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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 17 May 2006

Vol. 619 No. 5

Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 11 to 58, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 59 to 69, inclusive, answered orally.

Official Languages Act.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

70 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the cost to his Department of fulfilling its obligations under the Official Languages Act 2003 for each year since its inception; the budgeted cost of these obligations for 2006; the distribution of these costs between different sections of his Department; the percentage of this cost that relates to staff costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18196/06]

My Department has not yet been notified to prepare a Statutory Scheme under Section 11 of the Official Languages Act, 2003. However, since 2003 my Department has complied with all the appropriate sections of the Act that have commenced, namely, Section 9.2 relating to correspondence etc, received in the Department in the Irish language and Section 10 relating to publishing key policy documents simultaneously in Irish and English. It is not possible to provide a breakdown of the costs to the Department of fulfilling its obligations under the Official Languages Act since its inception in 2003, because accurate figures are not available for the years 2003 and 2004. However, I can inform the Deputy that the figure for 2005 was €49,153 and that expenditure to date in 2006 amounts to €1,276. The budgeted costs of these obligations on the Department for 2006 is €50,000. My Department has made provision in the 2006 Estimates for an additional €125,000 to enable it to fulfil any further obligations on the Department this year under the Official Languages Act.

It is not possible, in the time available, for the Department to provide information on how the above costs could be distributed between different sections of the Department or to provide information on the percentage of the above costs which relate to staff costs.

Industrial Development.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

71 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the efforts made by the IDA to provide employment and attract foreign direct investment into County Kerry in view of the unacceptable number of job losses in the county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18463/06]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland. Under the Industrial Development Acts I am precluded from giving directives to the Agency regarding individual undertakings or from giving preference to one area over others.

IDA Ireland assures me that it is actively promoting County Kerry and the advantages of locating in Kerry, which include a young skilled population, the presence of an institute of technology, and the availability of first class business parks and a regional airport to potential new investors and is also working closely with existing clients in Kerry to encourage them to expand their operations. In addition IDA Ireland is also working with a wide range of bodies at local level, including FÁS, to enhance the attractiveness of the county for investment.

The job losses that have occurred with the closure of Jet Environmental, Transmould and Sara Lee, are regrettable and stem from the fact that Ireland is now much less competitive in certain types of operations. Job creation and losses are a feature of economic development in all countries as various sectors expand and contract in response to market demand, competitive forces, restructuring and technological change. Despite these job losses there remains a diverse range of companies in Kerry representing a number of industry sectors such as, Engineering, Pharmaceuticals and Consumer Products. Indeed at the end of 2005, there were 1,888 people in permanent employment in eighteen IDA assisted companies in the County.

The latest Quarterly National Household Survey, dated Sept-Nov 2005, shows that unemployment in the South West Region, which includes Kerry, has decreased by some 6.1% over the previous 12 month period. Employment in the region has, in fact, increased by 6.4%, or 17,500 jobs, over the same period. This compares with the national increase of only 4.6%. In the 12 month period to April '06, the live register has decreased by -0.3% in Kerry compared to an increase of 1.9% in this period in both the South West Region and the nation as a whole.

To support and enhance the marketability of the county for new investments IDA Ireland and Shannon Development (SFADCo), which has responsibility for providing property solutions in the north of the county, are investing significantly in the provision of planned and focussed property solutions.

I am confident that the strategies and policies being pursued by IDA Ireland, together with the ongoing commitment of Government to regional development, will continue to bear fruit in terms of maximising sustainable investment and jobs for the people of Kerry.

Question No. 72 answered with QuestionNo. 68.

Employment Rights.

Seán Crowe

Question:

73 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if an assessment will be carried out to determine whether workers are being denied adequate toilet breaks by employers in view of the fact that such actions by employers, which have been encountered in other jurisdictions, can result in potentially serious health problems for workers. [18343/06]

The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 transposed into Irish law the EU Council Directive 93/104/EC of 22 November 1993 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time. One of the objectives of the Directive is the improvement of workers' safety, hygiene and health at work.

The 1997 Act provides that an employee is entitled to a break of 15 minutes after working for more than four and a half hours and to a further break of 15 minutes after working for more than six hours. The Act did not specifically define the types of break in order to give both employees and employers flexibility on the issue.

If an employee is being denied such breaks by his or her employer it would be open to such an employee to refer the matter to a Rights Commissioner under the 1997 Act claiming a breach of that Act. A Rights Commissioner can award an employee an amount up to two years remuneration for a breach of the Act.

It would also be open to an employee who is in dispute with his or her employer over the issue of breaks to refer the matter to a Rights Commissioner under the Industrial Relations Acts. However, this is a voluntary service and if the employer refuses to attend the hearing of the Rights Commissioner the case cannot be heard.

In such a situation an employee can refer the dispute to the Labour Court under section 20 of the Industrial Relations Act 1969. To make such a referral the employee must undertake beforehand to be bound by the recommendation of the Rights Commissioner. The Labour Court will hear the case even in the absence of the employer. It should be pointed out that neither the recommendations of the Rights Commissioner or of the Labour Court under the Industrial Relations Acts are legally binding. However, they are widely accepted as being morally binding.

Having regard to the above legislative provisions, I do not propose to carry out an assessment in order to determine whether workers are being denied adequate breaks by their employers. I would, nevertheless, expect and indeed urge, all employers to take a reasonable and common sense approach to the granting of breaks by allowing employees to take such breaks as and when they are required.

Bullying in the Workplace.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

74 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will introduce a requirement that bullying as a risk, together with policies and procedures to mitigate that risk, be included in every employer’s safety statement as recommended in the report of the Expert Advisory Group on Workplace Bullying published in August 2005. [18338/06]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

146 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason he has decided that it is necessary to wait on an updated survey of the incidence of workplace bullying, not due to be completed until at least October 2006, before acting to implement the recommendations of the Expert Advisory Group’s Report on Workplace Bullying published in August 2005. [18335/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 74 and 146 together.

The Expert Advisory Group's Report on Workplace Bullying was launched and published by me on the 17th August 2005. An important recommendation contained in the Report was that a follow up survey on workplace bullying, similar to that commissioned for the 2001 Report, be conducted as soon as practicable to establish a baseline from which the effectiveness of the new structures and processes would be measured.

This Department issued tenders for the survey and has recently awarded the contract to the successful tenderer. The survey is expected to take about 6 months to complete.

There was not full agreement within the Expert Advisory Group on some of its recommendations. One example of this is the recommendation that bullying should be a mandatory inclusion as a risk in every employer's Safety Statement and that the Health and Safety Authority would be charged with ensuring that this is enforced.

I have already given a commitment to publish the results of the survey, which will be brought to Government along with the Report and the views of the Social Partners and other interested parties, for decision on how best to implement the Report's Recommendations, including that mentioned above.

Question No. 75 answered with QuestionNo. 68.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

76 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will initiate an investigation into the health and welfare of workers who are compelled to stay on their feet for most of the working day and the occupational health risks associated with prolonged standing at work. [18341/06]

Regulation 4 of the Safety Health at Welfare at Work (Miscellaneous Welfare Provisions) Regulations 1995 (S.I. No. 358 of 1995) states:

"It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure that where any employed persons have in the course of their employment reasonable opportunities for sitting without detriment to their work or where a substantial proportion of any work done by employed persons can properly be done sitting, there shall be provided and maintained for their use suitable facilities for sitting."

If work can be carried out whilst seated, then seating should be provided in all cases. However, if a risk assessment identifies a risk of injury to a worker because of the nature of the work, then remedial action must be taken to minimize the risk.

If the employer does not appropriately deal with the matter, the employee may refer it to the Health and Safety Authority, which will, if warranted, investigate the matter and if necessary, take appropriate enforcement action.

An indicative list of occupational health risks associated with standing at work cannot be provided as risks, if arising and identified in a risk assessment, would depend on the specific job, the individual employee, hours of work, nature of the task etc.

Manufacturing Sector.

Enda Kenny

Question:

77 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the fact that manufacturing turnover has increased by less than one per cent from 2000 to 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17873/06]

The manufacturing sector in Ireland continues to perform strongly, both in terms of increasing turnover (monetary value) and production (volumes of units produced). According to the latest CSO Release — Industrial Production and Turnover (dated 12th May 2006), overall turnover in 2005 is up 13 percent relative to 2000 in manufacturing industries.

Industrial Turnover Index 2000-2005 (Base Year 2000)

Sector

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

Manufacturing Industries

100

107.7

110.3

107.2

108.4

113.0

Annual % Change

7.7

2.4

-2.8

1.1

4.2

Source: CSO Release Industrial Production & Turnover Table 6 (12 May 2006).

Turnover for manufacturing industries has increased year-on-year from 2000-2005, except for 2003 where turnover was down 2.8 percent on 2002. From 2004-2005, the annual increase in turnover for manufacturing industries was 4.2 percent, the highest annual increase since 2001.

However there are significant differences in the relative performance of various manufacturing sectors. Two 'modern' sectors have performed very strongly over the period with turnover for Publishing, Printing and Reproduction of Recorded Media up 42 percent relative to 2000 while turnover in the Chemicals Sector increased by 24 percent. There has also been substantial increases in turnover for more traditional sectors. From 2000-2005, turnover for Food, Beverages and Tobacco increased by 16 percent, Wood and Wood Products by 27 percent, and Minerals by 10 percent. Two sectors in particular have experienced considerable turnover declines over the same period with turnover for Textiles and Textile Products having fallen by 35.6 percent relative to 2000 and turnover in the Leather and Leather products sector declining by 83 percent relative to 2000.

To assist industry maintain competitiveness and increase productivity the economic development agencies are working on an ongoing basis to promote the adoption of new technology and best practice at company level. The agencies aim to support sustainable, high value added enterprise in Ireland through the provision of mentoring and developmental supports, the enhancement of management capabilities and critical workforce skills in client companies, support for the creation and implementation of strategies for market entry, development and growth, and strong supports for innovation and for research and development.

Trade Regulations.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

78 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the companies that have been affected by Statutory Instrument 130 of 2006, European Communities, Trade with Iraq, Regulations 2006; if so, the names of those companies and the nature of their trade with Iraq; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18201/06]

Statutory Instrument number 130 of 2006, European Communities Trade with Iraq Regulations 2006, provides for penalties for infringements of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1210/2003 which prohibits the import, export and dealing in any item of illegally removed Iraqi cultural property. The Order also revoked European Communities (Trade with Iraq) Regulations 1997 (S.I. No. 370 of 1997) which provided for penalties for breaches of the EU prohibition on trade with Iraq. I am not aware of any companies affected by this Order.

Employment Rights.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

79 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he proposes to take in view of the commitment in the partnership talks to increase the number of labour inspectors from 31 to 90 to ensure the speedy recruitment of such inspectors having regard to the difficulties which were experienced by his Department in attempting to recruit the existing additional inspectors to bring that number up to 31; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18194/06]

John Gormley

Question:

94 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if it is his intention to establish the Labour Inspectorate as a statutory body with enhanced powers, separate from his Department; and if so, the reason for this decision. [18472/06]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

98 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason for the delay in implementing the recommendations of the report on the mandate and resourcing of the Labour Inspectorate regarding the streaming of the record keeping requirements to tie in with the statements of pay; and when he expects the proposal to come into operation. [18468/06]

John Gormley

Question:

143 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he intends to introduce legislation that will compel companies to inform labour inspectorates of breaches by contractors or sub-contractors in pay rates and employment standards that come to their attention. [18473/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79, 94, 98, and 143 together.

The Social Partners, and the various Government Departments concerned, have been carefully considering a range of options that will underpin an enhanced employment rights compliance regime. The staffing and resourcing of the Labour Inspectorate in the context of a possible new employment rights compliance model is just one feature of those considerations.

The discussions have also included reflection on the obligations and responsibilities applying to main contractors and their subcontractors. A consensus has already been established around the proposition that record keeping should be improved and that the information provided in Statements of Pay can be enhanced. However, while considerable progress is being achieved on these, and other matters, a definitive conclusion is still awaited. The necessary steps to implement the various commitments that may emerge from the discussions will be undertaken without delay once those conclusions are finalised.

Grocery Industry.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

80 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether the profit levels of grocery multiples operating here should be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17895/06]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

145 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in view of the lack of discernible reduction in grocery prices following the abolition of the Groceries Order and the lack of price transparency along the supplier chain, he intends to review his decision not to oblige large retail companies to publish details of their annual turnover and profit. [18464/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 and 146 together.

The Groceries Order was in place for many years and was abolished less than 2 months ago. I believe it is much too early at this stage to expect to see any significant impact on the grocery sector. However, I have asked the Competition Authority to monitor the sector and the Authority is currently putting in place a monitoring mechanism to track data and trends over coming months and years.

It is important to remember, however, that the Order was abolished for a number of reasons, including the fact that in certain circumstances it criminalised shopkeepers for passing on discounts to consumers. In deciding that the Order should be repealed the Government simply decided to remove an obstacle to competition.

As regards the reporting and disclosure requirements of grocery multiples, all companies operating in Ireland are free to establish and organise themselves in the most suitable form to promote and run their business, provided they comply with national and EU legislation.

The disclosure requirements regarding accounts reflect the requirements of the 4th and 7th EU Company Law Directives. These are found in the 1986 Companies (Amendment) Act and the European Communities (Companies Group Accounts) Regulations 1992, as amended, which allow multi-national companies with Irish subsidiaries to file annual returns (with audited accounts) for the financial affairs of the parent undertaking and the subsidiary undertaking as a whole.

I think it would be inappropriate to compel one specific sector to disclose commercially sensitive information publicly. If such disclosure were required generally in the economy it might discourage foreign direct investment, as many multi-nationals might prefer to establish elsewhere. Further, many companies operating in Ireland at present choose to register as "unlimited" companies which, depending on whether they are public or private, have lesser disclosure requirements.

Employment Rights.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

81 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason, in view of the growing concerns regarding the employment conditions of workers who are employed in domestic service, he has not asked the Labour Court to investigate the employment conditions prevailing for these workers as he is entitled to do under the provisions of Section 24 of the Industrial Relations Act 1946. [18334/06]

The Labour Inspectorate of the Department is responsible for monitoring certain employment conditions for all categories of workers in Ireland, including immigrant workers. The Inspectorate operates without any differentiation with regard to worker nationality as statutory employment rights and protections apply to immigrant workers in exactly the same manner as they do to other workers.

In the area of pay and conditions, it is primarily the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act, 2000 and the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 that apply to employees who are employed in domestic service. Employees, working in the provision of domestic service, as is the case for employees in most other areas of the economy, are not categorised in any unique fashion in current employment legislation.

Inspectors pursue allegations of worker mistreatment and when evidence of non-compliance with the relevant employment rights legislation is found, the Inspectorate seeks redress for the individual/s concerned and, if appropriate, a prosecution is initiated. In this regard, I urge anyone who has evidence of the mistreatment of workers to furnish all the relevant details and any related materials to the Inspectorate with a view to pursuing the matter.

The Labour Relations Commission commissioned the University of Limerick to carry out a review of the JLC system in 2005. Arising from this review and following bilateral consultations with the social partners and stakeholders, the Department prepared a paper as the basis for implementation of the review in further consultation with the social partners and stakeholders, in the context of the current partnership talks. Discussions with the social partners are ongoing regarding the appropriate measures to support the employment rights of domestic workers.

Against this background, I do not propose to avail of Section 24 of the Industrial Relations Act 1946 to request the Labour Court to furnish a report into the employment conditions prevailing for domestic workers.

Economic Competitiveness.

Michael Ring

Question:

82 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the assessment by a person (details supplied) in a report Productivity; Ireland’s Economic Imperative that the trend in GNP based productivity has been deteriorating since 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17874/06]

Ireland has enjoyed substantial economic growth since the 1980s. In particular, the period since the mid-1990s saw a surge in Irish economic growth, as a result of both improved productivity and increased employment. While Ireland's productivity growth as measured by GNP per worker has been strong relative to other countries, between 2000 and 2005 it slowed down significantly. This was in large part due to the general economic slowdown in the early years of the new millennium, the consequences of which was felt globally. Generally speaking, Ireland's productivity performance since 2000 compares well with most other developed countries and above the EU average. While productivity growth in Eastern Europe was much stronger in this period, this was from a much lower base.

Productivity is one of the key determinants of competitiveness and growth. Radically improving productivity across all business sectors is a competitive imperative we cannot ignore if we are to maintain and improve our living standards. There is a range of factors that impact on productivity levels. For developed economies, knowledge and its development and use, through investment in skills, education, research and development plays a vital role in the drive towards higher levels of productivity. Investments in infrastructure and technology, particularly ICT, are also critical in raising productivity levels. Productivity growth at the firm level can be achieved through better management practices increased innovation and organisational design.

The report to which the Deputy refers concludes that there are three ways to improve productivity — further investment in physical capital, investing in education and training and thirdly by making better use of ICT. Over the last few years our policies have been directed towards achieving improvements in all of these areas.

The report highlights the significant discrepancies in the productivity performance between different sectors of the economy, which was also raised in the Annual Competitiveness Report 2005. Superior productivity growth has been concentrated in a small number of sectors (Pharmaceuticals, ICT) with evidence of much weaker productivity growth in sectors of the economy less exposed to international competition such as retail, construction, general services and in some sectors of indigenous manufacturing.

The enterprise agencies of my Department have been mandated to adjust their support strategies to the needs of their clients in the modern global economy. To assist the drive towards competitiveness and increased productivity the enterprise development agencies are working with companies to

•provide mentoring and developmental supports,

•enhance management capabilities and critical workforce skills,

•support the creation and implementation of strategies for market entry, development and growth,

•build productivity, and

•provide support for innovation and for research and development.

In 2005, Enterprise Ireland launched a €20 million Productivity Improvement Fund, which will greatly assist Irish firms in their drive for higher efficiency and international competitiveness.

Energy Costs.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

83 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the research his Department is undertaking or intends to undertake into the effects rising energy prices will have on job securities; the dialogue he has or intends to have with industry on the matter; the point at which intervention to protect jobs would be needed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18388/06]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

102 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his assessment of increased energy costs on small and medium enterprises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17872/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 82 and 102 together.

Escalating energy costs are affecting the cost structure of all sectors of the economy, including households. Global energy markets have seen sustained increases in price levels for the past two years. No consumer, whether industrial, commercial or personal is immune from the impact of higher oil, gas and electricity prices as a result of price changes on international markets. We are all price takers in this regard. However, the Irish economy has proved resilient with growth of 4.7% in GDP in 2005 with continued expansion of many sectors including those that are energy intensive (e.g. Pharmaceuticals, food and drink, construction etc). Despite elevated energy prices over the past couple of years there is no indication that high prices are having a marked impact on economic growth or employment.

Energy costs are predominantly a global issue, as they are driven by oil prices. The development agencies under my Department are monitoring the issue of energy costs and the impact of such costs on the overall competitiveness of companies. I meet and consult with business and industry as part of my job. This takes place both formally and informally. In addition, industry representatives input to current preparations for the next National Development Plan and to the Social Partnership process.

My colleague the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources who has primary responsibility in this area is preparing a national energy policy paper that will address key policy options for energy management. This will help address energy cost developments faced by enterprise and set out policy on a range of issues affecting energy and oil dependency.

As part of Government policy to improve the energy market the Government in co-operation with the Northern Ireland authorities, is working on changes to both legislation and the regulatory process that will bring about an all island energy market. This will have a positive influence on energy costs to users. In addition, Sustainable Energy Ireland has been vigorously promoting and advising on energy efficiency through a range of programmes over the last number of years and is eager to provide its energy conservation and efficiency services to the SME sector.

Departmental Investigations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

84 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the costs incurred by the State, at the latest date for which figures are available, arising from the various inquiries instigated by or on behalf of his Department; the element of these costs which have been recovered from any of the other parties involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18223/06]

The costs incurred since 1997 on company investigations initiated by or on behalf of my Department currently amount to approximately €11.3 million. This amount does not include the salary costs of civil service staff who worked on a number of these investigations or those legal costs borne by the Vote of the Chief State Solicitor.

Costs of some €9.3million were incurred by High Court inspectors appointed under Section 8 of the Companies Act 1990, €5.8 million in the case of National Irish Bank Limited/National Irish Bank Financial Services Limited and €3.5 million in the case of Ansbacher (Cayman) Limited. In the case of the Ansbacher enquiry, the High Court proceedings taken by the State to recover the costs of the inquiry were settled out of court for the sum of €1.25m in favour of the State. In the case of National Irish Bank Limited/National Irish Bank Financial Services Limited, the Court ordered that National Irish Bank pay the full costs of the investigation. I understand that the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which had borne the costs of the investigation, has recouped the full cost from National Irish Bank. The aggregate recoupment to the State from Section 8 investigations was €7.05 million or over 75% of the total of €9.3million.

The balance of €2 million represents the costs arising from section 19 examinations. Section 19 as originally enacted did not provide for the recoupment of costs. This has now changed with the enactment of the Company Law Enforcement Act 2001.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard Allen

Question:

85 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of the National Competitiveness Council’s various recommendations which have been implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17889/06]

In its Competitiveness Challenge 2005 (launched in November last year) the National Competitiveness Council emphasised the importance of the strategic direction enterprise policy is now taking. The NCC also suggested a range of policy choices for which my Department would be responsible and others that fall under the remit of other Government Departments.

The NCC gave policy advice and comment in the following four areas;

Taxation and Regulation,

Economic and Technological Infrastructure,

Education and Training and,

Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Each of these four areas have been addressed in the context of the NCC's specific suggestions and advice received from the Enterprise Strategy Group.

The Council in 2005 set out a vision that requires two complementary and cross cutting imperatives — promoting a dynamic and competitive export base and raising productivity across the entire economy. Work in these strategic areas has moved from policy planning to the detail of operational implementation. In May 2005 I launched Enterprise Ireland's new strategy "Transforming Irish Industry". This is delivering new programmes to help internationalise Irish companies and improve their capacity to win more business in new markets. It also provides significant support to help reorientate firms towards more innovation and developing the potential of start-ups. I also approved an extensive Productivity Fund with a budget of €20 million to help indigenous firms improve productivity across their business functions. This Fund is managed by Enterprise Ireland. Meanwhile, IDA Ireland continues to be a world class development agency in both the quality and sophisticated export orientated investments it consistently attracts here.

In relation to other recommendations under the remit of my Department, the NCC commented on the importance of business regulation and I have set up the Business Regulation Group under the Chairmanship of Mr. Donal de Buitleir to advise the Government on how the perceived compliance burden on business can be lightened.

In the areas of training and labour force development, FÁS has been provided with €35.6 million to invest during 2006 in more training for those in employment. €8.5 million was allocated to the Training Networks Programme (TNP) operated by Skillnets Limited, a social partner company. TNP supports in-company training and development by firms co-operating with each other in training networks. In addition €6 million was allocated to the ACCEL Programme, which was launched in October 2005. This Programme supports in-company training and is aimed at companies working together in groups.

In relation to the objective of promoting competitive markets, I have provided additional resources to the Competition Authority, abolished the Groceries Order and have given the National Consumer Agency a strong mandate to be a loud voice for consumer interests.

Other Government Departments are also playing their part in implementing the recommendations of the National Competitiveness Council. The 2006 Finance Bill phased out several property tax breaks and increased Revenue powers in line with NCC recommendations and the Strategic Infrastructure Bill is currently being examined in the Oireachtas.

Industrial Development.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

86 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of small and medium sized enterprises set up here in the past year; the number of such businesses that have closed same in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18401/06]

We do not currently have precise statistics in relation to the total number of new small and medium sized enterprises established each year. However, during the period 1st May 2005 to 30th April 2006 a total of 17, 707 companies were registered with the Companies Registration Office, which operates under the aegis of my Department. The vast majority of these would have been small or medium-sized enterprises.

During the same period a total of 12,389 companies were struck off; these were comprised of 7,943 involuntary strike offs, 3,208 voluntary strike offs and 1,238 Revenue strike offs. In addition there were 1,223 liquidations notified during the period in question.

Another indication of activity in this area can be inferred from the total number of VAT registrations maintained, on an annual basis, by the Office of the Revenue Commissioners. This shows that, at the end of 2005, there were a total of almost 254,000 such registrations. This was up from 236,000 at the end of 2004, giving a net increase of around 18,000.

I might also add that one of the recommendations of the Small Business Forum, whose report I have just published, was that the Central Statistics Office should publish an annual 'Small Business Release' which would present up-to-date, robust data on a range of indicators relevant to the small business sector. This 'Release' would enable emerging trends to be monitored and key business issues to be identified. My Department will be pursuing this recommendation with the Central Statistics Office.

Business Regulation.

Michael Ring

Question:

87 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of meetings of the Business Regulation Group which have taken place to date; the action which has been taken arising from those meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17886/06]

Richard Bruton

Question:

123 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the areas of Government regulation for which he is responsible that he considers unwieldy or anti-small business; if he intends to instigate reform in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17894/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 87 and 123 together.

The first stage in the strategy of ensuring that the regimes that regulate business are proportionate, effective and efficient is to gather evidence as a basis for framing and delivering reform. I set up two complementary bodies to achieve this end, the Business Regulation Forum and the Small Business Forum:

Business Regulation Forum

The BRF has been operational since November 2005. It is a standing dialogue on regulatory issues between Government and business and was established on the basis that it be a problem-solving entity and would identify areas where regulatory reform was necessary. The goal of the BRF for end-2006 is to draw on the experience and expertise of its members and on evidence-based analysis to develop an agreed report on achieving a measurable reduction in the regulatory compliance burden for businesses. The BRF has met 5 times to date towards that end. Its work programme for 2006 will draw, inter alia, on the following elements: An analysis of submissions received on existing regulatory burdens; Advancing the target of measuring administrative burdens on business in Ireland; A review of existing authoritative recommendations for regulatory reform; Contributing to the design and carrying out of a Business Satisfaction Survey; and International benchmarking of best regulatory practice. Work is in train on each of these strands.

Small Business Forum

Last Summer I set up the Small Business Forum (SBF) to examine the current environment for conducting small business in Ireland. We now have some 250,000 small businesses in Ireland providing more than half of private sector employment — that's almost 800,000 jobs, nearly double the level of a decade earlier and it is very important that we sustain the dynamic growth of small business. Yesterday, Joe Macri, the Chairman of the SBF, presented me with their report which sets out a robust analysis of the issues facing small business and proposes a set of measures to address these. I am delighted to confirm that I am seeking to implement all the recommendations that fall within my Department's remit, including Raising the standard of management capability through the establishment of a Management Development Council. Providing Knowledge Acquisitions Grants Making Innovation Vouchers available to small business Developing a National Entrepreneurship Policy Developing networks of Business Angels Compiling and publishing comprehensive data on the small business sector.

Over the coming months I will work closely with my Government colleagues to look at an implementation path for the remaining recommendations.

In order to ensure that the implementation process is as seamless as possible I intend to invite the members of the Forum to remain in place to act as a body in respect of the implementation of the Report.

Export Markets.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

88 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if recent trends in exports are a positive indication for the future of the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18402/06]

The most recent annual trade figures published by the Central Statistics Office show that the value of Irish exports for 2005 increased by 5% from 2004 and this followed a 2% rise the previous year. This increase of 5% in 2005 continues the upward trend in the value of exports, which, with the exception of the global economic slowdown, which occurred around 2002, has been a feature of our export performance since the early 1990s. I am heartened by this continuous improvement in exports, against a difficult background of ongoing low growth rates in the US and the major European economies, in recent years.

It is a key fact that one of the drivers of the success of the Irish economy in recent years has been the significant growth in our foreign trade. From a level of €35bn in 1995, our merchandise exports rose to €88bn last year, a truly impressive level of growth. This was achieved despite a significant slowdown in the economies of many of our significant trading partners. As a small open market economy, exporting over 90% of its GDP, Ireland is hugely dependent on the ability of its exporters to succeed in world markets. However, I am confident that the trend we are currently witnessing, of year on year growth in exports, coupled with a consistent economic growth rate of around five per cent per annum, bodes well for the future.

There are uncertainties in relation to oil and gas prices, following the sudden increases in recent times, which could impact significantly on both the level of our imports and on transport and other costs for exporters. In addition, the exchange rate between the Euro and both Sterling and the US Dollar may fluctuate, thereby affecting trade with these markets. Wider competitive issues for Irish companies are of course very important and these are being addressed in the work of the National Competitiveness Council and a range of initiatives identified in recent reports by the Council are being implemented.

I am confident, therefore, that the recent trends in our export performance are a very positive indication of the ongoing health of the economy.

Decentralisation Programme.

Pat Breen

Question:

89 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress to date of the decentralisation plan for his Department and the agencies under its aegis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17885/06]

My Department is required to move 250 posts to Carlow under the Government's Decentralisation Programme. In addition, four of the Agencies under the aegis of my Department are due to decentralise as follows: FÁS is to move 383 posts to Birr, Co. Offaly; Enterprise Ireland is to move 292 posts to Shannon; The Health and Safety Authority is to move 110 posts to Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, and The National Standards Authority of Ireland is to move 132 posts to Arklow, Co. Wicklow. Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment With regard to my Department, the number of posts in Business Units decentralising to Carlow, as at 16th May, is 276. Having regard to the Department of Finance agreed staff protocols, my Department has approached all General Service staff who expressed a first preference before 7th September 2004 i.e "Priority Applications" for relocation to Carlow through the Central Application Facility and there are currently 169 priority first preference applications for Carlow, with good interest across all grades.

Officials in my Department have analysed the so-called "Two to Ten" priority applicants — those who before the 7th September 2004 deadline identified Carlow as their 2nd or subsequent choice. In addition, given that there still remains a deficit in some grades my Department has assessed the post September 2004 CAF applicants, in line with Department of Finance policy. As a result of these "trawls" we expect to be in a position to fill a further 39 posts.

My Department currently has 93 Carlow-bound applicants assigned to decentralising posts and we expect to have all decentralising posts filled in sufficient time to ensure that staff are adequately trained in advance of the move to Carlow.

With regard to the property side of the Department's move, the Office of Public Works has completed the purchase of a site in Carlow town centre. The Office of Public Works, in conjunction with its legal advisers and the National Treasury Management Agency, is finalising the documentation which is required in order to seek expressions of interest from developers in relation to the design, build, finance and maintenance of new office accommodation and car parking for the Department in Carlow. On completion of this process, a short-list of developers will be drawn up from whom tenders will be invited. The Office of Public Works has assured the Department that progress on this project, which is one of a number to be procured using the Public Private Partnership model, is a priority. The OPW expect construction to begin early in 2007 and the construction phase may take up to 24 months.

In order to accommodate staff who wish to move earlier than the projected building completion date, officials of my Department, in consultation with the Department of Finance and the OPW, as well as decentralising staff and Business Units, are actively exploring the option of an earlier move to Carlow, subject to securing, high quality temporary accommodation. This latter option could allow for the movement of some decentralising staff to Carlow during the first half of next year. Agency Decentralisation My Department continues to provide advice and support to each of the four Agencies in progressing their decentralisation programmes and there is a dedicated Agency Decentralisation Committee to drive the process forward. In addition, I am satisfied that each Agency is fully engaged in the process and taking all of the relevant steps to advance their decentralisation plans.

In outlining the current Agency position on decentralisation, it must be remembered that CAF data is based on "priority first preference" applications.

FÁS

The FÁS Head Office relocation, involving 383 staff, to Birr, Co. Offaly, has a target date of Easter 2009 for the move. The negotiations for the purchase of a site in Birr are at an advanced stage.

To date 79 FÁS staff have signalled their agreement to transfer to Birr. The inclusion of a "relocation clause" in recruitment and promotion contracts is being opposed by SIPTU, which represents a majority of the staff in Head Office. Following a Labour Court recommendation, which was of the opinion that FÁS was in breach of the consultations procedures provided for in the company and union industrial relations procedures agreement, SIPTU served notice of their members' intention to take industrial action.

In advance of the industrial action, discussions between both parties were held under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission to see whether progress could be made. It was unfortunately not possible to find a resolution and the industrial action is taking place on a phased basis.

Differences remain between the parties, which must be addressed through further dialogue. It would not be helpful at this point to get into detail on the elements of the negotiations. Naturally, I strongly support using all the established consultation and dialogue mechanisms and I hope that further discussions will lead to a resolution.

Enterprise Ireland

With regard to Enterprise Ireland, the most recent CAF figures show that a total of 52 people have signaled their interest in moving to Shannon, at this stage.

The most immediate implementation step for Enterprise Ireland is to provide for a new HQ building, designed to meet the business needs of the organisation. Enterprise Ireland, working closely with the Office of Public Works (OPW), has identified but not yet acquired a preferred site in Shannon. Health and Safety Authority The position with regard to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), with 110 posts moving to Thomastown, is that to date a total of 62 people have expressed an interest in transferring to Thomastown.

The Authority has been advised by OPW that as the site procurement is in the final stages, the current timeline for availability for occupancy is mid 2008.

The Authority has now secured an office in Kilkenny city which will act as an interim base for 25 staff who are in the process of recruitment for the REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) strategy as well as some serving staff who wish to move in advance of the Thomastown premises being available. The Authority has informed me that they hope to have this office fit for occupancy by June of this year. All staff that move in the interim to Kilkenny city will transfer to Thomastown when the premises there are completed.

NSAI

Finally, in relation to the National Standards Authority of Ireland, a total of 132 staff are to be relocated to Arklow. The latest available CAF figures show the total number of first preference priority applications received from within the agency is 11. When those from across the civil and public service are added the total is 130. However, a significant grade mismatch is evident within these numbers. NSAI are working closely with OPW in identifying and securing suitable office accommodation in the Arklow area and the NSAI anticipate a target date of April 2009 as the completion date of its decentralisation plan.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Seán Crowe

Question:

90 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures he will introduce to increase worker involvement in health and safety risk management in view of the fact that worker involvement is recognised as being key to sensible health and safety management strategies. [18342/06]

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 has enhanced provisions on consultation between the employer and the employee on safety and health issues at the workplace. Employees are entitled to select a safety representative (or by agreement with the employer, more than one) to represent them in these consultations. The Act also contains provisions in relation to protection against dismissal and penalisation from acting in compliance with the Act or other relevant statutory provisions.

The employer is obliged to consider any representations made by the safety representative and, in so far as is reasonably practicable, take any necessary and appropriate action in response.

Section 26 of the Act places a duty on the employer to consult his or her employees with regard to making and maintaining arrangements to enable both the employer and employees to co-operate in promoting and developing safety, health and welfare and to monitor the effectiveness of those measures. An employer must also consult the employees or their safety representatives, or both, on any proposed measure that is likely to substantially affect safety, health and welfare at the place of work.

Employees have a right to make representations to their employer on matters relating to their safety, health and welfare at work.

Consultation with employees must be made in advance and in good time so as to allow them time to consider, discuss and give an opinion on the matters before managerial decisions are made. The information given must be sufficient to allow employees to fully and effectively participate in the consultation process.

Safety consultation and participation by employees supports risk control by encouraging involvement in the development of safety and health policies. The pooling of knowledge and experience through consultation and participation can ensure everyone's commitment to achieving and maintaining appropriate safety and health standards at the workplace.

Insurance Industry.

Dan Boyle

Question:

91 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason he has failed to provide consumer protection guidelines for income continuance schemes as recommended by the 2003 Pensions Board Report; and the measures he intends to take to provide adequate employees covered by the scheme with adequate information and protection regarding the schemes. [18467/06]

The Deputy's question refers to income continuance plans which are insurance products offered by insurance companies.

Since the establishment of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority (IFSRA) under the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act, 2003, insurance companies and their products are regulated by IFSRA. The Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2004 Act created a statutory financial services ombudsman for consumers. Consultative consumer and industry panels have also been appointed where matters of policy and practice are discussed. My Department has no responsibility for this matter.

Consultancy Contracts.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

92 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the additional consultancy services that his Department proposes to utilise in 2006; the reason an increase of 66 per cent for consultancy fees has been provided in the estimates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18211/06]

The A07 Consultancy subhead is available for use by any Section of my Department which needs to commission skills, knowledge or expertise not available within the Department in order to help them meet their business goals.

Forecasting the amount required for general consultancy for any year is an inexact science, given how difficult it is to forecast the level of demand, as requirements are not always known a full year or more in advance. That said, two specific issues lead to my Department seeking a significant level of increase for 2006 over last year's outturn. Firstly, when the Estimate was being prepared, my Department identified a higher than normal number of project applications for the following year (2006) than was the case in 2005. Secondly, an extra €100,000 was provided for 2006 to cater for additional consultancy work that might arise as a result of the requirement to undertake Regulatory Impact Analyses (RIA) on proposed new legislation.

To date, my Department has approved expenditure from the A07 subhead of our Vote in respect of seven consultancy projects to a maximum value of €409,031. This leaves a balance of €217,969 available for projects arising in the second half of the year.

Workplace Fatalities.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

93 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the recommendations contained in the Law Reform Commission report on corporate manslaughter published in October 2005. [18339/06]

Martin Ferris

Question:

104 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will introduce legislation to provide for the offence of corporate manslaughter as proposed by the Law Reform Commission in its report of October 2005. [18337/06]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

136 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in view of the 20 per cent increase in workplace fatalities in 2005, he intends to implement the recommendations made by the law Reform Commission in 2005 for a new statutory offence of corporate manslaughter. [18474/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 93, 104 and 136 together.

The Law Reform Commission, in its report published in October 2005, recommended that as the current law of corporate liability for manslaughter does not provide a clear basis for constructing liability, a new basis, in legislative form, is necessary. To this end the Commission included the draft of a short Bill in its report.

The Commission also recommended that there should be individual statutory liability for managers who were culpable in the causation of death. This has also been implemented under Section 80 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 which provides for directors, managers or other similar officers of an undertaking to be held liable by the Courts for an offence that is attributable to connivance or neglect on their part.

While this is a considerable step forward in implementing the recommendations of the Commission, the Attorney General's Office was of the opinion at the time of the drafting of the Bill, which is now the 2005 Act, that there were much broader issues than safety, health and welfare at work relating to the overall criminal justice system which needed to be considered; and that therefore it was not appropriate to comprehensively deal with the whole issue of corporate manslaughter in a Bill which was providing for the law and regulation of occupational safety, health and welfare. It should be noted for the record that the Commission accepted the Attorney General's Office view that the scope of the 2005 Act was narrower than the proposed offence recommended by it in its report.

Further consideration of the recommendations in the report of the Law Reform Commission will now take place primarily at Government level by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in the context of his main responsibilities for the criminal law system.

Question No. 94 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

Employment Rights.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

95 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding the investigation on the disclosure that Polish workers employed by a contractor at the ESB power station in Moneypoint were being paid well below the national minimum wage; the sanctions or penalties which are available against companies in such situations; the measures which have been taken by his Department to date to ensure full compliance with all labour standards by all contractors, especially those working for State companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18218/06]

The Labour Inspectorate has been following up this case since a series of interviews were undertaken with employees concerned on Friday, April 7th last. There is acknowledgement that certain arrears are due to employees.

The company has produced revised contracts of employment to its employees and the Inspectorate is examining this material at present. While the Inspectorate has no function in providing any form of approval or endorsement of such documents we will convey observations on any aspects that might give cause for concern.

The contracting company has provided certain undertakings with regard to the payment of arrears and the rates of pay applicable from April onwards. An inspection of records will be carried out very shortly with a view to verifying that the company's undertakings have been discharged fully and that everything is now in order.

With regard to the broader question of compliance across a range of companies associated through subcontracting relationship the Social Partners have been engaged in dialogue on the matter. It is anticipated that future contracting relationships may require actions that will underpin a tighter regulatory framework in this regard.

Joan Burton

Question:

96 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to reports indicating that migrant workers, from within the European Union, working in the mushroom industry have been paid €2.50 a hour; the steps he proposes to take to ensure that existing employment laws are not abused in view of the fact that these workers appear to be regarded as self employed agricultural contractors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18191/06]

I am aware through a variety of sources that there is particular concern with regard to the alleged practices of some employments in the mushroom industry.

In this connection I have met with Officials from SIPTU and key representatives from the industry. In the latter case I was accompanied by my colleague, Mr. Brendan Smith, Minister for Food and Horticulture at the Department of Agriculture. Each meeting provided an opportunity for the parties to outline the general position from their particular perspectives. All parties condemned, without reservation, any practices amounting to non-compliance with employment rights entitlements or any other mistreatment of employees.

I am aware that the Labour Inspectorate has identified this sector for a focused campaign this year and that, in the meantime, contacts with regard to the employment status of such workers have been ongoing with colleagues in the Scope Section of the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

Fairtrade Products.

Liz McManus

Question:

97 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will confirm that only fair trade tea and coffee are sold in his Department’s canteens, restaurants and cafés and those of agencies under the control of his Department; the value of fair trade produce sold in outlets in his Department for each year since Fair Trade products were introduced including to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18202/06]

In my Department, which is spread over 8 separate buildings, there is only a medium sized canteen in Davitt House and a very small canteen in Kildare Street. My Department has no restaurants or cafes. The tea/coffee served in these two canteens is not confined to Fair Trade tea and coffee which, I understand, is also the position in relation to the agencies under the aegis of my Department. It would be impossible to put a yearly value on the Fair Trade produce sold in these two outlets of my Department since Fair Trade products were introduced.

I have asked that consideration be given to enhanced sale of Fair trade tea and coffee in my Department's two canteens and in those of the agencies under the Department's control.

Question No. 98 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

Adult Literacy.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

99 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken, including those in conjunction with the Department of Education and science, to improve the levels of adult literacy, specifically among the long term unemployed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18210/06]

Under the auspices of my Department, FÁS implements a number of initiatives to address the literacy needs of long term unemployed.

•The Return to Education Programme responds to the individual needs of participants on the FAS Community Employment (CE) programme as they relate to literacy and numeracy development. This programme, developed by FAS in conjunction with the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA), is delivered country-wide through the Vocational Education Committees. It covers a range of subjects, including information technology applications, and prepares participants to access recognised FETAC qualifications.

•The Core Skills Programme has been developed to address the work related personal and social competencies of disadvantaged participants on CE. The programme covers a range of modules relating to work and work/life issues. A FETAC Core Skills Certificate is available to participants who reach the specified programme standards.

About 8,000 participants are supported each year through participation on these programmes. In addition, the FAS Workplace Basic Education Fund has a 2006 budget of €2million which it is using to fund workplace initiatives on basic literacy and numeracy.

In recognition of the drive to promote a more qualified workforce and the range of new opportunities available under the National Qualifications Framework, FAS has proposed two new awards at FETAC Level 3 to provide formal recognition of achievement in pre-vocational training — a Certificate in Personal and Social Employment Skills and a Certificate in Vocational Employment Skills.

The opportunity to access recognised qualifications motivates participants, particularly more disadvantaged learners, and gives them a foothold on the career progression ladder.

In addition, and in recognition of essential competencies and skills that staff working with the long term unemployed require, FAS, in consultation with NALA, has devised the Integrating Literacy Programme. This programme provides competencies specifically designed to enable staff to understand and work effectively in their daily interaction with participants who have literacy problems. This training comprehends all stages of programme delivery, from programme administration, through to design, assessment and review. It is delivered and accredited by NUI Maynooth.

Company Mergers.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

100 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the proposed company mergers that his Department is currently aware of under its responsibility for the regulation of mergers; the number of mergers dealt with by his Department in each year from 2002 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18197/06]

Under the Competition Act 2002 responsibility for regulating mergers and takeovers, with the exception of media mergers, was transferred from the Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment to the Competition Authority with effect from 1st January 2003. Details of all notified mergers since 1st January 2003 are available from the Competition Authority and are published on its website, www.tca.ie.

In 2002, 99 notifications were processed by my Department under the Mergers and Takeovers (Control) Acts, 1978 to 1996. As regards "media mergers" as defined by the 2002 Competition Act, my Department received 11 in 2003, 14 in 2004, 24 in 2005 and, so far, 6 in 2006.

Insurance Industry.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

101 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of the 47 recommendations in the Competition Authority’s final report and recommendations in regard to competition in the non-life insurance market which have been implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17890/06]

The Competition Authority's Report on Competition Issues in the Non Life Insurance Market, which focussed on motor, employers' liability and public liability insurances, published in March 2005, contained 47 recommendations directed at a number of bodies including the Financial Regulator, the Department of Transport and the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland.

Two of the recommendations have already been implemented by the Financial Regulator who is also conducting a consultation process in relation to the implementation of another recommendation. A further seven recommendations may be implemented by means of the Financial Regulator's forthcoming Consumer Protection Code.

The Competition Authority regularly reviews the position in relation to the implementation of its recommendations. As part of that process the Authority is currently engaging with all those to whom recommendations were directed with a view to progressing their implementation.

Question No. 102 answered with QuestionNo. 83.

Job Losses.

Phil Hogan

Question:

103 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans to bring employment to Newbridge following the announcement of the plan to lay off 250 people at a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17883/06]

The company in question has experienced a reduced demand for several of the products it manufactures at its facility in Newbridge and it is anticipated that up to 250 positions will be phased out between 2006 and 2007. The training agency FAS will assist the workforce, which is highly skilled, to plan new careers and identify training needs. The agency will also provide training in the range of skills necessary to secure alternative employment.

Notwithstanding the job losses, the company announced last March that it was investing €350 million, with significant support from IDA Ireland, in its Newbridge facility to expand future production capabilities for a new and emerging pipeline of pharmaceutical products. This investment is part of the company's global manufacturing strategy and demonstrates a continued commitment to its Newbridge facility. Unfortunately, while the Newbridge facility prepares for the arrival of these new products, the company has decided that a significant number of positions need to be phased out.

The Industrial Development agencies will continue to promote the area for employment opportunities. The strategy of IDA Ireland to create employment in Newbridge is to progress the development of a knowledge economy in order that the town can compete both nationally and internationally for foreign direct investment. The agency is also working with its existing client base to expand their presence.

Enterprise Ireland is also actively involved in assisting its client companies to grow and develop their businesses. Since the beginning of 2003, that agency has approved over €14 million and made payments of over €3.7 million to companies in County Kildare to help them grow their sales. One of the main indigenous industry sectors in the County is the food and consumer products sector which accounts for a major part of the employment growth within the County. Expansion projects by Green Isle and Dawn Foods have been announced for nearby Naas. From a combined base of over 1,100 employees, these companies will provide a further 250 new jobs over the next few years.

I am confident that the Industrial Development agencies will continue to provide sustainable investment and job opportunities for the area.

Question No. 104 answered with QuestionNo. 93.

EU Enlargement.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

105 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the derogations contained in Articles 1-6 of Regulation 1612/68 of the Accession Treaty the Government will seek upon the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU; and the reason for the Government’s change in position on migrant labour from prospective EU States. [18471/06]

I announced at Report Stage of the Employment Permits Bill 2005, on 3rd May, that I propose to bring forward an amendment to the Bill at Committee Stage in the Seanad on this issue. This will be an enabling provision to permit me as Minister to, by Regulation, either permit access or to continue to restrict access to our labour market by nationals of Romania and Bulgaria.

Postal Services.

Seán Ryan

Question:

106 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason for the decline in absolute costs of the provision in the estimates for postal services and telecommunications in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18217/06]

The 2006 estimate for postal and telecommunications services in my Department is €974,000. This represents an increase of €24,000 or 2.5% on the 2005 estimate of €950,000. Actual expenditure however in 2005 on postal and telecommunications services exceeded the initial estimate provision for the year by €37,000. This was due to a number of once off payments in 2005 including the upgrading of telecommunications equipment, spending on data transfer technology for the Labour Inspectorate and the upgrading of data lines linking the Department's offices which are not expected to recur this year. Consequently, there has been no decline in the estimates provision for postal and telecommunications services in my Department in 2006 compared to 2005.

Equal Opportunities Employment.

Dan Boyle

Question:

107 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason the FÁS national supported employment programme has been designed primarily for people with the least severe disabilities when it was originally charged with providing supported employment for people with significant disabilities; and the measures he intends to take to ensure that those with significant disabilities are included within the scope of the programme. [18466/06]

Supported Employment is an open labour market programme which is operated on behalf of my Department by FAS. It seeks to facilitate the integration of persons with disabilities into the open labour market by providing supports on the job. A job coach, who assists both the job seeker and the employer, provides the support. Supported Employment identifies existing jobs, matches suitable individuals with those jobs and assists them to integrate into the workforce by providing supports in the workplace. Supports may also be given in relation to adapting the work environment to meet the needs of an individual worker.

The Supported Employment programme, therefore, does not focus on the nature or the severity of the person's disability, but rather on their ability to do the job. As such, the programme has been successful in securing employment for persons with a wide and varied range of disabilities. FAS has a proposed expenditure budget of €8.2m allocated for this programme in 2006, representing a 24% increase on the actual spend of €6.6m in 2005. A total of 700 participants availed of this programme in 2005.

FAS also administers the new Wage Subsidy Scheme which was launched last year. The scheme offers financial support to employers outside the public sector to encourage them to employ people with disabilities. It provides the potential for both the employee and the employer to receive an incentive. The amount of subsidy paid to an employer under the scheme varies in accordance with the level of productivity of the individual compared with normal work performance.

In addition, FAS contracts with Specialist Training Providers through an extensive training centre network to deliver vocational training to people with disabilities who require more intensive support than would be available in FAS mainline options. The budget for this activity in 2006 is €46.8m in line with maintaining the number of participants at 1,961 for the full year.

The total budget for FAS schemes and grants aimed at promoting or facilitating the employment of people with disabilities in the private sector in 2006 is €67.31m.

Provision of sheltered employment and other arrangements to meet rehabilitative needs of individuals are outside the remit of the Supported Employment programme, which as already indicated, has an open labour market focus. Responsibility for rehabilitative training and sheltered workshops are the responsibility of the Department of Health and Children.

County Enterprise Boards.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

108 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the work of the County Enterprise Boards; the number of personnel employed by the board in respect of each board, for each of 2005 and to date in 2006; the number of proposals or requests which they received, the number of projects they have supported and grant aided; the average amount of grant aid which was for projects in each board area; the net additional employment that was created; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18212/06]

The thirty-five County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) were established in 1993 to provide support to small businesses with 10 employees or fewer. Their function is to develop indigenous enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity at local level. The CEBs support individuals, firms, community groups, provided that the projects have the capacity to achieve commercial viability. Priority must be given to manufacturing and internationally traded services companies which could develop into strong export entities.

As of 31st December 2005 there were 143 fulltime and 6 part-time employees working within the CEB network. The equivalent figures for end April 2006 is 141 fulltime and 6 part-time employees. (Full details in respect of each Board are included in Appendix 1).

My Department does not collect or retain information centrally on the overall number of proposals or requests received by the CEBs. Requests or proposals received by them may not result in formal applications for assistance and many requests may be informal requests for general business advice and information. Full details on the activities of individual CEBs are available in their Annual Reports which are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The specific types of formal CEB assistance available to micro-enterprise is broken down between financial assistance such as grants for feasibility studies, employment grants and capital grants and non-financial assistance such as Programmes covering Business Management, Mentoring, E-commerce, Enterprise Education and Women in Business networks. The general levels of available financial assistance are as follows:

•Capital grants up to a maximum of 50% of the cost of capital and other investment or €75,000, whichever is the lesser; a portion of the grant in excess of 40%( in the BMW Region) or 35% (in the S&E Region) to be in refundable form.

•Employment grants a grant of up €7,500 per new job, to a maximum of 10 new jobs.

•Feasibility study grants up to a maximum of 60% (in the BMW Region) or 50% (in the S&E Region), of the cost of a feasibility study and business plan, subject to an overall limit of €6,350 (in the BMW Region) or €5,100 (in the S&E Region).

Details of the total amount of grants drawdown by project promoters in respect of each CEB for 2005, and the average grant paid, are included in Appendix 2. Accurate comparable data for 2006 to date is not yet available.

Over 30,000 net jobs were created in CEB assisted enterprises from 1993 to end 2005 of which nearly 2,000 net new jobs were created in 2005 itself. The focus of the CEBs is increasingly on the development of sustainable growth-orientated local enterprise which will deliver high quality job creation. The CEBs are also increasingly using non-financial forms of assistance and while these "soft supports" may not directly generate jobs in an enterprise they contribute positively to the wider policy objective of building an enterprise culture which, in time, can result in significant indirect job creation without direct financial input from the State.

Appendix 1: Number of personnel employed by each County and City Enterprise Board in 2005 and to date in 2006

CEB

End Dec 2005

End Apr 2006

Carlow

4

4

Cavan

5

5

Clare

4

4

Cork City

3

3

Cork North

2

2

Cork South

4

4

Cork West

4

4

Donegal

5

5

Dublin City

5.5

5

Fingal

4

4

Dublin South

5

4.5

Dún Laoghaire

5

5

Galway

4

4

Kerry

5

5

Kildare

4

4

Kilkenny

4

4

Laois

3

3

Leitrim

5

5

Limerick City

4

4

Limerick Co.

4

4

Longford

4

4

Louth

4.5

4.5

Mayo

3

4

Meath

5

5

Monaghan

5

5

Offaly

4

4

Roscommon

4

4

Sligo

5

5

Tipperary NR

4

4

Tipperary SR

4

4

Waterford City

3

3

Waterford Co

3

3

Westmeath

4

2

Wexford

5

5

Wicklow

5

5

Totals

146*

144**

*This figure is composed of 143 fulltime and 6 part-time employees.

**This figure is composed of 141 fulltime and 6 part-time employees.

Appendix 2: Grants paid out by each County and City Enterprise Board in 2005

CEB

Total Projects

Average Grant

Carlow

24

12,160

Cavan

36

6,182

Clare

38

7,598

Cork City

23

3,213

Cork North

0

0

Cork South

12

22,210

Cork West

24

13,197

Donegal

26

25,838

Dublin City

48

12,096

Fingal

23

19,396

South Dublin

14

27,996

Dún Laoghaire/Rath

32

19,751

Galway City & Co.

66

6,885

Kerry

54

5,455

Kildare

18

12,133

Kilkenny

32

10,877

Laois

21

6,383

Leitrim

24

9,973

Limerick City

24

9,652

Limerick Co.

21

17,616

Longford

36

6,572

Louth

41

5,447

Mayo

23

13,097

Meath

20

14,897

Monaghan

26

10,105

Offaly

27

11,023

Roscommon

24

10,392

Sligo

24

12,218

Tipperary NR

17

13,630

Tipperary SR

21

9,626

Waterford City

20

9,730

Waterford County

20

12,298

Westmeath

34

8,475

Wexford

32

16,133

Wicklow

23

21,501

Total

948

11401

Employment Agencies.

Jack Wall

Question:

109 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will introduce legislation to make it unlawful for an employment agency to operate here without a licence having regard to the large migration flows that have occurred in the European Union of 25 Member States and the role played by employment agencies in one country to place workers on contract in another country; if his attention has been drawn to the potential for abuse that this could give rise to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18224/06]

Under the Employment Agency Act 1971, a person carrying on the business of an employment agency must be the holder of a licence issued by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and must operate from a premises in Ireland that conforms with prescribed standards of accommodation, set out in Regulations made under the Act.

As part of the Government's commitments under Sustaining Progress, in June 2005, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment issued a White Paper on the Review of the Employment Agency Act 1971. The deadline for submissions was 15 July 2005 and 10 submissions were received.

The Department is currently finalising further consultations based on the submissions received. Government approval will then be sought to have a Bill drafted by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government. It is hoped to publish this Bill in the second half of 2006.

Matters under consideration for inclusion in the Bill include providing for a system of licensing/registration of Irish and foreign-based employment agencies operating in Ireland, supported by an industry regulatory code which will set out in detail, the practices and standards that such employment agencies would be expected to follow.

Another issue under consideration is a possible Statutory Monitoring and Advisory Committee — representative of all the various interests in the sector. This Committee would oversee the regulatory code and make recommendations to the Minister for Labour Affairs in light of experience with any new legislation.

Changes under consideration are aimed at preventing any abuses by employment agencies which may arise in relation to the recruitment and placement of workers in Ireland.

In drafting legislation, it will however, be necessary to take account of (a) the potential impact of revised proposals from the European Commission on the draft EU Services Directive published on 4 April 2006 and (b) the free movement of persons, services and capital within the EU as laid down in the EU Treaty.

Corporate Enforcement.

Liz McManus

Question:

110 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of corporate enforcement officers currently employed by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement; the number of cases dealt with by the ODCE in each year from 2002 to date in 2006; the average time from a case file being opened to a satisfactory resolution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18198/06]

The ODCE currently has about 29 staff who are engaged in corporate enforcement work. The breakdown in the table that follows excludes staff involved on a full-time or part-time basis in company law compliance and ODCE corporate services work.

The Director provides information and statistics in his Annual Reports and End-of-Year Statements on the results and work of his Office. These documents are available on the ODCE website at www.odce.ie. I have also included a table which summarises the most recent headline results available to my Department for each of the years 2002 to 2005 with respect to case assessment and enforcement in the company law area.

The Director does not publish figures for the average time taken to conclude a case, and it is my Department's understanding that he does not regard it as a meaningful or reliable measurement of progress because of the diversity and occasional complexity of the cases under ODCE investigation.

Table 1: ODCE ‘Corporate Enforcement Officers'

Grade

Current Staff

Accountant Grade I

2

Assistant Principal

2.8

Clerical Officer

4.3

Detective Garda

3

Detective Inspector

1

Detective Sergeant

1

Director

0.5

Executive Officer

4

Higher Executive Officer

2.7

Legal Adviser

3

Principal Officer

1.5

Principal Solicitor

1

Solicitor

2

Total

28.8

Table 2: ODCE's Case Assessment and Enforcement in Company Law Area

2002

2003

2004

2005

Total

Detection

Public Complaints/Auditor Reports

620

1,950

1,956

2,373

6,899

Cases Determined

426

1,406

1,577

2,111

5,520

Insolvency

Initial Liquidator Reports

300

525

362

327

1,514

Initial Reports Determined

4

560

529

317

1,410

Enforcement

Court Proceedings Initiated

19

71

41

50

181

Court Orders / Judgments Secured

35

109

122

144

410

Convictions

14

43

66

49

172

Disqualifications

0

1

3

21

25

Restrictions (via liquidators primarily)

0

153

200

145

498

Company Law.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

111 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the work which has been completed on the reform of the Companies Act 1990; the areas that are being examined; the priorities which his Department has for consolidation and reform; the number of people, in his Department, who are currently working full-time on this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18208/06]

The section which works on drafting the General Scheme of the Company Law Reform and Consolidation Bill has four full-time persons but the Company Law Division of my Department works in a collegiate way with a pooling of its expertise and experience. In the context of this Bill it is also relevant to mention the huge contribution made by members of the Company Law Review Group to ensuring that our companies code will be a model of good practice and efficiency and will enhance the competitiveness of Irish business.

The main strands of this initiative in better regulation are simplification, consolidation, and reform. The core reform element will place the private company as the standard company type and most of the reforms centre on the private company. The reforms to other types of companies are less but the principle of simplicity is pursued throughout and consolidation will itself deliver more transparency and accessibility. The detailed sectoral reforms proposed are outlined in the First and Second Reports of the Company Law Review Group. The Third substantive report of the Review Group, outlining progress in the project in 2004-2005 is being published and I anticipate laying it before the Oireachtas shortly. In addition, as the draft parts of the General Scheme of the Bill have been completed they are published on the website of the Company Law Review Group in a standing consultation with interested parties. I anticipate taking the General Scheme of the Bill to Government this Autumn for agreement to drafting of the Bill proper.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

112 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason Directive 2003/18/EC amending Council Directive 83/477/EEC on the protection of workers from risks related to exposure to asbestos at work was not transposed by the deadline of the 15 April 2006; and his views on whether the unwarranted delay in the transposition of this directive demonstrates an apparent lack of concern for the safety and health of workers. [18340/06]

I regret that Directive 2003/18 was not transposed by the deadline of the 15 April 2006, and I am anxious that it would be transposed as soon as possible. I have not yet received a legislative proposal in this regard from the Health and Safety Authority, but I am advised that draft proposals for the Regulations were published on 9 May on the Authority's website, as part of the public consultation process provided for under Section 57 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.

I am informed that as part of the process of promoting awareness of the new provisions, the Authority has organised a meeting with asbestos industry contractors, demolition firms, consultants, the social partners and other relevant interests to consider the draft Regulations.

The public consultation period will end on 6 June and I am advised that formal draft proposals will be ready shortly after that for submission to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for legal settlement.

It is important to remember that the existing Directive 83/477/EEC as amended by Directive 91/382/EEC is already fully implemented and enforced. So too is another Directive, concerning the marketing and use of asbestos, which enforces a ban on its use in general.

The main changes to the existing legislation brought about by EU Directive 2003/18/EC focus on those who are now most at risk, in particular workers who remove asbestos and workers who accidentally come across asbestos at work in the course of servicing and maintenance activities. They also reflect the more detailed research on limits for exposure to chrysotile asbestos and the methods for measuring airborne asbestos undertaken on the basis of the method adopted by the World Health Organisation. The Directive therefore introduces a single exposure limit value for all work activities where exposure to asbestos dust in the air at a place of work may arise, a requirement for adequate training, and a requirement that persons involved in demolition and asbestos removal activities must be qualified to do this work in a safe way to ensure the protection of their employees.

Economic Competitiveness.

Damien English

Question:

113 Mr. English asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the observation in the Competition Authority’s Strategy Statement 2006-2008 that lack of a formal response by Government on recommendations for removal of public restrictions of competition can undermine Competition Authority recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17876/06]

The Competition Authority published its Strategy Statement for the period 2006 to 2008 at the beginning of the year. The Strategy Statement sets out the Competition Authority's objectives for the next three years and its plans on how it proposes to implement those objectives. The Authority states that the focus of its strategy over the next three years is about discharging its functions in the most timely, efficient and effective way possible.

Amongst the goals listed in the Authority's Strategy Statement is the promotion of competition where it is absent, limited or restricted. It describes advocacy as being fundamental to the achievement of its goals, particularly when many regulations and business practices restrict competition. The Authority uses its advocacy role to address this type of issue through publication of reports or position papers which identify particular restrictions on competition in specific sectors or industries.

The observation in question is made in the context of the "Critical Success Factors" identified in the Authority's Strategy Statement that could affect the implementation of its strategy over the next three years. For example, the Authority believes that if its recommendations, made after careful consideration of a sector or industry in order to improve the competitive environment, were to be completely ignored by government departments or public bodies, then this would have a negative impact on the achievement of its objectives.

All recommendations of the Competition Authority are given due weight and I think it would be very unlikely that any future recommendation would be completely ignored by any body or agency to which it is addressed.

National Disability Strategy.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

114 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason for the lack of consultation with people with disabilities in the formulation of the sectoral plan of the National Disability Strategy; and if he intends to establish an independent monitoring system to assess the progress or otherwise of the plan. [18465/06]

The Department has fully consulted with representative organisations for people with disabilities in the preparation of the Sectoral Plan for my Department. This Department participated in a comprehensive regional consultative process which was organised by the National Disability Authority in 2005. These conferences were attended by members of the general public, people with disabilities, carers, advocates, family friends and service providers. Submissions and proposals were also sought from all interested individuals or groupings. In addition, the requirement to draw up a Sectoral Plan was highlighted on the Department's website. All submissions received have been carefully considered and taken into account. As a consequence of these consultative arrangements, detailed submissions have been received from the National Disability Authority, the Disability Legislation Consultative Group, the Not For Profit Business Association and PwDI. In addition, the Department has engaged with the FÁS National Advisory Committee on Disability which includes representatives of disabilities organisations. In the recent past the Department has again in the context of on-going discussions with representatives of the relevant representative organisations, reported on progress made to date, and indicated the considerations and focus that will inform the Sectoral Plan to be finalised in the near future.

Departmental Investigations.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

115 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in regard to each of the inquiries being carried out by or on behalf of his Department; the projected date for the conclusion of each such investigation; the inquiries in respect of which reports have been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18222/06]

Sixteen investigations into company law matters were initiated by my predecessor in the period since 1997. In three cases, the High Court appointed, on an application by the Minister, inspectors under section 8 of the Companies Act 1990. The Inspectors appointed to Ansbacher (Cayman) Limited presented their Report to the High Court on 10 June 2002. The Report was subsequently published and was referred to the DPP. The Inspectors appointed to National Irish Bank Ltd and National Irish Bank Financial Services Ltd presented their Report to the High Court on 12 July 2004. The Report was subsequently published. The Court ordered that a copy of the Report be referred to several relevant authorities, including the DPP. In 2005, the Director of Corporate Enforcement initiated proceedings in the High Court under section 160 (2) of the Companies Act 1990 (as amended) seeking the disqualification of nine persons against whom adverse comment was made by the Inspectors. I note that last October the High Court granted a disqualification order against one of the nine persons. The proceedings against the other eight remain before the Court.

One investigation under section 14 of the Companies Act 1990 was completed in 1998. The report on this was referred to the DPP. One investigation was undertaken under section 59 of the Insurance Act 1989. The report on this was referred to the DPP as well as to the inspectors who undertook the section 8 investigation into that company. Eleven investigations were initiated by the Minister under section 19 of the Companies Act 1990. Six of these have been concluded. Of the six investigations completed, reports were referred to the DPP in two cases. A number of summary prosecutions have since been successfully concluded in one case. One report provided an input into the successful application to the High Court for the appointment of inspectors under section 8 while the fourth report was passed to the relevant High Court inspectors. One report was completed in September 2002 and a further report was completed in March 2003. Both reports have been referred to the Director of Corporate Enforcement. Two of the eleven Section 19 investigations were held up in legal appeals, to such extent that no effective progress was made by the authorised officer and the matter of reports of the examinations did not arise. These enquiries are now the responsibility of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. In relation to the three remaining Section 19 examinations, I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 11278 of 23 March 2006. The Authorised Officer is continuing to provide information and assistance to relevant authorities, as outlined in that reply.

Energy Resources.

Shane McEntee

Question:

116 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the recent report by Forfás entitled A Baseline Assessment of Ireland’s Oil Dependence; the implication for industry here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17875/06]

I welcome this report which has provided some significant food for thought as to the future availability of oil and the subsequent implications for the enterprise sector and for the economy as a whole. The report highlights the need for very careful consideration as to the way in which our future competitiveness and prosperity may be affected if we do not make careful use of a finite resource and provide for its replacement. Oil supply is not unlimited, yet world consumption has steadily increased. By comparison with other countries, Ireland's enterprise sector is not very energy-intensive, at least directly. Our emphasis on modern industries and advanced sectors has meant that the amount of energy used by the sector in proportion to output has decreased in recent years. A focus on less energy-intensive sectors in the future should help this trend to continue.

Oil is used as a direct input into some production processes but mainly as an input to electricity generation and to transport. If world oil prices continue on an upward path, all countries will be affected, but we will be affected more than most. We depend mainly on gas and oil for generating electricity, but oil and gas prices move more or less together, so the costs of electricity would have to rise for both enterprise and consumers as long as our dependence is so high. Our pattern of oil use, as the Forfás study points out, has made us one of the most oil-dependent countries in the world. Our transport sector depends on oil with most of our freight and passenger transport by road. Given our position as one of the most open economies in the world, with exports and imports combined much greater than our GDP, and the fact that we are an island nation on the periphery of Europe much of our international trade and connectivity is absolutely dependent on oil. So our imports and exports, on which the economy depends in different ways, will all be affected by shortages of oil at a reasonable price. This means that transport costs are more important to us than to many other countries and therefore oil price increases will impact on our competitiveness.

The message of the Forfás report is clear: oil dependency means vulnerability, and whether world oil production peaks in a few years or in ten or fifteen years, there is an urgent need to prepare for this and for significant increases in the price of oil. I am particularly conscious of the way in which our oil vulnerability affects the enterprise sector both directly and indirectly: our heavy dependence on roads, road freight and passenger cars can translate very quickly into higher costs for everyone, and can put at risk the spatial patterns of development that we have pursued up to now. I am convinced that there is much scope for the enterprise sector to adjust, and that the time for action is now. Investigation of alternative sources of energy, together with serious efforts at energy conservation, will help to reduce the vulnerability and to give Ireland a competitive edge in energy-related industries and innovation. The Government will be very supportive of such action: my colleague the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources is preparing a long-term strategy statement, a Green Paper that will be published shortly. I understand that the Forfás report has been taken fully account in the preparation of the Green Paper, and I think that we will have policies in place that reflect the significance of the issue for the enterprise sector and the need for a major shift towards more sustainable energy policies to ensure our competitiveness for the future.

Job Losses.

Billy Timmins

Question:

117 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he will take to counteract the dramatic rise in redundancies, now averaging 523 per month; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17882/06]

In the past five years the numbers in employment increased by 268,000 or by 15.6%. Employment increased by 87,000 or by 4.7% last year alone. This is the highest annual rate of growth since 2000. Over 7,000 new jobs are created every month on average. This is way in excess of the average rate of redundancies. This means that those who lose their jobs through redundancy are finding new employment. In effect we have full employment and have reached a stage where new job opportunities often have to be filled by the important skills brought by immigrants. Competitive economies display long term growth in national income, sustainable increases in employment and distinctive progress in living standards for all citizens. Ireland is such an economy. It is also one of the most open economies in the world where growth in employment and national income depend on being able to trade competitively against the most sophisticated economies in the world. This we are doing successfully.

County Enterprise Boards.

Paul McGrath

Question:

118 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the role his Department will take in working against so-called ghost communities where there is a paucity of local employment, as warned against by Chambers Ireland in their submission on the National Development Plan 2007-2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17880/06]

County and City Development Boards have been established in each county to improve co-ordination and delivery of public services at local level and all 34 CDB Strategy Statements have been published. It is in such a forum that issues like long-term commuting or poorly paid local employment experienced by so called "ghost communities" or "ghost economies" would normally be addressed. In so far as my Department and its enterprise development and training agencies are concerned they are actively participating on these Boards to address local development issues with their particular focus on active labour market measures, investment promotion, fostering entrepreneurship, company start-ups and expansions. The agencies also work closely with a wide range of other local organisations such as third level educational institutes, private sector developers and utility providers etc. to achieve their goals.

The pursuit of the national goal of balanced and sustainable regional development is also an important goal for my Department and its development agencies, which are operationally independent. The National Spatial Strategy provides a framework for this goal wherein the focus is on the Gateway and Hub locations throughout the State. However smaller locations can sometimes also be appealing to potential investors who may wish to locate some functions away from the main centres of population and the development agencies, in particular IDA Ireland, will encourage and facilitate such investments at every opportunity. Local bodies in smaller communities can help in making their areas more attractive for investment. In supporting the marketing of individual areas, regardless of size, I believe it is important to think big and sell the positives rather than highlighting negatives such as "black spots" and "ghost communities". Ultimately the decision regarding where to locate investments and job is a matter for individual investors.

IDA Ireland's experience of dealing with overseas investors is that companies will often only consider larger centres that have the scale, infrastructure and services capable of sustaining their investment. The agency is optimistic in regard to job creation from new and expansion projects in 2006. Such projects not only bring high wage jobs but also have knock-on benefits in other sectors such as supply, distribution and transport, thus creating further investment/employment opportunities for local people in the immediate vicinity and surrounding areas. Similar knock-on benefits would arise in the case of indigenous companies supported by Enterprise Ireland. The main vehicle for supporting local enterprise is the network of thirty-five County and City Enterprise Boards that were established nationally in October 1993. Their primary role is the promotion and development of micro-enterprise and entrepreneurship at a local County level. In this regard, therefore, project promoters within any County may seek assistance from their local CEB and, subject to certain qualifying criteria, may receive either financial or non-financial assistance in the form of business training, mentoring etc. The focus of the CEBs is increasingly on the development of sustainable growth-orientated local enterprise which will deliver high quality job creation, without displacement or deadweight, and which may, in time, have sufficient mass to access and avail of the services of Enterprise Ireland.

Enterprise Ireland provides support towards the development of Community Enterprise Centres throughout the country through its CEC scheme. Community Enterprise Centres support entrepreneurs and start up businesses by providing much needed workspace for local micro enterprises, which facilitates the development of employment opportunities at local level. I believe the strategies and policies being pursued by the Department and its Agencies are and will continue benefit to local economic development, both directly and indirectly.

Economic Competitiveness.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

119 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his view on the decision of the Competition Authority to interpret the Competition Act 2002 as prohibiting self-employed persons from having a trade union negotiate employment terms and conditions for them. [18226/06]

As I have previously explained in this House, one of the aims of the Competition Act 2002 is to prohibit anti-competitive practices by "undertakings". An "undertaking" is defined in the Act as "a person being an individual, a body corporate or an unincorporated body of persons engaged for gain in the production, supply, or distribution of goods or the provision of a service". This definition has been in use in Irish competition law for some time and is supported by EU case law. While the Competition Authority accepts that it is perfectly legal for a trade union to represent employees in collective bargaining with their respective employers, it determined in this case, that the actors in question were self-employed contractors and not employees. The view expressed by the Authority in its investigation, however, was in respect of the case in question only and the parties to the investigation did not appear to take issue with the Authority's view since they entered into undertakings in settlement of the case, thereby avoiding the necessity of going to Court. I understand, however, that the Competition Authority has recently met with representatives of ICTU and Irish Actors' Equity SIPTU in relation to this issue and that the Authority has invited Equity and/or ICTU to make a written submission in the matter.

Employment Support Services.

John Deasy

Question:

120 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views of the assessment by Forfás (details supplied); his plans to improve funding in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17879/06]

The Deputy is referring to a report entitled Data Analysis of In-Employment Education and Training in Ireland that was published by Forfás in 2005. At the time this report was in preparation, the latest full year for which the full range of data was available was 2003. At that time this Department was contributing less than €14m in direct training grants to activities classified in this report as Continuing Vocational Education and Training. These funds were invested by FÁS and Skillnets Limited to upskill those in work. Since then, the Deputy will be pleased to learn that my Department's allocations to this activity have benefited from a nearly four-fold increase to over €52 million in 2006. The 2006 allocations are being invested by FÁS in its expanded Competency Development Programme (€35.6m), by Skillnets Limited in the Training Networks Programme (€8.5m) and by Enterprise Ireland and a subsidiary of Skillnets (€2m and €6m approximately) both of whom are managing in-company training programmes on behalf of my Department.

Flexible Work Practices.

David Stanton

Question:

121 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the Central Statistics Office figures that some 80 per cent of the workforce are being denied flexible work arrangements; the action he will take to address same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18187/06]

The CSO Quarterly National Household Survey module dealing with Work Organisation and Working Time for the second Quarter of 2004 found that 68.6% of employees had a fixed start and finish time to their working day with 16.5% having the ability to vary their start or finish times. The CSO report does not deal with the reasons behind the percentage of workers not availing of flexible work arrangements and does not contend that all are actually denied this facility. The issue of introducing flexible work arrangements in the workplace is a matter for negotiation between employees or a trade union acting on their behalf and employers. I have no plans to introduce flexible working hours on a statutory basis for all employees.

Science and Technology.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

122 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made to date in appointing a new chief science adviser to the Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18225/06]

I will shortly be concluding my consideration of this matter in consultation with my Cabinet colleagues, and I envisage that a public competition for the position of Chief Scientific Adviser will be initiated in the next number of weeks.

Question No. 123 answered with QuestionNo. 87.

Departmental Staff.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

124 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of labour inspectors currently employed by or on behalf of his Department; the number of cases investigated by these inspectors in each year from 2002 to present; the average time from a case file being opened to a satisfactory resolution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18200/06]

Since November 2005 the number of Labour Inspectors assigned and serving has been increased to thirty-one officers.

The numbers of workplace inspections/visits undertaken by the Labour Inspectorate in respect of the years 2002 to 2005 and to date in 2006 are set out in the tabular statement below.

The average time from a case file being opened to a satisfactory resolution during the period 2002 to 2006 is not available. On foot of the Deputy's question an officer undertook a survey of all cases since January, 2004. Arising from this survey, the average duration of cases opened since January 2004 was approximately two and a half months. It should be noted that the duration of case files varies widely in that some cases reach a satisfactory outcome within a few days and the more complex cases may require several visits and possible prosecution in Court, which can extend for several months.

Year

Inspections/Visits

2002

8,323

2003

7,168

2004

5,160

2005

5,719

2006

5,799 (to date)

Departmental Programmes.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

125 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the sums of money that have been deployed within his Department for the employment and human resources development operational programme as set out in the National Development Plan 2000-2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18209/06]

The NDP's Employment and Human Resources Development Operational Programme (EHRDOP) is a €15 billion plan that addresses Ireland's labour market and human capital development needs for the period 2000-2006. The budget comprises €892 million of assistance from the European Social Fund (ESF).

The EHRDOP comprises 52 measures which are implemented by a variety of Government departments and agencies. The programme is managed centrally by the EHRDOP Managing Authority which forms part of the ESF Policy and Operations Unit of my Department. Among the activities supported by the programme are:

•The National Employment Service

•Training for the unemployed and redundant workers and specific marginalised groups

•Initiatives to combat early school leaving and Back to Education Initiatives for early school leavers and Travellers

•The National Adult Literacy Strategy

•Access to Third Level Education for students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds,

•Training for those in employment to enhance the productivity and competitiveness of Irish companies

To the end of 2005, according to the latest figures available, the programme has accounted for expenditure of almost €12 billion and remains on target for reaching its financial targets by the end of the programming period.

Within the remit of my Department, programme-related expenditure occurs through FÁS, Enterprise Ireland, the Employment and Training Strategy Unit of the Department and, of course, the ESF Policy and Operations Unit. The total sum expended by these agencies in particular is just over €4.98 billion.

EU Directives.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

126 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of EU directives for which he has responsibility that remain to be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17893/06]

Joe Costello

Question:

132 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number, in respect of EU directives for which his Department has responsibility, remaining to be implemented; the directives that are overdue; the number of warnings received from the EU Commission since 1997 regarding delays or non-implementation of such directives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18221/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 126 and 132 together.

There are currently a total of twenty-nine Directives due to be transposed by this Department. Of these, as at end April 2006, 13 are overdue for transposition and are detailed in the table below.

From May 2006 to December 2006 another six Directives require to be transposed. A further ten Directives require to be transposed in 2007 and subsequent years.

It is expected that of the Directives currently overdue four will be transposed by the end of May 2006. Another Directive, (2002/14/EC), that is also currently overdue has been implemented in law but is awaiting a Commencement Order to complete formal transposition.

It is not possible to provide definitive information on proceedings relating to the delay or non-implementation of Directives prior to 2001. However, since 2001, my Department has received 26 notifications (additional to the six extant notifications in the table above) from the Commission in respect of the non-transposition of EU Directives. All of the Directives covered by the previous 26 notifications have now been transposed.

My Department continues to accord a high priority to the transposition of Directives and makes every effort to transpose Directives in time to meet the deadline given for transposition.

Overdue Directives as at end April 2006.

Description of Directive

Deadline for Transposition

Current position

Directive 2001/45/EC. . . amending Council Directive 89/655/EEC concerning the minimum safety and health requirements for the use of work equipment by workers at work

19/7/2004

Drafting of Regulations almost complete. Draft is with Parliamentary Counsel. Expected date of transposition: End-June 2006. Reasoned Opinion issued by the Commission.

Council Directive 2001/86/EC supplementing the Statute for a European company with regard to the involvement of employees

8/10/2004

Draft Regulations are being finalised and it is intended to send them to Office of the Parliamentary Counsel shortly. Expected date of transposition: 31 July 2006. Reasoned Opinion issued by the Commission.

Directive 2002/14/EC establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community

23/3/2005

The Employees (Provision of Information and Consultation) Bill 2005 was signed by President on 9th April 2006. Expected date of transposition: Awaiting commencement Order. Reasoned Opinion issued by the Commission.

Commission Directive 2004/111/EC of 9 December 2004 adapting for the fifth time to technical progress Council Directive 94/55/EC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States with regard to the transport of dangerous goods by road

1/7/2005

Commission Directives 2004/111/EC and 2004/112/EC are linked. The Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road Act 1998 was intended as a basis for implementing both of these Directives. Deficiencies in the 1998 Act have brought into question the legality of using this as a means of transposition of these two Directives. New draft Regulations were forwarded to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel on 28 March 2006. The expected date of transposition: End May 2006.

Directive 2002/44/EC of 25 June 2002 on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (vibrations)

6/7/2005

Drafting of Regulations almost complete. Expected date of transposition: End June 2006. Letter of Formal Notice issued by the Commission.

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

14/12/2005

Commission Directives 2004/111/EC and 2004/112/EC are linked. The Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road Act 1998 was intended as a basis for implementing both of these Directives. Deficiencies in the 1998 Act have brought into question the legality of using this as a means of transposition of these two Directives. New draft Regulations were forwarded to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel on 28 March 2006. Expected date of transposition: End May 2006. Letter of Formal Notice issued by Commission

Regulation 2006/2004 EC of 27 October 2004 on cooperation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws

29/12/2005

Final draft of SI has been cleared by the OPC. Expected date of transposition: End May 2006.

Directive 2005/88/EC . . . of 14 December 2005 amending Directive 2000/14/EC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the noise emission in the environment by equipment for use outdoors.

31/12/2005

Office of Parliamentary Counsel received draft Regulations on 27 February 2006. Regulations signed on 3rd May 2006.

Directive 2001/84/EC. . . of 27 September 2001 on the resale right for the benefit of the author of an original work of art (deadline 1/1/2006) This Directive is linked to 2004/48/EC below (infringement of IP rights).

1/1/2006

Government approval to draft Bill was obtained in July 2005 and drafting by the Parliamentary Counsel is progressing steadily. It is hoped that the Bill will reach all stages in the Houses before the end of 2006. Letter of Formal Notice issued by the Commission.

Directive 2003/10/EC . . . to lay down requirements on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (noise)

15/2/2006

Health & Safety Authority preparing Regulations. Expected date of transposition: End-June 2006

Directive 2003/18 EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work.

15/4/2006

Following public consultation draft Regulations will be finalised for submission to the Department by the Health and Safety Authority by mid-June 2006. Expected date of transposition: End July 2006.

Directive 2004/48 EC on the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Linked to Directive 2001/84/EC above.

26/4/2006

Parliamentary Counsel commenced drafting of the Bill to give effect to the Directive. (See 2001/84/EC above.)

Directive 2004/22 EC . . . of 31 March 2004 on measuring instruments

30/4/2006

Draft implementing Regulations have been prepared. It is anticipated that the Directive will be transposed by operational date of October 2006. Expected date of transposition: October 2006

Industrial Development.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

127 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of companies who made grant refunds in respect of Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland; the reason those refunds were made; the number of jobs involved; the names of the companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18216/06]

The provision of grant assistance for individual companies, and the related matter of companies refunding grants where appropriate, is a matter for Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland themselves, and not one in which I have a direct function.

I have made enquiries with IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland regarding their latest available figures in respect of grant refunds.

IDA Ireland report that in 2004 a total of 31 companies made grant refunds to the agency, as a result of company closures or due to a reduction in employment in those companies. The number of jobs involved totalled 3440. In 2005 a total of 36 companies made grant refunds as a result of company closures or due to a reduction in employment in those companies. In respect of 2005 the number of jobs involved totalled 2061.

Enterprise Ireland report that in 2004 a total of 23 companies made grant refunds to the agency, and in 2005 a total of 12 companies made refunds. Grant refunds were made to Enterprise Ireland as a result of company closures, or non-compliance with grant conditions or agreements. Enterprise Ireland estimate the reduction in employment associated with closures giving rise to the repayment of grants made over 2004 and 2005 at 1,130.

IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland have not released the names of companies who refunded moneys on the basis that this information is commercially sensitive and may impact negatively on companies who continue to trade in Ireland or overseas.

Decentralisation Programme.

Jack Wall

Question:

128 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has had discussions with the director general and board of FÁS to ascertain if the proposed decentralisation will be cancelled in view of the opposition voiced by staff through their trade union to its implementation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18189/06]

Under the Government's decentralisation programme, FÁS is due to move its head office to Birr, County Offaly. FÁS is one of the seven State agencies identified as early movers by the decentralisation implementation group from among the 30 agencies covered by the programme. A "relocation clause" included in recruitment and promotion contracts has given rise to industrial action by SIPTU. The dispute was the subject of a Labour Court recommendation.

In advance of the industrial action discussions between both parties were held on two occasions under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission to see whether progress could be made. Following lengthy talks at which both sides put forward proposals, it was unfortunately not possible to find a resolution and the industrial action went ahead on a phased basis. Differences remain between the parties and, naturally, I strongly support using all the established consultation mechanisms and I hope that further discussions will lead to a resolution of the issue.

I have discussed progress regarding the decentralisation of FÁS with its Chairman and Director General in recent months.

Grocery Industry.

Tom Hayes

Question:

129 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his Department has conducted or plans to conduct research into the effects of the abolition of the Groceries Order on prices; if he has the results of that research; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17878/06]

In view of concerns expressed by some contributors to the public consultation process on the Groceries Order last year, I asked the Competition Authority to monitor the sector following the repeal of the Order. The Authority is currently putting in place a monitoring mechanism to track data and trends over the coming months and years and it will keep my Department informed of developments.

EU Directives.

Joan Burton

Question:

130 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps his Department will take in view of the consensus between the European Commission, Council and Parliament on the Services Directive in order to ensure that the provisions of the draft directive are transposed into law here with the minimum delay; the timetable for the enactment of such legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18192/06]

The European Commission's amended proposal was published on 4th April following the European Parliament's first vote on the proposal on the 16th February 2006. The amended proposal is currently being examined in the Council Working Group and COREPER. The Austrian Presidency hopes to have political agreement on the proposal for the Competitiveness Council on 29th and 30th May 2006, although it remains to be seen if this ambitious target can be met.

If and when the draft Services Directive is adopted it is the intention that it will be transposed into Irish law within the time-frame that will be specified within the Directive, which is expected to be in the order of two years from adoption.

Labour Inspectorate.

Mary Upton

Question:

131 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of inspections carried out by the labour inspectorate; the number of prosecutions initiated by the inspectorate in respect of the years 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006; if there are plans to increase this number during the remainder of 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18220/06]

The number of workplace inspections/visits undertaken by the Labour Inspectorate (during and after normal business hours) and prosecutions initiated in respect of the years 2002 to 2005 and to date in 2006 are set out in the tabular statement below.

The primary function of the Labour Inspectorate is to seek compliance and rectification of any breaches identified, including payment of any arrears due to employees. Inspectors pursue allegations of worker mistreatment and seek redress for the individual/s concerned and, if appropriate, a prosecution is initiated. Successful prosecution can be dependent on adequate support from witnesses.

Since November 2005 the number of Labour Inspectors assigned and serving has been increased to thirty-one Officers. As part of the programme of work implemented to train the new Inspectors their schedule included a focus on National Minimum Wage compliance, which commenced in February 2006. In addition to the new Inspectors a number of experienced Officers are participating in this exercise in order to provide support and guidance as well as undertaking inspections themselves. It is expected that the additional resources and the focused campaign will substantially increase the number of inspections/visits carried out in 2006.

Year

Inspections/Visits

Prosecutions Initiated

2002

8,323

25

2003

7,168

20

2004

5,160

14

2005

5,719

25

2006

5,799 (to date)

7 (to date)

Question No. 132 answered with QuestionNo. 126.

Personal Injuries Assessment Board.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

133 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of cases currently before the Personal Injuries Assessment Board; the number of cases for which rulings have been given since its inception; the number of these cases that have been referred to the Courts for further action or appeal; the number of staff currently employed by the PIAB; the intended number of staff to be employed by the PIAB; the date by which he expects the PIAB to be fully staffed; the date on which a review will be undertaken on staffing levels in the PIAB; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18199/06]

In all, 19,625 cases have been received by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board to date as follows. There are currently 4,886 cases with the PIAB in the 90-day "consent to process" period i.e. PIAB has received a claim and has issued formal notice to the responding party, and is awaiting consent to process from that party. There are a further 4,293 cases in the 9-month statutory assessment process, where the responding party has indicated that liability is not contested and damages are being assessed. The PIAB has made awards in 2,063 cases to date. Authorisations (the Board does not refer cases to the Courts, it issues authorisations to proceed to Court in certain cases after which any decision to proceed to litigation is a matter for the claimant) have been issued in a further 8,383 cases. Some of these will have been resolved since PIAB involvement and others will proceed to the Courts. The PIAB would not be aware of the number of these cases which actually proceed to litigation, although it is believed that a significant proportion are settled outside of the Courts once an authorisation issues from the PIAB.

The Board currently employs 53 staff members. The staffing requirements of the Board will be dependent on the volume of cases coming before the Board. Staffing levels in the PIAB will be kept under continuous review by my Department.

Industrial Relations.

Simon Coveney

Question:

134 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of times the Employments Rights Group, announced on 24 May 2005 has met; the discussions which took place; the action that has arisen as a result of those meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17891/06]

In response to the recommendations of the Employment Rights Review Group and following a process of extensive consultations with interested parties, a programme of action was agreed by Government to facilitate the simplification of procedures and provide greater ease of access for all users of the services of the employment rights bodies.

Following the Government decision, an Employment Rights Group comprising representatives of a small number of Government Departments, the Social Partners and the Employment Rights Bodies was established to consider the operational implications of implementing the terms of the Government decision.

The Employment Rights Group has already met on four occasions. A proposed meeting in April 2006 was deferred due to the demands made on some members of the group by the Social Partnership talks.

To date, discussions have taken place in the ERG on such matters as the new operating mandates of the ER bodies, the likely caseloads to be handled by the different bodies under new arrangements, including personnel resources, together with simplifying and streamlining procedures and improving the level of customer service in the bodies. In addition, the ERG is to examine the body of employment rights legislation with a view to harmonising redress procedures and consolidating the large corpus of legislation now in existence. Working Groups have been active in the individual bodies, examining procedures and documentation and considering issues arising in relation to the better delivery of service.

A number of issues emerging from the current Social Partnership talks overlap with the intended work programme of the ERG, with particular reference to compliance with employment rights legislation.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Mary Upton

Question:

135 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of deaths and injuries arising from workplace accidents generally and specifically in regard to the construction industry for 2005; the way in which these figures compare with 2004 and 2003; the figures to date in 2006; the additional steps he intends to take to reduce such accidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18190/06]

The Health and Safety Authority published its Annual Report for 2005 and its Summary of Fatality, Injury and Illness Statistics 2004-2005 on Tuesday May 9th. Much of the details that the Deputy seeks can be found in the latter report which contains detailed breakdowns on Injuries, Illness and Fatalities of workers across economic sectors.

Overall, there were 68 workplace deaths in 2003, 50 in 2004, 73 in 2005 and 13 so far in 2006. In the Construction Industry specifically, there were 20 deaths in 2003, 16 in 2004, 23 in 2005 and one so far in 2006.

In terms of injuries from work place accidents, data from the Central Statistics Office, Quarterly National Household Survey, shows overall levels of 21,900 injuries in 2003 and 21,840 in 2004, the last year for which data is available. The injury levels in construction were 5,300 in 2003 and 5,820 in 2004.

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, which I brought into operation on 1 September 2005, updates, repeals and replaces the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 and provides a modern legal framework to guarantee best international practice in regard to health and safety in Irish workplaces.

There are over 200,000 workplaces in Ireland and in order to make best use of its resources, the Health & Safety Authority is once again in its Programme of Work for 2006 prioritising a number of sectors for attention. These include the high-risk sectors of agriculture, construction, and mines and quarries, as well as the health services, local authorities and process industries. Key actions in these sectors will include—

•a major national road show which will visit a minimum of 5,000 construction workers;

•the development of a farm "safety village" at the World Ploughing Championships and;

•the publication of codes of practice tailored to those employing three or less in the agriculture, quarrying, and construction sectors.

In relation to the Construction Sector specifically, the Authority plans to—

•carry out a focused programme of 7,500 construction site inspections covering appointment of duty-holders and assignment of responsibilities, safety and health plans and safety statements, work at heights, reversing vehicle safety, welfare and training arrangements;

•develop and implement a major promotional campaign;

•hold industry information briefings on the Construction Regulations targeting managers and designers and including vibration, noise, work at height, underground services, roof work, and the lifting equipment regulations;

•research the issues involved in the employment of non-English speaking workers; and,

•prepare guidance on construction-specific aspects of work at a height and progress draft codes of practice on pre-cast construction, concrete anchors, and client best practice.

Question No. 136 answered with QuestionNo. 93.

Martin Ferris

Question:

137 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to the revelation in his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 439 of 25 April 2006 that only 76% of workplaces inspected in 2005 had safety statements available, the breakdown of the actions which were taken against the 24% of employers who in 2005 were found not to have safety statements available including the number and percentage of employers against whom prosecutions where initiated and penalties imposed. [18336/06]

Under Section 20 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2006 every employer is required to prepare a written safety statement, identifying hazards and assessing the specific risks at that place of work, outlining protective and preventive measures taken and emergency plans.

Enforcement action was taken by the Health & Safety Authority in 42% of inspections carried out in 2005. This action comprised inspectors serving 493 Prohibition Notices, 458 Improvement Notices, 10 Improvement Directions and 4,770 written advice letters. These covered all types of breaches under the 2005 Act and other occupational safety and health Regulations.

In addition, 40 prosecution cases were taken in 2005 which resulted in fines totalling €463,338 being imposed by the Courts. 22 of these cases were taken under summary proceedings and the remaining 18 were on indictment. 85% of the cases resulted in convictions, while the Probation Act was applied in one case.

Company Law.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

138 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the recent liquidation of a construction firm (details supplied) who transferred its contracts of employment and commercial contracts to a sister company notwithstanding the fact that substantial sums of money were owed to the Revenue Commissioners, the Construction Industry Pension Fund and the employees; if he has satisfied himself that the provisions of company law were properly upheld; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18205/06]

The main company law provisions in Ireland dealing with companies which fail and whose owners re-engage in trading under a new name are addressed under the Companies Acts 1963 to 2005 and in particular under the provisions of the Company Law Enforcement Act 2001.

Under the provisions of section 56 of the Company Law Enforcement Act 2001, liquidators of insolvent companies are required to submit a report to the Director of Corporate Enforcement within 6 months of their appointment. The liquidator of this company was appointed at a creditors' meeting on the 16th March 2006. Therefore the liquidator has, in this instance, until the 16th September 2006 to submit this report. The liquidator's report should outline the circumstances of the insolvency and address whether the directors acted honestly and responsibly in relation to the conduct of the company's affairs. The liquidator would normally address the type of allegations made by the Deputy. Liquidators are further obliged to bring High Court proceedings for the restriction of such directors unless relieved of that obligation by the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

In accordance with section 299 of the Companies Act, 1963, as amended, if it appears to a liquidator that any past officer or any member of the company has been guilty of any offence in relation to the company for which he is criminally liable, the liquidator is obliged to report the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions and to refer the matter to the Director of Corporate Enforcement. The Director of Corporate Enforcement has the power to bring any other prosecution for breaches of the Companies Acts as deemed appropriate in any individual case.

With regard to sums of money owed to the Revenue Commissioners, I have been informed that a revenue official attended the creditors meeting of PSK Construction Ltd. on 16th March at which the Liquidator for the company was appointed. A committee of inspection was formed and an official from the Revenue Commissioners was appointed to the committee to monitor progress with regard to the liquidation.

With regard to sums of money owed to the employees of this company, a number of claims for unpaid entitlements have been certified by the liquidator and submitted to the Insolvency Payments Section of my Department, where they are currently being considered under the Insolvency Payments Scheme. The Scheme provides protection for employees' entitlements, such as arrears of wages, holiday pay, pay in lieu of notice and certain unpaid pension scheme contributions, where they lose their jobs due to the insolvency and liquidation of their employer. Claims for entitlements are made through and certified by the liquidator, and payments are made from the Social Insurance Fund. Employees' claims against the assets of the employer in relation to entitlements paid under the Scheme are transferred to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, who is then included in the distribution of assets by the liquidator on the winding up of a company.

With regard to sums of money owed to the Construction Federation — Operatives Pension Scheme, this organisation has been in contact with the liquidator appointed to the construction firm and is awaiting a report from the liquidator in this regard.

Unemployment Levels.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

139 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he intends to take to deal with the high level of unemployment in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17881/06]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

200 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the Donegal inter-Departmental group is still operating; the number of meetings it has held; the recommendations that have been put forward by the group; if a report will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18690/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 139 and 200 together.

The Deputies will be aware that there have been significant employment developments for Donegal recently. In March 2006, I announced the establishment of a new Enterprise Managed Service Centre by AssetCo in Buncrana. The project involves an investment of €5.2 million and will lead to the to the creation of 130 new jobs. Also, in March 2006, I announced that Abbott, one of the world's largest healthcare companies, is to make a further high value healthcare investment in Ireland of €36 million, to establish a manufacturing facility in Donegal town which will create at least 155 high quality jobs with over 45% requiring a third level qualification. You will also be aware that I announced 210 new jobs last September being created by Zeus Industrial Products, Letterkenny and PowerBoard, Burnfoot. These projects are being supported by the Industrial Development Agency and Enterprise Ireland.

I can assure you that the State development agencies under my auspices, IDA, EI, FÁS and Donegal County Enterprise Board, are fully committed to supporting and promoting job creation and job retention in Donegal. In addition to recent job announcements, this commitment is also evidenced by ongoing development and support by the Agencies for a number of business parks and enterprise centres in Donegal. These include the completion of the IDA Letterkenny Business Park, the provision of a 25,000 square foot advance office building at Windyhall, the completion of site development work at Ballyshannon for a new facility and also a development at Buncrana, where IDA is working with a local developer to provide new manufacturing and office buildings. In addition to providing support for nine Community Enterprise Centres in Donegal, Enterprise Ireland has also provided substantial support for the expansion of the Letterkenny Institute of Technology ‘Business Development Centre' and the development of a ‘Marine Biotechnology Centre'.

The development agencies will continue to work together to promote Donegal in order to attract investment and to foster job creation there. However, I also recognize that there have been significant job losses in Donegal in recent years. This Government recognizes the particular difficulties in Donegal and is working to assist in improving the overall environment to increase the attractiveness of Donegal as a location for enterprises. In that context, I established the Inter-Departmental Group on Donegal, which is chaired by the Secretary General of my Department. The Group has met on four occasions, the last meeting being held yesterday, 16 May. I intend to announce the findings of the Group in the very near future, having consulted my Cabinet colleagues.

Finally, I can assure the Deputies that support for job creation in Donegal will continue to be a priority for the State development agencies under the auspices of my Department.

Departmental Agencies.

John Perry

Question:

140 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the activities of the national Consumer Agency; his views on whether this activity constitutes good value for taxpayers’ money; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17877/06]

The establishment of a National Consumer Agency, which was the principal recommendation of the Consumer Strategy Group, was fully accepted by the Government. In this regard, I hope to publish the legislation establishing the new Agency later this year and to have the NCA up and running early in 2007.

The Deputy will be aware that I appointed a Board to the NCA in June 2005 to act in an interim capacity until the new Agency is established on a statutory basis. Since its appointment, the Interim Board has been very active in advocating the consumer's cause and raising the awareness of consumer rights. The Interim Board has been allocated funding to allow it to continue and intensify its activities throughout the course of 2006. In addition to being a forceful advocate on behalf of the consumer, the Interim Board as part of its terms of reference will have a key role in preparing the way for the fully operational Agency itself.

One of the Interim Board initial activities following its appointment was to articulate the consumer's case in the recent debate on the Groceries Order. Indeed that debate highlighted the importance of ensuring that the consumer's interests along with the interests of other parties are fully considered in issues of important public policy.

In addition, the Interim Board of the NCA has, since its appointment, been active in raising awareness of consumer rights and in particular its public campaign launched in the Christmas/New Year period focussing on the rights of consumers when purchasing products. This campaign involved a high profile series of both radio and television adverts and the publication of a National Shoppers' Rights Card which has been distributed to over 2 million consumers.

The Interim Board also established a consumer helpline which has received well in excess of 9,000 calls to date. The Interim Board has also initiated work on the development of its dedicated consumer website and it is anticipated that this will be fully operational in the third quarter of this year.

I am fully satisfied that the Interim Board is playing a very important role in bringing the consumer's interests to the fore and that its activities in focussing on raising awareness of consumer rights and the consumer agenda do represent value for money.

I am confident that the Interim Board in conjunction with other agencies such as the office of the Director of Consumer Affairs, the Competition Authority and indeed the National Consumer Agency itself, once formally established, will help to create a new environment of consumer awareness, access, protection and influence that will enhance the quality of life for Irish consumers.

Departmental Bodies.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

141 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason the announcement of the composition of the new Labour Relations Commission was delayed until eight days after the Commission came into office; the relevant experience and skills of each of the Ministerial nominees on the panel; the remuneration or allowances made to each member of the outgoing panel for each year of its term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18195/06]

The announcement of the appointment of the new Board of the Labour Relations Commission was made by me on 9th April last in advance of the first meeting of the new Board which took place the following day. The new Board took up office on 1st April 2006 and has been appointed for a term of 3 years.

The two Ministerial appointments to the new Board were made on the basis of both individuals' background in, and experience of, industrial relations and human resource management at senior level.

This Department is responsible for the payment of Board Members' fees for the Labour Relations Commissions. Details of the annual fees payable to the outgoing Board Members for each year of its term were as follows:

Chairman:

€15, 236.86 per annum

Ordinary Member:

€10,157.90 per annum

Community Employment Schemes.

Willie Penrose

Question:

142 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of persons on community employment programmes on 1 January 2006 for each county; the number of voluntary or not for profit organisations that are utilising community employment programmes to promote the activities of their organisation or provide a service to their community. [18207/06]

The following tabular statement provides a county-by-county breakdown of the numbers of participants employed on Community Employment (CE) Schemes by approximately 1,270 CE Sponsor organisations on 1st January 2006.

County

1/1/2006

Carlow

328

Cavan

250

Clare

561

Cork

2,165

Donegal

1,115

Dublin

5,798

Galway

1,418

Kerry

932

Kildare

622

Kilkenny

404

Laois

331

Leitrim

109

Limerick

1,202

Longford

312

Louth

742

Mayo

784

Meath

414

Monaghan

366

Offaly

389

Roscommon

286

Sligo

398

Tipperary

1,095

Waterford

583

Westmeath

527

Wexford

817

Wicklow

702

Total

22,650

Question No. 143 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

Departmental Investigations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

144 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in regard to the investigation by the Labour Inspectorate into allegations of very serious irregularities in regard to the treatment of employees of a Turkish company (details supplied) which has been operating here; if all the workers have been given access to money held in accounts in a bank in Holland; if he has considered requesting the Gardaí to conduct an investigation into allegations that money had been diverted into accounts to which the workers previously had no access; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18219/06]

Allegations of non-compliance with labour legislation in respect of a major Construction Firm were raised in this House on 8 February, 2005 by Deputy Joe Higgins. Those allegations were that certain non-national construction workers were required to work excessive hours and that such workers were in receipt of pay of between €2.00 and €3.00 per-hour in contravention of the statutory minimums applicable.

The Labour Inspectorate undertook an investigation of these allegations. That investigation was completed within six weeks and required the exclusive attention of three Labour Inspectors under the direction of two senior members of staff. A report on the investigation was prepared and circulated to relevant parties, including the construction firm involved.

Subsequently, the Department was informed that the firm proposed seeking a Judicial Review with regard to the investigation and Inspector's Report. At an interlocutory hearing a judgment was given whereby the Department was restrained from publication of the Inspector's Report but permitted to forward the document to relevant prosecutorial bodies. On foot of this outcome a copy of the Inspector's Report was sent to the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the Revenue Commissioners, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Competition Authority, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and the Garda Commissioner.

The Inspector's Report was quashed in the judgement that followed the full High Court hearing of the case. That decision is being appealed to the Supreme Court. I am unable, accordingly, to elaborate any further on the content of the Inspector's Report or offer any observations on the actions that the prosecutorial bodies, mentioned above, may be considering.

Arising from my concern that all Turkish workers would have access to the money that had been transferred to their bank accounts in Finansbank in Amsterdam, the Minister and officials met with senior management from GAMA Turkey and GAMA Ireland, the legal advisors to GAMA Turkey, and a Human Resources consultant, retained by GAMA. At that meeting, I was assured by these senior managers, their Legal Advisor and the Human Resources consultant that all GAMA workers in Ireland, past and present, would have full access to the money that had been transferred to their bank accounts in Finansbank.

The Minister contacted the President of Finansbank and was assured that, provided the consent of the workers was forthcoming, his bank would co-operate in ensuring that officials would have sight of relevant bank records in his bank, so that they could be satisfied that all workers would have access to the money in their bank accounts. Officials from the Department travelled to Finansbank on 14 April, 2005.

Following these meetings and contacts which my officials had with SIPTU and the Deputy, I am satisfied that a substantial number of Turkish workers, who were in Ireland around last April, received value for the funds that had been transferred to their personal bank accounts in Finansbank.

The Department wrote to GAMA Turkey's legal advisors on 29 April, 2005 seeking certain details on each current and former GAMA employee, including the money transferred to Finansbank and the money transferred from Finansbank to their personal bank account in Isbank in Turkey. Despite reminders to GAMA Turkey's legal advisors, and engagement with a PR company engaged by GAMA, this information was not supplied at the time. Some weeks ago a substantial volume of data was presented by GAMA to the Department and was examined by my officials. The information supplied was not sufficient to enable me to assure the Deputy that all GAMA workers in Ireland, both past and present, have received value for the amounts that were transferred into their personal accounts in Finansbank.

The Department has advised GAMA by letter dated 4 April, 2006 that the material recently supplied does not enable the establishment of the factual position in relation to the workers about whom I am concerned. GAMA has been asked again to supply the missing information.

Question No. 145 answered with QuestionNo. 80.
Question No. 146 answered with QuestionNo. 74.

Commemorative Events.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

147 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach his plans to support commemorations in 2007 of the 150th anniversary of Argentine independence, in view of the long-standing ties between Argentina and Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18567/06]

The Admiral Brown Society has been awarded a grant of €10,000 from the Commemoration Initiatives Fund in my Department towards funding for a memorial park to commemorate Admiral Brown in 2007.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

148 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if funding will be made available for the creation of a memorial park to Admiral William Brown in County Mayo, in view of the 150th anniversary next year of the independence of Argentina, whose navy was founded by Admiral Brown; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18568/06]

The Admiral Brown Society has been awarded a grant of €10,000 from the Commemoration Initiatives Fund in my Department towards funding for a memorial park to commemorate Admiral Brown in 2007.

Vaccination Programme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

149 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that pneumococcal vaccination is introduced onto the childhood immunisation schedule without delay as pneumococcal meningitis is a very serious illness. [18943/06]

Joe Higgins

Question:

153 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will introduce vaccination against pneumococcal meningitis onto the childhood immunisation schedule. [18626/06]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

173 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if it is intended to include pneumococcal vaccination onto the childhood immunisation schedule; if so, when same will occur; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18736/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149, 153 and 173 together.

The inclusion of the pneumococcal vaccine in the Primary Childhood Immunisation Programme is being considered by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee as part of its review of the immunisation guidelines. No decision has yet been reached. My Department and the Health Service Executive will be guided by the expert advice from the NIAC in this regard.

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

150 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an audiologist is available to carry out hearing examinations on children in the south Wicklow area; if an appointment can be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18623/06]

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.

Billy Timmins

Question:

151 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of public audiologists available in Counties Wicklow and Carlow; the areas they cover; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18624/06]

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.

Billy Timmins

Question:

152 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to ensure that hearing examinations are carried out on newly born infants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18625/06]

My Department has recently received a copy of the Report of the Universal Neonatal Hearing Screening Working Group and is in discussion with the Health Service Executive in relation to its implementation.

Question No. 153 answered with QuestionNo. 149.

Insurance Industry.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

154 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the concerns of the Irish Haemophilia Society in regard to the nine year delay in implementation of an insurance scheme for persons infected with HIV or Hepatitis C through provision of contaminated blood or blood products; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18627/06]

Richard Bruton

Question:

171 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that commitments in relation to the introduction of an insurance scheme for persons infected with HIV or Hepatitis C have been long delayed; and if a timetable will be set for the necessary enactments to introduce such a scheme. [18734/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 154 and 171 together.

I wish to assure the Deputies that I am committed to ensuring that an insurance scheme for persons infected with Hepatitis C and HIV through the administration of blood and blood products within the State is established on a statutory basis as soon as possible. The legislation is included as a priority in the Government's Legislative Programme for the current session and it is my firm intention that the enabling legislation will be enacted before the summer recess.

The process of drafting the legislation, which is both complex and innovative, is almost complete. As soon as I receive the final agreed text from my legal advisors I will submit it to the Government for approval and will publish it as soon as Government approval is received.

Health Services.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

155 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 is being asked to pay for chiropody services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18628/06]

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.

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

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Liam Aylward

Question:

156 Mr. Aylward asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the serious shortage of speech and language therapists in the Waterford community services area; and if she will arrange to appoint additional therapists for this area to deal with the backlog of cases awaiting therapy. [18629/06]

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.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

157 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason there is such a backlog of applications not approved for the special housing aid for the elderly in the Health Service Executive western region; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there are many elderly people waiting almost two years for approval; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18630/06]

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 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.

Health Services.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

158 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the criteria for transportation of elderly sick people to hospital clinics by private buses and taxis; if the Health Service Executive western region has made a decision to curtail such transport to persons who have been getting it over the past number of years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18631/06]

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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

159 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be announced regarding the location for the proposed new children’s hospital in Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18632/06]

On 3rd February last, the Health Service Executive published a report which was prepared by McKinsey & Co., on the delivery of tertiary paediatric services in this country. This report was commissioned by the HSE following my request to it to arrange a review of those services.

The report recommends that best outcomes for children would be obtained by developing one national tertiary paediatric centre, which would also provide all secondary paediatric services for the greater Dublin area. The report also recommends that ideally the new facility should be located on the site of, or adjacent to, a major adult teaching hospital in order to achieve the maximum service benefit for children.

Arising from the report's recommendations, a joint HSE/Department of Health and Children Task Group was established to progress matters and to advise on the optimal location for the new facility.

In the course of the Group's deliberations a number of important issues arose that were not included in its original remit. In particular, the importance of co-location with a Maternity Unit has been identified as an issue of significance. In addition, a number of proposals have been received from the private sector in relation to the building of the new facility.

The Task Group's remit has, accordingly, been extended to allow the Group to examine the issues which have arisen, as a consequence of which the Group is now expected to report in or around the end of May.

Hospital Services.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

160 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the remarks of the Church of Ireland Archbishop (details supplied); her plans to meet the Archbishop to discuss the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18633/06]

I met with Archbishop Neill last January at his request to discuss the review of the delivery of tertiary paediatric services that was at that time being undertaken by McKinsey & Co., and we discussed his concerns in relation to the position of Tallaght Hospital vis-à-vis the outcome of the review.

The Health Service Executive published the McKinsey Report on 3rd February last. The report recommends that best outcomes for children would be obtained by developing one national tertiary paediatric centre, which would also provide all secondary paediatric services for the greater Dublin area. The report also recommends that ideally the new facility should be located on the site of, or adjacent to, a major adult teaching hospital in order to achieve the maximum service benefit for children.

Arising from the report's recommendations, a joint HSE/Department of Health and Children Task Group was established to progress matters and to advise on the optimal location for the new facility. As part of its work, the Group invited submissions from Tallaght Hospital and the other Academic Teaching Hospitals in Dublin in relation to the possible co-location of the proposed new hospital on their sites. Subsequently, the Group met with senior representatives of the hospitals and also visited the hospital campuses.

In the course of the Group's deliberations a number of important issues arose that were not included in its original remit. In particular, the importance of co-location with a Maternity Unit has been identified as an issue of significance. In addition, a number of proposals have been received from the private sector in relation to the building of the new facility.

The Task Group's remit has, accordingly, been extended to allow the Group to examine the issues which have arisen, as a consequence of which the Group is now expected to report in or around the end of May. My primary concern is to ensure that, in determining the optimum location for the new children's hospital, we arrive at a solution which is in the best interests of the children of this country.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John McGuinness

Question:

161 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in providing an urgent operation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if she will expedite the matter in view of the concerns expressed by their general practitioner and the fact that they deem the case urgent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18634/06]

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

Hospital Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

162 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of acute beds in hospitals (details supplied); the number of intensive care beds; and the number of day beds in each of the hospitals. [18635/06]

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.

Community Welfare Service.

Liz McManus

Question:

163 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her position in view of the concerns expressed by community welfare officers regarding their transfer to the Department of Social and Family Affairs. [18636/06]

I should explain at the outset that the Community Welfare Service of the Health Service Executive (HSE) administers the supplementary welfare scheme on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The decision to transfer the scheme, together with associated resources, to the Department of Social and Family Affairs presents an opportunity to bring about positive change for social welfare customers while advancing the Health Reform Programme.

By way of background, the Deputy will wish to know that the Commission on Financial Management and Control Systems in the Health Service (the Brennan Report) noted that, over the years, the health system had been assigned responsibility for a number of what might be regarded as non-core health activities. It recommended that the Government consider assigning non-core activities currently undertaken by agencies within the health service to other bodies.

An interdepartmental group was subsequently established to examine this issue. The Group's report (Core Functions of the Health Service Report) was submitted to, and accepted by, the Government recently. Among other recommendations, the Group considered that income support and maintenance schemes administered by the Health Service Executive, together with associated resources, should be transferred to the Department of Social and Family Affairs. I should also mention that this approach had been advocated previously in the Report of the Commission on Social Welfare in 1986 and in the Review of Supplementary Welfare Allowances by the Combat Poverty Agency in 1991.

An interdepartmental group has now commenced work to progress the implementation of the transfer. I am confident, along with my colleague the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, that this transfer process can be carried out without any negative effect on the standard of service currently provided by community welfare officers, or in the important role that they play in addressing issues of disadvantage in the community. There are of course administrative and industrial relations issues to be resolved as part of the implementation of the Government's decision and engaging with the relevant trades unions and other stake holders will be an essential part of the overall process. I understand that the HSE has been in touch with the health service unions in this regard.

Health Services.

Damien English

Question:

164 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of clients in each Health Service Executive area currently waiting for methadone treatment for each clinic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18637/06]

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.

Damien English

Question:

165 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of clients in each Health Service Executive area currently being treated at each methadone clinic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18638/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

166 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for a surgical procedure. [18639/06]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

167 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will assist in having a person enrolled at a special centre (details supplied) in County Cork as this person is on the priority list for placement. [18640/06]

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.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

168 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an appointment will be brought forward for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18717/06]

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

Care of the Elderly.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

169 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will examine the situation whereby there is no funding available to provide assistance to the elderly living at home (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18732/06]

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.

Home Care Supports.

Richard Bruton

Question:

170 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the funding she has made available in 2006 for the payment of home care packages to persons being cared for at home; if she has issued guidelines to health authorities in relation to the approval of home care packages to persons being cared for at home; if she envisages that such decisions be made by hospital consultants, or by persons based in the community care teams in relation to her guidelines; her views on whether to date these packages appear to be confined to persons being discharged from hospital rather than based on an assessment of need in the community; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18733/06]

The Tánaiste has allocated €30 million for the provision of Home Care Packages in 2006, and a further €25 million for the Scheme in 2007. At the beginning of 2006 there were approximately 1,100 Home Care Packages in place and the 2006 Budget allocation will provide an additional 2,000 extra Home Care Packages in 2006. It should also be noted that an additional €30 million has been allocated to the Home Help Service for 2006, which will provide an additional 1.75 million hours, and these additional hours will also benefit those living at home.

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

Question No. 171 answered with QuestionNo. 154.

Hospital Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

172 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will receive an appointment for hip replacement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18735/06]

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

Question No. 173 answered with QuestionNo. 149.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

174 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo is entitled to receive a motorised transport grant for an adapted vehicle with clamps for the wheelchair; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18737/06]

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.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

175 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Wexford will be called for an appointment to Waterford Regional Hospital. [18738/06]

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

176 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children awaiting speech and language assessment and therapy in County Kildare at the present time; the action she proposes to take to eliminate waiting lists and provide the services as required within a reasonable time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18826/06]

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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

177 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of instances in respect of which carer’s hours were reduced in the past 12 months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18827/06]

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.

Vehicle Registration Tax.

Seán Ryan

Question:

178 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the number, make and model of vehicles that have been afforded vehicle registration tax relief on environmental criteria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18610/06]

There are two environmental criteria on which a vehicle may receive vehicle registration tax relief — each at the rate of 50% — that it is (i) a series production hybrid electric vehicle or (ii) a series production flexible fuel vehicle. "Hybrid electric vehicle" means a vehicle that derives its motive power from an electric motor and an internal combustion engine and is capable of being driven on electric propulsion alone for a material part of its normal driving cycle. "Flexible fuel vehicle" means a vehicle that derives its motive power from an internal combustion engine that is capable of using a blend of ethanol and petrol, where such blend contains a minimum of 85 per cent ethanol.

I am informed by the Office of the Revenue Commissioners that the respective make, model and number of each of the series production hybrid electric vehicles that have availed of the relief up to end April 2006 — since the introduction of the relief in January 2001 — are as follows: Toyota Prius — 718; Lexus RX400H — 202; and Honda Civic — 2.

The flexible fuel vehicles relief was only announced in last December's Budget with the legislative provision underpinning the new relief being enacted in the recent Finance Act. So far, six Ford Focus vehicles have availed of the relief.

Decentralisation Programme.

Jack Wall

Question:

179 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the position in regard to the decentralisation of the Revenue section of his Department to Athy; the number of officials declaring an interest in the transfer; the break-down of the category of those interested; the number from within his Department in the declared number; the number in other Departments outside of Dublin declaring an interest; if a site has been identified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18611/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners, that the number of first preference applications on the Central Applications Facility for Athy is currently as follows:

Grade

Number of CAF applicants

Number of Revenue Applicants

Number of Applicants from other Departments

Principal

1

1

0

Assistant Principal

10

8

2

Higher Executive Officer

15

12

3

Executive Officer

42

39

3

Staff Officer

5

3

2

Clerical Officer

50

28

22

Total

123

91

32

Of the 91 first preference applications from Revenue 11 are from outside of Dublin, also 11 of the 32 first preference applications from other Departments are from outside of Dublin.

The Office of Public Works is currently assessing various options with a view to identifying a suitable site in Athy. Details of applications made for Athy from other Departments after the priority period are not yet available but will increase the numbers.

Jack Wall

Question:

180 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the number of officials seeking a transfer to the proposed decentralisation of the information technology sector of his Department to Kildare Town; the number of officials within the section seeking the transfer; the number outside the Department seeking a transfer; and the grades of the officials seeking the transfer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18612/06]

The Public Appointments Service has provided the following information in relation to first preference applications to decentralise to Kildare with my Department on the Central Applications Facility (CAF).

Grade

Number of CAF Applicants

Number of CAF Applicants from the Department of Finance

Number of CAF Applicants from Other Departments/ Offices

Principal Officer

2

2

0

Assistant Principal Officer

9

7

2

Administrative Officer/ Higher Executive Officer

8

3

5

Executive Officer

6

0

6

Staff Officer

1

1

0

Clerical Officer

10

0

10

Service Officer

2

1

1

Total

38

14

24

There are a further 15 first preference applications/expressions of interest from non-administrative civil servants and State Bodies bringing the total number of first preference applications for Kildare to 53.

Cross-Border Funding.

Marian Harkin

Question:

181 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Finance the projected and actual spend on INTERREG North South projects in the Border region for each year from 2000 to 2004. [18692/06]

The Operational Programme for the INTERREG IIIA Ireland-Northern Ireland was adopted by the European Commission in March 2002 and it was formally launched in November 2002. During 2003 there was some expenditure incurred in getting the Programme up running and payments were issued to projects during 2004. The total value of the Programme is €179m and spend can be incurred until 2008. Actual expenditure in 2004 was €44.5m and €32.1m in 2005. All projected expenditure targets have been met to date and I am satisfied that the Programme spend targets will continue to be met over the remaining period.

Tax Code.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

182 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the number of workers paying income tax in 2005 and in each of the previous 10 years. [18710/06]

It is assumed that what the Deputy requires are the numbers of income earners, both PAYE and self-employed, on the income tax record for the years in question who have a tax liability.

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

Numbers of income earners 1995/96 to 2005

(rounded to the nearest hundred)

Tax Year

Income earners with a tax liability

All income earners

1995/96

1,005,400

1,331,600

1996/97

1,043,800

1,390,000

1997/98

1,112,600

1,493,000

1998/99

1,187,000

1,584,900

1999/2000

1,208,500

1,667,200

2000/2001

1,262,600

1,765,000

2001*

1,262,000

1,790,000

2002

1,252,300

1,885,000

2003**

1,267,400

1,926,900

2004**

1,301,600

1,986,800

2005**

1,307,500

2,028,900

*Short tax "year" from 6th April 2001 to 31st December 2001.

**Provisional and likely to be revised.

The figures for the years 1995/1996 to 2002 inclusive are based on incomes data derived from income tax returns held on Revenue records and have been grossed-up to an overall expected level to adjust for incompleteness in the numbers of returns on record at the time the data were extracted for analytical purposes.

For the years 2003 to 2005, the figures are estimates from the Revenue tax forecasting model using actual data for the year 2002 adjusted as necessary for growth in incomes and employment for the years in question.

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.

Nursing Home Funding.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

183 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if compliance with the principles of the UN Charter for Older People and Ireland’s signature to this Charter is a key consideration for grant aiding nursing home facilities; if not the reason therefor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18711/06]

Capital expenditure incurred on the construction or refurbishment of registered nursing homes may be written off for tax purposes over 7 years at the rate of 15% p.a. over the first 6 years and 10% in year 7. A number of changes to this scheme were introduced in the 2006 Finance Act. The tax life of these buildings or structures that are first used or first used after refurbishment on or after 1 February 2007 is being extended to 15 years, as is the holding period for balancing allowance and balancing charge purposes. The write off period and annual rate of write-off remain unchanged.

To qualify for allowances the registered nursing home must be operated or managed as a registered nursing home within the meaning of section 2 of the Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990 and be registered under section 4 of that Act.

While the criteria for capital allowances for registered nursing homes does not refer to the UN Charter for Older People, the Deputy may wish to be aware that with regard to the issue of standards in Nursing Homes, the Department of Health & Children is currently undertaking a consultation process on legislative proposals to establish the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) incorporating the Office of the Chief Inspector of Social Services on a statutory basis.

The Office of the Chief Inspector of Social Services will be established as an Office within HIQA. It will continue the SSI's work in respect of child welfare and protection services. It will also be assigned responsibility for the inspection of residential services for persons with a disability and for residential services for older people, including private nursing homes.

I am also informed by the Minister for Health and Children that there are no grants available for the construction of nursing homes from her Department.

Traffic Management.

Tony Gregory

Question:

184 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works is intent on going ahead with traffic restrictions at Ashtown Gate and Cabra Gate, Blackhorse Avenue, Dublin 7; the restrictions and the timescale involved; the predicted traffic increases of the proposed restriction at peak times on Nephin Road, Baggot Road and Blackhorse Avenue; if Dublin City Council is opposed to the proposed restriction and if they require City Council co-operation before they can proceed; if the Minister who has responsibility for the Office of Public Works will meet with a delegation of local residents before directing the Office of Public Works on the issue of the traffic restrictions; if agreement has been arranged with concert promoters for a three year period for concerts in the Phoenix Park without consultation with the local community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18712/06]

I wish to confirm that the proposed one way traffic system for the Cabra and Ashtown gates has been deferred further pending the outcome of the independent traffic management study currently being undertaken which will also examine the impact of such a system on adjacent roads.

Extensive consultation has taken place with both Dublin City Council and Fingal County Council. A letter was received from Dublin City Council recently requesting deferral of the scheme until the current traffic management study has been completed.

I have already met with deputations of local representatives on this issue and I am fully familiar with the concerns and reservations of a number of local residents.

No firm decision has been made and no consultation has taken place or agreement reached with Promoters, on the question of major concerts in the Phoenix Park from 2007 onwards. The Commissioners would be happy to consider submissions from both local and other public interests, on the issue.

Fishing Industry Development.

Noel Grealish

Question:

185 Mr. Grealish asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the details of pilot projects identified by National Fisheries Management Executive to facilitate the exploitation of surplus salmon; if he will confirm that to permit the harvest of salmon even where stocks are abundant would run contrary to the objectives and spirit of the Government’s decision of 24 March 2006 to fully align with scientific advice and the precautionary principle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18573/06]

As the Deputy is aware, I announced on 24th March that I had decided to adopt the recommendations made to me by the National Salmon Commission (NSC) in relation to the total allowable salmon catch for 2006. This will involve reductions in the quota available to both commercial fishermen and anglers in 2006. In doing so I have also reaffirmed the Government's commitment to fully align with the scientific advice provided on the management of the wild salmon fishery by 2007.

I understand that the National Fisheries Managers Executive and the Marine Institute have agreed an expansion of the ongoing Genetic Stock Identification (GSI) project during the coming salmon fishing season, in order to determine the tendency of certain identified inshore fisheries to impact on multiple stocks. This is in line with the scientific advice provided by the NSC's Standing Scientific Committee that mixed stock fisheries pose particular threats to the status of individual stocks and that fisheries operated in estuaries and rivers are more likely to fulfil national requirements and international obligations. In this regard, as the Deputy will appreciate, it is important that decisions to close or to keep open individual inshore commercial fisheries on the basis of their propensity to capture multiple stocks, particularly stocks that are below conservation limits, would be made on the best available scientific information.

I am advised that recent advances in genetic analysis have enabled assignment of salmon caught at sea or inshore to their home rivers with a high degree of probability. It is proposed to collect scale samples from salmon taken in inshore commercial fisheries (drift net, draft nets and fixed bag nets) and to use these genetic techniques to assign salmon to their home rivers. This DNA profile information will be compared to genetic data contained in a river specific juvenile baseline database, currently being developed in two ongoing studies, the Atlantic Salmon Arc Project (ASAP) and the Marine Institute's GSI programme.

The Marine Institute is currently collecting genetic material from commercial fisheries operating at sea, particularly offshore, to determine the river composition of the salmon catches nationally and at district level. I am advised that the objective of the additional pilot work is to answer questions about stock composition at the sub-district level targeting specific inshore fisheries and in many cases individual licence holders in particular locations, thus determining the river composition of those identified inshore fisheries on a site-specific basis.

I understand that if the results of genetic analysis show that some estuarine drift net fisheries exploit individual salmon stocks or salmon stocks from a number of rivers in home estuaries, these nets could continue to operate provided the rivers entering those estuaries were above conservation limits.

It is also proposed to undertake a study on the survival of salmon caught and released by different methods of capture in a number of Irish rivers. This information would be very valuable in providing confidence in the practice of catch and release in Irish rivers. The study will also be important in promoting a proper code of practice for catch and release. Catch and release of salmon by anglers in Ireland will, I understand, become increasingly important as a conservation measure in the coming years.

These projects should yield important information about the commercial and recreational fishery to guide policy towards restoring salmon stocks in threatened catchments while permitting the harvest of salmon where stocks are abundant.

Broadcasting Regulations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

186 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the broadcasting from parish churches on Sunday mornings has been discontinued by order; if he will ensure that the necessary steps are taken and instructions given to the relevant authorities to ensure their restoration without delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18824/06]

I am aware of the situation regarding the broadcasting of services from parish churches, to which the Deputy refers. However, the primary issue here is one of safety.

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) is the statutory body responsible for the management of the radio spectrum in Ireland and are required to investigate any interference with services, particularly where critical safety issues are concerned.

ComReg has been contacted by the Irish Aviation Authority regarding frequency interference with Air Traffic Control systems and as result of its inquiries, ComReg has contacted three churches in counties Kildare, Meath and Kilkenny in relation to the transmission of religious services.

ComReg fully understands the importance of such local community services and intends to permit wireless public address systems to meet the needs of religious and other community organisations. Regulations permitting the transmission of such services are due to be in place later this year.

These Regulations will require my consent as Minister for Communications, under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1926 and both ComReg, who have expertise in the technical area of radio spectrum safety and I, fully intend to fulfil our duties in relation to potential safety issues.

Middle East Peace Process.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

187 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the deepening poverty levels among the Palestinian population, the Government will commit to providing the aid that had been earmarked to the Palestinian Authority and call for a full resumption of EU assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19036/06]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

188 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the role the Government is playing in mobilising the quartet to give meaning to the vision of two viable states of Israel and Palestine; his views on the fact that actions on both sides have contributed to the situation of insecurity and poverty and that without international impartiality peace will be elusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19037/06]

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

191 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views regarding the situation in Palestine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18571/06]

Finian McGrath

Question:

193 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the role the Government is playing in mobilising the Quartet to give meaning to the vision of two viable States of Israel and Palestine. [18851/06]

Finian McGrath

Question:

194 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps Ireland and the EU Government will be taking to ensure Israel’s compliance with international law in view of the fact that the Israeli Government has chosen to ignore calls by the Quartet to freeze settlement expansion and the construction of the separation barrier. [18852/06]

Finian McGrath

Question:

195 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government will commit to providing the aid that had been earmarked to the Palestinian authority in view of the deepening poverty levels among the Palestinian population; and if a full resumption of EU assistance will be called for. [18853/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 187, 188, 191 and 193 to 195, inclusive, together.

The Government has been consistently active in promoting a lasting and peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Together with our partners in the EU, we remain convinced that the only way forward is through negotiations between the parties, in line with the principles and steps set out in the Quartet Roadmap. A mutually acceptable two-State solution must entail the co-existence in peace and security of two viable, sovereign and independent States, with agreed international borders. The EU is playing a vital role in the deliberations of the international Quartet, with the urgent objective of creating an environment for the earliest possible return to negotiations.

We believe that the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority must face up to their obligations under the Roadmap, and under international law. We share the concerns which have been expressed by Deputies about the humanitarian and economic impact of Israel's policies and activities in the Occupied Territories. I have raised directly with the Israeli Government our serious concern at practices which are contrary to international law, including the continued expansion of settlements and the construction of the separation barrier on occupied land. The General Affairs and External Relations Council on 15 May again emphasised that both parties must avoid any unilateral measures which prejudice final status issues. The EU has consistently stated that it will not recognise any change to the pre-1967 borders other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties.

Since the Palestinian elections in January, the EU and the Quartet have set out very clearly the conditions which must be met by Hamas if it is to engage with the international community. The new Government of the Palestinian Authority must commit to the peace process. It is essential that it renounce violence, recognise Israel's right to exist and adhere to agreements already negotiated by the Authority and the PLO.

The EU has been the strongest supporter of the Palestinian people internationally. It is also the largest donor to Palestine, providing an average of €500 million annually to support Palestinian institutions, NGOs and civil society and for humanitarian assistance. In February, the Council approved the release by the Commission of €121 million in humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians. Since early April, the Commission has temporarily suspended direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority, and the EU is continuing to review its assistance against the Government's commitments to the principles set out by the Council and by the Quartet.

I do not believe it is reasonable to argue that the EU should continue its capacity-building support for the Hamas Government irrespective of its willingness to adhere to the basic principles of the peace process. The Government believes, however, that the Palestinian people should not have to face the prospect of a humanitarian crisis because of the reluctance of their Government to meet its responsibilities. The EU is committed to continuing necessary assistance to meet the basic needs of the Palestinian population, and Ireland has argued strongly for the widest possible definition of these basic needs. On 15 May, following the Quartet meeting on 9 May, the Council undertook the urgent work of developing a temporary international mechanism to channel international assistance directly to the Palestinian people. The Council stated that, as a matter of priority, the mechanism will aim to provide for basic needs, including health services.

The Government believes it will be essential that all international donors cooperate to ensure the effectiveness of the new temporary structures. The EU has already called on the Israeli Government to resume the transfer of withheld Palestinian tax and customs revenues, which are essential in averting a crisis in the Occupied Territories. I hope that a decision to resume the transfers can be taken without delay, if possible through the new international mechanism. Equally, it is important that both the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority take concrete steps to implement their obligations under the Agreement on Movement and Access, which was signed on 15 November 2005 and which provides for the movement of people and goods between Gaza and the outside world.

I have already given a commitment that the Government will maintain the level of Ireland's bilateral assistance to the Palestinians, which amounted to over €4 million in 2005. Already this year, since the Palestinian elections, the Government has allocated €1.5 million in humanitarian assistance through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). I expect to make further allocations in the near future.

Human Rights Issues.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

189 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his Department will provide significant development aid to eastern European countries in which poverty issues have clearly been identified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18569/06]

Ireland is playing its part in efforts to relieve poverty in Eastern European countries and will continue to do so. Through our membership of the European Union and the United Nations Funds and Agencies (such as UNDP and UNICEF) as well as the World Bank, Ireland contributes to the international effort to assist these countries get out of the poverty trap.

Ireland is also a member of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and contributes to its multi-donor funds which focus on assistance to the poorer countries and regions in Eastern Europe where transition challenges are greatest. The progress being achieved through the EBRD's donor-funded programmes is encouraging. Results can already be seen across a range of sectors, with growth in local business activity and employment, increased financing for micro enterprises and an excellent EBRD initiative on emigrants' remittances, an important part of national incomes in the poorer countries.

Through our Irish Aid bilateral assistance programme, Ireland also aims to address poverty issues in this region. Funding for 2006 stands at €7 million, all of which will be spent on projects aimed at poverty alleviation and assistance in the process of transition to democracy. The small to medium-sized projects we fund are implemented by international organisations, intergovernmental and non-Governmental, as well as by Irish NGOs.

In addition, discussions are ongoing about the possibility of co-operation between Irish Aid and the Development Co-operation Programme of Hungary, for the benefit of Eastern Europe.

Foreign Conflicts.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

190 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding his endeavours and contacts in respect of the need to finally settle the Cyprus question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18570/06]

The United Nations has the lead role in the search for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem. The Government fully supports the UN Secretary General in this important work. In this context we welcome the appointment by the Secretary General of Mr Michael Moller of Denmark as UN Special Representative to Cyprus in January this year. Together with the Presidency and our EU partners we continue to maintain contacts with the UN and other parties on the Cyprus problem.

The last major effort for a settlement took place in the first half of 2004 and resulted in the referendums of 24 April 2004 on the Secretary General's proposals. Since that time there has been very little movement on the issue. On 28 February the Secretary General and President Tassos Papadopoulos of Cyprus met in Paris to review the situation and examine modalities for moving forward. They agreed that the resumption of the negotiating process within the framework of the good offices of the Secretary General must be timely and based on careful preparation.

The Secretary General and President Papadopoulos also met on 12 May in the margins of the EU-Latin America Summit meeting in Vienna to discuss the follow-up to the Paris meeting.

The EU and its Member States, including Ireland, are agreed on the importance of supporting the efforts of the UN Secretary General. A just and lasting settlement would contribute to peace, stability and harmonious relations in the region. We consistently make this clear in our contacts, both at political and official level, with the Government of Cyprus and others closely concerned with the issue.

Question No. 191 answered with QuestionNo. 187.

Emigrant Support Services.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

192 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the efforts he has made in respect of undocumented Irish in the USA; his recent contacts in the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18572/06]

The St. Patrick's Day period provided the Government with a very valuable opportunity to again make known our concerns about the welfare of the undocumented Irish in the United States and to reiterate our strong support for the approach to immigration reform favoured by Senators Kennedy and McCain. It was an opportunity that the Taoiseach and I availed of to the full in our meetings with President Bush, his Administration and key figures on Capitol Hill.

President Bush was appreciative of our concerns and emphasised to us his support for a comprehensive approach which involves reform as well as enforcement. This is an approach which he endorsed again earlier this week in a significant statement on immigration. I warmly welcome his remarks and, in particular, his view that most of those who are currently undocumented should be able to apply for citizenship, once qualifying conditions are met.

The Taoiseach and I also had important discussions with Niall O'Dowd and Grant Lally of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) during our visit to the US in March. Earlier this week in Dundalk, I met again with Grant Lally and we had a very helpful discussion on the current situation in the legislative debate. ILIR are most effective in giving expression to the views of many members of our community in the US on immigration reform. I was particularly pleased to inform Mr. Lally of my decision to provide a further US$50,000 to support ILIR in its important work.

It remains clear that reaching consensus on the sensitive and divisive issue of immigration reform presents US legislators with a very formidable challenge. I very much welcome the bipartisan agreement reached last week in the Senate on how the debate should proceed. This agreement enabled the resumption of discussion in the Senate this week on a compromise bill which, in its current form, contains many of the key elements of the Kennedy/McCain bill. These include provisions that would enable the majority of the undocumented to regularise their status and have open to them a path to permanent residency.

The discussions underway in the US Senate represent a very important phase in the debate on immigration reform. Should the Senate pass a bill, the legislative process will then move to a Conference Committee composed of representatives of the House of Representatives and the Senate convened to reconcile differences between the Senate bill and the Sensenbrenner/King bill passed in the House last December.

During this crucially important period in the Senate, the Deputy can be assured that our efforts on behalf of the undocumented Irish are being maximised to the greatest degree possible.

Questions Nos. 193 to 195, inclusive, answered with Question No. 187.

Implementation of Legislation.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

196 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the provisions which remain to be implemented in relation to the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18739/06]

As the Deputy may be aware, I gave effect to the principal outstanding provisions of the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997 in May 2005 under statutory instruments. These conferred non-commercial semi-state status to the National Library of Ireland and the National Museum of Ireland and established new statutory Boards for both institutions. The provisions that remain to be enacted relate primarily to the extension of Mandatory Deposit of certain material with the National Library and a scheme of Export Licensing of fine art objects by the National Museum and the provision for the compulsory purchase of certain heritage objects. As these are issues that will have impacts on the operations of the two national cultural institutions and further afield they will be brought into effect on a phased basis.

Officials at my Department are currently consulting with the various interested groups, in particular the new statutory Boards of the Institutions and the Department of Finance. As these are satisfactorily concluded proposed schemes will be presented to the Parliamentary Draftsmen for the preparation of statutory instruments.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

197 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether employers convicted on breaches of health and safety law resulting in serious injury or death should be ineligible for public contracts. [18687/06]

As in all other cases involving the administration of statutory legislation, the application of penalties for conviction for breach of the Safety, Healthy and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and other occupational safety and health legislation is solely a matter for the Courts to determine in accordance with the provisions of the legislation in question. Section 78 of the 2005 Act sets out detailed provisions relating to the penalties that may be applied by the Courts for breach of the legislation.

Where matters have been determined by the Courts and the defendant has complied with the Court's ruling, there are no administrative or enforcement actions that may be applied as regards eligibility to compete for contracts, or other matters pertinent to the legislation, beyond the standard conditions that apply to all other parties involved in the tendering process.

Arms Trade.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

198 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will make a statement on the relationship between the arms industry lobby and the European Security Research Programme. [18688/06]

The European Security Research Programme is concerned exclusively with civil security. It aims to contribute to the improvement of European citizens' security and to reinforce European technological and industrial potential in this area within the 7th European Research Framework Programme which will commence in 2007. The focus of the Programme includes supporting proposals for protection against terrorism, enhancing crisis management and devising integrated systems for communication. Given the civil nature and scope of the Programme, the issue of the relationship indicated by the Deputy in his question does not arise.

Job Losses.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

199 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will investigate the continuing delay in having redundancy payments made to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [18689/06]

A claim for payment of a statutory redundancy lump sum in respect of the person concerned was received in the Redundancy Payments Section of the Department at the end of March 2006. A query arose in connection with the claim which had to be cleared with the employer.

The matter has now been resolved and the payment is now being processed. The person concerned should receive his statutory redundancy lump sum within the next 2 weeks.

Question No. 200 answered with QuestionNo. 139.

Job Creation.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

201 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the average workforce in 2005 and in each of the previous ten years. [18698/06]

Data in relation to the numbers in employment, which is available from the Quarterly National Household Survey since 1997, is as in the table.

Year

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

Number (million)

1,467.7

1,547.1

1,647.4

1,712.6

1,759.9

1,782.3

1,828.9

1,894.1

1,980.6

Employment Rights.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

202 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the cost to the State of increasing redundancy payments to four weeks of pay per year of service. [18699/06]

The total cost to the Social Insurance Fund of providing for statutory redundancy payments for the first three months of 2006 was €36.1m. Of this, expenditure on employer rebates of 60% where the employers paid eligible employees their correct statutory redundancy lump sum entitlements amounted to €34.2m. Expenditure arising from direct payments by the Department from the Fund to employees who were not paid their statutory redundancy amounted to €1.9m.

From these most recent figures, which were based on statutory redundancy payments of two weeks pay for every year of service (together with the usual bonus week), it can be estimated that the current total cost of redundancy payments for the full year will amount to €143.2m with €136.7m in respect of employer rebates and €7.5m in respect of direct payments to the employees. The cost of statutory redundancy based on four weeks pay per year of service can be further extrapolated from these figures. Thus, the total cost for the year would amount to €288.5 with €273.5m for employer rebates and €15.0m for direct payments to employees.

Redundancy entitlements were last discussed in the context of Sustaining Progress and agreed at two weeks pay per year of service plus a bonus week. There are no plans at present to increase statutory redundancy entitlements.

Employment Regulation Orders.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

203 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreements which have been introduced in each of the past 10 years. [18700/06]

The Labour Court receives proposals from Joint Labour Committees, on foot of which it makes Employment Regulation Orders (EROs). EROs are statutory instruments which set out terms and conditions applying to specified workers in a particular sector.

The registration of Employment Agreements and the maintenance of the Register of such agreements is also a matter for the Labour Court. I have no direct function in relation to the making of EROs or the registration of Employment Agreements. I will, however pass the Deputy's question to the Labour Court and request them to provide the relevant information to the Deputy.

Community Employment Schemes.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

204 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the cap on length of service for community employment workers aged 55 or over will be removed due to the particular difficulties faced by persons over that age in finding other employment due to a number of factors including standards of educational achievement. [18701/06]

Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a temporary, fixed term basis. CE helps unemployed people to re-enter the active workforce by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to a work routine and to assist them to enhance/develop both their technical and personal skills.

In November, 2004 the 3 year CE cap was revised to allow those of 55 years of age and over to avail of a 6 year period on CE (based on participation since 3rd April, 2000). FÁS Employment Services and the Local Employment Service support all unemployed people to progress to training or employment, including those over 55 years of age.

Job Losses.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

205 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the IDA supported companies at which redundancies or lay-offs have occurred; the number of redundancies or lay offs in each case in respect of each year since 1999; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18702/06]

The Forfás Annual Employment Survey records jobs gained and lost in companies supported by the industrial development agencies. Aggregated data is published annually on a county-by-county basis. Individual company data is complied on a confidential basis in this survey and thus details in respect of company job losses and gains cannot be released.

The following table provides details of the number of job gains and losses in IDA supported companies since 1999 together with the total number of client companies.

Job creation and job losses are a feature of economic development in all countries as various sectors expand and contract in response to market demand for goods and services, competitive forces, restructuring and technological change.

I am confident that the strategies and policies being pursued by IDA Ireland, together with the ongoing commitment of Government to regional development, will continue to bear fruit in terms of maximising sustainable investment and jobs.

Job Gains and Losses in IDA Support Companies

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

Job Gains (New Jobs)

17,643

23,071

12,789

10,926

9,336

11,740

12,623

Job Losses

-9,102

-8,024

-17,801

-15,073

-12,980

-10,988

-9,211

No. of Companies

1,259

1,247

1,143

1,103

1,066

1,027

1,010

Industrial Development.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

206 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if it is intended to provide State funding for the Atlantic Way Project; the way in which the project will function and the manner in which it will differ from the Atlantic Technology Corridor Project and Shannon Development; if his attention has been drawn to concerns by trade unions representing staff at Shannon Development concerning a possible diminution in the role of that agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18703/06]

The Atlantic Way Group is a movement comprised representatives of key private and public sector bodies, which seeks to maximise the development potential of the West by supporting and promoting best practice in every aspect. Its principal aim is to bring coherence, coordination and a sense of urgency to infrastructural development, excellent technological services, quality employment, lifelong education and quality of life.

Shannon Development facilitates and supports the Atlantic Way initiative, as it is consistent with the Company's focus on balanced regional development. This support includes a small financial amount, approved by Shannon Development as a support for the proposed launch of Atlantic Way and a range of practical non-financial supportive actions.

The Atlantic Technology Corridor (ATC) is a cluster of Information, Communications and Technology companies (ICT) and Medical Technology companies. The cluster comprises of about 270 companies employing over 22,000 people. Around two-thirds of the companies are Irish owned and the remainder are North American and European.

The ATC initiative is industry led, comprising senior executives from global and Irish technology companies and small & medium enterprise (SME) organizations. Research capability is provided by third level educational institutions in the corridor. The key objectives of fostering balanced regional development and improving international competitiveness had focused the minds of these leading technology company managers to conceive a "boundaryless" business gateway (initially counties Galway, Clare and Limerick) to sustain and develop the western seaboard's technology corridor. Adopting a collaborative approach to realising this vision the region would be branded, marketed and promoted as the Atlantic Technology Corridor. The initiative has the support of Shannon Development.

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

I am aware of the concerns of unions representing staff at Shannon Development and accordingly facilitated discussions between my Departmental officials and SIPTU to provide clarification sought by the union on aspects of my decision. I expect this process will be concluded shortly and this will facilitate the implementation of the new mandate in the best interests of Shannon Development and the region as a whole.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

207 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which he has examined the contributory causes to increases in manufacturing costs here; if he has examined the implications for employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18828/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

208 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if price rises in the industrial sector are endangering Ireland’s competitive edge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18829/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

214 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his proposals to reduce cost for small and medium enterprises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18835/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 207, 208 and 214 together.

All developed economies face rising costs at some point in their supply chain and Ireland is no exception. While the costs faced by business in some areas here may be relatively higher than other economies, the challenge is to maintain our competitiveness in areas such as skills, education, knowledge infrastructure and the quality generally of our workforce. In an international context, competitiveness, the ability to profitably and successfully trade against world competitors in the face of globalisation pressures while creating attractive investment and employment opportunities are the real benchmarks of a successful economy. Ireland is such an economy. Enterprise in Ireland is consistently generating profitable employment opportunities, which in turn provides the Exchequer with resources to invest in the economy and create jobs that improve living standards.

Over the past five years employment has grown by nearly 221,000 while Ireland is one of the world's leading recipients of foreign investment. For example, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development ranked Ireland 4th in the world in 2004 for foreign investment. This compares with 51st place in 1990. The combination of strong employment growth and our attractiveness as a good place for FDI, especially in advanced and knowledge sectors, strongly suggests that our cost environment remains competitive. Ireland is one of the best places in the world to do business and this was supported last week when the IMD's World Competitiveness Yearbook placed us the 11th most competitive economy in the world and fourth in the EU.

While this places us ahead of most international competitor economies we can be neither smug nor complacent. Maintaining competitiveness and particularly for smaller businesses, is a frontline policy objective of this Government and will remain so. Support programmes to help firms become more productive and competitive are embedded in the operations of the enterprise development agencies. The Small Business Forum report, received yesterday, proposes interesting and exciting approaches to help competitiveness in the small business sector and I am determined that significant progress will be made on their implementation.

Grocery Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

209 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if recent indicators suggest price rises at variance with his previous pronouncements during debate on the abolition of the minimum prices order; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18830/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

210 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which food prices in the supermarkets have been reduced in accordance with his predictions prior to abolition of the minimum prices order; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18831/06]

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

The Groceries Order was in place for many years and was abolished less than 2 months ago. I believe it is much too early at this stage to expect to see any significant impact on the grocery sector. However, I have asked the Competition Authority to monitor the sector and the Authority is currently putting in place a mechanism to track data and trends over coming months and years.

It is important to remember, however, that the Order was abolished for a number of reasons, including the fact that in certain circumstances it criminalised shopkeepers for passing on discounts to consumers. In deciding that the Order should be repealed the Government simply decided to remove an obstacle to competition.

There are many inputs into the final price paid for grocery products by consumers, including many outside our own control. I note that the Central Statistics Office has identified high fuel prices, the introduction of higher interest rates by financial institutions and increased transport costs as some of the main contributory factors to recent price changes.

I expect that the removal of the Groceries Order will stimulate competition and drive increased efficiencies at all levels of the distribution chain from which consumers will ultimately benefit.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

211 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he has taken or proposes to take to combat job relocation to lower cost economies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18832/06]

Ireland's raised standard of living over the past decade, with its associated rise in consumer purchasing power has meant that the economy can not always compete with low wage economies like China in the manufacture of many low value added, basic goods. Improving our standard of living and competitiveness requires a focus on contemporary economic strengths, moving up the value-chain and attracting high-grade investment that rewards a highly educated workforce with commensurate high incomes.

Ireland has been successful in this approach and in extending employment opportunities across the economy. According to the CSO, employment increased by 87,000 in 2005, or by 4.7%. This was the largest growth in employment Ireland has seen since 2000 and compares very favourably with employment growth in the EU as a whole of just 1.6%.

Maintaining the capacity of the economy to consistently generate new employment opportunities is a key policy of this Government. To this end, our policies have a strong competitiveness focus and we are succeeding. Recent research by the IMD World Competitiveness Scoreboard ranked us as the world's 11th most competitive economy, up one place on last year's position.

Many challenges remain however. Employment growth must be matched with corresponding productivity improvements. Programmes such as Enterprise Ireland's Productivity Improvement Fund are aimed at doing just that. The Fund is directed at Irish SMEs who wish to improve their productivity through technology acquisition or labour force training.

We are directing more investment towards research and development so that our enterprises can build leadership positions in new technologies and markets. This will extend our reputation for excellence in science. Research and development is intrinsically associated with product development and business innovation, precisely the type of economic activity Ireland is attracting. This Government has invested heavily in these areas, with much of this made available through Science Foundation Ireland and the Higher Education Authority. Over the period of the current National Development Plan the Government has invested €2.5 billion in science and R&D.

My Department is also developing a strategic implementation plan for research, technology development and innovation. R&D will be a key theme and major area of investment in the next National Development Plan.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

212 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has examined the performance of Irish exports in each of the past five years; the extent to which action is required to stimulate the export business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18833/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

213 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason for the recent fluctuations in the volume of Irish exports; the remedial action he proposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18834/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 212 and 213 together.

The table below gives details of Irish merchandise exports and imports over recent years. Trade volumes reached a peak in the 2001/2002 period and were then negatively impacted by the world economic slowdown, which particularly affected the US and European markets. Despite this setback, the volume of Ireland's trade has risen in the two years since 2003 and exports grew by about 5% between 2004 and 2005, which was a very creditable performance, as many of our key trading partners still have very low levels of economic growth. Our Trade surplus for the last five years has been over €30bn each year and this very healthy position has been maintained despite the significant rise in the cost of oil imports in recent times.

Notwithstanding these positive trends, work is ongoing to ensure we increase our level of exports to world markets. My Department, through its agency, Enterprise Ireland, is active in a wide range of promotional activities to assist indigenous companies to find new markets. I have been active in leading Trade Missions to further develop our existing markets and to pursue new opportunities. The markets in Asia, in pursuance of the Government's Asia Strategy and also in the new EU Member States, represent exciting possibilities. Development of export opportunities is therefore ongoing, to ensure that the recent very favourable trends will continue.

Year

Exports

Imports

€bn

€bn

2000

83.9

55.9

2001

92.7

57.4

2002

93.7

55.6

2003

82.1

47.9

2004

84.4

51.1

2005

88.4

56.5

Question No. 214 answered with QuestionNo. 207.

Work Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

215 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of work permits applied for by category in each of the past 12 months; the numbers granted, refused or pending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18836/06]

The Work Permits Section of my Department informs me that there were 24,703 work permits granted, 1,077 work permit applications refused and 3,690 applications pending at the end of the twelve-month period up to 30 April 2006. A table outlining the number of work permit applications processed to a decision, per category, in the twelve-month period up to 30 April 2006 is submitted for the Deputy's attention below.

Year

New Permits

Renewals

Group

Issued

Refused

2005

May

520

1,255

73

1,848

92

Agriculture & Fisheries

17

137

0

154

2

Catering

83

369

0

452

27

Domestic

8

41

0

49

6

Education

25

22

0

47

1

Entertainment

7

9

73

89

1

Exchange Agreements

4

0

0

4

0

Industry

17

88

0

105

1

Medical & Nursing

97

76

0

173

8

Service Industry

259

507

0

766

45

Sport

3

6

0

9

1

Jun

670

1,615

119

2,404

58

Agriculture & Fisheries

19

159

0

178

2

Catering

117

448

2

567

32

Domestic

9

40

0

49

0

Education

14

41

0

55

0

Entertainment

14

4

117

135

0

Exchange Agreements

8

0

0

8

0

Industry

53

87

0

140

3

Medical & Nursing

114

118

0

232

4

Service Industry

315

718

0

1,033

17

Sport

7

0

0

7

0

Jul

665

1,484

57

2,206

80

Agriculture & Fisheries

30

109

0

139

2

Catering

117

439

2

558

27

Domestic

5

37

0

42

8

Education

22

39

0

61

0

Entertainment

4

7

53

64

0

Industry

39

101

0

140

4

Medical & Nursing

113

132

0

245

4

Service Industry

331

613

1

945

34

Sport

4

7

1

12

1

Aug

727

1,484

90

2,301

119

Agriculture & Fisheries

20

177

0

197

4

Catering

125

459

2

586

68

Domestic

17

52

0

69

2

Education

23

42

0

65

3

Entertainment

4

8

88

100

1

Exchange Agreements

1

0

0

1

0

Industry

24

95

0

119

1

Medical & Nursing

209

123

0

332

10

Service Industry

295

522

0

817

30

Sport

9

6

0

15

0

Sep

642

1,607

88

2,337

97

Agriculture & Fisheries

27

173

0

200

5

Catering

104

506

2

612

41

Domestic

13

39

0

52

1

Education

19

39

0

58

2

Entertainment

6

15

83

104

1

Exchange Agreements

1

0

0

1

0

Industry

27

110

0

137

3

Medical & Nursing

93

99

0

192

4

Service Industry

329

618

3

950

40

Sport

23

8

0

31

0

Oct

641

1,764

97

2,502

82

Agriculture & Fisheries

41

194

0

235

5

Catering

113

489

1

603

42

Domestic

17

56

0

73

0

Education

30

61

1

92

2

Entertainment

7

14

94

115

1

Exchange Agreements

0

1

0

1

0

Industry

47

127

0

174

3

Medical & Nursing

111

117

0

228

4

Service Industry

253

694

1

948

25

Sport

22

11

0

33

0

Nov

772

2,396

49

3,217

141

Agriculture & Fisheries

31

213

0

244

5

Catering

144

662

2

808

67

Domestic

28

74

0

102

1

Education

32

63

0

95

1

Entertainment

4

9

43

56

0

Industry

83

191

1

275

12

Medical & Nursing

116

143

0

259

3

Service Industry

323

1,029

3

1,355

52

Sport

11

12

0

23

0

Dec

363

608

18

989

54

Agriculture & Fisheries

15

28

0

43

5

Catering

74

138

0

212

25

Domestic

7

12

0

19

1

Education

14

12

0

26

2

Entertainment

3

5

18

26

0

Industry

37

36

0

73

2

Medical & Nursing

64

66

0

130

0

Service Industry

137

307

0

444

19

Sport

12

4

0

16

0

2006

Jan

521

854

55

1,430

75

Agriculture & Fisheries

14

77

0

91

5

Catering

87

235

0

322

37

Domestic

11

25

0

36

0

Education

25

16

0

41

2

Entertainment

8

14

55

77

1

Industry

60

45

0

105

7

Medical & Nursing

128

88

0

216

5

Service Industry

179

345

0

524

18

Sport

9

9

0

18

0

Feb

580

957

44

1,581

69

Agriculture & Fisheries

56

87

0

143

0

Catering

60

348

0

408

42

Domestic

9

34

0

43

2

Education

14

26

0

40

0

Entertainment

5

4

43

52

1

Exchange Agreements

100

0

0

100

0

Industry

30

42

0

72

5

Medical & Nursing

99

93

0

192

5

Service Industry

203

320

1

524

14

Sport

4

3

0

7

0

Mar

595

1,847

70

2,512

94

Agriculture & Fisheries

40

159

0

199

4

Catering

105

544

2

651

42

Domestic

11

50

0

61

1

Education

22

49

0

71

3

Entertainment

11

6

67

84

0

Exchange Agreements

2

0

0

2

0

Industry

49

112

0

161

6

Medical & Nursing

93

155

0

248

9

Service Industry

258

762

1

1,021

28

Sport

4

10

0

14

1

Apr

467

821

88

1,376

116

Agriculture & Fisheries

22

75

0

97

27

Catering

65

245

0

310

41

Domestic

6

27

0

33

1

Education

21

24

1

46

0

Entertainment

4

3

85

92

0

Exchange Agreements

2

0

0

2

0

Industry

46

61

0

107

10

Medical & Nursing

85

69

0

154

7

Service Industry

213

315

2

530

28

Sport

3

2

0

5

2

Total

7,163

16,692

848

24,703

1,077

Skill Shortages.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

216 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has identified a shortage of employees in any particular sector of the labour market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18837/06]

The most recent FÁS/ESRI Employment and Vacancies Survey indicates that the percentage of firms reporting vacancies in April 2006 was 22%, the highest since 2002. The vacancy level in April 2005 was 7%. The increase was driven by the number of firms in the service, construction and industrial sectors reporting vacancies. The most difficult-to-fill vacancies for the various sectors were: Construction sector — quantity surveyors and foremen; Industry sector — engineers, sales staff and managers; Retail sector — sales staff, and Services sector — accountants and sales staff.

The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs is charged with identifying the future skills and labour requirements of the Irish economy and strategies through which those skills can be supplied. The Group on an ongoing basis identifies where there are mismatches between supply and demand for skills and labour. A comprehensive listing of the sectors of the economy experiencing skills and labour shortages was published in the Groups' National Skills Bulletin 2005. This listing will be updated by the Group on an annual basis. The Bulletin highlighted skills and labour shortages in a number of sectors and occupations, including:

•Construction: (Architects, Civil Engineers, planners, quantity surveyors, construction craftpersons, site managers)

•Financial: (Accountants, tax experts, actuaries and financial analysts)

•Engineering (design engineers, electronic and electrical engineers, multiskilled maintenance technicians, welders and related trades)

•Information Technology (software engineers, computer analysts/programmers)

•Pharmaceuticals (chemical engineers, research scientists)

•Healthcare (medical practitioners, dentists, therapists, radiographers, nurses, social workers)

•Transport (HGV drivers, supply chain managers, transport related clerks)

•Sales (technical sales representatives and marketing personnel)

•Financial (credit controllers, financial clerks)

•Services (security guards, waiters/ waitresses, chefs)

•Food manufacturing (deboners)

•Healthcare (care assistant)

•Sales (sales assistant)

These shortages are primarily the result of a tight labour market, against a backdrop of low unemployment and high levels of economic growth.

Policy in relation to skill shortages is predicated in the first instance, on upskilling our resident workforce — increased funding has been allocated to FÁS to enhance in-company training in addition to training of the unemployed and those outside the labour force to enable them to take up employment; secondly, on maximising the potential of EEA nationals to fill our skills deficits; and thirdly, with a new green card and revised work permit system for non-EEA nationals, details of which I announced at the commencement of the Second Stage of the Employment Permits Bill 2005 on 12 October last.

In relation to immigration, the Expert Group on Future Skills published a report in October 2005, entitled "Skills Needs in the Irish Economy: the Role of Migration". This identified sectors where the skills needs of the economy would not be met from within Ireland or the European Economic Area. These sectors are: Information and Communications Technology, Health Care, Construction, Financial Services, Engineering, Pharmaceutical, and Sales/Marketing.

Research is currently being undertaken by the Expert Group to underpin the development of a National Skills Strategy. This research will be available in the autumn of this year. It will address how best to meet the skills and labour needs of the economy over the next decade.

Industrial Relations.

Denis Naughten

Question:

217 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 148 of 8 March 2006, the reason discussions have not taken place with staff representatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18839/06]

There has been no further contact from the Office of Public Works (OPW) on the matter in question, so the meeting between staff representatives and the company concerned has not been necessary or taken place.

My Department has received an assurance from the OPW that no further action will be taken until such a meeting has taken place and the staff are aware of the situation in this regard.

Pension Provisions.

David Stanton

Question:

218 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he intends to honour the commitment to introduce a personal pension entitlement for pensioner spouses currently in receipt of the qualified adult allowance, set at the level of a full non-contributory pension as stated in the Agreed Programme for Government in 2002; if so, when he intends to do so; the estimated cost of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18857/06]

This Government is committed to introducing a personal entitlement for pensioner spouses currently in receipt of the qualified adult increase, set at the level of a full non-contributory pension and that remains the position.

The cost, based on current rates of payment, of bringing all of the relevant qualified adult rates up to the level of the non contributory pension personal rate is almost €55 million in a full year. This commitment will be implemented having regard to available resources and other budgetary commitments.

Since 2002, new pension claimants can opt to have qualified adult increase paid directly to their spouse or partner. This measure has had some success in delivering personal payments for spouses and partners. The administrative and legislative implications of enhancing these arrangements to make direct payments more widely available are under consideration

Data Protection.

David Stanton

Question:

219 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the way in which his Department assists the Garda Síochána in the provision of information if requested to do so; the changes which have been made in this practice in the past year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18859/06]

Access to information within my Department is strictly controlled and only released in accordance with law. Procedures have been in place for some time and there have been no changes in the past year.

Under the data sharing provision, Section 261 (2) of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 2005 (previously Section 222(2) of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 1993) — information held may be transferred to a specified body.

An Garda Síochána are such a specified body under Section 261(3) of the Act. The Department, in practice, responds to requests for information on a "case by case" basis. Staff are instructed to first authenticate the Garda requesting the information.

In addition, under Section 8(1) of the Immigration Act 2003, information relating to non EEA nationals is exchanged on a regular basis between the Department and An Garda Síochána, both for the purposes of the Refugee Act 1996, and also for the purposes of control of the Department's schemes.

The Department is very conscious of the confidentiality of its customer data, and there are comprehensive staff instructions in place relating to the disclosure of personal information.

Social Welfare Benefits.

David Stanton

Question:

220 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of people in receipt of the respite grant aged under 18 years in 2003, 2004 and 2005 respectively; and the percentages of same in relation to number of respite grant recipients; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18860/06]

Prior to Budget 2005, the only people paid the Respite Care Grant by my Department were those in receipt of Carers Benefit or Carers Allowance who were paid the Grant automatically with their primary payment. As neither Carers Benefit nor Carers Allowance is payable to people under 18 years of age, nobody under that age was entitled to the Grant prior to 2005. Accordingly, the answer to the Deputy's question in respect of 2003 and 2004 is nil.

Budget 2005, inter alia, extended entitlement to the Grant to all full time carers, regardless of means or contribution record but subject to certain conditions relating notably to employment.

The age limit for the Respite Care Grant for those newly qualified under Budget 2005 is 16. The number of people under 18 who received the Respite Care Grant in 2005 is 3 out of the total of over 7,000 Grants paid in 2005.

Light Rail Project.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

221 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the proposals for the extension of the Luas line through Tallaght west to City West in Saggart; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18684/06]

Transport 21 provides for a spur from the Tallaght Luas line to the Citywest Campus (Line A1). The Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) is at present progressing this project.

The inclusion of the in Transport 21 project was contingent on agreement being reached between the RPA and private developers on the sharing of the costs involved in the project.

Public consultation on the proposed route from Belgard to Fortunestown Lane began on 23 February 2006 following the signing, in September 2005, of Heads of Agreement between the RPA and developers in relation to the scheme. My Department recently approved an extension of the project to Garter Lane arising from an agreement among the developers, which, inter alia, involves additional private sector involvement in funding the scheme.

South Dublin County Council have confirmed their strong support for the project. Subject to compliance with the relevant statutory procedures etc, construction should be completed in 2009.

Road Safety.

Seamus Kirk

Question:

222 Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Transport the position in relation to heavy goods vehicles pulling out on a two lane motorway, having regard to the new penalty points offences introduced in this area. [18685/06]

The prohibition on the use of the outside lane on a motorway by certain classes of vehicles, including heavy goods vehicles, except where it is necessary to proceed in that lane due to an obstruction or because another lane or lanes is or are for the time being closed to traffic, is a driving rule that was introduced as far back as 1 October 1997 with the commencement of the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 (SI No. 182 of 1997). The term "obstruction" is not defined in the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 but article 5 provides that the regulations "shall apply save where compliance is not possible as a result of an obstruction to traffic or pedestrians or because of an emergency situation confronting a road user which could not reasonably have been expected or anticipated".

The breach of the regulation that prohibits driving in the outside lane was scheduled by the Oireachtas to be a penalty point offence in the Road Traffic Act 2002 and I gave effect to this from 3 April 2006.

Railway Stations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

223 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport if his Department in conjunction with Iarnród Éireann has plans to re-open the train station at Dunleer, County Louth on the main Dublin to Belfast railway line taking into account substantial population growth in the mid-Louth area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18747/06]

The location of stations on the rail network is a matter for Iarnród Éireann. The company informs me that it has examined the case for re-opening Dunleer station on a number of occasions in the past. A review of the Dublin Suburban Rail Strategy, conducted on behalf of Iarnród Éireann, concluded that the station would only have very modest daily boardings given the population of the area. The case for re-opening Dunleer will be re-examined if major development takes place close to the line and funding can be provided,by developers, for the construction of thestation.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

224 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the way in which his Department is checking the effects of climate change on major infrastructural projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18843/06]

A core principle underpinning all of our transport policies is that they should support sustainable development, defined as development which contributes now, and in the future, to economic growth, social cohesion and protection of the environment. All major transport projects are subject to environmental impact assessment, in accordance with the relevant EU Directives.

Rail Services.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

225 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport when he expects the first Cork, Limerick, Galway trains to operate; and the timetable for the development of such a service. [18845/06]

As provided for in Transport 21, the Western Rail Corridor will provide a rail connection between the cities of Galway and Limerick by 2009, with onward connection to Cork via Limerick Junction. The current position regarding the Western Rail Corridor is that Iarnród Éireann has submitted business cases to my Department relating to Phase 1 (the reopening of the Ennis to Athenry section) and Phase 2 (re-opening of the Athenry to Tuam section). These are currently being examined in my Department. When this examination is completed I will make a decision on Iarnród Éireann's applications and the allocation of funding.

Computerisation Programme.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

226 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the steps that have been taken by his Department to upgrade the DTS administration system; the specific new systems that have been provided and the cost; the server-end hardware which is in use; the year in which this hardware was purchased; the warranty status of this hardware; the annual maintenance cost of same; if there continues to be capacity problems with this system; if the software and application software has been updated in the past year; if not, if they are supported for updates; if the DTS administration system is integrated with other administrative applications in use in Ballina; if the DTS administration system is widely accessible outside of Ballina; the maximum number of driver tests that can be processed through the system in one calendar year without causing system failure; the stress testing undertaken on the system and the maximum stress loads tested; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18846/06]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

227 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the name of the software currently in use by the driver testing service in Ballina; the version of this software being used; the name of the software producer; the support contacts which are in place with the software producer; when same will expire; the number of information technology staff who have received specific training to enable them to support this software; the cost of this training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18847/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 226 and 227 together.

My Department successfully completed an upgrade of the server hardware and database software for the Driving Test Scheduling Application in 2005. A number of small enhancements to the application itself were also made. System administration training on the system was also provided to three IT staff based in Ballina. The total cost of the upgrade, enhancements and training was €166,000.

The project resulted in improvements in the capacity, speed and reliability of the system. A full testing programme was carried out, including appropriate stress testing. This confirmed that the system is capable of meeting the immediate requirements of driving test administration. However, the basic code on which the system relies is over 10 years old and this brings with it associated inflexibilities and inability to respond to modern requirements. Nevertheless, it is now sufficiently robust to allow an 18 to 24 month window of opportunity during which it is intended to significantly improve the overall system and to link it to internet based public access.

The scheduling application now runs on a Dell PowerEdge 2850 server with fail-over to a second Dell PowerEdge 2850. Both servers were purchased in May 2005 with Microsoft Windows server 2003 operating system. Both are covered by a three year warranty which expires in June 2008. The cost of the warranties was included in the total server purchase cost of €17,814.

The application software was migrated to Ingres 2.6 which was the latest stable version of the database management system available at the time of the upgrade. There is a further upgrade path to Ingres 2006 in the current support agreement. The software provider is Ingres Corporation and the support licenses were purchased from their partner company, Rational Commerce Ltd at an annual cost of €7,816. There is also an additional system, database and application fault response contract in place at a cost of approximately €20,000 per annum. This expires on 31 August 2006. The scheduling application is not specifically integrated into other applications used in Ballina but is available on all desktop computers of the staff in the area. There is a capability to extend access to the scheduling application from external sites should business needs and priorities require this.

Scéim na mBóithre Straitéise.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

228 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Gilmore den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil sé in ann airgead a chur ar fáil le feabhas a chur ar bhóthar contae Achaidh/Ard an Rátha faoi Scéim na mBóithre Straitéise isteach go ceantair Ghaeltachta.. [18606/06]

Tá mé ag glacadh leis go bhfuil an Cheist seo dírithe ar an mbóthar idir Ard na Rátha agus Ardaghy Glebe i nDún na nGall. Ní féidir an bóthar sin a áireamh mar bhóthar straitéiseach Gaeltachta mar go bhfuil an cuid is mó den bhóthar taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht.

Oileáin Mhara.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

229 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Gilmore den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad é an staid ina bhfuil iarratas atá aige faoi láthair ar dheontas le fad a chur le Cé an Rannaigh, Oileán Árainn Mhór. [18607/06]

I 2001, ar iarratas ó mo Roinnse, chuir Comhairle Chontae Dhún na nGall réamh-thuarascáil ar fáil maidir le forbairt na saoráidí calaíochta ag Rannach, Oileán Árainn Mhór. Moladh dhá rogha sa tuarascáil sin, i.e., síneadh 30m a chur leis an gcé atá ann faoi láthair ar chostas €1.5m, nó síneadh 65 m a chur léi ar chostas €3m. Dheimhnigh an tuarascáil chomh maith gur chun sochair thionscal na hiascaireachta áitiúla a rachadh aon fhorbairt nua ag an láthair seo.

Tá iarratas faighte ag mo Roinn ón gComhairle Chontae maidir le costais deartha agus ullmhú doiciméad conartha don togra seo agus tá an t-iarratas sin á mheas faoi láthair i gcomhthéacs an tsoláthair atá ar fáil dom le caitheamh ar fhorbairt céanna ar na hoileáin sna blianta amach romhainn agus na n-éileamh éagsúil ar an soláthar sin.

Forbairt Spóirt agus Chaithimh Aimsire.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

230 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Gilmore den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta mar go bhfuil Rás Snámha Timpeall na hÉireann ag toiseacht ag Carraig Fhinn, Cionn Caslach, Co Dhún na nGall ag deireadh mhí Iúil, an féidir leis an Roinn deontas a chur ar fáil don charrchlós poiblí le hobair fheabhsúcháin a dhéanamh anseo in aice le trá Bhrait Goirme. [18608/06]

Tuigim go dtagann an áis seo faoi chúram Chomhairle Chontae Dhún na nGall. Níl aon iarratas ag mo Roinnse do na hoibreacha atá luaite ag an Teachta sa Cheist. Má dhéantar iarratas, déanfar an cás a bhreithniú tuilleadh.

Community Development.

Michael Ring

Question:

231 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs further to his recent announcement on the extension of the CLÁR areas in County Mayo, if extra funding will be provided for the extra areas in CLÁR; and if so, the amount of extra funding which will be provided. [18609/06]

Funding of €22.95m has been provided in my Department's Vote for the CLÁR Programme in 2006. This represents an increase of over 70% on the 2005 expenditure and I am confident that this will allow for the expansion of the Programme into the new areas as recently announced. The measures that are currently open to the extended CLÁR areas are as follows:

—LIS Roads

—Flashing Amber Safety Lights at Schools

—Small Public Water & Sewerage Schemes

—Group Water Schemes

—Group Sewerage Schemes

—CLÁR Water Conservation Measure

—Village and Countryside Enhancement Scheme

—Bi-lingual Signage Scheme

—Gaeltacht Grants Top-up

—Single to Three phase Electricity Conversion

—Community Initiatives of a Capital Nature

—Coastal and Harbour Development.

Further announcements will be made in due course on the expansion of other measures.

The Deputy should note, however, that no specific allocations are made to the CLÁR areas of counties from each year's financial provision for the Programme. Some measures are demand-led while, in other cases, the projects, by and large, are selected or recommended by the relevant Departments, State agencies, Leader groups and/or local authorities, in consultation with my Department. Therefore, investment in the extended CLÁR areas will, in the main, be determined by the level of applications received under the various measures.

Grant Payments.

Joe Walsh

Question:

232 Mr. Walsh asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when payment of single farm payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [18600/06]

As indicated in my reply of 30 March 2006 to Parliamentary Question No. 196 in this case, an application under the 2005 Single Payment Scheme was received from the person named on 13 May 2005. Following initial processing of the application, certain issues in relation to one of the parcels included on the application were highlighted, which required to be satisfactorily resolved before payment could be made. Officials of my Department have been in direct contact with the person named on numerous occasions in an effort to resolve these issues.

Despite these efforts, it has not been possible to reconcile matters. Accordingly, a small overlap has been confirmed. However, under Article 51 of Commission Regulation (EC) 796/2004, no penalty is applied when the difference between the area claimed and the area found is less than 3% or 2 hectares, but payment is based on the area found.

Therefore, while the person named declared 38.20 hectares on his 2005 Single Payment Scheme application form, the area found following processing is 38.00. The application is now being further processed on this basis, with a view to payment of €8,625.61 issuing shortly.

Joe Walsh

Question:

233 Mr. Walsh asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if payment of balance of a single farm payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [18602/06]

The person named successfully applied for the transfer of entitlements by way of inheritance under the Single Payment Scheme and payment amounting to €1,299.74 issued on 7 April 2006.

The person named submitted an application for an allocation of entitlements from the Single Payments Scheme National Reserve under category C.

Category C caters for farmers who, between 1 January 2000 and 19 October 2003, sold the milk quota into the Milk Quota Restructuring Scheme and converted their enterprise to a farming sector for which a direct payment under Livestock Premia/or Arable Aid Schemes would have been payable during the reference period 2000 to 2002.

A formal letter setting out my Department's decision has issued to the person named and she has been notified that if she is dissatisfied with my Department's decision in relation to the National Reserve she now has the opportunity to appeal this decision to the Independent Payment Appeals Committee. An appeals application form is available from any of my Department's offices or on the Department website at www.agriculture.gov.ie.

Farm Waste Management.

Michael Ring

Question:

234 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if plastic silage wrappers will be collected from farmers; the reason farmers are not allowed to dispose of plastic silage wrappers to their nearest local authority; if discussions are expected to take place to deal with this problem. [18605/06]

The disposal of waste materials generally is covered by the Waste Management Acts 1996 to 2005, which apply to all sectors of society including the agricultural sector, and is a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Under the Waste Management (Farm Plastics) Regulations 2001, manufacturers and importers of farm plastics, that is, silage bale wrap and sheeting, are required to take steps to recover farm plastics waste which they have placed on the market or alternatively to contribute to and participate in compliance schemes to recover the waste in question. The Irish Farm Film Producers Group, IFFPG, is currently the sole approved body in Ireland for the purposes of implementing a compliance scheme for the recovery of farm plastics waste. My Department has no involvement in the running of the scheme.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

235 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her Department’s policies regarding sustainable energy and biofuels; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18691/06]

Overall responsibility for energy policy rests with the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, who is leading a cross-Departmental, cross-agency approach in developing and implementing renewable energy policy. As Minister for Agriculture and Food, I have a special interest in the development of the renewable energy sector — and of biofuels in particular, given that agriculture is the source of most of the raw materials used to manufacture biofuels.

Biofuels is one element in the development of renewable energy. Agriculture and forestry has the potential to be the source of many feedstocks for biofuels. For example, oilseed rape, wheat and sugar beet can be used for the manufacture of liquid transport biofuels, while forestry by products and other farming and food by-products such as meat and bone meal and tallow, can be used for energy/heat generation. Tallow can also be used for biodiesel production. Other energy crops such as short rotation coppice and miscanthus can be used for heat and electricity generation.

Apart from the need to lessen dependence on fossil fuels for environmental and cost reasons, the development of biofuels, through the growing of energy crops, presents a new opportunity for rural communities and economies. The reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which was agreed in 2003 gives farmers the freedom to exploit new farming opportunities, including agricultural production for non-food uses.

Support to farmers for the growing of energy crops may only be granted in accordance with EU regulations. Currently, such support is provided by way of the Energy Crops Scheme which was introduced under the reform of the CAP and which is administered by my Department. Under this scheme, energy crops may qualify for aid of €45 per hectare provided they are intended primarily for use in the production of biofuels and electric and thermal energy produced from biomass. In addition to this scheme, set aside land can be used for a variety of non-food uses including the growing of crops for energy purpose and will therefore qualify to activate set-aside entitlements under the Single Payment Scheme. The EU has agreed that sugar beet will be eligible for aid under the scheme and may also be grown as an energy crop on set aside land. The aid of €45 per hectare available under the Energy Crops Scheme is not sufficiently attractive in itself to stimulate the growing of such crops. For this reason at the February Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting I called for a review of the premium and I am pleased to say that the EU Commission has undertaken to review the operation of the scheme.

The production and utilisation of agricultural products for energy purposes can only be sustained in the longer term if biofuels generate a more favourable return than traditional market outlets. I am confident that the extension in the last Budget of excise relief of €205m which, when fully operational, will support the use and production of 163 million litres of biofuels annually, will help drive additional demand for the production of energy crops.

On the wider agricultural and energy policy agenda, biomass is of increasing importance and significance. Biomass energy in Ireland is mainly derived from wood products, which are converted into heat. I believe that the exploitation of the wood resource especially pulpwood, sawmill residues and harvestable forest residues offers enormous potential and could contribute significantly to our energy and heat requirements. Ireland has an excellent growing climate and an ongoing supply of raw material for wood fuel. Also, the Minister for Finance has confirmed that there would be no change to the existing income tax exemption for forestry as a cost benefit analysis verified its significant environmental benefits.

Wood residues are already being used to produce heat for sawmills across the country and the wood energy market is poised for growth with a number of commercial start-ups and a supply chain emerging. The €27m "Greener Homes" grant programme for the domestic sector announced by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources recently will help drive demand for wood biomass. The grant aid for commercial scale biomass boilers to be announced in the coming weeks will stimulate demand even further. My Department is also actively promoting the use of wood biomass through grants to promote and develop sustainable forestry, including alternative timber uses and we are close to finalising a scheme of supports for the purchase of specialist wood biomass harvesting equipment. We are directly promoting the use of wood biomass by the installation of a wood heating system at the Department's offices at Johnstown Castle.

Short rotation coppice and miscanthus have considerable potential for heat/electricity generation. In Ireland, however, the production of short rotation coppice is relatively undeveloped. Thus costs of production, especially the substantial initial establishment costs, will be high due to lack of economies of scale. My Department is currently pursuing a proposal to reactivate establishment grants for short rotation coppice. I have received a number of proposals for the introduction of establishment grants for miscanthus and these are also being considered.

Meanwhile my Department in conjunction with Teagasc and COFORD has examined the potential of energy crops, wood biomass and farming and food by products. Last year, we began providing direct funding, on a competitive basis, to support priority research projects in relation to biofuels. This funding is channelled through the Department's Research Stimulus Fund Programme. Three of the projects selected under the 2005 call for proposals directly relate to biofuels and energy crops and received total grant assistance of some €0.9m. The funding available under the Programme has now been substantially increased and a further call for projects was recently advertised in the national press. This call also includes the non-food uses of agricultural land.

Apart from purpose grown energy crops and wood biomass, there are several by-products of the farming and food processing industries that can be recovered and used in various ways as biofuels. These are mainly animal by-products such as meat and bone meal, tallow, animal manures and food by-products. There are significant opportunities for the use of animal by-products as biofuels some of which are being considered actively. Commercial realities are driving these proposals. The disposal of by-products imposes a cost on industry and it makes economic sense to offset this cost by realising the potential of the by-products as an energy source. Tallow is used at present as a biofuel in thermal boilers in rendering plants and larger meat export plants to provide energy. A recent EU Regulation provides for the conversion of tallow to biodiesel. Some rendering plants are considering building biodiesel plants for this purpose using various combinations of tallow, recovered vegetable oil and rapeseed oil.

The importance of biofuels and bioenergy is recognised in the AGRI Vision 2015 ACTION Plan and I will continue to work closely with my colleague the Minister for Communications Marine and Natural Resources to ensure that agriculture contributes to the development of biofuels as part of a coherent energy policy. The development of biomass and biofuels is also moving up the agenda at EU level. In her recent historic address to the Oireachtas, Commissioner Fischer Boel highlighted that fact that she is specifically targeting biofuels.

Grant Payments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

236 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Wexford did not receive the full single farm payment; if there is an appeal system in place;; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18713/06]

My Department has converted the special condition entitlements held by the person named to standard entitlements in accordance with the provisions of the Single Payment Scheme. Accordingly, payment amounting to €374.35 will issue to the applicant shortly.

An official of my Department has also made direct contact with the person named and outlined to him the options that are open to him in relation to the Single Payment Scheme.

Irish Horseracing Industry.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

237 Mr. Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the state of the bloodstock industry here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18714/06]

The Irish Bloodstock industry is currently performing extremely well in what is truly a global business. An independent assessment of the sector conducted by Indecon International Economic Consultants in July 2004 found that bloodstock production accounts for approx 4.4% of agricultural output. Furthermore this report confirmed that Ireland is now the third largest thoroughbred producer in the world accounting for over 42% of EU output. While there are elements of concentration this rural activity is found in all counties.

Indecon estimated that there were over 16,000 people employed (including part-time employment) in the thoroughbred breeding and horseracing industry in Ireland.

Irish thoroughbreds are much sought after for racing and breeding across the globe. One only has to consider the spectacular results from the recent Cheltenham festival where Irish trained horses once again enjoyed another magnificent season and for the second consecutive year the Gold Cup, the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival were all won by Irish trained horses while Numbersixvalverde became the fifth Irish trained winner of the English Grand National since 1999. It is not surprising that many professionals are calling this period a ‘Golden Age' for our thoroughbreds. In Ireland we can look forward to hosting Europe's richest two-year-old race, the Goffs Million with a total prize fund of €1.6m, at the Curragh in September of this year.

The Irish thoroughbred is synonymous with excellence worldwide. The people, climate, soil and the general operating environment in this country are all factors which contribute to this success. It must be emphasised that the risks associated with bloodstock production are much higher than in normal livestock enterprises.

So far this year, horses that were trained, owned or bred in Ireland have dominated the racing world both at home and abroad. It is my hope that this success continues into the future. Every success worldwide that is credited to Ireland is an endorsement for the thoroughbred industry in Ireland and raises the bar for our competitors.

Grant Payments.

Denis Naughten

Question:

238 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the increase in the rate of grant available to cover rising costs under the farm building grant schemes in each of the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18841/06]

The Farm Waste Management Scheme, Dairy Hygiene Scheme and Alternative Enterprises Scheme were introduced by my Department in February 2001 under the aegis of National Development Plan 2000-2006. A subsequent scheme, the Pig Welfare Scheme, was introduced in June 2005.

New Standard Costings were introduced by my Department in 2001 to coincide with the introduction of the new Schemes and these Costings were subsequently revised with effect from December 2002 and again in September 2004 in order to reflect rising building costs. These Costings are currently being reviewed and further revised Costings will be introduced as soon as possible.

The detailed Costing figures are not released by my Department so I am not in a position to indicate the increases in the years concerned.

Denis Naughten

Question:

239 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if it is possible under the EU regulations on sugar reform for the National Exchequer to top up the level of compensation available to each or any sector involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18842/06]

The compensation package negotiated in the context of reform of the EU sugar regime is worth over €310m to Irish stakeholders. There are three elements to the compensation package.

The first element is the compensation to beet growers of up to 64% of the reduction in the minimum price for beet. This compensation, which will be incorporated in the existing Single Payment Scheme and will be payable from 2006, is worth approximately €123m to Irish beet growers over the next seven years.

The second element of the compensation package is the restructuring aid covering the economic, social and environmental costs of restructuring of the sugar industry involving factory closure and renunciation of quota. In Ireland's case, this would be worth up to €145m.

The third element of the package is the diversification aid, worth almost €44m in Ireland's case, which would be drawn down in the framework of a national restructuring programme.

The relevant EU Regulation does not provide for a top up of these compensation amounts from national funds.

Crime Levels.

Denis Naughten

Question:

240 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the crime statistics for the south Roscommon area in the Roscommon, east Galway division for each year from 2000 to 2005; if he will establish a full-time Garda station in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18580/06]

Headline crime statistics from 2000 to 2005 for the Garda Division of Roscommon / Galway East, which includes the South Roscommon area, are contained in the relevant Garda Annual Reports which are available in the Oireachtas Library.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána as at 31 March 2006 was 12,439. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June 1997 and represents an increase of 1,737 (or 16.2%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period.

I have been further informed that the personnel strength (all ranks) of the Roscommon/Galway East Division as at 16 May, 2006 was 252. The personnel strength (all ranks) of each District as at 16 May, 2006 was as set out in atable:

District

Strength

Ballinasloe

53

Boyle

38

Castlerea

43

Roscommon

63

Tuam

55

Garda management state that the five District Headquarters Stations, referred to in the table above, are open to the public on a 24 hour basis.

Garda personnel assignments throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the general public.

I should also say that the current recruitment drive to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of this year. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the first group of newly attested Gardaí under the accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March and a further 275 newly attested Gardaí will come on stream every 90 days from here on in.

The Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources, and in this context the needs of the Roscommon/Galway East Division will be given the fullest consideration.

Denis Naughten

Question:

241 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the crime statistics for the Ballinasloe district in the Roscommon, east Galway division for each year from 2000 to 2005; if he will establish a full-time Garda station in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18581/06]

Headline crime statistics from 2000 to 2005 for the Garda Division of Roscommon / Galway East, which includes the Garda District of Ballinasloe, are contained in the relevant Garda Annual Reports which are available in the Oireachtas Library.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána as at 31 March 2006 was 12,439. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June 1997 and represents an increase of 1,737 (or 16.2%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period.

I have been further informed that the personnel strength (all ranks) of the Roscommon/ Galway East Division as at 16 May, 2006 was 252. The personnel strength (all ranks) of each District as at 16 May, 2006 was as set out in a table:

District

Strength

Ballinasloe

53

Boyle

38

Castlerea

43

Roscommon

63

Tuam

55

Garda management state that the five District Headquarters Stations, referred to in the table above, are open to the public on a 24 hour basis.

Garda personnel assignments throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the general public.

I should also say that the current recruitment drive to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of this year. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the first group of newly attested Gardaí under the accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March and a further 275 newly attested Gardaí will come on stream every 90 days from here on in.

The Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources, and in this context the needs of the Roscommon/ Galway East Division will be given the fullest consideration.

Denis Naughten

Question:

242 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the crime statistics for the Castlerea area in the Roscommon, east Galway division for each year from 2000 to 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18582/06]

Headline crime statistics from 2000 to 2005 for the Garda Division of Roscommon/Galway East, which includes the Castlerea area, are contained in the relevant Garda Annual Reports which are available in the Oireachtas Library.

Denis Naughten

Question:

243 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the crime statistics for the Ballaghderreen area in the Roscommon, east Galway division for each year from 2000 to 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18583/06]

Headline crime statistics from 2000 to 2005 for the Garda Division of Roscommon/Galway East, which includes the Ballaghderreen area, are contained in the relevant Garda Annual Reports which are available in the Oireachtas Library.

Denis Naughten

Question:

244 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the crime statistics for the Boyle district in the Roscommon, east Galway division for each year from 2000 to 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18584/06]

Headline crime statistics from 2000 to 2005 for the Garda Division of Roscommon/Galway East, which includes the Garda District of Boyle, are contained in the relevant Garda Annual Reports which are available in the Oireachtas Library.

Denis Naughten

Question:

245 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the crime statistics for the Elphin area in the Roscommon, east Galway division for each year from 2000 to 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18585/06]

Headline crime statistics from 2000 to 2005 for the Garda Division of Roscommon/Galway East, which includes the Elphin area, are contained in the relevant Garda Annual Reports which are available in the Oireachtas Library.

Denis Naughten

Question:

246 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the crime statistics for the Strokestown area in the Roscommon, east Galway division for each year from 2000 to 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18586/06]

Headline crime statistics from 2000 to 2005 for the Garda Division of Roscommon/Galway East, which includes the Strokestown area, are contained in the relevant Garda Annual Reports which are available in the Oireachtas Library.

Denis Naughten

Question:

247 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the crime statistics for the Roscommon district in the Roscommon, east Galway division for each year from 2000 to 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18587/06]

Headline crime statistics from 2000 to 2005 for the Garda Division of Roscommon/Galway East, which includes the Garda District of Roscommon, are contained in the relevant Garda Annual Reports which are available in the Oireachtas Library.

Denis Naughten

Question:

248 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the crime statistics for the Manorhamilton district in the Sligo, Leitrim division for each year from 2000 to 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18588/06]

Headline crime statistics from 2000 to 2005 for the Garda Division of Sligo/Leitrim, which includes the Garda District of Manorhamilton, are contained in the relevant Garda Annual Reports which are available in the Oireachtas Library.

Denis Naughten

Question:

249 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the crime statistics for the Carrick-on-Shannon district in the Sligo/Leitrim division for each year from 2000 to 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18589/06]

Headline crime statistics from 2000 to 2005 for the Garda Division of Sligo/Leitrim, which includes the Garda District of Carrick-on-Shannon, are contained in the relevant Garda Annual Reports which are available in the Oireachtas Library.

Court Accommodation.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

250 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals to provide funding for the refurbishment of the Kilkenny courthouse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18590/06]

Under the Courts Service Act 1998, the Courts Service is responsible for the day to day management of the courts system. Section 5 of the Act provides, inter alia, that the functions of the Court Service include the provision, management and maintenance of court buildings and the provision of facilities for court users.

The Courts Service is committed to improving the standard of court buildings and facilities throughout the State. I am pleased to have been able to obtain significant funding from the Government for courthouse upgrading in recent years. €18.2 has been made available to the Courts Service for capital spending on its building programme in 2006. The Capital Building Programme for 2002-08 places a priority on developing county venues, most of which have now been refurbished. In addition, use is being made of Public Private Partnership (PPS) approaches where appropriate to provide courthouse infrastructure. For example, a multi-million Euro Criminal Courts Complex for Dublin is being provided in this fashion.

Having regard to the statutory independence of the Courts Service, the Deputy will appreciate that it is a matter for the Courts Service to decide how funding provided is specifically allocated in connection with its ongoing replacement and refurbishment programme.

Asylum Applications.

John McGuinness

Question:

251 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if permission to remain here will be granted to persons (details supplied); and if he will expedite a response. [18591/06]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications.

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

Notwithstanding this, I would point out to the Deputy that delays in finalising cases can occur for a variety of reasons, including giving applicants and appellants the fullest opportunity possible to present their cases and the determination of Judicial Review proceedings.

A final decision on these applications will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which I expect to receive shortly.

Garda Stations.

Barry Andrews

Question:

252 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the conditions at Cabinteely Garda Station which is need of improvement in the short term and complete overhaul in the long term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18593/06]

Barry Andrews

Question:

253 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the suggested coming together at a new site of Cabinteely Garda Station and Kill O’ the Grange Garda Station. [18594/06]

Barry Andrews

Question:

254 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends to retain Cabinteely Garda Station for Garda use in the event that a new station is built in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18595/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 252 to 254, inclusive, together.

A decision was taken in 2001 to amalgamate the Garda Stations at Kill O'Grange and Cabinteely and a site has been acquired at Rochestown Avenue by the Office of Public Works to facilitate this development. Good progress is being made on the new station project, a brief of the accommodation requirements has been agreed and a Sketch Scheme (outline drawing) for the new station is expected to completed by the Office of Public Works next month. The OPW inform me that, subject to the completion of the necessary processes, including planning, tendering etc., it is planned that construction work commence before the end of this year. No decision has been made about the future use of the existing Garda buildings.

Human Trafficking.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

255 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if EU Directive 2004/81/EC has been transposed into Irish law; if not, the reason Ireland has not met the deadline for transposition; the steps he intends to take to protect the victims of human trafficking; the Government’s position and responsibilities in relation to European Council Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA; the details of the unit in An Garda Síochána that is tasked with preventing human trafficking, including the resources and staffing available to it; and the funding allocated specifically to combating human trafficking for each year from 2002 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18596/06]

The current immigration system in Ireland allows the authorities to deal with the victims of trafficking in a sympathetic and pragmatic way. It is recognised that it is in the interests of both the victims of trafficking and the authorities to co-operate with a view to ensuring the protection of victims and the prosecution of perpetrators. Although Ireland has not opted to participate in the EU Council Directive dealing with the issue of residence permits to victims of trafficking in human beings, in practice a similar regime can be implemented under existing legislation.

Under current Irish Criminal Law it is an offence, punishable by up to life imprisonment, to traffick a person under 17 years of age, male or female, into, through or out of Ireland for the purpose of that person's sexual exploitation. This is provided for in the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998.

Under the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000, it is an offence for a person to organise or knowingly facilitate the entry into Ireland of another person whom that person knows or has reasonable cause to believe is an illegal immigrant. The penalty on conviction on indictment for this offence is a maximum of 10 years imprisonment or an unlimited fine or both. Inevitably, when a person is trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation other serious offences will be committed, such as rape, sexual assault, assault and false imprisonment.

Legislation creating an offence of trafficking in persons for the specific purpose of sexual or labour exploitation is contained in the draft Criminal Justice (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill which is at an advanced stage of preparation in my Department. This Bill will allow for compliance with the EU Framework Decision on combating trafficking in persons adopted by the Council of Ministers on 19 July, 2002. The legislation will also allow for full compliance with the later EU Framework Decision on combating the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography.

The criminal law aspects of other international instruments will also be taken into account in the preparation of the legislation. These instruments are the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the Council of Europe Convention on action against trafficking in human beings. I intend to seek Government approval to draft this Bill very soon and expect that it will be published later this year.

Regarding the level of Garda resources tasked with preventing human trafficking, a joint task force, which pools the resources of specialist Garda units and detective units, has been established. The Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) acts as the lead unit for the task force. Other specialist units involved include the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, the Garda National Drugs Unit, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Criminal Assets Bureau. The GNIB includes a number of sections that have an investigative role and thus play a significant part in the prevention and detection of human trafficking.

In view of the exponential growth in the level of immigration in Ireland in recent years, all members of An Garda Síochána are advised of the need to be mindful of the possibility of trafficking in women for sexual exploitation. If evidence of trafficking for such purposes is disclosed in any case, investigations are conducted.

A training programme has been prepared for delivery to key Garda personnel throughout the State. This training programme has been designed specifically to enable members of An Garda Síochána identify victims of trafficking whom they encounter in the course of their duties, ensure that members fully understand the complexity of the phenomenon and ensure that victims receive appropriate assistance from all the relevant agencies. The current strength of the GNIB is 161 members of An Garda Síochána. The Unit also has 32 civilian personnel. Substantial funding is provided by my Department to Ruhama, a community based project. This funding is not exclusively used to combat human trafficking; it provides services to women in prostitution, including women who may have been trafficked.

Court Accommodation.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

256 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress of plans to extend the Drug Treatment Court currently operating in the Dublin 7 area to the wider Dublin area; the budgetary provisions the Government is making to allow for this extension of the Court; and if he will extend the Drug Treatment Court to cover the rest of the state. [18597/06]

Earlier this year, it was announced that the Pilot Drug Treatment Court, currently operating in the Dublin 7 area, was to be placed on a permanent footing. It will be extended on a phased basis to the wider Dublin area in consultation with the other agencies involved in supporting the Court. The President of the District Court has assigned a Judge of the Dublin Metropolitan District Court to the Drug Treatment Court on a permanent basis. The effect of this is to bring the Drug Treatment Court in closer contact with the other courts in the Dublin Metropolitan District from which the clients of the Drug Treatment Court are referred.

I am satisfied that the Court is providing a very worthwhile and innovative service and I will provide it with every support going forward. In this regard, the possibility of extending the Drug Treatment Court to areas outside Dublin will be considered. The Drugs Court is funded from within the existing resources of the Courts Service.

Citizenship Applications.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

257 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will confirm receipt of an application for naturalisation from a person (details supplied); the date on which the application was received; when the application will be processed and a decision reached; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18598/06]

I wish to advise the Deputy that no application for naturalisation has been received from the person in question. However an application for permission to remain in the State on the basis of marriage to an Irish national was received in April 2006. An acknowledgement of receipt of the application was issued on 3 May 2006. Applications of this type, in fairness to all other such applicants, are dealt with in strict chronological order and currently take approximately fourteen months to process. It should be noted that marriage to an Irish national does not confer an automatic right of residence in the State.

Penalty Points System.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

258 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the protocol in place to allow members of the Gardaí to remove penalty point from a member of the public’s driving licence, where it has been found that such points were wrongly imposed on that licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18599/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Department of Transport, on the written request of a Chief Superintendent, may remove penalty points from a driving licence in circumstances including where the individual named on the notification to the Minister for Transport was not the person who committed the offence or two notifications to the Minister for Transport were issued in respect of the same offence.

Community Service Orders.

Richard Bruton

Question:

259 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of community service orders which have been implemented in the Dublin metropolitan area over the past five years; the classification of the orders in terms of the type of community work provided for; and if he has satisfied himself that the potential of this form of penalty is being fully utilised in appropriate cases. [18742/06]

The Criminal Justice (Community Service) Act, 1983 provides for the performance of unpaid work in the community by a person who is 16 years or over, who has been convicted of an offence, for which the appropriate penalty would be an immediate custodial sentence and who has given his/her consent to the Court. The information sought by the Deputy, regarding the number of Community Service Orders which have been implemented over the past 5 years, is set out in tabular form below. Community Service Orders for the period 2001-2005:

Year

Male

Female

Total

2001

234

19

253

2002

252

30

282

2003

293

32

325

2004

405

45

450

2005

547

48

595

Community Service operates in communities with group projects, where a group of offenders or an individual, works with a supervisor, undertaking work for the community. The range of work generally carried out by those on community service, includes painting, decorating, landscaping, clearing/maintenance of community facilities (indoor and outdoor) restoration or enhancement of existing facilities such as community centres, youth clubs, grass cutting and cleaning graveyards.

Under the current legislation, Community Service can only be imposed on an individual if the alternative is a custodial sentence. In addition, the individual must consent to the Order. In that respect, I am satisfied that the maximum benefit of community service to local communities is achieved. However, while I have no plans to amend the legislation in the immediate future, the current legislation will, like all my Department's legislation, be kept under review.

Departmental Correspondence.

Tony Gregory

Question:

260 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his office has received a written request from persons (details supplied) to meet with them regarding the death of their son; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18743/06]

A request to meet the family to discuss the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of their son has recently been received by me. The current position is that an inquest into this person's death is still ongoing. An inquest is an independent inquiry to ascertain the cause of death and the Coroner has statutory duties and powers, including the power to call witnesses. The Coroner cannot consider questions of civil or criminal liability. Further consideration will be given to their request for a meeting when the inquest has been completed and a verdict returned.

Crime Prevention.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

261 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on establishing a commission on crime and punishment to identify the factors causing crime and to update and develop measures to address those factors taking into account international best practice in penal systems including the measures developed to rehabilitate offenders; if he will ensure that this includes an assessment of the infrastructural needs which all those involved in the prison system require; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18744/06]

The National Crime Council was established in 1999 by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to facilitate broadly based and well informed discussion on crime on an ongoing basis and to serve as an important aid to policy formulation.

The Council has four key roles, namely: to focus on crime prevention, with particular emphasis on the underlying causes of crime and the development of partnership and practical approaches which will be effective at community level; to focus directly on raising public knowledge and awareness of crime; to examine the ‘fear of crime' and to address the issues including those relating to minorities which arise as a consequence of this fear; and to identify research priorities which could be commissioned by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

The measures that can be taken to rehabilitate prisoners both within the Penal System and in the wider community were examined in some depth by the National Economic and Social Forum's Report No. 22, Re-integration of Prisoners, published in 2002. Implementation of this Report, in the context of the issues identified by it, has been progressing steadily and, in that regard, the replacement of the outdated and inappropriate facilities at Mountjoy and design of the new Prison Complex at Thornton Hall have been informed by the need to deliver regimes that support rehabilitation.

The Probation and Welfare Service currently has plans to review restorative justice models of practice in Ireland and internationally to inform future development of restorative justice projects and initiatives. I welcome this planned review and look forward to seeing the findings in due course. I am confident that the development of additional restorative justice initiatives, informed by the review, will deliver positive outcomes not just for the offender but also for victims of crime and more generally the whole community.

Restorative Justice Services.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

262 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on his contacts with the restorative justice services in Tallaght; and, if based on the success of the initiative, the service will be duplicated throughout the country. [18749/06]

I was pleased to be invited, on Thursday last, 11th May, to launch the 2005 Report of Restorative Justice Services at The Iona Centre in Knocklyon. As the Deputy will be aware, the Report shows that some 100 cases were referred to the Reparation Programme in 2005 and 97 offenders successfully completed their contracts. I think the Deputy will share the view that the success of this project in Tallaght shows in a very positive way what can be achieved when all the stakeholders — the community, the Judiciary, An Garda Síochána and the Probation and Welfare Service — work together in a cohesive and partnership model.

I am pleased that I have been able to support this project in a very practical way by funding the project. This year I will be contributing €320,000 to the costs. Indeed, I have also been able to contribute to the costs associated with finding better accommodation for the project.

The Deputy will also be familiar with my view that Restorative Justice is an important element in the way we deal with offending behaviour. I am committed to fostering and developing further such initiatives over time. We must, of course, learn from the experience of how restorative justice has worked both here in Ireland — in Tallaght and Nenagh — and also look to international developments so that future expansion of the restorative justice model will be guided by best practice. That is why I am pleased to say that the Probation and Welfare Service of my Department is to undertake a review of best practice in this area. I welcome this planned review and no doubt, the findings will feed in to the future expansion and development of restorative justice initiatives in Ireland.

Schools Amalgamation.

Pat Carey

Question:

263 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science if the structure of the amalgamation of schools (details supplied) in Dublin 9, has been agreed by all parties concerned; if design teams have been appointed to both the amalgamated schools; if a timeframe has been agreed with all parties for the completion of the work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18613/06]

Discussions are ongoing among the parties concerned to agree the structure of the amalgamation of the schools to which the Deputy refers. In the meantime, officials in the School Planning Section of my Department are in the process of drawing up a brief for the Design Team which will be appointed for the refurbishment project at the schools. A timeframe has not yet been agreed for the completion of the work as this is dependant on the scope of the works identified by the Design Team.

Physical Education Facilities.

Mary Upton

Question:

264 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science when funding will be provided to enable a sports hall (details supplied) in Dublin 8, which was originally built on the understanding it would be opened up for the use of local community groups, to be properly staffed in order that it can be so opened up; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18614/06]

My Department has provided funding in excess of €34m for the construction of nine dual use halls with enhanced facilities, attached to post-primary schools. Eight of the halls, including the hall referred to by the Deputy, are in Dublin and one is in Cork. The halls in question have been built as part of a joint programme to develop community sports facilities in drugs task force areas and, accordingly, issues relating to the funding, management and staffing of the halls to facilitate community usage are being considered by my Department. Each school authority will be kept advised of relevant developments.

Schools Building Projects.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

265 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the stage the proposed new school (details supplied) in County Galway is at; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18615/06]

An application for capital funding towards the provision of additional accommodation has been received from the school referred to by the Deputy. The project has been assessed in accordance with the prioritisation criteria for large-scale building projects. The long term projected staffing figure, on which future accommodation needs will be based, has been agreed with the school authority and a detailed accommodation brief is being drawn up.

In order to facilitate the delivery of appropriate school accommodation, it was considered that a site extension was required. The Property Management Section of the OPW, which acts on behalf of my Department in relation to site acquisitions generally, was requested to pursue site acquisition in this case.

A site was identified and an agreement on price subject to contract was reached. The Vendor has now withdrawn the offer on that site. The OPW will need to re-advertise for an alternative site in the area. Once site acquisition is finalised, the project will be considered for the appointment of a design team to carry out the architectural planning.

School Staffing.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

266 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the minimum qualification necessary to become a classroom assistant at primary school level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18616/06]

Applications for special need assistant support are now dealt with by the National Council for Special Education (through the local special educational needs organisers (SENOs), who process all applications for support from schools and communicate the decisions directly to the schools. The responsibility for the recruitment and employment of individual special need assistants is a matter for each school authority. The procedures for the appointment of special need assistants in primary schools are outlined in Circular SNA 03/03. This Circular can be accessed on my Departments' website, www.education.gov.ie.

The current educational requirements specify that candidates for appointment to post of special need assistant must have been awarded Grade D (or pass) at least, in Irish, English and Mathematics in the Junior Certificate Examination, in the Day Vocational Certificate Examination or in an examination of equivalent standard.

School Enrolments.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

267 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway has not been admitted to a school; if the services available at this school meet the necessary educational, psychological and social requirements of the person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18617/06]

An appeal under section 29 of the Education Act 1998 has been submitted to my Department on behalf of the person referred to by the Deputy. Section 29 of the Education Act 1998, provides parents with an appeal process where a Board of Management of a school or a person acting on behalf of the Board refuses enrolment to a student. An appeal under section 29 must be dealt with within a maximum of 44 days of its receipt in my Department.

The appeal referred to by the Deputy was admitted on 2nd May and is currently in progress. The appeal procedures operated by my Department provide an opportunity in the first instance for both parties to reach an accommodation at local level. Should an accommodation not be reached, my Department will appoint a facilitator with a view to reaching agreement between the parties. If facilitation fails, an appeal is referred for hearing to an Appeals Committee.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), which became operational on 1 January 2005, now processes applications from schools for special educational needs supports and decides on the level of support appropriate to the school. Details of the appeal have been referred to the NCSE to facilitate the direct involvement of the Special Educational Needs Organiser in this regard. In the event that the parties are unable to reach a prior agreement, an appeal hearing has been set for the 14th June. As appeals under section 29 of the Education Act are determined by an independent appeals committee, it would not be appropriate for me to offer any further comment at this time.

Departmental Funding.

Billy Timmins

Question:

268 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to funding from her Department for a school (details supplied) in Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18618/06]

There are no funds allocated within my Department to meet requests of this nature.

Schools Building Projects.

Willie Penrose

Question:

269 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps she will take to put in place an eight teacher school that is required at Curraghmore, Mullingar, County Westmeath to accommodate the pupil numbers in this area; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that four of the classrooms which are of the portacabin or pre-fab type will be rented from September 2006 and that it would be important to advance this project in consultation with all of the stakeholders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18619/06]

Willie Penrose

Question:

272 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made to date by her Department in the provision of a new school at Curraghmore, Mullingar, County Westmeath. [18622/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 269 and 272 together.

The school to which the Deputy refers has applied for a new 8 classroom school. The application has been assessed in accordance with the Department's criteria for prioritisation of largescale projects and has been assigned a Band 2 rating. Progress on the project is being considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme from 2006 onwards. In the meantime, as the Deputy points out, the school has been allocated temporary accommodation to meet its immediate needs.

Departmental Funding.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

270 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science if she intends to provide funding for the Union of Secondary Students; the reason funding was refused following the Union of Secondary Students’ most recent application; if her Department has examined the funding situation of similar unions in other European countries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18620/06]

I met with representatives of the Union of Secondary Students last year and amongst other things, we discussed the question of financial support from my Department for the Union. I have informed the Union of Secondary Students that I am willing to consider requests from their organisation for financial assistance for specific projects such as their annual general meeting or the hosting of conferences.

My Department recently sanctioned grant assistance to support the 2006 annual general meeting of the Union and also provided conference facilities to support the meeting at the Departments offices in Marlborough Street. I do not think it appropriate for my Department to contribute to the running of a representative body such as USS. My Department does not provide such funding for the Union of Students in Ireland, nor indeed for the teaching unions.

Special Educational Needs.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

271 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the provision of further special education resources for a school (details supplied) in County Louth; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18621/06]

As the Deputy will be aware the general allocation of learning-support/resource teachers (LS/RTs) caters for pupils with learning support and high-incidence special educational needs. The system was constructed so that LS/RT allocations would be based on pupil numbers, taking into account the differing needs of the most disadvantaged schools and the evidence that boys have greater difficulties than girls in this regard.

The general allocation for the school referred to by the Deputy is 1.7 fulltime teaching posts. For the current school-year the school entered into a cluster arrangement with another local school to allow it retain 2 fulltime teaching posts. The schools propose to continue this arrangement for the 2006/2007 school year. This school also had sufficient resources for a third LS/RT post in the current year. For the 2006/2007 it appears that it will have 16.5 resource hours available in respect of 3 pupils with low-incidence special educational needs. This is insufficient to retain the services of a third LS/RT.

It has always been the case that schools that were in receipt of LS/RT or resource teacher support in respect of pupils with low-incidence special educational needs would lose teacher support (either full posts or part-time hours) when the pupils in respect of whom the hours were allocated left the school. In the circumstances I do not propose to restore LS/RTs to schools unless additional hours become available either in the school or in local schools that would be prepared to come together with sufficient hours to retain the post. The school authority may submit any new proposals in this regard to the Special Education Section of my Department.

Question No. 272 answered with QuestionNo. 269.

Vaccination Programme.

Liam Twomey

Question:

273 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a BCG vaccination is mandatory for new teachers when some health board areas have discontinued this practice and when the effectiveness of this vaccine has been questioned; her plans to make this voluntary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18715/06]

The current Immunisation Guidelines for Ireland, published by the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, recommend vaccination against TB of teachers in training. It is understood that these guidelines are being revised at present. The Department's medical advisor has written to the Chairperson of the National Immunisation Committee seeking advice on whether or not the current practice should be continued. It is expected that this question will be addressed in the course of drafting the forthcoming edition of the national guidelines.

Institutes of Technology.

Joe Higgins

Question:

274 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will ensure that the Dublin Institute of Technology Students’ Union is represented on the membership of the Grangegorman Development Agency, in view of the fact that the DIT student body represents the largest stakeholder in the impending development in Grangegorman. [18716/06]

I recently announced the appointment of Mr. John Fitzgerald, City Manager, Dublin City Council as Chairman of the Grangegorman Development Agency and I am now actively considering the other appointments to the Agency.

The Deputy will be interested to know that Section 22 of the Grangegorman Development Agency Act 2005 provides for the establishment, by the Agency, of a consultative group that is representative of all stakeholders interested in the development of the Grangegorman Site. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the student body of the Dublin Institute of Technology is specified as a stakeholder under this section of the Act.

Student Support Schemes.

Denis Naughten

Question:

275 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps she is taking to address the confusion regarding third level student financial supports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18718/06]

Denis Naughten

Question:

276 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the measures she is taking to ensure that information pertaining to third level student financial supports is more widely available and issued in a format more accessible to students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18719/06]

Denis Naughten

Question:

279 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science when she expects to have Government approval for the publication of the Student Support Bill; the timeframe for the passing of the Student Support Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18722/06]

Denis Naughten

Question:

280 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will reform the grants system in order that grant supports for students are expanded to include provision for child care and equipment; if she will put in place a higher education grant review system for students failing a year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18723/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 275, 276, 279 and 280 together.

The Deputy will be aware that in accordance with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government I plan to introduce a single unified scheme of maintenance grants for students in higher education. This will, I believe, provide for a more coherent administration system which will facilitate consistency of application, improved client accessibility and ensure the timely delivery of grants to those who need them most. The maintenance grants are reviewed annually and improvements made as necessary, having regard to available resources. I attach particular importance to the issue of the quality and timeliness of information for students in relation to the financial supports which may be available to them. A number of initiatives have been taken by my Department in this regard, including the issuing of an information sheet direct to each CAO applicant. I have also asked the National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education to review existing information strategies and to bring forward proposals for additional initiatives which I expect to have in the near future.

In relation to the future administration of the schemes, my Department has, as I have indicated previously, been engaged in substantial consultations with the key stakeholders in order to map the most logical and effective arrangements for the future structure and administration of the student support schemes. These discussions have substantially clarified the positions of the various stakeholders and interest groups in relation to the future administration possibilities for student support. I expect to be in a position in the coming weeks to decide on a strategy, having regard to the many and complex issues involved, to give effect to the Programme for Government commitment to the payment of the maintenance grants through a unified and flexible payment scheme. The arrangements to be put in place will involve clearly defined targets for the delivery of a quality and timely service to applicants for maintenance grants, including the expeditious payment of grants to applicants who comply with the terms of the schemes. The arrangements for the future administration will, as I have previously indicated, be provided for in new statutory framework through a Student Support Bill and I expect to be in a position to seek Government approval in the near future for the drafting of the Bill.

Denis Naughten

Question:

277 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans to streamline the administration of the student assistance fund and the millennium partnership fund in order that students in some communities and colleges are not disadvantaged in comparison to others; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18720/06]

Denis Naughten

Question:

278 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans to introduce baseline funding for under represented groups at third level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18721/06]

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

The Student Assistance Fund is available to students experiencing particular or unexpected hardship during their course of study. The fund is allocated on a per capita basis to publicly-funded higher education institutions. In 2005-06, 35 institutions received funding totalling €5.8m. Over 12,000 students benefited from the fund during 2004-05.

Until 2005, the amount of funding available for the access funds, including the Student Assistance Fund, varied annually, depending on the level of demand for the top-up maintenance grant. The decision in 2004 to separate expenditure on the top-up maintenance grant from other access funding programmes has ended these variations. Students apply for the Student Assistance Fund through their student services office or to the access officer within their institution.

The Millennium Partnership Fund, which was established in 2000, also provides community-based funding. It supports retention and participation among under-represented groups of students in further or higher education and is available to students in area partnerships and community groups which participate in the Local Development Social Inclusion Programme (LDSIP).

Application for Millennium funding is made annually by organisations through Pobal Ltd., the state company established to promote social inclusion, reconciliation and equality in Ireland and which has administered the fund since it was established. In 2005, a total of €1.89m was allocated to 57 community groups and partnerships. In 2004-05, the latest year for which figures are available, approximately 3,750 students in higher and further education benefited from the fund.

The National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education within the Higher Education Authority recently completed a review of funding to achieve equity of access to higher education. The review process involved qualitative and quantitative data research, wide-ranging consultation, the publication of a discussion document, submissions and focus group meetings. This review was published by the National Office and launched by me in December 2005. Included in this review were the Student Assistance Fund and the Millennium Partnership Fund. The review of the Millennium Partnership Fund was informed by the evaluation of the Millennium partnership fund which was published in 2005. This report analysed the extent to which the Millennium Partnership Fund in its current form represents a good strategic fit with other funding programmes such as the Student Assistance Fund. The report recommended a model for the future of the Millennium Partnership Fund that builds on best practice and the opportunities created by its community-based dimension. The National Office has been consultation with Pobal, the current administrators of the Millennium Partnership Fund, in relation to the future administration of the fund.

Local variations in funding at institutional and/or community level is one of the six key issues for resolution that the National Office review identifies and recommends that "guidelines on local funding should be agreed and implemented so that decisions on which students receive funding are clear and transparent".

The National Office has commenced work on implementing the recommendations of its funding review, including the recommendation in respect of the Student Assistance Fund and the Millennium Partnership fund. I envisage that the National Office will, in this context, develop and implement overarching guidelines pertaining to the operation of the Student Assistance Fund and the Millennium Partnership Fund.

The 2005-06 student support schemes gave particular priority to addressing inequities in participation of students from the lower socio-economic groups through the Special Rates of Maintenance (Top-Up) grant. There was a significant increase of more than 20% in the "Top-Up" grant for the 2005/06 academic year, bringing the maximum rate of grant payable, including top-up, to €5,355, compared to €4,000 in 2002. Over 12,500 students were in receipt of the ‘Top-Up' in the academic year 2005/05. This exceeds the target recommended in the Report of the Action Group on Access to Third Level Education (Mac Namara Report). In total, it is estimated that approximately 56,000 further and higher education students received maintenance grant assistance in 2005/06.

Question No. 279 answered with QuestionNo. 275.
Question No. 280 answered with QuestionNo. 275.

Third Level Fees.

Denis Naughten

Question:

281 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will abolish part-time fees for third level education; if she will introduce financial supports to part-time students who are in need of financial assistance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18724/06]

I have no plans at present to extend the free tuition fees schemes to include part-time students. I wish to advise the Deputy of the provisions under Section 473A, Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997. This provides tax relief for eligible persons, at the standard rate of tax, for tuition fees paid in respect of approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including certain approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU Member States and postgraduate courses in non-EU countries.

Tax relief for courses of at least two years' duration at undergraduate level extends to approved full/part-time courses in both private and publicly funded third level colleges in the State and any other EU Member State and approved full/part-time courses operated by Colleges in any EU Member State providing distance education in the State.

In 2001, Section 29 of the 2001 Finance Act amended the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 to provide for: — (a) The amalgamation of the then existing four tax reliefs for third level education fees. (b) The section also extended the relief by removing the restrictions — For repeat years — On individuals undertaking more than one course — On individuals already holding a third level qualification and — The exclusion of certain courses in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and teacher training. (c) The relief is also extended to postgraduate fees paid for third level education in private and publicly funded third level colleges in non-EU countries. (d) Tax relief for undergraduate fees is also now available in EU countries for duly accredited private third level colleges.

Tax Relief on tuition fees is claimed directly from the Tax Office using an I.T. 31 Form. Details of approved colleges and courses are also available on Revenue's Internet site at www.revenue.ie.

Higher Education.

Denis Naughten

Question:

282 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will issue her response to the recommendations contained in the McIver Report; the extent to which the recommendations proposed in the report will be implemented; the timeframe for it’s implementation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18725/06]

Government commitment to the PLC sector, by reference to the resources applied in teachers' pay, non-pay running costs, student support and certification costs, is very significant. We have increased the number of PLC places by 60% since 1996/97. Indeed, the number of PLC places approved for 2005/2006 is up by more than 1,600 on the 2004/05 level. The number of approved places in the sector now stands at 30,188.

We also extended the provision of maintenance grants to PLC students with effect from September 1998. The PLC maintenance grant scheme operates on the same basis as in higher education. There were nearly 8,000 PLC grant holders in 2005 and they received some €23 million in direct support. Tuition fees for PLC courses are also waived.

PLC students are included in the calculation of non-pay budgets issued to schools in respect of running costs. A supplementary non-pay grant towards running costs specifically for PLC schools is also payable. This amounted to €5.5 million in 2005. In addition, capital funding for works at eleven post-Leaving Certificate Colleges in 2006 has been agreed.

Other developments funded by my Department of direct benefit to the PLC sector include the provision of national certification under the Further Education and Training Awards Council and the development of progression links with higher education in the Institutes of Technology. The McIver Report contains 21 over-arching recommendations, incorporating 91 sub-recommendations. It has been estimated, in consultation with management and staff interests, that the recommendations for staffing would involve at a minimum the creation of at least 800 new posts at a cost of over €48 million. This level of additional provision cannot be considered in isolation from other areas of education.

I want to invest in educational opportunity for learners in Further Education by providing the necessary system supports that will allow the sector as a whole to fulfil its important potential. The non-teaching educational tasks particular to PLC teachers, the demands on the management side and the challenges presented by the variation in size of the 200 plus PLC providers are under very active consideration by officials at present. It is intended to table concrete proposals for discussion on the way forward. The positive engagement of the main partners will be sought to advance this agenda.

Third Level Enrolments.

Jack Wall

Question:

283 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has missed the deadline for late applications through the CAO process, the mechanism which is available to them to enrol and attend college in the forthcoming academic year. [18726/06]

The admission of students to higher education institutions level is a matter for the individual institutions and the Central Applications Office and I have no function in relation to same.

School Enrolments.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

284 Mr. Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of Gaelscoileanna established in County Kildare; the number of students attending each Gaelscoil; the projected future enrolment envisaged for each school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18727/06]

There are six primary Gaelscoileanna in County Kildare. The number students enrolled in each Gaelscoil for the 2005/06 school year is set out in the table. My Department does not hold information on the future enrolment for any of the Gaelscoileanna in County Kildare.

Gaelscoileanna in Kildare Enrolments 2005/2006 school year

School

2005/2006

Scoil C. Uí Dhálaigh (19680G)

374

Scoil Uí Riada (19897I)

325

Gaelscoil Chill Dara (20023A)

335

Scoil Uí Fhiaich (20058T)

306

Gaelscoil Nás na Ríogh (20159C)

89

Gaelscoil Átha Í (20192A)

44

Total

1,473

Irish Language Education.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

285 Mr. Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Science her Department’s plans for the provision of second level education through Irish in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18728/06]

Two all-Irish schools currently serve the needs of County Kildare at post primary level, Coláiste Cois Life in Lucan and Gaelcholáiste Chill Dara in Newbridge. The latter commenced operation in September 2004 having received temporary recognition from my Department for a three year period. A new state of the art building is currently being built for Coláiste Cois Life. When completed it will cater for 600 pupils including those from the north Kildare area.

In addition, Co. Kildare VEC recently applied for the establishment of a separate all-Irish post-primary school in Maynooth. This application is currently being examined by officials in the School Planning Section of my Department. A decision will be conveyed to the VEC as soon as it is made.

Schools Recognition.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

286 Mr. Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department will give permanent recognition to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18729/06]

The school to which the Deputy refers opened with provisional recognition from my Department in September 2004. The school is required to complete a minimum period of three years in this mode, during which time it must demonstrate its viability and that it is operating in accordance with the Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools. The matter of permanent recognition can be considered when this period has expired.

Schools Building Projects.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

287 Mr. Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Science if a design team has been appointed to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18730/06]

The process of appointing a design team to the building project referred to by the Deputy is underway and should be completed shortly.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

288 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will examine an application for a school (details supplied) in County Wexford; if the school will be considered for the evolved scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18731/06]

I can confirm to the Deputy that the school to which he refers has applied to my Department for capital funding for a Resource Room/Parent Room. The project has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and has been assigned a band 3 rating. Progress on the project is being considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme from 2006 onwards.

School Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

289 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to a serious defect in the roof of the sports hall at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; the action she proposes to take to deal with the matter in view of the possible implications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18822/06]

In view of the presence of asbestos in the roof of the school in question, the works are being carried under the direction of the Office of Public Works who are managing the Asbestos Remediation programme on behalf of my Department. I understand that Tenders for the works are now in and the contract is due to be placed shortly.

Schools Building Projects.

Finian McGrath

Question:

290 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if the plan for a second level school in the Donabate community will be brought forward; and if same will be made a priority issue. [18848/06]

A new 1,000 pupil post primary school is being provided for Donabate. This will be delivered by way of a Public Private Partnership. Site issues and the management model for the new school are currently being worked on in my Department. When these matters have been finalised, the school will be included in a PPP bundle for delivery. The project already has been assigned a Band 1 Priority rating under the prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects which is the highest band rating possible.

Special Educational Needs.

Finian McGrath

Question:

291 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that Down syndrome has the highest incidence of assessed intellectual disability; if Down syndrome will be specified as a category to receive specified hours of resource teaching supported in appendix one of the special education circular; and if same will be made a priority issue. [18849/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department provides a range of teaching and care supports for children with special educational needs, including children with Down Syndrome. The precise level of support is determined by the special educational needs of the particular child. Children with Down Syndrome are entitled to additional provision in school, either under the terms of the general allocation system of teaching supports if the assessment places the child in the high incidence disability category or through an allocation of additional resources if the child is assessed as being within the low incidence category of special need, as defined by my Department's circular.

In circumstances where a Down Syndrome child has other associated needs and would fall into the low incidence disability categories, this may automatically attract an individual resource teaching allocation. Such applications should be referred to the local Special Educational Needs Organiser by the school. I am satisfied that the mechanisms are in place to provide appropriate resources for children with special needs in our schools, including those with Down Syndrome.

Finian McGrath

Question:

292 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 with their educational needs; and if their resource hours in science and English will be increased. [18850/06]

My Department provides a range of supports to second level schools to enable them to cater for pupils with special educational needs. The supports in question include remedial and resource teaching support, special needs assistant support and funding for the purchase of specialised equipment. The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has been established as an independent statutory body with responsibilities as set out in the National Council for Special Education (Establishment) Order, 2005. Since 1 January 2005, the NCSE through local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) is responsible for processing resource applications for children with special educational needs.

The level of teaching and special needs assistant support for special educational needs is determined by the SENO in accordance with my Department's resourcing policy for special educational needs. In the case of the school in question, the SENO has recommended a total of 35.5 additional teaching hours per week to cater for the special educational needs of pupils enrolled, including the pupil referred to by the Deputy. The NCSE has also confirmed to my Department that an application for Assistive Technology for the pupil in question has been received by the local SENO and is currently under consideration.

Defence Forces Recruitment.

Billy Timmins

Question:

293 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Defence the height requirement for recruitment of females into other EU states’ armies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18575/06]

I am advised by the military authorities that they do not maintain details of the eligibility criteria, which includes height, for recruitment to the Armies of other European Union Member States.

As I indicated to the House on 29 September, 2005 I have asked the military authorities to report to me on the height requirement and I will review the height requirement in the light of that report. I expect to have the military authorities' report on or before 1 June, 2006 and I understand that it will include a review of the current height standards which are applied by other armies.

I would point out however that the height requirement is only one element of the overall matter of how more women might be encouraged to enlist in the Defence Forces.

In this context I believe it is important that we look at the whole range of possibly contributing factors. To that end I intend shortly to award a contract for research into women's attitudes to military life and a career in the Defence Forces. I would envisage such research to include interviews with currently serving female members of both the Permanent Defence Force and the Reserve Defence Force.

Overseas Missions.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

294 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence if Defence Forces have served alongside British forces on UN peacekeeping missions abroad in the last 30 years; if so, when and the location at which. [18576/06]

During the last thirty years, members of the Permanent Defence Force have served on many UN mandated Peacekeeping Missions, which also included British military personnel.

Examples of such missions include UNFICYP in Cyprus, UNMIL in Liberia, Operation Althea in Bosnia and Herzegovina, ISAF in Afghanistan and KFOR in Kosovo.

Application for Club Facilities.

Jack Wall

Question:

295 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Defence the mechanism a club (details supplied) in County Kildare has to adopt to meet or commence their application for the provision of facilities that are needed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18577/06]

The club in question should make a formal application, with details of their proposals, to my Department for consideration. Any such application may be addressed to the Secretary General, Department of Defence, Property Management Branch, Coláiste Caoimhín, Mobhi Road, Glasnevin, Dublin 9.

Decentralisation Programme.

Jack Wall

Question:

296 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Defence if agreement has been reached in regard to the decentralisation of his Department to Newbridge; the number of officials seeking or applying for transfer to Newbridge; the number from within his Department seeking the transfer; the number outside his Department seeking a transfer; the grades of the personnel seeking the transfer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18578/06]

The Government Decision on decentralisation, announced by the Minister for Finance in his Budget statement on 3 December 2003, provides for the transfer of all of my Department's Dublin based civil service staff to Newbridge, Co. Kildare. The number of staff to be relocated to Newbridge is 200. A total of 385 personnel, of which 60 from within the Department, have opted to move to Newbridge. An additional 8 staff from outside my Department have been assigned to this Department for the purpose of relocating to Newbridge. The Government decision also provides for the transfer of 300 Defence Forces Headquarters staff to the Curragh, Co. Kildare.

While the Office of Public Works has identified a suitable site in Newbridge for the Department's new headquarters, negotiations on the acquisition of the site have not yet been completed.

The following table details the number and grades of personnel who have volunteered to decentralise with my Department to Newbridge.

Grade

Department of Defence Staff

Staff from other Departments

Secretary General

1

Assistant Secretary

2

Principal Officer

5

6

Assistant Principal

8

27

Higher Executive Officer

14

72

Executive Officer

10

89

Staff Officer

4

31

Clerical Officer

15

98

Properties Officer

1

Service Officer

2

60

325

Voting Procedures.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

297 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the criteria that enables a person who has a mental or physical disability to be assisted while voting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18653/06]

Persons whose names are on the register of electors are generally entitled to vote at elections and referenda, according to their citizenship. Detailed requirements in relation to registration, the right to vote and the procedure for voting are set out in electoral law: implementation of these is a matter for local registration authorities and returning officers, as appropriate.

Under and subject to section 103 of the Electoral Act 1992, a voter whose sight is so impaired or who is otherwise so physically incapacitated or who is unable to read or write to such an extent that the person is unable to vote without assistance, may, on request, have their ballot paper marked by a companion.

Housing Policy.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

298 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the preparation of the new housing policy statement (details supplied) has been completed; the date on which he expects the completed document to be published in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18654/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

299 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason for the delay in publishing the new housing policy statement (details supplied), which was due to be published in early 2006. [18655/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

302 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the key Government policies and policy directions aimed at ensuring a quality living environment for householders and communities in view of the estimated rise of 1 million people here over the next fifteen years; and the number of social and affordable housing units he estimates will be required in five, 10 and 15 years time. [18658/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

303 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the key recommendations of the NESC report, Housing in Ireland: Performance and Policy, which will be implemented under the new housing policy framework. [18659/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

305 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the policy directions planned under the new Housing Policy Framework over the medium term; and the timeframe defined by the medium term for the purposes of the policy framework. [18661/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 298, 299, 302, 303 and 305 together.

The new Housing Policy Framework: Building Sustainable Communities published in December 2005 sets out the key principles underpinning housing policy over the coming years. The Framework proposes an integrated approach to housing in Ireland for the 21st Century, taking account of the demands of a increasing population. It firmly places housing policy in the context of building sustainable communities, with a focus on policies to ensure an effective private housing market, increasing social housing provision, and its quality, reforming the social housing sector and improving pathways to homeownership. In this regard, it responds directly to the policy challenges highlighted in the NESC report on housing.

The Framework specifically outlines an investment programme for social and affordable housing for the coming three years. Proposed investment beyond 2008, is being considered in the context of the preparation of the next National Development Plan. It would not be practicable definitively to determine social and affordable housing requirements for longer time frames beyond this period. The required response will depend on demand which in turn is based on a range of factors, including population changes, employment and economic growth, activity in the housing market, both purchasing and private renting and ultimately the personal choices of households over time. It is important to have in place the appropriate mechanisms to plan and respond to need at required levels. These mechanisms are incorporated in the housing policy Framework; they include proposals for a new means of assessing need and responding to this need in a multi-faceted way through multi-annual housing action plans supported by active land management.

Some of the proposals in the Framework will take time to develop fully, but it is important to set out the vision to inform policy development and implementation over the medium term. Work is well underway on a new housing policy statement which will set out more detailed approaches to implementing the Framework document. This statement will take a medium term perspective, will have regard to current discussions within the Partnership Talks, and will link into the investment proposed under the next National Development Plan.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

300 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the Exchequer capital investment for each of the years 2006, 2007 and 2008, in respect of social housing; the amount in respect of affordable housing for each of the years 2006, 2007 and 2008; the amount in respect of voluntary and co-operative housing for each of the years 2006, 2007 and 2008. [18656/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

304 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the programme of investment in social and affordable housing for the years 2006, 2007 and 2008 respectively as set out under the new Housing Policy Framework. [18660/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

306 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the estimated capital cost of investing in infrastructure aimed at delivering high levels of housing and improved affordability over the next five, 10 and 15 years. [18662/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 300, 304 and 306 together.

Proposed Exchequer capital investment for the period 2006 to 2008 is estimated at almost €4 billion. This investment approximates to €6.5 billion when non-voted and current spending provisions are included. Details in relation to the 2006 housing provision are set out in the 2006 Revised Estimates for Public Services and Public Capital Programme. While the overall level of funding for the Department for 2007 and 2008, including the housing programme, has been agreed under the 2006-2010 multi annual capital envelopes, individual programme provisions for those years will be settled as part of the normal estimates process.

Building on this figure, the new housing policy statement, Housing Policy Framework: Building Sustainable Communities, outlines a substantially increased programme of investment in social and affordable housing in the 2006-2008 period. This investment will be undertaken in response to identified need, with some of 23,000 new units of social housing to be commenced and 15,000 units of affordable housing to be delivered over the same period. In addition, further households will be assisted through the new Rental Accommodation Scheme. In total, we expect some 50,000 households to benefit from various social and affordable housing measures over the coming three years.

Investment for the period to 2013, is being considered in the context of the next National Development Plan 2007-2013 (NDP). The relevant material of the NDP is being drafted by my Department and while the final content and focus of the overall Plan will be a matter for decision by Government, priorities for investment in housing and related areas will take account of a number of factors including the key policy challenges highlighted by the NESC report, the results of the 2005 Housing Needs Assessment and the housing policy framework document. It would not be practicable definitively to determine costs for time frames beyond this period.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

301 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of social housing units, affordable housing units and voluntary housing sector units produced here in the past decade; and the amount of social housing units, affordable housing units and voluntary housing sector units respectively produced here in the past decade, each expressed as a proportion of the total number of houses built here during that time. [18657/06]

The data on the number of social housing units, affordable housing units and voluntary housing units for each calendar year, are available in the Oireachtas Library, and also on my Department's website at www.environ.ie.

The Table below summarises the position over the past decade, 1996 to 2005.

Local Authority Social housing *

Affordable housing

Voluntary and co-operative housing

Total

No. of units

41,697

10,875

19,290

71,862

Proportion of total houses built — 548,267

7.6%

2.0%

3.5%

13.1%

*This includes acquisitions.

In addition, further households have been accommodated in vacancies arising in the local authority housing stock, extensions to existing homes etc. This has resulted in the provision of social and affordable housing to 109,000 households in the period.

Questions Nos. 302 and 303 answered with Question No. 298.
Question No. 304 answered with QuestionNo. 300.
Question No. 305 answered with QuestionNo. 298.
Question No. 306 answered with QuestionNo. 300.

Planning Issues.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

307 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amendments that will be made to the existing Residential Density Guidelines in order to deal with the design and management of apartments. [18663/06]

Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Residential Density were published by my Department in 1999. These included a specific objective of reducing urban sprawl and promoting greater efficiency in the use of energy, transport and natural resources. The Guidelines also aim to assist in achieving high quality residential density of a suitable scale at appropriate locations, in conjunction with improved public transport systems.

My Department intends to review the Guidelines with a view to up-dating them later this year. The revised Guidelines will focus particularly on the quality of new developments. They will also take account of the extensive experience built up since the introduction of the Guidelines in the design, assessment and development of higher density proposals. My Department has commissioned a research study into apartment size and space standards to inform the revised planning guidelines on residential densities. This study is nearing finalisation and will then be the subject of a consultation process.

Apartment complex management companies are a means of ensuring that the communal aspect of this type of housing can operate effectively. A Law Reform Commission Working Group is currently examining legal aspects of the management of multi-unit structures generally and the Government will consider the recommendations in its final report, including the need for any new legislation in this area.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

308 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of social housing units which are expected to be started and the number expected to be completed in the local Government sector in 2006, 2007 and 2008; the number of social housing units which are expected to be started and the number expected to be completed in the voluntary and co-operative sector in 2006, 2007 and 2008. [18664/06]

The Housing Policy Framework: Building Sustainable Communities, published by Government last December outlines a substantially increased programme of investment in social and affordable housing measures for the period 2006-2008 involving the mobilization of some 23,000 new units of social housing. It is expected that local authorities will start/acquire in the region of 6,000 units per annum, with the balance to be commenced by the voluntary and co-operative housing sector.

Over the period, it is expected that completions/acquisitions of social housing units by local authorities should rise from 4,735 units (excluding regeneration schemes) in 2005 to some 6,000 units by 2008. Completions by the voluntary and co-operative housing sector are expected to rise from 1,350 units in 2005 to about 1,700 units by 2008.

Further households will be assisted through the new Rental Accommodation Scheme and some 15,000 units of affordable housing are to be delivered over the same period. In total, we expect some 50,000 households to benefit from various social and affordable housing measures over the coming three years.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

309 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of the 6,000 social housing units planned in the local authority sector for 2006 which have been started to date. [18665/06]

Information relating to the number of local authority housing units started and completed for the three month period January to March 2006 will be published in due course in the Department's Quarterly Housing Statistics Bulletin and on the Department's website at www.environ.ie.

Social Welfare Benefits.