consultants Indecon for the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, the European Breeders’ Fund and Horse Racing Ireland. In my 2006 Budget Statement I announced that the tax relief for stallion stud fees would be terminated with effect from 31 July 2008 and that a new regime appropriate to the industry will be discussed with the European Commission.

With regard to the cost of this exemption, section 35 of the Finance Act 2003 provided that details of exempt income from a number of sources, including from stallion stud fees, would be returned to the Revenue Commissioners. With regard to the tax year 2004, this information was included in personal income tax returns filed in October and November 2005 and, in the case of companies, in corporation tax returns filed up to the end of 2005. While a significant proportion of these returns have now been processed, not all have. Therefore, it is not possible at this stage to give an accurate assessment of the level of exempt income in respect of the stallion relief. However, based on the information received and collated to date, a total of €17,140,959 was included in the relevant returns for 2004 as profits or gains that are exempt under section 231 of the Taxes Consolidation Act in terms of stallion stud fees. This figure would correspond to a maximum Exchequer cost of the order of €7 million in 2004, in terms of income tax and corporation tax forgone. However, the actual Exchequer cost in terms of the income declared to date would be lower to the extent that the exempt income is subject to deductions for allowable expenses and other costs, thereby reducing the level of income actually subject to tax.

Decentralisation Programme.

Liz McManus

Question:

130 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Finance the latest information available from the central applications facility in respect of applications from civil servants and other public servants currently located in Dublin who wish to transfer to new locations outside of Dublin under the Government’s decentralisation programme; the way in which this compares with the Government target of 10,300; if agreement has been reached with all public service unions regarding promotional opportunities for those who choose to move and those who opt to remain where they are; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7873/06]

The latest figures from the central applications facility show there is very substantial interest in the programme. To date there have been over 10,600 applications made to the central applications facility. Of these, over 50% are from Dublin based staff. New applications for decentralisation continue to be received and over 1,300 new applications have been received since September 2004. Discussions are continuing between the management and the Civil Service unions on the implementation of the programme.

Tax Code.

John Gormley

Question:

131 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to set a deadline for the receipt of a report on tax residency rules from the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7936/06]

As outlined to the Dáil on 1 June 2005, I asked the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners to monitor the application of the current non-resident rules through examination of cases handled in the Revenue's large cases division and to provide me with a report once this examination was complete.

The chairman has recently advised me that the Revenue's large cases division has finalised its examination. The examination consisted of a series of audits on a cross-section of relevant taxpayers to ascertain if the absences claimed were compatible with claims to non-residence under the rules and consistent with other data and intelligence available to the Revenue Commissioners. The Revenue Commissioners established that there was no reason to conclude that the individuals concerned failed to comply with the statutory rules governing non-resident status. The chairman has also advised me that the Revenue Commissioners will continue to include within their regular audit programme the examination of a cross-section of cases where there is a claim to non-residence status with a view to monitoring compliance with the statutory provisions

Question No. 132 answered with QuestionNo. 120.

Tax Collection.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

133 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons, companies and trusts being investigated by the Revenue Commissioners arising from the Ansbacher accounts at the latest date for which figures are available; the number of cases where settlements have been agreed and the amount paid to date; the number of cases still outstanding; if additional action has been taken by the Revenue Commissioners arising from the report of the Ansbacher inspectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7889/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Ansbacher review team has been carrying out detailed investigations since October 1999. The investigation has essentially two elements, Ansbacher type arrangements and other cases involving offshore funds and deposits.

Revenue has advised that the review team has inquired into 289 cases and, to date, 201 of these cases have been finalised. The 289 cases, taking account of spouses and connected companies, consist of 300 names and are made up of 179 cases listed on the High Court inspectors' report and 110 similar cases discovered by Revenue or listed on the authorised officer's report. The investigation includes an examination of the tax position of disclosed entities and the accumulation and assemblage of information on other connected entities. The number of connected entities in cases under investigation is now nearly 700.

Revenue is making extensive use of its legislative powers to seek books, records, documents and information in the cases being investigated. Where appropriate, prosecutions will be considered but these will depend on the level of evidence available. Revenue has made ten successful applications to the High Court for the production by financial institutions and third parties of books, records and other documentation relevant to liabilities of Ansbacher account holders. Some 200,000 documents have been received under the terms of the High Court orders. Advanced investigative computer software is used in controlling and managing the documentation.

To date a total of €55.8 million has been received, consisting of settlements and payments on account, in respect of 107 cases. This is made up as follows:

Cases

€ million

Cases involving Ansbacher or Ansbacher-type arrangements

84

45.03

Other cases involving offshore funds or deposits

23

10.77

Total

107

55.80

The 201 cases which have been finalised consist of 78 cases which were settled on payments of €44.88 million, included in the amount above, 66 non-resident cases which are covered by the provisions of double taxation agreements, 41 cases where no additional liabilities arose and 16 which were covered by the 1993 amnesty provisions.

Revenue made an application under section 11 of the Companies Act 1990, for a copy of the High Court inspectors' report which was made available to Revenue on 6 July 2002. The information in this report has been carefully considered with regard to the tax liabilities of the persons concerned. In addition, Revenue made a further application to the High Court for access to the supporting papers to the High Court inspectors' report. The High Court order in the matter was granted in June 2004 and perfected in January 2005 and allows for access to documents relating to clients of Ansbacher named in the High Court inspectors' report and those persons and companies, including members of the board, found by the High Court inspectors to have failed to co-operate with their inquiry. The order also allows for Revenue to make application and grounding affidavit for the obtaining of information and documents relating to any other individual or company. Access to documents is subject to the direction of the High Court. Revenue has applied, on foot of the order, for access to documentation in respect of certain cases named in the High Court inspectors' report. Some documentation has been supplied and further documentation is awaited. Revenue has informed me that the investigations are time consuming and complex and are likely to continue for some time to come.

Decentralisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

134 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the progress to date in the decentralisation programme; the extent to which original targets have been met or are likely to be met; the costs involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7910/06]

I am satisfied that good progress continues to be made on this ambitious programme. I am particularly pleased with the continuing popularity of the programme among public servants. There are about 10,600 applications on the central applications facility to date and new applications are being received each week.

I refer the Deputy to the decentralisation implementation group's July 2005 report which identified progress in relation to property, implementation planning, numbers of applicants and human resources and industrial relations issues. In line with the group's approach to phasing, the report provided indicative construction start and completion dates for the procurement of office accommodation in the new locations. The full contents of this report can be accessed at www.decentralisation.gov.ie. The final construction dates can only be confirmed when the tender process has been completed in respect of each location and are contingent on the level and quality of market interest in respect of sites, successful negotiation of contracts, receipt of acceptable planning permissions, timely completion of briefs, etc. I understand that the OPW is updating the position on the property aspects of the programme in light of experience to date.

Discussions have progressed with the Civil Service general service unions on a number of human resource and industrial relations issues. Actual movement of staff within and between Departments and offices is now under way, with approximately 1,150 staff assigned to posts which will decentralise. Discussions are continuing with the professional and technical staff representative in respect of arrangements for staff in those grades.

The decentralisation implementation group took the view that it would not seek to dictate every step in the process to the management of the State agencies. Although the group proposed a group of State agencies for early mover status, it did not include specific timeframes in recognition of this approach and also of the fact that it is the responsibility of the board and senior management of each agency to implement Government policy. The group stated in its report that each agency included in the programme should have a successful relocation as a high level strategic objective and should prepare the next and deeper iteration of its implementation plan. In the meantime, the OPW is continuing to seek property solutions in respect of any agency that requires it.

When details of the Government's decentralisation programme were first announced in budget 2004, it was stated that the overall objective would be to ensure that property being acquired at a regional level is matched as closely as possible in time and in cost terms by the disposal of property held in the Dublin region, whether held on lease or otherwise. In November 2004 the implementation group submitted a report on the procurement methodology and financial assessment of the property aspects of the programme, including a financial model, based on a property finance study carried out by the Office of Public Works. While the prevailing property market conditions in each area will have a bearing on cost, this model indicates that the break even position for property will be reached in about 20 years.

The latest information available from the OPW suggests that the total amount committed in principle to date by the OPW on site acquisition costs, excluding VAT, is approximately €36.3 million. With regard to other non-property aspects of the programme, a report was prepared by Deloitte and Touche at the request of the implementation group. This report provided a model for identifying non-property costs and savings that might arise both during the relocation phase and in the context of a post-decentralised Civil Service. Decentralising organisations have now been asked to use this model to make periodic reports identifying costs incurred and savings made since the programme was announced and going forward. I do not anticipate, however, that these costs will be significant.

Pension Provisions.

Enda Kenny

Question:

135 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the terms on which funds in the national pension reserve fund have been made available for public sector projects; and the reason they have not been taken up. [7968/06]

The national pensions reserve fund commission is independent of Government in the exercise of its functions. Under the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000, it controls and manages the fund with discretionary authority to determine and implement the fund's investment strategy. This investment strategy is based on a commercial investment mandate with the objective of securing the optimal return in the long term, subject to prudent risk management.

The independence of the commission is a cornerstone of the legislation which ensures that it will invest in a manner that maximises returns. Essentially, it is similar to the trustee arrangements that apply to private pension funds and places an obligation on the commission to act commercially and in the best interests of the fund.

With regard to commercial investment in public sector projects in this country, the annual report of the national pensions reserve fund commission for 2004 states that the commission has made an initial allocation of €200 million for investment in public private partnerships in Ireland and will increase this allocation should suitable opportunities arise. The report also states that the commission will make equity and-or debt finance available to the winning bidder in the tender process for public-private partnership projects, provided it is satisfied with the prospective rate of return. I understand that, to date, no moneys have been invested by the commission in any such projects. On a more general note, development of the public-private partnership process is not dependent on investment in PPPs by the national pensions reserve fund commission.

Budgetary Process.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

136 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on progress toward reforming the budgetary process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7939/06]

I announced the Government's proposals for budgetary reform in my Budget Statement in December 2005. I have written to the Opposition finance spokespersons to invite them to a briefing on these proposals for reform, as I said I would on budget day. I have received a number of replies to my invitations and I am considering how best to advance this matter taking account of those replies.

Financial Services.

David Stanton

Question:

137 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance the measures he intends to take to improve access to bank accounts for people on low incomes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4654/06]

Lack of financial knowledge, particularly on initiating the transaction, and the need to provide suitable identification documents in order to open an account are frequently identified as the main obstacles faced by those on lower incomes when attempting to access financial services. Financial institutions are obliged under the Criminal Justice Act, 1994 to take reasonable measures to identify their customers, with a view to combating money laundering and terrorist financing. Guidelines approved by the money laundering steering committee under the aegis of my Department set out measures that might reasonably be adopted by financial institutions in this regard. These guidelines emphasise that any measures adopted should not deny a person access to financial services solely on the grounds that they do not possess certain specified identification documentation. For its part, the Financial Regulator has incorporated this as a requirement in its draft consumer protection code.

Identification of a customer comprises two elements. These are name verification, typically evidenced by a photograph-bearing document such as a passport, driving licence or other reputable source document, and address verification. The guidance notes for credit institutions provide for those circumstances where persons cannot reasonably be expected to produce certain forms of identification such as a passport or driving licence and whose name and Irish address does not appear on a utility bill, electoral register or directory.

As far as improving financial knowledge is concerned, the Financial Regulator, within its statutory consumer mandate, has developed a number of specific initiatives to help consumers make informed choices in terms of the financial products they choose, the amount of risk they take on and the cost of the financial products. These initiatives have been developed through the framework of the Financial Regulator's consumer awareness campaign and include publication of a fact sheet entitled, How to Open a Bank or Building Society Account.

Decentralisation Programme.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

138 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Finance the discussions he has had with other Departments or State agencies which are concerned at the potential loss of expertise and corporate knowledge as a result of the Government’s decentralisation programme; the steps being taken to address these concerns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7872/06]

When the decentralisation programme was announced by my predecessor he appointed a decentralisation implementation group to drive the process forward. The group's terms of reference include the examination of how decentralisation might enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the public service.

The implementation group asked that all organisations participating in the programme prepare detailed implementation plans, including risk mitigation plans. These plans were prepared and submitted to the group. In its July 2004 report the group noted that the overall quality of the plans was good. In line with a recommendation in the group's November 2004 report, each of the Departments and organisations scheduled as early movers has prepared a revised implementation plan detailing the steps that need to be taken to complete the moves to the new locations successfully. These have been submitted to the group which has been examining them in detail. All other decentralising organisations are preparing revised implementation plans. I understand the implementation group has recently been meeting the Secretaries General of decentralising Departments to discuss the overall planning frameworks and review progress to date.

On a more general note, the Deputy will be interested to note that the Committee for Public Management Research, CPMR, has prepared a discussion paper, CPMR Paper No. 30, entitled, A Review of Knowledge Management in the Irish Civil Service. This study aims to raise awareness of knowledge management issues and approaches among Departments and Offices.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

139 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Finance the number of civil servants and other public servants who had been decentralised from Dublin to other locations by the original deadline for the completion of the plan of December 2006; his plans to review the scale or scope of the proposal in view of the very poor response to the scheme so far; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7874/06]

I have no plans to change the scale or scope of the decentralisation programme. In line with the timeframes set out by the decentralisation implementation group in its June report I expect that up to 1,000 people will have decentralised to 11 locations by end 2006 or early 2007.

I do not accept the Deputy's view that there has been a poor response to the programme. On the contrary, the Government is very pleased with the numbers who have applied to the central applications facility, CAF. There have been approximately 10,600 applications so far and new applications are being received each week. The CAF remains open and continues to accept further new applications. In addition, there has been considerable movement of staff within and between Departments and offices in preparation for decentralisation, with about 1,150 officers already assigned to posts that will decentralise. Departments are continuing their detailed preparations on all aspects of the programme.

Question No. 140 answered with QuestionNo. 120.

Tax Code.

Willie Penrose

Question:

141 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance the amount repaid by the Revenue Commissioners to individual taxpayers in respect of overpayments of tax for each of the years 2002 to 2005; his plans for information campaigns to ensure that taxpayers are made fully aware of all their entitlements and are claiming all credits and allowances provided for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7878/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the amount of tax either repaid or credited against other tax liabilities of the taxpayer, in respect of the main taxes, for each of the years 2002 to 2005 is as follows:

Year

PAYE Income Tax (employees)

PAYE Income Tax (employers)

Non-PAYE Income Tax

Corporation Tax

VAT

€million

€million

€million

€million

€million

2002

242(approximately)

41

453

279

2,500

2003

265

104

488

382

2,605

2004

278

133

452

372

2,918

2005

332

96

522

500

3,449

The repayments of corporation tax refer to individual claims made by companies from year to year. VAT repayments are part and parcel of the way the VAT system works with traders charging VAT on their output but reclaiming the VAT paid on their inputs. The figures do not include repayments to non-resident claimants of Irish tax deducted from income arising in Ireland. Neither do they include relevant contracts tax where the normal operation of the system involves the routine claiming of repayments or offset against normal tax liabilities.

In the case of PAYE, repayments arise as a general rule in response to claims made by taxpayers containing specific information not previously known to Revenue and the level of repayments shows that very many taxpayers are aware of the tax credits and reliefs to which they are entitled and of the necessity to make the claim. The Revenue Commissioners are conscious of their responsibility as contained in their customer service charter to provide taxpayers with the necessary information and all reasonable assistance to enable them to clearly understand and meet their tax and customs obligations and to claim their entitlements and credits. Revenue has always been very proactive in ensuring that PAYE taxpayers, in particular, are made fully aware of their rights and are facilitated in claiming repayments due. For example, the tax credit certificate sent to each PAYE taxpayer at the start of the tax year is accompanied by a detailed leaflet setting out a wide range of information on the main personal tax credits available for the year in question with comparative figures for the preceding year, tax rates and tax bands for the year in question, exemption limits for single, widowed and married persons and how to claim an adjustment to the tax credit certificate.

Revenue's website also provides easy-to-access customer service information on the full range of reliefs available to taxpayers, together with a range of claim forms in downloadable format. The Revenue home page also contains a What's New section where customers are alerted to timely items of interest.

As the Deputy will be aware, Revenue has procedures in place for PAYE taxpayers in order that many reliefs need not be claimed at all as they are given at source, for example, mortgage interest, pension contributions, permanent health insurance, medical insurance. Others need only be claimed once and are automatically carried forward from year to year, for example, basic tax credits, PAYE credit, age credit for the over 65s and trade union subscriptions. The only reliefs that need to be claimed on an ongoing basis are those that are expenditure-related such as medical expenses, certain dental expenses, third level tuition fees and rent relief. While a wide range of information channels has been used to put details regarding taxpayer entitlements into the public domain, I emphasise that the primary responsibility for ensuring Revenue has the most up-to-date information on a taxpayer lies with the taxpayer himself or herself.

Revenue is planning additional on-line services for PAYE customers later in 2006. This will be accompanied by a campaign to publicise the services and notify taxpayers on the options available to claim their entitlements. With these new interactive, on-line, self-service channels, and the existing comprehensive range of information already available, I am satisfied that taxpayers are being made as fully aware as possible of their entitlements to claim credits and allowances.

Unemployment Levels.

Pat Carey

Question:

142 Mr. Carey asked the Taoiseach the level of registered unemployment in the Dublin 11 and Dublin 9 areas for each year since 2000 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8154/06]

The exact information requested by the Deputy is not available. Statistics on employment and unemployment are compiled, at a regional level, from the quarterly national household survey. The latest statistics show that there were 27,500 people classified as unemployed in the Dublin region, equating to an unemployment rate of 4.5%, in the September-November quarter of 2005. Sub-regional statistics, of the kind requested by the Deputy, are not available from the quarterly national household survey.

The live register series gives a monthly breakdown of the number claiming unemployment assistance and unemployment benefit, as well as other claimants registered with the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Figures are published for each county and each local social welfare office. A breakdown by postal district is not available. The most recent information available is for January 2006. It should be noted that the live register is not a definitive measure of unemployment as it includes part-time workers and seasonal and casual workers entitled to unemployment assistance or benefit. Statistics on unemployment are measured at regional level by the quarterly national household survey. It should also be noted that the exact area covered by each local office is not limited to the immediate locality of the particular office and it is possible that persons in particular Dublin postal areas would register in different local offices.

The live register figures for all the local or branch offices in County Dublin for 2000 to date are set out in the table below. Also included is a table from the quarterly national household survey displaying ILO economic status data for the Dublin region from 2000 to date.

Persons aged 15 years and over classified by NUTS3 regions1 and ILO Economic Status

Region

In employment

Unemployed

In labour force

Unemployment rate

Participation rate

’000

’000

’000

%

%

Dublin

Dec-Feb 2000

523.0

21.4

544.4

3.9

62.3

Mar-May 2000

528.4

18.9

547.2

3.4

62.5

Jun-Aug 2000

548.7

19.3

568.0

3.4

64.6

Sep-Nov 2000

543.1

16.6

559.7

3.0

63.2

Dec-Feb 2001

545.0

14.4

559.4

2.6

63.1

Mar-May 2001

542.7

16.5

559.2

3.0

62.9

Jun-Aug 2001

556.8

19.6

576.4

3.4

64.5

Sep-Nov 2001

551.9

17.9

569.8

3.1

63.3

Dec-Feb 2002

547.5

20.3

567.8

3.6

62.9

Mar-May 2002

545.9

20.4

566.3

3.6

62.4

Jun-Aug 2002

551.4

24.3

575.8

4.2

63.3

Sep-Nov 2002

549.6

23.7

573.3

4.1

62.7

Dec-Feb 2003

548.4

24.6

573.0

4.3

62.4

Mar-May 2003

548.2

21.9

570.1

3.8

62.1

Jun-Aug 2003

553.9

28.1

582.0

4.8

63.3

Sep-Nov 2003

554.1

24.8

578.8

4.3

62.7

Dec-Feb 2004

548.7

25.1

573.8

4.4

62.0

Mar-May 2004

550.2

24.7

574.9

4.3

62.0

Jun-Aug 2004

560.2

24.7

585.0

4.2

63.0

Sep-Nov 2004

564.0

24.4

588.4

4.1

62.9

Dec-Feb 2005

567.3

23.7

591.1

4.0

62.9

Mar-May 2005

574.3

25.5

599.7

4.2

63.7

Jun-Aug 2005

585.6

28.8

614.5

4.7

65.0

Sep-Nov 2005

586.4

27.5

614.0

4.5

64.4

State

Dec-Feb 2000

1,648.7

81.2

1,729.9

4.7

58.6

Mar-May 2000

1,671.4

74.5

1,745.9

4.3

59.0

Jun-Aug 2000

1,736.1

77.1

1,813.3

4.3

61.0

Sep-Nov 2000

1,712.6

68.4

1,781.0

3.8

59.3

Dec-Feb 2001

1,710.9

65.3

1,776.2

3.7

59.0

Mar-May 2001

1,721.9

65.1

1,787.0

3.6

59.2

Jun-Aug 2001

1,788.9

78.5

1,867.4

4.2

61.5

Sep-Nov 2001

1,759.9

71.8

1,831.6

3.9

59.8

Dec-Feb 2002

1,753.5

79.2

1,832.7

4.3

59.6

Mar-May 2002

1,763.9

77.0

1,840.9

4.2

59.6

Jun-Aug 2002

1,808.4

86.2

1,894.6

4.6

61.0

Sep-Nov 2002

1,782.3

84.1

1,866.3

4.5

59.7

Dec-Feb 2003

1,783.6

85.2

1,868.7

4.6

59.5

Mar-May 2003

1,793.4

82.1

1,875.5

4.4

59.6

Jun-Aug 2003

1,836.4

98.8

1,935.3

5.1

61.3

Sep-Nov 2003

1,828.9

85.9

1,914.8

4.5

60.2

Dec-Feb 2004

1,835.9

83.6

1,919.5

4.4

60.1

Mar-May 2004

1,836.2

84.2

1,920.3

4.4

60.0

Jun-Aug 2004

1,893.6

93.9

1,987.5

4.7

61.8

Sep-Nov 2004

1,894.1

85.6

1,979.7

4.3

61.0

Dec-Feb 2005

1,908.3

82.1

1,990.5

4.1

61.0

Mar-May 2005

1,929.2

85.6

2,014.8

4.2

61.5

Jun-Aug 2005

1,989.8

96.7

2,086.5

4.6

63.2

Sep-Nov 2005

1,980.6

91.3

2,071.9

4.4

62.2

Source: Quarterly National Household Survey, Central Statistics Office.

Number of persons on the Register for County Dublin and Offices from 2003

Live Register/County Dublin/No. Total

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2000

45,088

44,356

42,031

41,895

39,435

40,105

40,973

40,503

36,625

34,276

32,737

33,186

39,268

2001

32,726

32,491

31,281

31,590

31,055

32,801

34,804

35,417

33,499

33,297

34,269

35,596

33,236

2002

38,371

39,291

40,101

38,946

38,559

40,794

43,368

43,803

41,478

40,212

39,951

41,455

40,527

2003

43,270

43,852

43,178

44,372

43,283

46,335

48,526

48,729

45,417

43,207

42,331

43,562

44,672

2004

45,104

44,597

43,677

43,096

42,370

44,043

45,618

44,953

41,585

39,281

37,880

39,361

42,630

2005

39,873

39,708

39,802

38,898

38,910

41,202

43,620

43,911

40,435

39,287

38,959

39,933

40,378

2006

41,103

Live Register/Gardiner Street1/Exch./No. Total

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2000

3,507

3,492

3,369

3,375

3,274

3,259

3,312

3,315

3,089

2,893

2,813

2,829

3,211

2001

2,771

2,724

2,685

2,679

2,671

2,754

2,905

2,959

2,860

2,779

2,724

2,873

2,782

2002

3,135

3,189

3,253

3,100

3,045

3,183

3,367

3,484

3,366

3,251

3,268

2,808

3,204

2003

2,913

3,002

2,912

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2004

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2005

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2006

0

Live Register/Werburg Street2/Exch./No. Total

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2000

3,594

3,529

3,333

3,308

3,138

3,087

3,097

3,026

2,660

2,477

2,426

2,424

3,008

2001

2,394

2,312

2,238

2,272

2,229

2,387

2,521

2,508

2,320

2,274

2,335

2,454

2,354

2002

2,608

2,635

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2003

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2004

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2005

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2006

0

Live Register/Victoria Street2/Exch./No. Total

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2000

1,383

1,386

1,328

1,301

1,193

1,315

1,338

1,297

1,163

993

941

954

1,216

2001

926

911

839

877

821

934

990

1,040

974

996

998

1,009

943

2002

1,108

1,117

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2003

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2004

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2005

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2006

0

Live Register/Cumberland Street/Exch./No. Total

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2000

5,298

5,189

4,933

4,899

4,616

4,689

4,779

4,656

4,388

4,136

3,925

3,990

4,625

2001

3,958

4,046

3,926

4,033

3,980

4,131

4,336

4,473

4,364

4,349

4,585

4,797

4,248

2002

5,158

5,302

4,825

4,675

4,598

4,778

5,024

5,137

4,926

4,755

4,725

5,361

4,939

2003

5,621

5,639

5,566

5,671

5,398

5,807

6,093

6,160

5,875

5,664

5,543

4,239

5,606

2004

5,877

5,816

5,726

5,654

5,519

5,710

5,768

5,683

5,422

5,022

4,957

5,097

5,521

2005

3,681

5,135

5,157

5,122

5,127

5,348

5,620

5,673

3,612

5,130

5,126

5,155

4,991

2006

5,237

Live Register/Navan Road/Exch./No. Total

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2000

6,144

6,140

5,934

5,880

5,647

5,677

5,668

5,696

5,284

4,952

4,681

4,622

5,527

2001

4,605

4,645

4,446

4,528

4,516

4,550

4,914

4,961

4,712

4,733

4,792

4,872

4,690

2002

5,118

5,353

2,730

2,767

2,747

2,835

2,995

2,970

2,816

2,695

2,698

2,663

3,199

2003

2,747

2,781

2,748

2,865

2,764

2,868

2,926

2,874

2,779

2,604

2,589

5,658

3,017

2004

2,697

2,688

2,679

2,773

2,712

2,794

2,850

2,825

2,669

2,509

2,460

2,543

2,683

2005

2,605

2,581

2,595

2,485

2,492

2,672

2,854

2,865

5,222

2,619

2,559

2,616

2,847

2006

2,651

Live Register/Thomas Street/Exch./No. Total

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2000

2,889

2,848

2,746

2,693

2,554

2,518

2,534

2,636

2,324

2,152

2,021

1,988

2,492

2001

1,974

1,912

1,761

1,786

1,738

1,785

1,872

1,940

1,815

1,841

1,858

1,943

1,852

2002

2,118

2,211

2,204

2,161

2,100

2,214

2,290

2,299

2,220

2,181

2,241

2,324

2,214

2003

2,447

2,470

2,420

2,453

2,472

2,627

2,735

2,744

2,491

2,453

2,449

2,630

2,533

2004

2,478

2,482

2,460

2,434

2,455

2,539

2,514

2,499

2,329

2,216

2,117

2,157

2,390

2005

2,189

2,251

2,270

2,222

2,224

2,318

2,360

2,399

2,656

2,178

2,166

2,141

2,281

2006

2,219

Live Register/Tara Street/Exch./No. Total

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2000

1,472

1,418

1,307

1,294

1,211

1,243

1,267

1,249

1,154

1,081

1,049

1,029

1,231

2001

997

978

973

1,030

1,038

1,118

1,172

1,206

1,203

1,203

1,236

1,299

1,121

2002

1,366

1,344

1,388

1,325

1,327

1,442

1,534

1,519

1,462

1,384

1,375

1,449

1,410

2003

1,495

1,529

1,487

1,478

1,447

1,568

1,602

1,627

1,503

1,406

1,404

3,224

1,648

2004

1,443

1,410

1,354

1,352

1,360

1,423

1,437

1,389

1,257

1,172

1,162

1,151

1,326

2005

1,174

1,181

1,168

1,125

1,137

1,194

1,265

1,280

3,510

1,166

1,142

1,157

1,375

2006

1,153

Live Register/Tallaght/Exch./No. Total

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2000

3,961

3,907

3,670

3,587

3,384

3,377

3,515

3,489

3,130

2,912

2,751

2,783

3,372

2001

2,790

2,698

2,598

2,627

2,524

2,728

2,981

3,011

2,767

2,690

2,785

2,882

2,757

2002

3,156

3,169

3,248

3,148

3,109

3,275

3,486

3,456

3,208

3,062

3,027

3,145

3,207

2003

3,347

3,395

3,332

3,386

3,275

3,599

3,804

3,815

3,534

3,296

3,244

2,445

3,373

2004

3,631

3,502

3,476

3,513

3,438

3,609

3,702

3,608

3,380

3,077

3,021

3,126

3,424

2005

3,214

3,184

3,273

3,279

3,321

3,456

3,649

3,558

2,228

3,146

3,176

3,302

3,232

2006

3,503

Live Register/Ballymun/Exch./No. Total

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2000

1,504

1,441

1,385

1,336

1,301

1,327

1,357

1,327

1,265

1,199

1,155

1,149

1,312

2001

1,156

1,150

1,163

1,192

1,163

1,187

1,240

1,279

1,257

1,222

1,255

1,293

1,213

2002

1,414

1,446

1,485

1,450

1,467

1,463

1,505

1,474

1,426

1,418

1,421

1,455

1,452

2003

1,521

1,517

1,539

1,510

1,502

1,548

1,575

1,550

1,505

1,437

1,452

1,467

1,510

2004

1,521

1,513

1,499

1,488

1,483

1,536

1,529

1,465

1,430

1,382

1,354

1,374

1,465

2005

1,473

1,477

1,474

1,423

1,431

1,463

1,569

1,557

1,191

1,481

1,498

1,502

1,462

2006

1,562

Live Register/Clondalkin/Exch./No. Total

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2000

2,605

2,534

2,438

2,355

2,237

2,267

2,305

2,268

2,107

1,941

1,803

1,841

2,225

2001

1,803

1,749

1,658

1,555

1,471

1,499

1,477

1,522

1,401

1,405

1,495

1,573

1,551

2002

1,675

1,731

2,465

2,434

2,302

2,432

2,564

2,627

2,550

2,560

2,473

2,586

2,367

2003

2,773

2,827

2,823

2,896

2,796

2,970

3,137

3,217

3,066

2,899

2,824

3,401

2,969

2004

3,187

3,153

3,106

3,059

3,012

3,130

3,287

3,237

3,026

2,926

2,791

2,921

3,070

2005

2,987

3,043

3,056

3,062

3,099

3,249

3,519

3,630

3,291

3,368

3,416

3,440

3,263

2006

3,630

Live Register/Rathfarnham/Exch./No. Total

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2000

1,886

1,932

1,716

1,836

1,617

1,848

1,978

1,920

1,544

1,469

1,411

1,552

1,726

2001

1,505

1,526

1,393

1,369

1,391

1,579

1,695

1,759

1,557

1,543

1,599

1,727

1,554

2002

1,834

1,862

1,958

1,708

1,739

2,057

2,223

2,275

1,955

1,888

1,890

2,110

1,958

2003

2,024

2,142

2,114

2,235

2,116

2,408

2,634

2,674

2,245

2,146

2,102

1,445

2,190

2004

2,237

2,155

2,086

2,046

2,085

2,321

2,492

2,449

2,035

1,956

1,783

1,980

2,135

2005

1,868

1,835

1,833

1,735

1,743

1,936

2,176

2,219

1,529

1,771

1,704

1,904

1,854

2006

1,813

Live Register/Kilbarrack/Exch./No. Total

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2000

2,714

2,674

2,586

2,627

2,443

2,573

2,678

2,605

2,297

2,210

2,132

2,241

2,482

2001

2,164

2,153

2,160

2,150

2,144

2,336

2,469

2,528

2,362

2,377

2,429

2,531

2,317

2002

2,667

2,730

2,668

2,600

2,634

2,757

2,974

3,005

2,817

2,780

2,763

2,935

2,778

2003

2,984

3,037

2,937

3,004

2,875

3,101

3,306

3,310

3,051

2,923

2,861

2,955

3,029

2004

3,024

2,944

2,930

2,805

2,691

2,809

2,950

2,927

2,692

2,475

2,399

2,484

2,761

2005

2,479

2,462

2,416

2,337

2,345

2,436

2,593

2,572

3,498

2,259

2,197

2,250

2,487

2006

2,320

Live Register/Dún Laoghaire/Exch./No. Total

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2000

3,355

3,310

3,035

3,235

2,865

3,072

3,225

3,194

2,735

2,586

2,493

2,641

2,979

2001

2,559

2,577

2,436

2,387

2,357

2,636

2,832

2,808

2,544

2,589

2,700

2,759

2,599

2002

2,956

3,037

3,140

3,014

3,048

3,416

3,684

3,685

3,336

3,232

3,162

3,292

3,250

2003

3,420

3,449

3,345

3,487

3,330

3,651

3,825

3,828

3,425

3,174

3,168

2,260

3,364

2004

3,248

3,292

3,014

2,949

2,907

3,043

3,329

3,305

2,802

2,738

2,539

2,788

2,996

2005

2,611

2,576

2,576

2,501

2,481

2,802

2,932

2,951

1,788

2,391

2,316

2,398

2,527

2006

2,471

Live Register/Balbriggan/Exch./No. Total

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2000

1,183

1,144

1,075

1,058

1,021

1,031

1,065

1,049

948

943

925

936

1,032

2001

920

940

913

956

914

930

997

997

977

991

1,025

1,082

970

2002

1,187

1,201

1,225

1,208

1,154

1,180

1,234

1,239

1,220

1,221

1,183

1,261

1,209

2003

1,303

1,315

1,279

1,295

1,243

1,274

1,348

1,339

1,297

1,244

1,238

2,991

1,431

2004

1,341

1,353

1,296

1,249

1,206

1,233

1,306

1,308

1,213

1,193

1,179

1,226

1,259

2005

1,238

1,187

1,204

1,167

1,170

1,229

1,329

1,375

2,278

1,238

1,251

1,324

1,333

2006

1,364

Live Register/Ballyfermot/Exch./No. Total

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2000

1,634

1,519

1,367

1,306

1,213

1,151

1,115

1,068

1,013

955

912

912

1,180

2001

866

845

810

805

802

836

879

907

867

830

860

892

850

2002

1,042

1,018

1,022

983

993

1,046

1,075

1,133

1,091

1,033

1,027

1,078

1,045

2003

1,186

1,193

1,211

1,276

1,219

1,289

1,312

1,363

1,287

1,278

1,186

3,287

1,424

2004

1,261

1,289

1,273

1,256

1,206

1,256

1,260

1,253

1,184

1,139

1,135

1,171

1,224

2005

1,256

1,273

1,272

1,239

1,218

1,259

1,351

1,330

2,539

1,268

1,258

1,242

1,375

2006

1,338

Live Register/Finglas/Exch./No. Total

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2000

1,959

1,893

1,809

1,805

1,721

1,671

1,740

1,708

1,524

1,377

1,299

1,295

1,650

2001

1,338

1,325

1,282

1,344

1,296

1,411

1,524

1,519

1,519

1,475

1,593

1,610

1,436

2002

1,829

1,946

1,924

1,903

1,949

1,954

2,096

2,103

2,059

1,998

1,958

1,966

1,974

2003

2,088

2,116

2,108

2,161

2,178

2,252

2,348

2,439

2,336

2,208

2,162

1,321

2,143

2004

2,349

2,374

2,347

2,299

2,264

2,270

2,346

2,374

2,245

2,125

2,042

2,121

2,263

2005

2,165

2,168

2,174

2,175

2,174

2,256

2,365

2,380

1,278

2,225

2,184

2,255

2,150

2006

2,307

Live Register/Bishop Square3/Exch./No. Total

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2000

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2001

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2002

0

0

3913

3860

3734

4054

4358

4379

4101

3891

3869

4051

2003

4,256

4,277

4,224

4,403

4,484

4,900

5,182

5,086

4,700

4,376

4,220

1,187

4,275

2004

4,367

4,262

4,134

4,074

4,062

4,260

4,451

4,355

3,965

3,670

3,537

3,642

4,065

2005

3,681

3,656

3,682

3,550

3,589

3,920

4,021

4,019

1,255

3,398

3,308

3,452

3,461

2006

3,432

Live Register/Coolock4/Exch./No. Total

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average

2000

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2001

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2002

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2003

3,032

3,033

3,136

3,198

3,174

2,952

2,829

2,736

2,834

2004

2,883

2,824

2,807

2,767

2,718

2,753

2,839

2,778

2,650

2,482

2,369

2,439

2,692

2005

2,493

2,432

2,423

2,330

2,277

2,368

2,496

2,505

2,290

2,259

2,239

2,306

2,368

2006

2,424

Source: Live Register Series, Central Statistics Office.

1Gardiner Street office is replaced by Coolock Office with effect from April 2003.

2Werburgh Street and Victoria Street offices are replaced with the new Bishop Square office with effect from March 2002.

3Bishop Square replaces previous offices Werburgh Street and Victoria Street with effect form March 2002.

4Coolock replaces previous office Gardiner Street with effect from April 2003.

Departmental Expenditure.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

143 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach the value of advertising placed in national newspapers in 2005; the newspapers used and the amount received for each of the past five years; and if the placing of official notices and departmental advertisements are subject to a tendering process. [7688/06]

The value of advertising placed in national newspapers in 2005 by this Department was €28,025.

The following schedule outlines the value of advertising services undertaken by this Department within the past five years, including details of national newspapers used within each period.

Year

Newspapers used within the year

Cost for Service

2005

Irish Independent, Irish Times, Irish Examiner, The Star, Foinse, Northern Standard, Irish Post, Belfast Telegraph, Irish News, Daily Ireland, Newsletter and The Guardian.

28,025

2004

Irish Independent, Irish Times, Irish Examiner, Sunday Independent, Sunday Business Post, The Star and Foinse.

21,608*

2003

Irish Independent, Irish Times, Irish Examiner, Sunday Business Post and The Star.

10,869*

2002

Irish Independent, Irish Times, Irish Examiner, Sunday Business Post, The Star and the Evening Herald.

51,164*

2001

Irish Independent, Irish Times, Irish Examiner, The Star, Evening Herald, Evening Echo, Northern Standard, Sligo Champion, Anglo Celt, Leitrim Observer, Western People, Drogheda Independent, Roscommon Herald, Longford Leader, Meath Chronicle, Westmeath Independent, Connacht Tribune, Leinster Leader, Midland Tribune, Leinster Express, Wicklow People, Kerryman, Waterford News and Star, Southern Star, Foinse and Belfast Telegraph.

28,104

*Included in the above figures are payments made by this Department for advertising services in national newspapers which were recouped from the change management fund, CMF. The figure recouped for 2002 was €18,203, for 2003 €5,444 and for 2004 €16,685.

Newspaper advertising has mainly been used by this Department in recent years for the national day of commemoration, tours of Government Buildings, the Official Languages Act and the establishment of commissions of investigation. Advertising services are provided on a cross-departmental three year contract, awarded following an open competitive tender process held by the Government Supplies Agency.

Enda Kenny

Question:

144 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach the information technology projects costed at over €5 million which are being developed within his Department; if his Department has conducted peer reviews of such projects; the findings of such reviews; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8025/06]

The e-Cabinet system, in operation across Departments, is in the final phase of development. The total cost of the project will be approximately €5 million, which is comfortably below the initial estimated cost of €6.45 million, at 2001 prices, identified in the feasibility study which was undertaken in advance of the formal decision to commence the project. The peer review process was initiated by the Department of Finance on 20 October 2005. A peer review was not considered necessary for the e-Cabinet project as it was in operation, on schedule and within budget at this time.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

145 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach the matters discussed at the recent meeting between officials of his Department and a person (details supplied) from Northern Ireland whose son was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries, and who has alleged collusion between those involved in the murder and members of the security forces in Northern Ireland; the action that will be taken arising from the meeting; if he will be raising this matter with the British authorities; the other action which is envisaged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8056/06]

Officials from my Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs met the person in question on 17 February 2006. The meeting discussed the background to the murder and all of the person's concerns, both about the murder and how the matter has been dealt with since. It also discussed the various contacts the person has had with others who might be of assistance to him. Arising from the meeting, I have agreed to meet the person in question. My office has contacted him to make the necessary arrangements.

Departmental Staff.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

146 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Taoiseach the number of people on the payroll of his Department who are not working in his Department for one reason or another and that the results be categorised with as much detail as possible. [8120/06]

Of the staff on my Department's payroll, 11 are seconded to the following organisations or offices and their salaries recouped to my Department.

Number of Staff

No.

Association of Higher and Public Civil Servants

1

Campus Stadium Ireland Development

2

National Economic and Social Forum

3

Pobal — formerly Area Development Management Limited

2

Royal Irish Academy

1

The Digital Hub

1

Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government

1

In addition, my Department bears the cost of four secretarial assistants to former taoisigh and two contract staff with the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Care of the Elderly.

Dan Neville

Question:

147 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding work to be completed to a house under the special housing aid for the elderly scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [7832/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly, on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Drug Treatment Programme.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

148 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of people who have applied for drug addiction treatment in the western and midland regions from 2000 to 2005 inclusive; the cost of such treatment in that period; the locations where such treatment takes place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8272/06]

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.

Dunne Inquiry.

John Gormley

Question:

149 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether to continue the funding for the Parents for Justice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7645/06]

John Gormley

Question:

150 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that the 54 boxes from the Dunne inquiry are handed over to Parents for Justice and are not destroyed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7646/06]

John Gormley

Question:

151 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the difficulties that have arisen with the helpline set up by the Health Service Executive to help parents following the Madden report; if she will ensure that those difficulties are sorted out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7647/06]

John Gormley

Question:

152 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason she did not attend the EGM of Parents for Justice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7648/06]

John Gormley

Question:

153 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she intends to introduce human tissue legislation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7649/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149 to 153, inclusive, together.

The question of funding for Parents for Justice is a matter for the Health Service Executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

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

The telephone information and helpline has been in operation since the publication of the Madden report on 18 January and to date has received 72 calls regarding organ retention. Of these, 33 have been referred on to the appropriate hospital for attention. Some callers to the line have complained because they are still dissatisfied with the response from hospitals to their queries. The helpline number is also used as an information line for other HSE services and is, therefore, still in operation.

Because legal proceedings have been initiated on behalf of Parents for Justice, the subject matter of which is the Madden report, the legal advice was that it was not appropriate for me to attend the meeting which was due to discuss the report at the core of those proceedings. Dr. Madden's report stated that communication and authorisation are vital, and must be enshrined in legislation. My officials, in consultation with key agencies, are examining the gaps and have commenced work on drafting legislation to address these gaps as a priority in 2006.

EU Directive 2004/23/EC on standards of quality and safety of tissues and cells for human application must be transposed into Irish law by 7 April 2006. The regulations that will transpose the directive will deal with the donation of tissues and cells to another living person, but not with procurement or donation for research or clinical investigation.

The heads of a Bill for a new coroners Act have been prepared by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. It is examining the implications, if any, that Dr. Madden's recommendations will have for this legislation.

Medical Cards.

Pat Breen

Question:

154 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of an application for the renewal of medical cards for persons (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7652/06]

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.

Pat Breen

Question:

155 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be called for a bypass operation in the Mater Hospital, Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7653/06]

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.

Liam Twomey

Question:

156 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the ratio of public health nurses to the population in many urban areas is as high as one to 4,000 when it was previously agreed that it should be one to 2,500; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7658/06]

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:

157 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Service Executive in many regions is failing to provide locum cover for planned absences, for example, annual leave and maternity leave to public health nurses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7659/06]

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.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

158 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an independent security audit of all accident and emergency departments has been carried out to assess safety issues for staff and patients regarding the risk of violent attack to both staff and patient; if the Health and Safety Authority has made comments on this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7668/06]

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.

Finian McGrath

Question:

159 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there is financial assistance available for a person (details supplied); and if advice will be given on this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7670/06]

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 Waiting Lists.

Finian McGrath

Question:

160 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) is on a waiting list and cannot be seen by a specialist until May 2006; and if the maximum support will be given to them. [7671/06]

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.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

161 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Service Executive have issued an instruction to the social workers in James Hospital, Dublin 8 not to deal with queries from Deputies. [7684/06]

The Deputy's question relates in the first instance to the management and delivery of health and personal social services which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive, HSE, under the Health Act 2004.

My Department has made inquiries of the HSE and has been advised that a directive has not issued to social workers in St. James's Hospital not to deal with inquiries from Deputies. There is a protocol in place in the hospital whereby all written representations and parliamentary questions are replied to centrally in the chief executive's office, having consulted the appropriate parties.

The Deputy will be aware that arrangements have been put in place by the HSE to facilitate the provision of information for Oireachtas Members. I wrote to Oireachtas Members on 19 January 2006 advising of these arrangements and providing the contact details for that purpose.

Hospital Staff.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

162 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there is still a shortage of midwives in the maternity hospitals; and the steps which have been taken to address this shortfall and to encourage qualified midwives back into practising their profession. [7685/06]

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.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

163 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the options a person (details supplied) in Dublin 20, has to access a period of adaptation in midwifery followed by a period of adaptation in general nursing. [7686/06]

In response to the Deputy's question the only options available to a person wishing to access a period of adaptation in midwifery followed by a period of adaptation in general nursing are those which must be in compliance with the requirements of An Bord Altranais. An Bord Altranais is the regulatory body for the nursing and midwifery profession in Ireland. In order to work as a registered nurse or midwife in Ireland an individual will need to apply to An Bord Altranais for entry to the register of nurses and midwives maintained by the board. Registration with the board is also needed in order to qualify for a working visa or work authorisation or work permit. In certain cases the board may require a nurse or midwife to undertake a period of adaptation in an approved placement site prior to granting that nurse or midwife full registration with the board. It must be emphasised that unless the nurse or midwife meets this requirement they will not obtain full registration with the board and will not be eligible to work as a nurse or midwife in the health service.

The Nurses Act 1985 together with the European Union directives ensures a fair and transparent processing of applications from candidates holding EU nursing and midwifery qualifications. The assessment of applications for candidates holding non-EU qualifications requires a comprehensive evaluation to ensure the suitability of the applicant to have his or her name registered in a division of the register maintained by An Bord Altranais. An Bord Altranais maintains seven separate divisions of the register as follows: registered general nurse, RGN, registered midwife, RM, registered nurse intellectual disability, RNID, registered nurse tutor, RNT, registered psychiatric nurse, RPN, registered public health nurse, RPHN, and registered children's nurse, RCN.

Applicants wishing to have their names entered on two or more divisions of the register are required to have met the education and training requirements and to have completed a post-registration course that meets the requirements for nurse registration education programmes post-registration as set out in An Bord Altranais's "Requirements and Standards for Nurse Registration Education Programmes". The post-basic programme must have a balance of theoretical and clinical instruction commensurate with the requirements of An Bord Altranais.

If a second registration is dependent on a primary registration, the applicant must apply for primary registration at the same time as applying for the secondary registration. An applicant may wish to apply to register on a division of the register such as the registered general nurse division, but may have received education and training leading to registration in that speciality secondary to a primary qualification such as a registered midwife qualification. In this case the applicant is required to apply for registration in the division in which the primary registration was obtained, in this case the registered midwife division, as well as the division in which he or she obtained secondary registration such as the registered general nurse division.

When An Bord Altranais has received and duly verified all required documents, an officer in the education department of the board undertakes an evaluation of the application for registration. Each application is evaluated on an individual basis.

Following evaluation of an application for registration an applicant may be required to undertake a period of adaptation. A period of adaptation is a period of supervised practice possibly being accompanied by further education and training. An applicant undergoing a period of adaptation will have his or her name entered on a candidate register maintained by An Bord Altranais. A nurse undergoing a period of adaptation is referred to as a candidate nurse or midwife.

A candidate nurse or midwife who has an offer of employment with the Health Service Executive, a voluntary hospital, a private hospital or a private nursing home and is required by An Bord Altranais to undertake a period of adaptation will have his or her placement arranged by the relevant agencies. However, a candidate who is required by the board to undertake a period of adaptation and assessment and who has not been offered a contract of employment in the public, voluntary or private health sector in Ireland, will need to arrange his or her own placement by contacting the directors of nursing or midwifery directly in adaptation placement sites approved by An Bord Altranais. It is important to note that it may be difficult to obtain a placement without an offer of employment as health service providers are obliged in the first instance to provide periods of adaptation to those nurses and midwives they have made offers of employment to and also to other health employers, for example, a private nursing home, in their catchment areas.

Departmental Expenditure.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

164 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the value of advertising placed in national newspapers in 2005 for each of the health board areas for the past five years; the newspapers and the amount received for each of the past five years; and if the placing of official notices and departmental advertisements are subject to a tendering process. [7687/06]

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.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

165 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the value of advertising placed in national newspapers in 2005; the newspapers and the amount received for each of the past five years; and if the placing of official notices and departmental advertisements are subject to a tendering process. [7689/06]

The information, going back over five years, is not readily available in the format requested by the Deputy. I have requested my Department to retrieve the relevant data, to assemble and present it in the format as requested.

Organ Donation.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

166 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the Government’s policy on organ donation; if there is a central register of people wishing to donate their organs; the law in respect of a donor’s next of kin carrying out a donor’s wishes; if she intends to address and highlight the issues surrounding organ donation and transplantation here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7706/06]

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

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

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

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

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Richard Bruton

Question:

167 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to begin the process of core funding community employment positions currently supporting personal social services for people with disabilities, as requested by the Irish Wheelchair Association; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7727/06]

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 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 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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

168 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the allocations which have been made by her Department in respect of the promised phase two of Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the physical conditions endured by elderly people at Connolly Hospital, including Alzheimer’s patients are extremely old and dilapidated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7728/06]

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.?

Departmental Properties.

Joan Burton

Question:

169 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in respect of units and land at Connolly Hospital, which have apparently been sold or committed to the developer of housing on land formerly owned by the hospital and sold some time ago; if rent is being paid in respect of these units; the amount which has been paid to date; when these units will be vacated; when alternative accommodation will be provided to these units; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7729/06]

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medicinal Products.

Sean Fleming

Question:

170 Mr. Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if people who are thalidomide victims but have not come forward or notified her Department of their case to date can identify themselves; if it can be accepted that they are thalidomide victims; if financial assistance will be provided similar to the provisions approved by the Government in May 1973 or in any other such matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7737/06]

Thalidomide preparations were marketed in Ireland from May 1959 to January 1962 when they were withdrawn from sale by the manufacturers. In May 1970, following confirmation by the Department of External Affairs that an offer of compensation by the German manufacturers of thalidomide applied to Irish born children with conditions attributed to thalidomide, the Department of Health issued advertisements inviting parents and others involved in the care of such children to furnish particulars which were forwarded to representatives of the manufacturers.

In May 1973, the Government decided in principle that it should provide financial assistance in addition to that paid by the German foundation. The then Minister for Health established the Irish Thalidomide Medical Board to identify the number of Irish children affected and report on each individual case. The board concluded that 34 Irish children were affected by the drug — one of whom was the beneficiary of the British compensation scheme as the mother was prescribed the drug while living in the UK. In December 1974 the Government granted each of the remaining 33 children further financial assistance by way of a lump sum and a monthly allowance for life. To date, my Department has not been made aware of the existence of any case as described by the Deputy.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

171 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if assistance will be given on this matter. [7757/06]

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Eoin Ryan

Question:

172 Mr. Eoin Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) who has been in industrial homes since they were five years of age has not been treated for diabetes in view of numerous representations on their behalf; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7766/06]

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Disabled Drivers.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

173 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to extend the motorised transport grant to people over the age of 66 years to relax the disability requirement for qualification; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7773/06]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

184 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the disability criteria for eligibility for the motorised transport grant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7825/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 173 and 184 together.

The motorised transport grant was introduced in 1968 by way of circular 7/68. It is a grant which may be made payable by the Health Service Executive towards the purchase of a car and/or adaptations to a car being purchased by a person with a severe disability who is 17 years or older and up to 65 years of age, where such a car is essential for him or her to obtain or retain employment. Self-employed persons who satisfy the criteria for eligibility may also be considered, subject to the above age limits. The grant may also be considered in exceptional circumstances for a person with a severe disability, subject to the above age limits, who lives in a very remote location and whose disability impedes him or her from using public transport. My Department is currently examining the issues that the Deputy is referring to in the context of my Department's strategic review of services for people with disabilities.

Vaccination Programme.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

174 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she intends to add pneumococcal meningitis to the list of diseases children are routinely immunised against (details supplied). [7781/06]

The inclusion of the pneumococcal vaccine in the primary childhood immunisation programme is currently under consideration by the national immunisation advisory committee as part of the review of the immunisation guidelines for Ireland. To date, no decision has been reached. My Department and the Health Service Executive will be guided by the expert advice from the national immunisation advisory committee in this regard.

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Dan Neville

Question:

175 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding inter-country adoptions between Ireland and Belarus. [7787/06]

Representatives of the Adoption Board travelled to Belarus in October 2005. They met with officials of the National Adoption Centre and the Ministry of Justice. During the visit the Belarussian officials presented the Adoption Board with a draft protocol on inter-country adoption between Ireland and Belarus. Following examination of the protocol by the Adoption Board and the Attorney General a number of constitutional and legislative concerns were raised. The board has taken account of these concerns and issued a revised protocol to the Belarussian authorities for their consideration.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

176 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the subvention for people in private nursing homes will increase; and if her attention has been drawn to the fact that many nursing homes have already raised their prices following the pension increase. [7790/06]

The Nursing Home (Subvention) Regulations 1993 are administered by the Health Service Executive. Three rates of subvention are currently payable —€114.30, €152.40 and €190.50 — for the three levels of dependency which are medium, high and maximum. There are no plans to increase the subvention rates. 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.

The cost of care in a private nursing home is a private matter between the nursing home operators and the patient involved. The nursing home subvention scheme was introduced in 1993 to give some financial assistance towards the cost of private nursing home care. It was never intended that the scheme would subsidise the full costs of private nursing home care.

Patient Statistics.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

177 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children here diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in each of the past ten years. [7791/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table, which sets out all hospital discharges, including inpatients and day cases, for children under the age of 15 years with a principal diagnosis of Crohn's disease-regional enteritis for each of the years from 1995 to 2004. Data are derived from the hospital inpatient enquiry, HIPE, system which records information on each episode of hospitalisation in publicly funded acute hospitals. It should be noted that persons hospitalised more than once in a given year for the same condition are counted separately in the statistics for each hospital stay.

Number of Children Hospitalised with Crohn's Disease, 1995-2004

Year

Cases

1995

35

1996

42

1997

59

1998

33

1999

44

2000

42

2001

53

2002

77

2003

105

2004

61

Source: The data supplied is taken from the hospital inpatient enquiry, HIPE, system. The data refer to children aged 0 to 14 years with a principal diagnosis of ICD-9-CM 555 [Crohn’s Disease — Regional Enteritis].

Grant Payments.

Pat Breen

Question:

178 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the provisions or reliefs for the parents or guardians of children with cerebral palsy or other special needs to lessen the financial burden when they are purchasing houses with the needs of their charges in mind; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7794/06]

The issue to which the Deputy refers is not a matter for my Department. Accordingly the Deputy may wish to contact my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Adoption Services.

Seán Ardagh

Question:

179 Mr. Ardagh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a countrywide scheme for adoption will be introduced in order that prospective adoptive parents have the same waiting time throughout the country (details supplied). [7796/06]

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Willie Penrose

Question:

180 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take to have a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath admitted to St. James’s Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7798/06]

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 a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Care of the Elderly.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

181 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive has received the report of a person (details supplied) into deaths at Leas Cross nursing home; the date such report was received by the Health Service Executive; the reason for the delay in publishing same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7810/06]

The Health Service Executive has informed my Department that a draft copy of the report was received by the HSE Dublin north area on the evening of Thursday, 9 February 2006. It is understood from the HSE that this draft is currently being checked for factual accuracy. The final report cannot be prepared until this process is completed. It is hoped that this process will be finalised by mid-April 2006.

Health Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

182 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason there is no relief workers for home help workers available in the south-west inner city, which would ensure that a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8, would receive a weekly bath while their present home help is on leave. [7818/06]

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.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

183 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the national treatment purchase scheme office has decided not to deal with queries directed at it by Deputies on behalf of constituents; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7819/06]

My Department has been informed by the chief executive of the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF, that the fund continues to deal with queries and representations from Deputies on behalf of constituents. If the Deputy has a particular instance in mind, he should contact the chief executive of the fund directly in order to resolve the matter.

Question No. 184 answered with QuestionNo. 173.

Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

185 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when orthodontic treatment will be made available to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [7834/06]

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.

Suicide Incidence.

Dan Neville

Question:

186 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will provide international suicide figures displaying the position of Ireland in such a large league of countries. [7835/06]

Suicide rates for the European region are provided by the World Health Organisation. The rates are age-standardised which allows comparison taking into account differences in population age structure between countries. The figures requested by the Deputy are set out in the following table and indicate the latest available reporting year for each country.

Standardised Death Rates per 100,000 for Suicide and Self Inflicted Injury, WHO European Region.

Country

Standardised Death Rate per 100,000 population

Year data relates to

Lithuania

38.92

2004

Russian Federation

31.74

2004

Belarus

31.56

2004

Kazakhstan

31.49

2003

Slovenia

25.00

2003

Hungary

24.81

2003

CIS

24.55

2004

Estonia

23.66

2003

Latvia

22.34

2004

Ukraine

22.03

2004

Belgium

19.60

1997

Finland

19.32

2004

Switzerland

17.35

2002

Republic of Moldova

17.03

2004

Croatia

16.89

2004

Serbia and Montenegro

16.64

2002

France

16.32

2002

Austria

15.22

2004

European Region

15.09

2004

Poland

14.67

2003

CARK

14.16

2002

Czech Republic

14.02

2004

Luxembourg

13.24

2004

Slovakia

12.96

2002

Denmark

12.18

2001

Sweden

12.15

2002

Romania

11.96

2004

Kyrgyzstan

11.43

2004

Ireland

11.23

2002

Bulgaria

11.02

2004

Germany

10.97

2004

Turkmenistan

10.90

1998

Norway

10.84

2003

Bosnia and Herzegovina

9.94

1991

Iceland

9.67

2003

Portugal

9.36

2003

Netherlands

8.65

2004

Uzbekistan

7.33

2002

Spain

7.06

2003

Israel

7.05

2003

TFYR Macedonia

7.01

2003

United Kingdom

6.38

2003

Italy

5.92

2001

Malta

5.38

2004

Albania

4.38

2003

San Marino

3.62

2000

Tajikistan

3.40

2001

Greece

3.07

2003

Armenia

2.13

2003

Georgia

2.05

2001

Azerbaijan

1.41

2002

There are no data available for Azerbaijan, Andorra, Cyprus, Monaco and Turkey.

Hospital Accommodation.

Michael Ring

Question:

187 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be provided with a specialised bed from the Health Service Executive; the number of people currently on the waiting list for such beds; and when this person’s request will be dealt with. [7847/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

188 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved and granted the blind welfare allowance. [7848/06]

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.

Mental Health Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

189 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the additional resources and services which will be provided for mental health in north Tipperary in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7849/06]

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.

Liz McManus

Question:

190 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when and where beds for the young chronic sick will be provided in north Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7850/06]

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.

Enda Kenny

Question:

191 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when her attention was drawn to the failed tender process for awarding a contract to private companies to administer the repayment of long stay charges to persons who were illegally charged for public long stay care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7906/06]

The Health Service Executive, HSE, has responsibility for administering the national repayment scheme for publicly funded, long stay residential care, including the recruitment of an outside company to administer the scheme. A procurement team was established by the HSE to undertake this process. Officials in my Department received correspondence from the HSE on 20 December 2005 which indicated that following consideration of the tenders received, and following discussions with the HSE management team of the wider issues involved, it was decided to terminate the procurement process.

I received a verbal briefing on this issue on the evening of the 20 December 2005 and the correspondence from the HSE was brought to my attention on the 22 December 2005 together with a covering note from Department officials, which indicated that an urgent meeting had been requested with the HSE seeking clarification on why the tendering process had been terminated.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

192 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 367 of 25 January 2006. [7919/06]

I have been advised that the Health Service Executive, HSE, issued a reply to the Deputy on Question No. 367 of 25 January 2006.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

193 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 366 of 25 January 2006. [7920/06]

I have been advised that the Health Service Executive, HSE, issued a reply today to the Deputy on Question No. 366 of 25 January 2006.

Health Service Allowances.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

194 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has received correspondence from a person (details supplied) in County Galway regarding the fact that they have been told that her Department will not reimburse the cost of their medication and that to be reimbursed they must take an alternate medication instead, which is uncoated and would require them purchasing an additional medication to soothe their stomach; if she will instruct her Department to reimburse this person for the original, coated medication; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7999/06]

An agreement is in place between the Department of Health and Children, the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association and the Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of Ireland, 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, and 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.

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. The original manufacturers of the product divested ownership 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.

I am in receipt of the correspondence referred to by the Deputy. Alternatives to the product concerned are available according to an individual's eligibility. In particular, people with a medical card who are experiencing financial difficulty in obtaining the product concerned should contact the local office of the Health Service Executive.

Health Reports.

Billy Timmins

Question:

195 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the report on sudden cardiac death will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8000/06]

In September 2004 a national task force on sudden cardiac death was established in order to address the problem of sudden cardiac death in Ireland. The task force, chaired by Dr. Brian Maurer, will make recommendations on the prevention of sudden cardiac death and on the detection of those at high risk. The task force will also advise on equipment and training programmes to improve the outcome in those suffering from sudden cardiac collapse and on the establishment of appropriate surveillance systems. The report will be launched on 2 March 2006.

Health Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

196 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the situation in regard to the availability of an electronic health record for all people accessing health services; if such a record is in use nationally; its effect on waiting lists and clinical decision making; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8006/06]

The national health information strategy published in July 2004 sets out the strategic direction for the electronic health record, EHR, and the high-level tasks required to implement it. My Department is giving consideration to the area of unique client and patient identification, which is a key requirement for the implementation of the EHR. This is a complex matter involving not only technical IT but major issues regarding confidentiality of patient information and it is likely to take some considerable time to implement.

Rape Crisis Centres.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

197 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on an increase in funding for the rape crisis centres here; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that since the publishing of the Ferns Report on 25 October 2005, rape crisis centres have seen a dramatic increase in demand on their services, with an average of 50% increases in most centres; the rape crisis centres currently operating under budgets capped since 2002; if this type of increased service delivery is unsustainable without additional funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8037/06]

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.

Vaccination Programme.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

198 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the take-up by persons involved directly or indirectly in the poultry industry of the free flu vaccine promotion aimed at their sector; the methods employed to promote awareness and take-up; the co-operation and resistance encountered; and if she will make a statement on the matter in view of increasing concerns of the prospect of avian flu arriving here. [8055/06]

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.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

199 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when funding for additional hours of home help will issue to Health Service Executive areas; the number of additional hours which will be covered by extra funding; when contracts for home help personnel will commence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8057/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, additional funding of €150 million was allocated to services for older people or palliative care in the 2006 budget. Of this, an extra €33 million was allocated to the home help service. Of this total a sum of €30 million is provided for 2006 and will deliver 1.75 million home help hours.

The Deputy's specific questions relate to the management and delivery of home help service, 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.

Infectious Diseases.

Joan Burton

Question:

200 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department has issued policy instructions on MRSA; the number of incidences of MRSA infections in hospitals here; the ratio of infections to patient numbers; the way this compares with other EU states; the procedure for informing a patient and relative when an MRSA has been detected by hospital staff; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8063/06]

In the context of the Estimates for 2006 and the 2006 service plan for the Health Service Executive, HSE, I wrote to the chairman of the board of the HSE setting out our priorities for 2006. In this regard I highlighted the need to identify the necessary structures and processes that are required to control the emergence and spread of health care associated infections, including MRSA. In a subsequent letter to Professor Drumm, chief executive of the HSE, I raised the issue about the communication of information to patients infected with MRSA. Hospital staff need to clearly discharge their existing legal and ethical responsibilities in this regard.

For the purposes of the surveillance, prevention and control of MRSA the health protection surveillance centre, HPSC, collects data on MRSA bacteria, also known as bloodstream infection or blood poisoning, as part of the European antimicrobial resistance surveillance system, or EARSS. EARSS collects data on the first episode of blood stream infection per patient per quarter. EARSS was designed to allow comparison of antimicrobial resistance data between countries and possibly regions but not between hospitals. The EARSS data, which is published on a quarterly basis by the HPSC, showed that there were 553 cases of MRSA reported in 2004. The figure for the first nine months of 2005 is 454. According to the HPSC the rate of MRSA observed in Ireland is high and compares with the United Kingdom, France and southern European countries. The lowest rates are seen in the Netherlands and in Scandinavian countries.

This year Ireland will participate in the Hospital Infection Society's Prevalence Survey of Health Care Associated Infections to be carried out in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The survey will provide the Department and the Health Service Executive, HSE, with accurate and comparable data on the prevalence of health care associated infections, including MRSA, in acute hospitals in Ireland. The data gathered from hospitals can also be used to compare with similar data being obtained in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Departmental Funding.

Liam Twomey

Question:

201 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount and the voluntary organisations to which her Department or the Health Service Executive provided funding to during 2004 and 2005; the amount given to each organisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8069/06]

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive, HSE, has the responsibility, with effect from 1 January 2005, to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Voluntary organisations providing health and personal social services are funded by the executive and it is a matter for the executive to agree the levels of service and the appropriate funding in respect of each such organisation. My Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy regarding the amount of funding it provided to each voluntary organisation in 2005.

Prior to 2005, while the majority of these organisations were funded by the health boards or an authority, certain voluntary agencies were funded directly by my Department and details of the agencies funded and the grants paid in 2004 are set out in the following tables.

Capital grants paid in 2004

Organisation

Paid in 2004

Mercy Hospital, Cork

16,684,937

South Infirmary/Victoria Hospital, Cork

3,210,600

St. John’s Hospital, Limerick

1,224,525

Caring for Carers, Ennis, Co. Clare

50,000

Irish Heart Foundation, Clyde Road, Dublin 4

127,476

Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association, Coleraine Street, Dublin 7

160,000

The Jack and Jill Foundation

235,000

Non-capital grants paid in 2004

Organisation

Paid in 2004

St. John’s Hospital, Limerick

19,093,000

National Association of the Mentally Handicapped in Ireland

341,000

Disability Federation of Ireland

641,000

My Department also provides funding to voluntary organisations under a national lottery funded grant scheme. Details of the organisations funded in 2004 and 2005 are set out in the following tables.

Organisation

Paid 2004

Project

Age Action Ireland Ltd, Lower Camden Street, Dublin 2

43,971

Towards the cost of Positive Ageing Week

Aisling Group/Bradan Day Programme, Navan, Co. Meath

50,000

Towards the cost of sustaining the services provided at Bradan House by two full-time staff

Alpha One Foundation, RCSI Building, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9

20,000

Towards the cost of the Second International Congress for Patients, Dublin, 8-10 October 2004

Alzheimer Day and Home Care, Adare, Co. Limerick

20,000

Towards the cost of a conservatory extension; development of the garden and a new office for the home care supervisor

The Alzheimer Society of Ireland (Mid-West Region), Limerick

40,000

Towards the cost of replacement of the minibus/ambulance

Askea Day Care Centre, Askea, Carlow

150,000

Towards the cost of providing a day care centre for elderly and providing support facilities for people with multiple sclerosis

The Association for Severely and Profoundly Mentally Handicapped, COPE Foundation, Montenotte, Cork

62,002

Towards the cost of the summer scheme in August 2004 for 25 special class pupils of St. Paul’s Special Class, Montenotte, Cork

Asthma Society of Ireland, Eden Quay, Dublin 1

9,306

Towards the cost of a nationwide survey of second level schools to gauge the incidence and awareness of asthma

Aware, Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2

30,000

Towards the cost of developing the helpline service to include an e-mail response facility for those in need of help and support

Ballincollig Senior Citizens Club Ltd. t/a Westgate Foundation, Ballincollig, Co. Cork

50,000

Towards the cost of various programmes and projects

Ballinlough Community Association, Cork

30,000

Towards the cost of the refurbishment of the meals on wheels kitchen to meet the current health and safety standards; the fitting of a smoke system; and painting of the hall

Ballybane Active Retirement Association, Galway

5,000

Towards various costs

The Bereaved by Suicide Foundation, Celbridge, Co. Kildare

50,000

Towards the cost of ongoing operational costs for the national suicide helpline and counselling service

Brothers of Charity Services, Roscommon, Co. Roscommon

40,000

Towards the cost of the transport of service users

Cahir Day Care Centre Ltd, Cahir, Co. Tipperary

50,000

Towards the cost of the completion of the day care centre building

Cappoquin & District Community Day Care Association, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford

8,248

Towards the cost of refurbishment of the centre

Caring for Carers Ireland, Ennis, Co. Clare

30,000

Towards the cost of the 13th annual conference

Carnew Community Centre, Carnew, Co. Wicklow

100,000

Towards the cost of an extension to the day centre

Carrigoran House, Newmarket on Fergus, Co. Clare

60,000

Towards the cost of an 18-20 seater, wheelchair accessible bus

Cashel na Cor Learning Disability Association, Buncrana, Co. Donegal

60,000

Towards the cost of the construction of a lift shaft and stairs at the north side of the building to provide access to the first floor in order to refurbish same

Castlelyons Community Centre Management Committee, Fermoy, Co. Cork

6,000

Towards the cost of the conversion of an old sweet shop and office into a family room/sitting room

Centre for Disability Studies, UCD, Belfield, Dublin 4

5,000

Towards the cost of a multidisciplinary entry-level text aimed at professionals, students and advocates involved in intellectual disabilities

Charleville Sheltered Housing Services, Charleville, Co. Cork

63,000

Towards the cost of the provision of a new catering kitchen, a general meeting/activity room and a dining room

Clarecare, Ennis, Co. Clare

35,000

Towards the cost of an extension to the day care centre building in Miltown Malbay

The Cleft Lip and Palate Association of Ireland, Co. Dublin

4,500

Towards the cost of printing 4,000 copies each of 10 information leaflets

Clifton Convalescent Home, Montenotte, Cork

140,000

Towards the cost of updating the existing facilities and infrastructure to facilitate male patients

Club 91, Cloncallow Ballymahon, Co. Longford

4,000

Towards the cost of the weekly running of the club, payment of rent, insurance, bus fares, outings and the purchase of equipment

Conna Community Council Housing for the Elderly Association Ltd., Co. Cork

54,024

Towards the cost of the purchase of a bus that includes a lift which is suitable to transport the elderly to and from the social satellite

The Counselling Centre, Fr Matthew Street, Cork

50,000

Towards the cost of services for clients who are on prescribed medication because of difficulties in dealing with depression or anxiety

Cystinosis Foundation Ireland (CFI), Blackrock, Co. Dublin

30,000

Towards the cost of the research project to be undertaken at the University of Aberdeen to synthesise, characterise and biologically evaluate novel pro drugs for the treatment of cystinosis

Department of Medical Gerontology, Tallaght Hospital, Dublin 24

15,000

Towards the cost of the William Stokes Summer School in Medical Gerontology

Diabetes Federation of Ireland, Tralee, Co. Kerry

13,000

Towards the set-up costs of the Southwest Regional Resource and Information Centre

Donoughmore, Knockea, Roxboro Senior Citizens Club, Ballysheedy, Co. Limerick

4,000

Towards various costs

Dromcollogher & District Respite Care Centre, Dromcollogher, Co. Limerick

50,000

Towards the cost of a separate sitting room for the gentlemen

Drumcor and Community Active Age Group, Cavan, Co. Cavan

50,000

Towards the cost of the provision and installation of full kitchen facilities

Dublin Aids Alliance, Parnell Square, Dublin 1

6,500

Towards the cost of production and distribution of information cards and a 2004 calendar/date book

Dún Laoghaire Active Retirement Association, Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin

1,880

Towards the cost of bowling mats

Dún Laoghaire Lions Club, c/o Blackrock, Co. Dublin

5,500

Towards the purchase of ECG machines in aid of St. Michael’s Hospital, Dún Laoghaire

Elphin Social Services Ltd, Elphin, Co. Roscommon

20,000

Towards the purchase of a 15 seater mini-bus

Enniscorthy Branch of the Irish Red Cross, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford

20,000

Towards the purchase of a new ambulance

Eurochild International Project (CWPC Ltd), MacCurtain Street, Cork

50,000

Towards the cost of providing workshops for children to allow them to focus on alternatives to video games and TV

Family Life Centre, St. Brigid’s, Cabinteely, Dublin 18

20,000

Towards the cost of financing and subsiding the various programmes on an ongoing basis

Finglas Old Folks Group, Cappagh Avenue, Finglas West, Dublin 11

2,000

Towards the cost of a large TV and DVD for the centre

Friends of Ennistymon Hospital, Lahinch, Co. Clare

50,000

Towards the cost of rebuilding toilet/bathroom block; develop new units to health and safety standards in female wards; installation of invalid assisted equipment

Friends of St. Anthony’s Hospital, c/o Dunmanway Community Hospital, Co. Cork

68,500

Towards the cost of an Alzheimer’s garden unit

Friends of St. Ita’s Community Hospital, Newcastle West, Co. Limerick

100,000

Towards the cost of (a) the structure of an additional support unit to the hospital and (b) the provision of a designated dayroom in unit 6

Friends of St. Patrick’s Hospital, St. Patrick’s Hospital, John’s Hill, Waterford

100,000

Towards the cost of the erection of day ward facilities in 30 bed extended care unit

Irish Anaesthetic and Recovery Nurses Association, Togher, Cork, Co. Cork

10,000

Towards the cost of the quarterly journal and maintenance of the website

Irish Association of Suicidology, Castlebar, Co. Mayo

20,000

Towards the cost of the specialist conference on 24th — 26th November 2004, “Schools Based Interventions in Crisis Management and Suicide Prevention”

Irish Association of Suicidology, Castlebar, Co. Mayo

10,000

Towards the cost of producing a quarterly newsletter

Irish Cancer Society, Northumberland Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4

150,000

Towards the 4th World Conference for Cancer Organisations to be hosted in Dublin from 17th to 19th November 2004

Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, Model Farm Road, Cork

50,000

Towards the cost of a strategic review of the organisations activities and a process of investigation and study into tailoring services to encompass other disabilities

Irish Kidney Association, Park West, Dublin 12

175,000

Towards the cost of a donor public awareness campaign including printing and distribution of organ donor cards with fact file

Irish Senior Citizens Parliament, Fairview Strand, Dublin 3

120,000

Towards the cost of providing resources to administer the work of the Parliament

Irish Senior Citizens Parliament, Fairview Strand, Dublin 3

5,000

Towards the cost of the Irish co-ordination of the transnational EU project

Kilteely-Dromkeen Housing Association, Pallasgreen, Co. Limerick

9,500

Towards the cost of the installation of automatic entrance doors in the day care centre

Kolbe Pre-school, Portarlington, Co. Laois

27,913

Towards the cost of a playground

League of Friends of St. Camillus Hospital, Ennis Road, Limerick

30,000

Towards the cost of adaption of reception area — canopy — or extension of reception area

Limerick Senior Citizens Club, Ballinacurra, Co. Limerick

22,000

Towards outgoing costs

Longford Active Retirement Association, Longford, Co. Longford

2,000

Towards the ongoing development of cultural, educational and sporting activities

Lusk Community Unit for Older People, Station Road, Lusk, Co. Dublin

10,000

Towards the cost of (a) art therapy and (b) restaurant/social evening venue

Marino and District Community Centre Ltd, Marino, Dublin 3

20,000

Towards the cost of equipping and furnishing the new community centre/Carleton Hall

Mayo Cancer Support Association, Castlebar, Co. Mayo

50,000

Towards the cost of building a two storey extension

Mental Health Ireland, Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin

80,000

Towards the cost of (a) information resources (b) research (c) education and (d) policy development

Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary, Artane, Dublin 5

50,000

Towards the cost of upgrading the kitchen and associated facilities as required by ECAHB and HACCP

Mitchelstown Senior Citizens Project Ltd, Mitchelstown, Co. Cork

46,000

Towards the cost of replacing the existing bus

Moore Community Council Ltd, Balldangan, Athlone, Co. Westmeath

10,000

Towards the cost of a general upgrade of facilities associated with the elderly

Mother McAuley Centre, Drimnagh, Dublin 12

120,000

Towards the cost of extending the existing facility in order to cater for the long waiting list

National Leisure Council of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association, Ballinasloe, Co. Galway

20,000

Towards the cost of educating young people on alcohol and drug abuse

North Eastern Health Board-ERHA-Aspire-IAA-Social Communication Research Programme, Drogheda, Co. Louth

80,000

Towards the cost of Part II of the 2 year project to develop a computerised social skills programme

Networking Dublin 15 Ltd, Buzzardstown, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15

2,000

Towards the cost of a parenting course for eight participants who are in recovery from addiction and are single parents

Open Heart House, St. Mary’s Place, Dublin 7

10,000

Towards the cost of the wellness programme

Our Lady of Good Counsel School, Ballincollig, Co. Cork

21,000

Towards the purchase of an eight-seater minibus to enable teachers to take children out of school to pursue educational opportunities

Parke Community Centre Committee, Castlebar, Co. Mayo

19,000

Towards the cost of providing a heating system for the centre

Portumna Social Services, Portumna, Co. Galway

48,000

Towards the cost of the replacement of mini-bus

Raheen Hospital Support Group, Raheen, Tuamgraney, Co. Clare

30,000

Towards the cost of the construction of an extension to the day centre

Raphoe Friday Club, Raphoe, Co. Donegal

5,000

Towards the cost of continuing the service

Resource Centre of St. Vincent de Paul, Marino, Dublin 3

10,000

Towards the cost of continuing to provide regular meetings

Roscrea Active Retirement Association, Ballystanley, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary

2,000

Towards defraying the cost of hiring buses for monthly outings

The Rosses Neighbourhood Youth Project (Donegal), Dungloe, Co. Donegal

4,800

Towards the cost of an intensive support programme for young people who have been referred by the Gardai

Serenity Active Retirement Association, Moville, Co. Donegal

6,000

Towards the cost of tutor fees

Soroptimist International Club, Rochestown, Cork

6,750

Towards the cost of completing the publication, outlining the voluntary work accomplished by Soroptimists over the last 50 years in Cork City in the areas of culture, public speaking, literacy, the elderly and those with special needs

South Meath Alcohol and Substance Misuse Response, Trim, Co. Meath

1,000

Towards the cost of a public information/education night on 31st March 2004 for parents in the Trim and South Meath communities

South Westmeath Rural Transport Association, Glasson, Athlone, Co. Westmeath

15,600

Towards the cost of transport for citizens in the area of South Roscommon on a minimum of two routes on a weekly basis

Special Olympics Ireland, North Circular Road, Dublin 7

80,000

Towards the cost of the Healthy Athlete Programme

St. Christopher’s Services Ltd, Battery Road, Longford

34,500

Towards the cost of providing 1 multi-purpose vehicle for seven day community residence at Parkside Community Residence, Ballymahon, Co. Longford

St. Gabriel’s Parish Resource Centre, Dollymount, Dublin 3

25,000

Towards the cost of refurbishment of assembly hall and stage area; essential rewiring and the provision of furniture

St. John Ambulance Brigade, Southern Command, Richmond Hill, Cork

50,000

Towards the cost of replacing an ambulance

St. Joseph’s Association for the Mentally Handicapped, c/o Blackrock, Co. Dublin

10,663

Towards the purchase of snoezelen equipment

St. Vincent de Paul, St. Carthage’s Conference, Lismore, Co. Waterford

5,000

Towards the cost of purchasing wheelchairs and walking aids

Summerhill Active Retirement Group, Third Age Centre, Summerhill, Co. Meath

30,000

Towards the cost of assisting with the ongoing running costs/services, activities and programmes delivered by the Third Age Centre

Summerhill Active Retirement Group, Third Age Centre, Summerhill, Co. Meath

10,000

Towards the cost of retaining a driver for the Millennium Bus

Tang Golden Years Club, Tang, Ballymahon, Co. Westmeath

3,000

Towards the cost of providing a social outlet for the elderly in the form of training courses

Templemore Active Retirement Association, Templemore, Co. Tipperary

4,000

Towards alleviating the costs associated with the running of the organisation

Templemore Community Social Service, Templemore, Co. Tipperary

50,843

Towards the cost of work to be undertaken to bring the day care centre within the fire and safety regulations

Tolka River Project, Buzzardstown, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15

3,000

Towards the cost of the parenting skills course

West of Ireland Alzheimer Foundation, Ballindine, Co. Mayo

120,000

Towards the cost of updating equipment in the new respite home in Athenry; and developing and securing the garden