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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 30 May 2006

Vol. 620 No. 4

Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 22, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 23 to 65, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 66 to 71, inclusive, answered orally.

Communications Masts.

Tom Hayes

Question:

72 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has satisfied himself regarding the adequate and safety standards and requirements in relation to mobile phone masts or other masts with particular reference to non-ionising radiation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20748/06]

Ireland participates in the relevant bodies that monitor and set guidelines for limiting exposure to electromagnetic energy from such installations. These bodies continuously review the relevant research, and periodically meet to decide whether or not the guidelines continue to be appropriate in the light of the most up-to-date reports. The international limits on exposures for non-ionising radiation, developed by the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), have been adopted in Ireland on the basis of EU Council Recommendation 1999/519/EU on the limitation of exposure of the general public to electromagnetic emissions.

Broadcasting Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

73 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will report on the EU Education, Youth and Culture Council on 18 and 19 May 2006 wherein a revision of the TV Without Frontiers Directive was discussed; his views on whether there may be a problem of relocation due to the country of origin principle; if he has assented to the suggestion by Belgium to hold an informal Council in June 2006 to advance the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20625/06]

The EU Commission published its proposal for a Directive amending the Television Without Frontiers Directive in December 2005. This revision had been brought about by the need to put in place a new regulatory framework for audiovisual services which will take account of advances in technology and market developments over the past decade. The recent Education, Youth and Culture Council, held on the 18th May 2006, was the first opportunity for Member States to discuss this proposal at Ministerial level.

Jurisdiction over Broadcasters along with the application of national rules were amongst the issues raised by Ireland in the Council discussion. Ireland, together with a number of other Member States is concerned about the number of broadcasting services that are regulated in one Member State but are primarily intended for reception in another Member State. Ireland expressed the view that the set of rules that should apply to any broadcasting service should be the broadcasting standards of the Member State that is primarily targeted by that service.

I am aware that Belgium is considering holding a seminar on the jurisdiction issue. Ireland has already indicated to the Belgian Authorities that it would be interested in attending such a seminar should Belgium decide to arrange one. Ireland will continue to work with other Member States and the Commission with a view to progressing consideration of the proposed revised Directive. The approach agreed in relation to jurisdiction will impact on Ireland's position on other elements of the proposal.

Offshore Exploration.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

74 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which all outstanding matters in relation to difficulties surrounding the delivery of supply from the Corrib gas field have been addressed and resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20726/06]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

128 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he expects the Corrib gas pipeline mediation process led by Mr. Peter Cassells will be concluded; his views on recent comments by Shell on their earlier actions in this dispute; when he will implement the recommendations of the TAG report that he has fully accepted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20624/06]

Gay Mitchell

Question:

141 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the progress to date in regard to the delivery of supply from the Corrib gas field; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20727/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 74, 128 and 141 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, as a result of local concerns over the safety of the pipeline Corrib gas pipeline, I commissioned a comprehensive independent safety review last August. Following a long and detailed review process, including two separate phases of public consultation, Advantica, the international consultants contracted to do the work, provided me with their report earlier this year. This review found that proper consideration was given to safety issues in the selection process for the design option and route. Moreover, the review found that if a number of additional provisions were made, there will be a substantial safety margin in the design.

The most important of these provisions was that an additional pressure limitation mechanism, to ensure that the pressure in the pipeline can never go above 144bar, be incorporated into the design. Other recommendations included the drawing up of an integrity management plan and the use of PD8010 as the design code for the project.

The Review was published earlier this month, along with a report to me on the Advantica report by my Technical Advisory Group or 'TAG'. This Group accepted the recommendations of the Advantica Report and made a number of recommendations of their own. In turn, I have accepted these recommendations, and any future consents to conduct further work on the project will be dependent upon the developer meeting the requirements set out in these reports.

I also appointed Mr. Peter Cassells, to act as mediator between the various parties. Specific terms of engagement were agreed between the parties for the mediation process and it is ongoing. The developer, Shell, has already accepted the recommendations made by both Advantica and TAG and has committed itself to cooperating fully with the mediation process. I understand that Shell have also apologised for their role in the jailing of the individuals from the Rossport area, a development I wholeheartedly welcome.

Given the sensitivities involved, I am not willing to comment on the progress of the mediation, however, I remain hopeful that a successful conclusion will be reached without undue delay. I understand that once an outcome has been reached through the mediation process and the additional requirements made of Shell are met, a significant construction period will be required before gas can be brought ashore.

Apart from the huge benefits this will bring to the State as a whole, there will also be significant benefits locally. An Bord Gáis has recently had its new connection policy approved by the energy regulator. This policy will frame a feasibility study of connections to towns in Co. Mayo with a view to providing services as soon as the Corrib field is on stream.

Energy Conservation.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

75 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to encourage energy conservation; if he has in mind the identification of specific targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20704/06]

Simon Coveney

Question:

113 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he intends to introduce new measures on energy conservation, directly or in conjunction with the relevant Ministerial colleagues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20705/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

342 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to encourage energy conservation; if he had in mind the identification of specific targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20829/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

343 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he intends to introduce new measures on energy conservation, directly or in conjunction with the relevant Ministerial colleagues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20830/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 75, 113, 342 and 343 together.

The Government is giving high priority to energy efficiency as a key national imperative right across industry, SMEs, agriculture, transport, the construction sector and the public sector as well as individual energy consumers. Energy efficiency and demand management strategies have a critical contribution to make to sustainable energy objectives. Reducing the high percentage of wasted energy is a crucial part of the global EU and Irish energy challenge. I fully endorse the EU Commission's priority focus on energy efficiency as articulated in the Green Paper and as reflected in existing and new Directives. There is a clear potential to save 20% of energy consumption across the EU by 2020.

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive comes into effect next year. It sets minimum energy performance requirements for new buildings and major renovations and the introduction of energy performance ratings for buildings. Renewable energy options must be considered for new large scale public or private buildings. I am keen in that context to ensure that the Government's decentralisation building programme is an exemplar in terms of energy efficiency and renewable energy usage and we are continuing to liaise with OPW in support of this objective.

The EU Directive on energy end-use efficiency and energy services, sets indicative targets for Member States to improve energy efficiency by 1% each year over 9 years, from 2008. I intend to set the bar high in terms of national energy efficiency goals. A number of initiatives are being developed to underpin delivery of ambitious efficiency targets. I will be launching a national energy efficiency campaign later this year. The multi annual campaign will target individual energy consumers, businesses, the public sector and transport. The campaign will aim to change behaviour and achieve demonstrable reductions through awareness of the costs and environmental impacts of inefficient energy use.

Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI), has just launched a new energy agreements programme, targeted at some of the country's biggest industrial energy users. This new programme will build on progress to date through the Large Industry Energy Network by requiring and supporting firms to work towards certification to the new Irish Standard on Energy Management.

Postal Services.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

76 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has satisfied himself that sufficient services of a nature complimentary to those already available to and through An Post are being developed; his plans to encourage or incentivise such development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20724/06]

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

Broadcasting Services.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

77 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources further to recent comments by the European Commissioner for Media, Ms Viviane Reding, that the regulation of transnational satellite broadcasters should be addressed by Member States acting on a bilateral amicable basis and her further comments that the codification of the European Court of Justice case law in this area would allow Member States to take measures against an audiovisual media service provider established in another Member State that directs for fraudulent purposes all or most of its activity to this Member State, the measures he intends to take to insure that satellite broadcasters who are inserting local advertising into their main programme schedule can be subject to regulations set by the State on such advertising. [20774/06]

I am aware of the useful comments made by the Commissioner and her recognition of the concerns of a substantial number of Member States on this issue. While I appreciate there is scope for some resolution of the issue through the recommendations of the Commissioner, my objective is to ensure that the Regulatory Framework at EU level provides a formal basis for national measures to have meaningful reach.

The key issue concerns jurisdiction over broadcasters along with the application of national rules. Throughout the Commission's consultation over the past two years and at a recent Council meeting, Ireland, along with a number of other Member States, has consistently argued for a fundamental shift in the approach to determining which Member State's national rules should apply to any given broadcasting service. We have argued that, in the case of a television channel that primarily targets Ireland, it is Ireland's national measures that should apply to that channel. Each broadcasting service should only be subject to one set of national rules but in my view it makes sense that the one set of rules that should apply to any broadcasting service, should be the broadcasting standards of the Member State that is primarily targeted by that service.

Ireland will continue to work with other Member States and the Commission, with a view to progressing consideration of the proposed revised Directive. The approach agreed in relation to jurisdiction will impact on Ireland's position on other elements of the proposal.

Alternative Energy Projects.

John Gormley

Question:

78 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his Department has carried out an analysis on the possible conversion of the former Mallow sugar factory to bio-ethanol production; and the Government support which would be available for fuels that could be derived from such a facility. [20775/06]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

80 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his Department has undertaken a feasibility study on the possibility of converting the recently closed sugar plants in Carlow and Mallow for biofuel production; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20635/06]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

92 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he intends to create further incentives to encourage all aspects of the alternative fuel industry with particular reference to the need to reduce this country’s dependence on imported fuels such as oil, gas and coal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20732/06]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

107 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the possible mandatory biofuel targets for EU Member States and on his Department’s research plans for a possible bio-refinery for Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20649/06]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

133 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his intentions for the development of all aspects of the bio-fuel industry with particular reference to the need to ensure the ready availability of all forms of renewable energy in line with best practice throughout Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20729/06]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

135 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the imposition of biofuel support measures which require the sourcing of the raw materials for such fuels within the European Union would be in possible breach of World Trade Organisation regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18475/06]

Michael Ring

Question:

142 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has in mind proposals to develop the alternative energy sector with a view to a reduction in fossil fuel importation and a higher degree of compliance with the Kyoto principles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20738/06]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

165 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he will bring forward his proposals to encourage the development of the biofuels sector; his views on whether the steep increase in the number of closures of petrol stations here and the decimation of the petrol station network will limit the availability of an accessible and affordable network of biofuels centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20617/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

323 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his intentions for the development of all aspects of the bio-fuel industry with particular reference to the need to ensure the ready availability of all forms of renewable energy in line with best practice throughout Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20807/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

327 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he intends to create further incentives to encourage all aspects of the alternative fuel industry with particular reference to the need to reduce this country’s dependence on imported fuels such as oil, gas and coal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20811/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

333 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has in mind proposals to develop the alternative energy sector with a view to a reduction in fossil fuel importation and a higher degree of compliance with the Kyoto principles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20818/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78, 80, 92, 107, 133, 135, 142, 165, 323, 327 and 333 together.

Building on the success of the 2005 Mineral Oil Tax relief scheme which allows for 16m litres per annum of biofuels on the market, and following extensive discussions with industry and relevant Government Departments and agencies, I agreed with the Minister for Finance a further targeted package of excise relief valued at €205m, which was announced in the Budget. The new excise relief programme will be rolled out from this year to 2010 and will enable us to reach the initial target of 2% market penetration by biofuels by 2008. When fully operational the relief is expected to support the use and production of some 163 million litres of biofuels each year. The scheme will achieve CO2 savings of 257,000 tonnes by 2010 and represents 52% of the annual CO2 reductions to be achieved through vehicle and fuel tax measures identified in the National Climate Change Strategy.

I expect to launch the Scheme in the coming weeks as soon as requisite State-Aid clearance has been processed. The Government is also be providing funding towards the capital cost of developing biofuels processing facilities, which will critically underpin the excise relief package.

One of the aims of the Biofuels mineral oil tax relief scheme is to mainstream the availability of biofuels within the existing fuel station supply network. Biofuels are not generally available through the network at present. I do not consider that current trends in the petrol station network, which is a commercial matter for the companies concerned, will adversely affect ambitions to progressively mainstream biofuels within the fuel supply system. In addition to the support programmes in place for current technologies, we will continue to support research and development in this area. The resulting biofuels and bio-products, while not yet at commercial stage, will have significant economic potential once fully developed.

My Department has not carried out a feasibility study on the possible conversion of the former sugar factories in Mallow or Carlow to biofuel production. The potential for using any existing facilities for the production of biofuels is ultimately a commercial decision for developers. The new biofuels excise relief programme, which is subject to State-aid approval, will provide a market framework in which potential developers can consider all options.

The sourcing of biofuels under the scheme is subject to the relevant World Trade Organisation rules. Within that context one of the aims of the new scheme is to stimulate the development of biomass/feedstock production in Ireland to support a sustainable domestic biofuels industry. There are considerable potential benefits to be accrued from a cohesive approach to bio energy and biofuels for both the demand and supply sides. The Government is committed to ensuring that all relevant Departments and Agencies deliver collectively to best effect.

The EU Commission will review the Biofuels Directive later this year and has launched a public consultation process. The consultation outlines a range of potential future policy options including mandatory targets. We are participating actively in the review of the Directive with a view to ensuring an outcome that reflects Ireland's specific objectives to accelerate development of biofuels as a strategic alternative. Biofuels policy is a critical component of overall energy policy objectives to significantly enhance the contribution of renewable energy sources to electricity, heat and transport.

Salmon Management.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

79 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the rivers here which have recording systems to accurately monitor the number of salmon returning to the river each year; and his plans and timetable for the expansion of such monitoring systems. [20773/06]

The objective of the National Fish Counter programme is to assess the status of populations of salmon in key index rivers and provide scientific input to salmon stock management for use by the fisheries boards, the Marine Institute, the National Salmon Commission and the Department. It is also intended to contribute towards fulfilment of Ireland's international commitments to the EU, ICES and NASCO, to establish conservation limits and other biological reference points for all Irish salmon stocks and to maintain Irish stocks above these conservation limits by means of appropriate management targets.

I am advised that fish counting systems have been installed on the following Irish salmon and sea trout rivers identified by district: Dee (Dundalk), Boyne (Drogheda), Liffey (Dublin), Slaney (Wexford), Suir (Waterford), Bandon (Cork), Lee (Cork), Kerry Blackwater (Kerry), Laune (Kerry), Waterville (Kerry), Feale (Kerry), Casla (Connemara), Gowla, Invermore, Erriff (Ballinakill), Moy (Ballina), Munhin (Bangor), Ballysadare (Sligo), Garravogue (Sligo), Eany (Ballyshannon), Eske (Ballyshannon) Finn, Culdaff and Dungloe (Donegal), Clady (Letterkenny), Erne (Donegal).

I am advised that the Marine Institute has installed the majority of these counters in conjunction with the regional fisheries boards, fishery owners, engineers from the Department and consultants/ contractors. In some instances counters have been installed by the fisheries boards, the ESB, or the Loughs Agency and there are also a number of fish counters on privately owned fisheries.

The overall management of the National Fish Counter Programme has, to date, been primarily the responsibility of the Marine Institute, which has operated directly or by sub-contracting where necessary in order to maintain the objectives of the programme. There has been considerable investment in the counter programme over the past number of years and I expect the regional fisheries boards and the Marine Institute to collaborate closely in managing the fish counter programme in the most effective and efficient way possible.

The Marine Institute and the Central and regional fisheries boards are currently reviewing the arrangements in respect of the operational, data management, quality assurance issues and any necessary expansion of the national fish counter programme. I expect this review to be completed shortly so that the national management programme will be enhanced, within available resources.

Question No. 80 answered with QuestionNo. 78.

Offshore Exploration.

Marian Harkin

Question:

81 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on whether Shell and its partners would be better advised to adopt an approach similar to that proposed by another company (details supplied) where there will be no production pipeline or inshore refinery and where the local community will benefit greatly compared to the poor return for County Mayo and its residents, which will result from the Corrib gas project as proposed presently by Shell and its partners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20490/06]

The matter of how a commercial field is developed is in the first instance a matter for determination by the developer so it is hypothetical for any company to suggest how they would develop a field before the field has been discovered, let alone before the circumstances of the field are known, or in this case before the company has an exploration licence. Each commercial discovery will be developed in the light of the particular circumstances of the field including inter alia distance from shore, depth of water, size of field, nature of hydrocarbons — oil /gas/condensate etc.

In the case of the Corrib Gas Field the selected development option as determined by the developers was for: A subsea installation over the gas field; An import pipeline to bring the gas to the landfall and to the terminal; and, Onshore gas terminal at Bellanaboy and this is what was covered by the statutory approval granted.

I believe that the Corrib Gas Field has the potential to play a significant role in the economic and social regeneration of Mayo and the northwest region and I have outlined the potential benefits to the House on numerous occasions.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

82 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the support contracts he has re-allocated from projects in the AER 5 and AER 6 schemes which have not been progressed in sufficient time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20771/06]

I can advise the Deputy that there was no reserve list in the AER 5 Scheme. Approximately 140MW of capacity has been reallocated with the agreement of developers from AER 5 and 6 to projects on the AER 6 reserve list. The current target is to increase the installed capacity of renewable energy powered electricity generating plant to 1450 megawatts or 13.2% by 2010.

On 1st May last I launched a new support mechanism (REFIT) to ensure this target is delivered. The opening date for receipt of applications is early June. The new support programme, REFIT, will underpin the construction of at least a further 400 megawatts of new renewable energy powered electricity generating plant.

Once the initial tranche of applications in REFIT is processed my Department will review progress on projects under AER 5 and 6. Any additional capacity withdrawn from AER 5 and 6 will be reallocated to REFIT which will help to ensure that we meet the overall target of 1450 MWs by 2010. We are well on track to deliver, and surpass the Government's present target for 2010, in line with the overall objective to significantly increase the contribution of renewable energy to Ireland's energy mix.

Energy Resources.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

83 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his policy in regard to the provision of adequate and sustainable energy in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20707/06]

I can advise the Deputy that I intend to publish an Energy Policy Green Paper shortly which will set out the framework for national energy policy and which will address the challenges of environmental sustainability, security of supply and competitiveness.

Irish energy policy is firmly set in the global and EU context. Global demand for energy is growing and sustained high oil and gas prices are probably here to stay. Security of supply concerns are not helped by supply disruption and instability. All economies must address the environmental challenges notably climate change. As a consequence there is a world wide focus on fuel diversity and renewable energy technologies as part of the answer to ensuring sustainable energy resources into the future.

The European Union has a growing dependency on energy imports and there is a renewed focus in Europe on energy issues in light of security of supply concerns, climate change and risks to competitiveness. We welcome the new impetus at EU level to develop a framework for a common energy strategy while noting that certain decisions including energy mix remain the prerogative of individual Member States.

Ireland has similar energy challenges to those facing EU and other economies. We also have specific structural characteristics including strong economic growth, small market size and peripherality. We have little in the way of domestic fossil fuel resources. We are however well placed to develop renewable energy as an important contributor to energy diversity. We must also ensure the timely planning and delivery of interconnection up to 2012 and beyond as crucial for security of supply. We are also working to deliver the Single All-Island Energy Market by 2007 which will contribute to security of supply.

Existing and proposed policy actions will be set out in the Energy Policy Green Paper which will give us the framework for national sustainable energy policy for the medium to longer term.

Employment Rights.

Jack Wall

Question:

84 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will ensure all workers currently involved in projects undertaken by semi-State companies which are the responsibility of his Department, are receiving pay and working conditions that fully comply with all aspects of employment law here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20638/06]

The issue to which the Deputy refers is a day-to-day operational matter for the Management of the semi-state companies and for contractors and subcontracts who are direct employers. I have no immediate function in this matter.

My Department has, however, requested the commercial state bodies under its aegis to confirm that they have procedures in place to ensure all contractors and sub contractors employed by them are compliant with labour law and are abiding by terms as may be covered by relevant industry agreements. I am also ensuring the non-commercial state bodies under the aegis of my Department are requested to confirm their compliance.

Broadcasting Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

85 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he proposes to outline his plans for the development of the broadcasting sector in the future with particular reference to the needs of national and local broadcasting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20755/06]

My core policy objectives for the development of the broadcasting sector are detailed in my Department's Statement of Strategy, 2005- 2007. These objectives are: to create an environment that encourages the maintenance of high quality Irish radio and television services by both independent broadcasters and RTÉ; to secure a viable future for high quality public service broadcasting; to seek to retain access to a range of high quality programming in analogue and digital form, on a universal and free-to-air basis.

My key priorities for achieving these objectives include the following: developing the regulatory framework by bringing forward a Bill to provide for the establishment of a single content regulator for both public and private broadcasters and restructuring RTÉ from a corporate point of view; ensuring adequate public funding for RTÉ and TG4 so that they can deliver on their statutory mandate; building on progress made in maximising the effectiveness of television licence fee collection; facilitating the successful establishment of a Digital Terrestrial Television platform on a pilot basis in 2006. I am of the opinion that Irish viewers will be best served by a broadcasting environment that includes a strong public service broadcasting presence together with private broadcasters.

Offshore Exploration.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

86 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his intentions in regard to ensuring ongoing oil and gas explorations, on and off shore with particular reference to the need for the continuation of exploration and the recognition of the interest of the taxpayer and consumer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20728/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

322 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his intentions in regard to ensuring ongoing oil and gas explorations, on and off-shore, with particular reference to the need for the continuation of exploration and the recognition of the interests of the taxpayer and consumer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20806/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86 and 322 together.

The shared objective of my predecessors over the last 30 years and myself has been to realise the full potential of oil and gas reserves onshore and offshore Ireland. The following factors have been obvious to every Government and most observers over the last 20 years: that the industry does not regard Ireland's record of prospectivity as attractive, with 4 commercial finds out of 121 exploration wells drilled; that offshore conditions are challenging, with deep waters, long distance of prospective acreage from shore, and lack of infrastructure. The effect of these conditions makes both exploration and development very expensive; that as a result of the prospectivity and conditions, exploration has been low in recent years.

In the light of these factors, licensing terms were introduced in 1987 and fiscal terms were added in 1992 to encourage and promote exploration. The detailed provision of the taxation legislation recognise the operational characteristics of the sector while the regime as a whole achieves a risk/reward balance which reflects Ireland's circumstances and acknowledges the realities of competition for internationally mobile exploration/production investment. That said I am, as I have recently said, about to conduct a review of the present fiscal terms.

This Government, as with previous Governments, has and will continue to promote exploration through licensing opportunities for the petroleum industry. In this way the work, the risks and the cost is undertaken by the private sector at no expense to the taxpayer. Last year there was a licensing round over the North East Rockall area for which two licences were issued. This year a licensing round was held for licences in the Slyne/Erris/Donegal area. The closing date for applications was 15th March and I expect to receive the assessments and recommendations shortly.

While the potential for significant hydrocarbon finds is rather limited in the onshore area, there is a very considerable potential for further commercial discoveries offshore. Unfortunately, Ireland has been viewed by many exploration companies as not being particularly attractive for oil or gas exploration on account of a low discovery rate. However, since much of the region is only lightly explored it must be viewed as an immature petroleum province. To address any negative perceptions and to underpin future licensing strategies, the Minister commissioned a major assessment of the yet-to-find hydrocarbon resource potential for the basins west of Ireland. This assessment, part of which was published last year and the balance nearing completion, is based on the latest data and petroleum system analysis techniques. The work will provide up-to-date and reliable information on the likely distribution and quantity of undiscovered hydrocarbon resources for a large part of Ireland's continental shelf.

Telecommunications Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

87 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will bring forward measures to ensure that this State is 100 percent broadband-enabled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20636/06]

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, using a range of different technologies. Ireland's broadband take-up is growing very strongly. By end-2005, there were over 270,000 broadband subscribers, which was equivalent to 6.6% of the population or almost 19% of households. Ireland's broadband take-up grew by 106% during 2005, which was more that twice the EU growth rate.

It is estimated that there were approximately 325,000 broadband subscribers by end-March 2006, which is approximately 8% of the population or over 22% of households with broadband. This growth in broadband take-up is supported by Government telecoms regulation and infrastructure policy. The Government is addressing the infrastructure deficit in the regions by building high-speed, open-access Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) in 120 towns and cities nationwide. Phase One of this Programme has delivered fibre optic networks to 27 towns and cities throughout the country.

This Programme has been extended to over 90 towns in various locations nationwide. It is expected that these MANs will be completed during 2006 and 2007. These networks will allow the private sector to offer world-class broadband services at competitive costs. My Department also offers funding assistance for smaller towns and rural communities through the County and Group Broadband Scheme. The scheme is technology-neutral, allowing the community to select the most suitable broadband delivery platform for the area. To date, over 150 projects have been approved for funding under this Programme.

Furthermore, a joint industry/Government fund of €18 million has been established for the Broadband for Schools Programme, which should provide every school in the country with broadband in 2006. This is a crucial strand in the strategy of integrating ICT into teaching and learning, and in my Department's wider vision of promoting the use of broadband technologies in local communities around the country. The installation phase is now almost complete, with 3,532 schools broadband enabled.

Today there are 68 broadband providers, a mixture of DSL, fixed wireless, satellite and cable, offering almost 300 different types of broadband products. Wireless broadband technology is improving rapidly, and the lowering of equipment prices has made this technology much more attractive of late especially in rural areas that cannot obtain ADSL connectivity, and the development of Wi-Max offers considerable potential in the future.

Energy Resources.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

88 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the developments on plans for a strategic gas reserve; if the Kinsale reservoir will be utilised in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20650/06]

Responsibility for monitoring the security of Ireland's natural gas supply lies with the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER). The CER publishes annually a 7-year rolling forecast of capacity, flows and customer demand (‘the Gas Capacity Statement'). The forecast also assesses whether projected supplies of gas from indigenous sources, imports and storage, are sufficient to meet forecast demand. A key finding of the 2005 Gas Capacity Statement is that, even under unusually cold weather conditions, the Irish gas transmission system can cope with forecast demand.

The issue of a strategic gas reserve is one of the issues to be addressed by means of an all-island study, which will assess the potential for natural gas storage on the island and the possible contribution of LNG to security of supply on an all-island basis. While Ireland does not currently maintain a strategic gas reserve, commercial reserves of natural gas are held by licensed natural gas shippers and suppliers, including Bord Gáis Éireann (BGÉ). Indeed, at current levels, BGÉ's Kinsale reserves can supply 50% of non-daily metered customer requirements, i.e. small business and domestic for up to 50 days. This is in addition to stocks held by BGÉ in the UK, which operates a similar regime to Ireland.

Also, BGÉ, as the natural gas Transmission System Operator, has developed contingency plans in the event of any curtailment in gas supplies. These plans include switching gas-fired power generation plant to alternative fuels, voluntary reductions from large industrial gas consumers and using its reserves from the South-West Kinsale reservoir.

The CER is in the process of issuing a licence to Marathon Oil Limited to operate a storage facility at the depleting gas fields off the Kinsale Head in Co. Cork. This facility, the first such in the country, with considerable storage capacity, will come into operation in the coming weeks. It will be an important enhancement of security of supply.

Work is well advanced in finalising transposition of EU Directive 2004/67 on measures to Safeguard Security of Natural Gas Supply. This will serve to further define the roles and responsibilities of gas market players relative to security of supply in the context of the liberalised natural gas market.

Another welcome development is the announcement on 22 May last that Shannon Development has entered into an ‘option-to-purchase' agreement with Shannon LNG. This Irish subsidiary of Fortune 500 Company Hess LNG Limited is developing a project to build a €400 million liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal near Tarbert on the Shannon Estuary. The project could potentially provide up to 40% of Ireland's gas requirements and I am certainly interested in exploring the scope for realising that potential with all concerned, bearing in mind that this is a commercial venture. The estimated date for completion of the project is 2011.

Electricity Generation.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

89 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if there are plans to implement a net metering system, to incentivise domestic energy production; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20768/06]

The introduction of metering for domestic electricity production requires a range of technical safety and systems issues to be addressed and resolved. Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) in a report on "Metering Options for Small Scale Renewable and CHP Electricity Generation in Ireland" identified a range of areas to be addressed including the ability of micro-generators to secure adequate payment for their exports, as well as a review of connection standards and processes for smaller generators. It also identifies the need to assess the implications of the single electricity market for small-scale electricity generation. This further analysis is underway and will inform decisions in due course.

In tandem with this analysis, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) is examining the issue from the regulatory and grid code perspective. CER will launch a consultation process shortly with a view to establishing an appropriate way forward fully informed by input from all stakeholders.

I am fully in favour of encouraging domestic electricity production subject to all the technical, safety and quality assurance requirements being in place in the interests of all concerned.

Mobile Telephony.

Richard Bruton

Question:

90 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has in mind proposals to encourage the abolition of all mobile telephone roaming charges in line with the wishes of the EU Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20698/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

95 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position regarding EU measures to ban mobile roaming charges; when the legislation will be brought in; his views on whether this will lead to increased costs for mobile handsets as leading mobile operators have recently alleged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20619/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90 and 95 together.

Since my appointment as Minister in this Department I have made the abolition of roaming charges on the island a priority. In addition I raised the issue at EU level at Council. The Taoiseach pursued the issue of roaming at the recent Spring council, following which the European Council emphasised the importance for competitiveness and ease of travel, of reducing roaming charges.

This is an issue that affects many people travelling throughout the EU and is a clear example of impediments to the single market negatively affecting the citizens and businesses. The roaming charges for voice calls, text messages and data are very significant and we would like to see them reduced or preferably eliminated.

We strongly welcome the announcement by Commissioner Viviane Reding of her draft proposals for a Regulation to tackle roaming, which will require approval by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. It is my understanding that the Commission expects to propose a Regulation on roaming to Parliament and Council before their summer break in August 2006. We look forward to working with her towards the implementation of the Regulation. I am particularly pleased that the Commission is taking action following my requests to Commissioner Reding.

In the all-island context, roaming is an issue that both this Government and the UK Government have highlighted in the context of enhancing North/South co-operation. Pending the introduction of a new EU Regulation, the implementation of revised prices for international roaming is primarily a matter for the mobile phone companies. I welcome recent announcements by Vodafone Ireland, O2 Ireland and 3Ireland to tackle roaming charges and I would hope that they would now address text messaging and data transfer.

These initiatives followed interventions with the operators by myself and my former Northern Ireland counterpart, Minister Angela Smith, as well as Ofcom and ComReg.

I have no function in the setting of the cost of handsets. This involves commercial decisions for the companies.

Fishing Industry Development.

John Perry

Question:

91 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources further to his recent announcement that he plans to develop a comprehensive strategy to take the marine sector forward, the timeframe in place for the development of such a strategy; the persons who will be involved in developing said strategy; if a public consultation process will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20602/06]

I believe that there is an urgent requirement to develop a comprehensive strategy to ensure a sustainable and profitable future for the Irish seafood sector. The sector is currently experiencing considerable difficulties, due in particular to the necessity to implement strengthened conservation measures to address declining fish stocks as well as greatly increased fuel costs as a result of developments in international oil markets.

These factors dictate the importance of proceeding quickly with the proposed strategy and I intend therefore that it should be completed by this Autumn. This timeframe will, in particular, permit its results and conclusions to be fully considered in the context of the National Strategic Plan, which will be required under the European Fisheries Fund covering the period 2007 to 2013. It is proposed to appoint an independent leader of this strategy initiative and I would hope to be in a position to announce details in this regard at an early date.

The process of developing this strategy will be highly consultative. It will embrace all of the key stakeholders including fishermen, processors, aquaculture interests and also local community representatives generally. I am also pleased to inform the Deputy that public consultation meetings will be held at a number of locations around the country, and I have already asked BIM to begin the necessary preparations.

Insofar as the terms of reference are concerned, these are currently being finalised. I have invited comments from sectoral representatives as well as from the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. I believe that this inclusive approach is extremely important and will contribute to an effective outcome to this initiative.

Question No. 92 answered with QuestionNo. 78.

Departmental Bodies.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

93 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he plans to establish the new Energy Research Institute; if Sustainable Energy Ireland will be merged into this new institution; the reason he chose not to enhance SEI but establish a completely new body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20644/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

144 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to co-ordinate research and development in the energy sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20741/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 93 and 144 together.

I am establishing an Irish Energy Research Council, as a forum to advise on priorities for Irish energy research both in the medium and the longer term. The Council will co-ordinate existing energy RTDI activities, provide analysis and advice on research capacity and facilitate positioning of energy research policy with overall energy policy as well as with policies for transport, environment, agriculture enterprise, science and education. It will also play a key role in linkages with the EU and appropriate international bodies and advise on coordinating the Irish engagement with the energy elements of programmes including the EU Framework Programmes.

Consistent with this enhanced structural approach and the new funding provision for Energy RTDI 2006 is a commitment to substantially expand national funding for energy research, development and innovation. The Energy Research Council will be independently chaired and will comprise leading players from the Research Community and relevant agencies as well as including representatives from Northern Ireland and the UK.

The Council is being established on a non-statutory basis and the model is informed by other Councils and fora in place across the wider national research and development arena. There are no proposals to establish an Energy Research Institute. Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) is the statutory body charged with promoting and assisting development of sustainable energy in Ireland. In that context SEI has specific functions in relation to supporting and stimulating energy research and development. SEI will have a key role to play in the context of the work of the Energy Research Council.

Radio Broadcasting.

Willie Penrose

Question:

94 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if in view of recent problems with local community and religious broadcasting he will request ComReg and the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland to re-examine their policy on local and community radio licensing and spectrum management; if he has satisfied himself regarding the present level of community radio licensing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20628/06]

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) is the statutory body responsible for the management of the radio spectrum in Ireland. A safety issue arose recently when ComReg were notified by the Irish Aviation Authority, of interference with Air Traffic Control systems. ComReg are required by statute to investigate any interference with services, particularly where critical safety issues are concerned. As a result of their inquiries the unlicensed relay of local church services was identified as the likely source of the problem.

ComReg fully understands the importance of such local community services and intends to permit wireless public address systems to meet the needs of religious and other community organisations. ComReg has drafted regulations permitting the transmission of such services. These Regulations will require my consent as Minister for Communications, under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1926 and should be in place shortly.

Both ComReg, who have expertise in the technical area of radio spectrum safety, and I take our duties in relation to potential safety issues very seriously and I have no plans to ask ComReg to re-examine their policy in this regard.

Question No. 95 answered with QuestionNo. 90.

Mobile Telephony.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

96 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he expects mobile telephone costs here to become the lowest in Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20743/06]

I have no function in setting the prices for the mobile phone market. The setting of prices for mobile phone users is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market.

The regulation of telecommunications operators, including regulatory issues surrounding pricing in the mobile phone market is the responsibility of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) in accordance with the requirements of the Communications Regulation Act 2002 and the Regulations which transpose the EU Regulatory Framework for Electronic Communications.

I have no information to say that Irish mobile charges are generally the highest in Europe. The information I have indicates the following: Ireland has a mobile phone penetration rate of 102%, which shows the appetite for Irish consumers for these types of services and the variety of mobile services in the Irish market including 3G services. Revenue Market shares: Vodafone 46.5%, O2 39.7%, Meteor 13.8%. The price of fixed calls in Ireland is better than the EU average for both national and international calls for residential and business customers. ‘3 Ireland' which is Ireland's newest mobile network, launched its ‘3 Pay' product (i.e. its new Pre-pay service) on 16 May last, this launch should increase competition and give consumers more choice.

Telecommunications Services.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

97 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the low level of broadband availability in many towns here. [20681/06]

Phil Hogan

Question:

130 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the estimated number of waiting applicants for broadband services throughout the country; his plans to ensure such requirements are met in early date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20699/06]

Michael Noonan

Question:

131 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he or his Department directly or through the Regulator will draw up an emergency plan for the rapid delivery of broadband and similar state of the art information technology service throughout the country and ensure that the customers can avail of the benefits of competition in the industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20734/06]

Martin Ferris

Question:

140 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will make a statement regarding the lack of broadband roll-out around many towns here, which has contributed to job losses. [20679/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97, 130, 131 and 140 together.

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully-liberalised market, regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg. I do not have access to figures for the number of waiting applicants for broadband services. My Department regularly reviews all aspects of the broadband market and holds discussions with the Regulator and relevant stakeholders. These discussions are ongoing and cover a range of issues relevant to broadband supply and demand nationally.

A principal reason for the slow rollout of broadband services generally has been the lack of investment by the private sector in the necessary infrastructure to deliver broadband to all areas. The Government in partnership with the Local Authorities is addressing the broadband infrastructure deficit in the regions by building high-speed, open-access Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) in 120 towns and cities nationwide. Phase One of this Programme has delivered fibre optic networks to 27 towns and cities throughout the country.

When designing the networks, the Local Authorities, in co-operation with the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and other relevant development agencies, take account of existing and proposed business parks and areas zoned for industrial development. The route of each MAN incorporates all these elements where economically and technically feasible. These networks are offering these towns opportunities to attract inward investment in advanced technology and knowledge based enterprises.

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

My Department also offers funding assistance for smaller towns and rural communities through the County and Group Broadband Scheme. The scheme is technology-neutral, allowing the community to select the most suitable broadband delivery platform for the area. To date, over 150 projects have been approved for funding under this Programme.

Energy Resources.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

98 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his preferred options for the development of the energy sector in the event of the implementation of recommendations contained in the Deloitte & Touche report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20730/06]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

154 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his proposals for the future of the ESB with particular reference to the need to encourage competition and maintain security of supply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20733/06]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

180 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he expects to publish the Deloitte & Touche report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20731/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98, 154 and 180 together.

Future possible directions for the electricity sector, taking into account all relevant considerations including the development of the Single Electricity Market, competition, security of supply, generation adequacy and consumer needs, will be articulated in the forthcoming Energy Policy Green Paper. I intend to publish the report by Deloitte & Touche into the electricity sector in that context.

Broadcasting Services.

John Deasy

Question:

99 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his intentions to ensure the availability of RTÉ services outside this jurisdiction have particular regard to modern technology and its likely role and the need to meet the needs of the Irish diaspora; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20751/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to questions numbers 18 and 27 on 6 April 2006.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

100 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his intentions for the development of the various forms of alternative energy with particular reference to wind, hydro and bio-mass; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20757/06]

On 1st May I launched a new renewable energy support mechanism to support the construction of new renewable energy powered electricity generating plants powered by biomass, hydro-power or wind-power. Applications will be accepted from early June.

This programme will support the construction of at least a further 400 megawatts of new renewable energy powered electricity generating plant by 2010. The overall target is to increase the installed capacity of renewable energy powered plants to 1450 megawatts by 2010 thereby more than doubling the contribution from these technologies to electricity production from approximately 5% to 13%.

Postal Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

101 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he intends to issue guidelines in regard to the use of postcodes with particular reference to excluding the use of socio-economic or personal information; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20740/06]

Following from the recommendations of the Working Group report on postcodes, I asked the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) to appoint project managers to support the postcode project by providing technical and economic advice including assessing the costs and benefits of the introduction of a postcode. The terms of reference for the project managers stipulate that the code be structured spatially and consequently the code will not be based on any socio-economic or personal information.

Mobile Telephony.

Richard Bruton

Question:

102 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he or his Department has had discussion with service providers with a view to the abolition of call divert mobile phone charges; if he proposes to have discussions with the Regulator in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20697/06]

Joe Sherlock

Question:

106 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on issuing a new directive to ComReg in relation to costly termination charges for mobile phones; if he has requested the regulator to examine bill and keep or other mobile billing systems which greatly reduce or eliminate termination charges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20645/06]

Dan Neville

Question:

110 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if sufficient emphasis has been placed on the need to reduce mobile telecommunication costs here in line with other countries but also in order to set a new standard of economic and efficient delivery of services for the customer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20736/06]

Tom Hayes

Question:

158 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he expects an even spread of mobile telephone signal and service in all areas throughout the country having particular regard to the existing patchy nature of services in some areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20749/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102, 106, 110 and 158 together.

I have no function in regulating pricing, delivery or quality of services in the mobile phone market. The regulation of telecommunications operators, including regulatory issues surrounding pricing, quality and delivery of services in the mobile phone market is the responsibility of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) in accordance with the requirements of the Communications Regulation Act 2002 and the Regulations which transpose the EU Regulatory Framework for Electronic Communications.

Salmon Management.

Dan Boyle

Question:

103 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the consultation process that is planned for the three person working group he has established to investigate the future of commercial drift netting for salmon; the administration system which has been established to assist this work; and the proposed timetable for the presentation of the groups recommendations and the implementation of a new salmon management regime. [20769/06]

I established the Independent Group to examine the implications for the commercial sector in 2007 and beyond arising from alignment of the management of the Irish wild salmon fishery with the scientific advice for 2007. The group will make recommendations on the options available to address any financial hardship arising for individuals involved in commercial salmon fishing from the course of action determined.

The specific remit of the Group requires them to draw on the reports already generated through the National Salmon Commission, by the National Fisheries Managers Executive and the Standing Scientific Committee and engage in appropriate consultation with relevant stakeholders. In this regard, I understand the group has recently invited submissions from interested parties, the closing date for receipt of which is 30th June 2006. The independent group is expected to present its report in September 2006. Secretariat services are being provided by BIM over their period of office.

Telecommunications Services.

Phil Hogan

Question:

104 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the degree to which broadband is available on a county basis with particular reference to industrial and commercial needs in the various towns and villages throughout the country; if he intends to issue specific direction in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20700/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

339 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the degree to which broadband is available on a county basis with particular reference to industrial and commercial needs in the various towns and villages throughout the country; if he intends to issue specific direction in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20825/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 104 and 339 together.

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully-liberalised market, regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg. A principal reason for the slow rollout of broadband services generally has been the lack of investment by the private sector in the necessary infrastructure to deliver broadband to all areas.

The Government in partnership with the Local Authorities is addressing the broadband infrastructure deficit in the regions by building high-speed, open-access Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) in 120 towns and cities nationwide. Phase One of this Programme has delivered fibre optic networks to 27 towns and cities throughout the country.

When designing the networks, the Local Authorities, in co-operation with the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and other relevant development agencies, take account of existing and proposed business parks and areas zoned for industrial development. The route of each MAN incorporates all these elements where economically and technically feasible. These networks are offering these towns opportunities to attract inward investment in advanced technology and knowledge based enterprises. This Programme has been extended to over 90 towns in various locations nationwide. It is expected that these MANs will be completed during 2006 and 2007. These networks will contribute to balanced regional development and allow the private sector to offer world-class broadband services at competitive costs.

My Department also offers funding assistance for smaller towns and rural communities through the County and Group Broadband Scheme. The scheme is technology-neutral, allowing the community to select the most suitable broadband delivery platform for the area. To date, over 150 projects have been approved for funding under this Programme.

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.

Postal Services.

Bernard Allen

Question:

105 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has in mind proposals to encourage the development of the extent and scale of services available through An Post; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20702/06]

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

Question No. 106 answered with QuestionNo. 102.
Question No. 107 answered with QuestionNo. 78.

Digital Hub.

Liam Twomey

Question:

108 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has in mind proposals to further enhance the development of the Digital Hub; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20760/06]

Pat Breen

Question:

117 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the costs to date associated with the Digital Hub; the likely ongoing costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20758/06]

Liam Twomey

Question:

169 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the investment to date in the Digital Hub; the degree to which original targets have been realised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20761/06]

Pat Breen

Question:

176 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he or his Department have evaluated the economic impact and benefit of the Digital Hub; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20759/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108, 117, 169 and 176 together.

Expenditure at the Digital Hub since 2000 is approximately €127.3 million to date. This includes a €76 million investment in property and infrastructure as well as €51.3 million in operational costs. The Digital Hub Development Agency has been and will continue to be successful in developing a digital industry cluster, as well as in regenerating an historic community area in the heart of Dublin by operating a number of significant community and educational initiatives as part of its role in the Digital Hub district.

During 2005 my Department provided €3.35 million to the Digital Hub Development Agency. Future costs will continue to be kept under review by the Department. The Digital Hub's primary function is to ‘procure, secure the provision of and to promote and facilitate the development, including the carrying out of construction or maintenance works, of the digital hub as a location for digital enterprises and related activities'. On 5th October 2005, the Agency announced a competition to develop land in the Digital Hub. This land is to be developed as a mixture of residential, commercial and retail properties, in addition to public spaces. The private developers competed on the basis of bids of cash plus office space.

On 22nd November 2005, I announced the acceptance of tenders for two sites, with a combined area of almost 5.6 acres for approximately €118 million. In return for the land, the State will receive a combination of €72.4 million in cash and €45.7 million in high quality offices, which will accommodate digital enterprises as the Digital Hub grows. The break down of the tenders means that the Digital Hub will receive over 13,000 square metres (140,000 sq.ft.) of office space.

In relation to industry development, the Agency has been successful to date in growing the cluster with about 50 companies now employing approximately 500 employees in the Hub. These enterprises are involved in a range of activities including games software development, mobile technology, animation and TV production. The Digital Hub has engaged with local community interests on the project from the very beginning and continues to do so on an ongoing basis.

Fishing Industry Development.

Denis Naughten

Question:

109 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the overall budget in the National Development Plan within the Border Midland Western region for the development of the angling sector; the projected spend for 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20111/06]

As I outlined to the Deputy in response to his question No. 274 on 28 February 2006, an indicative budget of €30.47 million in total was originally identified for the Tourism and Recreational Angling Measure (TRAM) of which €21.58m was allocated under the Border, Midland and Western Operational Programme of the National Development Plan (2000-2006). The launch of the measure was delayed pending State aids clearance from the EU Commission, which was received in March 2002. I understand that a decision was made in the context of other budgetary priorities to curtail the actual allocation to the measure at that time. No expenditure has been provided for under the measure, in the Department's budget for 2006.

Question No. 110 answered with QuestionNo. 102.

Denis Naughten

Question:

111 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the steps which he is taking to develop the angling sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20112/06]

Under the Fisheries Acts, primary responsibility for the conservation, protection, management and development of the inland fisheries resource rests with the Central and regional fisheries boards. The fisheries boards devote considerable effort and resources to the promotion of angling and, in collaboration with the tourist authorities, to angling tourism.

The Central Fisheries Board is currently undertaking a review of coarse fish policy in Ireland with a view to advising me on developing an informed national policy for the management, development and protection of this important natural resource. I understand that the group expects to complete its work shortly and intends to forward its report to me, following due consideration by the fisheries boards.

I understand that Fáilte Ireland is carrying out research among tour operators involved in promoting special activity holidays and special activity holidaymakers. Fáilte Ireland has also identified angling among main areas of activity for which detailed marketing plans have been agreed, targeting the markets offering the best short-term return. Several other supporting activities are identified across all products including greater understanding of international trends in demand for special interest products.

The Deputy will also be aware that in November 2005, I published details of the Government's policy for the restructuring of the inland fisheries sector. Discussions are ongoing between the Department and the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism with a view to specifying the role of the inland fisheries sector in support of the areas of angling, tourism and leisure development.

I am confident this particular element of the reform decided by Government is necessary to ensure that our tourism and recreational angling sector thrives and reaches its full potential. I believe this reform will allow for the development of more coherent policy and strategy for tourism and recreational angling which will retain all that is best in the sector while at the same time making the role of the State in delivering on its objectives in this area more focused and effective.

Telecommunications Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

112 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to utilise the State’s infrastructure by ensuring that broadband ducting is placed along ESB lines, on railway lines and on motorways. [20682/06]

Seán Crowe

Question:

125 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he or his Department has had meetings with the ESB, Railway Procurement Agency, Iarnród Éireann or the National Roads Authority in relation to placing broadband ducting along ESB lines, on railway lines and on motorways; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20678/06]

Joan Burton

Question:

139 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if plans have advanced for the establishment of a new semi-State telecommunications company reportedly entitled Project Dingle; the proposed timeframe for the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20643/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 112, 125 and 139 together.

The Government is addressing the regional broadband infrastructure deficit by building high-speed open access Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) in 120 towns and cities nationwide, on a phased basis in association with the local and regional authorities. Phase One of this Programme has delivered fibre optic networks to 27 towns and cities throughout the country, which were built on time and under budget. This Programme has been extended to a further 90 towns in various locations nationwide. Design and procurement has already commenced in several regions and construction is due to start in the coming weeks. It is expected that these MANs will be completed during 2006 and 2007. The designs are incorporating backhaul options for a number of towns where there is currently no choice of backhaul provider. These Metropolitan Area Networks will allow the private sector to offer world-class broadband services at competitive costs and will complement the considerable government and EU supported investment that has been made in backbone infrastructure in recent years.

However, it is recognised there are still obstacles in ensuring that customers in some regional towns can gain access to quality broadband services at competitive prices. Although the newly constructed Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) ensure that there is significant capacity available at extremely competitive rates in the urban areas of these towns (where this was previously not the case), there is still limited national competition on backhaul, that is the onward transportation of this traffic to other destinations and on to the international internet exchanges in Dublin, to enable businesses in regional locations attain an affordable quality of service. This imbalance in regional connectivity needs to be addressed by exploring all options, including those in respect of state owned companies/agencies that currently own telecommunications infrastructure. In this regard, my officials hold regular meetings with the agencies referred to, in the context of ensuring broadband infrastructure is included along the power lines, railways and motorways where this is technically and economically feasible. Our aim is to improve cost and promote choice and competition amongst the various regional backhaul providers.

It is now clear to me from discussions with people involved in the MANs and Group Broadband Scheme (GBS) initiatives that backhaul pricing and availability is a critical issue for regional Ireland. Backhaul charges are making affordable high-capacity broadband in the regions difficult to achieve. This undermines the prospects for employment growth in regional and rural Ireland. If the market does not provide affordable national backhaul, this is a strategic weakness for Ireland, which we ignore at our peril.

In relation to Project Dingle, a team of advisors was engaged in April 2005 to examine the various issues and they submitted a Feasibility Report last December setting out the available options. The team reported that, while technically feasible, there would be considerable financial, legal and management challenges in harnessing and enhancing the existing State owned infrastructures. My officials and I are considering the report's conclusions in the context of developing strategies to improve backhaul connectivity to the regions.

Question No. 113 answered with QuestionNo. 75.

Offshore Exploration.

Simon Coveney

Question:

114 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to recent discoveries of oil, gas or other minerals arising from previous or current explorations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20706/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

344 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to recent discoveries of oil, gas or other minerals arising from previous or current explorations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20831/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 114 and 344 together.

There have been no discoveries of oil and gas in the past three years. The last potential discovery was on the Dooish prospect 125 km off the Donegal coast in the Rockall Basin. This prospect was drilled in 2002 by Enterprise Energy Ireland (now Shell E&P Ireland) and discovered a gas condensate accumulation. The well was re-entered and deepened in 2003. Both my Department and Shell E&P are continuing to analyse the well results and integrate them with other data from the area. To date this discovery has not been declared as commercial.

I am aware that there has been some licensed exploration activity for gas in the North West Carboniferous Basin, in counties Leitrim and Cavan. Interest in this area derives from gas shows in previous exploration but to date there has been no commercial discovery.

With regard to non-petroleum minerals, I would refer the Deputy to my reply to similar questions number 67 on 21st February 2006 and number 386 on the 6th April 2006. New exploration is continuously undertaken as part of my requirements to holders of Prospecting Licences, of which there are currently 262. All exploration results are furnished to my Department as a condition of the Prospecting Licences and I am kept up to date on developments.

Details of Prospecting Licences can be found in the six monthly report to the Oireachtas which I am obliged to lay before the House under the Minerals Development Acts, 1940 to 1999. The latest such report, in respect of the six-month period ended 31 December 2005, was recently laid before this House.

Broadcasting Services.

Paul McGrath

Question:

115 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which he intends to encourage the development of both the public and private broadcasting sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20752/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question Number 85 of 30 May 2006.

Telecommunications Services.

Dan Boyle

Question:

116 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he intends to amend the regulatory system for ComReg in view of the recent failure by the Regulator in its legal bids to progress the local loop unbundling of the Eircom network and the opening of the mobile phone operators networks to other retail operators and will he comment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20770/06]

The Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg, is independent in the exercise of its functions under the provisions of the Communications Regulation Act of 2002 and the transposed EU Regulatory Framework. However, as part of my overall policy-making role for the sectors for which I am responsible, I keep the operations of all the bodies under the aegis of my Department under review and where improvements are necessary, to develop the overall environment in which the sector operates, they will be made.

It is in this context that I have recently brought forward legislative proposals, which will, among other things, give enhanced enforcement powers to ComReg. These powers will allow ComReg to enforce regulatory decisions to support the development of competition in the market. I also recently announced proposals to give ComReg concurrent competition law powers in the telecoms sector, which will allow them to investigate and take action in issues such as abuse of dominance.

Question No. 117 answered with QuestionNo. 108.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

118 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if in the aftermath of the sale of Eircom he intends to use his statutory powers to ensure the rapid progression of local loop unbundling, broadband provision and an accelerated programme for the upgrading and updating of the telecommunications sector with a view to taking this country to the leading edge in the European league; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20695/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

334 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if in the aftermath of the sale of Eircom he intends to use his statutory powers to ensure the rapid progression of local loop unbundling, broadband provision and an accelerated programme for the upgrading and updating of the telecommunications sector with a view to taking this country to the leading edge in the European league; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20820/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118 and 334 together.

The provision of telecommunications infrastructure and services is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully-liberalised market, regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg. In addition, Local Loop unbundling is a matter for the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg, under the Communications Regulation Act of 2002 and the transposed EU regulatory framework for Electronic Communications Networks and Services.

The sale of Eircom, which is not a State company, does not affect or change the regulatory environment in the telecoms sector.

Fishing Industry Development.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

119 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his position on budget proposals for the European Fisheries Fund; the areas he is prioritising for the 2007 to 2013 regime; if he is seeking national specific measures on fisheries to be included; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20626/06]

The European Regulation to establish the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) was discussed at last week's EU Fisheries Council but agreement was not reached. I understand that the proposal will be considered again by the Council in the early autumn. There was broad support for many of very many of the actions provided for in the proposal and I am satisfied that the new legislative framework will support the necessary restructuring and development of Ireland's seafood sector.

The period of the 2000-2006 NDP has seen the beginning of the process of restructuring and transformation of the fisheries industry across all its sectors as it adapts to changing conditions. Our key strategic goal to 2013 must be to ensure the long-term economic, social and environmental sustainability of this industry, and maintain the value of its activity to the coastal and rural communities who rely on it, as well as to the economy as a whole. This will require the targeting of investment so as to achieve the highest possible level of value generation within the seafood industry. To achieve this, it will be necessary to take integrated, market led action to improve competitiveness and profitability across all sectors of the industry — sea fishing, aquaculture, processing and marketing, and at each stage of the value chain.

The next step is to develop a detailed programme of investment for the seafood industry as a whole, through which the funds to be available under the forthcoming EFF can be utilised to best advantage and, which is in line with our commitments under the European Common Fisheries Policy. This will be done in consultation with the key industry stakeholders.

In order to inform this process, I have announced plans for the development of a comprehensive strategy to take the sector forward and inform funding priorities for the 2007-2013 period. The development of this strategy will involve a number of key elements including, the appointment of an independent leader of the strategy team, and the holding of regional meetings to hear views from all parts of the sector. There will also be a forum which will bring together industry representatives, key sectoral players and experts from the food and related sectors.

I have forwarded draft terms of reference for this strategy to industry representatives and the Joint Oireachtas Committee for their comments.

Broadcasting Services.

David Stanton

Question:

120 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his progress to date on the national roll-out of digital terrestrial television; when the roll-out will commence; the timescale for completion of the roll-out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20764/06]

John Deasy

Question:

166 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the progress to date in the provision of digital television; if he has in mind specific targets in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20750/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 and 166 together.

The rollout of infrastructure for the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) Pilot in Ireland is currently underway. Following detailed procurement processes, the DTT pilot is currently in the build phase and is expected to be operational by autumn 2006. It is planned to continue the pilot over a two-year timeframe, during which time broadcasts will transmit from the Three Rock site in Dublin and the Clermont Carn site in County Louth.

The pilot project will bring further momentum to the transition to digital terrestrial broadcasting and create an opportunity to test and trial various aspects of the service. The aim of the pilot is also to generate awareness and discussion among interested parties in a full national roll-out of digital terrestrial television. As proposals are developed for a national rollout of digital terrestrial television the question of possible analogue switch-off dates will be considered.

Electricity Generation.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

121 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on whether the carbon emissions system will significantly impact on the future price levels of electricity; his further views on proposals to restructure the electricity market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20633/06]

Under current arrangements the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) permits ESB generating stations to only recover the cost value of carbon allowances purchased under the Emissions Trading Scheme. This approach minimizes the impact of the scheme on electricity prices. Taking this into account, the total impact of emissions trading on electricity prices for the period 2005-2007 should be a little over 1%.

It should be noted however, that the All-Island Single Wholesale Electricity Market (SEM) is due to come into operation in July 2007. The CER and the Northern Ireland Authority for Energy Regulation (NIAER), who are jointly responsible for the design and implementation of the new market trading arrangements, are considering how emissions trading allowances will be treated in the new SEM wholesale market and will determine the scope for measures to minimise the impact on prices.

Accordingly it is not possible at this time to predict the precise impact that the emissions trading scheme might have on prices in the 2008-2012 period. Future directions for the electricity market, will be set out in the Energy Policy Green Paper, taking account of the single electricity market arrangements as well as EU developments and in light of inter alia competition and consumer considerations.

Postal Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

122 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his preferred option for the development of the postal services in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20723/06]

Shane McEntee

Question:

127 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his policy, plans and ambitions for the enhancement and development of rapid, efficient and cost effective postal and parcel service in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20762/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 122 and 127 together.

I believe that there will continue to be a key national role for An Post in delivery of mails and parcels. However, over the coming years competition can be expected to increase in these sectors, whether from the privately owned express sector, from the large European public operators now looking for international business or from electronic substitution.

Already the parcels business is liberalised, with major international players operating in the Irish market. An Post now holds only 25% of the parcels market in this country. Liberalisation of the mail market in Ireland has already commenced and the second Postal Directive proposes that the postal sector is to fully liberalise across the EU on 1 January 2009 subject to political agreement, which, if achieved, would open up the letter post area to full competition. Therefore, in terms of dealing with the challenges facing An Post in the coming years, company management in conjunction with the trade unions, must deliver on restructuring agreements particularly in the mails area.

The development of the postal market requires the availability of competitive, high quality products. The current level of market opening has introduced new players with offerings that meet consumer needs and further market opening will provide further opportunities for new and existing players. The development of further competition allied with a modernised and customer-focussed An Post will provide the basis for the further development of the postal sector here.

Electricity Generation.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

123 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the recent comments by Mr. David Hanson MP, Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office regarding the future position of the ESB in the all-island market will affect the development of plans for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20634/06]

I am aware of the statement made by Minister Hanson in the course of the recent Westminster Debate. There are market power considerations to be addressed both North and South in the creation of the single wholesale electricity market, which is acknowledged by both sides.

Both Governments have jointly set out their ambitions for the all island Energy Market in the All-island Energy Market Development Framework, published in 2004. The key immediate priority within the Framework is to deliver the all-island wholesale electricity market by 1 July 2007. That work is intensively underway.

Implementation of the Single electricity market by July 2007 presents a range of complex challenges for the two Regulators, the two Transmission System Operators, market participants North and South as well as the two Departments. Both Governments are committed to ensuring that the requisite legislation is in place to underpin the new market. Following Government approval for the priority drafting of the Single Electricity Market Bill, work is proceeding intensively and in consultation with Northern Ireland colleagues to progress the legislation to schedule.

Telecommunications Services.

David Stanton

Question:

124 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the success of broadband take up here; the efforts he is making to improve availability and eliminate barriers to the take-up of broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20765/06]

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. Broadband subscriber numbers have increased hugely in the last year. Almost 140,000 new broadband subscribers were added in 2005, a growth rate of 103% in 2005. This compares to 100,000 new broadband subscribers in 2004. The latest ComReg quarterly report states there are 270,700 broadband subscribers as of end-2005. This is equivalent to 6.6% of the population. ComReg estimate that there are 320,000 subscribers to the end of the first quarter of 2006.

Home Internet penetration figures currently stand at 18.7% of households. DSL dominates the Irish broadband market (75% market share). However, Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) and Cable are growing very strongly, albeit from a small base.

The Government is addressing the infrastructure deficit in the regions by building high-speed, open-access Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) in 120 towns and cities nationwide. Phase One of this Programme has delivered fibre optic networks to 27 towns and cities throughout the country. This Programme has been extended to over 90 towns in various locations nationwide. It is expected that these MANs will be completed during 2006 and 2007. These networks will allow the private sector to offer world-class broadband services at competitive costs.

My Department also offers funding assistance for smaller towns and rural communities through the County and Group Broadband Scheme. The scheme is technology-neutral, allowing the community to select the most suitable broadband delivery platform for the area. To date, over 150 projects have been approved for funding under this Programme.

Furthermore, a joint industry/Government fund of €18 million has been established for the Broadband for Schools Programme, which should provide every school in the country with broadband in 2006. This is a crucial strand in the strategy of integrating ICT into teaching and learning, and my Department's wider vision of promoting the use of broadband technologies in local communities around the country. The installation phase is now almost complete, with over 90% of all schools broadband enabled.

Today there are 68 broadband providers, a mixture of DSL, fixed wireless, satellite and cable, offering almost 300 different types of broadband products. Wireless broadband technology is improving rapidly, and the lowering of equipment prices has made this technology much more attractive of late especially in rural areas that cannot obtain ADSL connectivity, and the development of Wi-Max offers considerable potential in the future.

Question No. 125 answered with QuestionNo. 112.

Broadcasting Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

126 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his preferred options for the development of the broadcasting industry, radio and television, with particular reference to international best practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20754/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question Number 85 of today.

Question No. 127 answered with QuestionNo. 122.
Question No. 128 answered with QuestionNo. 74.

Telecommunications Services.

Michael Noonan

Question:

129 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans for the delivery of broadband and mobile telephone services to all areas throughout the country including such areas at the Black Valley, County Kerry and similar areas currently serviced by outdated technology; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20735/06]

The provision of broadband and other telecommunications services is, in the first instance, an operational issue for the service providers concerned. Responsibility for the regulation of electronic communication service providers rests with the independent regulator, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), in accordance with the requirements of the Communications Regulation Act 2002 and the Regulations, which transpose the EU Regulatory Framework for Electronic Communications. Accordingly I have no function in this matter.

Questions Nos. 130 and 131 answered with Question No. 97.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

132 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has reviewed the recent statistics by a company (details supplied) on broadband pricing across the EU in view of his statement that broadband pricing here is 20 percent below the EU average; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20637/06]

I am aware of the Forrester Research and I would point the Deputy towards figures produced by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg, in their Quarterly report for March 2006, which supports my statement that broadband pricing here is below the EU average. In fact, the figures clearly demonstrate that in November 2005, Ireland ranked 6th out of the EU-15 countries and was 5 places better than the EU average in terms of price per megabyte for monthly ADSL rental.

Question No. 133 answered with QuestionNo. 78.

Fisheries Protection.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

134 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he intends to re-sign the Bass by-laws; and the restrictions he will be placing on them. [20772/06]

The Bass (Conservation of Stocks) Order, in place since 1990, prohibits the commercial fishing of sea bass by Irish sea fishing boats. The domestic conservation measures for sea bass are kept under review on an annual basis, in light of scientific assessments by the Central Fisheries Board and the Marine Institute of the state of sea bass stocks as well as assessments of the impact of commercial fishing effort on sea bass stocks by other Member States.

Last year, having reviewed the scientific assessments relating to sea bass, the Bass (Restriction on Sale) Order was renewed for a further year. The effect of this Order is to prohibit the sale or offer for sale of bass (other than bass which has been imported into the State) from 1st day of July, 2005 to 30th day of June, 2006. The Bass Fishing Conservation Bye Law which imposes a bag limit on anglers of two bass in any one period of twenty four hours and provides for a ban on angling for bass during the spawning season was also renewed last year.

I am awaiting updated scientific advice on the current state of the Bass stock and I will make a decision on the matter before the expiry of the current provisions.

Question No. 135 answered with QuestionNo. 78.

Telecommunications Services.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

136 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will report on the MANs; the take-up on the MANs; the long-term strategy for managing the MANs in the context of the overall communications infrastructure; if the operator suffered losses of as much as €4 million for 2005 as has recently been reported; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20618/06]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

145 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will provide details on the usage of each of the metropolitan area networks that have been introduced to date; and the revenue received from transactions on the MAN system up to the end of the latest accounting period. [20777/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 136 and 145 together.

The Government is addressing the local infrastructure deficit by building high-speed open access Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) in 120 towns and cities nationwide, on a phased basis in association with the local and regional authorities. Phase One of this Programme has delivered fibre optic networks to 27 towns and cities throughout the country, which were built on time and under budget. This Programme has been extended to a further 90 towns in various locations nationwide. Design and procurement has already commenced in several regions and construction is due to start in the coming weeks. It is expected that these MANs will be completed during 2006 and 2007. These Metropolitan Area Networks will allow the private sector to offer world-class broadband services at competitive costs.

Further to a competitive, public tender process, E-Net was awarded the contract to manage, maintain, market and operate the Phase 1 MANs for a period of 15 years in June 2004. E-Net is an independent company based in Limerick established solely for this purpose. Under Phase 1 of the MANs programme, all twenty-seven networks have now been completed and handed over to E-Net. There is activity on the networks with several customer contracts being signed by E-Net, including arrangements for backhaul and twenty-two of the twenty-seven MANs have been lit to date. The details of these contracts are commercially sensitive and are a matter for E-Net.

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

Electricity Generation.

Jack Wall

Question:

137 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if a company (details supplied) establishes its proposed electricity supergrid connecting windfarms around the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, the Bay of Biscay, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, the way in which this new grid will interact with the established Irish electricity grid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20639/06]

I am aware that a number of companies have expressed interest in the proposition of a European "supergrid" for wind energy but none has as yet made any specific approach to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) nor to the Transmission System Operator who have responsibility for licensing connection to the national grid and planning the national grid, respectively.

Broadcasting Legislation.

Paul McGrath

Question:

138 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he intends to legislate to ensure the retention of maximum free to air broadcasting or transmission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20753/06]

My core policy objectives in relation to broadcasting as outlined in my Department's Statement of Strategy published in July 2005 are as follows: to create an environment that encourages the maintenance of high quality Irish radio and television services by both independent broadcasters and RTÉ; to secure a viable future for high quality public service broadcasting; and, to seek to retain access to a range of high quality programming in analogue and digital form, on a universal and free-to-air basis.

My intention in framing the legislative proposals that will form the basis of the new Broadcasting Bill is to ensure that the broadcasting regulatory environment continues to reflect these policy objectives, in particular the need to ensure continued access for Irish viewers to a range of high quality programming on a universal and free-to-air basis.

The priority issues to be addressed by the Broadcasting Bill are as follows: the establishment of a single content regulator for commercial, community and public service broadcasters; the establishment of RTÉ as a company under the Companies Acts; the provision of a statutory mechanism for future adjustments to the level of the television licence fee; and, the development of the Right of Reply mechanism, allowing persons whose reputation and good name have been damaged by an assertion of incorrect facts in a television or radio programme to gain redress.

Question No. 139 answered with QuestionNo. 112.
Question No. 140 answered with QuestionNo. 97.
Question No. 141 answered with QuestionNo. 74.
Question No. 142 answered with QuestionNo. 78.

Energy Resources.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

143 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will give an assurance to the Houses of the Oireachtas that the advice put forward in the Forfás Report, A Baseline Assessment of Ireland’s Oil Dependence that Ireland should consider building a nuclear power plant, has been dismissed by the Government, that no Department officials within his remit are looking at this option; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16520/06]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

153 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on whether Ireland will have at anytime a nuclear power plant; the likely effect of such a plant on the environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16618/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 143 and 153 together.

I am aware of the Forfas Report to which the Deputy refers. The Report acknowledges the explicit Government policy position on nuclear generation in Ireland while commenting that consideration of the option should not be precluded in light of international developments. The use of nuclear fission for the generation of electricity in Ireland is statutorily prohibited under the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999. The option is not on the table and is not being looked at by my Department. International developments will continue to be monitored, as it is in Ireland's interests to be fully appraised of trends and policy directions in other jurisdictions in this area, but there will be no change in long-standing Government policy on nuclear energy generation in Ireland in line with the national consensus and the statutory prohibition.

Question No. 144 answered with QuestionNo. 93.
Question No. 145 answered with QuestionNo. 136.

Telecommunications Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

146 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which action can be taken to prevent bullying or predatory sexual activity through the use of the mobile telephone service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20744/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

318 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which action can be taken to prevent bullying or predatory sexual activity through the use of the mobile telephone service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20799/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 146 and 318 together.

As I have told the Deputy in response to similar questions, I have no role or responsibility for the actions of persons conducting bullying or malevolent activities over electronic communications networks. I refer the Deputy to recent replies given to Questions Numbers 14 and 31 of 6 April, 2006.

Coastal Erosion.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

147 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the level of coastal erosion that has occurred over the past five years on Irish coasts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16629/06]

Coastal erosion is a widespread process at locations right around the coastline and this Department in association with maritime Local Authorities monitors the process generally. Of the 5,800km of coastline in the Republic, some 3,000km comprises "soft coastline" consisting of sandy beaches, sand dunes and clay cliffs. Erosion rates around the coast range from 0 at stable locations to a maximum of about 1 to 2 metres per annum in some areas of the east coast. In general, erosion of a coastline takes place gradually but in some cases an individual storm or a cliff collapse will lead to sudden spectacular changes.

The types of land and property under threat from coastal erosion are as diverse as the locations in which the problem is occurring. Areas under threat include private land, land of marginal agricultural value, public infrastructure, areas of ecological importance and natural heritage areas. The rate of coastal erosion can also be affected by economic and amenity activities and usages in the coastal zone. For example pressure on beach and dune systems through large numbers of visitors can accelerate the process of erosion.

The approach to coast protection works in Ireland was until recently based primarily on "hard" solutions involving heavy civil engineering works, for example, rock armour revetments. Such works are very expensive. These cost considerations, coupled with concerns about the potential physical impacts of such works on the coastline have led in recent years to a greater emphasis on "soft" engineering solutions and environmentally friendly coast protection schemes, for example, sand fencing, beach nourishment.

A Value for Money report in March 2002 highlighted the need for a more strategic focus in addressing the problem of coastal erosion in Ireland. In the light of this the Department initiated a coast protection strategy study in 2003. The study addresses the nature and extent of erosion at various locations and different types of coastline in Ireland and seeks to identify the most effective means, technically, financially and environmentally, in responding to particular instances and types of erosion. As part of this study detailed surveys are carried out of the coastline and will form a baseline for accurately calculating coastal erosion levels. The pilot phase of this study is scheduled to be completed in summer 2006.

Energy Resources.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

148 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has in mind a set of procedures to develop and deliver rapidly and efficiently, oil, gas or other mineral discoveries with a view to maximisation of benefit to the economy and the Exchequer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20725/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

319 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has in mind a set of procedures to develop and deliver rapidly and efficiently, oil, gas or other mineral discoveries with a view to maximisation of benefit to the economy and the Exchequer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20803/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 148 and 319 together.

There are already procedures in place for developing and delivering oil and gas discoveries. It must be understood that the area of developing oil and gas fields is a very complex area and is dependent on factors such as the location of the discovery and whether the discovery is oil or gas. Issues such as existing infrastructure in the area and the environment of the area will have a major influence on how development takes place. For example, the Seven Heads Gas field off the south coast was developed using the existing facilities available at the Kinsale gas field. On the other hand, in the case of the Corrib Gas field off the west coast, there was no existing infrastructure and new infrastructure has to be developed.

It should be pointed out that there would be no discoveries without exploration taking place first. It is therefore the Government's policy to actively encourage petroleum exploration. This is done through both the licensing terms and fiscal and taxation terms on offer for the exploration and development of oil and gas offshore and onshore Ireland. These terms are available to licensees in Frontier areas through Licensing Rounds such as the recent Slyne/Erris/Donegal Licensing Round.

There is also an ‘open door' policy in respect of non-frontier areas whereby companies may apply for authorisations in these areas at any time. It is hoped that such exploration will lead to the discovery and development of new oil and gas resources and reduce Ireland's present high level of dependency on imported energy.

It is Government policy that mineral development be undertaken in an environmentally responsible fashion by private enterprise, under Lease or Licence from the State. By providing employment in rural areas and by direct contribution to the State through royalties and taxes, minerals development contributes to the local and National economy. A new Minerals Development Bill is currently being prepared to consolidate and update the Minerals Development Acts, 1940 to 1999. This Bill, if enacted, will streamline procedures for permitting exploration for and development of mineral deposits. I hope to obtain Government approval shortly for the General Scheme of the Bill to be drafted and introduced in the Oireachtas as soon as possible.

Electricity Generation.

Billy Timmins

Question:

149 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to cease the public service obligation charge on ESB bills; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20766/06]

The opening of the electricity market to competition has meant that, in order to create a level playing field between all market participants, the Government's public service requirements need to be transparently identified and costed. ESB has in the past been obliged to provide these services.

In pursuance of key energy policy objectives of security of supply, fuel diversity, environmental protection and the use of indigenous energy sources, the Government has identified certain public services that it requires ESB, in its function as Public Electricity Supplier, to continue to provide in a liberalised market. These public services relate to the provision of peat-fired generation, renewable/alternative generation and peaking capacity, for reasons of security of supply and environmental protection, in accordance with Article 3(2) of the EU Electricity Directive, and Section 39 of the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999.

In providing these public services, ESB incurs extra-competitive costs given that, unlike gas, both peat and, as yet, renewable energy sources are not competitive forms of electricity generation. Therefore, these additional costs over and above the costs of a best new entrant are recouped by way of a levy on all electricity customers.

The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) is the independent statutory body that regulates the Irish electricity and gas markets. It calculates the PSO levy, with the sanction of the European Commission, on an annual basis. The levy compensates ESB solely for the additional costs it incurs when complying with the Order.

All monies collected under the PSO levy go to achieving the objectives of the PSO; the main objectives being to ensure reasonable self-sufficiency in electricity generation capacity by utilising peat as a primary fuel source, to promote renewable energy sources to help protect the environment and to cover the cost of generation capacity that is needed to ensure that customers' demand can be met in times of peak demand.

To achieve these objectives the projects that have been supported by the PSO to date are:

•Alternative Energy Requirement (AER) contracted projects,

•ESB Power Generation peat stations,

•Edenderry Power Limited's peat plant,

•Peaking plant.

Section 39(6) of the Electricity Regulation Act 1999 requires that the additional costs incurred in providing these public services must be recovered in respect of a specified number of years. Therefore in the case of each public service obligation, a definitive timeframe for its continuance is set out in the legislation. The public service relating to the provision of renewable/alternative generation, for example, is based on legally binding contracts of 15 years duration between the generators and the ESB.

Therefore, while the amount of the public service obligation charge may vary from time to time, the cessation of the public service obligations can only occur in the event of a change in policy direction on the provision of the public services detailed. This is neither warranted nor envisaged for the foreseeable future.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

150 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the stage which the plan to develop an east west Interconnector is at; if a decision been taken on whether it will be developed on a regulated or hybrid regulated or merchant basis; if there are plans to develop a further north south or east west interconnector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20653/06]

The small size of the Irish electricity market underlines the need for greater interconnection as a means of enhancing security of supply, promoting competition and integrating the Irish electricity market into the wider European market. In this context, the East-West electricity interconnector project is a key priority for the Government.

I will be bringing the matter to Government in the coming weeks for final decision as to the mechanism to secure East-West interconnection in terms of financing and developer selection, informed by the advice of the Commission for Energy Regulation. Decisions are needed now in order to ensure that the target date of no later than 2012 for operation of the interconnector is met.

In this context, the Deputy will have noted that the second stage of the Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions Bill) 2006 concluded in the House last week. The Bill provides the necessary legislative powers for the CER, with my consent, to secure the construction of an interconnector by means of competitive tender, authorisation process, or inclusion in the development plans of the transmission system operator. The Bill further provides for the possibility that costs related to the interconnector can be recouped through the transmission use of system charge.

As regards North-South interconnection, both Governments today jointly endorsed the project underway by the Transmission System Operators for the construction of a second electricity interconnector. The new interconnector, which will more than double the current cross-border electricity trading capacity, is scheduled to be operational by 2012 or sooner. The additional East/West and North/South interconnectors will substantially augment system security and reliability and facilitate more competition. The North/South interconnector development will also critically underpin the all-island single electricity market.

Telecommunications Services.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

151 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if competing potential service providers have been impeded in their proposals to provide broadband or other forms of modern telecommunications; his plans to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20756/06]

The telecoms market is fully liberalised and is regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg. ComReg is independent in the exercise of its functions, in accordance with the provisions of the Communications Regulations Act 2002 and the transposed EU Regulatory Framework.

Post Office Network.

Shane McEntee

Question:

152 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of post offices closed throughout the country on a county basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20763/06]

The opening, conversion and closure of individual post offices is a matter for the board and management of An Post. With regard to the post office network, as clearly set out in the Programme for Government, this Government and the Board of An Post are committed to the objective of securing a viable and sustainable nationwide post office network. Notwithstanding the commercial remit of An Post, there is a clear Government recognition of the social benefits of maintaining the nationwide post office network. Accordingly, An Post development strategies for the network continue to take full account of these benefits.

It is the Government's objective to maintain the largest, economically sustainable post office network possible. The challenge for all stakeholders in An Post is to generate sufficient profitable business to maintain the network at its current size. While the Government will support the network in any way it can, the way forward is for An Post to enhance existing services and building on existing strengths, to develop new product offerings.

I would refer the Deputy to the table which outlines the information requested on the number of post offices closed on a county basis in the past four years.

Post Office Closures and Conversions in the past four years

County

Office Closures

Conversions to Agents

Agent Closures

Carlow

1

2

1

Cavan

7

18

6

Clare

4

5

0

Cork

9

31

12

Donegal

3

15

11

Dublin

7

3

3

Galway

7

10

3

Kerry

2

8

1

Kildare

2

3

0

Kilkenny

5

12

1

Laois

3

3

1

Leitrim

0

13

4

Limerick

5

14

6

Longford

3

5

2

Louth

5

2

0

Mayo

12

26

9

Meath

5

5

2

Monaghan

7

5

1

Offaly

4

6

2

Roscommon

7

12

2

Sligo

4

17

9

Tipperary

10

13

9

Waterford

1

3

0

Westmeath

6

12

7

Wexford

8

12

3

Wicklow

3

5

0

Question No. 153 answered with QuestionNo. 143.
Question No. 154 answered with QuestionNo. 98.

Electricity Generation.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

155 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the way in which it is intended to ensure adequacy or security of supply in the context of the future development of the ESB; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20742/06]

Security of supply in relation to electricity is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Internal Market in Electricity) Regulations 2005. These Regulations give the CER formal responsibility in law for security of supply of electricity with powers to act to secure and enhance supply.

The CER has been empowered to take any measures necessary to protect security of supply. In particular, it can host a competition to acquire the necessary generation or it can direct the Transmission System Operator (TSO), ESB or any licensed undertaking to implement any arrangements that the CER considers necessary to protect the security of supply. Possible future directions for the electricity sector, in light of all relevant considerations, will be set out in the Energy Policy Green Paper which will be published mid-year.

Regulatory Bodies.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

156 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he proposes to give ComReg concurrent competition powers; if he has plans for an overall review of the performance of the two main regulators within his remit, ComReg and CER; the way in which he benchmarks the performance of both regulatory bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20616/06]

I recently announced my intention to provide the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) with concurrent competition law powers in the telecoms sector, which will allow them to investigate and take action in issues such as the abuse of dominance. These proposals are being progressed within my Department in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General. I intend to bring these proposals to Government for approval along with the proposals for the Electronic Communications (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which are currently being drafted by the Parliamentary Counsel. This Bill is a priority for me in the communications area.

In line with Government policy, the sectoral regulatory institutions and frameworks are subject to ongoing monitoring. Aside from these new and enhanced powers for ComReg, I have no plans at this juncture to initiate a specific performance review. While my Department and I are in regular contact with the Regulator on many issues, ComReg is independent in the exercise of its functions under the provisions of the Communications Regulation Act of 2002.

The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) is also independent in the performance of its functions under the Electricity Regulation Act 1999. The CER and the Competition Authority have signed a co-operation agreement under the Competition Act, 2002 in relation to avoidance of duplication and ensuring consistency, as far as practicable between decisions made by the two bodies. In fulfilment of the requirement to operate within a policy framework set out by me as Minister, the CER has prepared and published a strategic plan setting out its goals and objectives for the electricity and natural gas sectors. The latest plan covers the period of 2005 to 2010, while ComReg's latest Strategy Statement covers the period of 2005 to 2007.

In fulfilment of their statutory requirements both Regulators report to me each year on the performance of their functions and their proposed work programmes for the following year. Annual reports and accounts for each of the Regulators are laid before each House of the Oireachtas, and their financial performance is measurable from these accounts which are audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Scrutiny of the performance of the regulators is enhanced by appearances before the Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and the Public Accounts Committee. This Committee has, at its discretion, the statutory power to request either ComReg or the CER to account for its performance at any time. In addition, the performance of Ireland's regulatory regimes in general, including the effectiveness of the regulators is regularly reviewed by the European Commission in comparison to other European regulatory regimes. The outcome is published each year and available to the Committees and any other interested party.

As regards an overall review of the performance of the CER, relevant regulatory issues including the appropriateness and efficacy of the energy regulatory framework will be addressed in the Energy Policy Green Paper currently being finalised.

Telecommunications Services.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

157 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will bring forward measures for the regulation of the content of mobile phone products and services; his views on ending the self-regulation of this sector and incorporating the functions of RegTel into ComReg; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20641/06]

I have no plans for the regulation of the content of mobile phone products and services. The Office of the Regulator of Premium Rate Telecoms Services, RegTel, already authorises and supervises the content and promotion of premium rate telecommunications services within the Irish market and is independent.

RegTel does not report to me as Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and I have no plans to amend its status, nor have I received any request to do so. The area of consumer protection within which RegTel operates falls mainly under the remit of my colleague the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs. In addition, the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg has no role in relation to content.

Question No. 158 answered with QuestionNo. 102.

Energy Resources.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

159 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the storage capacity of oil, gas, coal or other fuels; his plans to improve same in line with economic development requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20708/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

346 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the storage capacity of oil, gas, coal or other fuels; his plans to improve same in line with economic development requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20833/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 346 together.

As a member of the International Energy Agency Ireland is required to maintain emergency oil stocks equivalent to at least 90 days of net imports of crude oil equivalent in the previous year. The EU imposes a similar requirement based on consumption. The National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA) is responsible for holding Ireland's strategic oil reserves.

Ireland meets its obligations through a combination of stocks owned by NORA both at home and abroad, stocks ‘ticketed' by NORA and operational stocks held in Ireland by the oil industry and large companies. At 1 April 2006 Ireland's oil stock reserves were estimated at 108 days net imports of which NORA stocks accounted for 37 days. It is estimated that oil storage capacity held by the Irish oil industry and oil consumers amounts to 98 days. The question of increasing the capacity of oil companies and oil consumers is one for the companies themselves.

I am satisfied that Ireland's emergency oil stock levels are sufficient to ensure that we would be in a position to participate effectively in any internationally coordinated response in the event of an international oil supply disruption, or manage any short-term disruption specifically impacting on the Irish market.

The Irish gas transmission system is designed to cope with a 1-in-50 peak day, or the coldest day likely to occur once in 50 years. A new Unified Code of Operations introduced by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) in April 2005 sets out standards for the protection of non-daily metered customers (including households) in the event of disruption of supply or extreme climatic conditions. This is a robust standard which takes account of the scarcity of indigenous resources. Within the pipeline system itself (i.e. interconnectors and ring-main) there would be a stock level of 20-30 mscm (otherwise known as linepack).

The CER is currently in the process of issuing a licence to Marathon Oil Limited to operate a storage facility at the depleting gas fields off the Kinsale Head in Co. Cork. This facility, with a storage capacity of 7bcf, will come into operation on the 1st of June 2006. The CER has the statutory function of licensing natural gas storage facilities. In carrying out its functions, the CER must have regard to the need to secure that there is sufficient capacity in the natural gas system to enable reasonable expectations of demand to be met, and to secure the continuity, security and quality of supplies of natural gas.

One of the strategic objectives of the All-island energy development framework for natural gas is a common approach on natural gas storage and LNG. An All-island study is being commissioned to assess the medium to long-term position with regard to security of natural gas supply and consider the scope for a common approach on storage and LNG. It will also have regard to industry views, any existing capacities as well as to planned or proposed developments for storage on the island.

In the case of peat, Bord na Móna holds stocks of approximately 7 million tonnes of peat. This equates to almost twice the Board's annual contracted sales of milled peat for electricity generation at three power plants and sales by two briquette factories.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

160 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of applications he has received to date under the SEI greener homes scheme for each of the product categories that are covered; if there are limits on the number of applications that can be approved in any one year; if the amount of grant approved to each application is flexible or is fixed dependent on the size and type of heating system that is being has decreased since the introduction of the scheme; and when is the projected exhaustion of moneys allocated to the scheme. [20778/06]

Martin Ferris

Question:

294 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will consider introducing carbon credits for private dwellings using solar, geo thermal, wood pellets, wind energy or insulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20573/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 160 and 294 together.

The Greener Homes grant aid package for the domestic sector is being rolled-out over a five-year period from 2006 to 2010. The scheme supports investment in renewable energy heat technologies. The level of funding currently available under the package is €27m overall for the three technologies covered, flexibility will be maintained regarding the transfer of funding within the package subject to demand. Subject to funding availability there is no limitation on the number of applications which can be approved in any one year and my Department will keep funding under review throughout the year in light of demand. The programme will be monitored closely to ensure that it delivers on objectives to meet and stimulate demand for renewable energy.

There has been a very high level of interest in the scheme so far. In the eight week period since the scheme was launched Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) has received 2,500 applications for grant aid broken down as in the table.

Technology

Number of applications received

Heat Pumps

1,275

Wood Chip and Wood Pellet Stoves and Boilers

725

Solar Panels

500

Grants under the scheme, which are available to all homeowners meeting the conditions of the scheme, are at fixed levels in the case of heat pumps and wood pellet/ chip boilers and stoves. For solar technology grant support is at a level of €300/m2 subject to a maximum of 12 m2. In certain circumstances, where particular eligible technologies are used in combination, grant levels applying may be adjusted.

In addition to the Greener Homes scheme SEI also runs a number of other schemes directed at improving the energy efficiency of private dwellings. The issue of carbon credits for private dwellings using renewable energy products or insulation is not feasible or appropriate in the current context of tradeable carbon credits and EU parameters. Currently the only market available in Europe for carbon is underpinned by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme Directive. This Directive is explicitly targeted at large industry and high carbon emitters, and only companies identified as meeting the requirements to participate are given permits to trade.

Fisheries Protection.

Seán Ryan

Question:

161 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will report on the three person expert working group on salmon; if he has decided to comply fully with the scientific advice and precautionary approach in relation to ending mixed stock fishing for salmon in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20647/06]

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

I established the Independent Group, to which the Deputy refers, to examine the implications for the commercial sector in 2007 and beyond arising from the course of action determined and to make recommendations on the options available to address any financial hardship that may arise. The group is currently engaged in its task and I understand has recently invited submissions from interested parties, the closing date for receipt of which is 30 the June 2006. The group is due to submit its report to me in September 2006.

Offshore Exploration.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

162 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position regarding the review of the State’s fiscal regime for the exploration and exploitation of Ireland’s offshore natural resources that his Department is currently undertaking; when he expects the review to be concluded and made public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20622/06]

I recently announced that I have put a review of the current fiscal regime in motion and that my Department will shortly seek tenders to have independent experts assist in this review. Improvements to the fiscal terms will be examined in the context of the current Exploration & Production (E&P) industry climate, taking account of terms applied in other comparable jurisdictions. This process is at an early stage.

Broadcasting Services.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

163 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when the consultants Deloitte and Touche and William Fry Solicitors will report on an implementation plan for the establishment of TG4 as an independent statutory body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20640/06]

I have examined the consultants' report on the implementation plan for the establishment of TG4 and have formulated my proposals, which I will circulate shortly to Government.

Harbours and Piers.

Mary Upton

Question:

164 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the Government’s views and estimates of the capital development programme for fisheries harbours here to the end of 2007 and during the next National Development Plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20651/06]

The funding available to the Department under the Port Infrastructure Improvement Programme of the National Development Plan 2000-2006 is directed at projects that improve infrastructure and facilities (including ice plants, landing and storage facilities) at key strategic fishery harbours and the construction and improvement of berthage and related facilities at smaller harbours and landing places, with a key role in maintaining jobs in fishing, aquaculture and ancillary activities.

Funding of €22.5 million is available for the Fishery Harbours Development Programme in 2006, of which approximately €2 million is being assigned to the programme for funding of small fishery harbours. A number of projects under the Fishery Harbours Development Programme are at various stages of development. This year the extension to the pier at Clogherhead, Co Louth will be completed at a total estimated cost of €11 million. The development at Castletownbere will be partially completed by 2006 and €12 million has been allocated this year. Funding will be required post 2006 to complete this development. Funding of smaller pier improvement projects that are currently being partially funded by the Department within the overall programme will be required post 2006.

Development works will continue to be required to improve fishery harbour infrastructure and increase safety for the fishing sector. The safety issue is still a priority at the major state owned fishing centre. The financial envelope including funding requirements for the Fishery Harbours Measure under the NDP 2007 to 2013 is currently being formulated. A list of projects approved under the Fishery Harbours Development Programme for 2006 is shown in the table.

Fishery Harbour Programme 2006

Location

Project

Total Cost

DCMNR Contribution

Castletownbere FHC, Cork

Dinish Wharf extension & offices

12,000,000

12,000,000

Castletownbere FHC, Cork

Effluent treatment

700,000

700,000

Castletownbere FHC, Cork

Mainland Quay

100,000

100,000

Clogherhead, Co Louth

Port Oriel development

5,503,268

4,127,451

Greencastle, Donegal

Harbour development

3,200,000

2,400,000

Ros-a-Mhíl FHC

Gear store

250,000

250,000

Ros-a-Mhíl FHC

Development

1,000,000

0

Cromane, Kerry

Development

266,667

200,000

Dunmore East FHC, Waterford

Development

600,000

600,000

Dunmore East FHC, Waterford

Repair to East Pier

300,000

300,000

Knightstown, Kerry

Co-funded with DCRGA

800,000

400,000

Buncrana, Donegal

Construction of breakwater

300,000

225,000

Burtonport, Donegal

Harbour dredging Phase 2

780,000

585,000

Total

25,799,935

21,887,451

Question No. 165 answered with QuestionNo. 78.
Question No. 166 answered with QuestionNo. 120.

Fishing Fleet Modernisation.

Joe Costello

Question:

167 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the Government’s position, in view of rising fuel prices, on the recent EU proposal at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council for €4 billion to be spent over 2007 to 2013 on the installation of more efficient engines on boats of less than 12 metres in length; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20621/06]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to the €3.849 billion allocation under the proposed European Fisheries Fund (EFF) for the period 2007-2013. This is in fact the total allocation for the EFF, for all measures and for all 25 Member States, for the period in question, and does not relate to any individual proposal under the ambit of the Fund.

The increased cost of fuel to fishing vessels is a matter of serious concern and has been discussed at a number of recent Fisheries Councils. Given the general expectation that fuel prices are unlikely to revert to their previous lower levels, I believe that there is a clear economic imperative, in addition to an environmental dividend, that all fishing vessels irrespective of their size should be installed with the most energy-efficient engines and I supported proposals in this regard during the Fisheries Council discussions on the new European Fisheries Fund. Council did not achieve the necessary support for the new Fisheries Fund Regulation and I understand that it will be back for consideration at Council again in the early Autumn. I will continue to support the grant aiding of such engines in the forthcoming negotiations.

Discussions to date have indicated that considerable research activity is required in this area and I have pressed strongly at Council for this area to be prioritised under the EU's seventh Framework Programme for Research (2007 -2013).

Alternative Energy Projects.

Joan Burton

Question:

168 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will report on the recently launched Ocean Energy Strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20642/06]

I recently launched a new ocean energy strategy, which aims to put Ireland at the forefront of ocean energy development and position us to capitalise on this resource. The strategy was developed by Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) and the Marine Institute.

As the first stage in implementing this strategy, we have recently upgraded the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre in UCC as well as opening an ocean energy test site a mile and a half off the coast of Spiddal, Co Galway. This 37-hectare site will be open to test prototype ocean energy devices. The first wave energy device, ‘WaveBob' has been deployed on the Spiddal site. SEI and the Marine Institute are also currently supporting a number of other ocean energy research and development initiatives.

The second phase of the strategy will see the development of pre-commercial grid connected devices and provide for a grid connection to the Galway Bay test site. Ireland has one of the most promising ocean energy resources in the world and the ocean energy strategy aims to position Ireland to take full advantage of this resource in the future.

Question No. 169 answered with QuestionNo. 108.

Television Licence Fee.

Liz McManus

Question:

170 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he is reviewing the television licensing regime; his views on whether the digitisation process may necessitate a re-examination of the present licensing system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20631/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 343 and 344 on 25 April, 2006.

Fisheries Protection.

Seán Ryan

Question:

171 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will report on the implementation of the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act, 2006 including the establishment of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority; his plans to improve the monitoring of Ireland’s waters and developments in the EU fisheries control regime administered from Vigo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20646/06]

The Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act, 2006 was enacted on 4 April 2006. Following the enactment I introduced secondary legislation, as provided for in the Act, to bring into force EU and national control and conservation measures. I have also put in place arrangements, as provided for in the Act, for quota management and the granting of authorisations to fish for certain fish stocks. I have asked the Department to put in place the necessary structures and arrangements to allow for the establishment of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority at an early date.

The European Fisheries Council agreed in 2005 to establish a Community Fisheries Control Agency to improve cooperation and coordination between the control authorities of Member States. The Agency is to be based in Vigo, Spain and is expected to become operational before the end of 2006.

Matters relating to the Naval Service are for my colleague, the Minister for Defence.

Post Office Network.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

172 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has monitored the extent to which post offices have been downgraded or closed in the past four years; [20703/06]

I have no statutory function in relation to this matter. It is an operational issue for the Board and Management of An Post. The table outlines the information requested with regard to the closure and downgrading of post offices in the past four years.

Post Office Closures and Conversions in the past four years

County

Office Closures

Conversions to Agents

Agent Closures

Carlow

1

2

1

Cavan

7

18

6

Clare

4

5

0

Cork

9

31

12

Donegal

3

15

11

Dublin

7

3

3

Galway

7

10

3

Kerry

2

8

1

Kildare

2

3

0

Kilkenny

5

12

1

Laois

3

3

1

Leitrim

0

13

4

Limerick

5

14

6

Longford

3

5

2

Louth

5

2

0

Mayo

12

26

9

Meath

5

5

2

Monaghan

7

5

1

Offaly

4

6

2

Roscommon

7

12

2

Sligo

4

17

9

Tipperary

10

13

9

Waterford

1

3

0

Westmeath

6

12

7

Wexford

8

12

3

Wicklow

3

5

0

Departmental Programmes.

Mary Upton

Question:

173 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will report on the Lost at Sea scheme in view of the reported intention of the Information Commissioner Ombudsman to investigate this programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20652/06]

The position in relation to the Lost at Sea Scheme was outlined in previous replies to questions, most recently, Question No. 86 on 21 February 2006. The Department was informed by the Ombudsman in February 2006 that she has decided to proceed to a formal investigation of a complaint made to her Office by a person whose application was refused under the Scheme and that a statement of complaint would issue to the Department in due course. The Department will cooperate fully with any such investigation.

Fishing Industry Development.

Joe Costello

Question:

174 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will provide details of his recent meeting with representatives of the sea-fishing industry; his proposals for a comprehensive strategy for the sea-fishing sector; the challenges it faces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20620/06]

There was a wide-ranging and constructive discussion on a variety of issues of importance to the sector at the recent meeting with representatives of the Irish fishing industry. The discussion focused on current difficulties facing the industry covering quota allocations, fuel prices and declining fish stocks. There was a very good discussion on possible steps that might be taken to alleviate the situation for vessel owners and processors. There was a recognition that many of the current problems affecting the industry were of a structural nature that needed to be tackled in a concerted and focused manner.

Consensus was reached at the meeting on the need for the development of a comprehensive strategy to address these problems. The primary objective of this strategy will be to secure a sustainable and profitable Irish seafood sector that delivers the maximum possible returns to fishing communities around the coast. I anticipate that the strategy will be completed by this Autumn and that it will map out, on a prioritised basis, all necessary initiatives from both the public and private sectors to deliver this objective.

The sector currently faces a number of significant challenges and it is clear that it is not operating at present in an economically optimal way, due mainly to the adverse impacts of high fuel costs and reduced quotas. I believe, however, that this situation can be resolved satisfactorily. I would consider that the main challenge facing the sector is to deliver an environmentally sustainable seafood sector that maximises employment and economic activity in Ireland's communities dependent on fisheries.

Offshore Exploration.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

175 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in regard to registration of exploration interests outside the 200 mile limit with particular reference to the porcupine basin and this country’s potential entitlement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20696/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

335 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in regard to registration of exploration interests outside the 200 mile limit with particular reference to the Porcupine Basin and this country’s potential entitlement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20821/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 175 and 335 together.

The Porcupine Basin and the Goban Spur both lie entirely within Ireland's 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone and therefore the issue of entitlement does not arise. Ireland made a submission under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to extend its continental shelf beyond 200 miles into the Porcupine Abyssal Plain area last year, and beyond 200 miles into the Biscay Abyssal Plain area (together with France, Spain and the UK) earlier this month. Both submissions are now before the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Based on the recommendations from the Commission, Ireland will then establish the outer limits of its continental shelf in these two areas. Recommendations are expected on the Porcupine Abyssal Plain later this year and on the Biscay Abyssal Plain next year.

Once the outer limits are established, Ireland can proceed to licence these areas for exploration in the normal way.

Question No. 176 answered with QuestionNo. 108.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

177 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the incentives there are for people to choose to use alternative energy. [20680/06]

There are a number of incentives available to those who wish to use alternative energy. The multi-annual financial package for renewable energy announced in Budget 2006 provides funding of up to €65m over a 5 year period for renewable energy schemes that will include grants for a range of renewable heat, electricity and transport initiatives. The programmes cover the biofuels, biomass heating, combined heat and power (CHP) and domestic energy sectors. The first part of this package, the Greener Homes Scheme, which provides funding of €27m for renewable energy heat technologies for the domestic sector, was launched in March this year.

In the area of renewable electricity our immediate programme is to increase the contribution from renewable energy to electricity to 13.2% by 2010. This requires capacity of 1,450 megawatts (MW) and we are on track to achieve this target: In the last two years alone, Ireland has doubled its renewable generating capacity to 846MW. A further 630MW has signed connection agreements. To ensure that these projects are delivered, I have launched the Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff (REFIT) programme. This Programme, which will cost in the region of €119m over fifteen years, will underpin the viability of these projects by offering 15 year contracts to developers.

These measures will ensure we reach the target. Not only will we achieve our 2010 renewable electricity targets — we intend to surpass them. In support of this aim, an additional 1,300 MW of wind projects were released into the connection process in the last few weeks.

Telecommunications Services.

Seán Crowe

Question:

178 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the cooperation there has been with his northern counterparts regarding the roll-out of broadband throughout the island; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20684/06]

The telecommunications sectors in both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland are fully liberalised but regulated, by ComReg in this jurisdiction and by OFCOM in Northern Ireland. My Department and Northern Ireland's Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment are jointly implementing the €7.56 million, EU supported, Interreg IIIa initiative, which is funding a number of projects to improve broadband connectivity in border areas.

The Departments enjoy an excellent working relationship and will be launching a cross border ‘Broadband Awareness Campaign' during the summer. Both Departments are continuing to work with the SEUPB (Special European Union Programmes Body) on the formation of the next phase of EU border programmes.

Electricity Generation.

John Gormley

Question:

179 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason he has limited the feed in fixed price traffic system for renewable electricity supplies to 400MW of new supplies; if he will approach the European Commission to ascertain if a larger amount of power supplies could be covered under the support scheme; and his Department’s views on the amount of wind power that can be introduced into the electricity market here before extensive constraining of wind power supplies becomes necessary. [20776/06]

The overall target is to more than double the current contribution from renewable energy technologies in electricity production to 13% by 2010. The target of 13.2% approximates to 1450 Megawatts of installed generating capacity operational by 2010. This target will be delivered by projects built under the preceding AER V and VI support programmes and the recently announced REFIT programme.

The volume of wind powered electricity generating stations which can contribute positively to electricity production at any time, is dependent on technological developments within the technology, electricity demand, the size and mix of technologies on the electricity network and the development of interconnectors. The constraints to the greater deployment of wind technology in the electricity market at this time is a combination of concerns about system stability and the technical status of and market interest in the technology as well as cost. A major all-island grid study is already in development to examine the implications of significantly increased renewables in the electricity mix on the island by 2020.

The 400 MWs is a minimum target which will be subject to ongoing reviews. It is agreed this volume of capacity can be accommodated without compromising the overall electricity network and under operational conditions acceptable to investors.

Question No. 180 answered with QuestionNo. 98.

Post Office Network.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

181 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the post offices which have closed in 2006; his views on a separate new regulator for An Post and other postal operators, in view of the unique features of the postal market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20648/06]

The Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg, in accordance with the provisions of S.I. 616 of 2002 European Communities (Postal Services) Regulations, is responsible for the monitoring, measurement and regulation of the postal sector including measuring the levels of service to be achieved by An Post and ensuring that the company abides by its statutory universal service obligations. ComReg is responsible for monitoring An Post's quality of service performance and for setting and publishing quality of service standards.

On the issue of a separate new regulator for the postal sector, I have no intention at this time of making any changes to the designation of ComReg as the postal regulator. The model of a joint regulator for the telecommunications and postal sectors is common one throughout Europe, especially for the smaller countries where the scale does not exist to justify a separate regulator for each sector.

Finally, the day-to-day operation of the post office network, including expansion, is an operational matter for the Board and management of An Post. The table outlines the information requested on the post offices that have closed in 2006.

Post Office Closures in 2006

Sub-Office

County

Kildinan

Cork

Church Cross

Cork

Cranford

Donegal

Brandon

Kerry

Fortel

Offaly

Boholas

Roscommon

Crosspatrick

Tipperary

Drumcree

Westmeath

Tomhaggard

Wexford

Grangecon

Wicklow

Farmer Statistics.

Pat Breen

Question:

182 Mr. P. Breen asked the Taoiseach the number of full time and part time farmers in Ireland in 1946, 1956, 1966, 1976, 1986, 1996 and 2006. [20890/06]

Comparable figures are not available on the numbers of full-time and part-time farmers for all the years requested during the period 1946 to 2006. Up to 1991 the focus of agriculture surveys was on the land holding, without distinguishing between the holder's full-time or part-time involvement in farming. Table 1 shows the number of Agricultural Holdings over 1 acre for available years during the period 1945-1980.

Table 1.

Year

No. of Holdings over 1 acre

1945

321,800

1950

317,900

1955

313,300

1960

290,300

1965

283,500

1970

279,500

1975

269,800

1980

263,600

In the 1991 Census of Agriculture, a new system was introduced which focused on the operational aspects of farming. All farms over one hectare (about 2.5 acres) were surveyed. It distinguished whether the farmer was involved full-time (i.e. his or her sole occupation was farming) or part-time (i.e. farming was a major or subsidiary occupation for him or her). Table 2 shows the total number of active farms from 1991 to 2003 (the latest data available), broken down into full-time and part-time.

Table 2.

No. of Farms

Year

Full Time (000)

Part Time (000)

Total (000)

1991

124.7

45.2

169.9

1993

106.0

52.9

158.9

1995

101.2

51.8

153.0

1997

98.3

49.3

147.6

2000

78.7

62.6

141.3

2003

77.9

57.2

135.1

The comparable estimate of the total number of active farms over one hectare in 1980 was 193,000, of which 158,000 were full-time and 35,000 part-time.

Departmental Bodies.

Denis Naughten

Question:

183 Mr. Naughten asked the Taoiseach the public bodies under the control of his Department; their function, role, location and establishment date; the administration costs of each body in the year 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20464/06]

Central Statistics Office The function of the Central Statistics Office (CSO) is to collect, compile, analyse and disseminate statistical information relating to the economic, social and general activities and conditions in the State. It is also responsible for co-ordinating official statistics produced by other public authorities and for developing the statistical potential of administrative records.

The CSO has offices in Cork, Dublin and Swords as follows:

Central Statistics Office, Skehard Road, Cork.

Central Statistics Office, Ardee Road, Rathmines, Dublin 6.

CSO Census Centre, Unit 4D, Swords Business Campus, Balheary Road, Co. Dublin.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) was established in 1949 and is an independent Office under the aegis of the Department of the Taoiseach. The CSO gross expenditure (provisional out-turn) for 2005 was €46,578,000. The final out-turn for 2005 will be available on publication of the Appropriation Account for 2005.

National Statistics Board

The function and role of the National Statistics Board is to establish priorities for the compilation and development of official statistics; to assess the human, financial and equipment resources to be made available for the compilation of official statistics and to arbitrate on any conflicts which may arise with other public authorities on the extraction of statistics from records or the co-ordination of statistical activities.

The National Statistics Board is located in Ardee Road, Dublin 6. It was initially set up on a non-statutory basis in 1986 and was established on a statutory basis in November 1994 when the Statistics Act, 1993 came into operation. Its gross expenditure for 2005 was €51,328 (of which €48,989 was in relation to stipend fees).

Law Reform Commission

The function of the Commission is to keep the law under review and in accordance with the provisions of the Law Reform Commission Act, 1975 undertake examinations and conduct research with a view to reforming the law and formulate proposals for law reform.

The role of the Commission is to keep the law under independent, impartial and expert review and to make consequent recommendations for law reform. The location of the Commission is 35-39 Shelbourne Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. It was established on 20 October, 1975. The Administration cost for 2005 was €2,171,170. This will be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution

The function of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee (APOCC) on the Constitution is to act as an informal Oireachtas Committee. It is funded from the Vote of the Department of the Taoiseach. Its terms of reference charge it with a full review of the Constitution, having regard to the Report of the Constitution Review Group.

The location of the Committee's Secretariat is Phoenix House, 7-9 South Leinster Street, Dublin 2. Following the election of the Twenty-Ninth Dáil and Seanad in May 2002, the present committee, chaired by Denis O'Donovan T.D., was re-constituted by the Taoiseach with the concurrence of the leaders of the political parties and the independent members.

The total costs for the Committee for the year 2005 was €338,639.38. The sum of €164,725.80 related to pay costs. Administration costs amounted to €173,913.58, of which €35,107.50 related to the publication of the Committee's Tenth Progress Report: The Family. The balance of €138,806.08 related to normal administration costs such as IT services, telephone, fax and internet charges, electricity, publications and office machinery.

National Economic and Social Development Office

The National Economic and Social Development Office Bill, 2002, which has passed all stages in the Dáil and is due in Committee Stage in the Seanad tomorrow (Wednesday, 31 May, 2006), establishes the National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO), comprising three bodies, the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), the National Economic and Social Forum (NESF) and the National Centre for Partnership and Performance (NCPP).

NESDO and its three constituent bodies have been in existence and operating on a non-statutory basis for various lengths of time. The Bill when enacted will place them on a statutory basis for the first time. The Bill provides that the Taoiseach may by order appoint a day to be the Establishment Day for the purposes of the Act. This will be the date when all the provisions of the Bill, when enacted, will come into force.

The National Economic and Social Council was established in 1974, the National Economic and Social Forum in 1993 and the National Centre for Partnership and Performance in 2001. The NCPP is the successor to the National Centre for Partnership and arose from the commitment in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness that it would be located with the NESC and the NESF, within the National Economic and Social Development Office, where it would work with IBEC and ICTU in supporting the deepening of partnership. The functions of the Bodies are as follows:

National Economic and Social Development Office

To advise the Taoiseach on all strategic matters relevant to economic and social development in the State by facilitating and promoting complementary programmes of research, analysis and discussions by the NESC, NESF and the NCPP; providing shared administration and support services for the NESC, NESF and the NCPP; submitting to the Government any reports, recommendations or conclusions of the NESC, NESF and the NCPP which may arise from any research, survey or study carried out by such a Body, and arranging for the publication of such reports, recommendations or conclusions of such Body.

National Economic and Social Council

To analyse and report to the Taoiseach on strategic issues relating to the efficient development of the economy and the achievement of social justice and the development of a strategic framework for the conduct of relations and the negotiation of agreements between the Government and the social partners.

National Economic and Social Forum

To monitor and analyse the implementation of specific measures and programmes identified in the context of social partnership arrangements, especially those concerned with the achievement of equality and social inclusion and to facilitate public consultation on policy matters referred to it by the Government from time to time.

National Centre for Partnership and Performance

To support and facilitate organisational change and innovation based on partnership in order to bring about improved performance and mutual gain, and to contribute to national competitiveness, better public services, higher living standards, a better quality of life and the development of the workplace of the future. To advise the Taoiseach on such matters relating to the deepening of workplace partnership in the public and private sectors as he or she may, from time to time, specify.

NESDO and its constituent bodies are located at 16 Parnell Square, Dublin 1. The provisional outturn for 2005 for these bodies is as follows:

NESDO €1.064 million; NESC €0.79 million;

NESF €0.689 million; NCPP €1.041 million.

Information Society Commission

The Information Society Commission was established as an independent advisory body to Government. The first Commission's term of office was from May 1997 to December 2000, the second Commission ran from November 2003 to December 2004. The Secretariats of the respective Information Society Commissions were located at the Department of the Taoiseach, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2 and at 2-4 Merrion Row, Dublin 2. The amount spent in respect of the Information Society Commission for the year 2005 was €333,900.

Marriage Statistics.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

184 Mr. Kehoe asked the Taoiseach the number of people here who are in their second marriage, third marriage and so on; and the breakdown of the figures involved for the past ten years. [20173/06]

The information requested by the deputy is not available. However information from the Census of Population 2002 does provide some details in relation to the numbers of people in their first marriage, and numbers of people who have remarried. The relevant information is outlined in the following table:

Total

Male

Female

First Marriage

1,423,884

711,302

712,582

Remarried

30,529

17,042

13,487

Legal Fees.

Michael Ring

Question:

185 Mr. Ring asked the Taoiseach if he will set out in tabular form the brief fee for prosecuting junior counsel in respect of indictable trials in the Circuit Court for each year from 2001 to date in 2006; and where there is an increase, the yearly percentage increase on a yearly basis. [20086/06]

A table showing the standard brief fee paid to junior counsel for the prosecution of indictable offences in the Circuit Court from 2001 to date is set out below. This table shows increases paid and the effective dates of those increases. No increase has been paid in 2006 although an increase of 2.5% is planned from 1 June, 2006.

Effective From

Increase

£

%

01/10/2000

865.00

1,100.00

01/04/2001

883.00

1,122.00

2.0

01/10/2001

932.00

1,184.00

5.5

01/10/2002

1,232.00

4.1

01/07/2004

1,294.00

5.0

01/12/2004

1,320.00

2.0

01/06/2005

1,340.00

1.5

01/12/2005

1,360.00

1.5

Michael Ring

Question:

186 Mr. Ring asked the Taoiseach the amount paid to prosecuting counsel in the conducting of criminal business appearing on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions in respect of areas (details supplied) hereto for the year 2005 distinguishing between the amount paid to prosecuting junior counsel and prosecuting senior counsel. [20090/06]

Details of the amounts paid to prosecuting counsel appearing on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions are not recorded in respect of the areas for which details were supplied. Rather such payments are recorded on a county-by-county basis. Information with regard to payments made to junior and senior counsel in 2005 for prosecutions in the Circuit and Central Criminal Courts are shown below. Extracting information with regard to payments made to counsel for District Court prosecutions would involve a manual examination of all payment records and would be prohibitively expensive. I can inform the Deputy, however, that payments to counsel for prosecution work in the District Court would only occur in exceptional circumstances.

In most cases, the areas specified by the Deputy correspond to counties. While payment information is not recorded for the specific areas referred to by the Deputy, it has been possible in the cases of three counties where a more detailed breakdown was sought to provide additional information. Details of this expenditure for the year 2005 are set out below.

County

B.L. Fee Circuit Court

S.C. Fees Circuit Court

B.L. Fees Central Criminal Court

S.C. Fees Central Criminal Court

Total

Carlow

27,607

27,607

Cavan

35,857

3,025

38,882

Clare

105,530

10,001

15,002

130,533

Cork

534,715

20,655

19,387

29,081

603,838

Donegal

97,775

29,130

126,905

Galway

105,100

8,960

114,060

Kerry

140,714

140,714

Kildare

111,417

1,491

112,908

Kilkenny

39,402

39,402

Laois

18,974

18,974

Leitrim

2,263

2,263

Limerick

324,454

1,936

38,929

58,088

423,407

Longford

10,500

10,500

Louth

99,396

12,540

111,936

Mayo

107,601

14,772

22,939

145,312

Meath

85,390

85,390

Monaghan

40,721

40,721

Offaly

23,270

23,270

Roscommon

22,694

22,694

Sligo

110,099

32,276

142,375

Tipperary

56,187

182

56,369

Waterford

103,742

17,122

120,864

Westmeath

38,209

38,209

Wexford

122,609

49,610

172,219

Wicklow

40,369

318

40,687

2,404,595

177,245

83,089

125,110

2,790,039

In the case of five counties (Kildare, Limerick, Cork, Galway and Tipperary), the Deputy has requested a further breakdown by region but this information cannot be obtained for all these counties. The counties for which a breakdown is available with regard to Circuit Court fees are as follows;

(i) Kildare where 63% of fees paid relate to Kildare South and 37% relate to Kildare North/Wicklow.

(ii) Limerick where 91% of fees paid relate to Limerick City and 9% to Limerick County.

(iii) Cork where 79% of fees paid relate to Cork City and 21% to Cork county (no breakdown is available for the four separate regions of Cork County).

(iv) Galway — no breakdown by region is available.

(v) Tipperary — no breakdown by region is available.

I would further inform the Deputy that the figures for Limerick include a deferred payment of approximately €150,000 made in 2005 in respect of prosecutions in Limerick city in earlier years.

Departmental Bodies.

Richard Bruton

Question:

187 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of meetings the Working Group on Financing Long-Term Care, chaired by her Department, has had in the past twelve months; the date of the most recent meeting; and if she has set a deadline for the report of the working group. [20395/06]

In the past twelve months the Long Term Care Group, which was chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach, has met on 21 occasions. The most recent meeting took place on the 16th May 2006. The report was submitted to Government earlier this year and is currently being considered by the Cabinet.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Richard Bruton

Question:

188 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the indicators she uses to judge progress against poverty in health and the way in which they have progressed in the past five years. [20397/06]

Work is ongoing in relation to the National Anti-Poverty Strategy (NAPS) targets for the reduction of health inequalities. Actions are being pursued in conjunction with a range of stakeholders both within and outside the health services e.g. the HSE, the Institute of Public Health, the Office for Social Inclusion (OSI), the Combat Poverty Agency, the Equality Authority, the Social Partners (as represented on the Working Group on NAPS and Health) and communities themselves. However, the nature of the targets is such that major improvements are not expected to be observable in the short term.

Analysis of the available data by the Institute of Public Health revealed that gaps continue to exist between the highest and lowest socio-economic groups for low birthweight and for death rates for circulatory diseases, cancers and injuries and poisoning which are two of the three NAPS health targets. However, lack of baseline data for comparison means that progress to date is not easily measured.

The third NAPS health target is the reduction in the difference in life expectancy between the Traveller community and the general population. A Traveller health study is being funded by my Department and this will be used to identify the causes of Traveller health inequalities and inform policy.

A pilot programme under the Cardiovascular Health Strategy to test standards for demographic and socio-economic data of cardiac patients is underway. If the pilot study is successful the next step will be to consider the possible use of such data in other health information systems, particularly in patient care settings.

Work is underway in my Department to select health indicators for inclusion in the forthcoming National Action Plan against Poverty and Social Exclusion (NAPincl). The soon to be established Health Information and Quality Authority will also facilitate the collection and processing of health information in such a way as to be able to identify and address health inequalities and their causes.

Lottery Funding.

Jack Wall

Question:

189 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of applications for capital lottery funding received by county for the past five years; the number of successful applications per county for the same period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20530/06]

Jack Wall

Question:

190 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the mechanisms to be put in place or are in place to assist those successful in their applications for capital lottery funding but who have been unable to draw down their allocation. [20531/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 189 and 190 together.

Capital lottery funding provided for my Department has remained constant over the past five years at €2.539m. In the years 2005 and 2006 the funding is within Vote 40 for the HSE. This lottery funding forms part of the overall Capital Programme for that Vote. It is not available for the provision of discretionary grants to individual voluntary groups by way of general application submissions.

Mental Health Services.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

191 Mr. Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of patients likely to be discharged from mental hospitals due to the intended closures. [20944/06]

The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, "A Vision for Change" was launched on 24th January. This policy envisions an active, flexible and community-based mental health service where the need for hospital admission will be greatly reduced. The report recommends that steps be taken to bring about the closure of all psychiatric hospitals and to re-invest the resources released by these closures in the mental health service. The closure of large mental hospitals and the move to modern units attached to general hospitals, together with the expansion of community services, has been Government policy since the publication of Planning for the Future in 1984.

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 admissions to the hospital and draw up plans for relocation of existing patients;

Stage 3 — implement plans for the relocation of existing patients; and

Stage 4 — final closure of hospital.

The Report emphasises that this process should take place on a phased basis with wards closing sequentially. 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 the well-trained, fully staffed, community-based multidisciplinary Community Mental Health Teams as is recommended in "A Vision for Change".

According to the census of inpatients in psychiatric hospitals and units there were 12,484 inpatients in 1984. This figure has been significantly reduced to 3,556 inpatients in 2004. The number of patients likely to be discharged from mental health hospitals, either home or to more appropriate treatment settings, will be a matter for clinical decision at the appropriate time and is a matter for the Health Service Executive.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

192 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that notwithstanding the shortage of general practice doctors available to provide primary care, those who provide a GMS service are being forced to cease their work on reaching retirement age despite the fact that they may be willing and fit to continue providing a primary care medical service; if this policy will be changed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20387/06]

John Gormley

Question:

210 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the situation exists which forces general practitioners over seventy years of age to retire from the GMS scheme in view of the shortage of GPs generally; when there will be a review of this ageist policy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20556/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 192 and 210 together.

Under the GMS Scheme general practitioners hold one of two contract types i.e. the Fee per Item contract (first introduced in 1972) or the Capitation contract (effective from 1989). These contracts reflect the agreed outcome of negotiations between the Department of Health and Children and the GP representative body, the Irish Medical Organisation. Both contract types contain provisions which were agreed between the parties on a range of issues, including retirement age.

Under the Fee-per-Item contract it was agreed that a GP might hold the contract up to age 70. The terms of the Capitation contract which was agreed between the parties provides that GPs who entered into contracts on the date of its commencement could hold the contract up to age 70 and in all other cases the GP would hold the contract to age 65. Doctors may, of course, continue to practise as private practitioners and treat private patients following retirement from the GMS Scheme.

I am committed to ensuring that there is an adequate supply of doctors to meet the future manpower needs of the GMS Scheme. Following consultation with the Irish College of General Practitioners, in 2004, on the issue it was agreed to increase the number of GP trainee places on GP vocational training schemes nationally from 84 to 150, on a phased basis. I have provided additional funding of €2 million in 2005 and an additional €4 million in 2006 for this measure.

Child Support.

Liam Twomey

Question:

193 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the cost and breakdown of each cost, of informing parents of the new early childcare supplement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20388/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, there has been great interest from the public regarding the Early Childcare Supplement, and a number of Questions have been asked in this House about the arrangements for this payment. The payment has also been the subject of a large number of telephone queries, both to my Office, and to the Department of Social & Family Affairs which will be administering it on an agency basis.

In keeping with the commitment to deliver high standards of customer service, the recipients of Child Benefit in respect of children under the age of six, who would therefore be entitled to the Supplement, were written to in a mailshot earlier this month to inform them of the arrangements regarding the payment of this entitlement. This information is of significant interest to a great many parents who are looking forward to this additional support.

Printing costs of the mailshot have amounted to €28,014, and postage to a further €101,045, making the total cost €129,059. There will be a further mailshot closer to the date of the first payment which it is anticipated will amount to a similar sum. On this basis, the total costs for both mailshots are expected to be just under €260,000. I am satisfied that this represents a relatively small amount in the context of the overall cost of the payment, estimated at more than €350 million in a full year.

In addition, I am informed by the Department of Social & Family Affairs that, from the experience of similar mailshots in the context of Child Benefit, one of the results of the exercise is likely to be that there is no net cost, but rather a potential for savings arising which would exceed the costs involved. In the case of this initial mailshot, some 4,500 were returned to the Department of Social & Family Affairs as the addressees were no longer resident at the listed address.

While I understand that approximately 17% of these have subsequently transpired to be living at new addresses in the State, and therefore still entitled to Child Benefit and the Early Childcare Supplement, past experience suggests that a substantial percentage of the remaining addressees will transpire to be no longer entitled to either benefit, for example as a result of their having left the country.

Until the exercise of this control measure is concluded, it is not possible to say what the net cost, if any, will be of informing parents of these arrangements, but I remain confident that this exercise will both maximise customer service, and ensure the greatest level of value for money.

Nursing Home Charges.

Denis Naughten

Question:

194 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when it is envisaged that repayment of illegal nursing home charges will commence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20389/06]

It is currently envisaged that repayments will commence shortly after the Health (Repayment Scheme) Bill 2006 is approved and signed into law and an outside company has been appointed to administer the repayment scheme.

The Health (Repayment Scheme) Bill 2006 provides a clear legal framework for a scheme to repay recoverable health charges for publicly funded long term residential care. The Bill was published on 16 March 2006 and committee stage of the Bill was completed in the Dáil on 24 May 2006. Report stage and final stage of the Bill are scheduled to take place on 31 May 2006. It is my wish that the important legislative proposals contained in the Bill have a speedy passage through the Oireachtas prior to the summer recess.

The current public tendering process for the appointment of an outside company is at a very advanced stage and it is expected that a decision on the appointment of a preferred service provider will be made when the Board of the Health Service Executive meet on 1 June 2006. It is anticipated that the company will begin work on the scheme before the end of June 2006.

Adoption Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

195 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will reply to a query (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20406/06]

The Deputy has raised a number of matters which relate to legislation currently being drafted to update the arrangements for adoption in Ireland in line with best practice, current administrative arrangements and Ireland's commitment to the ratification of the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation on Intercountry Adoption.

I will first outline the current administrative arrangements that pertain regarding the release of adoption records in Ireland.

•The Adoption Board can and does release original birth certificates to adopted people based on applications received from adopted persons and the co-operation of the original placing agency. In only a small number of cases are such applications refused. The process involves contacting the original agency and working to support the applicant with the support of HSE services.

•In 2003, 39 applications were approved, 55 were awaiting further information from elsewhere and 3 were refused.

•In 2004, 53 applications were approved, 30 were awaiting a report from the placement agency and 4 were refused.

In addition, to these administrative arrangements, the Adoption Board operates an administrative mechanism which allows people affected by adoption to register their preferences on whether they want to be contacted. Joining the Contact Register does not preclude an adopted person from applying for the release of their original birth certification. In fact, many adopted people have been made aware of their right to apply for the release of their original birth certificate when making inquiries to the Board about joining the register.

This is a single register which allows the Adoption Board to identify individuals whose names are entered on the register who have expressed a preference to have contact with one another. This is operating successfully. There is no "veto" register and no offences related to an individual's choice of whether to be included on the register or not or whether to agree to contact subsequently. The Register is an addition to the existing tracing/reunion services run by the HSE Regional Adoption Services and registered adoption societies. It is anticipated that the legislation currently being drafted will reflect these administrative arrangements.

It is also proposed that the legislation will include a provision in relation to the role of the proposed new Adoption Authority vis-à-vis requesting information relating to any information or records held by anyone in relation to past adoptions. It is also intended that the Authority will have significant powers to inspect and copy records as well as to seize records not being properly maintained. Consideration is also being given to appropriate offences relating to the denial or obstruction of access to such records, or the tampering, interfering with or destroying of such records. The intention is to allow the Authority sufficient powers and access to records to carry out a range of functions associated with information and tracing for individuals affected by adoption.

The current administrative provisions relating to contact were drawn up with regard to the views of adopted persons, natural parents, adoptive parents, professionals working in the private and public adoption agencies as well as international best practice. The Register has been widely endorsed.

I believe that the Government's actions to date and its intention to place these arrangements on a statutory footing should allay any fears related to the inappropriate withholding of information by third parties or any prosecution of persons seeking information.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

196 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to her reply to Parliamentary Question No. 198 of 4 April 2006, the way in which a refund can be obtained where a patient has been charged for extra services which are not permitted to be made under Article 16.1 of the Nursing Homes Subvention Regulations, by the nursing home management; if her Department or the Health Service Executive will take the necessary action for recovery of the costs involved on behalf of a patient who has been in receipt of nursing home subvention; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20431/06]

Article 16.1 of the Nursing Homes (Subvention) Regulations 1993 provides that individuals resident in private nursing homes who are in receipt of a subvention from the Health Service Executive may not be charged extra for any service which is considered to be essential to their maintenance in the home and common practice in most nursing homes. Such services include bed and board, nursing care appropriate to the level of dependency of the person.

As the management and delivery of health and personal social services are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004, 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.

Billy Timmins

Question:

197 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the means assessment for the awarding of subvention for elderly people in nursing homes; if there has been a change in the assessment in relation to the patients homes under the value of €350,000; if the patient can still retain their house; if this will be assessed against them often resulting in the person having to sell the house in order to qualify for subvention; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20447/06]

As the Deputy may be aware, the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 and the Nursing Homes Regulations 1993 provide for the payment of subvention for private nursing home care for applicants who qualify on both medical and means grounds. General rules for the Assessment of Means in respect of an application for Nursing Home subvention are set out in the Second Schedule of the Nursing Homes Regulations 1993 and as amended by the 2005 Regulations.

Under the Regulations the Health Service Executive when considering an application for subvention carries out a means test which takes into account the means of the applicant and his or her spouse/cohabiting partner, where appropriate and the assets of the applicant. The means test is carried out by the Health Service Executive and involves looking at the applicant's income for the previous twelve months. Income from all sources is taken into account and is assessed net of PRSI, income tax and the health contribution and the income of a married or cohabiting person is taken to be half the total income of the couple. In assessing an applicant's assets the first €11,000 of such assets is disregarded. The HSE may refuse to pay a subvention if an applicant has assets exceeding €36,000, (excluding their principal residence).

In relation to the principal private residence of an applicant, the HSE, under the 1993 Nursing Home Regulations may impute an income of 5% of the estimated market value of the principal residence of an applicant for subvention, unless the residence is occupied by a spouse or son or daughter aged less than twenty one years or in full time education or in receipt of a social welfare pension/allowance as set out in the 2005 regulations and generally does so unless there are exceptional circumstances.

The HSE may refuse to pay a subvention if the value of the applicant's principal residence is in excess of €500,000 or more (where the residence is located in the Dublin area) or €300,000 or more (where the residence is located outside the Dublin area) and the residence is not occupied by a spouse, a son or daughter aged less than twenty one years or in full time education or a relative in receipt of a social welfare pension/allowance as set out in the 2005 regulations.

The recently published Health (Nursing Homes) (Amendment) Bill 2006 is designed to ensure that the existing subvention scheme for private nursing home care is grounded in primary legislation and to help the HSE to implement the scheme on a standardised basis across the country. It includes a provision to vary the 5% income imputation. I will be considering the issue of housing assets and long-term residential care following the enactment of this Bill and in the light of the report of the long-term care working group.

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

198 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to home help or home care services for the South Eastern Health Board area; if there have been reductions in the allocation of funding (details supplied); if there has been a change in the funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20448/06]

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 Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

199 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to patients who have been brought to hospital after an accident and who later want to get their records, x-rays and so on to seek another opinion from a different doctor; if the patient needs the files as a matter of urgency, the steps the patient can take to secure their files; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20449/06]

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.

Departmental Bodies.

Denis Naughten

Question:

200 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the public bodies under the control of her Department; their function, role, location and establishment date; the administration costs of each body in the year 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20465/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is currently being compiled by my Department and will be forwarded to him as soon as it is finalised.

Nursing Education.

Denis Naughten

Question:

201 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason An Bord Altranais are considering the removal of a midwifery qualification as a prerequisite for registration as a public health nurse; if this will impact on the care of mothers and babies in the community; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20504/06]

The Commission on Nursing, (Report of the Commission on Nursing, 1998), considered that registration as a midwife should no longer be a mandatory requirement for entry to the higher diploma in public health nursing or registration as a Public Health Nurse (PHN), as follows:

" . . . in light of the range of services offered by public health nurses and the ongoing development of nursing and midwifery services in the community, registration as a midwife should no longer be a mandatory requirement for entry to the higher diploma in public health nursing or registration as a public health nurse. An alternative education programme relating more closely to the core generic maternal and child care service requirements of public health nursing should replace the mandatory midwifery requirement. The Commission recommends that the Board establish a working party composed of PHNs, health service providers and nurse educators to determine the content and duration of a course in maternal and child health, as an alternative to the mandatory midwifery qualification. (8.30)."

Accordingly, An Bord Altranais, which is broadly representative, consisting of 29 members, including 17 elected nurses from all divisions of the Register of Nurses, unanimously decided to remove the mandatory Midwifery requirement for Public Health Nursing, in July 2002. This change was reflected in the Nurses Rules which were signed by me in December 2004.

A Working Group was subsequently established by An Bord Altranais which included key stakeholder representation including Public Health Nursing course leaders, managers and clinicians. The purpose of this group was to develop the Maternal and Child Health module for nurses who do not have a midwifery qualification, and thereafter the Requirements and Standards for Public Health Nurse programmes which were published in August 2005. This will ensure that the removal of the mandatory midwifery requirement for public health nursing will not adversely impact on the care of mothers and babies in the community.

The new requirements will be implemented in the third level colleges from September 2007. I am confident that the ongoing development and regulation of the nursing profession which draws on the expertise and experience of nurses is in the best interests of those cared for by the health services.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

202 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when cervical screening will be rolled out nationally; when quarterly cervical smear clinics will be re-instated for persons living in County Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20505/06]

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

Significant preparatory work is well underway involving the introduction of new and improved cervical tests, improved quality assurance training and the preparation of a national population register. The Vote for the Health Service Executive includes an additional €9m for cancer services development in 2006, including the continuation of preparations for the roll out.

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

I am convinced that we must also have in place tailored initiatives to encourage take up among disadvantaged and difficult to reach groups. I wish to see the programme rolled out as quickly as possible but only when the essential infrastructure, organisation and services are in place that are quality assured and meet international standards.

The Deputy's question in relation to cervical smear clinics for persons living in County Roscommon 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 Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

203 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she intends to fulfil a written commitment to establish a no fault compensation scheme for psychiatric nurses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20509/06]

Psychiatric nurses can currently avail of the Revised Physical Assault Scheme 2001 which provides support to nurses who have suffered serious injury. This scheme provides for enhanced sick pay arrangements and medical expenses. In circumstances where a nurse is certified permanently unfit to resume duty they may be paid 5/6 of full salary until retirement. However, the psychiatric nurses have sought an additional compensation scheme for assaults in the course of their work. In 2002 a Taskforce was established to: examine the incidence of assaults on nurses and the level of injury therefrom; investigate the reasons for such assaults with a view to putting in place of effective preventative measures; put forward proposals for an appropriate compensation scheme for nurses injured through assault at work, such proposals to have regard to the special position of psychiatric nurses; and, prepare and present a report of its findings and recommendations to the Minister for Health and Children.

The then Minister for Health and Children undertook to accept and progress the findings of the Taskforce within an agreed time scale. The PNA acknowledged the complexities associated with the introduction of a Compensation Scheme for nurses assaulted in the course of their work. The Minister confirmed that the Government would have regard to the findings of the Taskforce as part of the decision making process on an appropriate compensation scheme.

In considering the Report of the Taskforce, complex legal and financial issues emerged in relation to aspects of the proposed scheme and their implications for the health service and the wider public service. As a result the Government decided in July 2005 not to introduce a "no fault" compensation scheme for psychiatric nurses. I confirmed this position to the nurses' representatives at a meeting on 13 July 2005.

Following the Government decision it was decided to request the State Claims Agency (SCA) to examine the possibility of amending the Revised Serious Physical Assaults Scheme (2001) to include a fixed redress fund for physical injury caused by assault at work. The SCA was requested to report on the feasibility, implications and estimated costs of this option. The report of the SCA was received by my Department in December 2005.

Further consultations have taken place with the Department of Finance, the SCA and the Office of the Attorney General. This issue was recently discussed at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) and a further meeting under the auspices of the LRC will take place on July 5th 2006. I expect to be in a position to bring the matter to Government for further consideration in the next few months.

Drug Costs.

Ivor Callely

Question:

204 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason some prescription medications cost significantly more here than in Ireland’s European neighbours such as Spain and Portugal. [20516/06]

Ivor Callely

Question:

205 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action which is being taken to address the price disparity of some prescription medications when comparing prices in Ireland’s European neighbours such as Spain and Portugal. [20517/06]

Ivor Callely

Question:

206 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to adjust the formula agreed with the Irish Pharmaceutical Health Care Association and the Department of Health and Children that links Irish prices of prescription medications to Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain which reflects Ireland’s proximity but means that the cost structure here reflects Northern European prices which are much higher that the EU average; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20518/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 204 to 206, inclusive, together.

As, through their national reimbursement schemes, EU member states are the main purchasers of medicines in their domestic markets, they naturally seek to control drug prices, but the extent of this control varies widely. Higher priced countries, such as the UK and Germany, rely more on market forces to set prices. Spain and Portugal, on the other hand, closely regulate and control prices. Ireland's pricing policy is somewhere in the middle of the European league as, with its relatively small market, it must seek to balance value for money in state drug spending with reliability and continuity of supply for essential products.

Price comparison in different markets is difficult. Patent protection in Ireland allows originator companies exclusive rights to the market for ten years for new medicines. In Spain, until 1992 there was no intellectual property protection for medicines and no patent protection for new products. This has kept prices down, but may change with patent and intellectual property exclusivity, although the long lead-in time for product development and patenting will inevitably delay this. In addition, some products that are prescription-only in Ireland are available without prescription in Spain. While the removal of prescription status for certain products may produce lower prices in Ireland, these products would no longer be reimbursed by the State.

I have previously expressed concern about the sustainability of the increasing cost to the Exchequer of drugs and medicines. It is essential to secure maximum value for money for this spending. All aspects of the drug delivery system, from the manufacturer to the patient, are being reviewed by my Department and the HSE. A number of possible measures to address the rapidly rising medicine costs being incurred by the State are being considered. These include greater access to the benefits of post-patent competition and addressing supply chain costs, such as wholesale and pharmacy mark-ups.

Negotiations are currently underway with the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) on a new national pricing and supply agreement for the supply of medicines to the health service. The agreement covers all reimbursable prescription medicines in the GMS and community drug schemes and all medicines supplied to hospitals and the HSE. The level at which Irish prices are indexed to those in other EU member states is among the issues being addressed in these negotiations.

I must stress that no single measure will contain the rate of increase in expenditure on medicines and drugs. Indeed, international experience has shown that this is a very difficult task, as the sophistication and range of treatments continue to increase along with increased expectations on the part of patients.

Hospital Staff.

Ivor Callely

Question:

207 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress of talks with the Irish Hospital Consultants Association on a new contract for specialist doctors; when she expects the talks to conclude; if the outcome will have a positive effect on the waiting times in accident and emergency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20519/06]

Talks on a new contract commenced on 24th November 2005 under the independent chairmanship of Mr. Mark Connaughton SC. At that meeting, and at a further plenary meeting in December, both the IHCA and the IMO indicated that they required a number of issues to be addressed before they could engage in substantive negotiations on a new contract.

A position paper outlining proposals on a new employment contract for consultants working in the public health system was tabled by management at a plenary meeting on 26 January 2006. This paper includes such items as:

Consultant-provided service — a service delivered by teams of consultants, where the consultants have a substantial and direct involvement in the diagnosis, delivery of care and overall management of patients.

As part of a consultant-provided service, consultants will treat all patients and will be remunerated exclusively on a salaried basis. i.e they will not receive additional remuneration for treatment delivered to insured patients.

A commitment to public sector service alone will mean that consultants will treat patients only within the public hospital or public community facility.

Each consultant's commitments will be set out in an Annual Work Plan — supported by a series of performance indicators and review mechanisms. Work Plans will be in line with clinical need, the nature and volume of clinical workload and the 24/7 nature of health services.

Consultants will work a 39-hour commitment over the 24/7 period agreed and detailed in the Work Plan — varying by specialty and location. Work Plans will follow a framework developed at national level and will be agreed/reviewed annually by consultants, Clinical Managers and management.

Each Work Plan will detail specific duties — for example; emergency commitments, operating time, ward rounds, outpatient clinics and diagnostic work; regular on-call commitments and involvement in supporting professional activities, audit and competence assurance.

Each consultant will work as an integral part of a multi-disciplinary team which is led and managed by a Clinical Director.

As a member of the team, consultants will make decisions regarding the care, treatment and discharge of patients during the absence of a consultant colleague who has lead responsibility for such patients. As a member of a team, each consultant will be incentivised to increase productivity through a performance-related awards scheme.

The primary role of a Clinical Director will be to manage and plan how services are delivered. Clinical Directors will be appointed by the employing authority; develop and implement protocols for service delivery; will have significant responsibility for how services are delivered and will be accountable for the use of resources.

Medical Education and Training — Contracts can be constructed for certain Consultants that will allow for a defined and measurable commitment to medical education and training/research.

The medical organisations have thus far not engaged in substantive discussions on these proposals. At a further meeting on 9 February the talks were adjourned without any further date being set for their resumption. The independent chairman has, however, maintained contact with both sides.

I met a delegation from the IHCA on 12th May 2006. At that meeting, I indicated to the delegation that any outstanding issues would be most appropriately addressed in the context of direct discussions with management. To this end, I emphasised the need for talks to resume as soon as possible. I understand that in response to this, the IHCA has now made contact with the independent chairman with a view to arranging a further meeting with health service management.

As I have mentioned, management will be seeking the provision of a consultant-delivered service, as opposed to the existing consultant-led service, on a 24/7 basis. The introduction of such a service will result in a decrease in waiting times in many areas, including Accident and Emergency.

Health Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

208 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason older people resident in County Mayo have to wait five months for a basic eye test, while persons in Sligo and Galway have to wait only one week; her views on whether this is a disgraceful situation with terrible consequences for older people and is not acceptable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20543/06]

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.

Pat Breen

Question:

209 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare has not qualified for a medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20555/06]

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. 210 answered with QuestionNo. 192.

Legislative Programme.

John Gormley

Question:

211 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the draft of the proposed Insurance Bill in relation to those infected with Hepatitis C or HIV through contaminated blood or blood products by the State will be released; the reason for the delay in enacting this legislation; the further reason a meeting between her Department and a group (details supplied) scheduled for 11 May 2006 did not take place; the reason no alternative date was fixed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20557/06]

The process of drafting the legislation to establish the insurance scheme, 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. 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. In relation to the enquiry from the Deputy regarding the meeting on 11th May, the meeting was postponed because I did not have the final text of the legislation at that point but I have assured the representative groups that I will set a date to meet them as soon as I have the final text.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

212 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of a nursing home facility (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20568/06]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Richard Bruton

Question:

213 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that the Health Service Executive are allowing buses which carry adults with intellectual disability to training centres, workshops, and day activity units to travel throughout the country without proper escorts; if she will confirm that this practice is taking place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20575/06]

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:

214 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action she has taken to implement the National Disability Authority’s National Standards for Disability Services; the action she has taken to put in place the relevant authority to oversee the standards for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20576/06]

The Draft National Standards for Disability Services developed jointly by the Department of Health and Children and the National Disability Authority have been received by the Minister who has referred them to the interim Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) for attention.

As the Deputy may be aware a public consultation process on the draft Heads and General Scheme of the Health Bill 2006 which provides for the establishment of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) and the Office of the Chief Inspector of Social Services, as an office within HIQA, on a statutory basis, concluded on Friday 26th May, 2006. The draft Heads of the Bill provide for:

—the establishment of HIQA,

—the establishment, within HIQA, of the Office of the Chief Inspector of Social Services,

—the establishment of a registration system for residential services for children in need of care and protection, for persons with disabilities and for older people.

It is intended to bring the final draft Scheme and Heads of a Bill to Government as soon as possible to seek approval to draft the Bill. It is intended to bring the Bill before the Oireachtas later in the year.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

215 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of x-ray facilities at a location (details supplied) in County Mayo; the progress which has been made in this matter since the last reply by the Health Service Executive of 16 February 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20587/06]

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

Health Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

216 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of people receiving methadone maintenance treatment; the year in which methadone maintenance was first introduced into our treatment services here for heroin misuse; the amount spent on such treatment each year to date since its introduction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20592/06]

Enda Kenny

Question:

217 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons who have begun methadone maintenance treatment nationally in each of the past five years; the number of persons who have successfully completed methadone maintenance programmes and are now completely drug free in each of these years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20593/06]

Enda Kenny

Question:

218 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the methadone maintenance programme has been independently evaluated; the main findings of such evaluation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20594/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 216 to 218, inclusive, together.

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

In relation to the Deputy's question regarding the issue of evaluation, a Report on the Review of the Methadone Treatment Protocol was published by my Department in May 2005. This report reviews the operation of the methadone protocol, the relevant regulations, and the report of the Methadone Treatment Services Review Group (1997). It also reviews the role and working relationships between the various service providers. A number of significant recommendations are made in the Review — aimed mainly at General Practitioners, Pharmacists, and the Implementation Committee, with an overall objective of acquiring a more structured input from the various stakeholders. The Review noted that the majority of submissions made to it acknowledge the success of the protocol and its implementation.

In addition, the National Advisory Committee on Drugs has commissioned and funded, a national longitudinal study, entitled the ‘Research Outcome Study in Ireland' (ROSIE), to evaluate the effectiveness of drug treatment, including methadone, in Ireland from an outcomes' point of view. It is anticipated that twelve month preliminary findings of this study will be published later in the year.

Hospital Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

219 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of surgeons in each acute hospital in the Health Service Executive western area; the number of procedures under each surgical category performed in each hospital in each of the past five years; the staffing compliment in each Department; her plans to develop these facilities and range of surgical procedures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20601/06]

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

Health Service Staff.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

220 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of speech and language therapists employed in County Monaghan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20610/06]

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.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

221 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of speech and language therapists employed in County Cavan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20611/06]

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

Hospitals Building Programme.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

222 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the future of hospital facilities in Drogheda; if it is proposed to build a replacement hospital for Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda on a greenfield site; the possible locations under consideration for this project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20612/06]

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

Nursing Home Subventions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

223 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if nursing home subvention will be reviewed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare on foot of recent correspondence set down in the previous parliamentary question raised on this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20658/06]

I have been advised that the Health Service Executive (HSE) issued a reply to the Deputy on the 15th May, 2006, in relation to Question No. 184.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

224 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20659/06]

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

Suicide Prevention.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

225 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her Department’s plans to introduce a special action plan dealing with suicide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20685/06]

"Reach Out" — A National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention was launched by the Tánaiste on 8th September 2005. This Strategy builds on the work of the National Task Force on Suicide (1998) and takes account of the efforts and initiatives developed by the former health boards and voluntary sector in recent years. In the course of the development of the Strategy, wide-ranging consultation took place throughout the country to draw on the experience, perspectives and ideas of the key stakeholders and interested parties. I believe that this consultation process, combined with continuous monitoring of evidence and best practice has allowed for both an evidence-based and pragmatic approach to be taken in order to effect real change over the next 5 to 10 years.

The Strategy takes a combined public health and high-risk approach to the issue of suicide prevention. Four levels of action comprise the main body of the Report. These can be categorised as: a general population approach, a targeted approach, responding to suicide and information and research. At each level, Action Areas have been identified (26 in total) and specific points of action have been identified to be implemented in three phases over the coming years.

The National Office for Suicide Prevention was established by the Health Service Executive in September 2005 immediately following the publication of "Reach Out". This office oversees the implementation of the Strategy. This includes coordinating suicide prevention activities across the State, consulting widely in relation to the planning of future initiatives and ensuring best practice in suicide prevention.

In addition to existing funding, a further €0.5m was allocated in 2005 and €1.2m in 2006 to commence the implementation of the National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention.

Health Services.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

226 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when speech therapy and physiotherapy will be provided to a person (details supplied) in County Louth as both were deemed necessary in 2004; the reason for the delay in providing treatment to this person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20866/06]

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.

Pat Breen

Question:

227 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 109 of 1 March 2006, if three hours home help will be allocated to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20867/06]

I have been advised that the Health Service Executive (HSE) issued a reply to the Deputy on the 2nd May, 2006 in relation to Question No. 109.

John McGuinness

Question:

228 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an assessment for a cataract operation will be arranged for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; the reason this person has been waiting eight months for the assessment which was requested by their general practitioner; if she will expedite the matter. [20898/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

229 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for an appointment in the ear, nose and throat clinic. [20899/06]

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.

Hospital Accommodation.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

230 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number and location of vacant intensive care beds in County Louth in the past month; if general practitioners have not been directly notified by the Health Service Executive alerting them to the situation as claimed in a newspaper article (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20900/06]

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 Charges.

John McGuinness

Question:

231 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the charges for hospital care at the Department of Psychiatry in St. Lukes, Kilkenny, will be set aside for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of the circumstances and the fact that they are awaiting an outcome to their application for a medical card; and if she will expedite a positive response. [20901/06]

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.

Consultancy Contracts.

Liz McManus

Question:

232 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children in view of the fact that the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 172 of 5 April 2006 referred by her to the Health Service Executive and the reply to which was received in this Deputy’s office on 19 May 2006 from the HSE does not give a response to the full extent to the question sent to her on 30 March 2006, if she will have same replied to in full; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20921/06]

As was indicated in the Health Service Executive's reply to the Deputy which issued on 18th May, the National Hospitals Office commissioned a company, Tribal Secta, to conduct a process mapping exercise across ten acute hospitals nationally. The consultancy was procured under EU tendering regulations, which ensured openness and transparency. My Department is advised by the Executive that Tribal Secta and Mercury Healthcare, which provides standalone treatment centres at various locations in the United Kingdom, are both members of the Tribal Group plc.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Pat Breen

Question:

233 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a supplementary welfare allowance will be processed for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20922/06]

The Community Welfare Service of the Health Service Executive (HSE) administers the supplementary welfare scheme on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. My Department has been in contact with that Department and I understand that arrangements are being made for a reply to issue to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Liz McManus

Question:

234 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons holding medical cards broken down on a county basis in respect of the latest month for which figures are available. [20923/06]

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:

235 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons holding general practitioner only cards broken down on a county basis in respect on the latest month for which figures are available. [20924/06]

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

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

236 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the situation of persons (details supplied) in County Mayo, home help within the region will be found; and if a further effort will be made to try and find somebody to provide the extra service to these people. [20930/06]

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.

Enda Kenny

Question:

237 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if it is proposed to change the 1985 Guidelines for Orthodontic Treatment; the reason crowding was not included in the 1985 Guidelines; if it is proposed to include crowding as a requirement necessitating professional treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20931/06]

The aim of my Department is to promote the development of the treatment capacity of orthodontics in a sustainable way over the longer term. Given the potential level of demand for orthodontic services, the provision of those services will continue to be based on prioritisation of cases based on treatment need — as happens under the existing guidelines. These guidelines were issued in 1985 and are intended to enable the Health Service Executive (HSE), to identify in a consistent way those in greatest need and to commence timely treatment for them.

The HSE has informed my Department that it has established an Orthodontic Review Group. The terms of reference for the Group are:

—to review the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee Reports;

—to examine the recommendations within the operational remit of the HSE and to establish their status;

—to conduct an analysis of the HSE's existing orthodontic delivery structure and capacity. Based on that analysis, to make recommendations in that regard;

—the recommendations thus made to be costed and a time-frame for their implementation proposed.

The Orthodontic Review Group will report on its findings, including the issue of crowding raised by the Deputy, to the Chief Executive Officer of the HSE.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Pat Breen

Question:

238 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 125 of 6 April 2006, when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with a special armchair; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20956/06]

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 again 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.

Pat Breen

Question:

239 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 151 of 22 March 2006, when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with an electric wheelchair; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20957/06]

Investigations were made with the Parliamentary Affairs Division in the HSE and my Department has been informed that a reply was issued to the Deputy on 31st March 2006.

Pat Breen

Question:

240 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 269 of 25 January 2006, when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with a wheelchair; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20958/06]

My Department has been informed by the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE that a full reply to Parliamentary Question No. 269 of 25 January 2006 is being finalised and will issue to the Deputy shortly.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Pat Breen

Question:

241 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 142 of 28th March, 2006, when repairs will be carried out to a house under the housing aid for the elderly scheme for persons (details supplied)in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20981/06]

I have been advised that the Health Service Executive (HSE) issued a reply to the Deputy on the 31st March, 2006 in relation to Question No. 142.

Pat Breen

Question:

242 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 275 of 25 April 2006, when an application for housing aid for the elderly will be processed for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20982/06]

I have been advised that the Health Service Executive (HSE) issued a reply to the Deputy on the 5th May, 2006 in relation to Question No. 275.

Pat Breen

Question:

243 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No 212 of 25 April 2006 when an application for housing aid for the elderly will be processed for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20983/06]

I have been advised that the Health Service Executive (HSE) issued a reply to the Deputy on the 5th May, 2006 in relation to Question No. 212.

Pat Breen

Question:

244 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 213 of 25 April 2006, when works will be inspected for a person (details supplied) in County Clare under the housing aid for the elderly scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20984/06]

I have been advised that the Health Service Executive (HSE) issued a reply to the Deputy on the 5th May, 2006 in relation to Question No. 213.

Pat Breen

Question:

245 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 190 of 25 April 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. [20985/06]

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 again 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.

Pat Breen

Question:

246 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 173 of 26 April 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. [20986/06]

I have been advised that the Health Service Executive (HSE) issued a reply to the Deputy on the 5th May, 2006 in relation to Question No. 173.

Pat Breen

Question:

247 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children 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. [20987/06]

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.

Medicinal Products.

Liz McManus

Question:

248 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the fact that there is an alternative treatment other than Methadone for opiate misuse, namely Buprenorphine, she will make Buprenorphine available to patients recovering from opiate abuse; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20989/06]

The current position is that Buprenorphine can be prescribed to opiate users by addiction service consultants in specialist drug treatment clinics, where the prescription and dispensing of Buprenorphine is tightly controlled. The Irish Medicines Board has recently amended the authorisation for Buprenorphine to allow it to be prescribed by General Practitioners who have specialist training in its use. My Department is considering the implications of this revised authorisation, especially in view of the diversion potential of Buprenorphine in its current form.

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

249 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will provide details of the list of properties which will be disposed of under her policy of sale of assets in the mental health services; and the valuation of these properties. [20991/06]

I have been informed that the information requested by the Deputy is not available at this time. The identification of property assets which may be in excess of known HSE requirements and assessment of their value will be a key responsibility of the HSE National Director of Estates. It is understood that the HSE is currently in the process of recruiting for this position. Preliminary interviews for the post are scheduled for mid-June and the HSE intends that this key post will be filled as soon as practicable.

Health Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

250 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number and location of respite care beds available for the elderly in County Louth; the number available for the years 2004 and 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20992/06]

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.

Jack Wall

Question:

251 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive an appointment date for dental treatment, in view of the fact that the person was assessed as a priority case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20993/06]

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.

Jack Wall

Question:

252 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive an appointment date for dental treatment, in view of the fact that the person was assessed as a priority case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20994/06]

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.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

253 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of long-stay elderly care public beds in the Health Service Executive mid western area; the number of such beds in 1997 and 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20995/06]

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.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

254 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when breast screening will be available to women in the west and north west; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21042/06]

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 essential staff.

The BreastCheck clinical unit in the Western Area at University College Hospital Galway will have two associated mobile units. The area of coverage is counties Galway, Sligo, Roscommon, Donegal, Mayo, Leitrim, Clare and Tipperary North Riding. 57,588 women are in the target population for invitation to screening, or 28,794 per annum. This is expected to result in the detection of in excess of 141 cancers per year in the first round of screening and a minimum of 71 per year in the subsequent rounds. BreastCheck is confident that the target date of next year for the commencement of roll out to the Southern and Western regions will be met.

Denis Naughten

Question:

255 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she will publish the Strategy for Cancer Control in Ireland; her plans to introduce a screening programme for bowel cancer for 60 to 69 year olds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21043/06]

National population based screening programmes for cancer are considered where clear evidence exists of benefit to the health of the whole population to be screened. There is evidence in relation to some specific cancers which show that population based screening can improve population health in terms of survival, morbidity and quality of life. Population based screening programmes for two specific cancers, breast and cervical, have demonstrated their efficacy and planning is under way for the national roll out of these two programmes to all regions in the country.

I have received a Strategy for Cancer Control in Ireland 2006 from the Chairman of the National Cancer Forum. As part of this work, the Forum developed a framework for evidence based decision making in relation to the introduction of population based screening programmes and applied the agreed criteria to colorectal cancer screening. My Department is currently examining the Strategy with a view to bringing proposals to Government shortly. I will publish the Strategy shortly thereafter.

Mental Health Services.

David Stanton

Question:

256 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 166 of 21 March 2006 regarding the number of children who are currently awaiting psychiatric assessment, the longest waiting time and average waiting time for assessment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21054/06]

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.

David Stanton

Question:

257 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 83 of 26 April 2006 the location of each of the 56 child and adolescent psychiatrists employed by the Health Service Executive; the number of those who are working full time in the public sector; the composition of the back-up teams available to each psychiatrist; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21055/06]

According to the National Hospitals Office, the location of child and adolescent psychiatrists employed by the Health Service Executive is as shown in the table.

Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists

2005

2006

Eastern Region — East Coast

6

8

Eastern Region — North

10

11

Eastern Region — South West

16

16

Mid-West

4

6

Midland

2

4

North East

4

4

North West

3

3

South East

4

6

South

3

7

West

4

5

Total

56

70

I have asked the Health Service Executive to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the number of psychiatrists working full time in the public sector and the composition of the back-up teams available to each psychiatrist.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Pat Breen

Question:

258 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare was refused supplementary welfare allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21068/06]

The Community Welfare Service of the Health Service Executive (HSE) administers the supplementary welfare scheme on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. My Department has been in contact with that Department and I understand that arrangements are being made for a reply to issue to the Deputy.

Health Services.

John Perry

Question:

259 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made by the Health Service Executive on a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21069/06]

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

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

260 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has approached the Department of Finance to request additional funding for the Health Service Executive to apply to frontline services in the violence against women sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21070/06]

Funding for all health services has been provided as part of the HSE's overall vote for health and social services in 2006. Decisions concerning the allocation of resources for specific services such as that specified by the Deputy are a matter for the HSE. 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 Reports.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

261 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the date for the publication of the report, Sexual Assault Treatment Services — a National Review; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21071/06]

The release of the report, ‘Sexual Assault Treatment Services — a National Review' is currently being planned in this Department. A definitive date has yet to be decided. The report will, however, be released very shortly.

Health Services.

Seamus Healy

Question:

262 Mr. Healy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will remove the funding cap on services addressing violence against women; if she will approve funding to meet the deficit in 2006 to an organisation (details supplied) in County Tipperary; if funding for the necessary development of this service will be provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21072/06]

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.

Seamus Healy

Question:

263 Mr. Healy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will remove the funding cap on services addressing violence against women; if she will approve funding to meet the €20,000 deficit in 2006 of an organisation (details supplied) in County Tipperary; if funding will be provided for the necessary development of services there including outreach and training needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21073/06]

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.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

264 Mr. McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will liaise with the Health Service Executive west region to ensure that the free transport facility which was heretofore available to dialysis patients be maintained; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21096/06]

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 Funding.

Billy Timmins

Question:

265 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the breakdown by county of the Health Service Executive capital project spending plan for the period 2006 to 2010; the amount of funding which has been allocated to each county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21100/06]

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 expenditure under the health capital programme. Accordingly, my Department is requesting the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

266 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if environmental health officer reports on early childcare units are outside the scope of Freedom of Information; if so, the reason, in view of the fact that the Health Service Executive report on this matter is site specific and makes reference to EHO reports; the further reason a previous question (details supplied) in this regard was not responded to by the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21116/06]

As the Deputy's Question no 72 dated 27th 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. My Department has been informed by the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE that a direct reply was furnished to the Deputy on the 19th of May 2006.

Medical Cards.

Mary Upton

Question:

267 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (detailed supplied) in Dublin 6W has not received a response to their application for a medical card; when a response will be made; and when a decision in this case is likely to be made. [21117/06]

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.

Disabled Drivers.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

268 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo did not meet the medical criteria in their claim for disabled drivers tax concession; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20412/06]

I understand that the person concerned has applied for the tax concessions under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme and that she has been unsuccessful at first instance and on appeal to the Medical Board of Appeal for the Scheme. I have no direct responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the Medical Board of Appeal for the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme. Queries regarding individual cases may be addressed to the Secretary of the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, c/o the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin or alternatively by telephone at 01 2355279.

Departmental Properties.

Denis Naughten

Question:

269 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance if his Department has obtained temporary accommodation for the District Veterinary Office in County Leitrim; the cost of the lease and the period of such a lease; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20458/06]

Following an advertisement in the national & local press seeking temporary office accommodation in Drumshanbo, a number of premises were inspected and evaluated against the Department of Agriculture & Food's requirements. Terms were invited from the owners of the two premises offered, which were judged to be capable of meeting the interim accommodation requirement, and following further evaluation, premises have been selected in consultation with the Department. Subject to valuer advice on the rental terms being sought, it is hoped to finalise the lease of the premises in question for a period of two years, (and quarterly thereafter, if necessary).

Denis Naughten

Question:

270 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the reason a public tender has not been sought for a project (details supplied) in County Leitrim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20459/06]

At present the Office of Public Works are arranging for temporary accommodation for their client at this location. Regarding the permanent accommodation various factors including pressure on design resources have prolonged the preparation of tender documents. It is now expected that tenders will be invited later this year.

Financial Services Regulation.

Willie Penrose

Question:

271 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance the profits reported by insurance companies in the non-motor vehicle sections, who operate in the Irish markets for each of the years 2003, 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006 if appropriate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21110/06]

Information of this nature is submitted to the Financial Regulator and published annually in the Insurance Statistical Review, which is laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas. The most recent figures available were published in September 2005 in the Financial Regulator's Insurance Statistical Review 2004. I assume the Deputy is referring to underwriting profits. The total non-life underwriting profits reported in the State less those on motor insurance, were EUR204 million in 2003 and EUR360 million in 2004. The corresponding figures for 2005 are in the process of being collated and will be published later in the year. The 2006 figures are not yet available.

Pension Provisions.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

272 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the percentage of GDP spent by the State on contributory and non-contributory public pension schemes in each of the past 10 years. [21205/06]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

286 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the direct expenditure by the State on contributory and non-contributory public pension schemes in each of the past 10 years. [21114/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 272 and 286 together.

The Deputy will be aware that as Minister for Finance I have primary responsibility for Civil Service pensions. Other Ministers have primary responsibility for pensions in their own respective areas. Nonetheless, the figures set out in the table represent the Exchequer Pensions Bill, net of contributions, for the years 1996 to 2005 and include pensions paid to the following sectors: Health, Education, Civil Service, Garda, Defence Forces and Non-Commercial State Bodies. The figures do not include pension payments to Local Authority staff (whose pensions are paid from the Local Government Fund), Universities, Commercial State Bodies and other miscellaneous bodies.

Exchequer Pensions Bill 1996-2005

Year

€M

% of GDP

1996

463

1.02

1997

532

.79

1998

613

.79

1999

666

.74

2000

750

.73

2001

876

.76

2002

985

.77

2003

1,107

.82

2004

1,256

.86

2005

1,367

.86

Tax Code.

Seán Haughey

Question:

273 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Finance if the Revenue Commissioners will issue a tax rebate to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 who was made redundant four years ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20408/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer's claim to repayment which was received on 30 March last has now been processed. A cheque for the refund due will issue shortly.

Departmental Bodies.

Denis Naughten

Question:

274 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the public bodies under the control of his Department; their function, role, location and establishment date; the administration costs of each body in the year 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20466/06]

The table sets out the name, function, location, and establishment date in respect of bodies under the aegis of my Department. As regards administrative costs funding for 2005 this is shown where provided from Exchequer funding.

Body Name

Function/role

Location and Establishment Date

Administrative Costs in 2005*

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

Collection and administration of all taxes and duties, enforcement of import and export controls. Also advises the Minister for Finance on budgetary and other issues in relation to taxes and duties. Revenue carries out agency work for other Departments and cooperates with other state agencies in the fight against drugs.

Dublin Castle, Dublin 2. Establishment date: 1923

386,402,000

Office of the Appeals Commissioners

Body set up to support the independent Commissioners in the hearing of appeals by taxpayers against decisions of the Revenue Commissioners concerning taxes and duties, i.e. income tax, corporation tax, value-added tax, stamp duty.

8th Floor, Fitzwilton House, Wilton Place, Dublin 2 Establishment date: 1923

394,000

Office of Public Works

Management and maintenance of Government property portfolio, project management for building construction, flood relief and arterial drainage projects, including the provision of architectural and engineering services. Provision of office accommodation for the Government decentralisation programme. Responsibility for conservation and maintenance of heritage buildings. The Government Supplies Agency as part of the OPW has responsibility for the central management of Government procurement and publications.

51 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2 Establishment date: 1831

42,141,000

Public Appointments Service

The centralised independent provider of recruitment, assessment and selection services for the Civil Service. It also provides recruitment and related human resource advisory services to Local Authorities, the Health Service Executive, An Garda Síochána and other public bodies.

Chapter House, 26-30 Abbey Street Upper, Dublin 1 Establishment date: 2004

12,486,000

Commission for Public Service Appointments

Regulates recruitment to the Civil Service and certain other Public Service Organisations. Grants licences to certain public service bodies to recruit on their own behalf or with assistance of private sector recruitment agencies approved by the Commission.

Chapter House, 26-30 Abbey Street Upper, Dublin 1 Establishment date: 2004

737,000

State Laboratory

Provides a comprehensive analytical and advisory service to Government Departments and Offices, thereby enabling them to implement their regulatory programmes and attain their strategic objectives.

Young’s Cross, Celbridge, Co. Kildare Establishment date: 1924

11,781,000

Office of the Ombudsman

Investigates, under the direction of the Ombudsman, complaints about administrative actions, delays or inaction adversely affecting persons in their dealings with Government Departments, local authorities, the Health Service Executive and postal service.

18 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2 Establishment date: 1980

2,976,000

Body Name

Function/role

Location and Establishment Date

Administrative Costs in 2005*

Office of the Information Commissioner

Body set up to support Information Commissioner who reviews (on application) decisions made in relation to Freedom of Information requests and makes binding new decisions. The Commissioner keeps the operation of the Act under review with a view to ensuring maximum compliance and prepares and publishes commentaries on the practical operation of the Act.

18 Lower Leeson Street , Dublin 2 Establishment date: 1997

1,908,000

Office of the Standards in Public Office Commission

An independent body which supervises the Ethics in Public Office Acts, 1995 and 2001 insofar as they apply to office-holders (e.g. An Taoiseach, Ministers and Ministers of State), the Attorney General, ministerial special advisers, senior civil servants and directors and executives of specified public bodies.

18 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2 Establishment date: 2001

886,000

Valuation Office

Establishment and maintenance of a uniform and equitable valuation base on which commercial rates are raised by local authorities. It also provides a property valuation consultancy service to Government Departments and Offices.

Irish Life Centre, Abbey Street Lower, Dublin 1 Establishment date: 1830

9,547,000

Valuation Tribunal

The Valuation Tribunal is an independent body set up to deal with appeals against decisions of the Commissioner of Valuation on the rateable valuation of commercial properties and appeals against determinations of market value on derelict sites made by local authorities.

Ormond House, Ormond Quay Upper, Dublin 7 Establishment date: 1988.

269,268

Review Body on Higher Remuneration

A standing body which makes recommendations to Government on the remuneration of political office-holders, the judiciary, civil servants from Assistant Secretary level upwards, top local authority and health service posts, the Commissioner ranks in Garda Síochána, the General ranks in the Defence Forces, the chief executive officers of non-commercial state-sponsored bodies and other top public service posts.

7th Floor Lansdowne House Lansdowne Road Dublin 4 Establishment date: 1969

110,000

Public Service Benchmarking Body

The Benchmarking Body is to carry out a benchmarking review, to report in the second half of 2007. It will examine the pay and jobs of specified grades and produce a report containing recommendations on the pay rates for these grades in the second half of 2007.

c/o 73-79 Lower Mount Street Dublin 2 Establishment date: 2000

Special EU Programmes Body

The Special EU Programmes Body is the Managing Authority of the PEACE II programme as well as the Paying Authority and Managing Authority of the INTERREG IIIA Ireland Northern Ireland programme. The Department of Finance provides 46% towards the running costs of the Special EU Programmes Body. The balance is provided by the Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland.

Headquarters in Belfast and regional offices in Monaghan and Omagh. Establishment date: 1999 as part of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

1,326,000

Body Name

Function/role

Location and Establishment Date

Administrative Costs in 2005*

Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland

The Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland (CBFSAI) The CBFSAI has two component entities:— The Central Bank, which has responsibility for monetary policy functions, financial stability, economic analysis, currency and payment systems, investment of foreign and domestic assets and the provision of central services; and The Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority (Financial Regulator), which is an autonomous entity within the CBFSAI and has responsibility for financial sector regulation and consumer protection. The Central Bank is part of the Eurosystem, the central banking system made up of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the twelve national central banks of those EU Member States that have already adopted the euro. The primary objective of the Eurosystem is to maintain price stability in the euro area

Dame St. Dublin 2. Address: Financial Regulator, PO Box 9138, College Green, Dublin 2 Central Bank Establishment date: 1943 was re-structured and re-named as the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland in 2003.

Financial Services Ombudsman Council

The Financial Services Ombudsman Council makes regulations under which the Ombudsman operates and determines the levies to be charged. The Council reviews efficiency and effectiveness, advises the Ombudsman and appoints the Financial Services Ombudsman and all Deputy Financial Services Ombudsmen.

c/o Financial Services Ombudsman Bureau, Regus House, Harcourt Centre, Harcourt Road Dublin 2 Establishment date: 2004

Financial Services Ombudsman Bureau

The Financial Services Ombudsman Bureau deals with eligible complaints from customers of regulated financial service providers by investigation, mediation and adjudication.

Regus House, Harcourt Centre, Harcourt Road, Dublin 2 Establishment date: 2004

Credit Union Advisory Committee

The Committee advises the Minister in relation to the improvement of the management of Credit Unions, the protection of the interests of Credit Unions and other matters relating to Credit Unions.

C/O Department of Finance, Government Buildings, Dublin 2 Establishment date: 1966

17,506

Financial Services Consultative Consumer Panel

The Consultative Consumer panel monitors the performance by the Regulatory Authority of its functions and provides the Regulatory Authority with comments and suggestions on a range of other matters.

Financial Services Consultative Consumer Panel, c/o Financial Regulator, PO Box 9138, College Green, Dublin 2 Establishment date: 2004

Financial Services Consultative Industry Panel

The Consultative Industry Panel comments on policy or regulatory documents when requested by the Regulatory Authority and provides comments on levies and fees, on the Authority’s draft estimate of income and expenditure and on a range of other matters.

Financial Services Consultative Industry Panel, c/o Financial Regulator PO Box 9138 College green Dublin 2 Establishment date: 2004

Body Name

Function/role

Location and Establishment Date

Administrative Costs in 2005*

National Treasury Management Agency

(i)borrows moneys for the Exchequer and to manage the National Debt; (ii)manager of the National Pensions Reserve Fund; (iii)borrows on behalf of the Housing Finance Agency; (iv)provides Central Treasury Services to Local Authorities and VECS; (v)manages the surplus of the Social Insurance Fund; (vi)acts in the event of default by an issuer of securities under the Asset-Covered Securities Act 2001; (vii)manages the Dormant Accounts Fund; (viii)the State Claims Agency; and, (ix)is the body through which the National Development Finance Agency performs its functions.

Treasury Building, Lower Grand Canal Street, Dublin 2 Establishment date: 1990 (under the National Treasury Management Agency Act 1990) State Claims Agency Establishment date: 2001 (under the National Treasury Management Agency (Amendment) Act 2000).

€22 million (of which debt management €11.4m, National Pensions Reserve Fund €4.4m, National Development Finance Agency €2.8m and State Claims Agency €3.4m).

National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) Commission

To control, manage and invest the assets of the National Pensions Reserve Fund.

Treasury Building, Lower Grand Canal Street, Dublin 2 Establishment date: 2001 (under the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000)

€4.4 million (see entry for NTMA).

National Development Finance Agency (NDFA)

(i)To advise State authorities on the optimum means of financing the cost of public investment projects in order to achieve value for money; (ii)to advise State authorities on all aspects of financing, refinancing and insurance of such projects; (iii)to advance moneys and to enter into other financial arrangements in respect of projects approved by State authorities; (iv) to form companies for the purpose of securing finance for public investment projects; and, (v)to act as a Centre of Expertise to undertake the procurement of PPP projects (on an interim non-statutory basis in the first instance, pending legislation).

The National Development Finance Agency performs its functions through the National Treasury Management Agency, located at Treasury Building, Grand Canal Street, Dublin 2. Establishment date: 2003 (under the National Development Finance Agency Act 2002)

€2.8 million (see entry for NTMA).

Body Name

Function/role

Location and Establishment Date

Administrative Costs in 2005 *

Ordnance Survey Ireland

The OSi is mandated under the OSi Act 2001 to provide a national mapping service in the State and provides and maintains spatial information to a range of private and public sector customers. The organisation is a leader in the use and development of mapping technologies and is a key player in the rapidly developing geographic information industry in Ireland.

Phoenix Park Dublin 8 Establishment date: 2002

€7 million Grant-in-Aid

An Post National Lottery Company

An Post National Lottery Company is a limited liability company established under the Companies Acts, 1963 to 1986. It is a subsidiary of An Post. 80% of the issued share capital of the Company is held by An Post while the remaining 20% is held by the Minister for Finance. The Company’s function is to operate the National Lottery in accordance with the provisions of the National Lottery Act, 1986.

Abbey Street Lr. Dublin 1 Establishment date: 1986

Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal

To process appeals, on medical grounds, under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme

National Rehabilitation Hospital, Rochestown Avenue, Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin Establishment date: 1989

€276,520

Sealúchais Árachais Teoranta

A holding company which oversees the business of Icarom plc (previously Insurance Corporation of Ireland under administration).

C/O Department of Finance, Government Buildings, Dublin 2 Establishment date: 1985

€1,597 paid to A&L Goodbody for secretarial fees in relation to Sealúchais Árachais Teoranta.

* Exchequer funding only.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

275 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the reliefs available to a person (details supplied) in County Carlow in regard to the cost of eye operations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20564/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that according to their records the taxpayer has not paid any tax since 2002. Therefore no relief is due to him for the medical expenses incurred.

Decentralisation Programme.

Jack Wall

Question:

276 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the number of officials designated to decentralise to the information technology sector in Kildare as part of the decentralisation programme; the number of each category of official needed to have the office functional; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20566/06]

The Central Applications Facility identified the following posts as decentralising to Kildare to discharge certain functions of my Department. These staff are required to discharge the work of the units decentralising.

Principal

Assistant Principal

Higher Executive Officer

Executive Officer

Clerical Officer

Total

2

7

16

6

2

33

Jack Wall

Question:

277 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the complement of officials designated to decentralise to Athy, County Kildare as part of the decentralisation process; the number of each category of official needed to have the office functional; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20567/06]

The Central Applications Facility identified the following posts as decentralising to Athy to discharge the functions of the Office of the Revenue Commissioners. These staff are required to discharge the work of the decentralising units.

Principal

Assistant Principal

Higher Executive Officer

Executive Officer/ Staff Officer

Clerical Officer

Others

Total

7

25

47

74

92

5

250

Departmental Staff.

Phil Hogan

Question:

278 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Finance the number of civil servants employed by each Department for each year from December 1988 to 2005 inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20598/06]

The data in the table are based on information on serving non-industrial civil servants, on whole time equivalent basis, supplied by Departments/Offices to my Department. The figures for 2005 are provisional pending confirmation by Departments/Offices. Variations in the figures for individual Departments/Offices will be affected by the transfer of functions between Departments and from Departments to other state bodies over the period. In addition to these figures there are another 2,000 (approximately) industrial civil servants. This number is subject to seasonal factors and they are mainly concentrated in the Office of Public Works and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Total Wholetime Equivalents Serving Numbers of Non-industrial civil servants by Departments Dec 1988 — Dec 2005

(based on present Departmental structures)

Department/Office

31-Dec-88

31-Dec-89

31-Dec-90

31-Dec-91

31-Dec-92

31-Dec-93

31-Dec-94

31-Dec-95

31-Dec-96

31-Dec-97

31-Dec-98

31-Dec-99

31-Dec-00

31-Dec-01

31-Dec-02

31-Dec-03

31-Dec-04

31-Dec-05

Agriculture & Food

3,688.5

3,610

3,557

3,588

3,642.5

3,693.5

3,762

4,048

3,961

3,927.5

4,077.5

4,115

4,173.5

4,452

4,522.58

4,490.20

4,536.82

4,442

Arts, Sport & Tourism

66

65

64

69

71

98.5

102

117

116

107.5

114.5

107

113.5

109

429.4

436.60

407.13

166

Attorney General

29

30

32

34

32

35

37.5

53

61.5

61.5

69

73

81

97

113.5

111.50

105.9

116.73

Central Statistics Office

495

437.5

473

612.5

667.5

622.5

554

615

776

631

509.5

549

641.5

654

742.8

688.15

649.53

776

Chief State Solicitor

99

96

114

122

123

134

134.5

153

159.5

185

203.5

216

199.5

240.5

203

223.30

216.7

229.6

Civil Service Commission

28.5

70

104

106.5

95.5

92

96.5

103.5

96.5

101.5

125.5

164

173

193

171.8

150.45

144.9

148.3

Communications, Marine & Nat Resources

393.5

391.5

410

427.5

450

473.5

448

355

298.5

389

402.5

418

431

457

692.7

686.20

596.1

658

Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs

228

228

244

236.5

258

286.5

304.5

328

551

615

610.5

714

751.5

857.5

220.83

244.43

251.46

247.7

Comptroller & Auditor General

80

68

79

78

76

82

115

130

127

126

124

120

131.5

116.5

151.8

159.80

156.8

162

Courts Service

684

690.5

684.5

691

715

736

759.5

790.5

824.5

844.5

851.5

886.5

924.5

1,010.5

1,033.91

1,059.27

1,097.11

1,026.2

Defence

457.5

443

436

439

445

437

439.5

434

422.5

425.5

431.5

434

423

427

415.1

410.10

403.25

393.41

Director of Public Prosecutions

16

16

16

20

21

24.5

26

27

30.5

30

32.5

33

38.5

61

162.9

166.50

173.8

168.53

Education & Science

841

815

807.5

814

832

801.5

780.5

919

905

899

950.5

965.5

1,104.5

1,180.5

1,287.7

1,326.80

1,381.01

1,613.13

Department/Office

31-Dec-88

31-Dec-89

31-Dec-90

31-Dec-91

31-Dec-92

31-Dec-93

31-Dec-94

31-Dec-95

31-Dec-96

31-Dec-97

31-Dec-98

31-Dec-99

31-Dec-00

31-Dec-01

31-Dec-02

31-Dec-03

31-Dec-04

31-Dec-05

Enterprise, Trade & Employment — Total

818.5

756

769

804.5

809

818

869.5

831

839.5

888

898.5

950

958

1,008.5

1,072.4

1,081.73

1,009.56

973

Environment & Local Government

763.5

741.5

789.5

804

790.5

789.5

812

813

800

797.5

797.5

829

860

910

1,344.54

1,361.28

1,238.29

1,255.73

Finance

552.5

524.5

550

562.5

531

533.5

514.5

527

513

511.5

508

531.5

571.5

627.5

644.19

600.81

579.49

587.09

Foreign Affairs — Total

725

726

771

768

793

793

862

978.5

1,056

970

989.5

1058.5

1,086

1,210.5

1,360.3

1,483

1,371.7

1,408.8

Health & Children

329.5

339

335

353

362.5

383

394

448.5

439.5

433

433

464

483.5

565

645.18

649.06

623.62

635.5

Justice, Equality & Law Reform — Total

3,532.5

3,652

3,995

4,263

4,446

4,428.5

4,645

4,670.5

4,709

4,868

5,187.5

5,619

6,073

6,418.5

6,741.88

6,869.23

6,898.83

6,726.42

National Gallery

13

13

12

12

12

13

16

19

19

19

18

18

17

17

31

30.00

25

25

Office of Public Works

918

832.5

821.5

803

830

833

812.5

812

581.5

538

525.5

536

562.5

556

562.83

559.76

620.39

653.69

Oireachtas

185

178

196

205

219

225

241.5

249

241

251

255.5

259.5

274

313.5

321.3

331.73

323.1

365.54

Ombudsman

27

33

34

33

33

32

30

36

38.5

42

51.5

56.5

61.5

68

75.7

74.20

73.7

75.86

Ordnance Survey

311

295

298

292

295

287

287

281

276

263.5

255.5

283.5

273.5

314

0

0.00

0

0

Presidents Establishment

9

10

10

13

13

13

14

13

12

14.5

17

16.5

16.5

19.5

20.5

22.50

21.5

22.5

Revenue Commissioners

6,066

6,035.5

6,017.5

6,136.5

6,106

6,009.5

6,038

6,211.5

6,040.5

5,977

5,926

6,032.5

6,175

6,451

6,441.6

6,425.72

6,515.14

6,362.15

Social & Family Affairs — Head Office

3,659.5

3,629

3,716.5

3,819

4,092

4,197

4,296

4,414.5

4,267

4,173.5

4,098.5

4,173.5

4,221

4,443.5

4,419.8

4,310.76

4,382.33

4,280.98

State Laboratory

60

58

61

67

66

73

75

74

72

71

72.5

72.5

75.5

86

89.1

92.70

90.4

91.3

Tánaiste

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

23

23

0

0

0

0

0

0

0.00

0

0

Taoiseach

117

114

119.5

118.5

126

125.5

126.5

178.5

179

164

162.5

186

186

207.5

218

224.40

219.6

213.28

Transport

581

584

585

584.5

587.5

595.5

624.5

685

655

618

612

600.5

626.5

655.5

499.67

501.35

471.21

504.74

Valuation Office

156

147

149

153

158

157.5

152.5

153

145.5

141.5

134

127.5

127

132

132.1

132.70

150.3

149.6

Overall Total

25,930.00

25,628.50

26,250.50

27,029.50

27,698.00

27,823.00

28,370.00

29,491.00

29,236.50

29,084.00

29,445.00

30,609.50

31,834.50

33,859.00

34,768.11

34,904.23

34,734.67

34,478.78

Flood Relief.

Denis Naughten

Question:

279 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the 22 groups or persons who received a copy of the pre-feasability report on Shannon flooding in October 2004; if he has received a response from any of the 22 groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20600/06]

A copy of the River Shannon Pre-Feasibility Study was issued to the following:

ESB

ESB International

Waterways Ireland × 3

IFA

Shannon Regional Fisheries Board

Bord na Móna

National Parks and Wildlife Service

Shannon River Basin Management Project

Central Fisheries Board

Limerick County Council

Clare County Council

Roscommon County Council

Limerick City Council

South Tipperary County Council

North Tipperary County Council

Galway County Council

Leitrim County Council

Longford County Council

Offaly County Council

Westmeath County Council

To date, no responses have been received by OPW in respect of the report.

Pension Provisions.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

280 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance if he will amend existing legislation to allow persons who have invested in AVCs to a refund of their contributions in special circumstances such as serious illness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20891/06]

I have been informed by the Revenue Commissioners that where an occupational pension scheme does not provide its members with maximum pension entitlements (i.e. two thirds of final remuneration at normal retirement age) an employee may top up his or her benefits by paying what are know as Additional Voluntary Contributions, or AVCs. An employee can contribute 15-40% of salary as between contributions to the occupational pension scheme and AVCs, depending on age, and claim full tax relief, subject to an overall annual earnings limit which is currently set at €254,000. Overall benefits as between the main scheme and the AVCs may not exceed the maximum benefits permissible.

The Revenue Commissioners have also indicated that in the case of serious illness, provision already exists in the tax legislation governing pensions to facilitate the payment of early retirement benefits on ill-health grounds. This applies to benefits funded through AVCs as well as to the main scheme benefits. Whilst the level of ill health retirement benefits payable in any particular case will depend on the particular scheme rules and the type of scheme involved i.e. defined benefit or defined contribution, the legislation permits such benefits to be paid straight way, irrespective of the employee's age. In addition, the benefits to be paid in such circumstances are based, not on the actual service record of the employee, but on the service record that the individual could have attained if he or she had continued in service until normal retirement age.

An employee retiring on ill health grounds with AVCs need not use all of them to top-up main scheme benefits but has the option of using part of the AVCs to maximise his or her tax free lump sum under the main scheme and, where AVC funds remain, to avail of the ARF Option under which he or she can invest the AVCs in an approved retirement fund or take them as a lump sum taxable at the individual's marginal rate of tax. An individual availing of the ARF option is the beneficial owner of the assets in the ARF and has greater control and flexibility as to how the assets are invested and used.

The Revenue Commissioners also permit approved pension schemes to include a rule allowing for full commutation of a pension (including AVCs) if at the time it becomes payable the recipient is in exceptional circumstances of ill-health where the expectation of life is very short. A portion of the commuted pension in such cases will be exempt from tax with the remainder being taxed at 10%. In light of the fact that current legislation already facilitates the early payment of pension benefits, including AVCs to individuals with serious or terminal illness, I see no reason to change the legislation as suggested.

Tax Code.

Michael Noonan

Question:

281 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Finance the controls put in place by the Revenue Commissioners and the inspections carried out to ensure that cars being imported are valued at market value for the purposes of calculating Vehicle Registration Tax and that the value of extras are also taken into account;; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20978/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that there is a range of controls and procedures in place to ensure that imported cars are correctly valued for Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) purposes. Legislation provides that motor distributors declare their opinions of the market value, known as the open market selling price, of cars, and of extras, supplied by them. These distributor declarations are subject to checks by Revenue to ensure their accuracy. Chargeable extras are also required to be declared as part of the registration process and VRT audit guidelines identify the non-declaration of extras as a risk area to be managed.

Registrations of new cars imported for supply through the motor distributor and motor dealer network, being the vast majority of new car importations, are subject to importation inspection in many cases. Motor distributors and motor dealers are also subject to the audits and inspections applicable to all businesses on an ongoing basis. Second hand cars are charged by reference to Revenue's current determinations of market value. The data are validated on an ongoing basis in a number of ways, including by reference to trade publications, price lists, trader opinions, actual selling prices and information collected during the course of audits. In addition, Revenue maintains records, from information supplied by distributors, of the types and values of the chargeable extras available. Revenue is therefore in a position to validate the values of extras declared and also to establish the value of undeclared extras. The VRT mainframe computer system is also programmed to depreciate the values of extras for second hand cars.

Used cars, and new cars imported outside the franchised networks, are assessed for VRT and subject to controls at the time of their declaration for registration in the State. Chargeable extras are required to be declared as part of the registration process. All cars presented for registration at vehicle registration offices are liable to inspection. In administering this control system it is however necessary to strike a balance between addressing all potential risks to Revenue and providing a fast and efficient service to customers. Consequently, not all cars are physically examined. Selection for physical examination is made on the basis of certain criteria, relating essentially to the age and value of the vehicle. All cars below a certain age and above a certain value are required to be examined. In addition a proportion of lower value, older cars are selected for discretionary checks on a part risk analysis, part random, basis. The declaration or otherwise of extras is dealt with as part of such examination.

The Revenue Commissioners are satisfied that the control and inspection arrangements currently in place are adequate and appropriate and that they achieve a reasonable balance between the requirements of customer service and the prevention of VRT evasion.

Decentralisation Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

282 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that the Office of Public Works have purchased a site (details supplied); the price paid for the site; when planning permission will be sought; if the OPW is seeking or has obtained temporary accommodation; and when will such accommodation be available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21044/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works have informed me that they have agreed terms on a site in Roscommon Town for the decentralisation of the Land Registry. The contracts for sale are being processed by the Chief State Solicitor. Because the contracts have yet to be completed by both parties, it is not considered prudent to reveal the purchase price at this stage. The indicative date of the Decentralisation Implementation Group for completion of the building is mid 2009. The building will be constructed on a design build basis and the successful tenderer will be responsible for obtaining planning permission within the overall framework of the D.I.G.'s indicative timescale. Temporary accommodation has been located in a State owned property in the town. This is available immediately and will accommodate a small advance party.

State Property.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

283 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance if, further to his parliamentary question response of 16 May 2006, the agencies which have raised concerns with regard to the main stairwell of the National Gallery of Ireland, Millennium Wing; if there have been incidents on the main stairwell which have given rise to concerns regarding the stairwell; and if so, the number and nature of these incidents; if the State Claims Agency, or other agency has been in contact with the Commissioners of Public Works with regard to any incident relating to the main stairwell or have raised any concern regarding the stairwell with the Commissioners of Public Works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21075/06]

In December 2002, Ruairí Quinn, T.D. wrote to the Commissioners of Public Works on behalf of a constituent who expressed concerns regarding the main stairwell of the Millennium Wing building. At that time, the Commissioners of Public Works requested a detailed report from the Gallery's architects, Benson & Forsyth who advised that the stairs were in compliance with the relevant building regulations. Given that at that time, approximately 700,000 people had used the stairs without incident and that the day to day management of the building and stairs was a matter for the National Gallery, the Commissioners of Public Works asked the Gallery to monitor usage and revert if they encountered any problems.

In November, the State Claims Agency wrote to the National Gallery of Ireland in the context of a claim which had arisen. The National Gallery of Ireland forwarded a copy of this letter to the Commissioners of Public Works in December 2005. The National Gallery of Ireland has confirmed that, to date, four incidents concerning the Millennium Wing stairwell had been recorded. None of these incidents required hospital treatment. As advised in my previous answer, I have asked the Commissioners of Public Works to assess the main stairwell of the National Gallery and if necessary, take any action to ensure not only compliance with all relevant regulations but "best practice".

Garda Stations.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

284 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if he will assure residents on Lower Main Street, Buncrana, County Donegal that their arrangement to go through the Office of Public Works land currently occupied by the Garda station to gain access to the rear of their homes will be enshrined and safeguarded in any future sale agreement. [21095/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works have no objection to local residents at Lower Main Street, Buncrana accessing their properties, from time to time, by entering the Garda Station in Buncrana. There are no plans to change this arrangement subject to local approval by the Garda Síochána at Buncrana Garda Station.

There are no plans at present to sell the property. Should it be decided to dispose of the property at a future date the issue of access will be considered at that stage.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

285 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the rate of VAT currently applying to a driving test; and the estimate of receipts from that source in the last year for which figures are available. [21113/06]

VAT does not apply to driving tests and consequently no VAT receipts arose from that source in 2005. I should explain that, in general, public bodies are exempt from VAT under the Sixth VAT Directive with which Irish law must comply. As such, public bodies do not charge VAT on their services and cannot recover VAT on goods and services which they purchase.

Question No. 286 answered with QuestionNo. 272.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

287 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the cost of tax relief for private pensions in each of the past 10 years; and the average number of people who availed of such tax relief in each of those years. [21115/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the relevant available information relates to the cost of tax relief on pension contributions by employers, employees and self-employed and the exemption from tax of income and gains in the pension funds. This information, together with the numbers of employee and self-employed contributors, is provided for the ten income tax years 1993-94 to 2002, the latest year for which it is available. The estimates of cost in relation to contributions by employers and contributions by employees are particularly tentative as this information is not captured in such a way as to enable more precise estimates to be compiled.

It should be noted that as PAYE taxpayers were charged to tax on their earnings in the period from 6 April to 31 December 2001 and self-employed taxpayers were assessed to tax for that short year on 74% of the profits earned in a 12 month accounting period, the cost figures will not be directly comparable with those of earlier or later years.

A married couple who has elected or has deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

Income Tax relief relating to pension contributions

Estimated Cost

1993/94

1994/95

1995/96

1996/97

1997/98

1998/99

1999/00

2000/01

2001

2002

Cost of tax relief on contributions by employers and employees and exemption of income and gains in the pension funds*

€565m

€750m

€902m

€1.2bn

€1.5bn

€1.8bn

€2.2bn

€2.4bn

€1.8bn

€2.5bn

Numbers of employees contributing to approved superannuation schemes**

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

569,220

629,800

670,500

709,300

Cost of tax relief on ‘Retirement Annuity Contracts’ available to the self-employed and to employees not in occupational pension schemes

€54m

€66m

€72m

€91m

€91m

€116m

€181m

€205m

€185m

€251m

Numbers

52,200

59,200

62,800

67,000

72,200

92,900

104,500

109,300

109,600

110,600

*These are extremely tentative estimates.
**Calendar year figures sourced from annual reports of the Pensions Board.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

288 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the grants available for approved solar and solar heat panels on the front roof of standard three bedroom detached houses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20454/06]

Under the Greener Homes Scheme the level of grant aid available to domestic householders for the installation of solar panels is €300 per m2 subject to a maximum of 12 m2.

International Agreements.

Mary Upton

Question:

289 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will provide this Deputy with a copy of the separate statement issued pursuant to the EU Council of Ministers qualified majority vote to adopt a regulation on the conclusion of the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Community and the Kingdom of Morocco; and if he will make a statement on the reason Ireland voted for the regulation. [20862/06]

The statement Ireland made to the Council setting down its position on the Fisheries agreement in relation to the Western Sahara situation is as follows.

Ireland supports the conclusion of the Fisheries partnership Agreement between the European Community and the Kingdom of Morocco on the basis that it does not prejudice the long-standing position of the EU on the status of the Western Sahara. The EU continues to support the efforts of the UN Secretary General to encourage a negotiated solution which will allow the people of the Western Sahara to exercise their right to self-determination.

Ireland emphasises the importance of the future dialogue within the EU-Morocco Joint Committee foreseen under this agreement. It is essential that the Joint Committee make use of all instruments under the Agreement to ensure that the Agreement is implemented to the benefit of all the people concerned and in accordance with the principles of international law.

Ireland has been a firm supporter of the right to self-determination of the people of the Western Sahara, and the Government remains firmly committed to this principle. The legal advice of the Council's legal service is that the agreement does not entail a de jure recognition of Morocco's legal rights in respect of the area. Therefore there is not a conflict between Ireland's position on Western Sahara and its support for the agreement.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

290 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will take the necessary steps to develop the alternative energy sector to the extent required to ensure adequate and continuity of supply, maximum use of renewable and sustainable resources, the development of natural resources such as natural gas, oil or other mineral deposits, on or off-shore, reducing dependency on imported fuels and the need for compliance with the Kyoto principles having particular regard for this country’s current and future economic needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21039/06]

The Government is fully committed to major development of renewable energy sources as well as to increasing energy efficiency and managing energy demand in order to reduce fossil fuel dependence, enhance environmental sustainability and limit carbon emissions.

We currently have a target to increase the amount of electricity from renewable energy sources to 13.2% by 2010. This target approximates to 1450 Megawatts of installed generating capacity. At present we have approximately 850 MW of renewable capacity connected to the grid and given that we have a further 3700 MW in the grid application process, we will exceed this target.

A further targeted package of excise relief for biofuels valued at €205m was announced in the Budget and will be rolled out from this year to 2010, enabling us to reach the initial target of 2% market penetration by biofuels by 2008. The scheme is calculated to achieve CO2 savings of 257,000 tonnes by 2010 and represents 52% of the annual CO2 reductions to be achieved through vehicle and fuel tax measures identified in the National Climate Change Strategy. We are also providing funding of up to €65m over a 5 year period for renewable energy schemes that includes grants for a range of renewable heat, electricity and transport initiatives.

Further challenging targets for renewable energy will be proposed in the forthcoming Energy Green Paper which will also take full account of the sustainable energy agenda as a shared ambition for the island as a whole. We are working closely with Northern colleagues in delivering joint approaches to renewable energy.

It is the Government's policy to actively encourage exploration for oil, gas and other minerals, through appropriate licensing and fiscal terms for the exploration and development of oil, gas and minerals both offshore and onshore.

Fisheries Protection.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

291 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the consultation process that is planned for the three person working group he has established to investigate the future of commercial drift netting for salmon; the administration system which has been established to assist this work; and the proposed timetable for the presentation of the groups recommendations and the implementation of a new salmon management regime. [21059/06]

Arising from my undertaking to follow the recommendations of the Standing Scientific Committee of the National Salmon Commission to fully align the management of the fishery with their scientific advice for 2007, I established the Independent Group, to which the Deputy refers, to examine the implications for the commercial sector in 2007 and beyond.

The Group will make recommendations on the options available to address any financial hardship arising for individuals involved in commercial salmon fishing from full compliance with the scientific advice for 2007.

The specific remit of the Group requires them to:

•Advise the Government of the implications of fully aligning with the scientific advice and in particular the hardship that may arise for individuals in coastal communities.

•Make recommendations, if appropriate, to address any financial hardship experienced.

•Consider the extent to which those stakeholders, who would be the main economic beneficiaries of more salmon being returned to the rivers, should contribute to any scheme, whether in cash or in kind including improved tourist access, and to

•Determine the implications for the angling sector.

The Group will be expected to draw on the reports already generated through the National Salmon Commission, by the National Fisheries Managers Executive and the Standing Scientific Committee and engage in appropriate consultation with relevant stakeholders. I understand that the group recently placed advertisements in the media inviting submissions from interested parties. The closing date for submissions is 30th June 2006.

The independent group is expected to present its report to me in September 2006. Secretariat support for the group is being provided by Bord Iascaigh Mhara.

In addition to receiving the report of the group, I expect to receive advice from the National Salmon Commission's Standing Scientific Committee and the National Fisheries Managers Executive in November on which decisions for management of the fishery in 2007 will be made prior to the commencement of the fishing season.

Departmental Bodies.

Denis Naughten

Question:

292 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the public bodies under the control of his Department; their function, role, location and establishment date; the administration costs of each body in the year 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20467/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is outlined in the table.

Public Bodies under the aegis of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources

Body

Established

Function

Location

Admin. cost in 2005

Communications Sector

An Post

1st January 1984

An Post is a major commercial organisation whose role is as follows: (i) to provide a national postal service with the State and between the State and places outside the State (ii) to meet comprehensively and efficiently the postal needs of the State and to satisfy the reasonable demand for such services (iii) to provide services by which money may be remitted (iv) to provide counter services for the company’s own and Government business

Main Office is situated at the General Post Office, O’Connell Street. The Company also has a nationwide retail network.

€736.7 m

Digital Hub Development Agency

July 2003

The function of the Agency is to procure, secure the provision of and to promote and facilitate the development, including the carrying out of construction or maintenance works, of the digital hub as a location for digital enterprises and related activities;

Digital Hub Development Agency, Digital Exchange, Crane Street, The Digital Hub, Dublin 8

Total: €1,815,604 Travel & Subsistence 13,138 Office Rental 24,647 Office Services 785,738 Office Overhead 199,478 Insurance 113,829 Marketing & Advertising 162,124 Property Related Expenditure 103,582 Professional Services 94,234 Audit Fee 7,200 Depreciation 234,582 Bad Debts 62,363 Sundry 14,689

Marine Sector

National Salmon Commission (NSC)

2000

The National Salmon Commission is a Statutory Body established to assist and advise the Minister in relation to the conservation, management, protection and development of the wild salmon and sea trout resource in Ireland

The Central Fisheries Board provides the secretariat for this Commission. See address below

€48,296

Body

Established

Function

Location

Admin. cost in 2005

Central Fisheries Board (CFB) Eastern Regional Fisheries Board (ERFB) Northern Regional Fisheries Board (NRFB) North Western Regional Fisheries Board (NWRFB) Southern Regional Fisheries Board (SRFB) South Western Regional Fisheries Board (SWRFB) Shannon Regional Fisheries Board (ShRFB) Western Regional Fisheries Board (WRFB)

1980

The Central Fisheries Board has the function of supporting and coordinating, where necessary, the performance of the Regional Boards. The Seven Regional Boards have responsibility in relation to management, conservation, protection, development and improvement of fisheries in their regions and for the promotion and development of angling.

CFB: Unit 4 Swords Business Campus, Balheary Road, Swords, Co. Dublin ERFB: 15A, Main Street Blackrock Co. Dublin NWRFB: Ardnaree House Abbey Street, Ballina Co Mayo SWRFB: 1 Neville’s Terrace, Masseytown, Macroom Co. Cork SRFB: Anglesea Street, Clonmel Co. Tipperary WRFB: The Weir Lodge Earls Island Galway NRFB: Station Road Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal ShRFB: Ashbourne Business Park, Dock Road Limerick

€21.78m

Fisheries Co-operative Societies

1991

There are eight societies whose principal functions are to participate in the development of the fisheries by raising funds and making grants or payments available for development of fisheries for benefit o f public.They are as follows: Eastern Fisheries Development Society; Southern Fisheries Development Society; South Western Fisheries Development Society; Lower Shannon Fisheries Development Society; Upper Shannon Fisheries Development Society; Western Fisheries Development Society; North Western Fisheries Development Society; and Northern Fisheries Development Society.

As they are attached to the individual Fisheries Boards the addresses are the same as the Fisheries Boards above.

€135,000

Loughs Agency

1999

The Loughs Agency is itself an Agency of the Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission. It was established under the British-Irish Agreement Act 1999 and its main function is to provide effective conservation and development of the fisheries and marine resources of the Foyle and Carlingford areas.

€1.513m The Agency’s administrative costs in the North are met by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

Body

Established

Function

Location

Admin cost in 2005

Licensing Authority (Sea Fishing Boats)

1 July 2003

The licensing and registration of sea fishing boats in accordance with the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003.

Leeson Lane, Dublin 2.

The administrative costs of this Authority are met by the Department and are not separately identified.

Marine Institute

1992

The Institute’s main functions are: (i) to provide the Department with information and advice on marine research and development (ii) to support existing marine businesses and related activities through the provision of key scientific services and advice (iii) to provide for wise management decisions to guide the on-going sustainable development of the marine resource iv) to support research, technology development and innovation activity to create further employment and to underpin future innovation, growth and wealth creation in the marine area

Marine Institute, Rinville, Oranmore, Co. Galway

€18.5 m

An Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM)

1952

The development of the Sea Fishing and Aquaculture Industry. B.I.M. is a market led organisation working with the Seafood Industry to maximise the quality and value of output from the sea fishing and aquaculture sectors within the context of EU policy and the National Development Plan

Headquarters: Crofton Road, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin Other Locations: National Fisheries College, Greencastle, Co. Donegal. Regional Fisheries Centre, Castletownbere, Co. Cork; Offices in Killybegs and Galway. Overseas Offices in Ireland House in Paris, Madrid and Dusseldorf.

Marketing €3,731,864 Information & Planning €915,426 Administration €4,811,142 Total: €9,458,432

Energy Sector

Body

Established

Function

Location

Admin cost in 2005

Bord Gáis Éireann

1976

The Bord’s main functions are: i) the development and maintenance of a system for the supply of natural gas that is both economical and efficient ii) the construction of a natural gas network iii) the supply of natural gas.

Headquarters in Cork

BGE is a statutory corporation obliged under Section 10 Gas Act 1976 to cover its outgoings and earn a reasonable return on capital. In accordance with its Annual Report & Accounts for the year ended 31 March, 2006, its operating costs were €128m

Bord na Móna plc

Established 1946. Bord na Móna became a plc.on 1 January 1999

To produce, market and foster the production and use of turf and turf products and the harvesting of peat for supply to the three peat-fired electricity generating stations

Headquarters in Newbridge, Co Kildare

Bord na Móna plc is a commercial body governed by the Companies Acts. In accordance with its Annual Report & Accounts for the year ended 30 March, 2005, its operating costs were €85.5m.

Irish National Petroleum Corporation (INPC)

September 1979

Since the sale of the INPC’s businesses and commercial assets in 2001, the INPC has no operational capacity and remains in place to manage residual issues post the 2001 sale, and to act as parent to its sole remaining subsidiary, the National Oil Reserves Agency

7 Clanwilliam Sq, Grand Canal Quay, Dublin 2

€406,000

National Oil Reserves Agency

June 1995

Maintenance and holding of national oil reserves and agent of the Minister for Communications, Marine & Natural Resources in regard to oil stockholding obligations

7 Clanwilliam Sq, Grand Canal Quay, Dublin 2

€732,000

Sustainable Energy Ireland

2002

To promote and assist the development of sustainable energy

Head Office: Glasnevin, Dublin 9

*€6.3m (est)

EirGrid plc

2001

Production of Electricity Transmission System Operator Plan and the running of the national grid

Head Office: 27 Lower Fitzwilliam St, Dublin 2,

* €6.7m (est)

ESB

1927

The generation, supply and sale of electricity

ESB Group Headquarters, Lower Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin 2

**€1,022,783,000 broken down as follows; Payroll 494,749,000 Operations and Maintenance 528,034,000

*Estimate current spend: 2005 Annual Report not yet published.
**2004 spend; 2005 Annual Report not yet published.

Communications Masts.

Pat Breen

Question:

293 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will request the ESB not to proceed with the erection of a telecommunications mast at Clonroadmore, Ennis, County Clare (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20561/06]

Issues relating to the physical siting of telecommunication masts are not a matter for me but for the relevant local authorities under the aegis of my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage, and Local Government. Decisions in this regard are an operational matter for the ESB and not one in which I have a function.

Question No. 294 answered with QuestionNo. 160.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Martin Ferris

Question:

295 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if research has recently been conducted into the prospects for wave energy in the Shannon Estuary off the Kerry coast; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20574/06]

I recently launched a new ocean energy strategy, which aims to put Ireland at the forefront of ocean energy development and position us to capitalise on this resource.

Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) has recently completed a Wave Energy Atlas which examines the wave energy resource potential for Ireland including the wave resource off the Kerry coast line. Under the terms of the Ocean Energy Strategy, SEI are currently supporting a company which has been testing a wave energy generator in the Shannon Estuary.

Fishing Vessel Licences.

John Perry

Question:

296 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will grant an extension of time to a person (details supplied) in County Sligo on the licence as they are awaiting financial papers on the discharge of properties taking into consideration the fact that they will lose tonnage if registration does not take place by 9 June 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20591/06]

The matter in question comes under the remit of the Licensing Authority for Sea-Fishing Boats established under the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003 (Number 21 of 2003). The Licensing Authority has informed me that the case is under consideration.

I undertake to revert to the Deputy when subsequent information comes to hand.

Broadcasting Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

297 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the result of his endeavours to bring about the free to air broadcasting of the Ryder Cup or other sporting events; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20694/06]

On 5th April last, I announced that it was my intention, following consultation with my Cabinet colleagues, to continue to designate the current list of designated events.

This decision was made following a public consultation process conducted by my Department which resulted in close to 190 submissions being received from members of the public and interested parties. The criteria which must be met in order to justify designation are set down in the Broadcasting (Major Events Television Coverage) Act, 1999. In making a decision in the matter, it was clear to me that the Ryder Cup met some, but not all, of the criteria in question.

Apart from the Ryder Cup, my Department also received submissions proposing designation of games involving Irish teams in the European Rugby Cup and provincial games in the All Ireland Football and Hurling Championship. It was considered, however, that notwithstanding the major interest in such events, that they did not meet the criteria laid down in legislation or in the European Directive to allow me to designate them.

Communications Masts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

298 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has satisfied himself regarding the adequate and safety standards and requirements in relation to mobile phone masts or other masts with particular reference to non-ionising radiation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20779/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 72 of 30th May 2006.

Mobile Telephony.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

299 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he expects an even spread of mobile telephone signal and service in all areas throughout the country having particular regard to the existing patchy nature of services in some areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20780/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

317 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he expects mobile telephone costs here to become the lowest in Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20798/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

331 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if sufficient emphasis has been placed on the need to reduce mobile telecommunications costs here in line with other country’s but also in order to set a new standard of economic and efficient delivery of services for the customer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20815/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

332 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to encourage competition in the telecommunications areas with particular reference to the need to meeting customer requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20816/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

336 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he or his Department has had discussions with service providers with a view to the abolition of call divert mobile phone charges; if he proposes to have discussions with the Regulator in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20822/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

360 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to issue directions to the Regulator with the objective of establishing new grounds rules to being about full deregulation in the telecoms market with particular reference to the completion of local loop unbundling, with the objective of rapid provision of broadband, fixed line and mobile telecommunication services in all areas throughout the country, the encouragement of full competition and the delivery of the benefits accruing therefrom to the consumer; if he will set out prerequirements for investment and development in the information technology sector with precise targets and provision for regular reviews to ensure adequate progress; if he will use the opportunity provided by the sale of Eircom to set out a comprehensive programme to bring this country’s telecommunications sector, up to the highest international standards; if he will set out a mission statement in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21052/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 299, 317, 331, 332, 336 and 360 together.

I have no function in regulating pricing, delivery or quality of services in the telecoms market. The provision of telecoms services is in the first instance an operational issue for the service providers concerned.

The regulation of telecommunications operators, including regulatory issuessurrounding pricing, quality and delivery of servicesin the mobile phone market is the responsibility of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) in accordance with the requirements of the Communications Regulation Act 2002 and the Regulations which transpose the EU Regulatory Framework for Electronic Communications. Currently, I have no plans to issue ComReg with a policy direction.

Broadcasting Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

300 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the progress to date in the provision of digital television; if he has in mind specific targets in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20781/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 166 of today, 30th May 2006.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

301 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his intentions to ensure the availability of RTÉ services outside this jurisdiction have particular regard to modern technology and its likely role and the need to meet the needs of the Irish diaspora; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20782/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to questions numbers 18 and 27 on 6 April 2006.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

302 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which he intends to encourage the development of both the public and private broadcasting sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20783/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question Number 85 of today.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

303 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he intends to legislate to ensure the retention of maximum free to air broadcasting or transmission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20784/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question number 138 of today.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

304 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his preferred options for the development of the broadcasting industry, radio and television, with particular reference to international best practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20785/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question Number 85 of today.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

305 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he proposes to outline his plans for the development of the broadcasting sector in the future with particular reference to the needs of national and local broadcasting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20786/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question Number 85 of today.

Telecommunications Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

306 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if competing potential service providers have been impeded in their proposals to provide broadband or other forms of modern telecommunications; his plans to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20787/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 151 on Tuesday 30th May 2006.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

307 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his intentions for the development of the various forms of alternative energy with particular reference to wind, hydro and bio-mass; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20788/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to question number 100 of today.

Digital Hub.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

308 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the costs to date associated with the Digital Hub; the likely ongoing costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20789/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question 108 of 30th May 2006.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

309 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he or his Department have evaluated the economic impact and benefit of the Digital Hub; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20790/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question 108 of 30th May 2006.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

310 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has in mind proposals to further enhance the development of the Digital Hub; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20791/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question 108 of 30th May 2006.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

311 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the investment to date in the Digital Hub; the degree to which original targets have been realised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20792/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question 108 of 30th May 2006.

Postal Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

312 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his policy, plans and ambitions for the enhancement and development of rapid, efficient and cost effective postal and parcel service in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20793/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question Nos. 122 and 127 of 30th May 2006.

Post Office Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

313 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of post offices closed throughout the country on a county basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20794/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 152 of 30th May 2006.

Postal Services.