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 9, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 10 to 63, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 64 to 69, inclusive, answered orally.

Tax Code.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

70 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance the tax and VAT issues surrounding the new private sector venture for elderly people in their homes, known as comfort keepers, for the users and providers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19275/06]

Liz McManus

Question:

124 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Finance the tax and VAT issues surrounding the private sector venture for elderly people in their homes, known as comfort keepers, both for the users and providers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15456/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 and 124 together.

The position is that homecare services provided directly by the Health Service Executive (HSE) do not generally come within the scope of VAT, as Public Bodies are not regarded as taxable persons. This means that they do not charge VAT on the services they provide and cannot recover VAT incurred on their input costs.

The package of services aimed at older people, announced by the Tánaiste in the 2006 Budget, is based on the pilot homecare packages in place and will deliver a wide range of services. The packages are delivered through the HSE, by a range of providers including the HSE itself, voluntary groups and the private sector. Homecare packages will consist of a mixture of grants, contracted care services, therapeutic input and equipment and other such community services as identified in the needs assessment as being necessary to facilitate the older person to remain living in their own home.

However, where homecare services are provided for by private companies for a consideration in the course or furtherance of business, the provider may be obliged to register and account for VAT at the appropriate rate depending on the type of service they provide. Homecare provided to individuals consists of a variety of services which may be liable to VAT at different rates. The current VAT treatment of such services is in accordance with EU Sixth VAT Directive with which Irish VAT law must comply.

However, my Department is examining in consultation with the Department of Health and Children the scope within the relevant EU Directives to exempt the provision of such services from VAT in the future.

Seán Ryan

Question:

71 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Finance if his Department’s attention has been drawn to the fact that some foreign executives are restructuring their remuneration using options or preference shares to bypass the ending of the remittance system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19277/06]

As the Deputy is probably aware, the aggregate value of remuneration packages of executives, be they Irish or foreign, may consist of a number of items other than cash including, for example, a company car, shares or medical benefits.

The structuring or restructuring of such remuneration packages is a matter for employees and their employers. Indeed, the restructuring of a remuneration package may occur for reasons totally unconnected with tax matters. For example, the restructuring of a remuneration package can arise where a company wishes to retain, over the long term, the services of a valued employee.

As regards the receipt by an employee from his/her employer of shares or options on shares in the employer's company, in common with all employees (including executives, whether foreign or Irish), the employee is obliged to account directly to Revenue for the Irish tax due rather than through the PAYE system.

The changes to the remittance basis of taxation came into effect from 1 January last so it is early days yet to assess whether there has been any significant tax-driven restructuring of remuneration packages.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

72 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Finance his views on the widespread use of avoidance mechanisms in respect of development land and stamp duty; if his Department or the Revenue Commissioners have carried out an examination of the actual and potential loss of stamp duty revenue to the Government and the impact of stamp duty avoidance mechanisms on house purchasers and others acquiring property; the estimated cost of avoidance mechanisms; the number of deals in which avoidance mechanisms are involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19265/06]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

107 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance the implications from a tax avoidance point of view, particularly in regard to stamp duty, of the practice in the construction industry of the use of licences to build as opposed to the traditional transfer of development land; if he has an estimate of the amount of construction activity organised using this mechanism; if he has an estimate of tax losses as a consequence of this practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19291/06]

Gerard Murphy

Question:

137 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the issues which are being reviewed in assessing whether the exemption from stamp duty on site values should apply where developers build houses on the basis of a licence to build from the landowner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19403/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 72, 107 and 137 together.

Stamp Duty is a charge on documents, which are mostly legal documents, used in the transfer of property. Where a property is purchased, stamp duty is charged on the conveyance or transfer effecting change of legal ownership of the property concerned.

If there is no conveyance, there is no stamp duty. A builder or developer can, therefore, obtain a licence from a vendor to build on land owned by the vendor without incurring a stamp duty charge at that stage of the venture. Once the buildings, whether commercial or residential, are completed, the conveyances or transfers of such properties (i.e. both land and buildings) to purchasers are chargeable to stamp duty in the normal manner, unless specific exemptions are available to the purchasers.

The number of cases involved is not available as there is no requirement on a builder or developer to submit any documents to Revenue for stamping in relation to a building licence arrangement.

Taking account of the proliferation of developments generally in recent times, and in the context of its targeted project in the construction sector in 2006, the Revenue Commissioners are reviewing the use of licensing and similar arrangements, as part of their audit and compliance programmes. The review, as with Revenue's overall approach to its business, will focus on risk.

I have asked Revenue to let me know the outcome of their review and I will decide what action, if any, is required bearing in mind the effect on the housing market and the cost to the Exchequer.

Drug Seizures.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

73 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied regarding the level of supervision exercised by the Revenue Commissioners at points of entry, especially in regard to continued concern in relation to the drugs problem and particularly the smuggling of cocaine; if his attention has been drawn to the number of flights that arrive at both Cork and Shannon Airports at times when there are no customs officers on duty; if he will ask the Revenue Commissioners to ensure cover at all times that flights arrive at these airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19293/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they are satisfied with the levels of supervision exercised by customs officers at points of entry into the State. In relation to drugs smuggling through airports, in the five years to 2005 customs officers made 3,428 drugs seizures, with a street value of approximately €23 million, in Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports. As regards cocaine, there has been a steady increase in the number and volume of cocaine seizures at airports — mainly at Dublin airport, but also, more recently, in 2005, at Cork airport.

On the 30th of March 2006, I responded in some detail to Parliamentary Question No. 41 asked by Deputy Higgins on flight arrivals into Cork and Shannon Airports at times when there are no customs officers on duty. As advised in my reply, the Revenue Commissioners ended 24 hour rostered coverage in Cork in 2002 and Shannon in 2005, in both cases the reason was the low number of night-time flights. Cork Airport is closed between 11.30 p.m. and 5.30 a.m. and Shannon Airport handles no flights between 1.30 a.m. and 5.30 a.m.

However, the Revenue Commissioners have advised me that they have a number of "on-call" non-rostered customs officers available to attend at both Cork and Shannon airports. These "on-call" officers provide flexibility of attendance and are available 24 hours, seven days per week. They can and do attend during hours when rostered officers are not in attendance, including on early morning flights from US airports when required, as dictated by risk profiling.

The Deputy might wish to note that Cork Airport has no non-EU flights outside of normal hours of attendance of customs officials. For EU flights, customs officers may only stop and question people where there are reasonable grounds for suspicion. Almost all night-time flights originating in non-EU countries were met and checked by Revenue's 24-hour specialist staff in 2005.

Mortgage Interest Rates.

Paul McGrath

Question:

74 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he has examined the possibility of introducing measures to promote greater availability of long-term fixed interest mortgages which would reduce the vulnerability of the economy to short-term interest rate movements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19389/06]

There is a high degree of competition in the Irish mortgage credit market, providing a wide choice of competitively priced mortgage products including long-term fixed-rate mortgages. The choice of mortgage product ultimately rests with the consumer and the lending institution concerned. The preference of borrowers is influenced by factors such as their personal circumstances and their own assessment of the relative merits of fixed and variable rate mortgages. Consumers have the benefit of the information and advice supplied by the Financial Regulator.

It would not be appropriate for me in my role as Minister for Finance to seek to promote one type of mortgage product ahead of another. The information being made available by the Financial Regulator, together with the statutory information and warnings in the case of mortgages, serve as an adequate basis for consumers to make a decision about the type of mortgage which best suits them. The Financial Regulator's guide called "Mortgages made Easy" is available on its website or from its Consumer Information Office.

The Deputy may wish to note that while fixed interest rate mortgages may have a role in smoothing mortgage outgoings at individual household level, it would require a very high level of take-up of fixed-rate mortgages and a substantial shifting out of variable rate mortgages in order to have any significant impact on the Irish economy's response to changes in interest rates. In this regard, a key factor would appear to be consumers' individual decisions and preferences. Borrowers must, at any particular time, balance the premium payable as part of a fixed interest rate mortgage to ensure certainty in repayments, against the continuing, low levels of mortgage interest rates available to variable-rate borrowers.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

75 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the negotiations which have taken place regarding the placement of persons who do not opt to decentralise with their units or agencies; and the proposals which the Government have made to unions. [19392/06]

The primary mechanism for placing general service civil servants who are in posts which are due to decentralise but wish to remain in Dublin is by way of bilateral transfer. As staff who have applied to decentralise continue to be transferred into decentralising organisations, the posts they vacate become available to those wishing to remain in Dublin. It is expected that a significant number of staff will be placed through these bilateral arrangements as the programme is rolled out. To end April 2006 in excess of 1,500 staff have been assigned to decentralising posts, of which over 800 are Dublin based applicants.

In addition, officials of my Department have been in discussions with the civil service unions on further arrangements to facilitate the placement of Dublin based staff. Under these arrangements, which have been recently initiated for general service grades, details of staff who wish to remain in Dublin at each grade level are provided to the Public Appointments Service so that a proportion of vacancies arising in Dublin based posts may be filled by those staff. It is intended that these arrangements will continue over the full transition phase of the decentralisation programme.

Participation in these arrangements by Departments and Offices will be influenced by their timeframe for moving, their success in placing staff through the bilateral arrangements, whether they are relocating in full or in part and the extent to which their staff can be placed elsewhere within the organisation in Dublin.

This issue is the subject of ongoing discussions between my Department and the unions representing the professional and technical grades in the civil service.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

76 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if he will review the exclusion of SSIAs from the terms of the DIRT refund scheme whereby pensioners or persons with a disability are entitled to a refund of tax on interest deducted at source. [19430/06]

The SSIAs were introduced in the 2001 Finance Act and give a credit to all SSIA investors of 25%. The aim of the SSIA scheme was to encourage savings. This aim has been successfully achieved with 1.1 million persons availing of the special scheme.

It is widely acknowledged that one of the reasons for the success of the SSIA scheme was its simplicity. It was clearly stated from the very outset that the SSIA investment returns would be subject to a 23% exit tax at maturity with no exemptions for anyone. The information leaflets that were published at that time reflected this position.

Although all SSIA accounts are subject to an exit tax, it should be noted that the SSIA scheme represented a very good deal for all of those taking it up, whether aged 65 and over or not. For example, a person who will have saved €254 per month over 5 years, into their SSIA account, will receive a credit of €3,800 from the Exchequer even before any interest is taken into account.

It should be noted that DIRT on deposit interest was introduced in 1986 and only two reliefs apply, i.e. for those aged 65 or over and for the physically or mentally incapacitated, where the DIRT is deducted by the financial institution on the deposit interest and is refunded if the person claiming the refund is not otherwise liable to income tax on their total income. Thus, it is not a total tax exemption for all those aged 65 or over, or for the incapacitated.

Pension Provisions.

Tom Hayes

Question:

77 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Finance the terms on which funds in the National Pension Reserve Fund have been made available for public sector projects; and the reason they have not been taken up; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19386/06]

The National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission is independent of Government in the exercise of its functions. It controls and manages the Fund with discretionary authority to determine and implement the Fund's investment strategy in accordance with the Fund investment policy set out in the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000. This investment policy is based on a commercial investment mandate with the objective of securing the optimal return over the long term subject to prudent risk management.

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

With regard to commercial investment in public sector projects in this country, the Annual Report of the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission for 2004 states that the Commission has made an initial allocation of €200 million for investment in public-private partnerships in Ireland and will increase this allocation should suitable opportunities arise. The Report also states that the Commission will make equity and/or debt finance available to the winning bidder in the tender process for public-private-partnership projects, provided it is satisfied with the prospective rate of return. I understand that, to date, no moneys have been invested by the Commission in any such projects.

The Commission was a member of a consortium — The Celtic Roads Group — which was a bidder in a competition for the contract to upgrade the M50 which was conducted by the National Roads Authority. The NRA abandoned the original competition some time ago and launched a new competition on different terms. The Celtic Roads Group consortium decided not to enter the new bidding competition and the Commission's involvement in that project as a member of a bidding consortium is accordingly now at an end.

I would also note that lack of capital is not an issue with Ireland's PPP programme and the success or otherwise of the programme is not in any way dependent on investment by the National Pensions Reserve Fund.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

78 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the number of maturity SSIA four declarations that were not returned to financial institutions for the May 2006 deadline; the estimated tax bill to account holders as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19274/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that as the maturity date for SSIAs maturing in May 2006 is 31st May, it is not possible to provide an accurate number of maturity declarations (SSIA4s) outstanding at this stage. Neither is it possible at this point to estimate the tax accruing on accounts not fully matured.

I am also informed by the Revenue Commissioners that it is their understanding that the financial institutions are taking all reasonable steps to ensure that valid declarations are returned by the maturity date.

Tax Yield.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

79 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the progress of the Revenue Commissioners Construction Industry Project and the National RCT Monitoring Group; the number of civil servants working for each of the above; the number of audits which have been carried out to date in 2006 on construction companies; the total yield from these audits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19272/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that Revenue's Construction Industry Project commenced in December 2005 and is progressing satisfactorily.

A National Relevant Contract Tax (RCT) Monitoring Group has been established, comprising of one full-time officer in each of the four Revenue Regions and supported by the audit, compliance and customer service officers involved in construction in each Revenue District.

The number of officers engaged on operational audit and compliance duties for construction is currently 303. In addition to this there are significant numbers of other staff (estimated at over 100) engaged in routine duties relating to C2 applications, dealing with repayment claims, payment card applications and pursuit of non-filers etc.

As at 31 March 2006, 708 audits had been completed with a yield of €24.7m including interest and penalties. (There is no breakdown available for companies only). A further €2m was collected for arrears of tax in these cases.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

80 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on progress to date in implementing a PEACE III programme for the Six Counties and the Border counties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19439/06]

As the Deputy is aware, the European Union agreed to provide €200m towards the PEACE III programme in order to build on the valuable work of its predecessors. The relevant EU regulations are being finalised at present by the European Council and European Parliament.

The Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), one of the six North South Implementation Bodies set up under the Good Friday Agreement, is Managing Authority for the PEACE II programme. The SEUPB has been asked by the two Member States to begin preparatory work on the Operational Programme for PEACE III and the consultation process is under way.

A progress report was given to the PEACE II Monitoring Committee on 26 April. The Monitoring Committee membership and advisers comprise a wide range of representatives from both sides of the Border. These include nominees from political parties, regional interests, Government Departments, social partners, and regional/local government etc.

SEUPB are organising a series of public meetings in Northern Ireland and the six border counties in early June at which members of the public and key stakeholders will have the opportunity to express their views on the new programme. They may also make written or e-mail submissions on various aspects of the new programme.

I expect that the PEACE III Operational Programme will be agreed with the European Commission so that the new Programme can begin to accept new applications by mid-2007.

National Development Plan.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

81 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the next National Development Plan should be funded within existing capital envelopes; and the flexibility which exists to relax the envelope. [19416/06]

Richard Bruton

Question:

114 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the consultative procedures planned in connection with the National Development Plan 2007-2013; the way in which it is planned to undertake the selection of projects; and if criteria and project ranking against these criteria will be published. [19088/06]

Denis Naughten

Question:

150 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance his plans for the allocation of funding under the next National Development Plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19086/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 81, 114 and 150 together.

The preparation of the next NDP (2007-2013) which is being coordinated by my Department is proceeding. The content and focus of the next NDP and the resultant allocations and prioritisation will be a matter for decision by Government. The new Plan will seek to address the investment now necessary to maintain national competitiveness within a sustainable economic and budgetary framework. It will also set out a coherent investment strategy at sectoral level with particular reference to the infrastructure investment necessary to meet economic and social challenges. In addition the Plan will address a number of horizontal themes including;

—The implementation of the National Spatial Strategy;

—The All-Island Dimension and the potential benefits of cross-border cooperation;

—The promotion of Social Inclusion; and

—Environmental Sustainability.

I envisage that the Plan will be a high level strategic document which will set out a clear framework for project selection over the period of the Plan. The capital investment element of the Plan will obviously reflect the Budget 2007 five year capital envelopes which will be rolled out to 2013 for the purposes of the Plan. Given that the Plan will cover a seven year horizon the seven year capital allocations reflecting Government priorities by programme will be indicative to some degree. This will allow sufficient flexibility to adapt as appropriate to changing circumstances over the period.

An extensive consultation process on the next National Development Plan is under way. Formal submissions have been sought from the Social Partners, the Regional Assemblies, Regional Authorities and a number of concerned interest groups such as the Heritage Council, Comhar, the Combat Poverty Agency and the Western Development Commission. A considerable number of submissions have already been received and my Department has also had meetings with some of the bodies concerned.

Freedom of Information.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

82 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance his views on the Information Commissioner’s annual report 2005 and in particular the disappointment expressed in the report that a number of public bodies of some considerable significance remain outside of the Freedom of Information Act’s scope. [19214/06]

I welcome the Information Commissioner's Annual Report for 2005. I particularly welcome her finding that the FOI Act continues to achieve positive and notable outcomes both for individual requesters and for society generally.

In the Report, the Information Commissioner sets out her thinking on a number of issues, including a need for amended FOI legislation concerning access to the personal records of deceased persons. The Information Commissioner's views on this matter are being considered by my Department at present.

The Report also draws attention to certain bodies that are not subject to FOI. Extension of the FOI Act to a number of the bodies identified by the Information Commissioner is being examined by my Department at present. FOI has been extended gradually as experience has been gained in its application. The Act applied to just 67 bodies when it was introduced in April 1998, mainly to Government Departments and Offices and closely related bodies. In October 1998, the Act was extended to the former health boards and to local authorities. One year later, a further large group of bodies, including voluntary hospitals and bodies dealing with people with an intellectual disability, were brought under its remit. Bodies in the broadcasting sector came within the scope of the Act in 2000.

In 2001 and 2002 the Act was further extended to a range of public and publicly funded bodies in the social services, health, regulatory, environment, cultural and enterprise areas and to universities, institutes of technology and colleges of education.

In October last year, I announced plans to extend the Act to a further 137 bodies which will bring to over 500 the number of bodies subject to Freedom of Information. The necessary regulations to give effect to this extension are currently before the Houses and will be made once the necessary approval has been obtained in each House.

Decentralisation Programme.

Willie Penrose

Question:

83 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance the role of his Department in regard to the setting of conditions for FÁS workers who are being asked to relocate to Birr; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19284/06]

In line with the recommendation of the Decentralisation Implementation Group, a more individualised approach is being adopted to the implementation of the programme in State Agencies such as FÁS. The practical management of the programme is the role of the management of each agency in the first instance. Progress on decentralisation is discussed regularly by agencies with their parent Departments and monitored at Departmental level.

Due to the heterogeneous nature of the State Agencies there will be various complexities which arise in specific organisations. These problems are addressed in conjunction with the agencies' parent Departments in the first instance. Individual problems, for which solutions cannot readily be identified or which have public sector wide implication, are discussed with my Department.

Tax Code.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

84 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied regarding the tax treatment of families with children to support. [19413/06]

This Government acknowledge the continuing cost pressures on parents, particularly those with young children.

The Government have substantially increased Child Benefit since coming into office in 1997. From last month Child Benefit payments have increased to €150 per month for the first and second children and €185 for the third and subsequent children. These Child Benefit payments, which are exempt from income tax, represent a 294% increase in the rate for first and second children over the rate prevailing in 1997 and a 274% increase in the rate for third and subsequent children. By comparison, during this period the increase in the consumer price index is estimated to be 34%. Overall expenditure on Child Benefit has increased by 279% from €506 million in 1997 to almost €2 billion in 2006.

In addition, in Budget 2006 I announced a new Early Childcare Supplement of €1,000 in a full year for each child up to his or her sixth birthday. This new payment, which is also exempt from income tax, along with increases in Child Benefit, brings the amount a family will receive, for each of the first two children under six years, to €2,800 per year, equivalent to over €50 per week in direct financial support. This will be even higher where a family has more than two children under six.

On the supply side, the provision of formal childcare places is being stimulated through a programme of investment under the new five year National Childcare Investment Programme which I announced in Budget 2006. This programme will support the creation of an additional 50,000 childcare places from 2006 to 2010, building on the success of the €500 million Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme which has already been provided under the National Development Plan 2000 to 2006. So far this funding has generated over 26,000 new places with a further 15,000 places due to come on stream before it ends in 2007. This means that between now and 2010 some 65,000 additional places will be funded.

In total, over €2.5 billion extra will be invested in the area of child support over the next five years.

Measures have also been taken by the Government to favour the supply of childcare by tax incentives to set up facilities and provide relief from benefit-in-kind taxation for free or subsidised childcare where this is provided by employers. Taken together, these represent substantial measures to assist with the cost of childcare.

In addition, the tax system treats parents with dependent children more favourably than persons with no dependent children, in recognition of the additional financial burden associated with parenthood. This is done mainly through the one parent family tax credit, the widowed parent tax credit, the incapacitated child tax credit and the home carer tax credit. Also, persons who qualify for the one parent family tax credit, including widowed parents, qualify for the associated standard rate band cut off point which is €36,000 in 2006. This is €4,000 greater than that which applies for a single person.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

85 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the number of representations and from whom he received them in respect of postponing the proposal by the Revenue Commissioners to subject contracts for difference to stamp duty; the estimated tax to be raised by the Revenue Commissioner in respect of the taxation of this type of share transaction; the volume of stock exchange contracts conducted as contracts for difference; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19292/06]

Following the announcement by Revenue clarifying the stamp duty treatment on purchases of shares underpinning the contracts for differences (CFD), my Department received strong representations that there would be severe consequences for the liquidity of the Irish Stock Market and, therefore, on the ability of Irish companies to raise capital here.

In particular, representations were made by the Irish Stock Exchange and by the London Investment Banking Association. The representations made by the London Association reflect the fact that the majority of the CFD business concerned originates with London-based firms. A survey of Irish Stock Exchange member firms conducted by the Exchange indicated that the aggregate value in 2005 of trades in Irish shares associated with CFD contracts represented 30% of the overall value of trades on the Irish Stock Exchange for that year.

I considered the representations made carefully as they seemed to have substance, taking account of the international nature of stock markets. In the circumstances, and having regard to the fact that the relevant stamp duty legislation predates the development of the CFD market, I decided to have the matter reviewed in advance of the next Budget and I issued a statement to that effect.

I was advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, in the light of the planned review, with a view to Budget 2007 announcements, and of the surrounding circumstances, they had decided to allow the existing practices of CFD issuers to continue pending the review. Although a significant percentage of trades in Irish shares was associated with CFD contracts, Irish share-based CFD business was a small fraction of the overall CFD business conducted by the London firms concerned. The Commissioners further advised that, in those circumstances and given the likelihood of that business transferring to non-Irish shares, it was unlikely that there would be any real loss of stamp duty arising from allowing the existing practices to continue pending the review.

Dan Neville

Question:

86 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Finance if he has sought a review of the evaluation of tax relief for private hospital investment in view of the decision to permit these hospitals to use public lands adjoining public hospitals; and the way in which this alters the benefit to cost ratios of such projects. [19425/06]

Richard Bruton

Question:

249 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he has sought a review of the evaluation of tax relief for private hospital investment in view of the decision to permit these hospitals to use public lands adjoining public hospitals; and the way in which this alters the benefit to cost ratios of such projects. [19700/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86 and 249 together.

The plan for private hospitals in the grounds of public hospitals is designed to be a cost effective way of expanding the supply of beds for public patients. However, there have been no decisions yet in regard to approving any particular proposal. It will be a matter for the HSE to assess any proposals.

The scheme of capital allowances for the construction of private hospitals was reviewed by Indecon Economic Consultants as part of the overall review of property tax incentives in 2005. Indecon consulted widely in the course of their review, including consultations with the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive. Their report was published on 6 February 2006 and is available on the Department of Finance's website. The review recommended that this scheme should continue as there was a need for ongoing investment in private hospitals. The consultants observed that the construction of private hospitals could free beds in public hospitals used by private patients. It should also be noted that the consultants observed that the Government's plan for private hospitals in the grounds of public hospitals is designed to be a cost effective way of expanding supply and if properly managed will increase supply and competition.

The summary of the main findings from Indecon's analysis is as follows:

•There has been an overall increase in planning applications and approvals for private hospitals since 2000 but most have not proceeded to date.

•Most of the extra investment in the sector would either not have been undertaken, or would have taken longer to come on-line in the absence of the tax incentive scheme.

•While it is too early to provide detailed estimates of the impact of the scheme on the supply and on the costs of hospital beds, Indecon believes the scheme has the potential to address supply shortages in the sector and to reduce costs.

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

Price Inflation.

Phil Hogan

Question:

87 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Finance his views on recent trends in consumer prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19407/06]

Inflation, as measured by annual changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), was 3.8% in April. A large proportion of the rise in the annual inflation rate is due to external factors such as higher oil prices and recent rises in interest rates by the ECB.

On Budget day, my Department forecast that CPI inflation will average 2.7% in 2006. This forecast was calculated using the usual technical assumption of unchanged interest rates. My Department will be publishing new forecasts in the autumn.

Tax Code.

Mary Upton

Question:

88 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the suggestion that the higher rate of tax should be reduced from 42% to 40%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19296/06]

A reduction in the higher rate of tax is one of a number of ways in which the level of personal taxation may be reduced. The question of such a reduction is a matter for consideration in the context of the annual Budget.

Offshore Islands.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

89 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance the progress of the State’s purchase of the Blasket Islands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16635/06]

The Office of Public Works in conjunction with the Chief State Solicitor's Office is currently attending to the legal issues involved in the purchase. It is expected that letters of offer to the landowners will issue shortly.

Taxation Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

90 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he envisages scope for changes in direct and indirect taxation in the course of the next five years; his preferred options in this regard with particular reference to the needs of the economy and delivery of services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19311/06]

The Government's approach to taxation and to the delivery of public services is set out in its Agreed Programme for Government and recent Budgets, Finance Bills, Estimates for Public Services and Public Capital Programmes. Our taxation policy is designed to maintain and strengthen the competitive position of the economy , foster economic and social development, and equity, while maintaining a sound fiscal stance. Within these constraints we will continue to concentrate the resources available to us on improving the quality of public services and delivering further real improvements to pensioners and people on low incomes. Decisions on tax changes and levels of expenditure on public services are taken in the context of the Government budgetary processes and in accordance with the appropriate Oireachtas procedures. In accordance with long-standing practice it would not be appropriate for me to comment on any future possible budget changes.

Tax Collection.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

91 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the review or surveillance which is taking place of persons who have declared themselves to be non-resident for tax purposes but who are continuously present here; the estimate of the number of such high net worth persons claiming non-residency for tax purposes; the estimate of the cost to the Exchequer of non-residency as a tax avoidance mechanism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19266/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that inquiries relating to residence are a feature of the risk based programmes operated by Revenue. The procedures adopted in relation to validating a claim to non-residence status depend on the circumstances in each case. The administration of the validation procedures is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners and the methods used to verify claims to non-residence include a range of tests and an intelligence dimension which for obvious reasons they do not publicise.

However, in relation to the work carried out by the High Wealth Individuals Unit of Revenue as one dimension of its risk-based programme for 2005, the Commissioners have advised me that they have no reason to conclude that there is failure to comply with the statutory rules governing non-residence status. They will continue to include examination of a cross-section of cases where there is a claim to non-residence status in their risk-based programmes.

I am also informed by the Revenue Commissioners that it is not possible at present to identify the number of Irish domiciled persons claiming to be non-resident for tax purposes. Income tax returns for 2002 onwards request data from self-employed taxpayers in relation to their residence and domicile status. This is however not captured electronically which means it is not practicable to derive global statistics in relation to claims to non-residence status. The Revenue Commissioners are currently looking at means of capturing this data electronically in the future which will make it practicable to derive such statistics.

I would remind the Deputy that Irish citizens who are non-resident for tax purposes are obliged to file Irish tax returns only in respect of:

—income arising in Ireland e.g. income from directorships, rents etc. and

— gains from the disposals of land, buildings and certain other assets in the State.

There is no statutory obligation on them to return details of income or gains arising anywhere else in the world. Therefore it is not possible to establish the amount of these incomes or gains or of any associated tax.

Fiscal Policy.

Bernard Allen

Question:

92 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Finance his expectations for the capacity of the economy to sustain increases in public spending over the coming three years; and the way in which this should relate to the growth of income and the growth of tax revenue in those years. [19409/06]

The Government's budgetary strategy is based on the objective of continued budgetary sustainability both in the medium-term and the long-run, in line with the requirements of the Stability and Growth Pact.

This Government considers that prudent fiscal policies underpin competitiveness, support growth and create flexibility to respond effectively to economic shocks. Of particular importance is the need to ensure that public expenditure growth is sustainable and broadly in line with available resources and, within this, to increase the level of investment needed to tackle the economy's infrastructure deficit.

To maintain the broadly positive outlook for our economy, we will maintain the firm and disciplined approach to national budgetary policy that has been a keystone in our recent economic prosperity.

Price Inflation.

Dan Boyle

Question:

93 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Finance the action he intends to take to address the negative impact of the significant increase in the rate of inflation for the fourth month running; if it is not timely for more State intervention in view of the fact that increases have been driven largely by higher energy costs leading to price increases in sectors that are largely controlled by the State; and his views on whether inflation will average 2.7% in 2006. [19204/06]

Inflation, as measured by annual changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), was 3.8 per cent in April. A large proportion of the rise in the annual inflation rate is due to external factors such as higher oil prices and recent rises in interest rates by the ECB.

Higher energy costs largely reflect the trend in international energy prices. The Government has no control over international energy price developments.

On Budget day, my Department forecast that CPI inflation will average 2.7 per cent in 2006. This forecast was calculated using the usual technical assumption of unchanged interest rates. The Department will be publishing new forecasts in the Autumn.

Household Indebtedness.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

94 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Finance his assessment of the housing market; and the levels of personal debt and their capacity to destabilise economic progress. [19395/06]

Residential construction has grown rapidly in recent times. Supply of housing has increased in response to strong levels of demand, which, in turn, have arisen from a number of fundamental demographic and economic factors. Total completions in 2005 reached an historic high of about 81 thousand units. Construction employment growth was also particularly strong in 2005 and now accounts for one in eight jobs.

As acknowledged in the Stability Programme Update published with the 2006 Budget, the fact that construction presently accounts for an historically high proportion of economic output and employment implies that the economy is vulnerable to any shock affecting this sector.

A high proportion of household indebtedness in Ireland relates to borrowing for house-purchase which, in turn, involves the acquisition of an asset for the households. In the same way, borrowing by the business sector generally underpins investment, and the creation of business assets yielding future income. It therefore reflects the strong performance of the economy and confidence in Ireland's economic prospects.

While the pattern of mortgage growth and associated debt levels in the economy are supported by a range of fundamental factors such as growing employment, rising real incomes, favourable demographics and low inflation and interest rates, the Central Bank at the publication of their latest Quarterly Bulletin, highlighted the need for borrowers and lenders to take account of the current very low level of interest rates and the fact that this situation cannot continue indefinitely. I share the view that both borrowers and lenders need to factor into their financial decision-making the prospective impact of potential changes in the future economic environment.

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

Financial Services Regulation.

Billy Timmins

Question:

95 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance his plans to ensure that financial institutions that offer a credit card service here provide a facility known as dynamic currency conversion, whereby credit cards used in a different currency area have the transaction calculated at the exact time of the transaction; his proposals to bring forward legislation to deal with this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19433/06]

Billy Timmins

Question:

140 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the number of financial institutions that offer a credit card service here; the number of these which provide a facility know as dynamic currency conversion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19434/06]

Billy Timmins

Question:

267 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the way in which the exchange rate is calculated on a credit card transaction in an area of different currency, for example the United States; the stage at which it occurs; if it occurs at the point of the transaction during the same day or is it around the day of the transaction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19444/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 95, 140 and 267 together.

The range of services offered by credit card providers to subscribing retailers and cardholders is primarily a matter of private contract, and I have no legislative role in specifying the form of those services. Commercial considerations such as demand, cost and technical feasibility will influence the range of features offered by providers at any given time, and the take-up of these features by retailers and cardholders.

Currently seven regulated financial institutions provide credit cards in Ireland; some of these also provide services through other financial institutions. The service referred to by the Deputy is I understand a commercial option which may be offered to retailers but neither my Department nor the Financial Regulator has any statistics on the number of institutions that offer the service. However, the Financial Regulator has advised my Department that a small percentage of point of sale terminals offer cardholders the option of having their transaction converted into their home currency at the time the transaction is undertaken. In this instance the rate applied is the rate prevailing on the day of the transaction.

The rules governing currency conversion on credit cards are set by the international card payment schemes such as Visa and MasterCard. Credit card providers, such as financial institutions in Ireland, are required to comply with the rules of these schemes. I understand that the rate of exchange applied to credit card transactions undertaken outside of the euro area is set each morning under the rules of the international card payment schemes with reference to the prevailing international rate of exchange. As currency markets are volatile, these rates are likely to change daily. The amount of the transaction is converted into euro at the rate of exchange on the date that the transaction is debited to the customer's credit card account. The rules governing the conversion of foreign currency transactions should be itemised in the terms and conditions that accompany the credit card account.

Public Service Employment.

Pat Breen

Question:

96 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance his plans to set targets in respect of public service employment over the three years 2006-2008. [19397/06]

The policy on numbers employed in the public service has succeeded in cutting back on the rapid rise in public service employment in the period 1997 to 2002. This took place at a time of significant increases both in employment in the economy generally and in the population with the corresponding increased demand for public services.

Numbers employed in the Civil Service, Defence, Local Authority and non-commercial state-sponsored sectors have been reduced by 3,700 and the target for this group has been exceeded. However, original targets in the Health and Education sectors have not been met because the Government has been prepared to increase numbers to meet priority needs in frontline and essential services, for example, new health units and the disability area in the Health sector, Special Needs Teachers in the education system and to increase the number of Gardaí; this is in line with the approach stated when the policy was launched.

Going forward, the Government has decided to continue to control and regulate numbers in the public service within the following agreed ceilings.

Civil service [non-industrials and industrials]

37,700

Non-commercial state-sponsored bodies

9,600

Local authorities

33,300

Defence Forces

11,400

Garda Síochána

14,000

Given the nature and demands of the health and education sectors further consultation is taking place between my Department and the relevant Departments before consideration is given to setting appropriate employment level ceilings in these sectors.

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

Tax Code.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

97 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance the estimated number and percentage of income earners who are paying tax at the higher rate and the standard rate for 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19278/06]

Mary Upton

Question:

141 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Finance the expected distribution of income earners for income tax payments for 2005 broken down in number and percentage terms into the categories of exempt, marginal relief, standard rate and higher rate; the comparative figures for each year from 1998 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19295/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 141 together.

The Deputies might wish to note that in the period in question, average tax rates have fallen for all categories of taxpayer and, for 2006, an unprecedented number of low paid income earners are projected to be outside the tax net altogether. In addition, the latest OECD data relating to the year 2005 indicate that for the single worker on average earnings, Ireland has the lowest tax wedge in the EU and one of the lowest in the OECD. For a married one earner couple with two children on average earnings, Ireland has the lowest tax wedge in the entire OECD.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested by the Deputies is set out in the following table:

Tax Year

Exempt

Marginal Relief

Standard Rate

Higher rate

All Cases

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

1998/1999

397,900

25.1

73,700

4.7

631,300

39.8

482,000

30.4

1,584,900

1999/2000

458,700

27.5

20,500

1.2

645,000

38.7

543,000

32.6

1,667,200

2000/2001

502,400

28.5

15,800

0.9

706,300

40.0

540,400

30.6

1,765,000

2001†

528,000

29.5

7,500

0.4

719,500

40.2

535,000

29.9

1,790,000

2002

632,700

33.6

13,700

0.7

731,800

38.8

506,800

26.9

1,885,000

2003*

659,400

34.2

19,500

1.0

688,400

35.7

559,500

29.0

1,926,900

2004*

685,100

34.5

18,700

0.9

641,800

32.3

641,100

32.3

1,986,800

2005*

721,400

35.6

17,100

0.8

624,000

30.8

666,400

32.9

2,028,900

2006*

741,100

35.9

15,700

0.8

647,500

31.4

658,100

31.9

2,062,400

*Provisional and likely to be revised.

†Short tax "year" from 6 April 2001 to 31 December 2001.

The percentages in the table are expressed in terms of numbers of all income earners on the income tax record. The figures for numbers of income earners have been rounded to the nearest hundred and any apparent discrepancies are due to rounding of constituent figures. The figures for the years 1998/99 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 2006, the figures are estimates derived from the Revenue tax forecasting model using actual data for the year 2002 adjusted to reflect actual or estimated growth in employment and wages for the year in question.

From the 1999/2000 tax year onwards, the personal credits, formerly allowances, and employee credit, formerly PAYE allowance, are deducted after tax is calculated rather than before the tax calculation, as was previously the case. This should be taken into account in comparing numbers for 1999/2000 and later years with the 1998/99 tax year. A married couple which has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

Price Inflation.

Joan Burton

Question:

98 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recent increase in inflation to a three year high of 3.8% in April 2006 and the warnings that it could hit 5% by the end of 2006; if his Department has done an assessment of the likely implications for the economy of the increase in inflation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19261/06]

Inflation, as measured by annual changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), was 3.8% in April. A large proportion of the rise in the annual inflation rate is due to external factors such as higher oil prices and recent rises in interest rates by the ECB. On the assumption of unchanged interest rates, I expect inflation to moderate in the second half of the year.

Higher inflation would lead to a deterioration in our competitiveness. The Government is doing its bit to contain inflation by implementing responsible fiscal policies. In addition, we have not increased excise duties for the last two years, and we are promoting greater price competition by removing the Groceries Order. We are also looking for a reasonable wage deal in order to maintain and improve our international competitiveness. We are investing in public infrastructure which will enhance our ability to produce more goods and services and keep inflation down in the process.

Freedom of Information.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

99 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance his views on the statement by the Information Commissioner that use of the Freedom of Information Act 1997 has dropped to an all time low with only 1,000 FOI requests made in 2005 by journalists and her belief that this has been caused by the continued exclusion of a number of public bodies from the scope of the Act and by the introduction of fees in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19269/06]

Latest figures show that over 14,600 FOI requests were made in 2005 compared to about 12,600 in 2004. The number of FOI requests made by journalists has also increased. According to the Information Commissioner's recent Annual Report, 963 requests were made by journalists in 2005, compared with 870 in 2004.

The level of FOI requests being made by journalists is still down on that witnessed in 2003 and previous years. I would not attribute this reduction to the fact that certain bodies are not subject to FOI. It would appear that the introduction of an ‘up-front' fee of €15 in July 2003 has had an impact on the number of FOI requests being made by journalists. I have no proposals to review this fee, which I consider to be very modest when set against the cost of administering FOI requests. I certainly do not consider the fee to be a major deterrent to usage of the FOI Act by journalists.

Credit Union Regulation.

Jack Wall

Question:

100 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on his address of 29 April 2006 to the consultative general meeting of the Irish League of Credit Unions. [19289/06]

In my address to the Consultative General Meeting (CGM) of the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) on 29 April 2006, I acknowledged the success of the credit union movement in Ireland and the opportunities and challenges for the future. In that context, I noted the important role of the legislative and regulatory framework in influencing the future development of the credit union model.

I made clear in my address that I have no preconceptions regarding the shape of the model for the future development of credit unions and that all proposals for changes in the legislative framework will be assessed on their merits drawing on the advice of the Credit Union Advisory Committee (CUAC) the expert advisory body on credit union matters under the Credit Union Act — and key stakeholders such as the League.

In terms of the regulation of the credit unions, I emphasised that all stakeholders recognise that strong prudential standards are a prerequisite to the growth and development of credit unions and that strong dialogue is a prerequisite for regulatory policy that is evidence-based and effective, and for regulatory practice that conforms to the highest international standards.

I outlined to the CGM progress in implementing the Social Finance Initiative announced in Budget 2006, drawing attention to the long-established role of credit unions in combating financial exclusion in rural and disadvantaged areas and the innovative programmes of social investment undertaken by certain credit unions. I provided an update to the CGM on progress in relation to a number of current issues of concern to credit unions:

•the investment framework;

•regulatory and legislative changes; and

•limits on longer-term lending by credit unions.

In relation to the reform of the League's Savings Protection Scheme (SPS), I confirmed that from a public policy perspective, the overarching priority is to have legal certainty regarding the protection of savers in credit unions and indicated that the next step was to assess the League's current set of proposals against the objectives set for savings protection arrangements by CUAC's report on SPS and the Annual Reports of the Registrar.

In conclusion, as set out in my address to the CGM, it is essential to strike an appropriate balance between the need to facilitate credit unions in adapting effectively to the changes taking place in society and in the financial sector, while also maintaining appropriate standards of prudential supervision, with a view to supporting the long-term sustainability of the credit union movement in Ireland.

Economic Competitiveness.

Seán Ryan

Question:

101 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the implications for the economy of the expected increase in interest rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19285/06]

Interest rates are currently very low in historical terms, and the recent increases would appear to have had a limited impact on the economy so far. Future impacts depend on future increases and on the state of the EU and world economy generally at the time.

Departmental Bodies.

John Gormley

Question:

102 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to address the concerns raised in the report Outsourcing Government Public Bodies and Accountability published by TASC, in particular the call for ensuring that accountability legislation is applied fully to all bodies responsible for public functions and that exceptions are in accordance with clear criteria agreed in an open, transparent and accountable manner. [19211/06]

I have always been willing to consider matters relevant to my Ministerial responsibilities which have been raised in this House or elsewhere and where appropriate to take steps to allay any concerns which prove to be soundly based. I understand that the report to which the Deputy refers was published only last week and is relatively wide-ranging. I will have it examined and its conclusions considered in so far as they concern matters for which I have responsibility. The question of what, if any, steps might be appropriate can then be addressed.

Home Reversion Products.

Simon Coveney

Question:

103 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether there should be regulation of home reversion products whereby older people sell part of the house to release equity. [19410/06]

Home reversion products primarily involve the sale of a part of the interest in a property. Unlike Equity Release Mortgages they do not constitute a financial service that would be subject to supervision by the Financial Regulator. However, I recognise that there are strong similarities in purpose and procedures between both types of transactions and that both products appear to compete for the same customers.

I am also aware that the question of regulating the providers of these products was discussed with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance and the Public Service by the then Chief Executive of the Financial Regulator.

In view of the above considerations, my Department together with the Financial Regulator and the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is undertaking a review to establish whether or not home reversion products and/or their providers should be regulated.

Revenue Investigations.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

104 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons, companies and trusts being investigated by the Revenue Commissioners arising from the Clerical Medical Insurance, NIB inquiry at the latest date for which figures are available; the number of cases where settlements have been agreed; the amount paid to date; the number of cases outstanding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19281/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that arising from the Clerical Medical Insurance/NIB inquiry, 465 cases have been targeted for investigation.

To date, 308 cases have been settled on payment of tax, interest and penalties amounting to a total of €53.82 m. A further 122 cases have been finalised with no additional liability arising. The remaining 35 cases are the subject of ongoing investigation, in respect of which €3.24 m has been paid on account.

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

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

Public Service Contracts.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

105 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance the steps he has taken to ensure that public service contracts are awarded only to those companies that meet minimum standards in terms of pay, working conditions and pension entitlements, in view of the disclosures of underpayments to foreign workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19294/06]

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

Regulations to transpose recently revised EU Directives on public procurement, currently being finalised, will require contracting authorities to indicate to tenderers where information on obligations relating to employment protection and working conditions legally in force in Ireland may be obtained. Tenderers will then be requested to indicate that in drawing up their tenders they have taken these obligations into account. Contracting authorities will be required to disregard any tenderer that fails to indicate compliance with this requirement.

New draft forms for construction contracts, which are the subject of consultation with the construction industry, include provisions that require contractors to ensure that pay and conditions of employment comply with the law and are not less favourable than the terms of the Registered Employment Agreements for those employees to whom the agreements apply. The new draft contracts also include a provision which gives some support to strengthening enforcement arrangements in the construction sector.

Tax Yield.

Willie Penrose

Question:

106 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance the amount of stamp duty raised on premiums made by motor insurance policyholders in 2005; the estimated revenue in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19276/06]

There is a 2% stamp duty that is charged on most non-life insurance premiums and is part of the normal stamp duty system. The exceptions are re-insurance, voluntary health insurance, marine, aviation and transit insurance and export credit insurance. It was introduced in 1982.

The yield over recent years has been as follows:

Year

Yield (€m)

2000

57.0

2001

69.1

2002

87.2

2003

99.7

2004

97.7

2005

90.8

The budgeted yield in 2006 is €90m.

It is not possible to distinguish between the different types of insurance business within the yield from the non-life levy. The purpose of the non-life levy is to broaden the stamp duty base while maintaining low direct tax rates.

Question No. 107 answered with QuestionNo. 72.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

108 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the work of IFSRA and in particular the measures being taken to ensure that SSIA customers are not subjected to pressure from banks and financial institutions through concentrated advertisements when sending out the SSIA four form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19290/06]

As part of its consumer protection role, the Financial Regulator reviewed a sample of SSIA documents sent by financial institutions to their customers to see that they are clear and transparent. Some financial institutions had, along with the SSIA4 form, sent other documents to their customers, including direct debit mandates and forms for other savings products. The Financial Regulator was concerned that this could result in some consumers signing and returning these documents, without realising they are committing to further saving or signing up for a new financial product. The Financial Regulator has received the co-operation of the financial institutions in amending the literature being sent to customers and it should be clear to customers that the only document that they are required to sign and return to the SSIA providers is the SSIA4 form.

In recent weeks the Financial Regulator issued a warning to savers to carefully read all letters and forms they receive from their account providers before signing anything.

Overall, the Financial Regulator monitors general media advertisements to ensure compliance with the Regulator's Advertising Guidelines, under which advertisements must be fair and not mislead the consumer. In addition, the Financial Regulator's strategy for 2006 includes a commitment to undertake an information initiative to coincide with the maturity of SSIAs. This initiative commenced earlier this year with the publication of the Consumer Information "Little Black Book on SSIAs", which provides guidance to consumers on the issues that may arise as their SSIAs mature.

Tax Code.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

109 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the findings of a report, The Distributional Impact of Ireland’s Indirect Tax System, published in May 2006 by the Combat Poverty Agency which showed that the indirect tax system is regressive, with households in the lower decile paying out 21% of their income in indirect taxes while households in the top decile pay out 9.6% of their income this way; the action he will take regarding the report’s recommendations to ensure progressivity elsewhere in the tax system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19267/06]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

147 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to take steps to reform VAT or excise duty in view of the findings of the recent Combat Poverty Agency study which showed that those in the bottom tenth of income earners pay more than 20% of their gross income in indirect taxes while those in the top 10% pay less than half that amount. [19207/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 and 147 together.

I reject entirely the Deputies allegations about the role and equity of the indirect tax system. A simple look at the facts will show that the conclusions in the report referred to are misdirected.

Firstly, there is no VAT on the main low income items such as food, oral medicines, children's shoes and clothing. Secondly, most excise revenue (60%) comes from excises on petrol, diesel and cars. These are not items that low income groups spend most on. As far as the remaining 40% of excise revenue, this comes from duties on tobacco and alcohol where there are solid health grounds for using the tax system to discourage consumption.

Thirdly, there are special reliefs in the VAT and Excise system for medical and other equipment for the disabled. There is no VAT on public transport and diesel used in buses and trains is subject to reduced rates of excise. Most public services are not liable to VAT.

Furthermore the report referred to is simply wrong when it claims that we are relying more on indirect taxation now than in the past as the following table will show.

1964/5

1975

1985

1995

2005

Tax

%

%

%

%

%

VAT1

7

19

25

26

31

Customs and Excise

53

36

25

21

14

Income Tax

26

36

38

36

29

Corporation Tax

5

3

4

10

14

Capital Taxes

4

3

3

4

13

Other2

5

3

5

4

1. Turnover Tax in 1965.

2. Includes Road tax (from 1964/5), Agricultural levies (from 1975), Income/Youth employment levy (1985), Employment and Training Levy (1995).

In fact, we are relying far less on indirect taxation than before, with the gap being made up by greater revenue yield from company tax and taxes on capital and property.

The Report, in my view misses many of the big issues in indirect taxation. In fact, every effort is made, as far as EU law will permit, to reduce the incidence of VAT and Excise on low incomes, but, by their nature, such taxes are not direct taxes on income (this is why they are called indirect taxes) and cannot be easily related to one's ability to pay, however good one's intent. If one wishes to off set any claimed distributional effects, the proper focus is more on the expenditure side of the Budget.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

110 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance if his Department has undertaken a study of the implications for house prices as SSIAs mature; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19286/06]

My Department has been analysing the potential effects of the maturing of the SSIA scheme on the economy. The impact will crucially depend on how the savings and the monthly subscriptions are used. Unfortunately, projecting the likely spend-save ratio is a difficult task, not least because it is not possible to draw on previous domestic experience as a basis for anticipating the effect.

Nevertheless, the analysis of previous international experience, economic theory, as well as the findings of various surveys undertaken domestically would tend to suggest that, upon maturity, a large portion of existing savings will continue to be saved. In these circumstances, it is not expected that the maturing of the SSIAs will have a determining effect on house prices.

Freedom of Information.

Liam Twomey

Question:

111 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Finance if arrangements will be made that the Information Commissioner is consulted in assessing the merits of extending the Freedom of Information Act 1997 to the Vocational Educational Committees, IFSRA, Adoption Board, the Garda Síochána and so on in order that the Ministers and Government have access to the full range of expertise available in making such decisions. [19400/06]

I have no proposals for the Information Commissioner to be consulted in relation to the merits of extending the FOI Act to the bodies mentioned by the Deputy.

Decentralisation Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

112 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the status of the decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19087/06]

I would like to state the Government's full commitment to the decentralisation programme.

The Decentralisation Implementation Group chaired by Mr. Finbarr Flood was established to drive the process forward and to oversee its effective delivery. The Group, recognising that it would not be feasible for all organisations to move at the same time, proposed phasing arrangements and revised timeframes out to 2009 for civil service organisations. These arrangements were accepted by Government and announced in June of last year and I am satisfied that good progress continues to be made.

I understand that the Decentralisation Implementation Group has met with a number of Secretaries General and are satisfied with the level of planning in each of the Departments. The Group is currently meeting with the Chief Executives of a number of State Agencies to discuss the planning framework in place, to assess progress to date and to hear about the challenges arising and steps proposed to address them.

The figures confirm that this is a popular programme among staff. Over 10,600 civil and public servants have applied to the Central Applications Facility.

To date some 1,500 people have been assigned to posts destined for new locations and are currently being trained in their new role in readiness to move. So far, some 200 of these have actually relocated and it is expected that up to 1,000 will have moved by the end of the year.

Many staff have opted to move to locations outside of Dublin while others have indicated that they wish to be assigned to posts remaining in Dublin. The Government is committed to facilitating those who wish to remain with a public service post in Dublin.

There is an extensive range of preparations underway in relation to the acquisition of property by the OPW, as well as the detailed implementation planning within individual Departments, Offices and Agencies, and ongoing discussions with unions in relation to the various human resource aspects of the programme.

As always when dealing with a programme of this size there are challenges to overcome but I remain confident that these can be addressed with the active co-operation of all parties involved in the implementation effort.

Social Partnership.

Shane McEntee

Question:

113 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Finance his ambitions for the current round of social partnership talks. [19401/06]

As the Deputy is aware talks on a new national partnership agreement to follow Sustaining Progress are ongoing and it would be imprudent to make any detailed statement at this stage about these talks which cover a wide range of issues.

However, I might reiterate what I have said recently and that is that we can only pay ourselves what productivity allows if we are to maintain our competitiveness. We cannot pay ourselves wage increases based also on our inflation rate where this is out of line with our competitors.

Fundamentally, the cornerstone of a new agreement must be the protection of the long-term competitiveness of the country. If pay increases under the next agreement are not kept at a moderate level and do not take account of pay levels in competitor countries, we will see job losses in vulnerable parts of the private sector.

Question No. 114 answered with QuestionNo. 81.

Social Finance.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

115 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the progress made to date with regard to the plan announced in Budget 2006 for the establishment of a €100 million fund for social finance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19287/06]

As I set out in my reply to Question No. 60 on 30 March 2006, the aim of the initiative is to give an impetus to the development of, and make a real contribution to expanding, Social Finance provision in Ireland. The Social Finance initiative will, therefore, complement the wide range of measures that are currently in place to promote and assist community infrastructure and local development, including the development of micro-enterprises.

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

A key priority is early implementation of the initiative. This will provide the opportunity to market test particular options, which can in turn inform the further development of the social finance initiative. To this end my Department, in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, is developing proposals for Government on the appropriate legal framework which would clarify the objectives, roles and functions of the investment vehicle, establish the type of delivery structure judged most suitable to the requirements of social finance, and also deal with such matters as governance and accountability arrangements.

As far as the potential sources of funding for social finance provision are concerned, there has been a positive reaction from the banking community to my invitation to support the initiative. However, as I set out in reply to Question No. 53 on 28 February 2006, the sum of €100 million referred to by the Deputy is not accurate. The banks have committed to contribute seed capital funding of €25 million to the initiative.

Insurance Products.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

116 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Finance if he has had discussions with the Department of Social and Family Affairs regarding the absence of a source of recourse for employees in the event of a dispute between an employer and an employee under an income continuance scheme leaving employees uncovered by a regulator or ombudsman. [19213/06]

My Department received correspondence on this issue yesterday from the Department of Social And Family Affairs and will be arranging discussions on the issues raised in relation to income continuance plans.

The Deputy may be interested to note that Insurance Undertakings providing income continuance policies are regulated by the Financial Regulator. As such the provisions of the proposed Consumer Protection Code will apply to the sale of such policies. The code will issue in July and will take effect shortly thereafter. At present the Interim Code of Practice for Insurance Undertakings and the Handbooks for Multi Agency Intermediaries and Authorised Advisors apply to the sale of all insurance products, including income continuance policies.

Tax Code.

David Stanton

Question:

117 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance the criteria to be fulfilled for a person to receive the one parent family credit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19431/06]

David Stanton

Question:

126 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance the number of people in receipt of the one parent family tax credit; the cost to the Exchequer of this tax credit for each year since the year 2003 respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19432/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 and 126 together.

The one parent family tax credit is a credit that can be claimed by a single parent (whether widowed, single, deserted, separated or divorced) who has a dependent child resident with him/her for the whole or part of the relevant tax year.

A child includes a child of the claimant, a stepchild, a formally adopted child, an informally adopted child or any child (who is not a child of the claimant) of whom the claimant has custody and maintains at his or her own expense.

A child is regarded as a dependant to the claimant if he or she is:

•born during the tax year or is under 18 years at the beginning of the year.

•over 18 years and receiving full-time education or undergoing a full-time training course for a trade or profession for a minimum of two years; or

•permanently incapacitated either physically or mentally from maintaining himself or herself and become so before reaching 21 years of age (or had become permanently incapacitated after reaching the age of 21 years but while he or she had been receiving full-time education).

The one-parent family tax credit is not due in the case of an unmarried cohabiting couple or in the case of an individual who is entitled to the married person's tax credit.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated cost to the Exchequer of the one parent family tax credit, and the associated numbers of income earners availing of it, are as set out in the following table:

One parent family tax credit — cost to Exchequer and numbers availing of it*

Tax Year

2003

2004

2005

Cost to Exchequer

€145m

€150m

€160m

Numbers availing

104,700

107,900

110,200

* (Figures are rounded, provisional and subject to revision).

The numbers availing of the credit represent income earners who were in a position to absorb at least some of the one parent family tax credit and thereby give rise to an Exchequer cost. They do not include the numbers of potential claimants whose entitlements to other tax credits were sufficient to reduce their liability to tax to nil. A married couple who has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

The figures shown in the table are estimates which are derived from the Revenue tax forecasting model using actual data for the year 2002 adjusted to reflect actual or estimated growth in employment and wages for the year in question.

Freedom of Information.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

118 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance his views on the Information Commissioners call for more openness in relation to records held by the public service. [19422/06]

The Government is firmly committed to ensuring openness and transparency in relation to information held by public bodies, consistent with the right to privacy and the public interest. These principles are enshrined in the Freedom of Information [FOI] Act and have been central to the modernisation programme of the last decade and more. Since April 1998, FOI has been extended from 67 bodies to approximately 380 today. The Act will shortly be extended to 137 more bodies. Public bodies are proactively releasing much more information either directly or indirectly as a result of the FOI Act and other changes introduced under the public service modernisation programme.

Tax Yield.

Jack Wall

Question:

119 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the VAT receipts to the end of April 2006; the comparative figures for each year from 1998 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19298/06]

Exchequer receipts for VAT to end-April 2006 amounted to €4,409 million. This was 11.6 per cent ahead of the same period last year but 2 per cent below the target for end-April published by my Department on 1 February last.

Details of the Exchequer VAT receipts to end-April (to the nearest € million) for each of the other years specified by the Deputy are as follows:

Year

€m

1998

1,741

1999

1,960

2000

2,389

2001

2,659

2002

2,908

2003

3,267

2004

3,479

2005

3,952

Departmental Advertising.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

120 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Finance if statutory bodies are encouraged to advertise the services of private-sector companies; if advertising by statutory bodies is regulated; if his attention has been drawn to whether any statutory bodies advertise goods or services provided by the private sector; the type of advertisement undertaken by statutory bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19209/06]

It may be appropriate for certain commercial State Bodies to advertise as mentioned, having regard to their commercial remit. The same reasons might not generally apply in relation to non-commercial State or Statutory Bodies. However, the activities of such Bodies are a matter for the relevant body itself, taking account of its statutory remit, its governance structure and the Code of Ethics for Public Bodies.

If the Deputy has a particular issue in mind, he might wish to bring it to the attention of the appropriate Minister responsible for the body.

Departmental Expenditure.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

121 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm reports that several Departments are under-spending on their capital allocations; the Departments that reported under-spends to April 2006; the size of the under-spend in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19270/06]

Exchequer returns showed that net capital spending by Departments and Offices at end April 2006 of €941m inclusive of €240m in capital carryover was €103 million or 10% behind profile. The Departments which mainly account for this underspend are: Health Service Executive — an underspend of €43m, Environment — an underspend of €34m, both due to timing factors; OPW — an underspend of €11m due to slower than anticipated spending on decentralization; Agriculture — an underspend of €11m due to lower than anticipated spend on the Afforestation Programme. At this stage Departments are reporting that they expect capital expenditure in 2006 to be generally in line with the Estimates provision.

Consumer Credit.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

122 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to commission research into the practices and extent of doorstep credit here in view of the dangers it presents for low income earners who do not have access to conventional banking services. [19212/06]

Under the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2003 the Financial Regulator exercises important consumer protection powers under the Consumer Credit Act 1995, including the licensing of money lenders. The Act also provides for monitoring by the Regulator of the provision of credit to consumers.

The Financial Regulator is committed under its Strategic Plan 2006 to undertake a review of the moneylending industry including the moneylending licensing process. The target date for completion of this review is September 2006.

My Department has been informed by the Financial Regulator that the scope of this review will encompass the practices and extent of doorstep credit. It will therefore provide a basis for further examination by the Regulator of the issue raised by the Deputy. In the circumstances, there is no requirement at this time to commission further research on this issue.

Decentralisation Programme.

Michael Noonan

Question:

123 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons, the locations and Departments involved under the decentralisation of civil servants and of State agencies which will be completed by the end of 2006; and if he has sought an assessment of the quality of the planning of this programme which is now so far off target. [19423/06]

The Decentralisation Implementation Group was established to drive the Decentralisation Programme forward and to oversee its effective delivery. In 2005 the Group, recognising that it would not be feasible for all organisations to move at the same time, proposed phasing arrangements and revised timeframes out to 2009 for civil service organisations. These arrangements were accepted by Government and announced in June of last year and I am satisfied that good progress continues to be made.

I understand that the Decentralisation Implementation Group has met with a number of Secretaries General to discuss their Implementation plans and are satisfied with the level of planning in each of the Departments. The Group is currently meeting with the Chief Executives of a number of State Agencies to discuss the planning framework in place, to assess progress to date and to hear about the challenges arising and steps proposed to address them.

To date, a small number of advance moves have already taken place to locations outside of Dublin as follows:

Location

Organisation

Number of staff

Sligo

Social and Family Affairs

18

Portlaoise

Agriculture and Food

115

Thurles

Garda HQ (part of)

34

Tipperary Town

Private Security Authority (Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

12

Na Forbacha

Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs

5

Clifden

Pobal

10

In addition to these moves a number of civil servants, who applied on the Central Applications Facility, have moved to locations where Departments had offices prior to the announcement of the current programme.

It is expected that up to 1,000 people will have decentralised under the current programme by end 2006 / early 2007. This figure includes some 65 posts in the Department of Agriculture which is going to Portlaoise, 130 posts in my own Department which is going to Tullamore, and 150 Revenue Commissioners posts which are going to the mid-west.

A number of organisations are being progressive in seeking advance or temporary accommodation to facilitate early moves. The following table shows details of the advance accommodation requests currently with the Office of Public Works. Depending on the availability of accommodation these moves are expected to take place by end 2006.

Location

Organisation

No. of Spaces

Newcastle West

Revenue

50

Thurles

Justice (Garda Fines Office)

70

Knock

Community, Rural & Gaeltacht

70

Cavan

Communications, Marine & NR

44

Clonakilty

Communications, Marine & NR

90

Loughrea

Transport (Road Safety Authority)

50

Killarney

Arts, Sports and Tourism

60

Portarlington

Justice (Data Protection Comm)

22

Portarlington

Education (NEWB)

12

Roscommon

Land Registry

60

Carlow

Enterprise, Trade & Employment

80

Athy

Revenue

100

Claremorris

OPW

25

Dundalk

SEI

To be finalised

Question No. 124 answered with QuestionNo. 70.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Joe Costello

Question:

125 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Finance the number of special savings investment scheme accounts opened at the latest date for which figures are available; the average amount of savings per investor per month; if, on the basis of such figures, his Department will provide a figure for the likely cost to the Exchequer of the special savings investment scheme, when the first payments will become due; the amount expected to be paid out by the Exchequer in each of the first 12 months after the SSIA matures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19282/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that based on preliminary declarations by all qualifying savings managers, the total number of active accounts at 31 December 2005 was 1,082,265 and the average monthly subscription was €196. This is the latest date for which figures are available. The Revenue Commissioners are currently processing SSIA details supplied by financial institutions in their 2005 annual returns. When this processing is complete the analysis of the returns will commence and it is expected to have the results available by the end of June 2006.

The net cost of the scheme in 2005 was €597.4m, with a cumulative cost of €2,181m for all years to end 2005. The cost of the scheme in the first four months of 2006 was €211.1m. As indicated in replies to previous questions, it is not possible to give a definitive answer as to the eventual cost of the scheme as it is subject to a number of variables over the remaining period of the scheme, including where participants voluntarily withdraw from the scheme or vary their monthly contributions over the remainder of the scheme.

The first SSIAs commenced in May 2001 and will mature at the end of May 2006. For the reasons stated above, it is not possible to state the cost to the Exchequer of the scheme in each of the 12 months after the SSIAs begin to mature.

Question No. 126 answered with QuestionNo. 117.

Tax Yield.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

127 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance the estimated additional revenue likely to accrue to the Exchequer in terms of excise duties and VAT above the estimates of Budget 2006, arising from the increase in the price of petrol and other oil products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19297/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the additional revenue likely to accrue to the Exchequer arising from the increase in the price of petrol and other oil products relates to the VAT portion of the increased price since the start of the year. The revenue collected from mineral oil excises does not fluctuate with price changes. The estimated yield of additional VAT over and above the Budget estimate, assuming that the current prices are maintained for the remainder of the year, and assuming there is no reduction in consumption, is as set out below:

Additional VAT Yield from Fuel 2006

€m

Petrol

24.3

Auto Diesel

1.6

Kerosene

4.3

MGO

3.2

LPG

0.7

Total

34.1

It should, however, be borne in mind that to the extent that spending in the economy is re-allocated to petrol and other oil products and away from other VAT liable spending and to the extent that the overall level of economic activity is reduced by higher oil prices, there may be little or no net gain to the Exchequer.

Decentralisation Programme.

Dan Boyle

Question:

128 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Finance the position of the Government’s policy on decentralisation and relocation; and his views on the impact this policy is having on the morale of several agencies, in particular semi-State bodies. [19205/06]

Firstly I would like to state the Government's full commitment to the decentralisation programme.

There has been a substantial amount of media coverage in recent times in relation to the decentralisation programme. Much of that coverage has been speculative and most of it has been misinformed. This Government is working towards full implementation of the decentralisation programme and I am satisfied with progress to date on a number of fronts including CAF take-up, property acquisition, assignments of staff etc.

In relation to the State Agencies, the Decentralisation Implementation Group took the view that it would not seek to dictate every step in the process to the management of those organisations. Although the Group proposed a group of State Agencies for early mover status it did not include specific timeframes in recognition of this approach and also of the fact that it is the responsibility of the board and senior management of each agency to implement Government policy. The Group stated in its June 2005 report that each agency included in the programme should have a successful relocation as a high level strategic objective and should prepare the next and deeper iteration of its implementation plan. In the meantime, the OPW is continuing to seek property solutions in respect of any agency that requires it.

It is recognised that little progress has been made in advancing agreement between management and trade unions on allowing both public and civil service staff to transfer into State Agencies from the civil service and other State Agencies and vice versa. There has been little substantive engagement to deal with these and other human resource issues relating to the relocation of the organisations concerned. In many State Agencies the number of applicants is influenced at least in part by the overall position on Decentralisation adopted by unions representing staff in those organisations.

Resolution of the outstanding issues is central to the overall implementation process in the State Agencies. There is no question of this element of the Programme not proceeding. From the outset guarantees have been provided at Government level that all those employees not wishing to transfer out of Dublin will be facilitated with an alternative public service post in Dublin. It should prove possible to facilitate the transfers of those public and civil servants who wish, also on a voluntary basis, to relocate to provincial locations.

It is recognised that proposals for inter-organisational mobility go against traditional employment practices but it is precisely this type of ground-breaking initiative which is needed to give impetus to the implementation of the programme. While the Civil Service has had the opportunity to develop an understanding of the decentralisation process over the years, this has not perhaps happened to the same extent with State Agencies.

European Council Meetings.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

129 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the ECOFIN meeting of 5 May 2006. [19288/06]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

139 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on his participation in the meeting of EU Finance Ministers on 5 May 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19438/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129 and 139 together.

I attended the Council of Economics and Finance Ministers of the EU, or Ecofin as it is popularly referred to, in Brussels on 5 May 2006. The meeting was attended by representatives of all 25 EU Member States and of Bulgaria and Romania.

The Council agreed its comments on the economic aspects of the EU's sustainable development strategy. These comments will form part of the input into the meeting of the European Council of Heads of State or Government on 15/16 June. The comments underline the need for proper impact assessments of new investments and the role of market-based instruments in promoting sustainable development.

The Commission presented its preliminary draft of the EU budget for 2007 to the meeting. This is the first annual budget within the new financial framework to guide the EU finances up to 2013, agreed at the December 2005 European Council. The next major step in the process for the 2007 budget will be the Ecofin (Budget) Council's conciliation meeting with a European Parliament delegation on 14 July, after which the Council will adopt its first reading. We will be ensuring that Irish interests are fully safeguarded in these budget negotiations that will be concluded towards the end of the year.

Commission Vice-President Kallas presented the Commission's Action Plan on an integrated internal control framework. This Plan sets out the actions that the Commission considers that the EU needs to take to ensure more effective and efficient control of EU funds. No decisions by Council were required at the meeting, as this was simply a formal presentation of the Plan.

The Austrian Presidency presented a package of measures on three dossiers dealing with VAT arrangements for business. The dossiers concerned were place of supply of services as concerns VAT payments, simplification of cross border VAT obligations and refund procedures, and the prolongation of an EU directive on VAT arrangements for e-commerce. Some Member States raised technical and policy issues which will be discussed further at the 7 June Ecofin.

With regard to financial services, the Council adopted conclusions on financial supervision, on Cross Border Consolidation and on the Commission's White Paper on Financial Services Policy for the 2005-2010 period.

Finally, Ministers participated in a special Ministerial Dialogue with their counterparts from the EU acceding countries, Bulgaria and Romania, and the candidate countries, Croatia and Turkey. Joint conclusions and opinions were issued by Ministers on the basis of the 2005 Pre-Accession Programmes of the countries concerned. Bulgaria and Romania are scheduled to join the EU on 1 January 2007, while accession negotiations with Croatia and Turkey commenced in October 2005 and are ongoing.

It will be evident from this list of items disposed of that the meeting was productive in terms of pushing forward with the business of the Council.

Price Inflation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

130 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has succeeded in identifying the price increases not reflected in the consumer price index which are contributing to a lack of competitiveness in the economy with consequent job relocation and a potential threat to investment; if particular effort has been made or if he has in mind a particular plan to curtail the trend in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19312/06]

The Director General of the Central Statistics Office (CSO) has sole responsibility for and is independent in deciding the statistical methodology and professional standards to be used in compiling the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Maintaining a moderate rate of inflation remains a key priority of economic policy because of its importance in restoring competitiveness. The Government is doing its bit to contain inflation by implementing responsible fiscal policies. In addition, we have not increased excise duties for the last two years, and we are promoting greater price competition by removing the Groceries Order. We are also looking for a reasonable wage deal in order to maintain and improve our international competitiveness. We are investing in public infrastructure which will enhance our ability to produce more goods and services and keep inflation down in the process.

Decentralisation Programme.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

131 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if his Department’s overall plan for relocation of civil servants has been modified in view of recent developments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19436/06]

The Government's policy on completion of the programme is unchanged. I have no plans to change the scale or scope of the Decentralisation programme.

Over 10,600 civil and public servants have applied to the Central Applications Facility. The figures confirm that this is a popular programme among staff.

To date some 1,500 people have been assigned to posts destined for new locations and are currently being trained in their new role in readiness to move. So far, some 200 of these have actually relocated and it is expected that up to 1,000 will have moved by end 2006/early 2007.

While many staff have opted to move to locations outside of Dublin, others have indicated that they wish to be assigned to posts remaining in Dublin. The Government is committed to facilitating those who wish to remain with a public service post in Dublin.

There is an extensive range of preparations ongoing in relation to the acquisition of property by the OPW, as well as the detailed implementation planning within individual Departments, Offices and Agencies, and ongoing discussions with unions in relation to the various human resource aspects of the programme.

As always when dealing with a programme of this size there are challenges to overcome but I remain confident that these can be addressed with the active co-operation of all parties involved in the implementation effort.

Archaeological Sites.

Enda Kenny

Question:

132 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the costs which have accrued to his Department in respect of the Battle of the Boyne site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16028/06]

The site was purchased in August 2000 for a total of £7.85m. The total expenditure incurred by the Commissioners of Public Works to date on works to Coddington (Oldbridge) House and grounds is €3,070,968 comprising mainly of a substantial maintenance programme, refurbishment works, ground works, site investigations, fees etc. Operating costs (staff, estate management, materials) are approximately €350,000 per annum.

Decentralisation Programme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

133 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance if the timeframe outlined in his reply to a parliamentary question regarding the decentralisation of 50 Revenue staff to Listowel is on target; and if a property has now been acquired to facilitate the movement of these staff members. [19435/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that preparations for the movement of staff to Listowel are on target. Actual movement to Listowel, however, is dependent on the Office of Public Works (OPW) providing suitable accommodation.

The OPW are in negotiations with a developer for a suitable property at this time and it is envisaged that the indicative timescale set out in the Decentralisation Implementation Group's report will be met.

Price Inflation.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

134 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to make projections of the impact of oil prices at various levels, done by or on behalf of his Department, publicly available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19208/06]

I have outlined before the results of economic model simulations which suggest that each sustained $10 per barrel increase in the price of oil reduces growth by between ¼ and ½ percentage point in a full year in Ireland. However, it is important to bear in mind that these model results are based on historical averages and in common with all model results are subject to uncertainty.

Revenue Investigations.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

135 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons, companies and trusts being investigated by the Revenue Commissioners arising from Ansbacher accounts to date; the number of cases where settlements have been agreed; the amount paid to date; the number of cases outstanding, if additional action has been taken by the Revenue Commissioners arising from the report of the Ansbacher inspectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19280/06]

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

Revenue has advised that the review team has inquired into 289 cases and to date the team have finalised 208 cases. The 289 cases, taking account of spouses and connected companies, consist of 300 names. The 289 cases are made up of 179 cases listed on the High Court Inspectors' Report and 110 similar cases discovered by Revenue or listed on the Authorised Officer's Report.

The investigation includes examining the tax position of disclosed entities and accumulating and assembling information on other connected entities. The number of connected entities in relation to cases under investigation is now nearly 700.

Revenue is making extensive use of its legislative powers to seek books, records, documents and information in the cases being investigated. Where appropriate, prosecutions will be considered but these will depend on the level of evidence available.

Revenue has made eleven successful applications to the High Court for the production by financial institutions and third parties of books, records and other documentation, relevant to liabilities of Ansbacher account holders. Some 220,000 documents have been received under the terms of the High Court Orders. Advanced investigative computer software is used in controlling and managing the documentation.

To date a total of €58.35 million has been received, consisting of settlements and payments on account, in respect of 108 cases. This is made up of:

Cases involving Ansbacher or Ansbacher type arrangements

85 Cases

€45.33 million

Other cases involving offshore funds or deposits

23 Cases

€13.02 million

Total

108 Cases

€58.35 million

The 208 cases which have been finalised consist of 81 cases which were settled on payments of €49.13 m, included in the amount above, 66 non-resident cases which are covered by the provisions of Double Taxation Agreements, 43 cases where no additional liabilities arose and 18 which were covered by the 1993 Amnesty provisions.

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

Revenue has informed me that the investigations are time-consuming and complex and are likely to continue for some time to come.

Tax Code.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

136 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance the number of childminders who have applied for the childminder’s tax exemption announced in budget 2006; the proportion of childminders he estimates are still to apply for the exemption; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19271/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that statistics are not available at this time which would enable the information requested by the Deputy to be provided. Section 13 of the Finance Act 2006 introduced the childminding tax exemption. Where the gross annual income from the provision of childcare services does not exceed €10,000, the income is fully exempt from tax. To avail of this relief, the care provider must be self-employed (not an employee) and include the gross income in their annual return of income to the Revenue Commissioners. The claim for tax exemption is made in this return. The claim must be accompanied by evidence that the care provider has notified the person recognised for that purpose by the Health Service Executive. In practice, this will mean the officer appointed by the local City or County Childcare Committee.

An individual must ‘elect' to claim the exemption by notice in writing to the inspector on or before the specified return date for the chargeable period. The specified return date for 2006 is 31 October 2007. However, even with the information contained in these Returns, it will be some time after that before comprehensive statistics of claimants are available.

Question No. 137 answered with QuestionNo. 72.

Decentralisation Programme.

Damien English

Question:

138 Mr. English asked the Minister for Finance if the issue of confining promotions to only persons willing to decentralise has been modified as a result of recent Labour Court hearings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19381/06]

In its recent recommendation in a dispute between SIPTU and FÁS concerning Decentralisation and FÁS contracts of employment, the Labour Court recommended that the matter be referred back to the appropriate central body, at which the issues should be teased out with a view to arriving at agreed long-term solutions, in consultation with all the parties involved. In addition, I understand that, subsequent to the Labour Court recommendation, the Labour Relations Commission has held three conciliation conferences on the matter and is in ongoing contact with the parties. I am confident that the use of the recognised industrial relations procedures will lead to a resolution of the issues in dispute. It is important to recognise, however, that the Labour Court recommendation related to a particular State Agency.

It would not be true to say that promotions are confined only to persons willing to decentralise. For example, agreement has already been reached on a number of human resource and industrial relations issues with the general service unions, including an agreement on promotions which provides opportunities for personnel willing to decentralise as well as those who wish to remain in Dublin.

The position in relation to the State Agencies is of course more complex and the current dispute at FÁS highlights some of those complexities. The Government has always said that this process is voluntary. Any staff member wishing to remain in Dublin will be accommodated with a public service job in Dublin. However, there is a need to balance the business needs of the organisation in furthering its relocation objective with the needs of staff remaining in Dublin. In these circumstances promotions policy must take account of the reality of Decentralisation. These issues can only be resolved through dialogue and negotiations.

The Decentralisation Implementation Group recognises that resolution of outstanding human resources issues is central to the overall implementation process in the State Agencies. It recognised, for example, that proposals for inter-organisational mobility go against traditional employment practices. Nevertheless, it considers that it should prove possible to facilitate the transfers of those public and civil servants who wish, also on a voluntary basis, to relocate to provincial locations. In its view, it is precisely this type of ground-breaking initiative which is needed to give impetus to the implementation of the programme.

Question No. 139 answered with QuestionNo. 129.
Question No. 140 answered with QuestionNo. 95.
Question No. 141 answered with QuestionNo. 97.

Social Partnership.

Joan Burton

Question:

142 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the impact of rising inflation, increasing interest rates and increasing fuel costs on the partnership talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19262/06]

Inflation, as measured by annual changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), was 3.8% in April. A large part of the recent pick-up in the inflation rate is due to external factors such as higher oil prices and interest rate increases by the ECB.

On Budget day, my Department forecast that CPI inflation will average 2.7% in 2006. This forecast was calculated using the usual technical assumption of unchanged interest rates. My Department will publish new forecasts in the Autumn.

Talks on a new national partnership agreement to follow Sustaining Progress are ongoing and it would be imprudent to make any detailed statement at this stage about these talks. I will say that I am concerned about the decline in cost competitiveness in recent years which is having an impact on employment in the exposed sectors of the economy. We must maintain and improve the attractiveness of Ireland as a location for inward foreign direct investment.

Fundamentally, the cornerstone of a new agreement must be the protection of the long- term competitiveness of the country. If pay increases under the next agreement are not kept at a moderate level and do not take account of pay levels in competitor countries, we will see job losses in vulnerable parts of the private sector.

Tax Yield.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

143 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on the Exchequer returns for the first four months of 2006. [19283/06]

As the Deputy may be aware, the monthly Exchequer Returns are available on my Department's website, as are my Department's receipts, expenditure and debt service profiles for 2006.

The results for the first four months of 2006 confirm that the public finances remain sound. The Exchequer Returns to end-April showed a surplus of €497 million, compared with a deficit of €1,221 million for the same period last year and a Budget Day forecast of an Exchequer Deficit of €2,927 million for 2006 as a whole.

Tax receipts to end-April, at €12,802 million were up 16.2 per cent on the same period last year and were €418 million or 3.4 per cent ahead of profile. The main excesses over profile were on Capital Gains Tax (€173m), Corporation Tax (€145m) and Stamp Duty (€140m) while VAT and Income Tax were €96 million and €37 million below profile respectively.

Overall issues for net voted expenditure for April 2006 were up €628 million or 6.0 per cent as compared to April 2005. Net voted expenditure at end-April was €242 million or 2.1 per cent below the published profiles; capital, €87 million below and current, €155 million below.

Tax Code.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

144 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the procedures which are in place for liaison between his Department and the Department of Health and Children regarding tax reliefs for developers of private hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19437/06]

Capital allowances for private hospitals were introduced in 2002. The scheme was one of the property based tax incentives schemes reviewed by independent consultants in 2005. The review of this scheme was undertaken in association with an inter-Departmental steering group on which there were representatives of both the Department of Finance and the Department of Health and Children. The consultants recommended that this particular tax relief should be continued and this recommendation was accepted.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the conditions for granting the relief are set out in the legislation and there are no ongoing liaison procedures in place between the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Health and Children. In the context of Self-Assessment, this is not necessary.

Garda Stations.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

145 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the provision of a new Garda station at Castleisland, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15673/06]

A brief of requirements for the new Garda Station at Castleisland, Co. Kerry has been received from the Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform. Arrangements are in hand for the appointment of a design team which requires advertisement in the E.U. Journal. This procedure will take about 3 months to complete.

A Sketch Scheme for the new Station will be ready by October this year for the approval of the Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform and the Garda Authorities.

Departmental Bodies.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

146 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the findings of the report Outsourcing Ireland, Public Bodies and Accountability published in May 2006 by TASC; the public bodies operating under the umbrella of his Department; the bodies which are not subject to FOI legislation; the annual budget of each of the above agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19260/06]

I am aware of the TASC report on Outsourcing Ireland, Public Bodies and Accountability. As regards the public bodies (other than civil service bodies) to which I appoint board members, the following is the position with regard to FOI and the annual budgets of the bodies, where these are provided from Exchequer funds.

Body Name

Subject to FOI

Annual Budget in €

Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland

No

Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority

No

Financial Services Ombudsman Council

No

Credit Union Advisory Committee

Yes

30,000

Financial Services Consultative Consumer Panel

No

Financial Services Consultative Industry Panel

No

National Treasury Management Agency Advisory Committee (also includes the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission, the State Claims Agency and the National Development Finance Agency)

No

30m for 2006 to cover administrative costs

Ordnance Survey Ireland

Yes

9.265m (Grant-in-Aid)

An Post National Lottery Company

No

Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal

No

300,000

Valuation Tribunal

No

228,000

Sealúchais Árachais Teoranta

No

Review Body on Higher Remuneration

No

300,000

Public Service Benchmarking Body

No

1.9m

Special EU Programmes Body

No

1.411m

Question No. 147 answered with QuestionNo. 109.

Tax Code.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

148 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance his views on Prime Minister Juncker’s informal proposal for a windfall tax on the profits of oil companies in Finance Ministers’ informal discussions on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19206/06]

I would regard our present corporation tax system as a balanced one and designed to meet the needs of the economy. There are no proposals being considered to change it on the lines suggested by the Deputy.

Decentralisation Programme.

Liz McManus

Question:

149 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Finance the latest information available from the central applications facility in respect of applications from civil servants and other public servants currently located in Dublin who wish to transfer to new locations outside of Dublin under the Government’s decentralisation programme; the way in which this compares with the Government target of 10,300; if agreement has been reached with all public service unions regarding promotional opportunities for those who chose to move and those who opted to remain where they are; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19264/06]

The latest figures from the Central Applications Facility show there is substantial interest in the programme. To date there have been over 10,600 applications made to the Central Applications Facility. Over 9,000 of the applications are from civil servants and over 1,000 are from public servants. Over 50% of the applications are from Dublin based staff.

In the civil service, progress has been made in discussions with the general service unions on promotion arrangements. Discussions are ongoing with the unions representing the professional and technical grades in the civil service. I am hopeful this and other decentralisation issues arising in the state agency sector can be discussed with the relevant unions with a view to arriving at arrangements which support the decentralisation process while also meeting the concerns of staff. In the meantime, practices in decentralising organisations relating to recruitment, promotion, etc. must take account of the reality of decentralisation.

Question No. 150 answered with QuestionNo. 81.

Tax Code.

John Gormley

Question:

151 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to introduce a lower rate of VAT on district heating in view of the decision of the Council of Ministers to allow for a reduced VAT rate of as little as 5.5%, taking into consideration the environmental benefits that such projects can provide compared with conventional heating systems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19210/06]

The Deputy is referring to the amendment to Article 12 of the Sixth VAT Directive, which allows Member States to apply the reduced VAT rate to supplies of natural gas, electricity and district heating provided that no risk of a distortion of competition exists. However, the position is that under Irish law the supplies of fuel used to create heat or light are already subject to the reduced rate of VAT of 13.5 per cent. Under Article 28 (2)(e) of the Sixth VAT Directive the supply of fuel is subject to the reduced VAT rate. This Article allows Member States, which at 1 January 1991 applied a reduced rate to supplies of goods and services other than those specified in Annex H of the Sixth VAT Directive, to apply a reduced rate provided for in Article 12(3) to such supplies. Under EU law Member States can continue to apply reduced rates in such cases provided the rate is not below 12%. Such a reduction in the reduced VAT rate, while having a significant Exchequer cost, would have little or no impact on the retail price of such products.

It should also be noted that the Council decision referred to by the Deputy would not have any impact on the rate of VAT applicable to alternative energy systems which are subject to the standard rate of VAT. In Ireland the standard rate of VAT is 21%.

Revenue Investigations.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

152 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the work of the investigations and prosecutions division of the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19279/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Investigations and Prosecutions Division was established in the course of the comprehensive restructuring of the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, which took place during 2002 and 2003. The Division spearheads the Revenue drive to combat serious non-compliance in relation to tax and duties. It carries out the work in conjunction with the Revenue Regions and the Large Cases Division. It has a remit to co-ordinate all Revenue prosecution activity with the aim of increasing the number of criminal prosecutions for serious tax and duty offences and to co-ordinate the major Special Investigations Projects.

In the area of criminal investigation and prosecution, there were 24 convictions for serious tax and duty evasion in 2005, including two guilty pleas, for which sentencing was adjourned. Custodial sentences totalling 12 years (suspended in some cases) were imposed as well as fines totalling €237,052. There are currently 61 serious cases under investigation for potential prosecution, the Director of Public Prosecutions is considering a further 12 cases and has given directions to prosecute in another 8. There are in addition, 20 cases currently in the court process.

The Special Investigations Project, involving the Bogus Non-Resident accounts, Offshore Assets, Single Premium Insurance Policies, National Irish Bank/Clerical Medical Insurance, Ansbacher and cases emerging from the work of several Tribunals have resulted in recoveries, from 30,000 non-compliers, of around €2.2 billion in tax, penalties and interest for the Exchequer.

The Division, in addition, has responsibility for matters such as the co-ordination of the approach to cross-border VAT fraud, criminal cash seizures, serious cases of smuggling involving tobacco and other products, oil laundering and other fraudulent activity and deepening the formal and informal links with other agencies, both national and international, in the pursuit of these goals. In addition, it is responsible for co-ordinating the Revenue commitment to the supply side objectives of the National Drugs Strategy. During 2005 the Revenue Customs Service seized illegal drugs with a street value of €37 million.

The Investigations and Prosecutions Division's central role in the drive against serious tax and duty fraud needs to be viewed in the broader strategic context in which Revenue restructuring took place. There are now 16 Divisions in Revenue, each with its own particular responsibilities and they act in an integrated and interdependent manner tackling non-compliant taxpayers on a cross tax-head basis. This approach is underpinned by the use of technology-based risk assessment tools to focus on areas and individuals posing the greatest threat to the Exchequer. The latest figures indicate that this approach is bearing fruit.

Decentralisation Programme.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

153 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance if Ministers can now replace agencies earmarked for decentralisation with different agencies or departmental sections; the agencies or Departments previously earmarked for decentralisation that are expected to do so; the expected number of Departments or agencies to be affected by this new measure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19263/06]

The Government's policy on completion of the programme is unchanged. I have no plans to change either its scale or its scope.

It has always been the case that the responsibility for the implementation of the programme in each Department rests with the Minister of the Department. The Decentralisation Programme as announced in December 2003 was a government decision. Any Minister who wishes to make changes to the programme will therefore have to seek the approval of the Government.

Economic Policy.

Joe Costello

Question:

154 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Finance his views on forecasts for economic and population growth in the report 2020 Vision, Ireland’s Demographic Dividend published by NCB stockbrokers in April 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19268/06]

I take note of the projections referred to. My Department's projections of the impact of population ageing on the public finances were published in the Stability Programme Update of last December and presented to the Dáil on Budget Day. Other bodies such as the ESRI and the EU have carried out similar exercises. All of these contributions serve to highlight the importance of taking a long-term strategic perspective in policy making.

Tax Collection.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

155 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the situation where a company (details supplied) collapsed owing money to the Revenue Commissioners; the steps which have been taken to have the outstanding debt recovered; his views on the fact that companies may reform to avoid tax liabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19273/06]

Tax debts due by any specific taxpayer are a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that this information is confidential to the taxpayer concerned and accordingly they are not in a position to comment on the individual case covered by the Deputy's question.

On the broader issue referred to by the Deputy I am advised by Revenue that they have an active programme of monitoring new company registrations for tax purposes with a view to identifying new company formations designed mainly to avoid tax liabilities. Where they identify such cases, they will and do take robust collection and enforcement action to counteract such activity when non or late tax compliance occurs in the new company. Such action may include petitioning the court for the appointment of a liquidator and through that process and in conjunction with the Director of Corporate Enforcement, if appropriate, seeking to have the behaviour of the directors examined with a view to restriction or disqualification. Such action is in addition to action taken to recover debts due by the old company and to address the behaviour of the directors of the old company. The liquidation action and subsequent processes are undertaken in accordance with and subject to company law.

Ministerial Responsibilities.

Joan Burton

Question:

156 Ms Burton asked the Taoiseach the functions which have been delegated to each Minister of State at his Department; the date on which the relevant order was made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19050/06]

My statutory functions, in so far as they relate to the Central Statistics Office, are currently delegated to Deputy Kitt, Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach. The Statistics (Delegation of Ministerial Functions) Order, 2004 was made by Government on 19 October, 2004. No other statutory functions have been delegated to any of the Ministers of State in my Department.

Official Hospitality.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

157 Mr. Cuffe asked the Taoiseach if he will provide a full listing of the contents of his Department’s wine cellar giving the vintages, quantity of bottles, dates acquired, prices paid and supplier; and if he will make a statement on the Department’s policy in this regard. [19361/06]

The Department of the Taoiseach does not maintain a wine cellar for functions. Wine is purchased as required from the caterer who is appointed to do the relevant function.

Labour Force Statistics.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

158 Mr. Morgan asked the Taoiseach the average annual working hours of workers here in 2005 and in each of the previous five years. [18896/06]

Statistics on the labour force are compiled from the Quarterly National Household Survey. The latest statistics available are for the period September to November 2005. Details of hours worked are shown in the following table.

Persons in employment (ILO) classified by sex and average Annualised usual hours of work per week

Average annualised usual hours per week

q1 to q4 2000

q1 to q4 2001

q1 to q4 2002

q1 to q4 2003

q1 to q4 2004

q1 to q4 2005

Males

42.2

42.1

41.9

41.4

41.3

41.1

Females

32.9

32.6

32.4

32.2

32.0

31.8

Total

38.1

38.0

37.7

37.3

37.1

37.0

Source: Quarterly National Household Survey, Central Statistics Office.

Reference periods: q1=Dec-Feb, q2=Mar-May, q3=Jun-Aug and q4=Sep-Nov

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

159 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children currently on the waiting list at a centre (details supplied) for assessment or therapy services; the way in which it is intended to reduce these waiting lists in view of the need for timely intervention for children with specific educational needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19692/06]

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

Hospital Services.

Marian Harkin

Question:

160 Ms Harkin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there is a policy decision to introduce newborn hearing screening; if so, a time frame for the introduction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20037/06]

Marian Harkin

Question:

161 Ms Harkin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department has funding for newborn hearing screening included in the budget for the Health Service Executive. [20038/06]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

162 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a policy decision has been made to introduce newborn hearing screening. [20042/06]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

163 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department has included funding for newborn hearing screening in the budget for the Health Service Executive. [20043/06]

John Cregan

Question:

164 Mr. Cregan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department has a policy for the introduction of newborn hearing screening here; if her Department has included funding for newborn hearing screening in the budget for the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20080/06]

Liam Twomey

Question:

195 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there are plans to introduce hearing screening for all newborn babies (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19303/06]

Joe Higgins

Question:

215 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has made a policy decision to introduce newborn hearing screening. [19491/06]

Joe Higgins

Question:

216 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has included funding for newborn hearing screening in the budget for the Health Service Executive. [19492/06]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

228 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 195 of 9 May 2006, if she will address the concerns of the National Association for Deaf People (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19526/06]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

243 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a policy decision has been made to introduce hearing screening for newborn babies. [19753/06]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

244 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department has included funding for newborn hearing screening in the Health Service Executive’s budget. [19754/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 160 to 164, inclusive, 195, 215, 216, 228, 243 and 244 together.

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 Services Executive in relation to its implementation.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Martin Ferris

Question:

165 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that the roll out of BreastCheck to the Kerry area will happen before the end of 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19073/06]

I have met with representatives of BreastCheck and they are fully aware of my wish to have the programme rolled out to the remaining regions in the country as quickly as possible. For this to happen, essential elements of the roll out must be in place including adequate staffing, effective training and quality assurance programmes. Capital funding in the region of €21m has been made available to provide static screening units and five mobile units. My Department made additional revenue funding of €2.3m available to BreastCheck this year and approval has been given for an additional 69 posts to facilitate roll-out. BreastCheck is in the process of shortlisting applicants to construct the new clinical units at the South Infirmary/Victoria Hospital, Cork and University College Hospital Galway. BreastCheck recently interviewed for Clinical Directors for both regions and has commenced the recruitment process for other essentialstaff.

The BreastCheck clinical unit in the Southern Area at the South Infirmary/Victoria Hospital will have three associated mobile units. The area of coverage is counties Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Waterford and Tipperary S.R., 71,188 women are in the target population for invitation to screening, or 35,594 per annum. This is expected to result in the detection of in excess of 174 cancers per year in the first round and a minimum of 87 per year in subsequent rounds. BreastCheck is confident that the target date of next year for the commencement of roll out to Southern and Western regions will be met.

Hospital Staff.

Martin Ferris

Question:

166 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a full-time consultant cardiologist will be appointed at Kerry General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19074/06]

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.

Martin Ferris

Question:

167 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a replacement consultant will be appointed at the accident and emergency department at Kerry General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19075/06]

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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Martin Ferris

Question:

168 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she expects the new accident and emergency department at Kerry General Hospital to be built; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19076/06]

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.

Hepatitis C Scheme.

Barry Andrews

Question:

169 Mr. Andrews asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that a meeting scheduled for 11 May 2006 with a group (details supplied) will be re-arranged at the earliest convenience in order to resolve the implementation of an insurance scheme for persons who contracted hepatitis C from contaminated blood products. [19077/06]

Pat Carey

Question:

192 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reasons for the delay in enacting an insurance scheme for persons infected with hepatitis C through contaminated blood and blood products; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19300/06]

Billy Timmins

Question:

204 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the nine year delay on implementation of an insurance scheme for persons infected with hepatitis C or HIV through provision of contaminated blood or blood products by the State; if same will be enacted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19455/06]

Joe Higgins

Question:

210 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will seek the prompt enactment of legislation to implement an insurance scheme for persons infected with hepatitis C or HIV through provision of contaminated blood or blood products by the State. [19486/06]

Michael Noonan

Question:

219 Mr. Noonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in the context of her reply to Parliamentary Question Nos. 142, 152, 154 and 161 of 16 May 2006, discussions and negotiations will continue with the Irish Haemophilia Society and other analogous organisations until the draft of the proposed legislation is agreed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19495/06]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

242 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to introduce an appropriate insurance scheme for persons infected with hepatitis C or HIV through provision of contaminated blood or blood products by the State (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19671/06]

Michael Ring

Question:

245 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when an insurance scheme for persons infected with HIV or hepatitis C through provision of contaminated blood or blood products by the State will be implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19767/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 169, 192, 204, 210, 219, 242 and 245 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.

In relation to the enquiries from the Deputies regarding further meetings, I will set a date to meet the representative groups as soon as I have the final text of the legislation.

Medical Cards.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

170 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, where a patient with a medical card is found by their doctor to need chiropody services, these are available under the GMS scheme irrespective of age. [19078/06]

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

I consider that it is inappropriate for private chiropodists who are providing services on behalf of the HSE to charge patients a top-up fee, and I have conveyed this view formally to the HSE. My Department requested the HSE to 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.

Hospital Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

171 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reasons the x-ray unit has not been put into operation at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Athy, County Kildare in view of the fact that all of the refurbishment has been completed and of the need for the facility in the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19094/06]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

172 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 in Cappagh Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19095/06]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

John McGuinness

Question:

173 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a place will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if she will expedite a response to their request. [19127/06]

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.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

174 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will approve a medical card in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will expedite a response in view of the original date of the application. [19128/06]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

John McGuinness

Question:

175 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite a report from the medical officer relative to the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny who has applied for works under the DPG scheme. [19129/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

176 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a schedule of works promised to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo under the special housing aid for the elderly scheme in January 2006 will be carried out. [19139/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for the provision of the Housing Aid Scheme for the Elderly, on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, the Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Finian McGrath

Question:

177 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 who is on a waiting list; and if she will make this a priority case. [19141/06]

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.

Departmental Funding.

Finian McGrath

Question:

178 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given regarding a project (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if she will work with other Departments in providing funding support for this project. [19142/06]

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.

Consultancy Contracts.

Marian Harkin

Question:

179 Ms Harkin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if appropriate tax clearance procedures in relation to the recruitment of all external contract staff for the PPARS computer system were followed by management; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19162/06]

I have been advised by the HSE that a number of external agencies placed technical (programming) resources with the PPARS project for configuration work related to the SAPHR software which the PPARS project utilised. These staff worked under the direction of the PPARS management team. PPARS was invoiced by the external agency for the services provided by the technical resources and the agency paid the individual contractors.

Department of Finance Circular 22/95 states that "In the case of all public sector contracts of a value of EUR 6,500 (inclusive of VAT) or more within a twelve month period the contractor ( and agent as appropriate) will be required to produce either a valid tax clearance or C2 certificate." The HSE Internal Audit report on the Procurement Process in respect of the Supply of Contract Personnel to the PPARS Project concluded that "appropriate tax clearance procedures were not followed in respect of payments to these companies."

The HSE has indicated to the C&AG and to the Internal Auditor that tax clearance procedures have been reviewed to ensure full compliance and stated that a designated manager must be formally appointed for each major contract. Tax Clearance status must be established prior to the award of a contract. The recommendation to award a contract must include a certification by the contract manager that all policies, procedures and other requirements (including tax clearance) have been complied with in the tender process. This procedure will be further strengthened when the composite Financial Regulations of the HSE are introduced later this year.

The recommendations of the Internal Auditor arising from his audit of this matter have been supported by the CEO of the HSE who has also stated that under the HSE's National Procurement Policy which came into effect on 1st January 2006 "there are now no acceptable excuses for non compliance". Professor Drumm has also indicated that he has asked the National Director of Finance, HSE, to ensure all necessary procurement and financial procedures are being followed by the PPARS project office.

Marian Harkin

Question:

180 Ms Harkin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if official public procurement policies were followed by management involved in the PPARS computer system; and if not, the irregularities which occurred; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19163/06]

The Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the ‘Development of Human Resources management System for the Health Services (PPARS)' published in December last year stated in relation to procurement that: "A competition for the procurement of technical configuration and support contractors was held in November 2002, one year after the PPARS National Project Team has begin to engage personnel on an ad hoc basis through recruitment agencies. Notwithstanding the results of this competition, there does not appear to have been any change in the companies engaged in this work. Companies that had not been involved up to then, but ranked well on price, were not engaged. Even after this procurement round the actual rates paid to a number of the companies who submitted tenders were higher than their tendered rates. The HSE is currently reviewing the arrangements that were used to procure these services."

I have been advised further by the HSE as follows: The report of the HSE's Internal Audit unit on this matter found that: "The procurement process in respect of the recruitment of the companies to provide technical contractors for a number of the years examined (November 2001 to May 2003) was not carried out in accordance with the appropriate Financial Regulations and Procurement Policies and Procedures."

It is important to note that this Internal Audit Report has not attached any irregularities or impropriety to any staff member in relation to the selection of, the use of, or expenditure on technical contractors. Furthermore previous and subsequent PPARS procurement initiatives were carried out in accordance with the appropriate Financial Regulations and Procurement Policies and Procedures.

The breach of policy related to not advertising requesting companies to participate in a process to provide contract staff. Resources were sourced from companies who had offered staff and the remainder were sourced on the basis of recommendations from existing consultants. The fact that contract personnel engaged by the PPARS project were subsequently engaged by the PPARS Technical Implementation Partner endorses those contractors' experience and capability. Finally, subsequent PPARS procurement processes support the fact that rates charged by contractors represented good value.

Health Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

181 Mr. Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [19164/06]

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.

Liz McManus

Question:

182 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the purpose to which a house (details supplied) in County Wicklow is or will be put to; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19174/06]

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.

Medical Cards.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

183 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if treatment for pain relief for a person (details supplied) in County Louth is available under the medical card scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19188/06]

Under the Health Acts, medical card holders are entitled to treatment in a public hospital free of charge, provided they are admitted as a public patient.

Decisions on the provision of hospital services to an individual in a public hospital are a matter for the hospital authorities and the Health Service Executive. My Department has arranged to have the case raised by the Deputy referred to the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE for investigation and direct reply.

Health Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

184 Mr. Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary will be called for assessment for hip replacement surgery. [19195/06]

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.

Tom Hayes

Question:

185 Mr. Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary will be called for assessment for hip replacement surgery. [19196/06]

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.

Nursing Home Charges.

Pat Breen

Question:

186 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a refund will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare in respect of nursing home charges; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19238/06]

As the Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the National Repayment Scheme, inquiries relating to the scheme are referred to the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive. My Department has asked the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

187 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the changes that have been introduced in the Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, as a result of the recommendations made by Judge Harding-Clarke; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19239/06]

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

Health Service Expenditure.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

188 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the budget allocated to Louth County Hospital, Dundalk, and the Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda for each of the past three years; the expenditure to date in 2006 for each hospital; the projections for expenditure in each hospital; if overruns of expenditure are projected; if new accounting or expenditure restrictions are in place in either hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19240/06]

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.

State Property.

Bernard Allen

Question:

189 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the arrangements being entered into between the Health Services Executive southern branch and those developing houses at Shanakiel, Cork, regarding access to that scheme from Shanakiel road through health services land and the access which will be made available to the houses when constructed through health services land leading from Shanakiel road westwards. [19241/06]

The issue raised by the Deputy is a matter for the Health Service Executive, having regard to the provisions of the Health Act 2004. My Department has been informed by the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive that a reply is being issued to the Deputy in relation to the matter raised by him.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

190 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress made in putting in place a contract for delivery of dialysis services from a clinic (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if she will expedite a decision in the process in view of the number of patients who have to travel long distances at present to avail of dialysis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19250/06]

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.

Tony Gregory

Question:

191 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will request from the Health Service Executive the reasons for the lack of a chiropody service in the East Wall area of Dublin 3 where there is a large elderly population; the steps the HSE will take to provide this service in the East Wall area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19299/06]

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

Question No. 192 answered with QuestionNo. 169.

Hospital Services.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

193 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the cost of a trolley bed in each hospital throughout the country on a daily basis as compared to a hospital bed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19301/06]

The national average cost per attendance at A&E departments in Ireland in 2004 (the last year for which information is available) is €197. This is a full cost including pay, non pay costs, together with the cost of overheads and services used by A&E patients within the hospital. The figure does not include depreciation or capital costs.

The average cost relates to all patients in A&E irrespective of whether they are admitted or not. As the Deputy may be aware, the majority of patients attending at A&E are not admitted to hospital.

My Department cannot provide a figure for the cost of a patient occupying a trolley in A&E as it is not possible to distinguish between the costs associated with treatment on a trolley and the costs associated with other treatments provided in A&E.

The national average cost of an In-patient Bed day in 2004 was €651.

Health Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

194 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that arthritis patients in County Mayo have to wait four years to access a rheumatologist and to information provided at the Joint Committee on Health and Children on 11 May 2006 that the waiting times for such service is longest in the west and midlands; if her attention has been further drawn to the fact that while there is one rheumatologist per 400,000 population here, the comparable figure in the UK and the rest of Europe is 14 rheumatologists to 400,000 population where the waiting list there is six to 12 weeks compared to four years here; if in view of the report referred to, she will provide the specialist unit for arthritis sufferers in Mayo with the required consultant and other staff to give a service and waiting time comparable with the rest of Europe; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19302/06]

In September 2002, Comhairle na nOspidéal initiated a review of Rheumatology Services. Its report, which was published in December 2005, examines the provision of services and makes recommendations on the organisation and development of rheumatology services in the future.

Responsibility for the implementation of these recommendations rests with the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 195 answered with QuestionNo. 160.

Health Service Funding.

Michael Lowry

Question:

196 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of weight management clinics in receipt of Department and Health Service Executive funding each year since 2002; the amount of funding allocated to each; the number of patients each clinic has seen since 2002; the number of patients seen annually by the public weight management clinic in St. Colmcille’s Hospital; the number of patients awaiting treatment; if necessary funding will be allocated immediately to the clinic to tackle the waiting list there; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19315/06]

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.

Grant Payments.

Michael Lowry

Question:

197 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of an application for motorist transport grant made by a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary in December 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19316/06]

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

Hospital Services.

Michael Lowry

Question:

198 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when an operation will be scheduled for a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19317/06]

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.

Health Services.

Michael Lowry

Question:

199 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when an appointment will be given to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19318/06]

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

Nursing Home Investigations.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

200 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the report by Professor O’Neill into Leas Cross was given to the Health Service Executive; the reason for the delay in publishing same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19319/06]

The Deputy may wish to know that the Health Service Executive has informed my Department that Professor O'Neill recently submitted his final report to the Executive and this has been sent to the legal advisers of the HSE for advice.

The report prepared by Prof. O'Neill is one of a number of reports commissioned/prepared by the HSE into Leas Cross Nursing Home.

All of the reports are now being collated and it is expected that these will be submitted as a complete file on Leas Cross Nursing Home to the National Director of Primary, Community and Continuing Care Directorate in the near future.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

201 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will publish in full the report of the formal investigation under the chairmanship of a person (details supplied) into complaints received by the Health Service Executive into the operation of a nursing home in the HSE southern area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19320/06]

In September 2004 following complaints received from the family of a nursing home resident the former Southern Health Board established an inquiry team with an independent chairman to investigate the complaints. The team were also to review existing standards, policies and procedures in the Nursing Home and make appropriate recommendations.

The patient's family, the Nursing Home staff and Health Board officials were interviewed by the team. The Report was given to the patient's family who were briefed by the HSE South on the outcome of the inquiry. An implementation Group was established to oversee the implementation of the recommendations and the home was inspected on three occasions following the investigation; all of the recommendations have been implemented.

In January 2006, following a request from Deputy O'Dowd, the HSE South provided information to him regarding the recommendations; the name of the Nursing Home, patients and staff were deleted to protect the privacy of the complainants. The Department of Health and Children were given the relevant documentation in the context of the Review of Nursing Home Standards.

The Health Service Executive Southern Area has informed my Department that the Deputy requested a copy of the investigation Reports under the Freedom of Information Act on 9th January 2006 and following consideration of the request the HSE South refused access to the Report under the Acts. It is understood that HSE South are in communication with the Deputy regarding an appeals process.

Official Hospitality.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

202 Mr. Cuffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a full listing of the contents of her Department’s wine cellar giving the vintages, quantity of bottles, dates acquired, prices paid and supplier; and if she will make a statement on the Department’s policy in this regard. [19349/06]

My Department purchases quantities of wine as and when required for relevant events and hospitality purposes within the Department. The present stock (no vintage wines) amounts to: 103 bottles of Andes Peak, 5 bottles of Hoopenburg, 5 bottles of Villard and 4 bottles Delheim.

These wines were purchased from O'Briens Wine Off-Licence at a total cost of €938. The bulk of this stock was purchased over recent months.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

203 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount of subvention paid to patients in nursing homes in County Donegal; the number of contracted beds to the Health Service Executive in nursing homes in County Donegal; and the cost of same. [19377/06]

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.

Question No. 204 answered with QuestionNo. 169.

Child Care Services.

Willie Penrose

Question:

205 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an application by a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath for grant aid in relation to the provision of a crèche will be expedited; if she will take steps to have same addressed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19481/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP) and the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010, which are being implemented by the newly established Office of the Minister for Children.

With regard to the application for capital grant assistance under the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 referred to by the Deputy, I understand the person in question submitted an application for funding recently through Westmeath County Childcare Committee.

I understand from enquiries I have made that this application for funding has been received by Pobal, formerly known as Area Development Management Ltd., who administer the Programme. Each application undergoes a thorough assessment by Pobal to ensure that it meets the criteria of the Programme. All applications are processed as speedily as possible.

Following this assessment, the application will be considered by the Programme Appraisal Committee, before a decision is made regarding funding and the applicant in question will be informed of the outcome in due course.

Health Service Allowances.

John McGuinness

Question:

206 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the financial assistance which will be offered to a person (details supplied); if contact will be made with their family to proactively assist them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19482/06]

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.

Proposed Legislation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

207 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the implications for the long-awaited Eligibility for Health and Personal Social Services Bill of the European Court of Justice decision in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19483/06]

The judgement to which the Deputy refers, known as the "Watts case", relates to the question of prior authorisation for hospital treatment abroad where a patient would otherwise be subject to undue delay in their country of residence.

My Department is studying the implications of the ruling both for the provision of hospital services generally, and for the proposed new legislation on eligibility in particular.

My main concern is to continue to ensure that patients who require hospital treatment can do so without delay and that there are effective procedures for reviewing their cases where they are awaiting treatment. The National Treatment Purchase Fund is already playing an important role in this regard.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

208 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her Department’s preparations of the Eligibility for Health and Personal Social Services Bill; if the heads of this Bill have been agreed; when the Bill will be presented before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19484/06]

My Department is currently preparing the Heads of a Bill to clarify and update existing legislation on eligibility for health and personal social services. The Bill will define specific health and personal services more clearly; define who should be eligible for what services; set out clear criteria for eligibility; establish when and in what circumstances charges may be made and provide for an appeals framework.

It is my intention to publish the Bill by the end of the year.

Hospital Visits.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

209 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the public and private hospitals or clinics she has visited since her appointment; the dates upon which these visits occurred; and the purpose of the visits. [19485/06]

The Deputy will wish to note that since my appointment as Minister for Health and Children, I have made approximately 100 visits to hospitals both public and private, hospices, step down facilities, community hospitals and nursing homes. I have set out the relevant details in the following table.

Date

Location

Purpose of visit

22-10-2004 (Friday)

Donnybrook Hospital

Meet with Chief Executive and Director of Nursing

8-11-2004 (Monday)

Tallaght Hospital

Visit

Rotunda Hospital

Art Exhibition Wishes and Choices

12-11-2004 (Friday)

Visit to Sloan Kettering Hospital

3-12-2004 (Friday)

Crumlin Hospital Open Irish Ronald McDonald House, Crumlin

Meet with CEO and management team of Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin

9-12-2004 (Thursday)

Mater Hospital, Dublin 7

Visit with An Taoiseach

17-12-2004 (Friday)

Adelaide and Meath Hospital

Unveil a plaque for a Public Service Excellence Award being given to the Adelaide and Meath Hospital

Peamount Hospital

Visit facilities of hospital

20-1-2005 (Thursday)

Cork University Hospital

Visit to Cork University Hospital — meet Management Team, Tour of facilities including new A&E Dept.

Mahon, Cork

Visit to St. Luke’s Home for Alzheimers Patients

21-1-2005 (Friday)

The Great Hall, Stewarts Hospital, Palmerstown, Dublin 20

Attend the Graduation Ceremony of the final six nurses from the Diploma in Nursing Programme

25-1-2005 (Tuesday)

Galway

Visit UCHG

Merlin Park Hospital

Visit

Loughrea

Visit St. Brendan’s Nursing Home

27-1-2005 (Thursday)

Health Centre, Longford — on St. Joseph’s Hospital Campus

Presentation to An Tánaiste on Digital Care Network

Visit to St. Joseph’s Hospital, Longford

St. Joseph’s Campus

Visit to Longford Mental Health Centre

Mullingar Midland Regional Hospital —

Official Opening of Medical Assessment Unit

Birr

Visit to Birr Community Nursing Unit and Health Centre

28-1-2005 (Friday)

Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise

Official Opening of Cardiac Rehabilitation Unit

Portlaoise

Visit “Cuisle Centre” — recently opened centre for treatment/services for cancer patients

St. Vincent’s Hospital Mountmellick

Unveiling of architectural drawing for Dementia Unit Hospice Room/Lay Foundation Stone Midland regional Hospital

3-2-2005 (Thursday)

St. John of God Hospital, Stillorgan

Attend dinner following the annual meeting of Dublin Hospital Chaplains Association

28-2-2005 (Monday)

Beaumont Hospital/ St. Joseph’s Raheny

Official open of St. Joseph’s Raheny as part of Beaumont Hospital

26-4-2005 (Tuesday)

Sligo

Visit North West Hospice

9-5-2005 (Monday)

Cork University Hospital

Open A&E unit & Meet with Chairman, Cardiac Services Division re: Cardiac renal development at the hospital

Cork

Visit to Mercy University Hospital

Cork

Visit to Bon Secours Hospital

18-5-2005 (Wednesday)

Oakland Lodge, St. Luke’s Hospital, Rathgar, Dublin 6

Officially open new facilities (19 patient rooms and day room)

St. Luke’s Hospital, Rathgar, Dublin 6

Meet with representatives of the Board, Medical staff and Management of St. Luke’s

19-5-2005 (Thursday)

Meath Hospital site

Visit the Liberties Primary Care Team

23-5-2005 (Monday)

Temple Street Hospital

Visit to Temple Street Hospital and meet with Chairperson, CEO and Chairman of the Medical Board

Temple Street Hospital

Officially open new paediatric renal unit and tour of the ward followed by speeches in St. George’s Hall

2-6-2005 (Thursday)

UCHG

Opening of Radiotherapy Unit

10-6-2005 (Friday)

Sligo General Hospital campus

Officially open Orthodontic Unit

Sligo General Hospital, Sligo

Hospital visit

Sligo

Visit to Nazareth House Nursing Home

11-6-2005 (Saturday)

Carna

Visit Carna Nursing Home

Oughterard

Visit Owenriff Nursing Home

16-6-2005 (Thursday)

Ballindine, Co. Mayo

Visit to Marian House Respite Home

Castlebar, Co. Mayo

Tour of some wards at Mayo General Hospital including Adult Mental Health Unit

23-6-2005 (Thursday)

St. Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny

Visit to St. Luke’s Hospital — tour of Hospital including A&E, MAU and Palliative Care followed by meeting

24-6-2005 (Friday)

Waterford Regional Hospital

Visit hospital, view facilities, number of official openings and meetings

Waterford

Visit to St. Patrick’s Hospital

Airport Road, Waterford

Officially open Killure Bridge Nursing Home

27-6-2005 (Monday)

James’s Street, Dublin 8

Visit to St. James’s Hospital and the National Blood Centre

1-7-2005 (Friday)

38 Eccles Street, Dublin 7, Mater

Opening of renal day unit in the Mater

65 Eccles Street

Visit the ARC Cancer Support Centre

4-7-2005 (Monday)

Carlow District Hospital

Visit facilities of hospital

Kelvin Grove

Visit

Kelvin Grove

Visit Greenbank Crisis Respite Home

Sacred Heart Hospital

Visit

5-7-2005 (Tuesday)

Leopardstown Road, Foxrock, Dublin 18

Visit The Children’s Sunshine Home

12-7-2005 (Tuesday)

Blackrock Clinic, Blackrock

Unveil painting and visit PET scanner

15-7-2005 (Friday)

St. John of God’s Hospital, Stillorgan, Co. Dublin

Open the conference to celebrate 50 years of Child Psychiatry

19-7-2005 (Tuesday)

Dundrum, Dublin 14

Visit Central Mental Hospital

21-7-2005 (Thursday)

Dublin 7

Visit St. Bricin’s

3-8-2005 (Wednesday)

Bantry General Hospital

Visit Bantry Hospital and meet with local hospital groups

6-9-2005 (Tuesday)

Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin

Officially open new Medical Tower

15-9-2005 (Thursday)

Adare, Co. Limerick

Visit to Embury Close, Adare (housing complex for older people)

HSE Catherine Street, Limerick

Meet with Limerick Regional Hospital Manager, Hospital Network Manager and HSE officials and meeting re: ambulance services

St. Ita’s Newcastlewest, Co. Limerick

Visit and meet with Friends of St. Ita’s

Dromcollogher, Co. Limerick

Visit Dromcollogher Respite centre

16-9-2005 (Friday)

Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare

Visit Stella Maris Community Health Facility, Lisdoonvarna

Kilmaley, Co. Clare

Kilmaley District Day Care Centre/Primary Care Unit/Sheltered Housing

21-9-2005 (Wednesday)

Rochestown Avenue

Visit Cheshire Ireland apartment complex called “Eaglewood”

Holles Street

Visit the National Maternity Hospital

22-9-2005 (Thursday)

St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin 4

Visit to St. Vincent’s Hospital

Clonskeagh

Visit Clonskeagh Hospital

30-9-2005 (Friday)

St. Brigid’s Home, Brittas, Co. Dublin

Officially launch the Hospital Watch Initiative

Coast Road, Blainroe, Co. Wicklow

Officially open Blainroe Lodge Nursing Home

3-10-2005 (Monday)

St. Loman’s Hospital, Palmerstown

Visit St. Loman’s Mental Health facilities

14-10-2005 (Friday)

St. James’s Hospital, Dublin 8

Speak at the Irish Society for Rheumatology Annual General Meeting

St. Joseph’s Centre, Clonsilla

Present certificates to graduates of the Health Care Assistants Course

St. Mary’s Centre for the Visually Impaired, 185-203 Merrion Road, Dublin 4

Present FETAC graduates with their Records of Achievement

25-10-2005 (Tuesday)

Mater Hospital Launch Breast health Unit

3-11-2005 (Thursday)

St. James’s Hospital

Officially launch the Cancer Audit Programme report for St. James’s Hospital

5-11-2005 (Saturday)

St. Patricks Hospital, D8

Formally open the conference celebrating the 20th anniversary of AWARE

9-11-2005 (Wednesday)

Carrick-on-Shannon

St. Patrick’s Hospital, Carrick on Shannon — Meet with Consumer Panel; Launch new Community Hospital project for South Leitrim; Tour of Hospital — meet staff/patients and view innovation projects

Roscommon County Hospital

Meet staff/patients and view innovation projects

Sacred Heart Hospital, Roscommon

Meet staff/patients and view innovation projects

10-11-2005 (Thursday)

Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe Visit Portiuncula Hospital

Officially open Stroke Unit; Tour of hospital, meet staff/patients and view innovation projects; View Exhibition PCCC/NHO Departments in Galway working together

11-11-2005 (Friday)

Whitehall, Dublin 9

Visit Highfield Alzheimers Hospital

21-11-2005 (Monday)

Mater Misericordiae Hospital, Eccles Street, Dublin 7

Launch the PET/CT Scanner Services at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital

24-11-2005 (Thursday)

Rockfield Complex, Balally Luas Station (opp. Dundrum Town Centre)

Officially open VHI’s new Swift Care Clinic

12-12-2005 (Monday)

Nevinstown Lane, Swords, Co. Dublin

Officially open the new extension at the Tara Winthrop Private Clinic

16-12-2005 (Friday)

St. James Hospital, D8

Launch the new Falls and Syncope Facility

4-1-2006 (Wednesday)

Rotunda Hospital

Launch IHSAB Accreditation award in the Rotunda

20-1-2006 (Friday)

St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin 4

Visit the Merrion Unit of BreastCheck

St. Patrick’s Hospital, James’s Street, Dublin 8

Visit and meet with the Governors and Senior Executive

27-1-2006 (Friday)

Dundalk

Visit to Louth County Hospital

6-2-2006 — 9-2-2006

Canada

Visit oncology facilities — Cancer Care Ontario, Princess Margaret Hospital, British Columbia Cancer Agency

10-2-2006 (Friday)

Station Road, Raheny, Dublin 5

Visit to St. Francis Hospice

Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown

Photoshoot re: Launch of Lollypop day. Also, visit to Connolly Hospital

20-2-2006 (Monday)

Galway

Visit to Galway Hospice Renmore Visit to Bons Secours Visit Galway Clinic

Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Eccles Street, Dublin 7

Unveil painting re: organ donation

3-3-2006 (Friday)

Cork University Hospital

Officially open new Medical Records Department

10-03-2006 (Thursday)

South Africa

Visit to leratong Hospice as part of St Patrick’s day travel

3-4-2006 (Monday)

Our Lady’s Hospice, Harolds Cross, Dublin 6W

Officially open new 50 bed Extended Care Unit

10-4-2006 (Monday)

Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9

Visit the Alpha One Suite to see facilities and meet with staff nurse, scientists and patients

08/05/2006

University of Pennsylvania

View Oncology and A&E Services

John Hopkins Centre

View the oncology services

09/05/2006

National Institute for Health

National Cancer Institute

10/05/2006

Washington Hospital

View the Oncology and A&E Services

Question No. 210 answered with QuestionNo. 169.

Health Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

211 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason recommendations made by occupational therapists that shower and toilet seats be provided for persons (details supplied) in County Wexford two years ago have not been implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19487/06]

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 Service Staff.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

212 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if positions of professionals on maternity leave will be replaced temporarily while the leave continues, that is occupational therapists in Wexford, taking into account the great need; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19488/06]

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

Medical Cards.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

213 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 was told they exceed the income threshold for the renewal of their medical card, in view of the fact that their only income is from invalidity pension and a €5,000 grant from the local authority for third level education; and if she will ensure that the persons medical card is renewed. [19489/06]

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.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

214 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether people should not have to choose between their medical card and their education; her further views on whether counting a grant received for education as income for medical card purposes acts as a disincentive against obtaining that education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19490/06]

Under Section 45 of the Health Act 1970 medical cards are provided for persons who, in the opinion of the HSE, are unable without undue hardship to arrange general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants. Section 58 of the Health Act, 1970, as amended, provides for GP visit cards for adult persons with limited eligibility for whom, in the opinion of the HSE, and notwithstanding that they do not qualify for a medical card, it would be unduly burdensome to arrange GP medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants.

The assessment of eligibility to medical cards is statutorily a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and is determined following an examination of the means and medical need of the applicant and his/her dependants.

In assessing eligibility income guidelines are used by the HSE. These guidelines are not statutorily binding and medical cards may be granted by the HSE to persons in circumstances where the income guidelines may be exceeded but the particular circumstances of the case warrant such a decision. Decisions to refuse an application or renewal of a medical card may, of course, be appealed to the Executive for further consideration.

Questions Nos. 215 and 216 answered with Question No. 160.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

217 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive physiotherapy. [19493/06]

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.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Michael Ring

Question:

218 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive approval for a new artificial limb. [19494/06]

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

Question No. 219 answered with QuestionNo. 169.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

220 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if complaints made by patients regarding the conduct of a person (details supplied) were investigated by the old South Eastern Health Board; if the patients who made such complaints were interviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19496/06]

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.

John McGuinness

Question:

221 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a home care package will be put in place in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19497/06]

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.

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

222 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the funding for 2005 and the estimate for 2006 in relation to mental health services and suicide prevention initiatives. [19498/06]

An additional €15 million revenue funding was made available for the further development of mental health services in 2005 and a further €25 million has been provided this year for the further enhancement of services in line with "A Vision for Change", the recently published report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy. This brings the estimated total revenue spend on mental health services in 2006 to over €800 million.

In addition to existing funding, a further €0.5 million was allocated in 2005 to commence the implementation of "Reach Out" — the National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention and a further €1.2 million has been allocated to the HSE in 2006 specifically for suicide prevention initiatives. It is estimated that since the publication of the Report of the National Task Force on Suicide in 1998, a cumulative total of more than €20 million has been provided towards suicide prevention programmes and for research.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Pat Breen

Question:

223 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 119 of 30 March 2006, the status of an application under the housing aid for the elderly scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19499/06]

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.

I understand from the HSE that a reply issued to the Deputy on 3 April 2006 in relation to Question No. 119 of 30 March 2006. The HSE has confirmed that the position remains unchanged and the application process is ongoing as they are still awaiting quotations requested from the applicant.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

224 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Health Service Executive has allowed the housing aid for the elderly scheme to be run down; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that there is over a two year delay in approvals being issued for grant aid; if it is Health Service Executive policy to disengage from this vital scheme for the elderly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19500/06]

The Deputy will be aware that the Housing Aid Scheme is administered by the Health Service Executive, on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Scheme has not been run down. The Deputy may wish to be aware that an initial allocation of €12 million for the scheme has been allocated in 2006 compared to an initial allocation of €11 million in 2005 and the Health Service Executive regions were notified of this in February 2006. A further allocation of funding will be provided later in the year.

With regard to the delay in approvals under the Scheme, the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which includes the approval process for the Housing Aid Scheme, are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Health Service Executive has been asked to respond directly to the Deputy on this issue. There is no intention to disengage from the Scheme.

Hospital Services.

John Perry

Question:

225 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Sligo will be called for their hip replacement operation as their condition has deteriorated. [19501/06]

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.

John Perry

Question:

226 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon will be called for their knee operation as their condition has deteriorated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19502/06]

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.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

227 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the results of a test for cystic fibrosis carried out on a person (details supplied) in County Kildare took four months; the average waiting time for such test results; the locations where the results are normally analysed; if it is planned to reduce waiting times; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19525/06]

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

Question No. 228 answered with QuestionNo. 160.

National Health Strategy.

Richard Bruton

Question:

229 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the target guidelines for maximum waiting times of the National Health Strategy; and when she last received a report from the Health Service Executive on performance against these targets. [19527/06]

The Health Strategy set as a target that no public patient should wait longer than three months for in-patient treatment in hospital following referral from an out-patient department. Responsibility for the collection and reporting of data on waiting times now rests with the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF). It has developed the Patient Treatment Register (PTR), which provides, for the first time, verified information on actual patients on public in-patient and day-case waiting lists. The latest figures from the PTR show that for the 20 most common surgical procedures, 85% of patients are waiting less than 6 months for treatment.

Nineteen hospitals are currently included in the PTR. It is intended to complete the roll-out of the PTR to all acute hospitals by the end of this year. The NTPF advises anyone waiting more than three months for an operation to contact it as, in most instances, treatment can be arranged for them.

Hospital Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

230 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she last received a report from the Health Service Executive on the waiting period from referral to a consultant appointment. [19528/06]

Information on the length of time that patients spend waiting for an appointment with a consultant following their referral by a General Practitioner is not collected on a national basis by the Health Service Executive and is not, therefore, available to my Department.

In 2005, I asked the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) to examine the needs of patients waiting longest for hospital out-patient appointments. As a result, the NTPF set up a number of out-patient pilot projects around the country. The outcome was that approximately 4,400 persons, who had been waiting longest in a number of specialties, were given out-patient appointments in private hospitals. An additional 3,100 patients were removed from out-patient waiting lists as part of a validation process. In 2006 the NTPF proposes to build on the progress made in 2005 by arranging out-patient appointments for a further 6,000 patients.

General Practitioner Co-operatives.

Richard Bruton

Question:

231 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the terms of the new out of hours general practitioner service for the northside which the Taoiseach has indicated will be in place for 1 September 2006, indicating the main hours of service which have been contracted in, the number of centres from which the service will be delivered and so on. [19529/06]

The Government's policy is to support the further development of GP co-ops so that, ultimately, such services will be available to all of the population. The putting in place of appropriate arrangements for large urban areas, including Dublin, is a particular priority in this regard. The Health Service Executive announced the following on 11 May: "Following a joint initiative by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Irish Medical Organisation, (IMO) negotiations have been ongoing for the past number of weeks with a view to establishing an out-of-hours GP based Co-operative to serve the population of North Dublin. These negotiations have made considerable progress to date and it is anticipated that a successful conclusion will be arrived at in the next few weeks. The agreement will provide for the establishment of an enhanced urgent out-of-hours GP Service commencing in September 2006. The co-operative model in this agreement is based on the model successfully in operation in other parts of the country. The HSE, the IMO and the General Practitioners in North Dublin are committed to enhancing the services available to the population of North Dublin."

Accident and Emergency Services.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

232 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on charging families who block the discharge of patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19614/06]

I presume that the Deputy is referring to a suggestion made by a consultancy firm, Tribal Secta, which was commissioned by the Health Service Executive to carry out a mapping and efficiency exercise across ten acute hospitals. The consultants were asked to identify blockages, causes and potential solutions in the patient's journey from the decision to admit from the Emergency Department, to discharge.

The Report refers to a significant number of patients in the acute hospitals in question who had completed the acute phase of their care but could not be discharged to a more appropriate setting for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons identified was a shortage of appropriate care and convalescence facilities for older people. Another was that the families or carers of patients do not always accept the first placement that becomes available and sometimes refuse to allow patients to be discharged from hospital. The Report suggested that hospitals might consider imposing charges in such cases.

Providing more sub-acute care options is an important and integral part of the measures being taken to tackle problems in A & E departments. So far this year, 350 patients have been discharged from acute hospitals to intermediate care beds; additional home care packages have facilitated the discharge of a further 200 patients, and over 250 patients have been discharged under the private nursing homes initiative.

The inter-Departmental Working Group on long-term care for older people has submitted its report to Government, where it is under consideration. In relation to long-term care capacity, the HSE is preparing a report on such capacity for my Department and it is expected that this report will be available over the next few weeks. I have not received and am not considering any submission suggesting the charging measure in the Tribal Secta report.

Hospital Services.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

233 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if it is proposed to increase inpatient beds in Cork University Hospital and it if is intended that accident and emergency services are to be expanded at the Mercy University Hospital Cork. [19615/06]

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.

Mental Health Services.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

234 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if it is proposed to close mental hospitals and if hospitals (details supplied) in County Cork are included in the programme. [19616/06]

The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, "A Vision for Change", which was published on 24 January 2006, recommends that plans be drawn up for the closure of all mental hospitals. The closure of large mental hospitals and the move to modern units attached to general hospitals, together with the expansion of community services, has been Government policy since the publication of Planning for the Future in 1984.

In "A Vision for Change", a four-stage process is recommended for the closure of the hospitals, as follows: Stage 1 — identify measures required to enable admission to cease and put these measures in place; Stage 2 — cease admission to the hospital and draw up plans for relocations of existing patients; Stage 3 — implement plans for the relocation of existing patients; and Stage 4 — the final closure of the hospital. The recommendations in the Report have been accepted by Government as the basis for the future development of our mental health services.

The Health Service Executive has stated that it anticipates the closure of mental hospitals and the reinvestment of the proceeds to take place on a phased basis. It has also emphasised that hospitals can only close when the clinical needs of the remaining patients have been addressed in more appropriate settings such as additional community residences, day hospitals and day centres together with a substantial increase in the number of well trained, fully staffed, community-based multidisciplinary Community Mental Health Teams as is recommended in "A Vision for Change".

As the Deputy may be aware, under the Health Act 2004, the management and delivery of health and personal social service are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters raised by the Deputy investigated and to have a reply issued directly to him.

Hospital Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

235 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 92 of 11 May 2006, her views on whether it would not be in the interests of elderly and frail patients that they would have to relocate three times over the space of a year; her further views on whether this would be disorientating for patients with psychiatric problems; if her attention has been drawn to the strong opposition from families of patients to these proposals; and the steps she will take to ensure that patients can move directly from unit three to unit five in order to avoid excessive disruption. [19617/06]

As I informed the Deputy in my response of the 11th May 2006, it may be necessary to relocate some patients on an interim basis pending the re-development of facilities at Connolly Hospital. The hospital is currently engaged with the relevant stakeholders in developing a range of options taking into account the complex needs of the patients and the need for continuity of care. A process of consultation with the families of patients is also underway to ensure minimal disruption to patients during the re-development.

As 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, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters raised by the Deputy investigated and to have a reply issued directly to her.

Departmental Staff.

Seán Ryan

Question:

236 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of people who are working in the offices of the Minister with responsibility for Children; the number who are assigned to the Minister’s private office; the number to his constituency office; the numbers of advisers and political appointments to the Minister’s office; the salaries and fees paid to such employees; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19618/06]

The Office of the Minister for Children is an integral part of the Department of Health and Children and comprises the following:

•The Childcare Directorate (transferred from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform), which has responsibility for the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme — EOCP and the new National Childcare Investment Programme. The Childcare Directorate has an agreed complement of 21.8 Whole Time Equivalent (WTE) civil servants.

•The Child Welfare and Protection Policy Unit, which has responsibility for policy and legislative work on Child Welfare and Protection has an agreed complement of 17.1 WTE civil servants.

•The National Children's Strategy Unit, which has responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the National Children's Strategy has an agreed complement of 16.8 WTE civil servants (which includes 3 staff on secondment from the Departments of Education and Science, Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Social & Family Affairs), 2 staff on Contract and 1 on Secondment. Salary costs excluding employer's PRSI and pension contributions in respect of the three sections above amount to €2,922,724 per annum.

•The Minister's Private Office has 1 Private Secretary, 4 other civil servants, 1 Special Advisor and 2 Civilian Drivers who are attached to the Department of Health and Children. He also has 1 Private Secretary based in the Department of Education and Science. Salary costs excluding employer's PRSI and pension contributions amount to €408,038 per annum.

•The Minister's Constituency Office has an agreed complement of 2.8 civil servants, 1 Personal Assistant and 1 Personal Secretary. Salary costs excluding employer's PRSI and pension contributions amount to €194,652 per annum.

Health Services.

David Stanton

Question:

237 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 225 of 4 April 2006, if she has received the information requested from the Health Service Executive; if so, the details of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19641/06]

As the Deputy's Question no 225 dated 4th April 2006 related to the delivery of health and personal social services my Department, as indicated in my reply, asked the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive (HSE) to reply directly to the Deputy.

Where a Question relates to a service provided by the HSE on a national basis or requests statistical information in relation to a service covering a period of years, it may require the collation of information from a number of different sources. The collation of such information is coordinated and monitored by the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE to ensure that a complete and comprehensive reply is compiled and issued in response to these Questions.

My Department has been informed by the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE that it is completing the collation of the information requested by the Deputy with a view to furnishing a direct reply to him. My Department has asked the HSE that the reply be furnished as soon as possible.

Child Care Services.

David Stanton

Question:

238 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 224 of 4 April 2006 the updated figures for the number of inquiries that the city and county childcare committees have received with regard to voluntary notification for childminders; the number of notifications the childcare committees have received since the introduction of the tax exemption for childminders; the breakdown of same per childcare committee; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19642/06]

With reference to the information provided to the Deputy last month in regard to the number of enquiries received by City and County Childcare Committees from childminders in relation to voluntary notification since the introduction of the tax exemption in respect of income from childminding, I am advised that the information provided at that time and reproduced below has not yet been updated. I have asked officials in the Office of the Minister for Children to arrange for an early update of the information and for this to be forwarded to the Deputy at an early date.

Details of the number of enquiries to the City and County Childcare Committees regarding voluntary notification by childminders and the number of voluntary notifications received, since the introduction of the tax exemption up to the beginning of April 2006:

City/County Childcare Committee

Enquiries

Voluntary Notifications

Carlow

1

1

Cavan

25

3

Clare

2

5

Cork City

Details awaited

Cork County

8

0

Dún Laoghaire/ Rathdown

3

0

Donegal

21

0

Dublin City

30

0

Fingal

15

30

Galway

280

0

Kerry

4

70

Kildare

Details awaited

Kilkenny

4

0

Laois

0

1

Leitrim

Details awaited

Limerick City

Details awaited

Limerick County

6

4

Longford

5

0

Louth

1

0

Mayo

Details awaited

Meath

25

17

Monaghan

2

1

North Tipperary

0

1

Offaly

0

1

Roscommon

8

0

Sligo

10

0

South Dublin

50

5

South Tipperary

6

0

Waterford City

20

5

Waterford County

8

7

Westmeath

91

5

Wexford

8

0

Wicklow

57

21

Total

553

160

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John McGuinness

Question:

239 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay of up to 15 months for a knee operation for a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; if the operation will be expedited or dealt with under the national treatment purchase fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19653/06]

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

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

John McGuinness

Question:

240 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in approving an application under the housing aid for the elderly scheme in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will expedite a response. [19654/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for the provision of the Housing Aid Scheme for the Elderly, on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, the Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Charges.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

241 Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason citizens of this State should pay private health insurance when her plans for a single tier health service provide no accommodation benefits to the privately insured who are effectively paying twice for their hospital bed and catering; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19670/06]

Under arrangements for public hospitals introduced in June 1991, on foot of the Health (Amendment) Act, 1991, everyone, regardless of income is entitled to public hospital and public consultant services subject only to modest statutory charges, from which medical card holders are exempt. Alternatively, one can opt to be the private patient of both the consultant and the hospital. Private patients are liable for both the appropriate accommodation charges and consultants' fees in addition to the statutory charges. The proportion of the population availing of private health insurance has continued to increase since this legislation was enacted.

Over 50% of the Irish population now avail of private health insurance in addition to their eligibility for public hospital services. A Market Review commissioned by the Health Insurance Authority, and published in September 2005, reaffirmed earlier research by the same organisation that people considered hospital treatment as the most important aspect of private health insurance (77% of all responses), while only 11% of individuals thought hospital accommodation the most important aspect of their cover. As stated in the Government's 2001 Health Strategy, "private health insurance will continue to play a vital part in the overall resourcing of health care in this country".

Question No. 242 answered with QuestionNo. 169.
Questions Nos. 243 and 244 answered with Question No. 160.
Question No. 245 answered with QuestionNo. 169.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

246 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the services which will be made available to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; the reason her Department will only give an indicative date in 2007 for assessment; if the assessment obtained privately by her Department will be accepted; if the appropriate treatment will follow based on this assessment; if the delay is a system failure within her Department; if lack of staff and resources are the cause of this delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19771/06]

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.

Richard Bruton

Question:

247 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the numbers of new recruits in each of the past five years to the public service under the auspices of her Department; and age distribution of these new recruits. [20216/06]

The position in regard to the health service is that human resource management issues are matters for the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. My Department has therefore 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.

Garda Stations.

Martin Ferris

Question:

248 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Finance when the new Garda station will be built in Tralee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19059/06]

It has been decided that the Commissioners of Public Works will advertise in the press seeking a suitable site in Tralee for a new Garda station.

Question No. 249 answered with QuestionNo. 86.

Local Authority Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

250 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance his plans to remove the embargo on the recruitment of public service jobs as many local authorities require additional staff but due to the embargo they cannot recruit; the plans the Government have to allow local authorities to recruit necessary staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19083/06]

There is no embargo on the recruitment of staff for local authorities or any other sector within the public service. The Government has, over the last number of years, followed a policy under which the growth in public service employment has slowed overall. The Government will continue to control and regulate numbers employed in the public service within agreed ceilings. Organisations can recruit staff within the overall ceiling which has been agreed for their sector. It is a matter for each individual Department and sector of the public service and relevant Minister to set priorities to give effect to this policy. The agreed ceiling for the local authority sector is 33,300.

Tax Code.

Finian McGrath

Question:

251 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the reason the Revenue Commissioners decided to take a different approach when dealing with football clubs (details supplied); and if he will clarify the situation. [19084/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested by the Deputy is confidential to the taxpayers concerned and accordingly they are not in a position to disclose it. Revenue have emphasised that their general approach to tax compliance by their customers is to support and ensure timely voluntary compliance to the greatest extent possible. Where voluntary compliance is not forthcoming, then the appropriate collection and enforcement measures are deployed to address non-compliance.

Departmental Recruitment.

Denis Naughten

Question:

252 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the number and location of temporary clerical posts available through the competition being run by the Revenue Commissioners; the timetable for recruitment; the envisaged duration of the employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19113/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the table below is an estimate of the number of posts likely to arise to cover term time in the Revenue Commissioners in 2006. Contracts will be for between 8 and 13 weeks. These posts will be filled in the next 3/6 weeks and successful candidates will be advised in the coming days. In addition to the number of posts below Revenue will also require temporary clerical officers throughout the coming 12 months to cover maternity leave, parental leave etc. It is difficult to estimate the numbers or the locations in this regard.

Locations

No. of Temporary Vacancies

Athlone

4

Castlebar

4

Cork

17

Dublin

80

Dundalk

7

Ennis

8

Galway

8

Kilkenny

3

Letterkenny

5

Limerick

44

Nenagh

13

Rosslare

1

Sligo

3

Thurles

3

Tralee

3

Waterford

9

Wexford

5

Total

217

Fiscal Policy.

Ivor Callely

Question:

253 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Finance the measures which will be put in place to ensure that there is more effective allocation of resources by the Government, Ministers, Departments and agencies to result in better value for the taxpayer and greater accountability to the Houses of the Oireachtas and Irish people in regard to public expenditure. [19144/06]

The Government has taken a number of important initiatives in recent years to put a framework in place to achieve better value for money from public expenditure and to provide greater accountability to the Oireachtas and the taxpayer on what is being achieved for public expenditure. These include: the 5 year rolling multi-annual capital envelopes for public capital investment introduced in Budget 2004; new guidelines for the appraisal and management of capital expenditure in February 2005; proposed reforms to public procurement and the introduction of public private partnerships to procure suitable projects; value for money measures on procurement, ICT projects and consultancies in October 2005 which include provision for fixed priced contracts as the norm, full cost benefit analysis of capital projects over €30 million, audit of these major capital projects, the appointment of an individual as project manager for major capital and ICT projects and peer review of major ICT projects; and the Government's plans for reform of the Estimates and Budgetary process which I announced in Budget 2006. From 2007, Ministers will be submitting an annual output statement in tandem with their Estimates to facilitate Dáil consideration of the Estimates.

In addition to the above, I am planning improvements to the operation of the expenditure review initiative which will see a further element of the new robust framework for better public expenditure management and enhanced value for money put in place.

Tax Code.

Ivor Callely

Question:

254 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Finance if consideration is being given to raising the stamp duty threshold for first-time buyers in view of spiralling housing prices in Dublin. [19146/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, the 2005 Budget introduced a stamp duty relieving measure for first-time house purchasers who are owner-occupiers of second-hand houses by increasing the stamp duty exemption threshold for such purchasers from €190,500 to €317,500 and by having reduced rates for house values up to €635,000. Any further changes to the stamp duty regime are a matter for the Budget.

National Development Plan.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

255 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Finance the breakdown under each operational programme and for each year, for both the Border midland western and south east regions, of funding allocated and expended as sourced from the EU, the Exchequer and private sources separately in relation to the National Development Plan. [19175/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is being compiled by my Department and will be forwarded directly to her.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

256 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Finance the breakdown of National Development Plan spending, on a yearly basis in each county within the Border midland western region. [19176/06]

My Department generally monitors spending on the National Development Plan (NDP) on a regional basis, that is, the Border, Midlands and Western and the Southern and Eastern regions, from data received by the Operational Programme Managing Authorities.

The project implementing bodies do attribute spending at county level, but the data currently available to my Department from the bodies does not attribute the whole of the totals for the regions. Data for the period January 2000 to December 2002 represents approximately 80% of spending and is set out in the following table. Information for subsequent years, while available, represents a lower percentage of spending.

Table 1: Spending on the National Development Plan in each County in the Border, Midlands and Western Region

County

Year 2000

Year 2001

Year 2002

€m

€m

€m

Cavan

55.703

73.877

73.493

Donegal

166.613

210.157

228.618

Galway

246.346

294.246

333.498

Laois

112.685

51.365

77.915

Leitrim

33.142

50.220

54.087

Longford

33.706

50.403

55.173

Louth

149.204

123.076

114.138

Mayo

129.272

182.066

171.897

Monaghan

52.605

67.550

94.838

Offaly

44.099

42.380

78.724

Roscommon

61.325

50.472

61.320

Sligo

73.292

94.112

98.449

Westmeath

84.278

91.367

121.658

BMW residual amount*

54.811

59.056

35.800

Total

1,297.081

1,440.347

1,599.608

* This represents projects that the implementing bodies cannot attribute to a particular county such as rail track projects and FÁS training

Beverley Flynn

Question:

257 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Finance the plans which are in place to make good the shortfall in non co-financed expenditure in the Border Midland Western region which will remain unspent at the end of 2006. [19177/06]

The National Development Plan (NDP) provides an indicative expenditure profile for each of the seven Operational Programmes for the Border, Midland and Western (BMW) and Southern and Eastern (S&E) Regions for each year 2000 to 2006. These Operational Programmes are: Economic and Social Infrastructure, Employment and Human Resources Development, Productive Sector, Border, Midlands and Western, Southern and Eastern, Technical Assistance and the Peace Programme.

The profiles for spending under each Operational Programme were set in 2000 when the Programmes were being prepared and to ensure consistency of reporting, have remained at that level. The funding requirements in the NDP are subject to a number of factors which, over time have implications for the physical level of output and impact on the level of funding required during the term of the Plan. Factors include, for example, the level of demand for schemes and for grants from the private sector, re-specification of projects, delays in the planning process and the performance of particular sectors such as the weakened tourism and agriculture sector.

For non co-financed measures in the BMW region to the end of 2005, the indicative profiles for public expenditure, including exchequer financed expenditure, is €11.9 billion and for private expenditure it is €1.67 billion. Based on the most recent information reported to my Department, exchequer and other public expenditure on these measures, to the end of 2005, stands at €9.7 billion representing 81% of original profile. Private expenditure on these measures to the end of 2005 stands at €418 million to the end of 2005, representing 25% of original profile.

Progress on the implementation of the NDP is subject to ongoing monitoring through the individual Operational Programme Monitoring Committees and the overarching NDP/CSF Monitoring Committee chaired by my Department. This Committee which monitors overall progress on the Plan, is comprised of a wide partnership of interests, including implementing Departments, the social partners, sectoral interests, and members of local authorities representing the regional assemblies. It is scheduled to meet on 25th May 2006 at which stage it will have considered the progress reports of the individual Operational Programmes for the period January 2000 to end December 2005. Following this meeting, my Department will be communicating with Departments to ensure they continue to prioritise spending in the BMW region.

National development planning and investment is an ongoing process and investment to achieve more balanced regional development is a key government priority. This has been underscored by the publication of the National Spatial Strategy (NSS). The implementation of the NSS, which sets out the Government strategy for achieving balanced regional development, will be a central element of the next National Development Plan (2007-2013) whose preparation is now under way. The new National Development Plan will build on the achievements of the current NDP and continue progress towards ensuring a more balanced distribution of development in the country.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

258 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the stamp duty rates for residential property applying to non first-time buyers immediately before 2 December 2004. [19192/06]

In the case of second-hand residential property, the rates of stamp duty for non first time buyers are:

%

Up to €127,000

0

From €127,001 to €195,500

3

From €195,501 to €254,000

4

From €254,001 to €317,500

5

From €317,501 to €381,000

6

From €381,001 to €635,000

7.5

Over €635,000

9

All owner occupiers can purchase a new home between 38 sq. m and 125 sq. m, where a Floor Area Compliance Certificate has been obtained, without a liability to stamp duty. Where a new house is over 125 sq. m., stamp duty is charged on either the value of the site or 25% of the value of the property, whichever is the greater, using the rates listed above.

In the case of a non-owner occupier of a new home, stamp duty is charged at the rates applying to non-first time buyers of second-hand residential property, listed above.

Jack Wall

Question:

259 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be furnished with a P21 for 2005. [19253/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a PAYE Balancing Statement (Form P21) for 2005 issued to the taxpayer on 16 May 2006.

Disabled Drivers.

Michael Lowry

Question:

260 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Finance to consider reviewing the conditions attached to the vehicle registration tax rebate for disabled drivers; if he will ensure that persons wholly or almost wholly without the use of one arm are eligible for such a rebate; if the cost of such a change can be estimated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19323/06]

Michael Lowry

Question:

261 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Finance to consider reviewing the conditions attached to the vehicle registration tax rebate for disabled drivers; to ensure that persons with severely mental or physical disability or their guardians are eligible for such a rebate; if the cost of such a change can be estimated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19324/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 260 and 261 together.

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and VRT (up to certain limit) on the purchase of a car adapted for the transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, as well as relief from excise on the fuel used in the car up to a certain limit.

The disability criteria for eligibility for the tax concessions under this scheme are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. A person must be severely and permanently disabled and satisfy one of the following conditions:

(a) be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs;

(b) be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs;

(c) be without both hands or without both arms;

(d) be without one or both legs;

(e) be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg;

(f) have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

The scheme has been in operation in some form since 1968. As regards changes to the medical/ disability criteria: only criterion (a) was in place up to 1989, when they were expanded by the addition of (b), (c), (d) and (f); and in 1994, the final criterion at (e) was added.

The Senior Medical Officer (SMO) for the relevant Health Service Executive area makes a professional clinical determination as to whether an individual applicant satisfies the medical criteria. An unsuccessful applicant can appeal the decision of the SMO to the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, which makes a new clinical determination in respect of the individual.

A special Interdepartmental Review Group reviewed the operation of the Disabled Drivers Scheme. The terms of reference of the Group were to examine the operation of the existing scheme, including the difficulties experienced by the various groups and individuals involved with it, and to consider the feasibility of alternative schemes, with a view to assisting the Minister for Finance in determining the future direction of the scheme.

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

In respect of the long-term recommendations, which included the qualifying disability criteria, I should say that given the scale and scope of the scheme, further changes can only be made after very careful consideration. For this reason, the Government decided in June 2004 that the Minister for Finance would consider the recommendations contained in the Report of the Interdepartmental Review Group in the context of the annual budgetary process having regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme.

The best way of addressing the transport needs of people with disabilities including the effectiveness, suitability or otherwise of the Disabled Drivers Scheme in that regard will be progressed in consultation with the other Departments who have responsibility in this area. In any event, a car tax concession scheme can obviously play only a partial role in dealing with the broader issue of transport needs or difficulties experienced by persons with various disabilities.

With regard to costing the addition to the scheme of either of the following cohorts — (i) persons wholly or almost wholly without the use of one arm, or (ii) persons with a severe mental or physical disability, the Deputy will appreciate that this is not feasible, as it is not possible to estimate the numbers that might satisfy either of the criteria, particularly the latter, nor the number of such persons who might have the use of a car and wish to avail of the scheme. However, the average total annualised value of the benefits of the scheme is estimated at around €5,500 per claimant.

Public Service Recruitment.

Richard Bruton

Question:

262 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the numbers of new recruits in each of the past five years to the public service; and age distribution of these new recruits. [19344/06]

I attach a tabular statement which lists the data the Deputy seeks for the years 2000 to 2004 for the civil service. This is based on the most recent available data supplied by Departments/Offices to my Department (for technical reasons not all Offices are included). I understand that the question in respect of the wider public service has been referred to the respective responsible Ministers for direct reply.

Dec-00

Dec-01

Dec-02

Age Band

No. of People

Age Band

No. of People

Age Band

No. of People

< 20 years

506

< 20 years

301

< 20 years

204

20 — 24 years

920

20 — 24 years

816

20 — 24 years

948

25 — 29 years

493

25 — 29 years

598

25 — 29 years

519

30 — 34 years

288

30 — 34 years

360

30 — 34 years

281

35 — 39 years

219

35 — 39 years

254

35 — 39 years

209

40 — 44 years

188

40 — 44 years

224

40 — 44 years

201

45 — 49 years

247

45 — 49 years

301

45 — 49 years

213

50 — 54 years

161

50 — 54 years

214

50 — 54 years

141

55 — 59 years

96

55 — 59 years

135

55 — 59 years

99

60 — 64 years

27

60 — 64 years

53

60 — 64 years

26

65 years and >

2

Total

3,145

Total

3,258

Total

2,841

Dec-03

Dec-04

Age Band

No. of People

Age Band

No. of People

< 20 years

37

< 20 years

37

20 — 24 years

314

20 — 24 years

361

25 — 29 years

264

25 — 29 years

277

30 — 34 years

159

30 — 34 years

151

35 — 39 years

82

35 — 39 years

88

40 — 44 years

95

40 — 44 years

105

45 — 49 years

121

45 — 49 years

90

50 — 54 years

110

50 — 54 years

72

55 — 59 years

68

55 — 59 years

50

60 — 64 years

27

60 — 64 years

16

65 years and >

3

65 years and >

1

Total

1,280

Total

1,248

Tax Code.

Pat Carey

Question:

263 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 is entitled to a tax rebate in respect of medical expenses; if so, when same will be awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19345/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the person's claims for relief in respect of medical expenses for the years 2004 and 2005 have been dealt with. However, as neither the person nor his wife paid any tax for these years there is no refund due. There is no provision in the Income Tax Acts for any refund in respect of medical expenses to be made by Revenue where no income tax has been paid.

A PAYE balancing statement for the year 2004 issued on 15 April 2005 and a balancing statement for the year 2005 issued on 12 April 2006. Both these statements showed that the taxpayer was exempt from tax.

Michael Ring

Question:

264 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance when a refund of stamp duty will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [19346/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that in the case referred to by the Deputy, an application for refund of stamp duty has been received by them and is currently being processed. In order to finalise the refund the original deed, which is currently held in the Land Registry, is required. Arrangements have been put in place for its delivery. On receipt of this deed, the Revenue Commissioners will process the refund without delay.

Official Hospitality.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

265 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a full listing of the contents of his Department’s wine cellar giving the vintages, quantity of bottles, dates acquired, prices paid and supplier; and if he will make a statement on the Department’s policy in this regard. [19356/06]

My Department does not have a wine cellar.

Telecommunications Services.

Seán Haughey

Question:

266 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Finance the number of mobile phone companies which utilise the mast at Coolock Garda station, Dublin 5; if there is a limit to the number of companies which can use this mast; if there is a limit to the number of antennae which can be added to it; the way in which non-ionising radiation is monitored at this location; if information in relation to non-ionising radiation from this mast is made available to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19365/06]

At present three mobile phone companies have been granted licences by the Commissioners of Public Works to install telecommunications equipment on the mast at Coolock Garda Station. The number of companies that can be located on any particular mast is limited by space restrictions. The Telecommunications equipment installed by the mobile phone companies on Coolock Garda Station's Mast was installed under the exempt development provisions contained in Clause 31 of the 2001 Planning and Development Regulations and the number of additional antennae that can be added is limited by the said Clause 31.

Under the terms of the licence agreement with the Commissioners, the mobile phone operators are obliged to install and operate equipment within current standards and E.U. regulations and adhere to the guidelines on exposure limits to emissions, issued by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, (ICNIRP).

In addition, the Commissioners' consultants monitor all such developments on behalf of the Commissioners to ensure compliance with the regulations is achieved from the outset. They will then measure the emissions on an annual basis to ensure this compliance is continuous. Information on emissions from the Coolock Garda Station mast will be made available to members of the public on request.

Question No. 267 answered with QuestionNo. 95.

Consumer Protection.

Billy Timmins

Question:

268 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the position in relation to the role of the Revenue Commissioners in ascertaining price fixing of fuel prices (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19452/06]

The Revenue Commissioners do not have a specific role in ascertaining price fixing of fuel prices, or in any other area for that matter. This issue falls under an agency under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Of course, my Department is always concerned with factors that influence consumer price developments, given the need to reduce inflation and restore our international competitiveness.

Tax Code.

Mary Upton

Question:

269 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Finance his views that the employee tax credit be incorporated into the personal tax credit system for all taxpayers in view of the response to Parliamentary Question No. 326 of 28 March 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19473/06]

It is assumed that what the Deputy means is that the employee (PAYE) tax credit would be abolished and the personal tax credit would be correspondingly increased by €1,490 for a single person and by €2,980 for a married couple.

The position is that the PAYE allowance, as it was then, was introduced in 1980 to improve the tax position of PAYE taxpayers and to take account of the fact that the self-employed generally then had the advantage of paying tax on a preceding year basis. The argument was also made at the time that the general scheme of allowances discriminated against employees and in favour of other taxpayers.

There have been changes since 1980; the self-employed now pay tax on a current year basis, for example. However, the PAYE allowance has become a tax credit. Moreover, given that there can be significant timing advantages in the payment of tax for the self-employed, the employee credit is still perceived as necessary to ensure a balance in the system.

I do not believe that the provisions of the European Convention on the Social Protection of Farmers, which was agreed in 1977 and has not been signed or ratified by any Irish Government, would have any implications for the employee tax credit.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

270 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 208 of 16 May 2006, he will confirm if any Government Department, office or agency had a supervisory role in the construction of the Millennium Wing of the National Gallery of Ireland; if the building health and safety regulations apply to the main stairwell of the Millennium Wing and to stairwells in public buildings of this type; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19474/06]

The contracting authority for the Millennium Wing project was the National Gallery of Ireland. At that time, the National Gallery of Ireland reported to the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, who provided a large proportion of the funding.

The Commissioners of Public Works provided technical advice and on delegated authority from the National Gallery of Ireland also provided project management services, i.e. management of the procurement, programme control and cost control for the project.

Certification of compliance with the building regulations, as advised in my previous answer, was fulfilled by the Gallery's architects, Benson & Forsyth.

In the case of the main stairwell of the Millennium Wing, it is the opinion of the Gallery's architects that the building and health and safety regulations are applicable. Regarding the applicability of building and health and safety regulations to public buildings of this type, each case must be judged on its individual merits.

Tax Yield.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

271 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the breakdown by percentage of sources of Government revenue in 2005 including customs levies, excise duties, capital gains tax, capital acquisitions tax, stamp duties, corporation tax, VAT, agricultural levies and non tax revenue. [19475/06]

Total current receipts, between tax and non tax revenue, paid into the Exchequer in the year ended 31 December 2005 amounted to €39,849 million. A breakdown of Exchequer receipts and expenditure for 2005 is included in the Exchequer Statement published by my Department on 4 January 2006 and available on my Department's website. The breakdown as requested by the Deputy is as follows:

Heading

€m

As % of total

Customs

227

0.6%

Excise duties

5,233

13.1

Capital Gains Tax

1,960

4.9

Capital Acquisitions Tax

249

0.6

Stamp duties

2,725

6.8

Income tax

11,266

28.3

Corporation tax

5,492

13.8

Value Added Tax

12,089

30.4

Agricultural levies

8

Training and Employment

5

Non-Tax Revenue

595

1.5

Total

39,849

100

Government Revenue.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

272 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the breakdown by amount and percentage of the sources of non-tax Government revenue for 2005. [19476/06]

As shown in the end-2005 Exchequer Statement, published on my Department's website, the breakdown of the sources of non-tax Exchequer Revenue for 2005 is as follows:

€000

% of total NTR 2005

Central Bank — Surplus Income

103,021

17.3

National Lottery Surplus

210,500

35.4

Royalties from Marathon Petroleum

5,080

0.9

Central Bank-Accrued public moneys from the issue of coin

45,400

7.6%

Interest on Loans

Local Loans Fund

3,210

0.5

Other Advances

1,128

0.2

Dividends

Bord Gáis Éireann

10,093

1.7

ESB

73,543

12.4

Other Dividends

276

0.0

Other Receipts

Other Receipts collected by Departments etc

114,230

19.2

Miscellaneous

28,684

4.8

Total

595,165

100.0

Drainage Schemes.

Willie Penrose

Question:

273 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance if he will take steps to have a bridge put in place over a drain, which the Office of Public Works has recently sunk on lands belonging to a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19477/06]

I am advised that the drain in question was widened and deepened as part of the Boyne catchment drainage scheme in 1976. It is maintained on an ongoing basis, most recently last year. The scheme design did not include construction of a bridge. There are no proposals to provide a bridge at this location. The Commissioners of Public Works would not object if the landowner wishes to construct a bridge, provided it is constructed in accordance with their approval as provided by the Arterial Drainage Act.

Telecommunications Services.

Joan Burton

Question:

274 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 207 of 9 May 2006 and his reference to telecommunication equipment in the clock tower at Farmleigh, if this is a phone mast or its equivalent; if it serves mobile phone operators; the telecommunications companies which have access to this equipment; the fee they pay for its use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19478/06]

In order to provide mobile coverage for State events at Farmleigh, the Commissioners of Public Works granted permission for the installation of telecommunications equipment in the Clock Tower at Farmleigh.

The telecommunications equipment located in the Clock Tower at Farmleigh currently serves two mobile phone operators — Vodafone & O2.

The standard licence fee in this case is €13,500 per annum.

Disabled Drivers.

John McGuinness

Question:

275 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance if approval will be given by the Revenue Commissioners to a person (details supplied) in County Donegal who is disabled to change their car; if the changed circumstances of the person will be examined; if a response will be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19479/06]

Relief from taxes for people with disabilities is governed by the Disabled Drivers and the Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994, S.I No. 353 of 1994. Paragraph 15 refers to early disposal of vehicles relieved of taxes under the scheme.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners, that the earliest date of disposal of the person's current vehicle without a tax claw-back is 18 August 2006. If the person wishes to dispose of their vehicle prior to this date a portion of the taxes relieved on the vehicle must be repaid to the Revenue Commissioners. The amount of the repayment is calculated by reference to the current market value of the vehicle.

The current market value of the vehicle in question is €34,120, therefore the repayment due to the Revenue Commissioners is €8,188. If the person wishes to pursue this course of action, repayment of the said amount should be made to the Revenue Commissioners, Central Repayments Office, Monaghan. The vehicle may then be disposed of and an application for a new vehicle will be processed on receipt.

Traffic Management.

Joe Costello

Question:

276 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Finance the proposals drawn up by the Office of Public Works for traffic management in the Phoenix Park; the discussions held with Dublin City Council; if he will meet representatives of associations (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19610/06]

An independent traffic management study is currently being undertaken and there have been extensive consultations on the matter with Dublin City Council.

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.

Afforestation Programme.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

277 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the position in relation to forestry investment by the National Treasury Management Agency; if such investments have been made; and the details thereof. [19611/06]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission, which is responsible for the investment of the National Pensions Reserve Fund. The Commission is independent of Government in the exercise of its functions. It controls and manages the Fund with discretionary authority to determine and implement the Fund's investment strategy in accordance with the Fund investment policy set out in the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000. This investment policy is based on a commercial investment mandate with the objective of securing the optimal return over the long term subject to prudent risk management. Under the legislation, the Commission is required to publish its Annual Report and Accounts within six months of the end of the financial year to which they relate. The Report is required to contain a detailed list of the Fund's assets at year-end. In its Annual Report for 2004 (the most recently published) the Commission announced that, in the context of broadening its asset allocation strategy to include new asset classes, it intends to invest in forestry.

Bank Charges.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

278 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance his views on waiving the bank card charges for pensioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19612/06]

Stamp duty exists on various financial cards in order to provide Exchequer revenue. The stamp duty on cheques, bills of exchange and promissory notes has existed for many years with no exemptions of the kind referred to by the deputy. When electronic means of money transfers were subsequently introduced, stamp duty was gradually extended to these products to ensure that the stamp duty from cheques etc. was not eroded. I do not believe that the current charges on bank cards are either excessive or act as a disincentive for pensioners using financial institutions and there are no plans to introduce exemptions to stamp duty for any category of individual.

Flood Relief.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

279 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the situation between the Office of Public Works and Kildare County Council as it relates to flood relief work that has been identified as required in Leixlip; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19613/06]

The Office of Public Works met with Kildare County Council on 31st March 2006 and agreed to undertake a Local Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Study for the Rye River, encompassing the towns of Leixlip, Maynooth and Kilcock. This will ultimately form part of a Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Study for the entire Liffey Catchment, which it is planned to undertake at a later stage. The Office of Public Works agreed to prioritise this section of the study at the request of Kildare County Council in light of the existing flood risk and development pressure in the area. Work will commence as soon as possible. Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Plans provide a strategic overview of a river catchment and a context within which decisions on the most appropriate measures to manage existing and potential flood risk. Subject to availability of funds, works recommended by the study which are economically and environmentally sustainable will be funded by the Office of Public Works within its overall Flood Management Policy. It is expected that it would take approximately 18 months to complete such a study of the Rye. Kildare County Council will continue with studies currently underway by ESBI in Leixlip and environs. In the context of this arrangement the OPW will be willing to consider with Kildare County Council whether elements of work recommended by the studies could be regarded with reasonable certainty as likely to be compatible with the recommendations of the Rye CFRAM study. OPW is willing to consider providing funding to KCC to carry out such works if they can be shown to be economically and environmentally sustainable.

Decentralisation Programme.

David Stanton

Question:

280 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance further to decentralisation to Youghal, the properties, which have been identified as a suitable location for his decentralised Department; the number of people who have indicated their desire to decentralise to Youghal; when he expects the decentralisation process to the town to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19637/06]

I am advised by both the Public Appointments Service and the Valuation Office that the number of people who have indicated their desire to decentralise to Youghal with these offices is 105 and 23 respectively. In accordance with the indicative timescale set out in a report from the Decentralisation Implementation Group both Offices are working towards decentralising to Youghal in mid 2009. I am informed by the Office of Public Works that a suitable site for the decentralised offices in Youghal has been identified and negotiations are at an advanced stage.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

281 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance if, with regard to the 3% employment quota of people with disabilities of the Disability Act 2005, he is satisfied that this quota is being fulfilled in all areas of the Civil Service; the measures in place to ensure same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19638/06]

As the Minister for Finance, I am responsible for the policy in relation to the employment of people with disabilities in the Civil Service. As part of a review of policy on the employment of people with a disability in the Civil Service, my Department commissioned independent research on the operation of the 3% employment target. A survey carried out as part of this research which was published as "Employment and Career Progression of people with a disability in the Irish Civil Service" (IPA 2002), shows that 7% of Civil Service staff have a disability. I can assure the Deputy that the Government gives a high priority to policy in this area. A number of significant initiatives have been taken recently.

The Department of Finance has recruited a Disability Advisory Officer to develop guidelines in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer for the monitoring, reporting and recording arrangements for staff with a disability in the Civil Service. My Department is working with the National Disability Authority to explore potential new approaches to supporting staff with disabilities, including the possible use of a survey based on voluntary self-disclosure, both for new staff on appointment and for existing staff. A Disability Liaison Officers network involving all Departments has also been set up to share information and advice.

It is also important that the Civil Service continues to offer employment opportunities to people with disabilities. In light of the research and the independent consultants' recommendations in relation to recruitment, discussions are taking place with the Public Appointments Service about putting in place a programme of targeted recruitment for the Civil Service. It is expected that the programme will begin in the autumn. In addition, I should also mention that, this summer, every Government Department and a number of Offices are supporting a project entitled WAM (Willing Able and Mentoring) whereby summer work experience placements will be offered to graduates with disabilities.

Flexible Work Practices.

David Stanton

Question:

282 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance if all areas of the Civil service offer family friendly schemes to staff; the schemes available to civil servants; the success of these schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19639/06]

The Civil Service has had family friendly working arrangements available for nearly 20 years. The schemes are available in all areas of the Civil Service. The main schemes are worksharing, flexitime and term time. Worksharing allows staff to job share or to adopt a part-time attendance pattern, subject to the business requirements. Flexitime gives staff flexibility to vary their starting and finishing times. Term Time allows staff with children up to 18 years of age to take either 8, 10 or 13 weeks unpaid leave from June until the end of August to match their working arrangements to their children's summer holidays. In addition the Civil Service also allows staff to take up to two career breaks during their career. A career break is a period of unpaid leave from work of between six months and five years. The Civil Service also provides crèche facilities in a number of locations, including Mount Street and Marlborough Street in Dublin, Athlone, Ennis, Sligo and Backweston, Celbridge. Family friendly initiatives allow staff the flexibility they need to manage their family commitments while contributing fully in the workplace. Family friendly policies make a vital contribution to the recruitment and retention of staff. Requests for access to work life balance schemes are facilitated as far as possible, subject to business requirements. The Civil Service is acknowledged as offering the widest range of flexible and family friendly options and participation rates are much higher than in equivalent employment in the private sector.

Flood Relief.

John McGuinness

Question:

283 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance if plans for the work required at Lacken Weir, Kilkenny, will be put on public display; if the work will be undertaken in summer 2006; the timeframe for completion of the work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19655/06]

The Lacken Weir Review Group is engaged in finding a permanent solution to the problem at Lacken Weir. When remedial works has been identified they will be put on public display and a public meeting will be held. A commitment was given that the Review Group would consult on this matter with local public representatives. I understand that when contacted by a member of the group at the commencement of the review the Deputy indicated that he wished to meet with members of the group to discuss the matter. The review is now at an advanced stage and officials from my office will be in touch with the Deputy over the next few days to arrange a meeting to discuss all aspect of the review and update him on progress.

John McGuinness

Question:

284 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance the cost to date of the River Nore flood relief scheme; if compensation has been paid to all who claimed; the amount of compensation for property damage paid to date; if repairs to the houses at John’s Quay, Kilkenny have been completed; if the snag list has been agreed with the local authority; if it is completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19656/06]

Approximately €42.6 million has been spent on the River Nore (Kilkenny City) Drainage Scheme to date. Work on the Scheme was carried out by the Office of Public Works Work under the provisions of the Arterial Drainage Acts 1945 and 1995. These Acts also make provision for the assessment and payment of compensation in respect of works carried out under the scheme. Where it is felt that loss or damage has been suffered as a result of the works, it is open to the party concerned to submit a claim for compensation upon completion of the scheme. It should be noted that any benefit incurred to a property as a result of the scheme works is offset against any losses sustained. All compensation claims received have not yet been settled. Repairs to the houses at Johns Quays which were affected by the flood relief scheme are not yet complete. OPW has been in touch with the owners of the properties affected and matters are progressing. The bulk of items on the snag list are complete and there are ongoing communications between OPW and the Local Authority regarding outstanding items.

Disabled Drivers.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

285 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance when the inter-departmental review group into the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme which reported in June 2004 will have its recommendations implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19666/06]

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and VRT (up to certain limit) on the purchase of a car adapted for the transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, as well as relief from excise on the fuel used in the car up to a certain limit. A special Interdepartmental Review Group reviewed the operation of the Disabled Drivers Scheme. The terms of reference of the Group were to examine the operation of the existing scheme, including the difficulties experienced by the various groups and individuals involved with it, and to consider the feasibility of alternative schemes, with a view to assisting the Minister for Finance in determining the future direction of the scheme. The Group's Report, published on my Department's website in July 2004, sets out in detail the genesis and development of the scheme. It examines the current benefits, the qualifying medical criteria, the Exchequer costs, relationship with other schemes and similar schemes in other countries. The Report also makes a number of recommendations, both immediate and long-term, referring respectively to the operation of the appeals process and options for the future development of the scheme. The recommendations in respect of the appeals process were implemented shortly after the Report's publication.

In respect of the long-term recommendations, which included the qualifying disability criteria, I should say that given the scale and scope of the scheme, further changes can only be made after very careful consideration. For this reason, the Government decided that the Minister for Finance would consider the recommendations contained in the Report of the Interdepartmental Review Group in the context of the annual budgetary process having regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme. The best way of addressing the transport needs of people with disabilities including the effectiveness, suitability or otherwise of the Disabled Drivers Scheme in that regard will be progressed in consultation with the other Departments who have responsibility in this area. In any event, a car tax concession scheme can obviously play only a partial role in dealing with the broader issue of transport needs or difficulties experienced by persons with various disabilities.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

286 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when it is expected to publish the report of the inter-departmental group studying the disabled drivers disabled passengers tax concession 1994 regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19675/06]

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and VRT (up to certain limit) on the purchase of a car adapted for the transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, as well as relief from excise on the fuel used in the car up to a certain limit. A special Interdepartmental Review Group reviewed the operation of the Disabled Drivers Scheme. The terms of reference of the Group were to examine the operation of the existing scheme, including the difficulties experienced by the various groups and individuals involved with it, and to consider the feasibility of alternative schemes, with a view to assisting the Minister for Finance in determining the future direction of the scheme. The Group's Report, published on my Department's website in July 2004, sets out in detail the genesis and development of the scheme. It examines the current benefits, the qualifying medical criteria, the Exchequer costs, relationship with other schemes and similar schemes in other countries. The Report also makes a number of recommendations, both immediate and long-term, referring respectively to the operation of the appeals process and options for the future development of the scheme.

In respect of the long-term recommendations, which included the qualifying disability criteria, I should say that given the scale and scope of the scheme, further changes can only be made after very careful consideration. For this reason, the Government decided that the Minister for Finance would consider the recommendations contained in the Report of the Interdepartmental Review Group in the context of the annual budgetary process having regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme. The best way of addressing the transport needs of people with disabilities including the effectiveness, suitability or otherwise of the Disabled Drivers Scheme in that regard will be progressed in consultation with the other Departments who have responsibility in this area. In any event, a car tax concession scheme can obviously play only a partial role in dealing with the broader issue of transport needs or difficulties experienced by persons with various disabilities.

Decentralisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

287 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the cost of procurement of sites, buildings or facilities associated with the Government's decentralisation programme; the receipts accruing to the Exchequer from the disposal of buildings or facilities in the context of the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19676/06]

To date property acquisitions relating to the Government's decentralisation programme have been completed or significantly advanced in 25 locations. The particular solutions in these locations include State owned sites, sites purchased from local authorities, private individuals and purchases and leases of existing buildings. The estimated total committed expenditure in these 25 locations is €42.7 million excluding VAT. Suitable solutions have been identified in another 14 locations and negotiations to acquire these are ongoing. The overall site acquisition cost of the entire decentralisation programme is expected to be in the region of €75 million to €100 million, excluding VAT. The prices paid to the date for sites are considered by the OPW to be in line with market prices.

It is estimated that approximately 210,00 sq. m of office space will be required to accommodate the total numbers included in the programme. OPW cost norms (April 2005) in respect of offices would indicate an average build-cost to fit-out standard, in the range of €1,800 to €2,200 per square metre for suburban / rural locations and €2,500 to €3,000 per square metre in city/town centre locations. Such figures exclude VAT, professional fees and inflation. In addition the cost of equipping the accommodation to standard office equipment levels could be estimated at approximately €4,000 per person. This would exclude the cost of Information and Communication Technology and specialised equipment requirements. Such general measurements of cost do not include specialised facility and equipment requirements and other variables which would arise from the spread of possible procurement methodologies. In addition general cost indicators of this type show a snapshot in time.

It is self-evident that a firmer scale of costs for the decentralisation programme will only emerge on foot of actual cost proposals being received from the market. It will be some months yet before sufficient data can be extracted from a suitable range of tender competitions to provide a basis on which more robust estimates of the overall cost of the programme can be made. Nevertheless, it can be estimated that, generally speaking, the cost of providing accommodation in provincial, compared to central Dublin locations should yield considerable cost savings to the State over time in terms of site costs, capital build costs and indeed maintenance costs. The receipts accruing to the Exchequer from the disposal of surplus buildings in Dublin in the context of the Government's Asset Transformation programme to date exceed €345 million.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

288 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which it is intended to proceed with the Government’s decentralisation programme with particular reference to a comparison between what is now proposed and that originally announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19677/06]

I would like to state the Government's full commitment to the decentralisation programme. The Decentralisation Implementation Group, chaired by Mr. Finbarr Flood, was established to drive the process forward and to oversee its effective delivery. The Group, recognising that it would not be feasible for all organisations to move at the same time, proposed phasing arrangements and revised timeframes out to 2009 for civil service organisations. These arrangements were accepted by Government and announced in June of last year and I am satisfied that good progress continues to be made. I understand that the Decentralisation Implementation Group has met a number of Secretaries General and are satisfied with the level of planning in each of the Departments. The Group is meeting the Chief Executives of a number of State Agencies to discuss the planning framework in place, to assess progress to date and to hear about the challenges arising and steps proposed to address them. The figures confirm that this is a popular programme among staff. Over 10,600 civil and public servants have applied to the Central Applications Facility. To date some 1,500 people have been assigned to posts destined for new locations and are being trained in their new role in readiness to move. So far, some 200 of these have actually relocated and it is expected that up to 1,000 will have moved by the end of the year. There is an extensive range of preparations ongoing in relation to the acquisition of property by the OPW, as well as the detailed implementation planning within individual Departments, Offices and Agencies, and ongoing discussions with unions in relation to the various human resource aspects of the programme. As always when dealing with a programme of this size there are challenges to overcome but I am confident that these can be addressed with the active co-operation of all parties involved in the implementation effort.

House Prices.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

289 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that the lending institutions are not contributing to inflation in the housing market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19678/06]

House price inflation has been accelerating since September 2005. According to the ESRI Permanent TSB house price index, the year on year growth rate increased from 6.2% year on year to September to 12.1% year on year to March 2006. The Financial Regulator has already drawn attention to the need for lenders to act prudently in extending credit, especially for house purchase, and for borrowers to carefully consider their ability to service borrowings. The Regulator recently introduced a technical prudential measure requiring financial institutions to put more capital aside for higher "Loan to Value" loans. This measure reinforces the message consistently conveyed to lending institutions by the Financial Regulator that mortgage lending policies and practices should be prudent and responsible. The Financial Regulator's proposal is informed by trends and developments in the mortgage market, for example, the introduction and growth of 100% mortgages. The action is strictly of a precautionary prudential nature.

In the case of housing loans, mortgage providers are specifically obliged under the Consumer Credit Act 1995 to inform borrowers of the effect on the amount of their repayment instalments of a 1% increase in interest rates in the first year of their mortgages. A number of specific initiatives have been developed to help consumers make informed choices in terms of the financial products they choose, the amount of risk they take on and the cost of financial products. Mortgage lending practices are closely supervised by the Financial Regulator and the Central Bank who require lenders to conduct appropriate stress testing of borrowers' ability to meet their obligations, not just in the current economically favourable circumstances, but also in more challenging times.

Fiscal Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

290 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he envisages a reduction in taxation, direct or indirect throughout the next five years; if he expects the extent and quality of services to remain constant in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19679/06]

The Government's approach to taxation and to the delivery of public services is set out in An Agreed Programme for Government and recent Budgets, Finance Bills, Estimates for Public Services and Public Capital Programmes. Our taxation policy is designed to maintain and strengthen the competitive position of the economy, foster economic and social development, and equity, while maintaining a sound fiscal stance. Within these constraints we will continue to concentrate the resources available to us on improving the quality of public services and delivering further real improvements to pensioners and people on low incomes. Decisions on tax changes and levels of expenditure on public services are taken in the context of the Government budgetary processes and in accordance with the appropriate Oireachtas procedures. In accordance with long-standing practice it would not be appropriate for me to comment on any future possible budget changes.

Price Inflation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

291 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the steps he intends to take to combat inflation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19680/06]

Inflation, as measured by annual changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), was 3.8 per cent in April. A large proportion of the rise in the annual inflation rate is due to external factors such as higher oil prices and recent rises in interest rates by the ECB. Maintaining a moderate rate of inflation remains a key priority of economic policy because of its importance in restoring competitiveness. The Government is taking positive actions to contain inflation by implementing responsible fiscal policies. In addition, we have not increased excise duties for the last two years, and we are promoting greater price competition by removing the Groceries Order. We are also looking for a reasonable wage deal in order to maintain and improve our international competitiveness. We are also investing in public infrastructure which will enhance our ability to produce more goods and services and keep inflation down in the process.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

292 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the way in which the inflation rate here compares with euro zone countries; his proposals to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19681/06]

Inflation, as measured by annual changes in the Harmonised Index of Consumer Price Index (HICP), in Ireland was 2.7% in April. The euro area average HICP in the same period was 2.4%. For most of the last two years, HICP inflation in Ireland has been broadly in line with the euro area average. Maintaining a moderate rate of inflation remains a key priority of economic policy because of its importance in restoring competitiveness. The Government is doing its bit to contain inflation by implementing responsible fiscal policies. In addition, we have not increased excise duties for the last two years, and we are promoting greater price competition by removing the Groceries Order. We are also looking for a reasonable wage deal in order to maintain and improve our international competitiveness. We are investing in public infrastructure which will enhance our ability to produce more goods and services and keep inflation down in the process.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

293 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which his Department monitors the causes of inflation, particularly that which does not show up in the consumer price index; the action taken arising therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19682/06]

My Department monitors the main economic variables which drive inflation such as oil prices, exchange rates, interest rates and the level of demand in the economy. The Director General of the Central Statistics Office (CSO) has sole responsibility for and is independent in deciding the statistical methodology and professional standards to be used in compiling the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Maintaining a moderate rate of inflation remains a key priority of economic policy because of its importance in restoring competitiveness. The Government is doing its bit to contain inflation by implementing responsible fiscal policies. In addition, we have not increased excise duties for the last two years, and we are promoting greater price competition by removing the Groceries Order. We are also looking for a reasonable wage deal in order to maintain and improve our international competitiveness. We are also investing in public infrastructure which will enhance our ability to produce more goods and services and keep inflation down in the process.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

294 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the action he has taken or proposes to take to combat hidden inflation that has not shown up in the consumer price index; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19683/06]

The Director General of the Central Statistics Office (CSO) has sole responsibility for and is independent in deciding the statistical methodology and professional standards to be used in compiling the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Maintaining a moderate rate of inflation remains a key priority of economic policy because of its importance in restoring competitiveness. The Government is doing its bit to contain inflation by implementing responsible fiscal policies. In addition, we have not increased excise duties for the last two years, and we are promoting greater price competition by removing the Groceries Order. We are also looking for a reasonable wage deal in order to maintain and improve our international competitiveness. We are also investing in public infrastructure which will enhance our ability to produce more goods and services and keep inflation down in the process.

Public Procurement Processes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

295 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if his Department sanctions all public contracts or procurements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19684/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

296 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if the full regime of public procurement procedures are applied in respect of all State contracts or procurements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19685/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

297 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that adequate provision exists to ensure value for money in respect of all State contracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19686/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 295 to 297, inclusive, together.

Primary responsibility for the procurement of projects, goods and services rests with Departments and implementing agencies in accordance with national and EU procurement requirements within the context of the expenditure Estimates and related expenditure guidelines and requirements. Departments and agencies are required to procure projects, goods and services on a value for money basis. The value for money framework which applies to all public bodies includes:

•the 5 year rolling multi-annual capital envelopes for public capital investment introduced in Budget 2004;

•new guidelines for the appraisal and management of capital expenditure in February 2005;

•proposed reforms to public procurement;

•value for money measures announced in October 2005 in relation to procurement, ICT projects and consultancies which include provision for fixed priced construction contracts as the norm, full cost benefit analysis of capital projects over €30 million, audit of these major capital projects, the appointment of an individual as project manager for major capital and ICT projects and peer review of major ICT projects. These and related requirements are now codified in Department of Finance Circular Letter of 25 of January, 2006 to Departments.

Departments and implementing agencies are responsible for ensuring that the public procurement function is discharged honestly, fairly, and in a manner that secures best value for public money. The Management Committees of Departments and the Boards of public bodies must ensure that there is an appropriate focus on good practice in procurement and that procedures are in place to ensure compliance with relevant legislation and guidelines. Departments, in the main, approve contracts under delegated authority from my Department. I am satisfied that these initiatives and the greater focus on best practice that I expect from all within the public service will help deliver improved value for money for the taxpayer.

Foreshore Licences.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

298 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his proposals to designate the function of issuing foreshore licences to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19049/06]

There are no proposals for the assignment of responsibility for issuing foreshore licences to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Telecommunications Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

299 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the expected timeframe for the availability of broadband in an area (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19081/06]

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

My Department administers a group broadband scheme which is designed to promote the rollout of broadband access through the establishment of sustainable broadband services in towns, villages, rural hinterlands and under-served areas of larger towns on the basis of local and regional authority coordination and community driven initiatives.

The most recent call for proposals has now closed and I will be launching a further call shortly. My Department's website,www.broadband.gov.ie gives full details of broadband availability in all areas, including ADSL, cable, fibre, satellite and fixed wireless. The website also lists prices of the various service levels on offer and contact details for each service provider.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

300 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the most recent level of carbon emissions generated by each of a number of power plants (details supplied); and the charges they were required to pay for these emissions. [19082/06]

In accordance with Section 14(2) of SI No. 437 of 2004, the European Communities (Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading) Regulations, operators of installations of this kind are obliged to report their emissions on an annual basis to the Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, the charges incurred by these installations are a commercial matter for the companies concerned. Accordingly, I have no function in the matters raised in this question.

Harbours and Piers.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

301 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will meet with a deputation from the Dingle Harbour Commissioners to put a plan in place for the future of the harbour. [19234/06]

The Department has met with Dingle Harbour Commissioners on a number of occasions in the past to discuss issues relating to the harbour and would have no difficulty in meeting them in the future.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

302 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he intends to designate Dingle Harbour as fishery harbour centre. [19235/06]

The Department is currently preparing to carry out due diligence in relation to Dingle Harbour with a view to finalising the decision on the designation of Dingle Harbour as a Fishery Harbour Centre.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

303 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he intends to make funding available to deepen the channel in Dingle Harbour. [19236/06]

There has been ongoing work on Dingle Harbour over the years, including dredging. As a result, a substantial pier berthage now exists, allowing berthage of larger draft vessels.

The next phase involves the deepening of the approach channel, to facilitate access and egress to the facility. In October 2004, the Department awarded a contract for geotechnical site investigation works and this work was completed in 2005. Archaeological investigation of the dredge area has also been completed.

A number of further studies are outstanding. These include a hydrodynamic study to investigate potential impacts of the proposed dredging operations, a radiological analysis of the dredge materials, chemical analysis and benthic studies, and investigation of a possible dumping at sea site. These studies are required in order to identify disposal options for the dredge materials and to progress application for the necessary statutory permits required for the project.

The cost of the project will depend on the outcome of the above studies in conjunction with detailed examination of the site investigation results and design of the dredging works. Funding for the project will be addressed in the context of the amount of Exchequer funding available for fishery harbours and overall national priorities.

Official Hospitality.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

304 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will provide a full listing of the contents of his Department’s wine cellar giving the vintages, quantity of bottles, dates acquired, prices paid and supplier; and if he will make a statement on the Department’s policy in this regard. [19351/06]

Fishing Fleet Modernisation.

John Perry

Question:

305 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of fishermen who have currently been paid under the whitefish decommissioning scheme; the amount which has been paid out to date; the level of money which is left to be paid out; the number of people who are still owed payment; when said people can expect to receive their money; the way in which the money has been distributed by county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19587/06]

As the Deputy is aware, the fishing vessel decommissioning scheme was launched on 5 October 2005 with a total budget of €45 million. The closing date for receipt of applications was 1 November 2005. Sixty-four applications were received on time by BIM, which is the implementing authority for the scheme. Letters of offer totalling €22,508,000 in grant aid issued to forty-four applicants under two rounds of approvals in November 2005 and February 2006. However, not all of the successful applicants have accepted the offer of grant aid.

To date, a total of €8,937,000 in grant aid has been paid in respect of twenty-four vessels. BIM advise me that funds are available to pay the balance of grant aid allocated to vessels, however, some applicants still have to provide the required documentation in respect of the offer of grant aid. In a small number of cases matters have arisen in relation to the information necessary to underpin the grant application. Discussions are ongoing with the owners concerned with a view to bringing matters to a conclusion as early as possible. A detailed breakdown of grant aid approved and paid to date by County, Owner and Vessel is provided below for the Deputy's information.

Breakdown of Decommissioning Grant Aid Paid by County, Owner and Vessel.

County

Owner(s)

Vessel

Aid Approved in Principle

Paid to date

Cork

Diarmuid O’Donovan

Solan

665,665

665,665

Cork

Timothy Harrington

Resplendent

612,832

612,832

Cork

Richard Deasy

Northern Dawn

414,160

414,160

Cork

Peter & Alan Carleton

Kopanes

746,868

373,434

Cork

Paul Deasy

Francis Marie

300,358

300,358

Cork

Brian & David Lowney

Mistletoe

288,145

288,145

Cork

John Power

Janette Ann

265,360

265,360

Cork

Eiranova Fisheries Ltd

Dunboy

942,245

0

Cork

Eiranova Fisheries Ltd

Dinish

942,245

0

Cork

Denis McKennedy

Carnown Bay

449,754

0

Cork

Daniel Healy

Marden

473,368

0

Cork

Martin & Mary Deasy

Brian Eoin

456,304

0

Cork

Sheila Deasy

Janireh

349,990

0

Sub-total

6,907,293

2,919,954

Donegal

William Harrigan & Partners

Sea Sparkle

651,889

325,944

Donegal

Alan Furlong

Helga Irene

359,755

179,878

Donegal

P&L Fish Selling Co. Ltd

Alpherax

353,245

176,623

Donegal

William Harrigan

Carmara

340,225

170,112

Donegal

William Harrigan & Partners

Sally G

317,440

158,720

Donegal

Hugh McDaid

Summer Star

268,615

134,307

Donegal

Colum Browne

Áine Íde

504,628

0

Sub-total

2,795,797

1,145,583

Dublin

Brendan Rogers

Alimar

751,053

751,053

Dublin

Alicia Fishing Company Ltd

Alicia

592,150

592,150

Dublin

Michael & Angela Crossan

Sea Queen

654,201

327,100

Dublin

William Price & Michael Chase

Atlantic Star

529,975

0

Dublin

Nutlands Development

Hilda Helena

382,540

0

Dublin

William & Patrick Price

Derisa

523,090

0

Dublin

Philip & Marie O’Neill

Shelmalier

330,460

0

Dublin

Thomas Caulfield

Caledonia Rose

268,615

0

Sub-total

4,032,084

1,670,303

Galway

Michael Faherty

Star of Hope

370,300

0

Galway

Thomas Conneely

Ocean Harvester

424,623

0

Sub-total

794,923

0

Kerry

Lariva Ltd

Gerlisa

349,990

174,995

Kerry

Skellig Fish Ltd

Skellig Light

761,515

0

Kerry

John Graham

Tannetje

472,750

0

Kerry

Patrick Browne

Ocean Enterprise

548,080

0

Kerry

Thomas Kennedy

Atlantic Fisher

685,984

0

Sub-total

2,818,319

174,995

Louth

Gerald Sharkey

Star of Nazareth

536,860

536,860

Mayo

Hugo Boyle

Dé Linn

493,255

0

Waterford

Brendan Glody

Arbutus

268,615

268,615

Wexford

William & Malcolm Whelan

Lilly L

544,128

544,128

Wexford

James Bates

Angela B

529,248

529,248

Wexford

John & Eugene Kehoe

Kathleen K

504,998

504,998

Wexford

Sean Radford

Karen Ann

394,723

394,723

Wexford

Thomas Power

Prina Cornelia

247,690

247,690

Wexford

Eugene Bates & Brendan Moore

William Joseph

629,502

0

Wexford

Simon McLoughlin

Martina Eilis

410,731

0

Wexford

Dermot Roche

Vrijheid

208,956

0

Wexford

Frank McGee

Nicola Sharon

389,050

0

Sub-total

3,859,025

2,220,787

Total

22,506,170

8,937,097

International Agreements.

Finian McGrath

Question:

306 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if Ireland will comply with the Geneva Convention obligations by respecting and ensuring respect for international law and preventing the Israeli military from landing here; and the reason two Israeli Air Force 707 aircraft carrying military personnel were allowed to land at Shannon on 5 May 2006. [19143/06]

I am satisfied that Ireland complies fully with its obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

Having considered the issues involved, and having — in accordance with standard practice- consulted with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Department of Foreign Affairs acceded to Israel's request for permission for two Boeing 707 aircraft operated by the Israeli Air Force to land at Shannon Airport on 5 May. The practice of permitting landings by foreign military aircraft at Irish airports, subject to certain conditions, has been in place for more than fifty years.

Landing permission for the two aircraft in question was granted subject to the normal conditions that apply to landings at Irish airports by foreign military aircraft; namely that the aircraft would be unarmed, would carry no arms, ammunition or explosives, would not engage in intelligence gathering, and that the flights in question would not form any part of military exercises or operations.

Finian McGrath

Question:

307 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the oil field in Lanimor belongs to East Timor under international law; and if he will raise this matter with Mr. John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister and Mr Alexander Downer, the Australian Foreign Minster. [19071/06]

I understand that there has not been any adjudication under international law with regard to the Laminaria oil field referred to in the Deputy's question. Timor Leste, or East Timor as it was formerly known, and Australia make overlapping claims to parts of the continental shelf in the Timor Sea, an area understood to contain large reserves of oil and gas.

Under the terms of a bilateral Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea, signed by the Foreign Ministers of Australia and Timor Leste in January of this year, the two sides agreed to set aside their maritime boundary negotiations for fifty years and to share the resources of what is referred to as the Greater Sunrise field (formerly known as the Sunrise and Troubadour fields which had also been previously claimed by both countries) on a 50:50 basis. The agreement, which has yet to be ratified by the Parliaments in both countries, would also allow Australia to continue to conduct activities in relation to petroleum or other resources of the seabed and subsoil in respect of Laminaria and other remaining contested oil fields.

Prior to this agreement, Australia and Timor Leste concluded the Timor Sea Treaty in May 2002, which accords to Timor Leste 90% of the revenue from a "joint development area" in the Timor Sea. I understand that the Laminaria field, together with the Buffalo and Corallina fields, lie to the west of the Joint Petroleum Development Area (JPDA) as defined under the Timor Sea Treaty. This Treaty came into force on 2 April 2003.

It would not be appropriate for this issue to be raised with the Australian Prime Minister or Foreign Minister in the terms suggested by the question. However, Timor Leste was on the agenda for the official talks I held yesterday with Prime Minister Howard during his visit to Ireland. We had an exchange of views on the situation in Timor Leste during which I referred to Ireland's long-standing commitment to the country's political and socio-economic development.

Middle East Peace Process.

Finian McGrath

Question:

308 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the action he will take regarding the suspension of aid to the Palestinian people as they are on the brink of collapse. [19072/06]

John Gormley

Question:

313 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views regarding the serious levels of poverty in the West Bank and particularly in the Gaza area; his further views on whether every effort must be made to ensure that no sanctions are taken against the elected Palestinian Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19772/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 308 and 313 together.

I refer the Deputies to my reply to Questions on this issue on 17 May 2006.

The Government has been consistently active in promoting a lasting and peaceful settlement of the Israeli — Palestinian conflict, based on the negotiation of a mutually acceptable two-State solution.

I share the concerns which have been expressed about the increasingly difficult situation facing the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza. 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 in humanitarian assistance and in support of Palestinian institutions and civil society. Since the Palestinian elections in January, the EU and the international Quartet have made it clear that the new Hamas Government of the Palestinian Authority must commit to the peace process. It must renounce violence, recognise Israel's right to exist and adhere to agreements already negotiated by the Authority and the PLO.

In February, the Council approved the urgent disbursement by the Commission of €121 million in humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians. While, since early April, the Commission has temporarily suspended direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority, the EU is reviewing its assistance against the Government's commitment to the principles set out by the Council and the Quartet.

There is full agreement among the Member States that it would be unreasonable to expect the EU to continue its capacity-building support for the Hamas Government irrespective of its willingness to respect the basic rules 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 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. 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 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. In February, following the Palestinian elections, the Government 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.

Overseas Development Aid.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

309 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the benefits to Ireland’s priority aid countries of entering into an economic partnership agreement which will expose their producers to competition from EU and non-least developed countries’ neighbours without gaining new markets for their products in view of the fact that as least developed countries they already qualify for duty free and quota free access to the EU under the everything but arms initiative; if it is not better development policy that these countries be exempted from offering market access to the EU under EPAs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19480/06]

The Cotonou Agreement between the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States and the European Union (EU) provides for the negotiation of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the Parties. The EPAs are first and foremost instruments for development that are intended to foster the smooth and gradual integration of the ACP States into the world economy, thereby promoting sustainable development and contributing to poverty eradication.

The intention is that EPAs should create a positive environment for the private sector by enlarging ACP markets through regional integration, and by making regulatory frameworks in these countries more transparent. EPAs should therefore help develop the conditions for south-south trade, with all the benefits of new markets which this promises for the ACP countries.

For the purposes of EPA negotiations, the ACP states are organised into six regional groupings. EPAs are intended primarily to foster trade between, as well as within, these regional groupings. As stated above, the concept of regional integration is fundamental to the EPA process. On their own, the small segmented markets of the ACP countries are poorly positioned to take advantage of the global trading system. Stronger regional integration, which will facilitate an increase in production and competitiveness, is the critical first step toward greater participation in international trade.

On the other hand, the EU's Everything But Arms (EBA) initiative, while offering preferential access to EU markets for all LDC exports, except arms, does not advance the process of integration in the ACP regions. As regards EPAs and competition, it is not intended that EPAs will expose ACP economies to EU competition prematurely. In this regard, Article 37,7 of the Cotonou Agreement provides that the negotiations on the EPAs "shall take account of the level of development and the socio-economic impact of trade measures on ACP countries and their capacity to adapt and adjust their economies to the liberalisation process. Negotiations will therefore be as flexible as possible in establishing the duration of a sufficient transitional period, the final product coverage, taking into account sensitive sectors, and the degree of asymmetry in terms of timetable for tariff dismantlement, while remaining in conformity with WTO rules then prevailing".

Or as Commissioner Mandelson has put it, "the EU is not pursuing an equal bargain in relation to our EPA partners".

Ireland is continuing to follow the EPA negotiations closely. A review of the negotiations is scheduled for this year. At the General Affairs and External Relations Council in Luxembourg in April, which I attended, the Council asked the Commission to ensure that the review is formal and comprehensive, particularly with a view to identifying any measures necessary to ensure the timely completion of the negotiations. On several occasions, I have raised partner country concerns about EPAs with both the European Commission and Development Minister colleagues.

The Cotonou Agreement envisages that EPAs will come into force in 2008. Until that time, it is open to any LDC as to whether they wish to enter an EPA or not. Should they decide not to, they will continue to benefit from preferences under EBA. Ultimately the matter of whether an ACP LDC chooses to enter into an EPA is a sovereign decision for each country.

Human Rights Issues.

John Gormley

Question:

310 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the action the Government has taken to address the concerns regarding escalating human rights abuses in Iran, including the execution of a PMOI political prisoner (details supplied) and the threat by the regime in Iran to execute more political prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19667/06]

The Government and its EU partners have growing concerns about the protection of human rights in Iran across a wide spectrum of issues, including use of the death penalty. There appears to be a significant increase in the use of the death penalty in Iran, including the case referred to by the Deputy. Our concerns also relate to the use of the death penalty in cases of under-age offenders, lack of due process and safeguards, and the manner in which executions are carried out.

The EU makes these concerns known in demarches to the Iranian authorities and in public statements, as well as through action in international organisations. Most recently, on 19 April 2006, the EU issued a public statement about executions in Iran.

To quote from that statement, "The Union expresses its serious concern about the general increase in executions in Iran. This trend is confirmed by the ten executions carried out recently in the prison of Evin. The EU reiterates that it is, as a matter of principle, opposed to the death penalty under all circumstances and calls for its universal abolition. Where the death penalty still exists, the EU calls on states to progressively restrict its use, and insists that capital punishment could be imposed only for the most serious crimes and according to minimum standards, and that the death penalty may not be imposed on certain categories of persons such as, for example, juvenile offenders."

The General Affairs and External Relations Council reiterated these concerns at its most recent meeting, in Brussels on 15 May.

I regret that the Iranian authorities have shown little interest in improving the protection of human rights in their country. The EU has also endeavoured to engage constructively to encourage improvements through a formal Human Rights Dialogue with Iran. The last session of this dialogue was held under the Irish EU Presidency in June 2004. Iran has for two years now failed to agree a date for the next round.

John Gormley

Question:

311 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the efforts which have been made to meet with the political opposition to the clerical regime in Iran to discuss and explore the options for democratic change in Iran from inside in order to elect an inclusive and secular Government in that country in view of the condemnation of Iran by the United Nations for its gross violations of human rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19668/06]

I have no plans to meet with the particular organisation referred to by the Deputy.

The Government, and our EU partners, remain very seriously concerned about a wide range of human rights issues in Iran. These concerns are raised regularly with the Iranian authorities and have been highlighted publicly. On 19 April 2006, the EU issued a public declaration concerning the human rights situation in Iran, and especially the use of the death penalty. Most recently, the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 15 May reiterated our concerns, including those on the unacceptable treatment of the Sufi and Baha'i minorities in Iran and the harassment of human rights defenders.

In common with our partners, we will continue to support peaceful reform within Iran. I look forward to the establishment of fully democratic institutions of Government in Iran, which fully reflect the human rights of its people.

Commemorative Events.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

312 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on marking the memory of a Norwegian politician and statesman (details supplied), in recognition of his support of Irish independence during his career and life; if he has received requests that such be provided at Muckross House in County Kerry, a location to which he was most attached; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19750/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, C.J. Hambro was a distinguished Norwegian political leader in the earlier part of the last century. He was a strong supporter of Irish independence, and a particular admirer of Éamon de Valera. My Department is unaware of any approach to date to mark Mr Hambro's support for Irish independence, but I would of course be happy to consider any such request we receive.

Question No. 313 answered with QuestionNo. 308.

Tourism Promotion.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

314 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the level of funding provided by successive Governments since 1995 to initiate and develop the Ryder Cup project up to the event in September 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19170/06]

I am informed that since the Agreement with the PGA European Tour to stage the Ryder Cup in Ireland was signed in 1998, total expenditure by Fáilte Ireland in securing the event and exploiting its tourism promotional benefits, will amount to €15.7 million, of which €9.4 million (60%) is committed to 2006.

The total expenditure figure includes an amount of €4.9 million paid to the PGA European Tour under the terms of the Agreement. It also includes an additional €4.5 million allocated to Fáilte Ireland in the 2006 Revised Estimates in order to support an enhanced programme of marketing and promotional activities around the Ryder Cup, including a National Branding Programme and a number of golf marketing initiatives, and support for an appropriate complementary programme of Ryder Cup related events, including the official opening and closing ceremonies and other initiatives intended to raise the profile of the occasion within Ireland.

The benefits of the Ryder Cup, which will take place in the K Club, Co. Kildare, from 22-24 September, 2006, are enormous and include television coverage to over 550 million homes worldwide, with a potential audience of up to one billion viewers and the presence of over 2,000 international media personnel who will report from Ireland before and during the event.

It is unlikely that Ireland will ever again host a sporting event which attracts as much worldwide interest as the Ryder Cup and it is important that we continue to maximise the enormous potential that exists to capitalise on the event.

Sports Capital Programme.

Dan Neville

Question:

315 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when a decision will be made on projects to receive funding under the national lottery funded sports capital programme. [19193/06]

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national levels.

Applications for funding under the 2006 programme were invited through advertisements in the Press on November 27th and 28th last. The closing date for receipt of applications was January 20th 2006. A total of 1,338 applications for projects costing €670 million and seeking funding of €312 million were received. All of these applications, ranging in project cost from €500 to €25 million are currently being evaluated against the programme's detailed assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Official Hospitality.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

316 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will provide a full listing of the contents of his Department’s wine cellar giving the vintages, quantity of bottles, dates acquired, prices paid and supplier; and if he will make a statement on the Department’s policy in this regard. [19350/06]

My Department does not have a wine cellar. Wine is purchased from time to time in the context of overall Departmental official entertainment.

Sports Capital Programme.

Enda Kenny

Question:

317 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has received an application for funding from a club (details supplied) in County Mayo; if he has examined this application; if his attention has been drawn to the required finances being lodged for their application to be considered; when he expects to announce approval for these schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19457/06]

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national levels.

Applications for funding under the 2006 programme were invited through advertisements in the Press on November 27th and 28th last. The closing date for receipt of applications was January 20th 2006. A total of 1,338 applications for projects costing €670 million and seeking funding of €312 million were received. All of these applications, including one from the organisation in question, ranging in project cost from €500 to €25 million are currently being evaluated against the programme's detailed assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

318 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will approve grant aid under the sports capital programme to a sports centre (details supplied) in County Galway; if his attention has been drawn to the significance of this sports centre on the lives of hundreds of young and old people in the general area of Ballygar and Newbridge, County Galway; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that the committee raised almost half a million euro as a local contribution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19458/06]

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

Applications for funding under the 2006 programme were invited through advertisements in the Press on November 27th and 28th last. The closing date for receipt of applications was January 20th 2006. All applications received before the deadline, including one from the organisation in question, are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Denis Naughten

Question:

319 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the allocation of funding under the sports capital programme to each county in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19689/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following Table.

In relation to the 2006 sports capital programme, the closing date for receipt of applications was January 20th last. A total of 1,338 applications for projects costing €670 million and seeking funding of €312 million were received. All of these applications, ranging in project cost from €500 to €25 million are currently being evaluated against the programme's detailed assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

County

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

County Total

Carlow

1,168,159

489,000

440,000

632,000

446,000

3,175,159

Cavan

591,698

691,200

580,000

1,075,000

785,000

3,722,898

Clare

898,975

1,123,000

1,125,000

1,727,000

1,356,000

6,229,975

Cork

4,769,132

7,257,000

5,747,400

6,524,000

8,172,000

32,469,532

Donegal

3,211,168

5,049,000

1,177,500

1,802,000

1,572,000

12,811,668

Dublin

13,908,710

23,075,900

14,763,733

14,691,000

15,739,419

82,178,762

Galway

3,192,122

3,058,000

3,058,000

3,435,014

5,760,000

18,503,136

Kerry

2,119,193

3,335,200

3,748,000

4,476,000

3,603,000

17,281,393

Kildare

3,853,655

4,870,000

3,366,000

3,357,000

1,550,000

16,996,655

Kilkenny

763,747

1,116,500

1,042,500

850,000

1,284,000

5,056,747

Laois

1,197,363

1,189,000

450,000

786,000

771,000

4,393,363

Leitrim

439,964

821,600

454,800

479,000

660,000

2,855,364

Limerick

2,705,812

2,776,000

2,785,500

1,925,000

3,092,000

13,284,312

Longford

648,836

759,400

780,000

745,000

499,000

3,432,236

Louth

1,339,574

2,545,000

1,372,100

1,644,000

1,347,000

8,247,674

Mayo

1,625,265

2,284,000

1,574,600

1,594,000

1,422,000

8,499,865

Meath

1,477,975

1,605,000

2,560,000

2,260,000

1,576,000

9,478,975

Monaghan

615,823

1,233,000

685,000

996,000

744,000

4,273,823

Offaly

618,997

405,000

1,004,000

1,157,000

1,260,000

4,444,997

Roscommon

1,206,251

1,301,000

777,600

1,027,000

880,000

5,191,851

Sligo

1,250,692

1,527,600

963,000

1,453,000

2,020,000

7,214,292

Tipperary

1,802,393

2,478,000

1,657,000

2,398,000

2,177,000

10,512,393

Waterford

3,133,714

3,253,000

2,710,000

2,080,000

1,425,000

12,601,714

Westmeath

1,319,258

2,569,000

1,307,000

1,083,000

1,305,000

7,583,258

Wexford

915,481

2,206,000

1,221,000

1,887,000

2,267,000

8,496,481

Wicklow

1,405,600

1,813,000

1,003,000

1,700,000

1,527,000

7,448,600

Annual Total

56,179,561

78,830,400

56,352,733

61,783,014

63,239,419

316,385,127

Job Creation.

Martin Ferris

Question:

320 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of companies the IDA brought to North Kerry since January 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19051/06]

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.

I understand from IDA Ireland that since January 2005 the agency has brought five companies on site visits to North Kerry.

A central goal for IDA Ireland is the achievement of balanced regional development in line with The National Spatial Strategy (NSS) 2002 — 2020. In Kerry, Tralee and Killarney are designated as a linked hub under the NSS. 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.

Employment Appeals Tribunal.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

321 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the time it takes for a case to be heard by the Employment Appeals Tribunal; and the time it took in each of the past five years. [19054/06]

The Employment Appeals Tribunal is an independent body under the aegis of the Department. The average waiting period from the time a case is notified to the Tribunal until it is heard in each of the past five years is:

Year

Waiting Period (weeks)

2001

19

2002

19

2003

28

2004

39

2005

41

The average waiting period to date this year is 37 weeks.

National Minimum Wage.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

322 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the percentage of the workforce earning not more than the minimum wage entitlement at present and in each year since the introduction of the minimum wage. [19092/06]

The National Minimum Wage was introduced on 1 April 2000. The ESRI has undertaken minimum wage surveys on behalf of the Department on three occasions since then and its findings have been as follows.

Percentage of employees on *the minimum wage (in private sector, non-agricultural firms)

2001

4.3% on minimum wage

2002

4.5% on minimum wage

2005/06

5.2% on minimum wage

*This includes those on the experienced adult rate and those on the sub-minimum rates.

Industrial Disputes.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

323 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the distress that has been caused to retired employees whose access to health insurance schemes has been denied following their retirement; his view on the statement of the Labour Court chairman on 8 November 2001 (details supplied); if he will confirm that he has received representations from a person; the action he proposes to take; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19124/06]

In 2001 the Labour Court made a recommendation to the effect that a mechanism should be put in place to address situations of dispute between retired employees and their former employers. At that time the issue arose in the context of a dispute which related to a workers retirement pension. Subsequently, the 2002 Pensions Act provided for the appointment of the Pensions Ombudsman with the power to investigate complaints in relation to occupational pension schemes.

I am aware that other circumstances of dispute between a retired employee and their former employer can arise, as in the case referred to by the Deputy. I have received representations on allowing former employees access to the Industrial Relations bodies. Consideration is being given as to how this matter might be addressed including any legislative implications which may arise.

EU Directives.

Marian Harkin

Question:

324 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has investigated the allegation made by the TEEU that a number of Serbian contract workers who were employed on the ESB’s network renewal programme were being exploited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19156/06]

Marian Harkin

Question:

325 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the employment contracts between Serbian workers and the ESB or firms to whom the ESB has subcontracted this work comply with the posting of workers directive. [19157/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 324 and 325 together.

The Labour Inspectorate carried out an inspection of records in regard to this issue. In relation to the category of workers concerned the material examined did not indicate that the rates of pay were not in conformity with the Statutory Minimum provided for in legislation.

Inspectors, with the assistance of an independent interpreter, interviewed several employees, none of whom expressed any dissatisfaction with their pay or conditions of employment. The Inspectors selected the employees who were interviewed.

The Inspectorate understands that a ‘Good-Will Bonus' payment has been offered to the employees. In light of the continuing allegations a further examination of records, together with another round of interviews will be shortly be undertaken by the Inspectorate. As in all matters concerning non-compliance with employment rights legislation, I would urge anyone with information that would assist, to provide such material to the Labour Inspectorate who has responsibility in this area.

Directive 96/71/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 1996 concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services defines a posted worker as "a worker who, for a limited period, carries out his work in the territory of a Member State other than the State in which he normally works". This Directive was transposed into Irish law by section 20 of the Protection of Employees (Part Time Work) Act 2001 which provides that all employee protection legislation on the statute book in the State applies to posted workers in the same way as it applies to Irish workers. Therefore, all Irish employee protection legislation applies to the Serbian workers referred to in the Question.

Official Hospitality.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

326 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will provide a full listing of the contents of his Department’s wine cellar giving the vintages, quantity of bottles, dates acquired, prices paid and supplier; and if he will make a statement on the Department’s policy in this regard. [19353/06]

My Department does not have a wine cellar.

A review carried out on foot of the Deputy's question identified only six bottles of wine. Four bottles are a 2002 Italian Cabernet Sauvignon. They were bought in Mitchell & Son's Wine Merchants in 2004 and the cost was 9.05 euro per bottle. In addition, there are two bottles of a 2003 Australian Shiraz. It is not clear where these were acquired. Wine may be purchased as needs arise.

Job Losses.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

327 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of persons made redundant during each year from 2002 to 2005 and to the end of April 2006 who did not qualify for statutory redundancy payments due to not having at least two years service in an employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19443/06]

There is no legal requirement under the Redundancy Payments Acts, 1967 to 2003 for employers to notify the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment of redundancies where the employees have less than the minimum required service of two years for entitlement to a statutory redundancy lump sum payment. Consequently, there are no official figures for redundancies in this category of under two years' service.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

328 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the average amount it costs to make a worker redundant here. [19469/06]

Statutory redundancy is based on two weeks pay per year of service plus one extra weeks pay, subject to a maximum gross wage of €600 per week.

In 2005 the total spend by employers in respect of redundancies was €229,983,333. Rebates of 60% amounting to €137,990,000 were paid from the Social Insurance Fund to employers by my Department, resulting in the total net cost to employers of €91,993,333.

In 2005, rebates were paid to employers in respect of c.20, 245 employees giving the average net cost to the employer of €4,544 per worker.

Employment Appeals Tribunal.

Dan Neville

Question:

329 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the waiting times for hearings of the Employment Appeals Tribunal in each region; and his proposals to reduce same. [19596/06]

The Employment Appeals Tribunal is an independent body under the aegis of my Department. The average waiting period from the time a case is notified to the Tribunal until it is heard in each region is:

County

Weeks

County

Weeks

Cavan

43

Longford

41

Carlow

32

Louth

38

Clare

40

Mayo

40

Cork

58

Meath

38

Donegal

34

Monaghan

22

Dublin

24

Offaly

49

Galway

43

Roscommon

22

Kerry

44

Sligo

48

Kildare

37

Tipperary

51

Kilkenny

40

Waterford

55

Laois

32

Westmeath

39

Leitrim

39

Wexford

48

Limerick

55

Wicklow

38

I understand that the Tribunal is making every effort to reduce this waiting period, including undertaking a concerted programme of targeting areas where delays occur.

Insurance Industry.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

330 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action which is open to him in the event of a housing estate management company requiring house owners to subscribe to an insurance company nominated by the management company which excludes the possibility of shopping around; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19661/06]

The Competition Act 2002 prohibits anti-competitive arrangements between "undertakings" and the abuse of a dominant position by undertakings. From the information provided, it appears that this issue may relate to an alleged restriction on competition.

The Competition Authority is an independent statutory body responsible for the enforcement of competition law in the State. Any evidence of an alleged breach of competition law should be referred to the Authority at Parnell House, 14 Parnell Square, Dublin 1. The Authority also accepts complaints by email atcomplaints@tca.ie. The Authority’s website — www.tca.ie — provides more information in this regard.

It is not clear, however, how a management company could prevent a householder from shopping around for insurance cover. While I am aware that such companies may seek quotations for insurance on behalf of their members, this is generally for the purpose of obtaining a more competitive quote for house owners, who would then be free to take out insurance with that insurance company, or any other from which they had separately obtained a quote.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Finian McGrath

Question:

331 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 to extend their deadline and not to stop their rent allowance. [19140/06]

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

Rent supplements are subject to maximum rent levels that an applicant for rent supplement may incur which are established by reference to market rents. The maximum amount payable can only be exceeded where exceptional circumstances exist.

The Health Service Executive has advised that, following a review of the rent supplement claim of the person concerned, it became aware that the rent payable was in excess of the prescribed limits for a person of her circumstances. It has further advised that, following appeal, rent supplement will continue to be paid to the person concerned until the end of May 2006 thus allowing time for her to find alternative accommodation with rent within the prescribed limits. The Executive has advised that it proposes to suspend the payment of rent supplement from the end of May 2006, unless the person concerned obtains accommodation with rent within the prescribed limits.

Marian Harkin

Question:

332 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of farmers who have availed of farm assist in County Leitrim in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004; and the average amounts paid in each of these years. [19153/06]

Marian Harkin

Question:

333 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of farmers who have availed of farm assist in County Sligo in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004; and the average amounts paid in each of these years. [19154/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 332 and 333 together.

The details requested by the Deputy of the numbers availing of the Farm Assist Scheme have been compiled from data that is maintained on a Local Office catchment area basis and these figures do not correspond exactly with county boundaries. The figures are as follows:

Leitrim

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

Awarded claims

238

247

250

260

221

Average Weekly Payment (€)

100.91

110.37

128.50

137.76

151.11

Sligo

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

Awarded Claims

281

313

341

366

344

Average Weekly Payment (€)

101.69

113.68

132.18

145.72

162.14

The amount paid to each farmer depends on a number of factors, for example, family size, whether the spouse/partner is working and any means assessed from all sources.

David Stanton

Question:

334 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on extending the time limit for continuation of payment of family income supplement in cases where people are in receipt of disability benefit as they are unable to work due to an accident and who were in receipt of the family income supplement at the time of the accident; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19179/06]

Family Income Supplement (FIS) is an in-work income support, payable to low income families with children.

Currently family income supplement and disability benefit can be paid together for a period of six weeks, which is intended to cover cases of short-term illnesses or injury. This ensures that for the majority of short-term disability benefit claims, a person can receive disability benefit and subsequently return to work without having their FIS claim interrupted.

I am satisfied that the current rules allow for reasonable flexibility with regard to temporary periods of illness or injury. Any change in the present arrangements would have to be considered in a budgetary context.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

335 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to ensure that a dependent spouse’s pension is raised to be brought in line with the non-contributory old age pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19184/06]

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

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 €55 million in a full year. This commitment will be implemented as soon as possible, having regard to available resources and other budgetary commitments.

Since 2002, new pension claimants can opt to have the qualified adult increase paid directly to their spouse or partner. The administrative and legislative implications of enhancing these arrangements to make direct payments more widely available are under consideration.

Pension Provisions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

336 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that under the rules of portability of pensions, employers are only obliged to index entitlements in line with consumer prices up to a maximum of four percent; and his views on whether this should be reviewed now that inflation is about to push through that barrier. [19342/06]

Part III of the Pensions Act 1990 requires occupational pension schemes to provide preserved benefit, calculated in accordance with the normal scheme rules, for members who leave relevant employment after completing at least two years service in the pension scheme.

Part III also provides for the revaluation of such preserved defined benefits from the date of termination of employment to the date of normal retirement. The rate of revaluation, which is set out in regulations each year, is the percentage increase in the general level of consumer prices up to a maximum of 4%. The annual Consumer Price Index increase for the year 2005 was 2.5% and as such was the revaluation percentage for that year.

The current funding standard requirements under Part IV of the Pensions Act are designed to ensure that, if a defined benefit scheme winds up, there are sufficient assets to meet the liabilities of the scheme at that point in time. Any proposed increase in the maximum revaluation percentage from the current 4%, would therefore have to be examined in the context of the resulting increase in the funding requirements that would be placed on defined benefit pension schemes. However, current forecasts from the ESRI and from the Central Bank & Financial Services Authority of Ireland are for a CPI rate of around 3% or less in 2006 and 2007.

I am anxious to ensure that a reasonable balance is struck between the protection of the interests of all scheme members and the interests of employers who sponsor and contribute to schemes. I believe that the current provisions in relation to the revaluation of preserved benefits achieve that balance. However I will continue to keep this situation under review.

Official Hospitality.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

337 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will provide a full listing of the contents of his Department’s wine cellar giving the vintages, quantity of bottles, dates acquired, prices paid and supplier; and if he will make a statement on the Department’s policy in this regard. [19359/06]

My Department does not possess a wine cellar.

Social Welfare Code.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

338 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans regarding the proposed introduction of a household waste collection voucher scheme for all who qualify for a fuel allowance payment, for all senior citizens on low incomes and all deserving cases on assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19514/06]

The setting of waste management charges and the introduction of waivers in respect of waste charges is, as stated by my colleague the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government, a matter for each local authority.

The introduction of a national social welfare scheme to address the issue would be complex given the wide range of charging regimes and cost structures that exist in respect of waste management throughout the State. Any system put in place to assist people who rely on private domestic waste collection would have to be sensitive to the different local arrangements.

I have no plans at the present time to introduce a scheme to address this issue.

David Stanton

Question:

339 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on relaxing the qualification criteria surrounding the respite grant to allow those who are not providing care on the first Thursday in June 2006 but have provided full time care for a large part of the previous year to qualify for a reduced payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19640/06]

All carers who are in receipt of carer's allowance, carer's benefit, prescribed relative allowance or constant attendance allowance on the first Thursday in June will automatically receive the respite care grant without having to apply for it. Similarly, carers who are in receipt of domiciliary care allowance from the Health Service Executive will automatically receive the respite care grant from the HSE.

The respite care grant was extended in 2005. Carers who do not qualify for the grant under one of the above schemes may now receive the grant if the following conditions are met: the carer must be providing full time care to a person who is in need of such care for at least 6 months. This period of care must include the first Thursday in June, and as is the case with recipients of carers allowance, a full time carer must not be engaged in employment for more than 10 hours per week (this will increase to 15 hours for the purposes of the 2006 grant).

Provision was made in Budget 2006 to increase the amount of the grant from €1,000 to €1,200 in respect of each care recipient and, as already mentioned, to increase the number of hours that a recipient of the grant may work from 10 to 15 hours per week.

Among the proposals in the "First Report on the Position of Full-Time Carers" produced by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social and Family Affairs was that the condition that the period of care must include the first Thursday in June should be abolished. All support schemes for carers, including the respite care grant will be kept under review and further possible improvements will be considered in a budgetary context.

Road Safety.

Jackie Healy-Rae

Question:

340 Mr. Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport if the driver of a slow moving vehicle pulls onto the hard shoulder to allow the traffic that has built up behind his or her vehicle to pass freely for safety reasons is then liable to incur penalty points; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19107/06]

Where a hard shoulder area is provided on a non-motorway road i.e. on a national primary or a national secondary road, on a regional road or on a local road, a driver is allowed to pull over onto the hard shoulder area to facilitate overtaking by faster moving vehicles in the circumstances referred to by the Deputy when it is safe to do so, and having regard to the presence of any pedestrians or cyclists etc. who are using the hard shoulder area. The situation is different in relation to hard shoulder areas on motorways. It is prohibited to drive on the hard shoulder area on a motorway or to stop or park there except if an emergency situation arises in relation to the vehicle being driven such as a mechanical defect or breakdown. The rules for traffic on motorways are set out in article 33 of the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 (SI No. 182 of 1997). An offence is committed if a vehicle is driven on a hard shoulder on a motorway and, on payment of a fixed charge of €80 within 28 days or that amount increased by 50% within the following 28 days, a person will have one penalty point endorsed on their driving licence record. If the person opts not to pay a fixed charge and is convicted of the offence in Court, he or she will receive three penalty points.

Pension Provisions.

Ivor Callely

Question:

341 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Transport the amount expected to be raised by the proposed privatisation of Aer Lingus; and if this will meet the expected pension shortfall for Aer Lingus employees. [19145/06]

At this stage in the IPO process I am not in a position to comment on the proceeds that the Government or Aer Lingus may receive. We will not know this information until much nearer the end of the process when the number of shares to be sold and the price at which those shares will be sold will be agreed. In the context of the planned IPO, I have said that the Minister for Finance and I are open to considering the question of the company using part of the proceeds from issuing new shares to address the funding position in the company's pension scheme in the context of an overall solution involving increased employer and employee contributions going forward. I have mandated Aer Lingus management to engage with the trade unions to address the key concerns of staff in relation to a third party investment, including pensions and that process is cuurently underway.

Road Safety.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

342 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport when the last national Traffic Signs Manual was published; if he is satisfied that it continues to be relevant to driving conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19180/06]

The Traffic Signs Manual, first published in 1996, incorporates the design of all of the traffic signs that can be deployed on public roads and guidance and advice in relation to the use of such signs. The Manual constitutes a direction given by the Minister under section 95(16) of the 1961 Act in relation to the design and use of non-regulatory traffic signs generally. Additions have been made to the Manual in the interim period if new situations arose, such as, for example, the design of information directional signs that may be installed on orbital routes in urban areas. A comprehensive review of the provisions of the Manual was initiated in late 2004 and is on-going with a view to identifying any areas where amendment or updating would be appropriate. This review is being carried out by consultants in conjunction with a Steering Group comprising of representatives from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the National Roads Authority, the County and City Managers Association and my Department. For convenience, the present Manual also provides depictions of regulatory traffic signs. These signs are prescribed in statutory regulations and details of traffic sign regulations that have been made since 1996 will also be included in the revised Manual.

Billy Timmins

Question:

343 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Transport the number of local authorities that have implemented revised speed limits as outlined in recently passed legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19471/06]

Under section 9 of the Road Traffic Act 2004, operative since 20 January 2005, the making of special speed limit bye-laws to apply a special speed limit in lieu of a default speed limit is a matter for each individual county council or city council. Local authorities had power since the passing of the Road Traffic Act 1994 to make special speed limit byelaws and Section 12 of the 2004 provided for the automatic conversion of the units of measurement from miles per hour to kilometres per hour in respect of any special speed limits that were applied under byelaws that were made prior to 20 January 2005. These bye-laws remain in force until such time as new bye-laws are made by the city or county councils under section 9 of the 2004 Act. From enquiries made I am informed that the special speed limit bye-laws that were in place prior to 20 January 2005 are still applicable across all 34 local authority areas and that 5 of the local authorities have adopted additional special speed limits. I understand that the majority of the councils either have a review of existing speed limits underway at present or are planning to do so later in 2006. A new policy element was introduced under section 10 of the 2004 Act to enable a county manager or a city manger to make a road works speed limit order to apply a road works speed limit for a limited period. This power has been and is being exercised in relation to road works locations in various areas.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

344 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the vetting procedures in place to ensure suitability in terms of physical and mental health to obtain a licence for the transport of high capacity passenger vehicles; the criteria which are applied; his views on whether they are adequate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19672/06]

The Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations 1999 to 2004, which incorporate EU based requirements, provide that applicants for a driving licence for buses must submit a medical report to the licensing authority in support of the application. The medical report must be in a scheduled form, must be signed by a registered medical practitioner and indicate that in the opinion of the registered medical practitioner the applicant meets the medical standards set out in the regulations.

Driving Tests.

Denis Naughten

Question:

345 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the number of driving testers that will be recruited by his Department; the number of these who will be recruited via the public competition; the qualification and knowledge which they must have of the rules of the road; the number of years that they must be driving to be eligible for appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19114/06]

As part of the response to deal with the waiting times for driving test additional staff have been made available to the driving test service. 7 staff have been redeployed from the Department of Agriculture and Food and have commenced testing following their period of training. A further 11 driver testers, recruited through the Public Appointment Service, are due to commence training before the end of this month. The qualifications required for the position of driver tester, as set out for the recent recruitment campaign, are as follows: have a good general education; have a satisfactory knowledge of the "Rules of the Road", road procedures and the law relating to road traffic insofar as it concerns the driver of a mechanically propelled vehicle; have had five years satisfactory driving experience within the seven years ending on 25 June 2005; possess excellent interpersonal skills-be able to communicate clearly orally and have the capacity to remain calm and courteous in dealing with driving test applicants; hold (if called for a driving test as part of the recruitment process), for five years, a clean full driving licence valid in the State on the day of the test; possess report writing skills with reference to clarity, accuracy and conciseness; and have experience in dealing with members of the public. Desirable for the job: have the confidence to take responsibility for achievement of objectives; have good organisation skills; and have the ability to work effectively as part of a team.

Road Safety.

Denis Naughten

Question:

346 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport when he intends to publish a revised Rules of the Road; when the last revision was published; if he will make the document available via the Internet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19115/06]

My Department is now completing its work on the revision of the Rules of the Road booklet. As it is several years since the Booklet was up-dated there has been a very considerable amount of work involved in that many significant changes in the overall area of road traffic law have to be reflected in the revised booklet. This work is now substantially complete and it is intended to place the revised draft Rules of the Road on the Department's website for consultation at the end of this month. A short opportunity for comments on the revised draft Rules of the Road from the public will then be provided and the new booklet will be finalised and published by the end of the Summer. It is intended that the booklet will be made available for sale. The new booklet will also be made available on-line and this will ensure that in future the booklet will provide up-to-date information on an ongoing basis.

Finian McGrath

Question:

347 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the reason there is a major delay from the MIBI regarding a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 and if he will work with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on this case. [19148/06]

My officials have again made enquiries in this case and I understand that investigations by both the Motor Insurers' Bureau of Ireland (MIBI) and the Gardaí have reached such a stage that the MIBI will contact the victim shortly. I understand that the MIBI in this case had been advised that an Garda Síochána were pursuing enquiries regarding the identity of the driver which could result in a prosecution. In these circumstances, the production of the Garda Abstract was withheld whilst the Garda continued their investigations. This had an impact on the time taken to reach a final decision.

Proposed Legislation.

Finian McGrath

Question:

348 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport when the legislation will be set up for the Road Safety Authority; the date on which this legislation will be enacted; if all the functions of other State bodies being subsumed will be incorporated into the authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19149/06]

Committee, Report and Final Stages of the Road Safety Authority Bill 2004 are scheduled for Seanad Éireann this week. Following its passage in the Oireachtas it will be presented to the President for signature. The Bill provides for the transfer, to the Road Safety Authority, of the functions of the National Safety Council except those relating to fire safety which are being transferred to the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Bill also provides for the transfer, to the Road Safety Authority, of functions relating to road safety research and accident statistics presently being undertaken by the National Roads Authority.

Air Services.

Marian Harkin

Question:

349 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Transport if he will reconsider drawing up a full impact assessment outlining the economic impact of an open skies policy on the Shannon region and the west of Ireland, particularly in view of delays in agreeing such a policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19158/06]

Marian Harkin

Question:

350 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Transport the timetable for the conclusion of the open skies deal between the EU and the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19159/06]

Marian Harkin

Question:

351 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Transport the obstacles to concluding an open skies deal between the EU and the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19160/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 349 to 351, inclusive, together.

In November 2005 EU and US negotiators concluded work on the text of a first-phase EU-US Open Skies agreement. The text was unanimously endorsed at the December 2005 Transport Council subject to sufficient progress by the US side on opening up ownership and control of US airlines to EU investors. The formal US process of changing its ownership and control rules was expected to be concluded early in 2006 so that a final decision could be taken at the June Transport Council. However, due to difficulties on the US side the rule-making process has been extended but they are confident that the matter will be concluded in August in time for agreement at the October Transport Council.

As part of the EU-US deal I reached agreement with the US authorities last November in relation to a transitional arrangement for Shannon Airport to take effect from November 2006 and I remain confident that this timetable can be achieved. Also when I announced the transitional arrangements I indicated that I would prepare, in consultation with my colleagues, the Minister for Arts, Sport & Tourism and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment, a tourism and economic development plan for Shannon and the West of Ireland and that work is progressing.

In response to a number of previous Questions I have indicated that I did not think that it is necessary to carry out an impact study in view of the findings of a number of recent reports (the Brattle Report for the European Commission, the Report of the Tourism Policy Review Group to the Minister of Arts, Sport and Tourism, and the Air Transport Users Council (ATUC) of the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland Report into Open Skies) which all support moving to open skies with the US, and emphasise the significant benefits to Ireland when this happens.

Aer Lingus Privitisation.

Marian Harkin

Question:

352 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Transport if there is a delay on the proposal to float Aer Lingus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19161/06]

On 4th April the Government noted the proposals brought by myself and the Minister for Finance for the implementation an investment transaction for Aer Lingus by means of an Initial Public Offering (IPO) of shares in the company. Following consideration of the matter by Government I mandated our advisors to commence preparations immediately for the IPO. I also mandated the company to engage with the trade unions on the key issues raised by the trade unions. The preparatory work for the transaction is now well underway with a view to completion as soon as possible taking account of stock exchange rules and market conditions.

Road Network.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

353 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Transport the breakdown of expenditure on national road projects for each year of the current national development plan for each separate county within the Border midland western region. [19178/06]

The information sought is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy shortly.

Great Southern Hotels Group.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

354 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the proposed sale of the Great Southern Hotel Group; if a valuation has been done on each hotel; if a reserve price will be placed on the hotels; the total revenue likely to be raised from the sale of the hotels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19321/06]

I have been informed by the Dublin Airport Authority that the hotels of the Great Southern Hotel (GSH) Group were advertised for sale by public tender on 17 May last and that the closing date for receipt of tenders is 23 June 2006. Professional advisors have been retained by the board of GSH to advise on the sale. The Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment on any of the commercial aspects of the proposed transaction at this time.

Proposed Legislation.

Barry Andrews

Question:

355 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Transport if he will introduce legislation or regulations to control vehicle modification and his views on whether such changes impact on the validity of an NCT certificate. [19322/06]

Essentially, the NCT is a check on a vehicle to determine whether it complies with vehicle in-service standards specified in the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 1963 as amended. While the road traffic code does not contain a specific prohibition on the modification of vehicles, article 34 of the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 1963 requires that a vehicle, all of its parts and equipment, be maintained in good and efficient working order and to be so maintained that no danger is liable to be caused by it.

Regulating for the control of modifications to the glazing and exhaust systems of motor vehicles give rise to certain complex issues. Before considering legislative changes in relation to these matters, I would first wish to have them examined by the proposed Road Safety Authority on its establishment. In the meantime, one of the recommendations contained in the PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the mid-term review of the NCTS is the establishment of a Technical Standards Forum to consider and make recommendations in relation to vehicle technical matters associated with the NCT. It is my intention to implement that recommendation and, in that context, the matters of excessively "blacked-out" windows and modified exhausts would be referred to the Technical Standards Forum for consideration. The outcome of the work of the proposed Technical Standards Forum on these matters will assist the RSA in advising me in due course on future policy in relation to these matters.

Official Hospitality.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

356 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide a full listing of the contents of his Department’s wine cellar giving the vintages, quantity of bottles, dates acquired, prices paid and supplier; and if he will make a statement on the Department’s policy in this regard. [19360/06]

There are no stocks of wines held in my Department.

Proposed Legislation.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

357 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the date on which he received the report on the Dublin Transport Authority; if legislation will be required to establish this authority; when such will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19518/06]

I received the report of the Dublin Transportation Authority Establishment Team on the 28th March 2006. A draft Memorandum for Government is currently the subject of consultations with other Ministers and will be submitted to Government in the near future. A General Scheme of a Bill has been prepared to provide for the establishment of the new transport authority in line with the recommendations of the Team. The General Scheme will be submitted to Government at the same time as the report of the Team. I will be seeking the approval of Government for the priority drafting of the legislation and expect the Bill to be published and enacted during 2006.

Air Safety.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

358 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if, in respect of Parliamentary Question No. 88 of 3 May 2006 and the unsatisfactory response of the British authorities to the safety of passengers in the two recent bomb hoax incidents, he has raised the issue of the need for an agreed common EU approach in line with accepted international best practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19519/06]

The International Civil Aviation Organisation which is concerned with the safe and orderly development of worldwide civil aviation has already adopted standards and recommended practices for the handling of bomb threats to aircraft in flight. Emergency planning responses to particular threats to aircraft are matters for the relevant competent authorities of the State concerned where the incident takes place. I have, as indicated, in my reply to Parliamentary Question 88 of 3 May 2006 written to the UK Secretary of State for Transport about both incidents. I have been advised that the UK Authorities are reviewing the nature of the overall response to such incidents following the recent hoax bomb threats made against the two Irish aircraft which were diverted into Prestwick Airport. I have no plans to raise the question of the adoption of a common EU position for the handling of bomb hoax threats against aircraft with the European Commission.

Driving Tests.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

359 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No. 226 of 17 May 2006, the maximum number of driver tests that can be processed through the system in one calendar year. [19624/06]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

360 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 226 and 227 of 17 May 2006, the timetable for the proposed upgrade of the driving test application software with a breakdown for when the analysis of needs will take place; when the design of the system will take place; when the review of the design will take place; when the implementation of that design will take place; and when the roll-out to his Department will take place. [19625/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 359 and 360 together.

The maximum required annual test scheduling capacity for the current 115 whole time equivalent driver testers is approximately 200,000 car tests. As outlined in Parliamentary Question Nos. 226 and 227 of 17 May 2006 the driver testing IT system is capable of meeting the immediate requirements of the driving testing service. The Department has awarded a contract for and will shortly take delivery of an IT infrastructure to underpin the business needs of the Road Safety Authority, which will have responsibility for the driver testing service. Over the next 18 to 24 months, the driver testing IT system will be further developed to deliver additional efficiencies and enable direct public access.

Public Transport.

Richard Bruton

Question:

361 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport when it is intended that routes in the Dublin Bus network will be put to out tender; and when this approach was first adopted as a target for Government policy. [19630/06]

The Programme for Government contains commitments to replace the Road Transport Act 1932 with modernised legislation to allow, inter alia, for new services in the bus market, and to introduce new services both to some new housing developments and to existing poorly served communities. In addition, I have given a public commitment to modernising the regulatory framework governing public transport, not just in Dublin, but nationally.

In particular, at the launch of Transport 21, I said that I was convinced that we need a new approach to transport in the Greater Dublin Area, delivered through a single authority with the power to ensure joined-up thinking and delivery across all transport modes. In advancing the regulatory agenda, discussions have taken place with the key stakeholders. These discussions form part of a process of engagement that will facilitate and inform the determination of the appropriate structure for the new framework and supporting legislation. This process is also being informed by the work of the team of experts which was appointed to finalise the remit, structures and human resource requirements of the proposed Dublin Transport Authority. I have now received the report of the team. A draft Memorandum for Government is currently the subject of consultations with other Minister's and will be submitted to Government in the near future. I will finalise my consideration of how best to proceed with public transport reform in the context of the institutional structures recommended by the team. I would hope to be in a position to publish legislation on the matter in the current year.

School Bus Fleet.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

362 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the nature of the independent review of the maintenance and testing of the school bus fleet to be undertaken on behalf of Bus Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19755/06]

An independent review is currently being carried out within Bus Éireann of the arrangements and systems in place for the management, operation and maintenance of the fleet, both owned and contracted by Bus Éireann, to ensure ongoing safety and roadworthiness. I have requested that the review be completed as soon as possible and that a copy of the report be forwarded to me as soon as it is available. Separately, I have requested the Chief Executive designate of the proposed Road Safety Authority to undertake a fundamental review of the arrangements for the compulsory periodic roadworthiness testing of goods vehicles and buses. As part of that review, the matter of Bus Éireann undertaking such roadworthiness tests on their own vehicles will be examined.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Marian Harkin

Question:

363 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if moneys are earmarked from the dormant accounts fund for projects for services dealing with violence within the family; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19068/06]

Following Government approval, I announced details on 4 January 2006 concerning the allocation of €24 million from the Dormant Accounts Fund in 2006 for the purpose of supporting programmes and types of projects tackling economic and social disadvantage. Details of the funding measures announced are available on the website of my Department at www.pobail.ie. The roll-out of these measures has commenced and applications are being invited for the specific programmes on a phased basis as the operational arrangements are finalised. With regard to funding for services dealing with domestic violence, no specific measure for this purpose is included in the proposals approved by Government under the economic and social disadvantage category. I should point out, however, that approximately €415,000 was allocated under the initial round of funding administered by the former Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board for projects dealing with domestic violence. Details of these approved projects are attached at Appendix 1 for your information.

Projects Dealing with Domestic Violence Approved by Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board

Name of Group

Amount Awarded

Description of Proposal

Longford Women’s Link, Ardnacassa Avenue, Longford

84,272.00

For the employment of a Domestic Violence Outreach Worker.

The National Network of Women’s Refuges and Support Services, Athlone, County Westmeath

45,000.00

Developing programmes of work in the area of women’s domestic violence support services in Ireland.

ADAPT (Limerick), Limerick City

285,000.00

Fitting out newly constructed apartments and outreach facilities to assist women who are homeless and/or disadvantaged due to domestic abuse.

Community Development.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

364 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his proposals to provide an administrator for a project (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19121/06]

The position is that the Community Development Programme generally provides core funding to projects covering the cost of two full-time staff equivalents, which is the situation pertaining to the project in question. The project is aware that my Department is prepared to consider alternative staffing configurations providing the staffing maximum is not exceeded.

Tom Hayes

Question:

365 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if a group (details supplied) in County Tipperary will be reconsidered for grant assistance under the one off voluntary and community grants scheme. [19122/06]

An application from the group in question was received by my Department under the 2005 Programme of Grants for Locally-Based Community and Voluntary Organisations. The application was assessed and deemed ineligible, as the group is not a qualifying group as set out in the conditions of the scheme. A request for a review of this application was received by my Department in January last. Following a comprehensive review, involving a complete reassessment of the organisation's application, the original decision was upheld.

Enda Kenny

Question:

366 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will make necessary funding of €190,000 available in respect of proposals to have an amalgamation of the Leader and partnership companies within County Mayo; if, in view of his request that there be two Leader and partnership companies in the County of Mayo, he has given consideration to this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19171/06]

Enda Kenny

Question:

367 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will indicate the proposals in respect of the future responsibilities of Meitheal Maigh Eo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19172/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 366 and 367 together.

I refer the Deputy to earlier replies in relation to the cohesion process and in particular to my reply to Question Nos. 393, 398 and 399 of 7 March 2006 and my reply to Question 107 of 16 May 2006. Proposals agreed by local development agencies and approved by the Mayo County Development Board relating to the optimum structures for delivery of local, community and rural development programmes in Mayo were submitted to my Department at the end of April. These proposals are being examined by the Department. I will make a decision on the matter when the appraisal process has been completed.

Irish Language.

Enda Kenny

Question:

368 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his proposals in respect of the existing Gaeltacht boundaries in each county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19173/06]

The Deputy may be aware that an important linguistic study, which commenced in April 2004, is being conducted on behalf of my Department by Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, University of Ireland, Galway, in conjunction with the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis, University of Ireland, Maynooth. The study is examining Irish language usage in the Gaeltacht as a basis for strengthening the linguistic development of the Gaeltacht as an Irish-speaking area;and for a review of the official Gaeltacht boundaries.

This examination is now nearing completion. All of the findings and proposals emerging from the study will receive careful and considered examination on its presentation to my Department. Any proposals which may emerge on foot of that examination, in particular regarding the redefinition of the Gaeltacht boundaries, will be put before Government in due course.

Official Hospitality.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

369 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will provide a full listing of the contents of his Department’s wine cellar giving the vintages, quantity of bottles, dates acquired, prices paid and supplier; and if he make a statement on the Department’s policy in this regard. [19357/06]

Community Development.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

370 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the failure to make a decision on the future of partnership companies in areas of particular disadvantage, as they are scheduled to come to an end on 31 December 2006, is causing problems in relation to future planning for the companies and for their work and for the retention of workers who see their jobs as being insecure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19588/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

371 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is serious concern in partnerships (details supplied) regarding the failure to make a decision on the future of partnership companies which will cease on 31 December 2006. [19589/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

372 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when he will make a decision on the future of partnership companies in areas of particular disadvantage, as they will be coming to an end on 31 December 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19590/06]

I propose to take Question Nos. 370 to 372, inclusive, together.

I refer the Deputies to my replies to previous questions, in particular my response to Priority Question No. 65 taken on 16 May last, regarding the integration of Leader and Area Partnership Companies to provide local and community development programmes, including rural development on a countrywide basis. Partnership companies are well aware that I see a continuing and expanded role for the types of services that they are delivering beyond 2006. In relation to the 3 partnerships referred to by the Deputy, there have been fruitful discussions regarding the post 2006 situation. The Partnerships have been kept informed of developments. If the Partnerships have any particular concerns, they should contact my Department directly in relation to them.

Grant Payments.

John McGuinness

Question:

373 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the single farm payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny for 2005; and if she will expedite the matter. [19132/06]

The person named submitted an application for an allocation of entitlements from the Single Payment Scheme National Reserve under Category A which caters for farmers who inherited land or received land free of charge or for a nominal sum from a farmer who had retired or died by 16 May 2005 and who had leased out his/her holding to a third party during the reference period 2000-2002. A formal letter outlining my Department's decision in relation to the National Reserve issued to the person named who subsequently requested a review of this decision.

Following a full re-examination of the case, including additional documentary evidence, the case was deemed unsuccessful under Category A of the National Reserve as the land was not leased out to a third party during the reference years. A further letter setting out my Department's decision, has issued to the person named and if he is dissatisfied with this decision he now has the opportunity to appeal the decision to the 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. The person named successfully submitted an application in respect of the Inheritance measure of the Single Payment Scheme. As the person named has Special Condition entitlements for conversion and transfer, €750.23 will issue later this week, and the remaining €1,359.80 will issue shortly.

Rural Development Programmes.

Marian Harkin

Question:

374 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the Government policy on the possible increase in compulsory modulation above 6% in 2007 and beyond; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19155/06]

The current annual rate of compulsory modulation is 4% and this will rise to 5% from 2007. These deductions from the direct farm payments will be used for rural development purposes and member states will take them into account in drawing up their 2007-2013 rural development programmes. At the European Council in December 2005, it was agreed that member states could, on a voluntary basis, increase the rate of modulation. The modalities are to be discussed at the Council of Agriculture Ministers, probably in June. There was no agreement to increase the compulsory rate of modulation. I would not favour any such proposal.

Grant Payments.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

375 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if payment of the single payment under inheritance will be processed for a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; when payment will be awarded; and the amount which will be awarded. [19251/06]

The person named submitted an application requesting consideration in respect of the Inheritance measure of the Single Payment Scheme. The applicant was notified on 27 May 2005 that his application was successful. The person named also submitted applications under the Private Contract Clause and Consolidation measures of the Single Payment Scheme. However, following processing, it is clear that his particular circumstances can be adequately addressed under the Inheritance measure, and arrangements are under way for payment to issue at the earliest possible date.

Farm Waste Management.

Pat Breen

Question:

376 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if approval for the revised costings structure sought in the standard costs for the farm waste management and other related schemes has been received from the Department of Finance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19259/06]

The standard costings used to calculate grants payable under the Farm Waste Management Scheme are currently under review within my Department. Pending the outcome of that review, my Department's current Standard Costings are being used. The Department of Finance is participating in the review process. The revised Costings will be introduced as soon as possible.

Planning Issues.

Liam Twomey

Question:

377 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the consultation which took place regarding the agreement to grant a right of way to a company (details supplied) through Coillte woodlands at Ballythomas Hill, Gorey, County Wexford pending planning permission to extract stone from a quarry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19304/06]

Liam Twomey

Question:

378 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the person responsible for agreeing a right of way through Coillte Woodlands at Ballythomas Hill, Gorey, County Wexford to a private developer, to develop a 17.5 hectare stone quarry pending planning permission from Wexford County Council; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19305/06]

Liam Twomey

Question:

379 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food in regard to the development at a Coillte woodland at Ballythomas Hill, Gorey, County Wexford the Minister responsible when this decision was made; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that under the Wexford Development Plan 2001 this site and its environs is a designated sensitive area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19306/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 377 to 379, inclusive, together.

Coillte Teoranta was established as a private commercial company under the Forestry Act 1988 and day to day operational matters are the responsibility of the company. The granting of a right of way is a matter of an operational nature for Coillte.

The question of whether or not the development of this quarry should proceed is a matter for the competent planning authorities who will doubtless take into account any relevant environmental considerations. From enquiries with Coillte, I have confirmed that the proposed quarry is not on lands owned by the company and that they have indicated that, if the development is approved, they will not refuse access to the site across the lands which they do own in the area. I understand that it was Coillte's District Manager who indicated, on behalf of the company, that it had no objection in principle to providing access. The question of granting a right of way, along with the associated public consultation, will only arise if the proposed development itself is approved by the planning authorities. The letter indicating that the Company had no objection in principle to a right of way over its lands was issued in December 2003.

Official Hospitality.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

380 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will provide a full listing of the contents of her Department’s wine cellar giving the vintages, quantity of bottles, dates acquired, prices paid and supplier; and if she will make a statement on the Department’s policy in this regard. [19347/06]

My Department does not have a wine cellar nor does it stock wines.

Food Safety Standards.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

381 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she intends to take to protect the beef sector and the consumer here following the confirmed outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Brazil; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19456/06]

As a member of the EU and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ireland is in a position to avail of opportunities for trade that are essential for the development of our open economy. Membership of these organizations also brings reciprocal trade obligations. All such imports must come from third countries or areas of third countries that have been approved by the EU authorities for export to the EU. In the current WTO discussions in the Council, I have always pressed very strongly the non-trade aspect of market access, which I regard as a crucial element in the overall negotiations. I addressed this issue at yesterday's discussions on WTO at Agriculture Council to remind the Commission once again of the importance of equivalence in standards, particularly in relation to all exporting countries, including Brazil.

I fully support the policy that animal products imported into the EU from Third Countries meet standards at least equivalent to those required for production in, and trade between, EU Member States. In this context I contacted the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Mr. Markos Kyprianou, concerning the sanitary rules applying to the import of livestock products, especially beef, into the European Union. I took the opportunity of once again raising my concerns in this regard with Commissioner Kyprianou in the margins of yesterdays Council meeting in Brussels. The Commissioner pointed out that, with respect to traceability and controls of residues of veterinary medicines, the purpose of EU legislation is not to impose on exporting third countries a system of guarantees that is equal to the EU system, but that the exporting country provides guarantees that are equivalent to the standards applied in the EU.

The Commissioner indicated his service is committed to protect the health of European Consumers and European Livestock. Adoption of safeguard measures in relation to imports, for example in the matter of dealing with the risk to the EU of the spread of high pathogenic avian influenza, in the finding of residues of unauthorised substances in poultry meat and in the quick and proportionate protective measures applied to imports of beef as a result of the recent outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) demonstrate the Commission's primary objective of maintaining the high sanitary status of the Community and respecting the EU's commitment under the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS agreement).

The Commissioner has assured me that the Commission will not hesitate to take the appropriate protection measures if a product, imported from a third country or produced in the domestic market represents a risk for the health of EC consumers, livestock or plants. An EU Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) inspection to evaluate animal health and public health control systems, traceability and certification procedures in place in Brazil was carried out in September of last year. The FVO recently published its findings following a period of consultation with the Brazilian competent authorities and the review of action plans that have been submitted by the Brazilian Authorities to the Commission. This report, as well as all previous FVO reports on inspection of third countries' controls for export, may be accessed from the EU Commission's website.

While the report comments on a general improvement in the structure, organisation and tasks of the Brazilian Competent Authorities it has listed a number of recommendations to the authorities to address deficiencies that were recorded in the course of its audit. The Brazilian Authorities have undertaken to submit an Action Plan in response to these recommendations and my Department will continue to monitor the position. My Department is seeking assurances from the Commission that the FVO will undertake further missions to Brazil to evaluate the implementation of its action plan. At a recent meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health where the matter was again raised by Ireland, the Commission indicated to Ireland that a FVO mission is being planned to take place some time before the end of the summer.

In the meantime additional health certification requirements have been introduced for imported beef from Brazil under Commission Decision 2006/259/EC requiring guarantees concerning animal contacts, vaccination programmes and surveillance. These certification provisions took effect from 31 March 2006 and are checked by EU approved Border Inspection Posts through which all third country imports must first be presented.

Question No. 382 withdrawn.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

383 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will review the compensation offer made to hill sheep farmers in REPS in order to destock their flocks by a further40%; if they should not be treated in a similar manner to those outside the REPS scheme; the discussions her Department has had with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19687/06]

All hill sheep farmers in REPS are paid in accordance with their REPS contracts. The REP scheme Terms and Conditions provide that REPS farmers must comply fully with Commonage Framework Plan requirements and consequently no further REPS payments are due for destocking.

The question of additional benefits for actions over and above the requirements of the Commonage Framework Plans is a matter for the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. I am aware that because of a European Court of Justice judgment, that Department is introducing additional management requirements in the Owenduff/Nephin Beg complex and that my officials have given advice on an appropriate level of payment to REPS farmers to compensate them for the actions now required of them that are not covered by the REPS payment.

Sugar Beet Sector.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

384 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a decision will be made on the payment of the EU restructuring fund — sugar reform; the negotiations she intends to carry out prior to making a decision; the timescale involved; and if she will make a decision on the matter. [19690/06]

The restructuring aid is subject to the submission by the processor of a detailed restructuring plan for the industry, following consultations with the beet growers. The reform agreement provides that at least 10% of the restructuring aid shall be reserved for sugar beet growers and machinery contractors. That percentage may be increased by Member States after consultation of interested parties provided that an economically sound balance between the elements of the restructuring plan is ensured. In that context, my Department has recently issued an open call for submissions which will be subject to scrutiny by Indecon International Economic Consultants who have been appointed by the Government to provide me with independent expert advice on matters relating to the implementation of the restructuring fund. A final decision on the percentage will be made in due course having regard to this advice and following the adoption in the near future of the Commission Regulation laying down detailed rules for the implementation of the restructuring aid. It is my intention that the restructuring aid will be implemented in a fair and equitable manner and strictly in accordance with the relevant EU regulations.

The timescale for implementing the restructuring aid is very tight where restructuring takes place in the first year of the new regime especially having regard to the delay in finalisation of the Commission regulations. The Council Regulation requires that the application for restructuring aid must be made by 31 July 2006. A decision on the granting of the aid must then be made by the Member State at the latest by 30 September 2006. The Council Regulation also provides that where aid is awarded in respect of restructuring in the first year, payment will be made in two instalments, the first instalment of 40% in June 2007 and the second instalment of 60% in February 2008. Depending on the financial resources available the EU Commission may decide to split the second instalment into two payments.

Grant Payments.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

385 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when an allocation under the national reserve will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [19763/06]

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 Payment Appeals Committee. An appeals application form is available from any of my Department's offices or on the Department website atwww.agriculture.gov.ie.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

386 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding an application under the farm pollution grant scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Cork; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this person has to comply with a deadline of September 2006 imposed on them by Cork County Council. [19764/06]

The application by the person concerned for grant-aid under the Farm Waste Management Scheme is currently being processed within my Department. A pre-approval visit was carried out by an officer of my Department on 17 May 2006 and written approval to proceed with the works should issue to the applicant shortly.

It is a fundamental requirement of the Scheme that aid will not be granted where work is commenced before written approval has been conveyed by the Department.

John Deasy

Question:

387 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason for the delay in payment of the single farm payment for a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and when same will issue. [19766/06]

The person named submitted an application for an allocation of entitlements from the Single Payment Scheme National Reserve under Categories B & D.

Category B caters for farmers who, between 1 January 2000 and 19 October 2003, made an investment in production capacity in a farming sector for which a direct payment under Livestock Premia and/or Arable Aid schemes would have been payable during the reference period 2000-2002. Investments can include purchase or long-term lease of land, purchase of suckler and/or ewe quota or other investments.

Category D caters for farmers who commenced farming after 31 December 2002 or who commenced farming in 2002 but who received no direct payments in respect of that scheme year.

The person named has been accepted under categories B1 and B2 and a payment will issue in the near future. Allocations under the National Reserve are being made on an ongoing basis as cases are cleared for payment.

Proposed Legislation.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

388 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the court upheld the constitutionality of law permitting the purchase of ground rents from landlords; if the Ground Rents Bill will be restored to the programme; and when same will happen. [19595/06]

As regards any future measures regarding ground rents, the position is that a High Court challenge to the constitutionality of certain provisions of existing ground rents legislation was heard during 2005 and the Court's judgment was given earlier this year. I understand however that the period within which an appeal against that ruling can be taken has not expired and it would not be appropriate therefore to proceed with any proposals for legislative changes at this time.

Garda Stations.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

389 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the Garda stations that have been closed in County Donegal from 2000 to date in 2006 and the year each was closed; the Garda stations in County Donegal that are deemed part-time and the hours they are open; and the full-time Garda stations in County Donegal. [19056/06]

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 by the Garda authorities that there were no Garda stations permanently closed in the Donegal Division from 2000 to date in 2006. Garda management states that in 2002, Carrick Garda Station was temporarily closed for refurbishment for a short period. In 2005, and early 2006, Glencolmcille Garda Station was temporarily closed for refurbishment and it is now open to the public again.

Garda management also informs me that the opening hours of each Garda Station in the Donegal Division are as set out in the following table.

District

Station

Times

Letterkenny

Letterkenny

24hr

Ballybofey

24hr

Brocagh

10am to 1pm

Newtowncunningham

10am to 1pm

Castlefin

10am to 1pm

Convoy

10am to 1pm

Raphoe

10am to 1pm

Carrigans

10am to 1pm

Lifford

10am to 1pm

Ballyshannon

Ballyshannon

24hr

Donegal Town

24hr

Pettigo

10am to 1pm

Mountcharles

10am to 1pm

Dunkineely

10am to 1pm

Ballintra

10am to 1pm

Killybegs

10am to 1pm

Bundoran

10am to 1pm

Milford

Milford

24hr

Ramelton

10am to 1pm

Rathmullan

11am to 1pm

Kerrykeel

10am to 1pm

Carrigart

10am to 1pm

Kilmacrennan

10am to 1pm

Churchill

11am to 1pm

Dunfanaghy

10am to 1pm

Creeslough

11am to 1pm

Falcarragh

10am to 1pm

Glenties

Glenties

24hr

Annagry

10am to 1pm

Bunbeag

10am to 1pm

Clogher

10am to 1pm

Ardara

10am to 1pm

Burtonport

10am to 1pm

Carrick

10am to 1pm

Glencolmcille

10am to 1pm

Doochary

12pm to 2pm

Dungloe

10am to 1pm

Buncrana

Buncrana

24hr

Burnfoot

10am to 1pm

Muff

10am to 1pm

Clonmany

10am to 1pm

Culdaff

10am to 1pm

Moville

10am to 1pm

Malin

10am to 1pm

Carndonagh

10am to 1pm

Residency Permits.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

390 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in regard to the application by persons (details supplied) in County Wexford to remain here as the parents of an Irish born child, if his attention has been drawn to the fact that passports and certificates submitted with this application have not been returned; if he will ensure that these documents are returned to the applicants without further delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19057/06]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that all valid documentation relating to the couple concerned has been returned to them.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

391 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in regard to the application by a person (details supplied) in Wexford to remain here as the parent of an Irish born child, if his attention has been drawn to the fact that two original birth certificates submitted to his Department with this application have not yet been returned to the applicant; if he will ensure that these documents are returned to the person concerned without further delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19058/06]

There is no evidence that original birth certificates in respect of the persons in question were submitted with the application for permission to remain made under the revised arrangements for non-national parents of Irish children born before 1 January 2005. Original birth certificates for her spouse and another child were submitted and it is recorded that these documents were returned on 16 August 2005.

Civil Partnerships.