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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 20 Jun 2006

Vol. 621 No. 7

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 8, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 9 to 44, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 45 to 50, inclusive, answered orally.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

51 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to a new study from the Combat Poverty Agency which shows that the increasing levels of indirect taxation here are having a disproportionate effect on those on lower incomes; the efforts he is making to ensure that those on low incomes receive sufficient supports to deflect the impact of these indirect taxes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22990/06]

I welcome the publication by the Combat Poverty Agency (CPA) of its new report "The Distributional Impact of Ireland's Indirect Tax System" and the associated policy statement "Promoting Equity in Ireland's Tax System". The focus of the report is on whether and to what extent the Irish system of indirect taxation, namely VAT and excise duties, is regressive.

The report outlines that over the period 2000 to 2005, the share of total Current Exchequer Revenues represented by VAT and excises duties combined has remained unchanged at 44.5%. The authors concluded that the indirect tax system appears to be regressive in the sense that households in the lowest decile pay a higher proportion of their income in indirect taxes relative to households in the higher deciles.

However, they also noted that

—the indirect tax system includes some elements of progressivity such as low tax rates on food and fuel and zero tax rates on children's clothes and footwear, and

—that changes to some other elements could have negative effects elsewhere. For example, lowering taxes on drink and tobacco would have negative health effects.

In conclusion, the authors do not recommend adjustments to indirect taxes.

This Government remains committed to improving the standard of living of welfare dependent and low-income households. Since 1997, the lowest rates of welfare payments have increased by almost 100%, well ahead of the 49% accumulated inflation over that period. In the last Budget, the personal and qualified adult rates of payment were increased by unprecedented amounts. The lowest rates of social welfare payments, were increased by EUR17 per week to EUR165.80, or by 11.4%. This increase is well ahead of projected inflation for 2006 and, therefore, improves and enhances the living standards of all recipients.

The report also highlights the need to make work pay for low earners. This has been an important focus of Government policy and I introduced a number of important packages designed to address poverty and to reward work and enterprise in Budget 2006. These included a Child and Family Poverty package of nearly €155 million which involved major improvements for low-income families and for single parent families.

I also introduced a wide-ranging employment package of €28 million. This contained a range of measures which will alleviate poverty and support activation by improving income disregards and tapers for people with disabilities, the unemployed and qualified adults. These arrangements maximise the benefits of work for low-income households.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Paul McGrath

Question:

52 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the impact the lone parent proposals will have on the introduction of a part-time unemployment payment if enacted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23087/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

54 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on whether the rules governing the new parental allowance will cause age related poverty traps if introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23090/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 52 and 54 together.

The major discussion paper, "Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents" which I launched in March this year, addresses the social exclusion and risk of poverty faced by many such families and their children. The report puts forward proposals for reform of the income support system for all parents on a low income. The report proposes the expanded availability and range of education and training opportunities for lone parents, the extension of the National Employment Action Plan to focus on lone parents, focused provision of childcare, improved information services for lone parents and the introduction of a new parental allowance for low income families with young children.

The current one-parent family payment provides long term income support, until children are 18 or 22 if in full-time education, to those parenting alone, with no requirement to be available for or seeking employment. Such long term welfare dependency in respect of a person of working age is not considered to be in the best interests of the lone parent, their children or society in general. Numerous reports have indicated that employment is one of the most important routes out of poverty.

Under the proposed parental allowance, it is suggested that an element of conditionality be attached to receipt of the payment. Overall the report proposes that payment of parental allowance should cease when the youngest child reaches the end of their 7th year. This being the case, formal activation would commence when the child was age 5. This would give the parent the opportunity and supports required to engage in education or training for three years, before payment of parental allowance would cease.

There is no proposal in the Report to introduce a part-time unemployment payment. However, the Report also considered that the requirement to seek full-time work, which is inherent in the unemployment schemes of my Department, no longer reflects the atypical working patterns of many people in Ireland today, particularly women. The Report proposed that, in order to meet the ‘genuinely seeking work condition' attached to the payment of Unemployment Assistance, seeking work of 19 hours and over should be sufficient. This is in line with the conditions applying to the Family Income Supplement. It is acknowledged that using a benchmark of 19 hours may have implications for other schemes and this will need to be explored further.

Activation, as referred to in the proposal, is ‘positive' in nature; it encompasses interview/advice meetings, education and training and providing people with the skills to enable them to achieve financial independence and therefore, a better life for themselves and their children. While conditions are being suggested for receipt of payment, it is proposed that supports will be offered in a structured and systematic manner to the persons concerned. It is only in this context that continuing payment would be made conditional on engagement.

I would stress that the discussion paper acknowledges that the age to which the parental allowance should remain payable is a matter for decision by Government following the consultation process currently underway. I have listened carefully to the comments made by organisations representing lone parents at the recent consultation forum which I hosted and have asked them to submit their views and concerns in writing. I have also briefed the Oireachtas Committee on Social Affairs and debated the issue in the Seanad. I will take all of these views into account to arrive at the best possible solution for all.

I have asked the Senior Officials Group on Social Inclusion to draw up an implementation plan to progress the non-income recommendations of the discussion paper, including those related to childcare, education, training and activation measures and work on this has already commenced in consultation with the Departments and agencies concerned. Issues including the possible impact of the proposals on age related poverty traps, will be taken into account in the implementation of the proposals. I will listen closely to the views expressed and will give very serious consideration to them.

As soon as I am convinced that we have reached conclusions that are fully workable and equitable, it will be my intention to bring forward proposals for legislation in the course of this year.

Richard Bruton

Question:

53 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the decisions that he has made regarding possible payment to claimants whose allowance was cut following the High Court case on the back to education allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23080/06]

Pat Breen

Question:

81 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of people whose back to education allowance was cut over the summer months for each year when the non-payment of the allowance over the summer months was applied by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23079/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 53 and 81 together.

The Back to Education Allowance or BTEA is a second chance education opportunities scheme designed to encourage and facilitate people on certain social welfare payments to improve their skills and qualifications and, therefore, their prospects of returning to the active work force. In 2002 the Government in view of the expenditure constraints facing it at that time, appointed an independent Estimates Review Committee to consider the Estimates proposals received in the Department of Finance from Departments and Offices.

In its report to Government, that Committee recommended discontinuation of the practice of paying the Back to Education Allowance over the summer period to people who were formerly on the live register. The Government decided to implement that recommendation, commencing summer 2003. The decision applied only to BTEA participants who were in receipt of an unemployment payment prior to participation in the scheme.

It is estimated that in 2002/2003 the total number affected by the decision to discontinue payment for the summer period was 432. The numbers affected decreased to 324 in 2003/2004 and further decreased to 156 in the 2004/2005 academic year. The number of cases affected by the decision to discontinue payment of BTEA during the current summer vacation period is not available at present.

In 2004, five people who were participants on the scheme at the time the change was introduced, sought a judicial review. Other participants were subsequently attached to the proceedings, bringing a total of 173 persons. The hearing took place on 7 February 2006 and judgement was delivered on 28 February 2006. The judgment found in favour of one individual but did not find in favour of any of the other people attached to the proceedings. The court decided that restitution was due only in respect of the summer vacation period in 2003 and only in the case of the one individual whose action was successful. My Department is currently making the necessary arrangements in relation to the person concerned.

My Department conducted an expenditure review of the BTEA Scheme under the Expenditure Review Initiative which was published in September 2005. Amongst the recommendations of the review was that the position regarding summer payments be monitored but it did not recommend that the payments should be reinstated. I have no plans to make any changes to the summer arrangements for the BTEA Scheme at this time.

Question No. 54 answered with QuestionNo. 52.

Social Welfare Code.

Seán Ryan

Question:

55 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the details of the new mortgage support plan being considered by his Department; the reasons this new plan is being considered; when he expects the consultation period to be complete; if the scheme will be directed specifically towards those currently priced out of the property market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22991/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

82 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his proposals in regard to co-operation with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in the matter of local authority or social housing having particular regard to his recent pronouncements and those of his predecessor and the increasing numbers on local authority housing waiting lists who have to rely on rent support in private rented accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23108/06]

Martin Ferris

Question:

83 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the responsibility regarding the provision of rent allowance will be transferred to local authorities; the timescale he envisages for same to happen; and if further resources will be allocated to local authorities. [23021/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 55, 82 and 83 together.

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme administered on my behalf by the Community Welfare Division of the Health Service Executive, a weekly or monthly rent supplement is available to assist eligible people who are unable to meet their immediate accommodation needs through their own resources.

In recent years, a significant number of people have come to rely on rent supplements for extended periods, including people on local authority housing waiting lists. In response to this situation, the Government has introduced new rental assistance arrangements giving local authorities specific responsibility for meeting the longer-term housing needs of people receiving rent supplement for 18 months or more, on a phased implementation basis. When fully operational, local authorities will meet the housing needs of these individuals through a range of approaches including the traditional range of social housing options, the voluntary housing sector and, in particular, the new rental accommodation scheme.

The Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government has indicated that, at the beginning of June 2006, over 1,200 tenants have been accommodated under the Rental Accommodation Scheme, with a further 770 accommodated in local authority housing. This is the first step towards having the new arrangements fully operational nationwide by September 2008. These arrangements are intended to be a long-term housing option for the people concerned.

In order to finance this initiative €19 million was transferred from my Department's Vote to the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Vote in 2005 and a further €19 million has been transferred for 2006. Similar arrangements will apply in successive years as the new arrangements are fully implemented.

The new rental assistance arrangements provide an imaginative additional approach in supporting people with longer-term housing needs. By definition, people on rent supplement for extended durations have a long-term housing need that they cannot otherwise meet, and many of them are on local authority housing lists. The new scheme, particularly the rental accommodation component, will reduce housing waiting lists by providing a useful additional mechanism for providing social housing, alongside more traditional social housing construction programmes and the expansion of the voluntary housing sector.

At the end of 2005, 60,176 households were in receipt of assistance under the rent supplement scheme. Over half of these, almost 33,000 tenants, have been on the scheme for 18 months or more. My Department and the Health Service Executive are actively assisting the local authorities and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in implementing the new arrangements. While the progress in terms of tenants transferring has been somewhat slow initially, I am satisfied that the long standing difficulties faced by long-term private sector tenants are being tackled and all of the relevant agencies are co-operating actively to make the new system work successfully.

In recent weeks I have mentioned the concept of some form of housing supplement as a possible alternative to rent supplementation. I am conscious that the rent supplement scheme has become a form of social housing in its own right and for this reason, I am anxious that all avenues are explored to provide financial support for any people on long-term rent supplementation who may be in a position to purchase their own home. In this regard my Department and the Department of Environment Heritage and Local Government, are together overseeing a study which will examine possible approaches to housing. I have asked that the study be undertaken as a matter of urgency and I expect to have a report in the Autumn.

Dan Boyle

Question:

56 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans for reviewing the habitual residency condition; and if his attention has been drawn to the concerns raised by some agencies who view the conditions as too restrictive in areas such as homelessness services. [22999/06]

Phil Hogan

Question:

100 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when the review of the habitual residence condition will be finished; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23098/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 56 and 100 together.

The requirement to be habitually resident in Ireland was introduced as a qualifying condition for certain social assistance schemes and child benefit with effect from 1st May 2004. The basis for the restriction contained in the rules is the applicant's habitual residence. The effect is that a person whose habitual residence is elsewhere is not paid certain social welfare payments on arrival in Ireland. The question of what is a person's "habitual residence" is decided in accordance with European Court of Justice case law, which sets out the grounds for assessing individual claims.

Each case received for a determination on the habitual residence condition is dealt with in its own right and a decision is based on application of guidelines to the particular individual circumstances of each case. Any applicant who disagrees with the decision of a Deciding Officer has the right to appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

The operation of the habitual residence condition has been monitored constantly by my Department since its introduction. A comprehensive review of the operation of the condition is currently being complied with a view to:

—assessing its impact on different categories of persons claiming Social Assistance/ Child Benefit and Supplementary Welfare Allowance payments;

—assessing the current organisational arrangements in the Department for administering the condition and the service provided to customers;

—identifying opportunities for improvements to the administration of the scheme, including those aspects involving other Departments;

—examining all aspects of the decision making process; and

—identifying emerging policy issues and considering how these should be addressed.

The review is expected to be completed during the summer. Account is being taken of the views received from various groups and organisations which have an interest in the area. My Department and the Department of the Environment are fully aware of the concerns expressed by the Homeless Agency and other organisations concerning the impact of the new condition in relation to access to homeless services and these are being assessed and monitored as part of the review.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

57 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to a report from Mercer Human Resource Consulting that found that Ireland has among the lowest levels of statutory maternity benefits in western Europe; his views on how poorly Ireland’s maternity benefit system compares to other European countries; the efforts he is making to address same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22992/06]

The recently published study referred to reviews the levels and duration of maternity benefits across Europe and shows wide variations. The headline results which state that Ireland has one of the lowest levels of statutory maternity pay in Western Europe, however, warrants closer examination. The study does not take into account the net value of the payment received by the woman during her maternity leave, nor highlight who bears the cost of the benefit payment, nor does it bring out the statutory entitlement to longer, paid absences from employment for maternity purposes.

The study shows that, while women in a number of countries receive a higher rate of maternity benefit than those in Ireland, the payment in Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom is liable to both tax and social insurance contributions which will reduce the sum actually received by the woman. In Germany, Hungary, Italy and Sweden the payment received is liable to either tax or to social insurance contributions. Given the higher levels of tax and social insurance contributions that are generally paid by workers in these countries, the real value of maternity benefit paid to mothers is significantly diminished.

The survey pointed to the large variances in the number of weeks of paid maternity leave. As recently as March of this year, the duration of paid maternity leave was increased to 22 weeks as a result of Budget 2006, with plans in place to increase the period of statutory paid leave by a further 4 weeks in 2007 — bringing the duration of entitlement to maternity benefit to 26 weeks in total. By comparison Hungary provides 24 weeks; France, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain allow 16 weeks leave and Germany provides for 14 weeks maternity leave.

Other differences worth drawing out relate to the mechanisms for delivering the payment and the stability in the payment rate of the period of leave. In this country, the payment of cash benefits during statutory leave is funded from the social insurance fund. In some other countries, such as for example Denmark and the United Kingdom, these costs are transferred to the employer in the first instance, thus reducing the costs to the State. The survey also shows that maternity benefit is paid in a number of countries at a reducing rate over the period of maternity leave. In Ireland, however, the payment rate remains constant during the entire period of 22 weeks, thus ensuring continuity and stability in income over the period.

Maternity benefit has been increased significantly over the past five years in terms of both duration and the amount payable. In 2000, the rate payable was the equivalent of EUR219.41 per week over 14 weeks, or EUR3,071 for the duration. Maternity Benefit is now paid at a rate EUR265.60 over 22 weeks or EUR5,843 for the duration. This represents an increase of 90 per cent over a period wherein average industrial earnings increased by just 67 per cent. Further improvement in the duration of maternity benefit payments are planned for 2007.

Funding for maternity benefit comes from the social insurance fund, which is in turn financed through contributions paid by employers, employees and the self-employed. Social insurance contributions are generally payable by employees here at 4% and by employers at 10.05%, with further provision for reduced rates of contributions where workers are on low incomes. By comparison, employees pay 18.75% and employers 17-20% in Poland and in Spain, employees pay 4.7%, while their employers pay 23.6%, thus significantly increasing the fund available to meet the cost of maternity payments.

In the light of the analysis above, I am satisfied that the rates and duration of maternity benefit in Ireland represent a reasonable response to the income needs of women on maternity leave and can be favourably compared internationally. Further improvements in the maternity benefit scheme will continue to be examined in the context of the wider fiscal and social insurance environment.

Social Welfare Code.

Simon Coveney

Question:

58 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the targets his Department has set in relation to the timescale for the processing of claims and of appeals for the respective schemes administered by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23084/06]

My Department has adopted challenging performance targets in relation to the timescale for the processing of claims and these are published in its customer action plan. I will provide the deputy with a tabular statement that sets out those performance targets and the actual performance achieved for the month of April. These targets refer only to new and repeat claims and do not reflect the significant amount of work involved in dealing with changes to current claims e.g. to amend entitlement where a person's circumstances have changed. Specific targets are not set in respect of appeals but the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office has as an objective in processing appeals as quickly and expeditiously as possible.

In 2005 decisions were given in respect of some 2 million new or repeat claims. In addition some 14,000 appeals are dealt with by the Social Welfare Appeals Office on an annual basis. The time taken to process a claim is measured by calculating the elapsed time from the date the claim is made until the date of decision. However, no account is taken of the many factors outside my Department's control which can impinge on the time it takes to make a decision e.g. the supply of relevant information by the customer, employers, other third parties or the provision of medical reports.

The report for the month of April shows that the relevant targets were met or exceeded in 10 out of 27 areas during the month. The year to date performance shows an improvement over 2005 in 14 out of the 27 areas. I should point out that the Easter holiday period affected the performance figures for the month of April.

My Department is committed to ensuring that applications are processed and that decisions on entitlement are issued as expeditiously as possible having regard to the eligibility conditions that apply. These conditions vary from scheme to scheme and may include establishment of a customer's social insurance record, the provision of medical evidence, verification of identity, satisfying residency conditions and an assessment of means where appropriate.

In the past few years my Department has coped with increasing demands arising from significant changes to the social welfare code and in the numbers of persons accessing the system. While these factors have impinged on the ability to achieve the targets set, continuous efforts are made to improve the turnaround times for processing claims. Against a background of increased workloads and scheme complexities, my Department undertook a number of initiatives designed to improve customer service. The most significant of these is its service delivery modernisation (SDM) project which was recently put in place for retirement and contributory old age pension schemes. The project involves radical business, organisational and IT changes to the way these pension schemes are administered. A number of manual procedures and calculations have been automated so as to improve timeliness, accuracy and efficiency. The IT system will also have the facility to automatically generate and issue communications to the customer thus providing an improved level of information. Business procedures are being revised and the organisation of work is being restructured to maximise the benefits of the new IT System.

My Department is also developing enhanced management reporting systems as part of its Management Information Framework project. These reporting systems will provide detailed management information that will facilitate improved resource allocation and thus a better response to customer needs.

Apart from these developments, there is continued emphasis on providing staff with the necessary training and development so as to ensure they have the required knowledge and skills to carry out their work. I am conscious of the need to provide a quality service to our customers and, with my officials, I am working towards ensuring that my Department continues to deliver a first class service.

Employment Support Services.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

59 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of meetings his Department has held with FÁS in the last year in relation to lone parents and encouraging them into the workplace; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23107/06]

Senior officials from my Department meet with FÁS on a regular basis to discuss policy and operational issues arising in the management of the National Employment Action Plan. They have met with their counterparts in FÁS in that context on eight occasions in the past year. Discussions took place at recent meetings on the Government discussion paper "Supporting Lone Parents" and proposed activation and support measures in this area.

In addition regional and local meetings take place between officials from my Department and their regional and local counterparts in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding between my Department and FÁS. Issues concerning Lone Parents were also discussed at these meetings.

Furthermore, FÁS was represented at the consultation forum on lone parents which I held with representative groups and State Agencies in Farmleigh on 27 April 2006 following the publication of the Government Discussion Paper. I am aware that FÁS was also represented at a number of meetings of the Working Group set up under the Senior Officials Group on Social Inclusion to progress the work in this area.

A review of the National Employment Action Plan was completed in November 2005 by Indecon International Consultants for my Department, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and FÁS. One of the recommendations is that the NEAP continue as an effective labour market measure and that consideration be given to extending it to other groups such as lone parents. The recommendations of the Indecon Report are under consideration by my Department and FÁS at present.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

60 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will be pursuing the issue of extended preschool provision with the Minister with responsibility for Children, in view of the strong emphasis on early childhood care and education recommended by the Combat Poverty Agency in its recent report Day in Day Out Understanding the Dynamics of Child Poverty. [23003/06]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

118 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has received a copy of the eight-year study Day In, Day Out Understanding the Dynamics of Child Poverty by the Combat Poverty Agency and the ESRI; if he will use the study’s findings to inform key policy initiatives in his Department; the action he intends to take on the study’s conclusions; the efforts he is currently making to address child poverty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22984/06]

Seán Crowe

Question:

128 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, in view of the importance of childcare as an element of tackling poverty, disadvantage and social exclusion, he has had meetings with the Minister with responsibility for Children in relation to childcare provision; and the way in which it has been proposed to make high quality and affordable childcare universally available. [23018/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 60, 118 and 128 together.

I recently launched the Combat Poverty Agency study on the dynamics of child poverty. The study's key findings are that children tend to move in and out of poverty and that child poverty, and its duration, are affected by a wide range of factors, including the employment, education and health status of parents, and by the number and age of children in the household. The report accordingly recommends that the policy response to child poverty should be multi-dimensional in nature, focusing on income supports, combined with measures that support employment, education and accessibility of services such as childcare and health.

This Government does have a strategic process in place for combating poverty, including child poverty, in the form of the National Action Plan against Poverty and Social Exclusion (NAP/inclusion) and the National Children's Strategy. "Ending Child Poverty" was also one of ten special initiatives under the social partnership agreement, Sustaining Progress. While these elements remain under active progression, I fully expect that the successor to Sustaining Progress and the next NAP/inclusion 2006-2008 will add further impetus to the process. The Agency's latest report will contribute to policy development in this area.

It is estimated that some 65,000 children remain in consistent poverty, and moving these children out of poverty remains my priority. I hope in this regard to build on the good progress we have made so far. Some 100,000 children have been lifted out of deprivation inside the last decade as a result of targeted measures and supports. The most significant measure my own Department has taken in recent years to support families with children has been the very substantial real increases in child benefit rates. Between 1997 and 2006, the rate of child benefit rose from EUR38.09 per month for the first two children and EUR49.52 for each child thereafter to EUR150.00 per month for each of the first two children and to EUR185.00 per month for the third and each subsequent child. Child benefit is paid to over half a million families in respect of approximately 1.1 million children at a cost in 2006 of more than EUR2 billion.

Child dependent allowances are also paid each week in respect of some 349,000 children. The National Economic and Social Council (NESC) has been examining how these allowances could be incorporated into a new second tier of financial supports, in addition to child benefit and other entitlements, aimed specifically at helping those children most in need. I expect to shortly receive specific proposals from the Council in this regard.

I have also made substantial improvements to the family income supplement which assists families at work on low pay. Assessment of entitlement to payment is now on the basis of net rather than gross income, while increases in the income limits have made it easier for lower-income households to qualify under the scheme. My Department also undertook a very successful nationwide awareness campaign last March to promote and encourage take up of the scheme.

Additional to the above improvements, Budget 2006 contained a range of measures aimed at families with children, which resulted in part from the work of an inter-departmental working group on early child care and education, chaired by the National Children's Office. More than 350,000 children under 6 years of age, in 250,000 families, will qualify for the new annual EUR1,000 early childcare supplement which will be paid on an agency basis by my Department. The cost of the supplement will be approximately EUR360 million in a full year.

Targeted early childhood education provision is a key element of the School Support Programme (SSP), under the new action plan for educational inclusion DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), which provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage. The objective in relation to early childhood education is to concentrate actions initially on those children aged from three up to school enrolment, who will subsequently attend the 180 urban/town primary schools serving the most disadvantaged communities. The Department of Education and Science is working in partnership with my department and other departments and agencies to complement and add value to existing childcare programmes in disadvantaged communities, with a view to ensuring that the overall care and education needs of the children concerned are met in an integrated manner.

One of the key tasks in the "Ending Child Poverty" initiative under Sustaining Progress was to address obstacles to employment for lone parents, whose children are among those most at risk of poverty. Arising from work done in this area by the Senior Officials Group on Social Inclusion and a working group chaired by my Department, I launched in March of this year a major Government discussion paper, "Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents". The report puts forward radical proposals for reform of the income support system for all parents on a low income. It proposes an expanded availability and range of education and training opportunities; the extension of the National Employment Action Plan; focused provision of childcare; improved information services and the introduction of a new Parental Allowance for low income families with young children. These proposals are currently the subject of an extensive consultation process and I expect to bring proposals for legislation in the course of this year. Preparation of an implementation plan regarding the non-income recommendations of the discussion paper is in progress.

The establishment of the Office of the Minister for Children under the Minister for Children represents a major re-organisation of policy and services for children and brings together the areas of child welfare and protection, childcare, youth justice, early childhood care and education and responsibility for the National Children's Strategy. This structure will facilitate the development of a strategic and co-ordinated approach to children's policy and the delivery of services, both at national and local level.

I am confident that, through the targeted measures already being taken by this Government, and the initiatives being planned, a decisive and lasting impact will be made in the eradication of child poverty.

Social Welfare Code.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

61 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the plans he has to amend the back to work allowance; the changes to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23105/06]

Damien English

Question:

106 Mr. English asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of people availing of the very long term unemployed programme; the numbers participating in the programme each year respectively since the year 2000; the cost of the scheme for same; if he has conducted any reviews of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23093/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61 and 106 together.

The Back to Work Allowance Scheme is part of my Department's programme of initiatives designed to assist long term unemployed people, lone parents, people with disabilities and other social welfare recipients to return to the active labour force. There are two strands to the scheme, the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance for the self-employed and the Back to Work Allowance for employees. The allowance was introduced in September 1993 when long term unemployment stood at 8.9%. In its early years the scheme proved very effective in helping people who had been long-term unemployed to return to the labour force.

The scheme reached its peak in October 2000, when there were 39,343 participants, compared to 8,659 at the end of last month. The lower numbers on the scheme now reflect our success in reducing long-term unemployment to historically low levels.

An independent evaluation of the BTW programme was conducted on behalf of my Department by Indecon International Economic Consultants in 2000. In recognition of the difficulties being experienced by some people returning to the labour force after 3 or 5 years of attachment to the live register, the qualifying period for access to both the employment and self-employment strands of Back to Work was reduced to 2 years with effect from March 2006. Also with effect from March 2006 periods spent on Supplementary Welfare Allowance or in the Direct Provision System count towards the qualifying period for Back to Work Allowance.

My Department will monitor the effect of these changes on the take up of the scheme. In addition the scheme will be monitored to ensure its relevance to current labour market conditions and to ensure that it continues to assist those furthest from the labour market to gain a foothold into sustainable employment or self-employment. In the meantime, I have no plans to make further changes to the scheme at this time.

Details of the numbers of participants and of expenditure on the scheme in the period 2000 to 2005 are set out in the table.

Table

Year

Recipients of Back to Work Programme

Expenditure on Scheme

€m

2000

39,343

167.8

2001

32,191

157.6

2002

24,986

129.1

2003

17,069

97.4

2004

11,566

65.7

2005

8,943

53.6

Damien English

Question:

62 Mr. English asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on allowing participants of the part-time job incentive scheme to retain secondary benefits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23092/06]

The part-time job incentive is a weekly in-work income supplement which provides an allowance for people who are in receipt of long-term unemployment assistance and employed on a part-time basis for up to 24 hours per week, provided they continue to make efforts to find full-time work. The allowance is not taxable or subject to PRSI. There is no income limit to continued receipt of the allowance. At present, there are 239 recipients countrywide.

The low take up of this allowance is primarily due to the introduction and improvements in alternative, more favourable employment support measures over the years, in particular the back to work programme and the family income supplement. For instance, if the employment is likely to develop into a lasting job for at least 20 hours per week, the back to work scheme is a better option than the part-time job incentive, as it enables the recipient to keep a substantial part of the unemployment payment, tapered over three years. Also, as the back to work programme is a time-limited transitional payment, arrangements are in place for the retention of secondary benefits, subject to certain income limits.

A further alternative to the part-time job incentive is the family income supplement, where low-income employees with children who work more than 19 hours per week or 38 hours per fortnight receive an in-work income support. This is currently paid to 18,647 recipients at an average weekly payment of EUR102.32.

Retention of secondary benefits applies for a limited period in specified circumstances, such as where a qualified person returns to full-time work after twelve months unemployed, or while participating in certain educational or training programmes. There is no provision for such an arrangement where a person is in receipt of an ongoing in-work income support such as the part-time job allowance or the family income supplement.

I have no plans at present to introduce any change in these arrangements. Any such change would have to be considered in a budgetary context and in the context of competing priorities.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

63 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, in view of the difficulties experienced by grandparents looking after their addict son or daughter’s children, he will review the access criteria for these grandparents in relation to the orphans allowance and increase same to be in line with the foster allowance. [23026/06]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

115 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the difficulty grandparents looking after the children of their addict sons or daughters have especially regarding the area of abandonment; and if he proposes to review the criteria and the amount paid by the orphan’s allowance. [23027/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63 and 115 together.

The primary objective of the orphan's payments administered by my Department is to provide income support in respect of children whose parents are deceased or who are unable and have failed to provide for them. The definition of an orphan for the purpose of the allowance was extended in 1995 specifically to include children where the parents are still alive but have abandoned or refused or failed to provide for them. This was seen as a necessary response to changes in family and social circumstances.

Current figures indicate that there are approximately 1000 recipients of the orphan's contributory allowance and a further 600 recipients of the orphan's non-contributory pension. Grandparents can and do claim for their children in the circumstances outlined by the Deputy. Indeed, informal statistics compiled by officials in my Department suggest that grandparents may make up between 40 and 50% of all claimants in respect of these schemes. My Department's orphans' payments provide a rate of payment of €138 per week. This is a substantially higher rate compared with other payments made by my Department in respect of children.

Foster carers, on the other hand, operate within a very specific framework and the foster care allowance is intended, not only to provide income support, but to recompense foster carers for the expense incurred in relation to looking after a child who would otherwise be in institutional care. Foster carers are therefore subject to rigorous scrutiny and ongoing monitoring by the health boards, and the children in their care are subject to a care plan.

There are no plans to review either the eligibility criteria in relation to the schemes, or standardise the rates of payment under these schemes.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

64 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has intentions of making the tapered withdrawal of rent supplement available to all claimants. [23007/06]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive, provides for the payment of a rent supplement to assist eligible people who are unable to provide for their immediate accommodation needs from their own resources and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source.

My Department is very conscious of the need to facilitate persons in receipt of social welfare payments to take up employment and other progression opportunities. There are currently two separate types of tapering arrangements in place to ensure that rent supplement is structured to support this objective. The first of these tapers the amount of rent supplement by reference to the household's overall income. This applies under the standard means test, which is available to all persons in part-time employment including people on approved employment schemes. The amount of rent supplement payable is reduced as the person's earnings increase.

The other tapering arrangement tapers the amount of rent supplement over time rather than by reference to income. This benefits people participating on certain approved employment schemes or those returning to full-time employment after a period of twelve months unemployment. Under this arrangement, the amount of rent supplement payable is reduced out over a four year period, subject to certain conditions.

In cases where a person qualifies for both tapering arrangements, they can take up the arrangement that is most beneficial to them. Increasingly, this is the taper based on income which applies under the standard rules of the rent supplement scheme. Under those rules, rent or mortgage interest supplements are calculated to ensure that an eligible person, after the payment of rent or mortgage interest, has an income equal to the rate of supplementary welfare allowance appropriate to his or her family circumstances, less a minimum contribution of EUR13 which each recipient is required to pay from his or her own resources.

Where a person avails of an employment opportunity and the employment is less than 30 hours per week, up to EUR60 per week is disregarded and 50% of additional income between EUR60 and EUR90 per week is also disregarded in the means test thus ensuring a tapered withdrawal of assistance as a person's earnings increase. In addition, any amount of family income supplement payable is disregarded in the standard means test, ensuring that a person is better off as a result of taking up such an opportunity. For those participating in approved employment schemes, any lunch or travel allowances that are paid may also be disregarded. In addition, certain training courses now provide a childcare allowance to participants, Budget 2006 provided that these childcare allowances are to be treated in the same manner as a lunch or travel allowance and disregarded.

For those participating on certain approved employment schemes or to those returning to full-time employment after a period of twelve months unemployment they may retain a proportion of their rent supplement payment on a tapered basis over a four year period subject to a household income limit of EUR317.43 per week. Under these arrangements 75% of the supplement is retained in year one, 50% in year two with 25% retained in years three and four. Significant improvements have been made to the means test subsequently.

Back to work allowance and family income supplement, in cases where one or both of these are in payment, are disregarded in the assessment of the EUR317.43 weekly income limit. PRSI and reasonable travelling expenses are also disregarded in the means test. In effect this means that people who commence employment through a back to work scheme, following a period of unemployment, can have a weekly household income significantly in excess of the EUR317.43 limit and still qualify to retain 75% of their rent or mortgage interest supplement.

Overall I consider that the current tapered withdrawal arrangements for the rent supplement ensure that people have a financial incentive to take up both training and employment opportunities, but I will continue to keep the issue under review. I would also mention that these arrangements are being considered further in the context of a policy review of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme which is due to be completed shortly.

Social Welfare Fraud.

Dan Boyle

Question:

65 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on recent findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General in relation to rent supplement overpayments and the need to develop methods to identify the extent of fraudulent or unwarranted recourse to rent supplements. [22998/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

74 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to concerns expressed by the Comptroller and Auditor General regarding the rapid rise in the cost of rent supplement; his views on the replacement of the rent supplement with a new housing benefit scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22981/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 65 and 74 together.

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is administered on my behalf by the Community Welfare division of the Health Service Executive. While my Department has responsibility for devising an overall control strategy for the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, the development, implementation and co-ordination of control measures is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive.

All Community Welfare Officers and Superintendent Community Welfare Officers are involved in control of SWA payments on a daily basis, making control work an integral part of service delivery. Control work commences when a person makes an application and is maintained during the life of the claim by way of reviews of entitlement, random checks and cross checks of claims to ensure that the client continues to be entitled to the payment. In addition, targeted control work is also carried out by the Health Service Executive.

The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General acknowledges that a significant amount of control work is undertaken and that overpayments of rent supplement are being detected. The Comptroller and Auditor General is however critical of the fact that it is not clear how effective the control work is or if the control activity is targeted in the areas of greatest risk. I accept those points.

In this regard my Department together with the Community Welfare Service of the HSE is in the process of completing a fraud and error survey on rent supplement. My Department also intends undertaking a control risk assessment for the SWA scheme including rent supplement. This will provide an opportunity to identify those aspects of the scheme where stricter levels of control might be required. The comments of the C&AG have been made known to the Executive and my Department will be ensuring that controls remains a priority in ensuring that the scheme meets it correct target group.

As Deputies are aware the Government decided that income support and maintenance schemes administered by the Community Welfare Service division of the Health Service Executive should be transferred to my Department. Work has commenced in implementing this decision and I believe the move will provide a further opportunity to address many of the points raised in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report including the issues of control and overall administration.

I am aware of the increases in rent supplement recipients and expenditure as identified in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report. During the period 2000 to 2005, recipient numbers rose from 42,700 to just over 60,000 with expenditure rising from EUR151m to EUR369m. Approximately one third of the overall increase in spending on rent supplements can be explained by increases in the number of recipients, while the remaining two-thirds is attributed to increases in the average rent supplement payment. The increase in the average rent supplement payment is itself attributable to a number of factors, including family size, location and rent level.

The rent supplement scheme was not designed to provide for an individual's long-term accommodation needs. However, in recent years, a significant number of people have come to rely on rent supplements for extended periods, including people on local authority housing waiting lists. In response to this situation, the Government has introduced new rental assistance arrangements giving local authorities specific responsibility for meeting the longer-term housing needs of people receiving rent supplement for 18 months or more, on a phased implementation basis.

When fully operational, local authorities will meet the housing needs of these individuals through a range of approaches including the traditional range of social housing options, the voluntary housing sector and, in particular, a new public/private partnership type rental accommodation scheme. This approach provides a better outcome for the tenants in question and it will also provide better value for money for the taxpayer.

I do not propose to replace the rent supplement scheme with a new housing benefit scheme and the Government is not considering any such proposal. Our priority is to provide housing for those who need it, not to provide an income supplement in lieu of housing. The reform of the rent supplement scheme, the development of the local authority rental accommodation scheme and the very considerable investment in a wide range of social and affordable housing options taken together represent, in my view, a better use of resources than a housing benefit scheme.

Child Poverty.

Michael Ring

Question:

66 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the data on child poverty here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23104/06]

Liz McManus

Question:

84 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will provide an estimate of the number of children here who currently live in a state of poverty; the efforts he is making to address the fact that 65,000 children here live in a state of consistent poverty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22985/06]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

93 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the progress to date on the eradication of consistent poverty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23095/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66, 84 and 93 together.

The EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), which commenced in Ireland in 2003, is conducted annually by the Central Statistics Office and collects information on poverty, deprivation and social exclusion. The results of the most recent survey, announced in December 2005, show continuing positive trends in relation to poverty and social exclusion, and the impact being made by the greatly increased resources now devoted to social welfare and other social services.

Results from the first two years of EU-SILC show that there has been a slight decrease in the percentage of persons ‘at risk of poverty', whose income falls below the 60 per cent median income threshold, from 19.7 per cent in 2003 to 19.4 per cent in 2004. These figures are beginning to reflect the impact of the continuing high level of resources being devoted to supporting those at risk of poverty and suggest that the numbers in that category may have peaked and are beginning to decline.

It should be noted that those below the 60 per cent of median income threshold are categorised as being ‘at risk of poverty', but many may not actually be in poverty, as generally understood. That depends on other factors such as the extent to which their income is below the threshold, the length of time they have been living on a low income, the degree to which their assets will have run down while on a low income, and the other resources they have at their disposal. Those experiencing poverty as generally understood are said to be in consistent poverty and the numbers in that category are also identified by EU-SILC.

The most recent EU-SILC survey also found that there has been a significant reduction in the consistent poverty rate. This is calculated by identifying from among those in the ‘at risk of poverty' category persons who are also deprived of basic goods and services regarded as essential for living in Ireland today. This percentage reduced from 8.8 per cent in 2003 to 6.8 per cent in2004.

With regard to data on child poverty, the EU-SILC survey reported that in 2004 9.5 per cent of persons under the age of 15 were in consistent poverty, a reduction from the 2003 figure of 12.2 per cent. There was a slight rise in the numbers of persons under the age of 15 at risk of poverty from 21.0 per cent in 2003 to 21.2 per cent in 2004. Some 100,000 children have been lifted out of deprivation in the last decade as a result of targeted measures and supports. It is estimated that some 65,000 children remain in consistent poverty and moving these children out of poverty remains my priority.

It may also be important to note trends over a longer period which have caused some confusion. When making comparisons with previous trends, it is necessary to refer to EU-SILC's predecessor, the Living in Ireland Survey (LIIS), which was conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) between 1994 and 2001. While the ‘at risk of poverty' rates between the two surveys are broadly comparable this is not the case with the consistent poverty measure. The CSO and the ESRI attributed the increase recorded in consistent poverty between 2001 and 2003 to methodological differences between the EU-SILC and LIIS surveys. Accordingly, it was not possible to draw any conclusions on how consistent poverty actually changed in this period. There is no evidence that the actual level of consistent poverty would have increased during these years, as there were no policy changes that would have reversed the earlier downward trends. On the contrary, significant improvements in social welfare rates and in other services had been made in the intervening period and the EU-SILC results for 2004 now suggest that the downward trend recorded in the LIIS continues.

The main indicators show that significant progress had been made in the last decade in tackling poverty and specifically child poverty. Much of child poverty is related to the position of the households where children live. The major reduction in unemployment and, in particular, long term unemployment, the significant increases in employment participation resulting in the growth in two income households and the huge improvements in real terms in social welfare payments and related services have greatly helped to improve the position not only of adults but also of their children.

The National Action Plan against Poverty and Social Exclusion (NAP/inclusion) is a key instrument in that regard. A review of implementation of the plan, undertaken in June 2005, found that some 51 of its 58 targets and commitments had either been met or were in the process of being met. A new plan which will significantly build on the progress being made, covering the two year period from 2006 to 2008, is currently being prepared.

The surveys and indicators also show that the families with children most at risk of poverty are large families and those headed by lone parents. Many of these families have not been able to avail of the greatly increased employment opportunities and the related higher incomes that accrue from employment. A range of reforms and increased welfare supports, child-centered services and child care are addressing these problems. These include: radical reforms of the schemes for lone parents and the qualified adults of social welfare beneficiaries, payment of the €1,000 a year early childcare supplement for all children under 6 years, increases in welfare supports and entitlements in real terms; and the creation of additional childcare places.

These measures are part of a wider programme being prepared to support children to apply over the next 10 years, which is among the most ambitious ever undertaken in the State. A key priority for the Government is to make a decisive impact on child poverty by ensuring that the position of children who are vulnerable to poverty receives special support under this programme consistent with their needs.

Social Welfare Code.

Michael Ring

Question:

67 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on increasing the living alone allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22951/06]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

94 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of people currently in receipt of the living alone allowance each week; the weekly total cost of this payment; the estimated weekly cost of increasing this payment to at least €10; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22952/06]

Paul McGrath

Question:

98 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when the living alone allowance was first introduced and its rate of payment at the time; when this payment was increased, over the years giving the amount and effective date of each increase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22953/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 67, 94 and 98 together.

The living alone allowance or living alone increase as it is now known, is an additional payment of EUR7.70 per week made to people aged 66 years or over who are in receipt of certain social welfare payments and who are living alone. It is also available to people under 66 years of age who are living alone and who receive payments under one of a number of invalidity type schemes.

The increase is intended as a contribution towards the additional costs people face when they live alone. It was introduced in 1977 at the rate of £1.00 (EUR1.27) per week. The amount and effective date of each increase to the payment is given in the table.

The latest figures available show that there were 150,551 people in receipt of the living alone increase at end March 2006, at a cost of about EUR1.16 million per week. The cost of increasing the living alone increase to EUR10 per week is estimated at approximately EUR346,300 per week or EUR18.4 million per annum.

The living alone increase is a targeted measure aimed at a particular group of pensioners. However, the policy in relation to support for pensioners has been, for many years, to give priority to increasing the personal rates of pension rather than focusing on payments such as the living alone increase. This approach ensures that resources are used to improve the position of all pensioners. The position will be kept under review in the context of future budgets.

Table: Amount and Effective Date of each change to the Living Alone Increase

Date

Amount (Punts)

Euro Equivalent

£

01/04/1977

1.00

1.27

07/04/1978

1.10

1.40

06/04/1979

1.30

1.65

04/04/1980

1.65

2.10

03/04/1981

2.05

2.60

02/10/1981

2.15

2.73

02/04/1982

2.70

3.43

01/07/1983

3.00

3.81

06/07/1984

3.20

4.06

12/07/1985

3.40

4.32

18/07/1986

3.55

4.51

24/07/1987

3.70

4.70

29/07/1988

3.80

4.83

28/07/1989

3.90

4.95

27/07/1990

4.10

5.21

26/07/1991

4.30

5.46

31/07/1992

4.50

5.71

30/07/1993

4.70

5.97

29/07/1994

4.80

6.09

16/06/1995

4.90

6.22

14/06/1996

6.00

7.62

04/01/2002

6.06

7.70*

* Resulted from a general rounding up of rates consequent on the introduction of the Euro.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Martin Ferris

Question:

68 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the progress which has been made in realising an all-Ireland free travel scheme. [23020/06]

Seán Crowe

Question:

77 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the progress which has been made in relation to putting in place an all-Ireland free travel scheme for pensioners resident in all parts of this island. [23019/06]

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

319 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position in relation to the introduction of an all-Ireland free travel scheme; the discussions he has had on the issue; and if he will make a statement on when such a scheme may be implemented. [23840/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 68, 77 and 319 together.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to a scheme of all-Ireland free travel for pensioners resident in all parts of the island of Ireland. The scheme will enable pensioners resident here to travel free of charge on all bus and rail services in Northern Ireland. Likewise, pensioners in Northern Ireland will travel free of charge on services in this State.

In July 1995, my Department introduced the cross border free travel scheme. This scheme extended free travel entitlement so that free travel pass holders resident in Ireland could undertake a cross-border journey from a point of departure in one jurisdiction to a destination in the other jurisdiction free of charge. The introduction of an all-Ireland free travel scheme would further extend the existing arrangements by allowing pass holders to take onward journeys free of charge to them.

My Department covers the full cost of cross-border journeys made by Department of Social and Family Affairs pass holders. It also covers the cost of the southern element of cross-border journeys undertaken by Northern Ireland pass holders. Under its own concessionary fares scheme, the Department for Regional Development for Northern Ireland covers the cost of the northern element of cross-border bus and rail journeys made by Northern Ireland pass holders.

Some 220,000 cross-border journeys are undertaken each year at a total cost of EUR3.3m; my Department pays EUR2.9m and the remaining €0.4m is covered by the Department for Regional Development for Northern Ireland.

Intensive discussions in relation to the introduction of the proposed all-Ireland free travel scheme have taken place between officials from my Department and their counterparts in the Department for Regional Development for Northern Ireland. Discussions have also been held at ministerial level, and the matter was raised by the Taoiseach with the Prime Minister. I will continue to focus on delivering a suitable scheme at the earliest possible date.

Pension Provisions.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

69 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the efforts he has made to date in ensuring that workers in the construction industry receive their pension entitlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23106/06]

The Construction Federation Operatives Pensions Scheme operates as a Registered Employment Agreement under the Industrial Relations Acts. There is a statutory obligation on employers to register eligible employees in the scheme and to pay the necessary contributions.

Compliance with the terms of the scheme is enforced through the Construction Industry Monitoring Agency, The Labour Court and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The Pensions Board also has a role in relation to the scheme in so far as compliance with the various aspects of the Pensions Act is concerned. However, the main difficulties with the scheme relate to failure to register employees and/or to deduct contributions to the scheme and these issues are a matter for the Construction Industry Monitoring Agency, The Labour Court and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Given the ongoing controversy in relation to the scheme and compliance with its terms, the Pensions Board facilitated a report on the scheme in conjunction with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The report was undertaken by Mercer Human Resource Consulting and it found that 80% of the estimated 80,000 eligible employees in the industry are covered by the scheme. However, the report does highlight the fact that an estimated 70,000 operatives are classed as self-employed and are therefore not eligible to join the scheme. The consultants are of the view that many of these workers are not genuinely self-employed.

Mercer have made a range of recommendations designed to improve compliance with the scheme involving the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment, the Department of Finance, the Revenue Commissioners and my Department. Copies of the report were provided to the relevant Ministers.

In relation to my own Department, the report has recommended that consideration be given to using the PRSI system as a means of enforcing the scheme and collecting contributions. This gives rise to a number of major issues, not least of which is the extent to which the Department should be directly involved in the administration of, what is, a private pension scheme. Major legislative change would be required and the accounting and operational arrangements of the PRSI system would need to be adapted to meet the very different needs and requirements of a funded pension system. The changes in relation to the scheme announced recently, which will see the creation of individual pension accounts for workers, would make this even more difficult.

Putting the Construction Industry Monitoring Agency on a statutory footing and dealing with issues in relation to self-employment in the industry, as also proposed in the Mercer report, are in my view the ways forward. The former is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and I have contacted him to seek his views on the prospects for progress in this area.

In the meantime, I have asked my Department to see to what extent it can assist generally, having regard to the programme of inspections of employers' records. My Department is planning to carry out 7,000 employer inspections in the current year, and in this context, a greater emphasis will be placed on the construction sector.

With regard to self-employment, designations are, in the first instance, generally made by the Revenue Commissioners. However, it is open at any time to an individual to ask for a determination on his or her employment status for social insurance purposes from my Department.

Finally, following a meeting I had with trade unions representing construction workers, I was in touch with my colleague, the Minister for Finance, in relation to ensuring that contractors being awarded public sector contracts are complying with their obligations under the Construction Federation Operatives Pensions Scheme. This issue is currently under consideration.

Departmental Reports.

Bernard Allen

Question:

70 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has received the special report from his officials regarding the issue of maintenance referred to in the Joint Committee on Social and Family Affairs debate on the lone parent proposals on 30 June 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23076/06]

Applicants for one-parent family payment are required to make efforts to seek adequate maintenance from their former spouses, or, in the case of unmarried applicants, the other parent of their child, and must satisfy the Department that they have made reasonable attempts to obtain such maintenance. Similarly, under the Liability to Maintain the Family provisions of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005, absent parents have a responsibility to support their children and this is pursued by the Department where the absent parent is not making sufficient effort to provide adequate support.

The report referred to by the Deputy which is in essence a preliminary report, is now to hand. This report provides an indicative estimate of the number of liable relatives contributing to the support of their children and recommends the undertaking of a special project by the Maintenance Recovery Unit of my Department in this area in an attempt to better estimate the numbers of liable relatives contributing.

Over the next three months the Maintenance Recovery Unit will examine the circumstances of the liable relatives of all newly awarded one-parent family payment claims and assess the level of contribution, through maintenance payments or other supports, being made in respect of the children. On completion, a report will be compiled outlining the findings and including proposals in relation to how best the Department might interact with the full liable relative population going forward.

At present 2,290 liable relatives are making payments directly to my Department's Maintenance Recovery Unit (MRU) on foot of maintenance determination orders issued by the Unit. There are also 17,798 lone parent customers receiving reduced rate payments and it is estimated that the receipt of maintenance payments is a factor in approximately 9,700 of these cases, based on an analysis of the casework undertaken in the MRU over the past 5 years. In addition, there is a substantial number of cases where absent parents are or have been making some contribution to lone parents either by direct cash contributions or indirectly in the form of meeting the educational or other costs of children, which does not result in a reduction in payment for the lone parent. The project currently underway aims to better quantify the number of such cases and the financial circumstances of the absent parents involved.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

71 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of personnel who are receiving farm assist; if there has been an effort in recent times to promote this scheme in view of the serious decline in farm incomes and the difficulties in finding part-time jobs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23028/06]

The farm assist scheme, which introduced special arrangements for farmers on low incomes, was provided for in the Social Welfare Act, 1999 and came into operation with effect from 7 April 1999. There are now 7,609 farm assist customers. The current average weekly payment is EUR 174.07.

The level of take-up is less than had been anticipated when the scheme was first introduced in April 1999. This is due to the significant increase in off-farm employment in recent years and the take up of the Rural Social Scheme which is operated by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and which also specifically targets low-income farmers.

The farm assist scheme has brought about a worthwhile improvement for low income farmers and particularly for those with children and it makes a valuable contribution to supporting those who are at the lower end of the farm income spectrum. To increase awareness of the farm assist scheme, my Department undertook a major publicity campaign in 2002. Almost EUR100,000 was spent on the campaign which consisted of radio and press advertising, including specialist farming publications, and the production of a promotional video on the scheme.

More generally, the network of Social Welfare Offices and Citizen's Information Offices throughout the country provide information to members of the public on the range of schemes and services available, including the farm assist scheme. Information leaflets and applications forms for farm assist are available at these offices. In addition, Social Welfare Inspectors in rural areas promote the scheme when meeting customers in the course of their duties.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

72 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the estimated figure as to the number of absent parents who are not paying required levels of child maintenance for their children; the action he intends to take to address this trend; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22989/06]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

78 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his proposals to address the low number of absent fathers paying child maintenance; his views on introducing a mechanism to penalise absent fathers who fail to support their children financially; if so, the details of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22986/06]

Bernard Allen

Question:

85 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of claims for one parent family payment for which the maintenance recovery unit has sought to trace liable relatives for each year since 2003 respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23077/06]

Pat Breen

Question:

119 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of claims for one parent family payment for which maintenance is being paid directly to the claimant from the liable relative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23078/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 72, 78, 85 and 119 together.

In every case where a one-parent family payment is awarded, the Maintenance Recovery Unit of my Department seeks to trace the other parent in order to ascertain whether he or she is in a financial position to pay maintenance either directly to the recipient of the one parent family payment or to contribute towards the cost of one-parent family payment which is paid to their family. This follow-up activity takes place within 2-3 weeks of the award of payment.

The number of one parent family payment recipients being paid by my Department at the end of April 2006 was 83,248. Included in this figure are 914 payments to widowed persons where maintenance is not an issue. In the period January 2003 to May 2006, the Maintenance Recovery Unit has examined 63,289 cases and issued determination orders to 8,958 liable relatives. During this period total savings arising from the work of this unit have amounted to EUR 56.9 million.

Of the 63,289 cases examined in the period January 2003 to May 2006, some 17,447 lone parents indicated that they were in receipt of maintenance payments from their former spouses, or, in the case of unmarried applicants, the other parent of their child. It is estimated that a further 9,700 lone parents are in receipt of a reduced rate payment by reason of maintenance. A total of 2,290 liable relatives contribute directly to the Department. Taken together these figures indicate that in excess of 40% of liable relatives are contributing to the support of their children.

Over the last number of years a total of 182 cases has been selected for court action. The aim behind this activity is to secure maintenance from non-compliant liable relatives.

In an effort to better estimate the numbers of absent parents not paying maintenance, the Maintenance Recovery Unit of my Department will, over the next 3 months, undertake a special project to examine the circumstances of the liable relatives of all newly awarded one-parent family payment claims and assess the level of contribution, through maintenance payments or through the meeting of educational or other costs, being made in respect of the children. The findings of this project will be used to assess how best the Department might interact with the liable relative population.

Social Welfare Code.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

73 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the impact the lone parents proposals will have on the limitation rule if enacted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23082/06]

Richard Bruton

Question:

88 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the impact the lone parent proposals will have on the qualified adult allowance if enacted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23081/06]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

124 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will provide details of the wide package of reforms of State aid for lone parents that he is currently considering; when he hopes to have this package complete; if he expects same to be in place before the end of 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22987/06]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

130 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to criticisms from the chief executive of the One Parent Exchange and Network in an article in a newspaper (details supplied) regarding his new proposals on supports for lone parents; if his attention has been further drawn to the concern that these new proposals will effectively penalise lone parents who work for a living; if he is taking action to address these concerns; if he has met with representatives of the One Parent Exchange and Network to discuss the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22988/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 73, 88, 124 and 130 together.

The major discussion paper, "Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents" which I launched in March this year, addresses the social exclusion and risk of poverty faced by many such families and their children. The report puts forward proposals for reform of the income support system for all parents on a low income. The report proposes the expanded availability and range of education and training opportunities for lone parents, the extension of the National Employment Action Plan to focus on lone parents, focused provision of childcare, improved information services for lone parents and the introduction of a new Parental Allowance for low income families with young children.

The current one-parent family payment provides long term income support, until children are 18 or 22 if in full-time education, to those parenting alone, with no requirement to be available for or seeking employment. Such long term welfare dependency in respect of a person of working age is not considered to be in the best interests of the lone parent, their children or society in general. Numerous reports have indicated that employment is one of the most important routes out of poverty.

Under the proposed parental allowance, it is suggested that an element of conditionality be attached to receipt of the payment. Overall the report considers that payment of parental allowance should cease when the youngest child reaches the end of their 7th year. This being the case, formal activation would commence when the child was age 5. This would give the parent the opportunity and supports required to engage in education or training for three years, before payment of parental allowance would cease.

Activation, as referred to in the proposal, is ‘positive' in nature; it encompasses interview/advice meetings, education and training and providing people with the skills to enable them to achieve financial independence and therefore, a better life for themselves and their children. While conditions are being suggested for receipt of payment, it is proposed that supports will be offered in a structured and systematic manner to the persons concerned. It is in this context that continuing payment would be made conditional on engagement.

I would also stress that the discussion paper acknowledges that the age to which the parental allowance should remain payable is a matter for decision by Government following the consultation process currently underway. I have listened carefully to the comments made by organisations representing lone parents at the recent consultation forum I hosted and have asked them to submit their views and concerns in writing. I will take all of these views into account to arrive at the best possible solution for all.

I have asked the Senior Officials Group on Social Inclusion to draw up an implementation plan to progress the non-income recommendations of the discussion paper, including those related to childcare, education, training and activation measures and work on this has already commenced in consultation with the Departments and agencies concerned. Issues including the impact of the proposals on the qualified adult allowance, the limitation rule and those lone parents who are already in work will be taken into account in the implementation of the proposals.

As a follow-up to the publication of the discussion paper, I hosted a National Consultative Forum on 27th April 2006. This Forum was attended by social partners, representatives of organisations dealing with lone parents and the unemployed, representatives of Government departments and State agencies who will be responsible for the implementation of the proposals in the discussion paper and members of the Oireachtas.

At the Forum, I heard the views of each organisation on the proposals including their comments on the proposed parental allowance and invited them to make a formal written submission setting out those views. I also met with representatives of the One Parent Exchange Network on 14 June to discuss the proposals. I have also briefed the Oireachtas Committee on Social Affairs and debated the issue in the Seanad.

I will listen closely to the views expressed and will give very serious consideration to them. As soon as I am convinced that we have reached conclusions that are fully workable and equitable, it will be my intention to bring forward proposals for legislation in the course of this year.

Question No. 74 answered with QuestionNo. 65.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

75 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to introduce assistance towards the cost of refuse collection for low income families; the consideration he has given into the research on the subject carried out by the Combat Poverty Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23059/06]

I have examined the research carried out by the Combat Poverty Agency on the issue of a waiver system for refuse charges. In 2003 the Combat Poverty Agency published a report entitled "Waste Collection Charges and Low-Income Households". This report identified the privatization of waste collection charges and the abolition of waivers as factors causing indebtedness among some households.

In light of this, a later report, "Implementing a Waiver System: Guidelines for Local Authorities" which was published in October 2005 examined three possible models for the operation of a waiver system: a locally based system; a tax credit system and a social welfare system. Advantages and disadvantages of each model were presented but the report concluded that a locally operated waiver system would offer the most effective delivery model.

I am in agreement with the Combat Poverty Agency in that regard. The setting of waste management charges and the introduction of waivers in respect of waste charges is, as stated by my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, a matter for each local authority. The introduction of a national social welfare scheme to address the issue would be complex given the wide range of charging regimes and cost structures that exist in respect of waste management throughout the State. Any system put in place to assist people who rely on private domestic waste collection would have to be sensitive to the different local arrangements.

I intend to keep the matter under review and to monitor the experience of welfare customers under various charging systems and cost structures.

National Partnership Agreement.

Mary Upton

Question:

76 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding his role in negotiations for a new national partnership agreement; if he anticipates a successful outcome to these negotiations; the particular issues pertaining to his Department that remain outstanding in the partnership negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22995/06]

Social partnership has played an important if not pivotal role in Ireland's dramatic economic and social development since 1987. Through the partnership process, we have helped to ensure that the policies of Government and the efforts of the social partners create the right environment for sustainable economic and social development.

The prosperity secured in partnership has a purpose — it is to improve the quality of life of our people, including those dependent on social welfare. This is best achieved when there is a reasonable consensus about the choices we face as a country.

I welcome the draft Social Partnership agreement ‘Towards 2016', which has put in place the policies and the delivery systems, which will allow us to realise our full potential. Negotiations are still ongoing with the Farming Pillar and are expected to be completed shortly.

The new social partnership agreement will provide a positive framework for addressing the issues of poverty and social exclusion in a comprehensive, focussed and integrated manner. The implementation of the agreement, allied to the achievement of the targets set out in the National Action Plan against Poverty and Social Exclusion will ensure that we will make real and tangible progress towards the achievement of a fair and inclusive society.

Question No. 77 answered with QuestionNo. 68.
Question No. 78 answered with QuestionNo. 72.

Pension Provisions.

Joe Costello

Question:

79 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has received the report from the Pensions Board that he requested regarding mandatory pension options; its main findings; if it is not complete, when he expects to receive a copy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22980/06]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

96 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plan to reform Irish pensions; if this new system will include a form of mandatory saving; when he plans to launch and implement this plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22979/06]

John Deasy

Question:

108 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has received a report from the Pensions Board on the issue of mandatory or quasi-mandatory pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23089/06]

Simon Coveney

Question:

117 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the progress which has been made toward the Government target of 70 per cent of those in employment, over 30 years of age having supplementary pension coverage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23085/06]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

131 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his Department in conjunction with the Pensions Board have considered the viability of a pension opt-out scheme as was recently proposed in the UK. [23006/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79, 96, 108, 117 and 131 together.

As the Deputies will be aware, in early 2005 I asked the Pensions Board to bring forward by one year a review of our overall pensions strategy because I considered that, on the basis of the progress being made, there was little prospect of reaching our targets for pensions coverage in any kind of reasonable timescale. Pensions coverage for the key target group, those aged 30 years and over, stood at 58.6% in the 1st quarter of 2005. This coverage rate has moved little in recent years. The Pensions Board completed its work in November 2005 and I published the report in January.

The Board has reaffirmed the various targets recommended in the original National Pensions Policy Initiative which included a retirement income, from all sources, of 50% of pre-retirement income, a social welfare pension equating to 34% of average industrial earnings and a supplementary pensions coverage rate of 70% for those aged over 30 years. The Pensions Board has recommended enhancements to the current voluntary system of supplementary pensions as it considers that it has the potential to deliver significant improvements in coverage.

However, no truly voluntary pensions system has delivered the sort of coverage rates for which we are aiming. I have said on many occasions that if we are to achieve our overall targets we may have to consider a more radical approach. Accordingly, I have asked the Pensions Board to explore in more detail the ideas for a mandatory or quasi-mandatory system it put forward in its report on the National Pensions Review. The ideas explored in the Pensions Review range from a mandatory system built up on the existing private sector system to a greater role in pensions provision for the PRSI system.

As part of the review the Board will examine the UK's proposed Pensions Savings Scheme. This proposal involves employees being automatically enrolled into a pension when they start a new job. They will be able to opt out, but if they do not, they will be obliged to pay in 4% of any earnings between £5,000 and £33,000 a year. This will be matched with 3% from their employer and 1% from the State.

I expect to receive the Board's final report in the coming weeks. The challenge in the months ahead will be to agree on a set of reforms which will deliver on the objective of an adequate income for all in retirement.

Budgeting Advice.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

80 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the support he has given to the Money Advice and Budgeting Service in view of the concerns expressed by the organisation that they are being swamped with requests for advice; his views on the increasing levels of personal debt among families here; his further views on whether the structures and organisation of MABS require reform to cope with these new circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22993/06]

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) provides assistance to people who are over indebted and need intensive help and advice in coping with debt problems. There are 52 independent companies nation-wide operating the service and support is provided by MABS National Development Limited, a support company for the service. MABS was established on a pilot basis in 1992 and it has now grown to a countrywide service with a budget of EUR 16.41 million.

The programme provides money advice to individuals and families who have problems with debt and who are on low income or in receipt of social welfare payments. It places an emphasis on practical budget-based measures that help people to move permanently from dependence on moneylenders and to access alternative sources of low cost credit, particularly in their local credit union. Many voluntary and statutory bodies such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Community Welfare Service, credit unions, Citizens' Information Centres, Centres for the Unemployed, the clergy, Garda, and local authorities work closely with the programme.

The Government is keen to get more quality information on the nature and trends of the debt encountered as well as the categories of people using the MABS so as to better inform policy around over-indebtedness and also allow the MABS to be even more responsive to its clients' needs. In this respect I am pleased with the introduction of a new software application which has been developed for the specific use of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service — MABSIS (Money Advice and Budgeting Service Integrated System). That computer system was delivered on time and within budget.

It is a most important facility and, as well as easing the administrative burden on staff, it will provide very useful data around indebtedness which will in turn inform development of policy around money advice and budgeting. Last year alone almost 27,000 people used the service as compared with almost 18,000 some 4 years earlier. The demand on the service can be attributed to the increase in the availability of credit and to the quality of the service provided by the MABS staff. This year I have increased the allocation from my Department to the MABS Service by in excess of twenty percent to assist the MABS in dealing with this increased workload.

In November 2005 I informed the MABS National Advisory Committee that I intended to review the MABS Bill 2002 and invited each of the stakeholders to make submissions to me with a view to producing a more effective structure. I have received a number of submissions which I am now considering in order to provide a suitable framework to ensure that the service remains responsive in the coming years.

I believe the support structure put in place in recent years has been invaluable for management and staff and has been very effective in the areas of Community Education, Social Policy and Communications. I also believe that a national system with delivery at the local level is the direction for the future. The Service at present is highly regarded and respected and it is important that this continues to be the case.

It is my intention to have legislation enacted as early as possible in order to put the service on a sounder footing to continue its extremely important role in assisting people deal with indebtedness.

Question No. 81 answered with QuestionNo. 53.
Questions Nos. 82 and 83 answered with Question No. 55.
Question No. 84 answered with QuestionNo. 66.
Question No. 85 answered with QuestionNo. 72.

Social Welfare Code.

Phil Hogan

Question:

86 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on changing the dual eligibility rule for people in receipt of the carer’s allowance, for example a person who has been in receipt of the carer’s allowance and then qualifies for the old age pension can only receive one social welfare payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23099/06]

Tom Hayes

Question:

97 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he intends to change the dual eligibility rule for people in receipt of the carer’s allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23097/06]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

105 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has re-examined the unanimous proposal put forward by the Joint Committee on Social and Family Affairs that widows and widowers and others on social welfare should get at least half the carers allowance if they are giving care to an elderly or disabled person; his views on whether such a person on a contributory pension would be entitled to retain full time employment outside the home and is therefor making a significant sacrifice that justifies recognition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23029/06]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

121 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to reform the eligibility for the carers allowance and to ensure that all carers’ work is recognised. [23024/06]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

123 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the changes recently announced to benefits designed for carers including the respite care grant; his views on whether these changes are sufficient to cater for the needs of the more than 100,000 carers here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22997/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86, 97, 105, 121 and 123 together.

Support of carers has been a priority of Government since 1997. Payments to carers have been greatly improved over that period and qualifying conditions for carers allowance have been significantly eased, coverage of the scheme has been extended and new schemes such as carers benefit and the respite care grant have been introduced. The further development of support for carers continues to be a priority for me and for Government.

I have examined the Joint Oireachtas Committee's ‘Report on the Position of Full-Time Carers', which was published in 2003. This valuable report makes a range of recommendations, many of which relate to my Department and a number of which concern the Department of Health and Children. In response to the Committee, who stated that the greatest need identified by family carers is the need for a break from caring, I have made several improvements to the respite care grant.

In 2005 I extended the grant to all carers who are providing full time care to a person who needs such care regardless of their source of income or their means. Those persons in receipt of other social welfare payments, excluding unemployment assistance and benefit, are entitled to this payment subject to meeting the full time care condition. In addition the grant is now paid in respect of each person receiving care. In Budget 2006, I made provision for an increase in the amount of the respite care grant from EUR 1,000 to EUR 1,200, from this month.

The Joint Oireachtas Committee's Report also recommended that where a person who is caring for someone and is in receipt of a widow's or widower's pension he or she should receive a half rate carer's allowance. The primary objective of the social welfare system is to provide income support and, as a general rule, only one weekly social welfare payment is payable to an individual. This ensures that resources are not used to make two income support payments to any one person. Persons qualifying for two social welfare payments always receive the higher payment to which they are entitled.

In Budget 2006, I provided for a significant increase in the rate of carer's allowance. From January this year, the rate of carer's allowance increased to EUR200 per week for carers aged 66 years and over. This rate of payment may be higher in many instances than the rate of old age pension or widow(er)'s pension payable to a person. Such a person who is providing full time care and attention to a person who requires such care may be entitled to receive this higher rate of carer's allowance.

In addition, the means test for carer's allowance has been eased significantly over the years, most notably with the introduction of the disregards of spouses' earnings. Following Budget 2006, since April, a couple with two children can earn up to EUR32,925 per annum and still receive the maximum rate of carer's allowance. The same couple will be able to earn up to EUR54,400 and receive the minimum rate of carer's allowance as well as the free travel, the household benefits package and the respite care grant.

The full-time care and attention requirements for carer's allowance were relaxed from August 1999 to introduce greater flexibility into the carer's allowance scheme, while still safeguarding the needs and interests of care recipients. This allowed carers to work for up to 10 hours per week and it was introduced in recognition of the economic and therapeutic values of work. It also allows carers to maintain contact with the labour market. From 1 June this year I have increased the number of hours a person can engage in employment, self employment or training and education and still be deemed to be providing full time care and attention from 10 to 15 hours per week. This applies to carer's allowance, carer's benefit and respite care grant.

I am always prepared to consider changes to existing arrangements where these are for the benefit of recipients and financially sustainable within the resources available to me. Those recommendations involving additional expenditure can only be considered in a budgetary context.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

87 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has given further consideration to standardising the full entitlement to an occupational injury payment to all former miners diagnosed as suffering pneumoconiosis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23109/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

305 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the projected cost of making full occupational injury benefit payable to sufferers of pneumoconiosis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23249/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

306 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will authorise the full payment of occupational injury benefit to sufferers of pneumoconiosis who happen to suffer from other respiratory illnesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23250/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

307 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons diagnosed as suffering from pneumoconiosis; the proportion of such persons who suffer from other respiratory illnesses; if he will issue a directive awarding full payment of occupational injury benefit to such persons solely on the basis of their diagnosis with pneumoconiosis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23251/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 87, 305, 306 and 307 together.

My Department does not create or hold records or statistics in relation to health matters per se. Information relating to occupational diseases regarding miners is only held by my Department in the context of claims made under its Occupational Injuries Benefit scheme. Pneumoconiosis is a prescribed disease for the purpose of this scheme. The legislation governing the Occupational Injuries Scheme provides entitlement to benefit for persons suffering from certain prescribed diseases which are listed in the legislation and where that person has contracted that disease in the course of their employment.

Where a person has contracted one of the diseases listed in the legislation, benefits are payable if they were employed in an occupation which is specifically prescribed in relation to that disease. In addition, benefits may be payable if the claimant can show that the disease was contracted through an employment not specifically prescribed in relation to that disease.

Employment under a contract of service as a miner is insurable for Occupational Injuries Benefit under the Social Welfare Acts. Miners who are unable to work due to an accident arising from their employment may be entitled to occupational injury benefit for the first 26 weeks of their claim. If their incapacity extends beyond that period they may receive Disability Benefit or Invalidity Pension, subject to meeting the qualifying conditions for these payments.

Miners may be entitled to Disablement Benefit if they suffer a loss of physical or mental faculty as a result of an accident at work or a disease prescribed in legislation that they contracted at work. Medical assessments are undertaken in all such cases to determine the degree of disablement, which is calculated by comparison of the state of health of the applicant with a person of the same age and gender.

Persons claiming Occupational Injuries Benefit in cases of Pneumoconiosis are referred to Consultant Respiratory Physicians in the first instance for an examination and report. This examination consists of a clinical assessment and pulmonary function testing (PFT). Disablement benefit is awarded on the basis of the consultant's report, including the pulmonary function test result. The degree of disablement is expressed as a percentage of loss of faculty and the compensation payable varies accordingly.

Loss of faculty may be determined within a range of less than 1% to 100%, depending on the severity of the condition. With regard to the 21 persons currently in receipt of disablement benefit as a result of contracting pneumoconiosis arising from their occupation, the percentage of disablement assessed ranges from 8% to 90%. Expenditure in 2006 for payment of disablement benefit to these recipients will be in excess of €86,000. If all current recipients were assessed at 100% disablement, the total expenditure for 2006 would be over €214,000.

A person must be assessed as having a minimum of 20% loss of faculty before they may be considered as being incapable of work due to their disablement. There would no justification for special arrangements in this regard in the case of Pneumoconiosis.

Question No. 88 answered with QuestionNo. 73.

Departmental Properties.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

89 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of offices his Department has throughout the country; the number of these that are accessible to people with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23083/06]

My Department occupies 145 buildings throughout the country of which 129 are open to the public. These include: 65 Inspectors offices, 58 Local Offices, 4 signing centres and 2 Appeals offices.

The Department's main public offices are the 58 Local Offices of which 54 are accessible to people with disabilities. Of the 4 with accessibility problems, (Nth Cumberland St in Dublin, Athlone, Bantry and Buncrana) all will be replaced by new offices over the next 3 years. Regarding the offices for Investigative staff 45 of the 65 are accessible for people with disabilities and further progress is linked to the Disabled Access Programme being undertaken by the Office of Public Works (OPW).

The Department has secured a commitment from OPW to conduct a programme of ‘access audits' on buildings occupied by the Dept. to see what additional improvements can be brought about and the OPW have given an undertaking to carry out necessary alterations/modifications based on the results of these audits. I can assure the Deputy the Department is committed in its Customer Action Plan to provide clean, accessible public offices which ensure privacy, comply with occupational and safety standards and facilitate access for people with disabilities.

Budgeting Advice.

Enda Kenny

Question:

90 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the efforts he is making to prevent the situation where many vulnerable people are being forced to use the services of money lenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23103/06]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

129 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the efforts he has made to tackle the financial exclusion from access to financial services for people on social welfare or on low incomes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23101/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90 and 129 together.

My Department has overall responsibility for the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS), which provides assistance to people who are over-indebted. A total of 16.41 million euro in funding has been allocated to MABS in 2006, which represents an increase of in excess of twenty percent over the 2005 figure. The service is targeted at those who are on low income or in receipt of social welfare payments. There are 52 MABS companies located in 65 offices throughout the country.

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service has a close and ongoing involvement with my Department at local level. Representatives of the Department are on the boards of management of MABS companies. Membership is also drawn from statutory and voluntary bodies such as the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Credit Unions, Citizens Information Centres and the Community Welfare Service. These representatives in turn raise awareness of issues around over-indebtedness in their parent bodies.

Following the release of the report "Do the Poor Pay More" I met with the Irish Banking Federation (IBF) and the Irish Payment Services Organisation (IPSO) and explored ways in which those in the low income bracket could access financial services. Since the introduction of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service in 1992 a good working relationship has been developed between that service and the Irish Bankers Federation. The recent meeting identified a number of areas where it was felt that progress could be made in facilitating wider access to financial services.

MABS National Development Limited (MABSndl) was established in 2004 to support, promote and develop the MABS service. The company is currently working on the development of a national strategy in community education, which will be implemented by the 52 MABS companies. This strategy will seek to empower individuals and communities in developing the skills necessary to deal with debt situations as they arise.

The MABS development company is also devising a strategy to assist the MABS local services to improve further the take up of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service by those on low income. Recent initiatives include media interviews, co-operation with the One Parent Exchange Network (OPEN), the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA), the Courts Service Information Section, Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Age Action and Hospital Social Workers.

My Department ensures that MABS information and contact details are included in all relevant social welfare publications and information material produced by the Department. The level of response to MABS indicates there is a high level of awareness of the service. However, I will continue to examine any proposals that would further extend the level of public awareness.

The Service at present is highly regarded and respected and it is important that this continues to be the case. It plays a vital role in assisting persons to be socially and financially included. It is my intention to have legislation enacted as early as possible in order to put the service on a sounder footing to continue its extremely important role in assisting people deal with indebtedness.

Pension Provisions.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

91 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the situation whereby many companies with defined benefit pension schemes are unilaterally changing the terms and conditions of those schemes to defined payment schemes; the number of companies who have informed his Department regarding these changes; if he has undertaken to ensure that employees affected by these changes to their pension schemes have been properly informed of the consequences of those changes; the action his Department has taken with the Department of Social and Family Affairs in relation to this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18206/06]

Occupational pensions in Ireland are voluntary arrangements and, as such, the employer can change the terms of these arrangements. I am aware that there are many pressures on Defined Benefit schemes emanating from the need for employers to increase contributions to schemes, to meet the requirements of accounting standards (FRS17) and also the Funding Standard under the Pensions Act.

The latest figures from the Pensions Board show that as at the 31st of December 2005 there were 1,258 defined benefit schemes registered with the Pensions Board which were subject to the minimum funding standard. In 2005 the Board were notified of the winding-up of a total of 48 group defined benefit schemes. There is no requirement for employers or scheme sponsors to notify the Pensions Board where the nature of a scheme is changed, though a survey undertaken in 2003 suggested that the majority of defined benefit schemes remained open to new members. Defined contribution schemes transfer the investment risk to the employee and there are also concerns about the adequacy of contributions being made to such schemes.

As already indicated, the Funding Standard and new accounting requirements (FRS17), which makes pension costs very apparent on a firm's balance sheet, are put forward as the two main reasons for the drift from defined benefit provision to defined contribution schemes. In relation to the Funding Standard this attempts to draw a reasonable balance between the interests of employers, who must fund pension schemes, and the legitimate expectations of employees to be guaranteed their pension.

In 2003 my predecessor introduced short term measures designed to alleviate the funding crisis in pension schemes, which resulted from a major fall in equity values. The Pensions Board, on foot of a review of the Funding Standard completed in 2004, recommended retention of these provisions, which it found were largely successful. However, what has emerged clearly since these provisions were introduced is that the liability side of pension funds is also under severe pressure.

Improved longevity, lower interest rates and regulation are just some of the factors increasing these liabilities. In the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2005, I provided that an extended funding period may also be granted in relation to difficulties which defined benefit schemes were experiencing on the liability side. I believe these measures, which were introduced after extensive consultation, achieve the required balance between member protection and encouraging continued defined benefit pension provision.

The Pensions Board, in consultation with key stakeholders, including officials from my Department, is continuing to review the funding standard for defined benefit schemes in the light of experience here and abroad over the last number of years, while also keeping in mind the original objective and intent of that standard. They will report to me later this year in this regard.

In relation to the provision of information to members of schemes affected by changes to their scheme, trustees must account to members for how their scheme is run by providing them with a wide range of personal and scheme information as required under Part 5 of the Pensions Act 1990 and regulations made under this Part. Members of schemes must be informed of any significant changes to the pension scheme. In addition to these Disclosure Regulations, and in compliance with a recent EU Directive, regulations have also been made in relation to how the resources of a scheme are invested. The disclosure of information in a timely manner enables scheme members to monitor their benefits and the financial soundness of their pension schemes.

The Board regards information disclosure and compliance with investment regulations as a very important governance requirement for pension schemes and takes steps to enforce this obligation where necessary. I will continue to monitor, in conjunction with the Board, trends in pension provision, the funding of schemes and the need of scheme members for ongoing information on the condition and status of their pension scheme.

Employment Support Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

92 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will expand on his recent comments that visionary initiatives are required in social welfare if the State is to adequately meet the scale of emerging employment requirements; if he has examined the impact of increased numbers of EU migrant workers coming to work in Ireland on the welfare system here; if he will consider such a study; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22996/06]

John Gormley

Question:

104 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will expand upon the visionary initiatives which he recently referred to at the launch of the information booklet Working for Work, in the context of social welfare, if the State is to adequately meet the scale of emerging employment requirements. [23005/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92 and 104 together.

Proposals for an innovative programme to promote participation through activation measures aimed at people of working age are under discussion in the context of the preparation of the National Development Plan. Under these proposals my Department would seek to provide a single transparent system with a primary focus on the customer and a route map starting with the first point of engagement with the customer. This will involve an active outcome-focused individual case management of all social welfare customers of working age who are not progressing into employment or accessing training or employment opportunities.

In addition, other Employment Support Schemes are reviewed on a continual basis to ensure their relevance and their continued effectiveness in reaching those most distant from the labour market. In recognition of the difficulties being experienced by some people returning to the labour force after 3 or 5 years of attachment to the live register, the qualifying period for access to both the employment and self-employment strands of Back to Work was reduced to 2 years with effect from March 2006. Also with effect from March 2006 periods spent on Supplementary Welfare Allowance or in the Direct Provision system count towards the qualifying period for Back to Work Allowance and the Back to Education Allowance. It was decided in budget 2006 to extend the National Employment Action Plan to persons aged 55 to 64 who were approaching six months on the live register. Such referrals are to commence no later than September.

There is no evidence that EU migrant workers are having any significant impact on the welfare system here. There were 2,000 persons from the new member states of the EU on the Live Register at the end of April 2006, which amounts to less than 1% of the PPS Numbers (212,933) issued to citizens of these countries over the period January 2004 to April 2006. The figure for supplementary welfare allowance was 902 or 0.5% of the total PPS numbers issued. My officials monitor the impact of migrant workers on social welfare schemes on an ongoing basis.

I have no plans to carry out a study of the impact of migrant workers at this time but I am aware of a study carried out by the Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies on labour market experiences in Ireland and Sweden following EU enlargement. This study concluded that to date the enlargement of the EU has not resulted in any disturbances in the Irish labour market and found no evidence of displacement of native workers.

Question No. 93 answered with QuestionNo. 66.
Question No. 94 answered with QuestionNo. 67.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

95 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the average length of time people are waiting on applications for rent allowance to be processed; and if he has satisfied himself in relation to this timescale. [23025/06]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is administered on my behalf by the Community Welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Neither I nor my Department has any function in relation to decisions on individual claims. The purpose of the scheme is to provide short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source.

To qualify for rent supplement a person must satisfy a number of conditions. They must be a bona fide tenant, be habitually resident in the State, have a housing need and satisfy a means test. Also, the Health Service Executive must be satisfied that the accommodation is suited to the persons needs and the rent payable is within the prescribed limits.

Typical processing time is three working days, but it can take longer in some instances. The timescale for determining applications for rent supplement in individual cases is dependant, among other things, on the availability of the required information, such as details of the applicant's income, bank statements, information from landlords etc. In addition, some aspects of the application are inevitably time consuming and delays can occur where investigations such as home visits or third party evidence are required. Delays can also arise if the applicant is slow to respond to requests for additional information.

The provision of a prompt service is a major objective of the Executive. However this has to be achieved in a manner that is consistent with the demands of natural justice and the need to ensure that every case is fully investigated. While certain cases may take more time to process than others, overall, I am satisfied that the Executive makes every effort to decide rent supplement claims in an efficient, effective and timely manner.

Question No. 96 answered with QuestionNo. 79.
Question No. 97 answered with QuestionNo. 86.
Question No. 98 answered with QuestionNo. 67.

Tax and Social Welfare Codes.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

99 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the discussions he or his officials have had with the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners regarding the one parent family tax credit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23091/06]

In every case where a one-parent family payment is awarded, the maintenance recovery unit of my Department seeks to trace the other parent in order to ascertain whether he or she is in a financial position to pay maintenance either directly to the recipient of the one parent family payment or to contribute towards the cost of one-parent family payment which is paid to their family. In cases where the liable relative does not comply with the requirement to pay maintenance the matter is pursued by the Department and this may include court action where appropriate.

In addition to this, details of non-compliant liable relatives have been forwarded to the Revenue Commissioners for cross-checking to establish if they are in receipt of a one parent family tax credit which is administered by the Commissioners. This exchange of information has been made possible under Section 261(2) of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005.

In order to qualify for a one parent family tax credit the claimant must prove that for the year of assessment the qualifying child is resident with him/her for the whole or part of the year. The payment of maintenance is not a qualifying condition for this tax credit, which, I understand, has a monetary value of EUR1,630 per annum.

Officials in my Department have developed a working relationship with the Revenue Commissioners over the past number of years in relation to this matter. Since 2003 the maintenance recovery unit has referred information on approximately 350 cases to the Revenue Commissioners. It is intended that this reporting relationship will continue.

Question No. 100 answered with QuestionNo. 56.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

101 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if progress has been made since May 2006 regarding his commitment to examine the proposal of granting free travel to all beneficiaries of an Irish pension. [23022/06]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

110 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will clarify comments made in May 2006 in which he appeared to confirm that the Government has effectively abandoned efforts to extend free travel to Irish pensioners living abroad when they return here; the Government’s position on free travel for the Irish abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19718/06]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

132 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will award free travel to Irish pensioners living abroad when they return home on holidays; and if he has examined the wider issues of Irish people living abroad who do not hold State pensions but who are over 66, and their entitlement to free travel when they return home on holiday. [23683/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 101, 110 and 132 together.

The free travel scheme is available to all people living in the State aged 66 years or over. All carers in receipt of carer's allowance and carers of people in receipt of constant attendance or prescribed relative's allowance, regardless of their age, receive a free travel pass. It is also available to people under age 66 who are in receipt of certain disability type welfare payments, such as disability allowance, invalidity pension and blind person's pension.

People resident in the State who are in receipt of a social security invalidity or disability payment from a country covered by EU Regulations, or from a country with which Ireland has a bilateral social security agreement, and who have been in receipt of this payment for at least 12 months, are also eligible for free travel.

The scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme. These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as Luas and services provided by over 80 private transport operators. The free travel scheme applies to travel within the State and point to point cross border journeys between here and Northern Ireland. In line with the Government objective to put in place an all Ireland free travel scheme for pensioners resident in all parts of this island, I am committed to significantly improving the North/South element of the current arrangements.

There have been a number of requests and enquiries in relation to the extension of entitlement to free travel in Ireland to Irish born people living outside Ireland, or to those in receipt of pensions from my Department, particularly in the UK when they return to Ireland for a visit. I have been advised that it would not be possible to extend entitlement to free travel simply to Irish born people living abroad as to do so would be contrary to European legislation which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of nationality.

Officials from my Department met with European Commission officials in April in an effort to clarify the legal issues involved. In the past few days the Commission's response to the issues raised at that meeting has become available and is currently being examined by my officials.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

102 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 70 of 11 May 2006, if he has received the report on the application of unemployment payment scheme conditions to workers who are not employed on a full time basis, including those available for part-time work only; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23086/06]

The unemployment schemes provide income support for people who are seeking their first job or have lost work and are seeking alternative employment. A fundamental qualifying condition for both the unemployment benefit scheme and unemployment assistance scheme is that a person must be available for full-time work.

Where a person is employed for up to three days in a week, s/he may claim Unemployment Benefit in respect of the remainder of the week, subject to being available for full-time work. Benefit is not payable where a person is available for part-time work only.

I recognise the development of a changing labour market with people wishing to have a choice of more flexible work patterns. In this context and to inform future policy in this area, a working group was set up under the Expenditure Review initiative to examine the application of the unemployment payment scheme conditions to workers who are not employed on a full-time basis.

The review will be finalised shortly and the report will be published over the summer period at which stage I will consider its recommendations.

Social Insurance.

John Deasy

Question:

103 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on the awarding of pre-entry credits to people who have been absent from the workforce for a considerable time as a result of care duties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23088/06]

The primary purpose of credited contributions is to protect the social insurance entitlement of insured workers who, for reasons relating either to incapacity, ill-health, unemployment or the provision of care (i.e. for children, the elderly or those with a disability) are not in a position to make PRSI payments.

As a general rule, in order to qualify for credits, a person must be an employed contributor insured under PRSI Classes A, B, C, D, E or H. A recent attachment to the workforce is necessary to avail of credits in that he or she must have paid or credited contributions made in the last 2 complete income tax years. Where a worker has no recent contributions paid or credited, entitlement to credits can be re-established as soon as 26 contributions have been paid.

Pre-entry credits are awarded only once in a person's working life to individuals when they have commenced as an employee for the first time. Credited contributions are designed to assist in establishing entitlement to short-term benefits as soon as possible after commencing employment. There is no legal provision for the award of credited contributions to those who re-enter the workforce as an employee having been temporarily absent from the active labour force.

However, a range of alternatives are available to workers who withdraw from the work force temporarily. These include the homemakers scheme and the voluntary contributions scheme. The Homemakers Scheme aims to protect the old age pension rights of individuals who take time out from the workforce to care for either children (aged 12 years or younger) or incapacitated relatives. This scheme — introduced in April, 1994 — works by disregarding up to 20 full years spent on caring duties when averaging a person's social insurance record for pension purposes. The voluntary contribution scheme allows previously insured workers to maintain their entitlement to long-term benefits through the payment of voluntary PRSI contributions directly to my Department.

Furthermore, my Department operates a number of schemes that cater exclusively for the needs of carers. These schemes provide both means-tested and social insurance-based payments to eligible claimants. The Carer's Allowance is a means-tested payment directed at carers on low incomes who live with and look after persons who require full-time attention. Carer's Benefit is a weekly social insurance payment that is based on PRSI contributions and that supports individuals who are entitled to statutory carer's leave and who give up their job temporarily in order to care for someone. Payments made under both these schemes may also qualify for the award of credited contributions for the duration of the payment.

The range of social welfare supports available to carers is quite comprehensive and has been enhanced considerably in recent years. Budget 2006 contained very significant improvements in the level of support afforded to carers — including the biggest ever increases in the rates of social welfare payments available to them.

I am satisfied that the circumstances in which credited contributions are awarded does not warrant re-examination at this stage. However, my Department constantly monitors the need for amendments or modifications to existing provisions to ensure that the social insurance system continues to meet social protection needs in a changing work and social environment.

Question No. 104 answered with QuestionNo. 92.
Question No. 105 answered with QuestionNo. 86.
Question No. 106 answered with QuestionNo. 61.

Pension Provisions.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

107 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the progress to date on the introduction of a personal pension entitlement for pensioner spouses in receipt of the qualified adult allowance to be set at the level of a full non-contributory pension, as promised in the Programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23094/06]

This Government is committed to introducing a personal entitlement for pensioner spouses, currently in receipt of the qualified adult increase, at the level of a full non-contributory pension and that remains the position. At present the increase for a qualified adult on a contributory pension is 82% of the target rate. Spouses and partners of non-contributory pensioners receive a pension in their own right at age 66.

Since 2002, new pension claimants can opt to have the qualified adult increase paid directly to their spouse or partner. The administrative and legislative implications of enhancing these arrangements to make direct payments more widely available are under consideration.

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

Question No. 108 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

109 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the estimated increase in the cost of welfare claims in 2007 arising from the entitlement of EU migrant workers to the childcare supplement and child benefit; the level of increase in applications for such benefits that has been evident since the beginning of 2006; his views on these increases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22994/06]

EU Migrant workers have an entitlement to Child Benefit and other "Family benefits" including Early Childcare Supplement (ECS) under EU Regulation 1408/71. Where a national of an EU state with a family is working in Ireland, the worker is entitled to payment of such benefits, even if the children of the worker are resident in the worker's home country.

EU migrant workers in Ireland with an entitlement to family benefits are in one of two categories, those who have their families living with them in Ireland and those whose families reside in their home country. Applications for family benefits from EU migrant workers who come to live in Ireland with their families are dealt with under domestic legislation. Entitlement to Child Benefit is based on the applicant satisfying the Habitual Residency condition and the child being ordinarily resident in Ireland.

Currently there are just under 30,000 EU nationals in receipt of Child Benefit for 53,000 children who are resident with them in Ireland. Of these the majority of recipients — some 16,500 — are UK nationals, with a further 8,000 recipients from the ten EU accession states.

EU nationals who come to work in Ireland but whose families remain in their home country have an entitlement to claim Family Benefits in Ireland under EU regulation 1408/71. At the start of 2006, Child Benefit was in payment under EU regulations for 650 families, in respect of 1320 children, resident outside of the Republic of Ireland. Some 90% of these children are resident in the UK. Currently there are some 950 families, with 1700 children receiving Child Benefit and resident outside Ireland. The majority of these are UK residents.

The number of claims to Child Benefit and Early Child Supplement in respect of non resident EU nationals has, since the start of 2006, averaged close to 300 per week and is currently running at 350 per week compared to 20 per week in the same period in 2005.

As the Deputy will appreciate, it is not possible at this point to forecast the position for the remainder of 2006 or 2007 with accuracy. This will depend on future immigration flows and indeed the number of non-national immigrants who decide to return home. This "churn" effect is difficult to quantify but it appears that some numbers of EU migrant workers may be staying in Ireland for relatively short periods of time. This will mean that those entitled to Child Benefit in 2006 may not be so entitled in 2007 or subsequent years. Best estimates at present would indicate that the numbers of applications may decline somewhat over the coming months as the backlog of applications dries up. New applications received will be from those EU nationals recently arriving to work in Ireland.

It is likely that not every claim received for Child Benefit and ECS will be entitled to benefit. Additionally, some will only have an entitlement to payment of a reduced rate of child benefit as a "supplement" payment, (the supplement represents the difference between the rate of family benefits payable in the country of origin and the rate payable in the country of employment). If the majority of claims received in 2006 were to have an entitlement to Child Benefit, the total potential cost of Child Benefit this year for non resident EU national children could be in the region of EUR30 million or 1.5% of the overall Child Benefit budget of €2.04 billion this year.

The Early Childcare Supplement will be payable to those families in receipt of Child Benefit from my Department with children under 6 years of age. If the number of claims were to continue at current levels, the number of non-resident children qualifying for the ECS payment could approach some 12,000 by the end of 2006. This would accrue a cost of EUR9.5 million in 2006.

Question No. 110 answered with QuestionNo. 101.

Social Inclusion.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

111 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the role his Department plays in the policy direction of the social inclusion units at local authority level; and if there is to be an expansion of these units nationwide. [23002/06]

My Department has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the National Action Plan against Poverty and Social Exclusion (NAP/inclusion) which represents the Government's strategic multi-faceted approach to tackling poverty. The Office for Social Inclusion, based in my Department, co-ordinates the process mainly at national level, working closely with relevant Departments and the social partners.

Specific responsibility for coordinating the development of social inclusion at local authority level rests with the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. This includes the policy direction and roll out of the Local Authority Social Inclusion units which have already made a valuable contribution to developing a strategic response to promoting social inclusion at local level. The Office for Social Inclusion works closely with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on social inclusion issues, including in particular the ongoing development of more effective structures for implementing the National Action Plan on social inclusion at local level.

As part of this involvement, the Office is represented on the Social Inclusion Steering Group which co-ordinates the development and implementation of the Local Government Anti-Poverty Learning Network, with which the Combat Poverty Agency also has a strong involvement. This Network has already contributed significantly to the promotion of a strong local anti-poverty focus within the reformed system of local government, providing a forum in which local authorities can share experiences and best practice and consider how to make the maximum contribution to policies to tackle poverty and social exclusion. Representatives of the Local Authority Social Inclusion units are members of this learning network. In addition, the Office for Social Inclusion and the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government recently organised a consultation seminar for local authority staff working in the area of social inclusion. The purpose of this seminar was to inform the development of the next NAP/inclusion, currently being prepared by the Office to cover the period 2006-2008.

The issue of whether there should be an expansion of the social inclusion units and the extent of any such expansion is a matter for the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government, his Department and the Local Authorities concerned. Given the success of these Units to date, any such expansion would have my full support.

Family Support Services.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

112 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on the success of the Family Mediation Service and the services provided by this service; if there are plans to extend these services in view of the large number of people it is currently working with; if new offices are to be opened in the short to medium term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22983/06]

The Family Mediation Service is a free, professional, confidential service that enables couples who have decided to separate to reach agreement on all issues related to their separation. It assists couples to address the issues on which they need to make decisions including post-separation living arrangements, finances and parenting arrangements to enable children to have an on-going relationship with each parent. The benefits of family mediation as a non-adversarial approach to resolving the issues that arise on separation are increasingly being recognised worldwide.

Over the past number of years the Family Mediation Service has radically expanded to meet a growing need for its service. Over the last few years, the Family Mediation Service has increased from 2 centres in Dublin and Limerick to 16 centres throughout the country. In the past month, two new FMS centres have opened, in Letterkenny to ensure effective access to the service in the North West and in Portlaoise to similarly expand the service in the Midlands.

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of couples seeking mediation, as the benefits of mediation become more widely known. Last year the Service helped approximately 1500 couples — which compares with the figure of 250 a year who used the Service from 1986 up to the end of 1997 before its nation-wide expansion. I would like to pay tribute to the professionalism and hard work of the family mediators who have made a significant contribution to the promotion of the service over the years.

In May of 2003 my predecessor took the development of the service one step further by establishing the Family Support Agency, which will provide a solid and secure base from which this important family service can grow and develop in the future. The Family Support Agency brings together the programmes and family support services formerly under the aegis of my Department. These include services to support families in times of difficulties including the Family Mediation Service, support for voluntary organisations providing counselling and other family supports and a Family Resource Centre programme, which supports and develops local communities. The Family Support Agency is responsible this year for a budget of over EUR20 million for the provision and development of its services.

Social Welfare Code.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

113 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the plans he has to change the way in which the supplementary welfare allowance is to be administered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23100/06]

The supplementary welfare scheme is administered by the Community Welfare Service of the Health Service Executive on my behalf. The establishment of the Health Service Executive prompted a fresh consideration of the role and structure of the Community Welfare Service, and of the most appropriate location for that service in the future.

The Commission on Financial Management and Control Systems in the Health Service noted in its report in 2003 that over the years the health system had been assigned responsibility for a number of services which might be regarded as non-core health activities. It recommended that the Government consider assigning non-core activities currently undertaken by agencies within the health service to other bodies.

The Government decided to ask an interdepartmental group to examine this issue. The report of the interdepartmental group was subsequently submitted to, and accepted by, the Government. The report recommends, among other things, that income support and maintenance schemes, together with associated resources, should be transferred to my Department.

This particular initiative has been mooted several times in the past — by the Report of the Commission on Social Welfare in 1986 and by the Review of Supplementary Welfare Allowances by the Combat Poverty Agency in 1991. I welcome this decision as it provides an opportunity to bring about positive change for customers and staff and it is, I believe, a logical approach to provision of these services.

An inter-departmental steering group, comprising officials from my Department, the Department of Finance, the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive, has been established to oversee the implementation of the report's recommendations. There are major organisational, human resource and service delivery issues involved in the transfer. The working group will consult with all relevant stakeholders in relation to this programme of change. I can assure the Deputy that a priority in the context of the transfer process will be to support the high standard of service currently provided by staff in the community welfare service.

The transfer is a major change for all involved but I am confident it will be embraced successfully and will ultimately further enhance the delivery of services to our customers, in particular those who are most disadvantaged in the community.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

114 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he intends to reform the social welfare system which continues to be based on a male breadwinner model and which denies women full economic independence. [23023/06]

The social welfare system is designed to provide income supports and access to relevant services in a timely manner to all our customers. The system is now neutral with regard to how it treats men and women; receipt of payment is generally dependent on contingency and other conditions being met. Levels of payment and how they apply are exactly the same for men and women. However, while there is equity in access to the system, the impact of past labour market experience and the traditional roles of women in the home, together with particular features of the social welfare system, can mean that women may be indirectly impacted upon within the system.

The traditional model of social welfare was based on a male breadwinner model, with a father in full-time employment and mother as carer of the children, working full time in the home. Within this system, women tended to have derived rights to social welfare through, for example, their husband's social insurance records, with payments to women defined in relation to their husbands. This model reflected the environment in which the system operated and the roles of men and women in society.

Significant changes have taken place in society in the past two decades and the social welfare system has changed to reflect these changes. Considerable reform and expansion has taken place in the social insurance system to make it as inclusive as possible.

The main beneficiaries of the improvements in coverage and levels of social protection over the past 15 years have been women. For example, in 1991 those in part-time employment were brought into full social insurance cover, in 1995 community employment workers became insurable for all benefits and pensions, in 1997 coverage for maternity and adoptive benefits was extended to the self-employed and in 2002 there were changes to the PRSI contribution conditions which facilitated atypical workers and notably those worksharing. Alongside these changes the expansion of the labour market and changing attitudes towards women's roles have led to increasing numbers of women entering employment and being eligible for social insurance payments in their own right.

The fundamental reforms I am proposing with regard to income support for lone parents and low income families will also address certain other features of the system which may impact more significantly on women. Under the proposals the contingency of lone parenthood would be abolished and instead a new Parental Allowance would be paid to all low income families with qualifying children. In couple households where a Parental Allowance was paid to one of the couple and another social assistance payment made to the other, no limitation on the overall payment to the household would apply. This would increase household income by up to €58 per week and recognises the increasing costs in households with young children.

Another major aspect of the reform being proposed is the ending of the concept of ‘qualified adult' within the system of social assistance. Under the reform, where a household means test is met, all individuals would receive a payment in their own right, thus ensuring consistency in treatment and equity across the social welfare system and recognising the changing role of women in society and the labour market.

These reforms represent a fundamental change in the social welfare system, moving away from derived entitlement to entitlement based on the individual. The social welfare system must reflect the environment in which it operates and meet the changing needs of citizens. One of the most significant changes which has taken place in Irish society is the changing role of women. The fundamental reforms I am proposing for the structure of means tested income support to families, together with the changes which have and will continue to take place in the social insurance system to reflect the changing labour market will ensure that the social welfare system reflects the changing needs of society.

Question No. 115 answered with QuestionNo. 63.

Child Support.

Tom Hayes

Question:

116 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he intends to introduce a second tier support payment for children in unemployed or low-wage households; if so, the progress made to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23096/06]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

126 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position in relation to developments within his Department regarding the introduction of a second tier child income payment. [23008/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 116 and 126 together.

Child poverty is a complex area requiring coordinated action across a range of government services and income support payments. The development of income supports which can make the most effective contribution to child poverty lies within my Department's responsibilities and a series of budgets have increased considerably in real terms the level of resources which are going to families with children.

While the solutions to the problem of child poverty cover a wide range of measures, including income supports and services, I am committed to reviewing the role of child income supports in this regard. The National Economic and Social Council was asked to examine the feasibility of merging the family income supplement and child dependant allowance into a second tier child income support. Such a payment would be aimed specifically at targeting child poverty by channelling resources to low-income families without creating significant disincentives to employment.

I look forward to receiving the Council's report on this matter, which will be of significant assistance in informing the future direction of child income support policy.

Question No. 117 answered with QuestionNo. 79.
Question No. 118 answered with QuestionNo. 60.
Question No. 119 answered with QuestionNo. 72.

Social Welfare Code.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

120 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has intentions of commissioning an investigation into his Department’s practice of re-assessing savings derived from means-tested non-contributory pension payments made to old age pensioners. [23009/06]

In assessing means for social assistance purposes account is taken of any cash income the person may have, together with the value of capital and property (except the home). Capital may include the following:

—Stocks and shares of every description, which are assessed according to their current market value.

—Savings certificates, bonds, national instalment savings, which are assessed according to their current market value.

—Money invested in a bank, building society etc.

The source of any capital held by a pensioner can and does vary. It can include savings from income while formerly working, savings derived from the sale of property or other assets, savings from occupational or social welfare pensions, gifts, inheritances, accumulated interest or dividends or a combination of these. It would not be possible or practical to distinguish savings derived from a particular source. A better approach is to improve the means testing arrangements for pensioners generally and it was in this context that I introduced major improvements for pensioners in the last two Budgets.

For the purposes of old age non-contributory pension, an initial amount of capital has always been disregarded for means test purposes. This amount was £200 up to 1997 and was increased to £2,000 in that year. In October 2000, the disregard was substantially increased to £10,000. In Budget 2005, I was pleased to announce that the amount of capital disregarded for means test purposes for all schemes (except supplementary welfare allowance) was to be increased from EUR12,694.38 to EUR20,000, an increase of over EUR7,300 with effect from June 2006.

These new arrangements mean that a single non-contributory pensioner, with no other means, can have capital of up to EUR28,000 and still qualify for a pension at the maximum rate. This figure is doubled in the case of a pensioner couple.

In Budget 2006, I announced that I propose to establish, a standardised State (Non-Contributory) Pension, replacing the Old Age Pension and, for recipients aged 66 and over, Blind Pension, Widow/er's Pension, One Parent Family Payment, Deserted Wife's Allowance and Prisoner's Wife's Allowance. All the schemes in question feature a common means disregard of EUR7.60 per week, which dates back to the 1970s. The means disregard for the new non-contributory pension will be EUR20 per week, an increase of EUR12.40 per week. Over 30,000 pensioners who are currently in receipt of a reduced rate of payment will gain from this change.

The increase in the general means disregard, from EUR7.60 to EUR20 per week, specifically benefits those older persons who are in receipt of reduced rate non-contributory pensions because one or both of a couple have income from capital, occupational pensions, foreign social security pensions or from some other source. Furthermore, consequent on the increase in the means disregard to EUR20 per week with effect from the end of September next, a single person, with no other means, will be able to have up to EUR35,000 in capital and still qualify for a pension at the maximum rate. This figure is doubled in the case of a pensioner couple.

These improvements, along with record increase in the personal and QAA rates of payment, have been of considerable benefit to all pensioners.

Question No. 121 answered with QuestionNo. 86.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

122 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the controls which he intends to introduce to ensure that the child benefit payments only go to those migrant workers who are entitled to them. [23001/06]

Currently EU migrant workers in Ireland with an entitlement to Child Benefit are in one of two categories, those who have their families living with them in Ireland and those whose families reside in their home country. Applications for child benefit from EU migrant workers who come to live in Ireland with their families are dealt with under domestic legislation. Entitlement to Child Benefit is based on the applicant satisfying the Habitual Residency condition and the child being ordinarily resident in Ireland.

Before Child Benefit is awarded the Department will confirm that the applicant or spouse is in insurable employment in Ireland and that the children are resident in the country. Employment status is confirmed either directly with the employer or via the commencement of employment data held by the Department. The residency of the child is normally confirmed with the school the child is attending. If the child is not yet school age, the parent will be asked to provide confirmation from the family doctor or other nominated professional, of the child's residency in Ireland. Birth certificates for the children are obtained.

When the Department is satisfied that the qualifying conditions have been met, the claim is put into payment and a notification is sent to the EU country where the family previously lived to inform them that the family now resides in Ireland and that Child Benefit is being paid here. The authorities in the other member state will then take any necessary action to regularise the customer's payments (if any) in that jurisdiction.

Child Benefit customers are informed at the time of their claim, and in ongoing communications, of their obligation to inform the Department of any change in circumstances that may affect their entitlement to benefit. Regular checks are carried out to ensure that those in receipt of the benefit are entitled to it. These include the use of mailshots and follow-up Social Welfare inspector visits as required.

Migrant workers who are not EU nationals are dealt with in the same manner as EU nationals but Child Benefit section also confirm that the person is registered with the Garda National Immigration Board (GNIB) as legally resident in the state. EU nationals who come to work in Ireland but whose families remain in their home country have an entitlement to claim Family Benefits in Ireland under EU regulation 1408/71.

When an application is received from an EU migrant worker whose family are resident in another member state, the Child Benefit Office contact the relevant authorities in the member state where the workers family reside. As part of the ongoing control process Child Benefit section contacts the other EU country on a regular basis, normally every three months, to confirm the family situation has not changed.

In view of the increasing numbers of claims under EU regulations for non resident children, additional control procedures are also being introduced for Child Benefit claims to confirm that only those entitled to the benefit receive it.

Question No. 123 answered with QuestionNo. 86.
Question No. 124 answered with QuestionNo. 73.

Social Welfare Code.

John Gormley

Question:

125 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has intentions of abolishing the limitation rule which applies when two adults have eligibility for social assistance in their own right. [23004/06]

Where both members of a couple are claiming social welfare payments and one or both of the claimants is in receipt of unemployment assistance, farm assist or pre-retirement allowance their combined payments cannot exceed the amount which would be payable if only one person was being paid with an increase for a qualified adult dependant, where appropriate. In this situation one or both of the payments would be limited to ensure that the relevant household rate of payment would not be exceeded.

My department has recently published a Government discussion paper: Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents. Under these proposals for reform of income support arrangements for lone parents and low income families, a new parental allowance for all low income families with children under a specified age would replace both the current one-parent family payment and the qualified adult allowance in social assistance. In these circumstances no limitation would apply where a parental allowance recipient cohabits with a person in receipt of a social assistance payment, e.g. unemployment assistance.

Lifting limitation for this limited period of time would have the effect of increasing household income in such situations by up to €58 per week, recognising the higher costs associated with care of young children. It would also assist in addressing the problem of poverty among children in low income families. Any proposal to abolish the limitation rule in full could only be considered in a budgetary context and in the light of competing priorities.

Question No. 126 answered with QuestionNo. 116.

Community Development.

David Stanton

Question:

127 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the supports he is making available to encourage the development of community councils and other such groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22924/06]

The provision of supports for community groups is now a matter appropriate to my colleague the Minister for Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

Question No. 128 answered with QuestionNo. 60.
Question No. 129 answered with QuestionNo. 90.
Question No. 130 answered with QuestionNo. 73.
Question No. 131 answered with QuestionNo. 79.
Question No. 132 answered with QuestionNo. 101.

National Statistics.

Enda Kenny

Question:

133 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach the number of full-time farmers and part-time farmers in County Mayo for each year from 1995 to 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23687/06]

The exact information requested by the Deputy is not available. The Farm Structure Survey provides regional estimates and the table shows figures for the West region in June 1995, 1997, 2000 and 2003 (the latest year currently available).

Number of farms in the West region — June 1995, 1997, 2000 and 2003

Year

Farmwork is sole occupation of farm owner

Farmwork is not sole occupation of farm owner

Total

1995

21,400

12,500

33,900

1997

20,900

11,900

32,800

2000*

17,100

15,500

32,600

2003

17,000

14,900

31,900

*June 2000 Census of Agriculture figure.

The West region comprises counties Mayo, Roscommon, Galway County and Galway County Borough. Figures at county level are available from the 2000 Census of Agriculture. There were 12,500 farms in county Mayo in June 2000; on 6,600 of these, farmwork was the owner's sole occupation.

Paul McGrath

Question:

134 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Taoiseach the number of live births born to under 15 year olds, 15 to 16 year olds, 16 to 17 year olds, 17 to 18 year olds, 18 to 19 year olds, 19 to 20 year olds and 20 to 21 year olds in the years 1960, 1965, 1970, 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2005. [23436/06]

Separate data on the number of live births to mothers aged under 15, and to mothers aged 15 to 16, are not available for the years 1960, 1965, 1970, and 1975. Accordingly, the total number of live births to mothers aged under 16 is given for all years.

1960

1965

1970

1975

1980

1985

1990

1995

2000

2005

Under 15

13

5

12

11

10

7

15 to 16

50

36

54

42

57

35

Under 16

40

34

28

60

63

41

66

53

67

42

16 to 17

66

78

106

197

196

155

178

206

206

182

17 to 18

164

276

324

465

533

413

458

431

504

388

18 to 19

265

482

613

972

1,023

803

790

782

973

772

19 to 20

455

851

1,038

1,561

1,765

1,229

1,176

995

1,366

1,043

20 to 21

845

1,275

1,738

2,280

2,308

1,619

1,239

1,172

1,566

1,252

Proposed Legislation.

Tony Gregory

Question:

135 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason children’s rights have not been incorporated into Irish legislation in the context of the Second Shadow Report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child; if there are plans to make children’s rights explicit in the Constitution; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23330/06]

The former National Children's Office (now subsumed into the Office of the Minister for Children) undertook responsibility for the co-ordination and transmission of Ireland's Second Report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. The report deals specifically with this issue. With regard to the full incorporation of the UN Convention into Irish law the State party report states: The All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution review of the Articles in the Constitution dealing with the family was published in 2006. The Review Group recommendation was that a new section should be inserted in Article 41 dealing with the rights of children as follows: All children, irrespective of birth, gender, race or religion, are equal before the law. In all cases, where the welfare of the child so requires, regard shall be had to the best interests of that child.

The Committee's recommendations are under consideration by the Government. The complexities involved in holding a referendum require that the careful consideration be given to the frequency with which referenda can be realistically held and the significance of the issues in question. There are no specific plans to hold any referenda during the lifetime of the 29th Dail.

It should also be noted that a number of the rights set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are already provided for in the Constitution, either expressly or impliedly. Others are provided for in legislation. Yet other rights were, or are now, provided for in the State on an administrative basis. Important milestones in Ireland with regard to strengthening children's rights include:

•Status of Children Act, 1987, which abolished discrimination against non-marital children;

•Child Care Act, 1991, deals with children in need of care and protection. The promotion of the welfare of children is the paramount principle underpinning the Act.

•Children Act, 1997, which updated the law on guardianship, custody and access and which introduced a comprehensive range of measures to safeguard the interests of child;

•Criminal Law Act 1997 Section 12 of the Act abolished the power of a court to impose a sentence of corporal punishment.

•Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997 Section 24 of the Act abolished the common law rule under which teachers had immunity from criminal liability for physically punishing pupils.

•Education Act, 1998 giving a statutory basis to existing arrangements governing the running of schools at primary and post-primary level including making provision, in the interests of the common good, for the education of every person in the State including those who have a disability or who have other special educational needs.

•The Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 which established the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) on a statutory basis as the single national body with responsibility for school attendance and provides a comprehensive framework promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving.

•The Equal Status Act, 2000 provides protection against direct and indirect discrimination outside of employment on nine grounds. These are: gender; marital status; family status; sexual orientation; religion; age; disability; race; membership of the Traveller Community.

•The Children Act 2001, which was passed by the Oireachtas in June 2001, constitutes a fundamental revision of existing legislation governing the treatment of children in conflict with the law and non-offending children in need of special care or protection.

•Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act, 2004 which provides for the education of people with special educational needs.

General Practitioner Services.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

136 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the fact that while old age pensioners can get free driving licences, they have to pay €35 for a doctors certificate sometimes on a yearly basis, even though they have a medical card; the steps she will take to rectify this anomaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23702/06]

In making arrangements for the provision of publicly funded GP services, under the General Medical Services Scheme, an agreement was negotiated between the Department of Health and Children and the GP representative body, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO). The provisions of this agreement took the form of the current GMS GP Capitation Contract. This contract is a treatment based contract and gives effect to the statutory requirement to provide free GP medical and surgical services to eligible people which includes people aged 70 and over who are automatically entitled to a medical card. The contract stipulates that the fees paid to the GMS GP's are not made in respect of certain certificates which may be required for example ‘under the Social Welfare Acts or for the purposes of insurance or assurance policies or for the issue of driving licences'. As these non-treatment type services are outside of the GMS GP contract it is a matter between the GP and the person seeking the particular services to agree a fee.

While certificates for applications are provided by medical practitioners they are not a medical service and are not considered a core aspect of public health service provision. Requiring such services to be provided within the terms of the GMS GP contract would more than likely lead to a costly counterclaim by GPs which if allowed would not represent appropriate or best use of resources in terms of current health policy.

Grant Payments.

Jack Wall

Question:

137 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the grants and funding available to a group (details supplied) in County Kildare by her Department for the provision of security equipment and landscaping of their new facility; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23709/06]

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.

Jack Wall

Question:

138 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare cannot receive financial assistance for transport costs for their child’s hospital appointments in view of the fact that there is no ambulance services provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23710/06]

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.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

139 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department has plans to introduce screening of B Strep infection for pregnant woman; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23297/06]

Formal screening for B streptococcus is not carried out at present but the issue is being kept under review.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Question:

140 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for a procedure in Galway Regional Hospital. [23327/06]

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 Services.

Liam Aylward

Question:

141 Mr. Aylward asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in opening the new dialysis unit at St. Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny; and when this unit is expected to open. [23343/06]

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

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

142 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the condition of a person (details supplied) in County Clare deteriorated to such an extent that an amputation was necessary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23355/06]

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.

Departmental Correspondence.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

143 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has received reports or correspondence in relation to the health dangers posed to workers in the asbestos industry here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23356/06]

My Department has no record of having received reports or correspondence of the type referred to by the Deputy. The Deputy may wish to note that the Health and Safety Authority is the national body with responsibility for securing health and safety at work. The Authority has legal powers under the European Communities (Protection of Workers) (Exposure to Asbestos) Regulations 1989 (as amended) to ensure the protection of workers from risks related to exposure to asbestos at work. The Authority operates under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Hospital Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

144 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason no autopsy was carried out on a person (details supplied). [23365/06]

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:

145 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the length of time stents that are surgically inserted in the treatment of coronary illnesses are meant to last; if they are meant to be replaced; if so, the time intervals at which they should be replaced; and if patients who have had them inserted are meant to have regular checkups. [23366/06]

Cardiac stents have provided a major advance in the treatment of coronary artery disease and have led to a reduction in the need for coronary by-pass surgery in certain cases. They are implanted by cardiologists based on careful clinical assessments. Once they are put in place they remain in place and become incorporated into the wall of the blood vessel. Patients with coronary artery disease are monitored regularly and, if clinical circumstances dictate, further stenting may take place. There are no timeframes for replacement as these are dependent on the clinical condition of the patient.

Finian McGrath

Question:

146 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the case of a person (details supplied); and if the family will be given the maximum support. [23369/06]

In February 2004, Frances Sheridan died after being discharged from the Accident and Emergency Department of Cavan General Hospital. Last December an inquest was held into her death, presided over by the acting coroner for County Cavan. Following the hearing of the inquest, the jury returned a verdict of death by natural causes.

In January 2006, solicitors representing the family wrote to the Attorney General requesting that he direct a fresh inquest pursuant to his statutory power under the Coroners Act 1962. In April, the Attorney General, directed that the acting coroner hold a new inquest.

My Department is advised that the second inquest has now been completed, and that on 16 June last a verdict of death by medical misadventure was returned. I would like to again extend my deepest sympathies to the family of the late Frances Sheridan on their sad loss and to assure them that the issue of patient safety is being treated as a top priority by the Executive. We must do everything possible to avoid a repeat of this tragic event.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy in relation to the action it proposes to take arising from this tragedy.

Health Service Staff.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

147 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on proposals in the UK to heavily fine those who attack health care workers; her further views on whether such a development would be useful here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23388/06]

The Deputy will be pleased to note that my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has brought forward a proposal, by way of a Committee Stage amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill 2004, to address the problem of assaults and obstruction of personnel engaged in providing emergency services, including problems relating to assaults in hospitals, particularly in Accident and Emergency departments. The Minister's proposal amends section 19 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 which currently provides for offences relating to assault or obstruction of a peace officer, so as to broaden its scope of application and increase the relevant penalties.

The Minister's proposal expands the definition of ‘peace officers' to include members of the fire brigade and ambulance personnel. The current definition of ‘peace officers' covers members of the Garda Síochána, Defence Forces or prison officers acting in the execution of their duty. The range of proscribed conduct is also being broadened to cover threats to commit assault. In addition, it is proposed to provide for an offence in relation to threats, assaults, wilful obstruction and impeding of doctors, nurses and other health service workers in or at a hospital.

The Minister's proposal, as agreed recently by the Select Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, provides for a maximum penalty for assault or threats to commit assault of a fine or 7 years imprisonment or both. The maximum penalty in relation to wilful obstruction or impeding health service workers will be a fine or 6 months imprisonment or a fine not exceeding €2,500.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

148 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to a previous Parliamentary Question if she will arrange an occupational therapists report in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny relative to their needs and the provision of care in their own home; if the Health Service Executive will prioritise their case in view of their immediate needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23389/06]

I understand from the Health Service Executive that due to an incorrect surname being given by the Deputy the matter raised in the original Parliamentary Question is still under investigation.

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

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

149 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an application for a medical card in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be approved; if the general practitioner named by the applicant will be approved in view of the circumstances of the case; and if she will expedite a response. [23390/06]

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.

John McGuinness

Question:

150 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a response will be expedited in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny who has applied for nursing home subvention. [23391/06]

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

Health Service Staff.

Paul McGrath

Question:

151 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of posts which were terminated in the context of the termination of posts in the former health boards; the superannuation arrangements which were made for personnel to transfer to other sections; and if any persons qualified under the abolition of posts criteria for special payments. [23396/06]

Paul McGrath

Question:

152 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the regulations and legislation which were applied in deciding on the termination payments for the former chief executive officers of the health boards. [23397/06]

Paul McGrath

Question:

153 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the regulations and legislation which were applied in deciding on the termination payments for the former non-chief executive officer posts of the health boards. [23398/06]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

178 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of early retirement deals awarded to previous health board staff due to the demise of the former health boards and the formation of the Health Service Executive; the cost of such early retirement deals to the Exchequer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23550/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 151, 152, 153 and 178 together.

Section 60 (1) of the Health Act, 2004 states that "Each person who, immediately before the establishment day, was an employee of a specified body is, on that day, transferred to and becomes an employee of the Executive." In accordance with section 60 of the Act no redundancies occurred, either of a compulsory or voluntary nature, as a consequence of the recent health reforms.

Employment in the Health Boards/ERHA/ Area Boards is superannuated under the Local Government (Superannuation) (Consolidation) Scheme — S.I. 455 of 1998 (LGSS). The superannuation benefits of permanent officers ceasing to hold office are covered under sections 70 and 71 of the Scheme and provide for retirement lump sum and annual pension. Benefits of certain managers, ie those at CEO level, on fixed term contracts are provided for under Section 78 of the Scheme and entitlements include immediate pension, retirement lump sum, 26 weeks severance gratuity, and added years (subject to maximum of ten years). Membership of and the payment of employee contributions to the superannuation scheme is mandatory for all employees.

Ten of the twelve former CEOs opted to exit the system (nine on contract and one permanent post holder (who had full service)). In addition, following discussions under the auspices of Mr. Finbarr Flood, acting as Mediator, exit terms were to be supplemented as follows:

1. a once-off payment of €10,000 to all CEOs in recognition of the legal duties and functions of the chairpersons and members of the Health Boards having been statutorily assigned to them during the period 1st July 2004 to 31st December 2004,

2. a re-training grant of up €10,000 to be paid on basis of vouched expenditure,

3. an ex gratia payment equivalent to six months' gross salary.

Proposals 2 and 3 applied to those CEOs who requested to leave the HSE by 1st July 2005. These proposals were put forward by the Mediator on the basis of: the uniqueness of the position of the CEOs within the context of the abolition of the Health Boards and the transition to the HSE structures under the Government's health service reform programme, and also the leading role played by the CEOs in facilitating the transfer of accountability and ensuring a safe passage to the new structures.

Apart from the CEO posts, three additional posts have been abolished: one contract post (to which Section 78 applied) and two permanent posts. Sections 11 and 66 of the Scheme provide for an "addition to pensionable local service" of a pensionable officer. These sections provide for a qualifying permanent post holder, who ceases to hold office, to be awarded notional added years for superannuation purposes in certain circumstances.

The costs of the superannuation benefits payable were administered by the Health Service Executive and I understand that the cost of providing superannuation benefits and ex gratia payments to former Chief Executive Officers was in the region of €3.4 million. The costs of superannuation benefits payable to the additional three persons who had left the HSE was in the region of €0.5 million. I have asked the HSE to notify the Deputies of the exact figure in due course.

Finally you may wish to note that in the normal course of events where a post becomes vacant, the decision on whether or not to fill that post is a management decision for the HSE.

Departmental Bodies.

Paul McGrath

Question:

154 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the cost of court cases and legal expenses accrued to her Department by virtue of their contesting the case of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if she will review their entitlement to abolition of post payments on the dissolution of the National Rehabilitation Board; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23399/06]

Paul McGrath

Question:

158 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the way in which she proposes to deal with the many difficulties in view of legal implications that have arisen concerning the High Court ruling regarding a redundancy from National Rehabilitation Board in 2000 for a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow. [23403/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 154 and 158 together.

As the Deputy was informed in my response to his question of 9 May 2006, the matter to which he refers is a technical legal matter concerning a claim for redundancy taken to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) and appealed to the High Court by an individual, a former employee of the National Rehabilitation Board (NRB), who had not accepted employment with any of the designated public bodies under the relevant Statutory Instruments on the dissolution of the NRB.

As previously advised, the EAT decided on 19 April 2002 that the named individual had been dismissed (within the special meaning of section 21 of the Redundancy Payments Act, 1967) by reason of redundancy, being therefore entitled to a redundancy payment. The EAT decided that the claim lay against the Minister for Health and Children as representative of the NRB (dissolved). On appeal in July 2003, the High Court found that the EAT had erred in law in determining that the Minister for Health and Children was the representative of the National Rehabilitation Board. Following this decision, the EAT on the 13 February, 2004 made a finding of redundancy in the case of the individual concerned against the NRB (Dissolved), stating that the amount due was payable from the Social Insurance Fund.

The cost of the court case and legal expenses to my Department were nil as the case was carried by the Office of the Chief State Solicitor. Under the relevant Statutory Instrument on the dissolution of the NRB and the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive is the authority vested to exercise right/discretion in relation to the superannuation issues of the individual concerned. I am advised by the Executive that it has authorised the termination of office of the individual as arising from abolition of office and his pension has been adjusted accordingly.

It is important for the Deputy to understand that the EAT did not address the position of other staff in the NRB; it dealt solely in respect of a claim by one individual who did not accept employment with one of the bodies under the SI.

Paul McGrath

Question:

155 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the review in the context of the Dáil Éireann debate of 18 May 2006, when she undertook to review the situation of the former staff of the National Rehabilitation Board; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23400/06]

Paul McGrath

Question:

156 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in the context of her decision to abolish the National Rehabilitation Board in 2000, she will appoint a Department official to deal with the residual difficulties that have arisen in the context of employment law; if she will resolve difficulties arising under S.I. 170 and 171 of 2000. [23401/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 155 and 156 together.

I have considered the issues raised in the Dail on 18 May 2006 in relation to the dissolution of the national Rehabilitation Board. These matters have been comprehensively dealt with in a number of PQs.

The National Disability Authority Act 1999 provided for the establishment of the National Disability Authority and is the legal basis for Statutory Instrument No. 170 of 2000 which transferred certain properties, rights and liabilities of the National Rehabilitation Board (NRB) to the National Disability Authority, FÁS, Comhairle and the Eastern Regional Health Authority; and for S.I. No. 171 of 2000 which dissolved the NRB and provided for the transfer of its 184 staff to these four bodies.

Employees of the former National Rehabilitation Board were members of the Local Government Superannuation Scheme. Under that scheme no provision for co-ordination of benefits (ie. between the occupational pension and the contributory Old Age pension) existed for officers. Therefore employees of the National Rehabilitation Board who were Class A PRSI contributors were entitled to a non co-ordinated occupational pension on retirement. The dissolution of the NRB followed on from intensive consultation between NRB management and staff under an independent mediator culminating in an IR agreement within which the existing terms and conditions of staff, including superannuation, PRSI status and incremental dates were protected.

Section 28(8) of the National Disability Authority Act, 1999 provided protection of terms and conditions of employment to staff transferring to other agencies from the National Rehabilitation Board. The protection offered at the dissolution of the NRB extends to immediate re-deployment only. The existing pension rights of all former staff transferred to the receiving employer. If staff subsequently changed employment again (e.g. open competition) regardless of whether the posts advertised related to previous functions of the NRB, they took on the employment terms and conditions associated with the new post.

As the Deputy is aware, one former employee of the NRB did not accept employment with any of the designated bodies. He took a claim for redundancy to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) which made a finding of redundancy against the NRB (dissolved). He then sought to have his retirement from the NRB treated as arising from abolition of office. I am advised that this was recently granted by the Health Service Executive. It is important for the Deputy to understand that the EAT dealt solely in respect of a claim by one individual who did not accept employment with one of the designated bodies.

The question of abolition of office terms, provided for under Articles 11 and 66 of the Local Government Superannuation Scheme, does not arise for the former staff of the NRB where they transferred to one of the designated bodies.

As I have said the terms and conditions of employees transferring to other agencies were protected on dissolution of the NRB under the relevant legislation and are now a matter for the current employers. In the event that matters arise which are the responsibility of my Department this will be dealt with in the normal way.

Paul McGrath

Question:

157 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the funds allocated to the National Rehabilitation Board for each of the years between 1990 and 2000 in the context of previously unanswered parliamentary questions regarding the NRB. [23402/06]

The funds which were allocated to the National Rehabilitation Board for the years 1990 to 2000 are as shown.

Year

Allocation €M

€M

1990

4.588

1991

4.350

1992

4.232

1993

4.586

1994

7.111

1995

14.938

1996

15.957

1997

16.649

1998

17.318

1999

24.180

2000

10.587

Question No. 158 answered with QuestionNo. 154.

Paul McGrath

Question:

159 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in the context of the dissolution of National Rehabilitation Board in 2000, a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath is entitled to an abolition of posts pension as was the case of another former employee of the NRB in similar circumstances. [23404/06]

Paul McGrath

Question:

160 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the measures which can be taken in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath who was working for the National Rehabilitation Board when it was dissolved, to ensure their entitlement to an un-coordinated pension when they reach 65. [23405/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 160 together.

The National Disability Authority Act 1999 provided for the establishment of the National Disability Authority and is the legal basis for Statutory Instrument No. 170 of 2000 which transferred certain properties, rights and liabilities of the National Rehabilitation Board (NRB) to the National Disability Authority, FÁS, Comhairle and the Eastern Regional Health Authority; and for S.I. No. 171 of 2000 which dissolved the NRB and provided for the transfer of its 184 staff to these four bodies (referred to here as the receiving employer).

My understanding is that the person concerned transferred to FÁS on the dissolution of the National Rehabilitation Board. I understand that this person has subsequently moved to employment in the Health Service Executive.

Employees of the former National Rehabilitation Board were members of the Local Government Superannuation Schemes. Under that scheme no provision for co-ordination of benefits (i.e. between the occupational pension and the contributory Old Age pension) existed for officers. Therefore employees of the National Rehabilitation Board who were class A PRSI contributors were entitled to a non-co-ordinated occupational pension on retirement.

Section 28(8) of the National Disability Authority Act, 1999 provided protection of terms and conditions of employment to staff transferring to other agencies from the National Rehabilitation Board. The protection offered at the dissolution of the NRB extends to immediate re-deployment only. The existing pension rights of all former staff transferred to the receiving employer. If staff subsequently changed employment again (e.g. open competition) regardless of whether the posts advertised related to previous functions of the NRB, they took on the employment terms and conditions associated with the new post.

The question of abolition of terms, provided under article 11 and 66 of the Local Government Superannuation Scheme, does not arise for the former staff of the NRB where staff transferred to the receiving employer.

Hospital Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

161 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if €630 will be refunded to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [23409/06]

The €630 amount constitutes an excess charge, the level of insurance held by the person not being sufficient to provide full cover for services at the hospital concerned. The level of health insurance cover that a person takes out with an insurer is a personal choice. Where a person avails of services not covered by their insurance plan they are liable for any additional costs that arise. It is not open to my Department nor the Health Service Executive to cover such costs. Persons may qualify for tax relief on unreimbursed medical expenses. Any application should be made to the Revenue Commissioners.

The accommodation and related care issues outlined in the details supplied relate to services provided to a private patient in a private hospital. Such services are provided on the basis of a private contract between the two parties, the patient as the service user and the hospital as the service provider. The Department of Health and Children has no role in this relationship. Any difficulties experienced should be resolved between the two parties involved. The Deputy may wish to contact the hospital directly in relation to those issues.

Hospital Staff.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

162 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the dismissal of a person (details supplied) at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin; if it was due to cutbacks in paediatrics; the reason for the postponement of patients’ appointments; if the patients under their care will have to be reassessed from the beginning; if patients or their guardians were informed of what had occurred; if not, the reason for same; the situation regarding patients on medication that will need authorisation for renewal of courses of treatment; if she will provide a time by which the person is likely to be replaced or the situation sorted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23417/06]

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:

163 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the home help provided to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has been discontinued; the changes which have taken place to justify the removal of their home help hours; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23418/06]

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.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Michael Lowry

Question:

164 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the rate of nursing home subvention top-up payments paid in each Health Service Executive region; if she will confirm that patients in the Dublin region are receiving a top-up payment in the order of €700 per week; if patients in other parts of the country will receive similar top-up rates; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23419/06]

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 Staff.

Michael Lowry

Question:

165 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of oncology nurses in each oncology unit in the country; if oncology nurses trained to clinical nurse specialist level or clinical nurse manager level are employed at that grade; the reasons for delays in ensuring that CNS personnel within the oncology sector are using their skills at this level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23420/06]

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 examine the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

John Perry

Question:

166 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the directive she has issued in relation to insurance indemnity for facilities that have defibrillators installed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23426/06]

The Task Force on Sudden Cardiac Death, whose report "Reducing the Risk: A Strategic Approach" was published in March 2006, recognises the need for early cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Overall responsibility for implementation of the report's recommendations has been assigned to the Health Service Executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

167 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason persons (details supplied) in County Mayo who must attend appointments for the treatment of breast cancer and for prostate problems have to fight for transport to get to their appointments which are on-going; her views on whether it is fair that elderly people have this additional stress on them when trying to cope with their medical conditions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23433/06]

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 examine the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Denis Naughten

Question:

168 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of new home care packages that have been rolled out in counties Galway, Roscommon and Leitrim in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23434/06]

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 examine the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Pat Breen

Question:

169 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare did not qualify for a medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23442/06]

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.

Denis Naughten

Question:

170 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of the working group on haemochromatosis; when it will complete its deliberations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23443/06]

As the Deputy is aware, I set up a Haemochromotosis Working Group in March 2006 to examine all of the issues relating to haemochromotosis in Ireland and to advise on the actions necessary to address the problems caused by haemochromotosis.

The Working Group has met formally on three occasions and held a number of other informal sub-group meetings. The Group will present its report to me in the coming weeks.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Denis Naughten

Question:

171 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 332 of 26 January 2005, when she will complete the strategic review of existing service provision for persons with disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23447/06]

In accordance with a commitment in "Sustaining Progress", the Department of Health and Children has carried out a strategic review of specialist health service provision for people with disabilities, in consultation with relevant interests. A document setting out the key findings of the review will be made available as soon as it has been finalised.

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

172 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action she will take to support polio survivors; if she will establish a committee to examine the issues surrounding this condition and to address access to aids and appliances and respite care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23448/06]

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.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

173 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an application for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Louth will be re-examined in view of the serious medical grounds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23468/06]

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:

174 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has reviewed the level of service available to the young people and to their families who become victims of underage sexual assault; if she has satisfied herself that an adequate system is in place to support these families; and the further initiatives she plans to take for the future. [23534/06]

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 Carey

Question:

175 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there is a scheme which would assist a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 to build additional accommodation to relieve overcrowding in their home which they are purchasing to specifically cater for the needs of the long term foster care of two children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23535/06]

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.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

176 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of patients treated under the National Treatment Purchase Fund; and the number of these treated in the same hospital for which they were on the waiting list for treatment. [23538/06]

The National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) was established as one of the key actions for dealing with public hospital waiting lists arising from the 2001 Health Strategy. To date, the NTPF has arranged treatment for some 42,000 patients. The NTPF purchases procedures for public patients predominantly from private hospitals in Ireland. The Strategy envisaged that the NTPF might also make use of any capacity within public hospitals to arrange treatment for public patients. It was recognised that during the start-up phase of the Fund, the use of public capacity could account for up to 30% of total NTPF activity, once public core service planned activity was not compromised. In June 2005 my Department advised NTPF that use by the Fund of public facilities should be limited to 10% of its total referrals for treatment.

My Department has asked the Acting Chief Executive of the Fund to respond to the Deputy in relation to the detailed information requested.

Pharmacy Regulations.

John Deasy

Question:

177 Mr. Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views regarding the growing number of pharmacies that are sited in health centres developed by doctors; her further views on whether this will provide an unfair disadvantage to other pharmacies in the area; her plans to introduce regulations to prevent same from happening; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23549/06]

On foot of the recommendations of the Pharmacy Review Group, my Department has commenced drafting new pharmacy legislation in two pharmacy Bills. The first Bill is to deal with fitness to practice provisions for pharmacists, the removal of the prohibition — the derogation — on non-Irish graduates being supervising pharmacists in pharmacies less than 3 years old, and a stronger statutory basis for the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI).

The second Bill will address the regulation of pharmacy and pharmacy services, including the definition of pharmacy services and of a community pharmacy, enhanced provisions for the inspection of pharmacies, and the provision for regulation of pharmacies for matters such as physical conditions, standards, record keeping and promotional activities. It is also proposed to deal with general provisions relating to community pharmacy contracts for services, as well as the remaining recommendations of the Pharmacy Review Group.

The Government accepted the Review Group recommendation that there should be no beneficial ownership or business interest of any kind between prescribing and dispensing and, in regard to multi-GP practices with adjacent pharmacies, that contracted pharmacies and general practices should occupy discrete premises, with separate entrances. I have agreed to consider the potential conflict of interest issues arising from the development of health centres with adjacent contracted pharmacies and this issue will be addressed in the second Bill in the light of that examination.

In the interim, my Department has advised the Health Service Executive to take due care in assessing pharmacy contract applications so that any commercial relationship between a pharmacy contractor and a health centre will not affect the proper provision of services as required under clauses 21, 22(3), 22(4) and 23 of the pharmacy contract, dealing with ownership of pharmacies and beneficial interest. I have also written to the Medical Council in relation to this issue.

The Deputy will note that the location of services is a land use planning issue and therefore a matter for the relevant planning authority. I am not in a position to dictate the location of privately funded and owned pharmacies or GP practices, nor to restrict the awarding of State pharmacy contracts based on location.

Question No. 178 answered with QuestionNo. 151.

Health Service Staff.

Michael Lowry

Question:

179 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason it takes 21 years for a qualified nurse to reach parity of pay with childcare workers; if she will instruct the Health Service Executive to honour Labour Court commitments given as far back as 1980 which recommended that nursing staff work no longer than a 35 hour week; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23556/06]

The Irish Nurses Organisation and the Psychiatric Nurses Association are pursuing a number of claims in respect of the pay and conditions of nurses. These include claims seeking a reduction in hours from 39 to 35 per week and a pay increase relative to the pay of the social care worker grade (formerly known as child care workers).

There is no pay relationship between nurses and social care workers. Social care workers are employed in intellectual disability and childcare services in a variety of community and residential settings including High Support Centres. The pay of nurses was determined by the Public Service Benchmarking Body which established new absolute levels of pay for each benchmarked grade and confirmed that no benchmarked grade may receive a further increase as a consequence of the Body's recommendations as they affect any other grade.

In relation to the claim for a 35 hour working week in return for 39 hours pay, it should be noted that a reduction in the hours worked by nurses would have a significant adverse impact on the delivery of care to patients. It is estimated that an additional 4,000 nurses at a cost of €200 million per annum would be required to maintain existing services should this claim be conceded.

These two claims from the nursing unions will be heard by the Labour Court on 20 June.

Health Services.

Tony Gregory

Question:

180 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the financial assistance which is available to allow a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 attend two weeks respite care in a centre in County Roscommon. [23566/06]

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

Hospital Services.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

181 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the cost for each year since 2002 for laboratory testing being processed in private laboratories for acute hospitals in Cavan and Monaghan; the way in which this testing will be carried out as a result of acute hospital cutbacks proposed in Cavan General Hospital and Monaghan General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23567/06]

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.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

182 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount spent by Monaghan General Hospital and Cavan General Hospital on new items of medical and surgical supplies for each year since 2002; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23568/06]

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 Staff.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

183 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the new development posts on hold for acute hospitals in Counties Cavan and Monaghan, by hospital, which have been placed on hold with immediate effect by the Health Service Executive; the reason these new development posts were agreed on initially; the cost of same; the expected impact on services and patient services; the number of persons to be affected; the expected number of patients who will have to travel outside the region as a result; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23571/06]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

185 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the details of all pending posts for hospitals in Cavan and Monaghan, by hospital; the savings expected as a result, which have been placed on hold with immediate effect by the Health Service Executive; the length of time these posts have been vacant; the number of patient services affected as a result; the number of individual patients to be affected; the expected number of patients who will have to travel outside the region as a result; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23573/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 183 and 185 together.

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

Child Care Services.

Tony Gregory

Question:

184 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in circumstances where a home parent who is attending third level education has their childcare allowance stopped at the end of May when college term ends, but to retain the child-care place must continue to make the required payments for the three summer months, the allowance will be paid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23572/06]

I understand from enquiries made of the Deputy that the parent in question is in receipt of an allowance from the Finglas/Cabra Partnership. My Department has no responsibility in relation to the payment of such allowances.

Question No. 185 answered with QuestionNo. 183.

Waste Management.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

186 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount spent in each year since 2002 in waste management in Counties Cavan and Monaghan by the Health Service Executive; the amount projected to be spent in 2006; the details and expected costs and savings of the proposed recycling programme in Counties Cavan and Monaghan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23574/06]

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 waste management in the health service in Counties Cavan and Monaghan.

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.

Health Services.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

187 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of home help hours allocated in County Cavan for each year since 2000; the number of persons benefiting in each year; the budget allocated in each year in County Cavan; if the allocation was used in each year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23575/06]

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.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

188 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of home help hours allocation in County Monaghan for each year since 2000; the number of persons benefiting in each year; the budget allocated in each year in County Monaghan; if the allocation was used in each year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23576/06]

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.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

189 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the technical adjustments made to the acute hospital budget for Cavan Monaghan General Hospital and Monaghan General Hospital for each of the past three years to date in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23577/06]

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 Equipment.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

190 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the actions proposed by the directors of nursing in Monaghan General Hospital and Cavan General Hospital to initiate a review of equipment being rented; the items which have been identified; the rentals which will cease immediately; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23578/06]

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

Hospital Maintenance.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

191 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the way in which she intends to reduce maintenance costs in Cavan General Hospital and Monaghan General Hospital; the expected reduction; the locations where maintenance will be carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23579/06]

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

Departmental Business Plans.

Denis Naughten

Question:

192 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she intends to publish her Department’s 2006 business plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23580/06]

The Department's annual Business Plan for 2006 will, as in previous years, be made available to the public through the Department's website (www.dohc.ie). It is intended that this will happen in the next few weeks.

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

193 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to develop new services in the west of Ireland in view of the fact that people in the region have the highest prevalence of diabetes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23584/06]

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

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

194 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite an application for a medical card for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [23586/06]

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

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

195 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 151 of 16 May 2006, when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with home help; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23655/06]

I have been advised that the Health Service Executive (HSE) issued a reply to the Deputy on the 1st June, 2006, in relation to Question No. 151.

John McGuinness

Question:

196 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress regarding the issues raised at meetings between the Health Service Executive and an organisation (details supplied) held in 2005 and 2006; if commitments given in 2005 by the HSE will be acted upon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23656/06]

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 Allowances.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

197 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the termination of domiciliary care allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath notwithstanding her response to Parliamentary Question No. 138 of 6 April 2006 and further reply from the Health Service Executive parliamentary affairs division. [23663/06]

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

Departmental Agencies.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

198 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if funding will be restored to an agency (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23664/06]

The funding of the organisation referred to by the Deputy is a matter for the Crisis Pregnancy Agency (CPA), which was established by the Government in 2001 to formulate and implement a strategy to address crisis pregnancy. I understand that the CPA and the organisation concerned are at present in communication regarding the question of continued funding. I do not consider it appropriate that I should make any further comment on the matter.

Legislative Programme.

Michael Ring

Question:

199 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the Pharmacy Bill; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23670/06]

Government approval was given on 2nd May 2006 to the draft heads and general scheme of the first Pharmacy Bill and these have now been forwarded to the Parliamentary Counsel's office for priority drafting. I have, with Government approval, circulated a copy of this document to the opposition spokespersons on Health. I have also arranged for my officials to provide a copy to the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland and the Irish Pharmaceutical Union.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Michael Ring

Question:

200 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has had discussions with the Irish Pharmaceutical Union in relation to allowing their members to give out prescriptive medicine without the need for a written prescription from a general practitioner; if discussions have taken place in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23671/06]

I have met with the Irish Pharmaceutical Union. Following consideration of the issue of prescribing by other health care professionals in my Department, it is considered that, apart from nurses under certain defined conditions and existing prescribers (doctors and dentists), the necessary regulatory regimes, in particular adequate fitness to practice regimes, are not in place at the present time to permit the extension of prescribing to registered pharmacists. I should also point out that the Government has accepted a recommendation of the Pharmacy Review Group that there should be no beneficial ownership or business interest of any kind between dispensing and prescribing. Pharmacist prescribing would make this recommendation unsustainable.

Health Service Allowances.

Finian McGrath

Question:

201 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there are grants or mobility allowances available for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if this person will be given the maximum support. [23676/06]

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

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Michael Ring

Question:

202 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if work has started on a house for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [23677/06]

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

Departmental Funding.

Joe Higgins

Question:

203 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that a society (details supplied) receives sufficient core funding, as outlined in its recent Health Service Executive funding submission, to continue its work and meet future needs of the coeliac community in the coming years. [23701/06]

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.

Ambulance Service.

Jack Wall

Question:

204 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department has the means to provide financial assistance to persons seeking to attend for hospital appointments where no public transport or ambulance service is available and the person or persons have to hire taxis to attend; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23705/06]

Jack Wall

Question:

205 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the proposals her Department has to address the shortfall of ambulance services for persons who due to financial means have no other transport available to them or their loved ones, who are in need of hospital services, clinics and so on; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23706/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 204 and 205 together.

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

My Department is advised by the executive that it intends to conduct a comprehensive review of patient transport arrangements as an element of its 2006 service plan. It is envisaged that this review will examine the service currently delivered nationally and make recommendations for its future development.

Medical Cards.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

206 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the way in which interest earned from the financial contribution scheme for senior citizens affects means testing for their medical cards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23707/06]

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 (HSE) 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. Under Section 45 of the Health Act 1970, as amended, persons aged 70 or over are statutorily entitled to a medical card regardless of income. In all other cases an assessment is undertaken having regard to applicants' means.

National Drugs Strategy.

Eoin Ryan

Question:

207 Mr. Eoin Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department will expand options for opiate addicts beyond the use of methadone; and if so, when options (details supplied) will become available for use here. [23719/06]

Liz McManus

Question:

212 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the comparative merit of a product (details supplied) as an alternative to methadone; if she will provide funding if necessary for this use; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23814/06]

Tógfaigh mé Ceisteanna 207 agus 212 le chéile.

I am aware that the drug buprenorphine (trade name Subutex) is being proposed as an alternative to methadone in the treatment of opiate dependent addicts. 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.

Eoin Ryan

Question:

208 Mr. Eoin Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps her Department is considering to bring therapeutic options into the treatment of drug addiction here. [23720/06]

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

General Register Office.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

209 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the assistance which will be given by her Department to a person (details supplied) in County Cork whose birth was never registered and who requires their birth certificate to obtain a passport (details supplied). [23748/06]

An tArd-Chláraitheoir (Registrar General) is the person with statutory responsibility for the administration of the civil registration system. I have made enquiries with an tArd-Chláraitheoir and the position is as set out below. An tArd-Chláraitheoir maintains a national index of births, which is available in the offices of registrars of births, deaths and marriages around the country. Ideally, to search this index, the applicant should know the date and place of birth, forename of the person concerned and the parents' names. However, it may be possible to locate the relevant entry if only some of these details are available.

Where it is established that a birth has not been previously registered, it is possible, under the provisions of the Civil Registration Act, 2004, to effect registration, provided the particulars required by law to be registered are available. In cases where the parents or any other qualified informant with knowledge of the required particulars failed to register a birth within 12 months of the event, the consent of a Superintendent Registrar of births, deaths and marriages is required to effect registration. Where the parents are deceased, or are incapable of acting as qualified informants, or cannot be found, and where no other qualified informant with knowledge of the required particulars can be found, an tArd-Chláraitheoir may cause the birth to be registered on production of adequate evidence of the details of the birth.

I understand that the minimum information required to be entered in the birth register is the forename(s) and the surname, date and exact place of birth, the parents' names, or at least the mother's name, and the marital status of the parents.

In relation to the birth referred to by the Deputy, it cannot be ascertained from the details supplied which registrar was approached concerning this matter and whether the person concerned had sufficient information to locate an entry in the register or had adequate knowledge of the required particulars to effect a registration. As a first step, I suggest that the person concerned contact any registrar directly in writing, requesting to have the birth registered in accordance with Section 20 of the Civil Registration Act, 2004. A list of registrars' offices and contact details may be found at www.groireland.ie concerning this matter.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

210 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she will receive the report of the review by the National Treatment Purchase Fund of the pain management service nationally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23802/06]

My Department has been advised by the National Treatment Purchase Fund that it is not carrying out a review of pain management services nationally.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

211 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there is financial assistance available to a person (details supplied) in County Galway who has a distinct hearing problem, a hearing aid for which is costing €7,600; if there is financial assistance available towards such costs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23813/06]

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. 212 answered with QuestionNo. 207.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

213 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of speech and language therapists currently serving the public health system in each Health Service Executive area; their location; the status of their appointment; the guiding ratio per head of population; the number of unfilled positions by area; the steps she will take to address the shortage of qualified speech and language therapists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23815/06]

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

Child Care Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

214 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 334 of 26 January, 2005 if the child care report has been finalised; if training issues for preschool inspection staff will arise as a result of the requirements of the revised regulations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23827/06]

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

Patient Statistics.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

215 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons who have gone missing from Health Service Executive institutions or whose outpatient psychiatric treatment was interrupted since 1995 to date in 2006 on foot of being reported missing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23867/06]

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

Hospital Accommodation.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

216 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the cancer ward in our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, which is housed in a prefabricated building, does not have air conditioning facilities; and if she will arrange to have this matter addressed as a matter of urgency. [23881/06]

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.

John McGuinness

Question:

217 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that better quality footwear is provided in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of the fact that they have registered their complaints regarding the footwear provided over a long period of time without a positive response; and if she will expedite a response. [23882/06]

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.

John McGuinness

Question:

218 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to previous parliamentary questions, the action which has been taken to fulfil a High Court agreement in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny who took an action against the South Eastern Health Board and had it resolved by the High Court; her views on the fulfilment or otherwise of that agreement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23883/06]

The Deputy's question relates to human resource management issues within the Health Service Executive. As these are matters for the Executive under the Health Act 2004, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have them investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

219 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of submissions received from service providers in relation to the use of a property at Myshall, County Carlow for the purpose of providing a range of supports and services to those with autism; when a decision will be made in relation to the submissions; if the property is being maintained to an acceptable standard; if a fund is available to implement the project relative to the submissions received; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23884/06]

This property has transferred to the ownership of the Health Service Executive South Eastern Area. Therefore 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.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

220 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be called for orthodontic treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23885/06]

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

221 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made on foot of previous parliamentary questions as to whether financial assistance will be offered towards the cost of occupational therapy sessions for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23886/06]

I understand from the Health Service Executive that the matter raised by the Deputy in his previous parliamentary question is still ongoing and when completed a reply will issue to him.

Child Abuse.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

222 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she received a submission from the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children regarding a child protection document; her response to same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23887/06]

I understand the Deputy is referring to the recent document circulated by the ISPCC as part of its ‘How Can We Be Sure They're Safe?' campaign. I have only recently received this document and the issues raised in it are being considered by my Office and by the Departments of Education and Science and Justice, Equality and Law Reform. My Office has also asked the Health Service Executive to consider the document in the context of its provision of Child Protection and Family Support Services under the Child Care Act, 1991.

Youth Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

223 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to provide funding for a project (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23926/06]

My office is currently developing a recreation policy for young people aged 12-18 in conjunction with a number of Government Departments and agencies directly involved in the provision of recreation facilities and programmes for young people. The policy will be available this year. It is intended that the issue of youth cafes will be dealt with in the policy. The management and delivery of health and personal social services are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. My Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to have this proposal examined and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Michael Ring

Question:

224 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there is a cutback in funding towards the provision of medical aids (details supplied) to private nursing homes; if this means that the quantity that each patient is to receive will be reduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23927/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

225 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the funding cut back for medical aids (details supplied) only applies in the counties of Galway and Mayo or if it is nationwide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23928/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

226 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there is a cutback in the funding for medical aids (details supplied) in every area of the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23929/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

227 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department have investigated the impact on patient care of the cutback in funds for the provision of medical aids (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23930/06]

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.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Michael Ring

Question:

228 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will introduce a common subvention policy, which would apply nationwide, for nursing homes in every Health Service Executive area in order that they would all receive the same rates of subvention, irrespective of their location; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23931/06]

The Nursing Home (Subvention) Regulations, 1993 are administered by the Health Service Executive. There are currently three rates of subvention payable, i.e. €114.30, €152.40 and €190.50 for the three levels of dependency which are medium, high and maximum. Additional funding of €20 million was provided for the administration of the Nursing Home Subvention Scheme in 2006, bringing the total available budget to €161 million. The €20 million is to support more basic nursing home subventions and reduce waiting lists for enhanced subventions: it is also to bring more consistency to subventions support throughout the country.

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. In addition, national guidelines on nursing home subvention regulations are currently being developed by the HSE to ensure an even and equitable application of the regulations nationally.

Michael Ring

Question:

229 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action which has been taken in relation to the enhanced subvention payment; if same has been stopped by the Health Service Executive; the reasons for this; if same can be reinstated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23934/06]

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

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

I wish to advise the Deputy that additional funding of €20 million was provided for the administration of the Nursing Home Subvention Scheme in 2006, bringing the total available budget to €161 million. The €20 million is to support more basic nursing home subventions and reduce waiting lists for enhanced subventions: it is also to bring more consistency to subventions support throughout the country.

This Government is committed to developing the various community and home support schemes with a view to enabling older people to remain living in their own homes and communities for as long as possible, in line with their expressed wishes. Additional funding for services for older people amounting to €150 million was allocated in the 2006 Budget. This is the largest ever increase in funding for services for older people and, reflecting the new emphasis on home and day care, almost three quarters of this funding is being committed to community care supports including, among other things, Home Care Packages, the Home Help Service, Sheltered Housing and Day/Respite Care.

Health Services.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

230 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the support services available to children with Downs Syndrome; if speech and language therapy is provided to children with Downs Syndrome; the service providers for such services for children residing in Kildare; the earliest age for receipt of such services; if such services are provided to children at preschool, primary and secondary school levels; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23940/06]

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.

Tax Code.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

231 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Finance his views on special measures to encourage more wheelchair accessible taxis such as the reduction or elimination of vehicle registration tax on new vehicles being used for this purpose; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23665/06]

I do not have plans at present to reduce or eliminate Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) on taxis. VRT on vehicles helps to broaden the tax base and provides an important source of Exchequer revenue. I am asked regularly to introduce tax reliefs for one purpose or another, but tax reliefs can be an inflexible and inefficient means of addressing policy issues, and to accede to all such requests would lead to an immediate narrowing of the tax base.

State Property.

Seán Crowe

Question:

232 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Finance if, due to the historical nature and location and other proposed plans and to stop further dereliction and decay, a detailed plan including the Office of Public Works and Dublin City Council will be put together over the next six months to design a plan for the old magazine fort in the Phoenix Park with costings which would include art, community and historical use. [23678/06]

The Office of Public Works undertakes maintenance and repairs to the Magazine Fort, including security works, to preserve the fabric of the Fort and improve security of the premises, on an ongoing basis. The Commissioners are very much open to the suggestion of discussions with Dublin City Council and other appropriate bodies on this issue, with a view to formulation and consideration of realistic proposals for this heritage site in the Phoenix Park.

Garda Stations.

Enda Kenny

Question:

233 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the provision of a Garda station at Ballyvary, Castlebar County Mayo; when it is expected that same will be released to tender; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23697/06]

Subject to site investigation a Sketch Scheme for a new Garda Station at Ballyvary, County Mayo should be completed by September 2006. It is expected that tenders will be invited early in 2007.

Tax Yield.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

234 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance the level of revenue collected from excise duty on off course betting paid into the Exchequer in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23342/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the yield to the Exchequer in 2005 from excise duty on off course betting was €45.85 million. The Deputy may be aware that the betting duty rate will be reduced from 2% to 1% with effect from 1 July 2006 and consequently receipts for 2006 are likely to be less than for 2005.

State Property.

Pat Breen

Question:

235 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance if he has plans for a building owned by the Office of Public Works (details supplied) in County Clare; the reason same has not been renovated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23353/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works propose to provide staff accommodation for the National Parks and Wildlife Services, of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government at Church Street, Corofin, Co. Clare. The staff are currently working from offices in Ennis, Co. Clare. This project is due to commence in early 2007. In the meantime the Commissioners have placed a contract to secure and enhance the appearance of the building in the short term. This will commence within the next two weeks.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

236 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details of the number of claims for relief made in each year from 2000 to 2005 inclusive under section 86 of the Consolidated Capital Acquisitions Act 2003; the value of the properties transferred; the values of the ten largest houses covered by the relief in each of the above years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23364/06]

Section 86 of the Capital Acquisition Tax (CAT) Consolidation Act 2003, which provides an exemption from CAT in relation to certain dwellings, came into effect for gifts or inheritances taken on or after 1 December 1999. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the relevant information available is of the number of claims for this relief which were made in each of the years 2000 to 2005 inclusive. The numbers of such claims were 3 in 2000, 24 in 2001, 13 in 2002, 252 in 2003, 553 in 2004 and 542 in 2005. Data on the values of properties is not captured in the Revenue database by reference to section 86 claims and the information on property values sought by the Deputy, including the values of the ten largest houses, is not accordingly to hand.

The relief under Section 86 was introduced by my predecessor in order to reduce the tax burden faced by individuals on receipt of the family home, by gift or inheritance, irrespective of the circumstances of the family relationship. The relief was introduced at the time in response to growing concern on the part of home owners as to the tax consequence of transferring their family home. In the light of the increasing value of family properties and the variety of family relationships in existence it was decided not to restrict the relief by property value or relationship, but to extend the relief to shared-home situations.

However, in order to restrict the relief to genuine cases and avoid the relief being used as a means of tax avoidance, a lengthy owner-occupancy condition was included in the legislation. In order to qualify for the relief the beneficiary (i.e. the person who receives the gift/inheritance) must have occupied the dwelling house as his or her only or main residence for a period of at least three years prior to the gift or inheritance and must continue to own and reside in it for a period of six years after the date of the gift or inheritance. These conditions of ownership and residence upon inheritance may be waived where the beneficiary requires long-term medical care in a hospital, nursing home or convalescent home. In addition, in order to avail of the relief, the beneficiary must not have an interest in any other property at the time of inheritance. I am confident that these conditions ensure that only genuine cases qualify for the relief.

Registration of Title.

Michael Ring

Question:

237 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if the original deed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has been obtained; and if so, when the refund in question will be processed. [23532/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, in the case referred to by the Deputy, the original deed was required from the Land Registry in order to finalise the refund. The deed was received from the Land Registry on 16 June 2006. It will be processed immediately and a refund can be expected within 10 working days.

Tax Collection.

Jack Wall

Question:

238 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be furnished with a P21 statement for 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23555/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a PAYE Balancing Statement (P21) for 2005 issued to the taxpayer on 15 June 2006 together with a letter outlining an underpayment of tax for that year.

Decentralisation Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

239 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance if he has entered contracts for either permanent or temporary accommodation for the decentralisation of the Department of Education and Science to Mullingar, County Westmeath; when he expects these buildings to be occupied; the staffing capacity of such buildings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23582/06]

The Office of Public Works has identified a suitable site in Mullingar town centre and negotiations to acquire it are at an advanced stage. Contracts will only be entered into when all terms have been agreed and legal documentation is to the satisfaction of the Chief State Solicitor. The building, when built will accommodate 305 Department of Education staff and will have sufficient scope to cater for some 10% future expansion if required.

While there has been some examination by the Department of Education, of the feasibility of relocating a number of the posts scheduled to decentralise to temporary accommodation in Mullingar in advance of the main move, no decision has been taken by the Department on this matter to date. At this point in time, a target date of first quarter 2009 is in place for the completion of the construction of the accommodation in Mullingar. This timetable is contingent on a successful outcome to the tender competition which will follow on the call for expressions of interest, on planning permission being obtained and on no delays being experienced during the architectural planning and construction stages.

Tax Code.

Dan Boyle

Question:

240 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Finance the expected cost of making the unused part of personal tax credits refundable to those low income earners who are currently on the Revenue Commissioner’s records and do not benefit from the credit. [23654/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the most recent estimated cost of making the main personal tax credits refundable when they are unused is broadly in the region of €2.1 billion annually. The main category of refund would relate to the employee credit where the annual cost of refunding the unused portion of the credit to income earners with insufficient income to fully absorb it would amount to €1.1 billion approximately. The next categories of refund in order of scale would be the basic personal credit — single, married and widowed — costing €1 billion approximately.

The estimate of €2.1 billion relates only to the cost of extending refundable tax credits to all those on Revenue's tax files. If a refundable tax credit system were to be introduced, one would have to consider those who are not on the tax files, for example, those who are of employable age but not working, including those in social welfare. This would increase the cost significantly.

Apart from the issue of cost, there would be a range of other policy and practical difficulties arising in introducing such a system. I have no plans to introduce refundable tax credits at the present time.

Prison Building Programme.

David Stanton

Question:

241 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance the steps that have been taken by the Office of Public Works to construct a bridge onto Spike Island in Cork Harbour; the estimated cost of such a bridge; the position and design of the bridge; if planning permission will be required to construct the bridge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23659/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works are currently evaluating the optimum mainland location for the bridge to Spike Island. Discussions are in hand with various parties and have not yet reached a conclusion. The design of the bridge has yet to be completed and the estimated cost will not be available until the design is finalised. A Planning Procedure is required and will be completed under Part 9 of the Planning Regulations.

Departmental Staff.

Enda Kenny

Question:

242 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if the special allowance for public servants who provide a service through Irish is still available; the amount paid out under this allowance in the past three years; the number of public servants involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23694/06]

There are no allowances payable in the civil service or the Defence Forces for the provision of a service through Irish. In the education sector there are two allowances paid to teachers in first and second-level schools who provide a service through Irish. There is an allowance for teaching through Irish paid to teachers in Gaelscoileanna and Scoileanna lán Gaeilge of €1,472 per annum (as at 1 December 2005). A second allowance of €2,849 per annum (as at 1 December 2005) is payable to teachers in the Gaeltacht. Teachers can only receive one of these allowances. The allowances are not paid to other education staff.

Certain local authority officers receive a Gaeltacht allowance under regulations set out in Statutory Instrument 221 of 1966. Under these regulations a local authority may pay an office holder additional remuneration, not exceeding 7.5% of the annual basic salary of the office holder, where her/his duties are performed mainly or entirely in the Gaeltacht and the local authority is satisfied that s/he possesses a sufficient knowledge of the Irish language to enable her or him to perform the duties of the office competently through Irish. The same arrangements apply in the health service as in local authorities.

In the Garda Síochána, a Gaeltacht allowance equal to 7.5% of basic pay is payable to members up to and including Chief Superintendent. The allowance is payable only in areas where Irish is the general medium of speech and where all the members of the Force are proficient in Irish and are required to perform their duties through Irish. I understand that the Gaeltacht allowance payable to the Garda Síochána is the subject of a separate question to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Details of the amounts paid out in the last three years and the numbers in receipt of the aforementioned allowances are not readily available. If the Deputy requires this information I suggest that he direct questions to the relevant Ministers.

Flood Relief.

Joan Burton

Question:

243 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to plans by the Office of Public Works to carry out further work on the Tolka River in the Blanchardstown area; if his further attention has been drawn to the proposals for flood relief in the vicinity of Damastown, adjacent to Kepak and the N3; if his further attention has been drawn to the concerns of young people using the river for fishing that the proposals to widen the river by eight metres along a three hundred metre stretch will have a devastating effect on the whole ecosystem of the Tolka Valley and will dramatically reduce water levels; if these proposals have been subject to any form of detailed environmental impact assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23718/06]

The flood relief works on the River Tolka are, in the main, being undertaken by the Office of Public Works on behalf of the three Local Authorities concerned, Dublin City Council and Meath and Fingal County Councils. The Local Authorities have employed consultants to design the measures outlined in the River Tolka Flooding Study.

It is the understanding of the Commissioners of Public Works that a number of proposals have been put forward by the consultants to the Local Authorities to alleviate the flood risk in this particular area, one of which is to undertake some widening of the channel. The proposals will be considered by the Local Authorities, and will also be the subject of discussions with the landowners concerned and the Office of Public Works, and a preferred option will be chosen. This preferred option will be taken forward by Fingal County Council and exhibited under the Planning and Development Regulations, and will contain an environmental appraisal of any proposed works.

Tax Collection.

Jack Wall

Question:

244 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be furnished with a copy of their P45 from their former employer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23724/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that P45 forms are issued by a person's employer and not by the Revenue Commissioners. It is understood from contact with the Deputy's constituency office that the person concerned requires details of earnings and tax deducted while working for the company concerned. A statement of earnings for 2004 and 2005 in respect of the taxpayer's former employment has issued to her dated 15 June 2006.

Tax Code.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

245 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if there is an exemption on the payment of stamp duty for people suffering from illness where the purchased second hand house has to be adapted to meet their special needs (details supplied). [23747/06]

Stamp duty is a tax on certain documents, generally legal documents, used in transferring property or in creating rights for the parties concerned. The stamp duty code generally does not provide exemptions based on an individual's particular circumstances and introducing such a provision would represent a significant departure from normal stamp duty rules. However, I have been advised by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government that a scheme of disabled persons grants is operated by local authorities with capital provision from that Department. These grants are designed to meet the needs of persons who are either physically handicapped or are suffering from severe mental handicap or severe mental illness. Where a new dwelling is being bought or built a maximum grant of €12,700 is payable. In the case of adaptation of an existing dwelling, 90% of the approved cost of the works is available up to an effective maximum grant of €20,320. Full details of the scheme and the conditions applicable are available from the local authority in whose area the dwelling is situated.

I would point out that there is no stamp duty on the purchase of new residential property for owner-occupiers where the dwelling is not greater than 125 square metres and complies with certain conditions in relation to building standards. If the property is over 125 square metres, stamp duty is charged on the site value or one quarter of the total value of the property (whichever is the greater).

Stamp duty is a significant contributor to the Exchequer and stamp duty receipts allow for a broader tax base than would otherwise be possible. These receipts form an important element of State revenues which permits Government spending on services such as health and education.

Decentralisation Programme.

Marian Harkin

Question:

246 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Finance the number of the 450 decentralised jobs promised to County Clare in Budget 2003 which have been delivered; if they have not yet been delivered the precise timeframe for delivery of these decentralised jobs to Kilrush and Shannon; the number of people who have opted for decentralisation to each location; and the number of those who have indicated their willingness to move who are currently working in Dublin. [23754/06]

I am informed by Revenue that fifty posts are due to relocate to the Office of the Revenue Commissioners in Kilrush and that acceptances have been received for forty-six posts. Four officers serving in Dublin have accepted the offer to decentralise to Kilrush. The Revenue Commissioners are in discussions with the Office of Public Works to finalise matters in relation to their accommodation needs in Kilrush.

Marian Harkin

Question:

247 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Finance the number of the 290 decentralised jobs promised to County Mayo in Budget 2003 which have been delivered; if they have not yet been delivered the precise timeframe for delivery of these decentralised jobs to Claremorris; the number of people who have opted for decentralisation to each location; and the number of those who have indicated their willingness to move who are currently working in Dublin. [23759/06]

The Office of Public Works is planning to decentralise some 150 staff to Claremorris and the indicative timeframe for the completion of the construction of the new building to accommodate the total decentralised staffing cadre is early 2009.

In the meantime OPW has begun preparations to establish an advance office with a staffing level of the order of 40 for decentralisation in Claremorris early in 2007. The selection of staff for the advance office will in the first instance focus on surplus Department of Agriculture staff in the region who have expressed a preference for decentralisation to Claremorris through the Central Applications Facility (CAF). There are some 170 plus applicants on CAF for Claremorris of which 30 or more are based in Dublin.

Tax Code.

Tom Hayes

Question:

248 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary is entitled to tax credits; if they are liable for tax in 2006 as they started work on week 23 of the tax year. [23878/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the person in question recently commenced employment and is also in receipt of a taxable pension from the Department of Social and Family Affairs. All available tax credits are currently being utilised in full against this pension and there are therefore no remaining credits available for offset against earnings from the employment. The taxpayer will be liable for tax. The first €271 earned per week is chargeable at 20% with the balance at 42%.

Flood Relief.

John McGuinness

Question:

249 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance the plans and timeframe for completing the landscaping proposals with boundary fence or walls at an estate (details supplied) in County Kilkenny as part of the River Nore Relief Scheme; if the plans remain the same as those proposed originally; if the plans will be agreed with the residents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23879/06]

The Local Authority liaised with local residents regarding the type of railing to be installed at both the Dukesmeadow and Bishops Meadow estates in Kilkenny City. Agreement on this issue was reached some time ago and it is anticipated that production and installation of the railings will be completed by Autumn 2006.

John McGuinness

Question:

250 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance if the plans for the work to be carried out at Lacken Weir, Kilkenny will be put on public display as soon as possible; if work on the weir will commence in July or August 2006; if the work planned will be completed in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23880/06]

It is anticipated that works on the weir will commence in August 2006 and the work planned will be completed in 2006.

Decentralisation Programme.

Marian Harkin

Question:

251 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of the 425 decentralised jobs promised to Cavan town in Budget 2003 which have been delivered; if they have not yet been delivered the precise timeframe for delivery of these decentralised jobs; the number of people who have opted for decentralisation to each location; and the number of those who have indicated their willingness to move who are currently working in Dublin. [23756/06]

The Government's decentralisation programme provides for the relocation of my Department's Headquarters, involving 378 posts, to Cavan at the end of 2009. A total of 171 first preference priority applications were received on the Central Applications Facility (CAF) for the 378 posts in Cavan. Of these, 109 were from people currently working in Dublin. I have recently announced my decision to relocate a small advance party of decentralising civil servants to temporary accommodation in Cavan this August.

Marian Harkin

Question:

252 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of the 265 decentralised jobs promised to County Leitrim in Budget 2003 which have been delivered; if they have not yet been delivered the precise timeframe for delivery of these decentralised jobs; the number of people who have opted for decentralisation to each location; and the number of those who have indicated their willingness to move who are currently working in Dublin. [23758/06]

The Government's Decentralisation Programme, announced in December 2003, included proposals to relocate the Central Fisheries Board (CFB), an Agency of my Department, to Carrick-on-Shannon. This proposal involved the decentralisation of the 62 Dublin-based posts in the Board. The Programme also included proposals to decentralise part of the Department of Social and Family Affairs (220 posts) to Carrick-on-Shannon.

The latest information my Department has received from the Public Appointments Service, based on the decentralisation Central Applications Facility (CAF), is that 42 first choice expressions of interest have been received for the CFB posts of which 18 are from persons working in Dublin.

My Department and the CFB have liaised closely with the Office of Public Works (OPW) on the issue of accommodation. OPW has advised that while they have secured an accommodation solution for the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the availability of suitable sites and property in the town for the CFB remains a significant challenge. In this regard, the Decentralisation Implementation Group (DIG) has not yet set out a definitive timetable for the relocation of the Board.

In addition, following a major review of the inland fisheries sector, the Government has decided that a fundamental restructuring of the sector is required. This will involve the establishment of a new National Inland Fisheries Authority (NIFA), which will subsume the executive functions of the existing central and regional fisheries boards. The Government's decentralisation policy will apply to the location of the NIFA's headquarters in the same way that it applies to all other public sector bodies.

Postal Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

253 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in relation to the financial situation at An Post. [23375/06]

In relation to An Post's financial situation, the company's recently published accounts for 2005 showed an operational profit of €16.2 million and a group profit of €40.7 million at year end.

Telecommunications Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

254 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the level of broadband availability in the Brannockstown area, Naas, County Kildare; his plans to enhance or extend same to a wider area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23376/06]

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.

My Department administers a group broadband scheme which is designed to promote the rollout of broadband access through the establishment of sustainable broadband services in towns, villages, rural hinterlands and under-served areas of larger towns on the basis of local and regional authority coordination and community driven initiatives. The most recent call for proposals has now closed and I expect to launch further schemes of this nature shortly.

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

Remediation Works.

Michael Lowry

Question:

255 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when consultants will be appointed to oversee the remediation of the Silvermines tailings pond; the reason for the delay in appointing the consultants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23411/06]

As the Deputy will be aware the Government has agreed to fund, through my Department, the rehabilitation of the abandoned mine sites at Silvermines, County Tipperary and is providing €10.6 million for that purpose. Rehabilitation of Gortmore tailings pond forms part of that project. North Tipperary County Council has agreed to undertake the rehabilitation works, operating as an agent on behalf of my Department.

It is important that appropriate procedures and processes are followed for the procurement of services of this kind and I am pleased to inform the Deputy that consultants have now been selected. I understand from the council that the contract for their engagement will be signed shortly. The functions of the consultants will be to draw up detailed design plans, prepare tender documents, oversee the works, report on progress etc.

Post Office Network.

Denis Naughten

Question:

256 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to make grant aid available for rural post offices to ensure their computerisation, including the provision of Internet availability to the public; his views on whether this would help address the information divide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23440/06]

The primary responsibility for the development of the post office network rests with An Post. The current level of automated coverage is considered by An Post to be extremely comprehensive by any objective standard and this level of coverage makes it difficult to justify on either customer-service or economic grounds the extension of automation to all offices, regardless of their location or business volumes.

Nevertheless, I have asked An Post to undertake a pilot project to automate a selected number of non-automated offices to gauge the effect on new business. Ten post offices have been automated as part of this project and a marketing campaign is under way in the localities where the pilot projects are being undertaken to support the initiative. Upon completion of the pilot, An Post will assess and evaluate the results of the project and the impact of automation on business.

With regard to the provision of internet availability to the public, there are no plans by An Post, at this point, to provide this service to the public through the rural post office network. However, I would like to point out that, with the roll out of eGovernment services, the automated element of the post office network is ideally placed to capitalise on opportunities arising in this space, especially in the area of ePayments.

A core objective for An Post continues to be the retention of access to post office services in as many locations as possible, in the manner which best meets customer needs, whether services are provided via post offices, postal agencies or the postpoint network.

Denis Naughten

Question:

257 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to publish a strategy for the rural post office network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23441/06]

The development and continued viability of An Post and the post office network is, in the first instance, a matter for the board and management of An Post.

This Government and the Board of An Post are committed to the objective of ensuring the continuation of a viable and sustainable nationwide post office network as set out in the Programme for Government. The challenge for all stakeholders in An Post is to generate sufficient profitable business to maintain the network at its current size.

I have asked the company to ensure that any strategy for the development of the company should ensure the long term viability of the post office network and in this light, An Post is currently working on a financial services initiative which could see the development and expansion of the range of financial services that it can deliver through its network of post offices.

Following recent Government approval the board and management of An Post have now commenced exclusive negotiations with the company's preferred partner, Fortis, to expand the range of retail financial services available through the post office network with a view to increasing the levels of post office business. If the initiative proves to be successful, it could lead to a significant increase in post office business and contribute to the enhanced viability of the network.

Coastal Erosion.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

258 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the amount of funding obtained by Ireland from the European Union for coastal erosion over the past five years throughout the country; and the breakdown by county of national expenditure for coastal erosion over the same period. [23453/06]

Funding for Coast Protection is provided under the Coast Protection Measure of the National development Plan 2000-2006. Expenditure on coastal protection since 2000 is not funded by the European Union. Details of expenditure under this Department's Coastal Protection Programmes in the years 2000-2005 are set out below.

2000 Coast Protection Programme

Location

Project

Total cost

County Louth

Annagassan

Phase 2 Protection Scheme

118,299.45

County Dublin

Vico Road

Cliff Protection Works

50,832.96

Bull Island

Study of effects of breaching the causeway

55,924.34

County Wicklow

Bray

Phase 2 & Remedial Works

2,673,444.56

County Wexford

Rosslare

Beach Protection

75,675.31

Rosslare

Maintenance

19,656.33

Cullenstown

Revetment Works & training walls

145,638.96

County Waterford

Tramore

Promenade wall strengthening

61,492.39

Cunnigar

Design of Protection Works

35,400.95

County Kerry

Rossbeigh

Consultancy Study

50,789.52

Waterville

Upgrade & Road Protection

107,424.11

Dingle-Castlemaine Road

Rock armour

2,840,235.21

County Clare

Quilty

Protection Scheme

269,551.43

Seafield

Dune Protection Works

27,299.37

Ballyvaughan

Road Protection Works

155,645.76

County Galway

Auginish Island

Causeway Protection Works

78,088.89

Cleggan

Beach Road Protection

131,493.73

Tawin Island

Beach Road Protection

66,026.38

Gorteen Beach

Beach Protection

64,756.64

Renville

Coast Protection to public recreation area

67,043.44

Clifden Beach

Coast Protection to public recreation area

127,608.68

Inishmore Island

Beach Road

76,184.29

Oranmore/Mweeloon

Road Protection Works

79,450.05

County Mayo

Achill

Dune Protection Works

42,451.15

Elly Bay

Seawall Repairs/Dune Protection

136,145.24

Bertra Beach

Dune Protection Works

63,733.23

Fahy-Ballycroy

Sea outfall renewal and Coast Protection

78,857.08

Bundoola Belmullet

Repairs to seawall

26,858.77

Keel Beach

Dune Protection works

24,152.96

County Sligo

Strandhill

Dune Protection works

23,236.21

Mullaghmore

Road Protection works

150,652.38

Pollacheeney

Protection Works

91,421.14

County Donegal

Bundoran

Road/Cliff Protection

394,897.43

Kerrykeel

Repairs to sea wall

82,171.10

Mountcharles

Rock armouring

134,797.34

Rye, Rathmullen

Sea wall rock armouring

192,569.75

Inver

Coast Protection

34,324.83

General

Coastal Survey

45,654.69

GIS System/Maintenance

224,909.00

Wave Buoys

17,300.46

Pilot Project for dissemination

3802.55

Research Startup

5,743.77

Coastal Survey, County Louth

2,343.04

GIS initial setup

224.91

2001 Coast Protection Programme

Location

Project

Total cost

County Donegal

Drung, Quigley’s Pt

Rock Armour

276,870.20

Keadue, Kincasslagh

Seawall

42,329.07

Mountcharles

Road Protection Works

311,247.39

Mahery, Dungloe

Road Protection Works

31,549.84

Kerrykiel, Rossakill

Road Protection Works

157,398.00

Kerrykeel

Sea Wall Repairs

2,194.11

Inver

Concrete Slab & Low Level Wall

48,248.78

Carrickarory

Repointing existing Seawall

4,235.85

Bundoran

Shorline Protection

144,666.73

Rye, Rathmullan

Sea Wall

7,309.88

County Sligo

Strandhill

Slipway

19,046.07

Strandhill

Shoreline Protection

93,325.75

Mullaghmore

Road Protection Wks.

514,062.35

Pollacheeny

Study & Detailed Design

39,488.85

County Mayo

Westport/Bertra

Dune Protection

38,092.14

Carrowmore Beach

Dune Protection

25,394.76

Roonagh, Louisburg

Road Protection Works

38,092.14

Belmullet Town

Repair Sea Walls

126,973.81

Mulranny Causeway

Protection Works

114,276.43

Bundoola, Belmullet

Repairs to Seawall

100,114.61

Claggan Island

Dune Protection Works

71,678.70

Elly Bay

Seawall Repairs & Dune Protection

102,231.41

County Galway

Auginish Island

Causeway Protection

50,789.52

Inishboffin

Protection Works to South facing Shore

126,973.81

Inishboffin

Erosion Study of South facing shore

37,807.76

Renvyle

Road Protection

63,486.90

Inishmore

Airstrip Protection

8,281.87

Ballyconnelly

Road Protection Works

114,276.43

Roundstone Pier

Study

36,822.40

County Louth

Annagassan

Phase 2 Protection Works

199,877.46

Salterstown

Protection Works

44,606.24

County Dublin

Bull Island

Study

85,174.03

County Wicklow

Bray

Phase 2 Coast Protection

863,564.76

Bray

Remedial Works/Extension of harbour wall

1,056,175.00

Bray

Coast Protection Scheme

26.70

County Wexford

Courtown

Revetment Works

115,866.24

Cullenstown

Revetment Works

914,150.47

Rosslare Strand

Study of Nth end of spit

69,332.75

Rosslare Strand

Maintenance

22,771.86

Rosslare Strand

Revetment Works

95,230.36

Rosslare Strand

New Scheme

251.71

County Waterford

Ballyvoile

Study of Road Protection Works

41,978.67

Tramore

Promenade Wall Strengthening

1,173,388.05

County Cork

Durris to Ahakista

Road Protection Works

88,419.48

Youghal

Preparation of Tender and Planning

25,394.76

Youghal

Sea Wall Repairs

38,092.14

County Kerry

R561 Dingle to Castlemaine

Revetment Works

2,772,860.11

County Clare

Quilty

Protection Scheme

98,420.14

Clahanes Liscannor

Concrete Wall

233,449.22

Rinvalla Bay

Road Protection Works

321,239.56

Aughinish Island

Causeway Protection Works

52,368.37

General

Wave Buoys

2,989.61

Aerial Survey Carnsore to Killiney

63,281.12

GIS Maintenance

2,384.52

Coastal Surveys 2001

10,240.44

GIS Maintenance & Development

33,284.28

2002 Coast Protection Programme

Location

Project

Total cost

Strandhill, County Sligo

Shoreline Protection

710,000

Mullaghmore, County Sligo

Road Protection

89,715

Keadew, Kincaslagh, County Donegal

Sea Wall

245,300

Maghery, Dungloe, County Donegal

Road Protection

109,774

Mountcharles, County Donegal

Road Protection

12,333

Kerrykeel, County Donegal

Road Protection

1,574

Carrickaroary, County Donegal

Repointing Existing Sea Wall

22,274

Drung, Quigley’s Point, County Donegal

Rock Armour

15,476

Lagg, Malin Head, County Donegal

Study of Coastal Processes

31,058

Inver, County Donegal

Protection Works

1,322

Inisboffin, County Galway

Protection Works to South Facing Shore

190,500

Salin to Silverstrand, County Galway

Study

106,441

Tawin Island, County Galway

Road Protection

71,885

Claggan Island, County Mayo

Repair Works

33,160

Bunnafolly, County Mayo

Protection Works

36,144

Lacken, County Mayo

Cliff/Road Study

30,000

Elly Bay, County Mayo

Installation of ECAB Units

198,144

Bellurgan, County Louth

Embankment Re-instatement

226,869

Louth Coastline

Survey of Coastline

10,091

Whitestown, County Louth

Rock Armour Protection

49,781

Blackrock, County Louth

Seawall Protection

43,317

Salterstown, County Louth

Repairs & Protection to Road Verge

524,823

Seapoint, County Louth

Dune Protection Works

100,000

Blackrock to Dundalk, County Louth

Study

48,400

Shelling Hill/Gyles Quay, County Louth

Protection Works

45,892

Carlingford Harbour, County Louth

Repairs

831

Annagassan Harbour, County Louth

Protection Works

34,758

Tramore, County Waterford

Promenade Refurbishment

304,260

Cunnigar, County Waterford

Rock Revetment

337,628

Rosslare Strand, County Wexford

Study of North End of Spit

152,580

Courtown, County Wexford

Design of Breakwater

178,414

Rosslare Strand, County Wexford

Revetment Works

103,795

Rosslare Strand, County Wexford

Maintenance

13,292

Cahore, County Wexford

Rock Groynes & Beach Nourishment

57,289

Ballyconnigar, County Wexford

Rock Revetment

29,000

Garretstown, County Cork

Road Protection Works

279,013

Durris to Ahakista, County Cork

Road Protection Works

180,239

Warren, County Cork

Beach Groynes

150,000

Youghal, County Cork

Planning Stage

50,000

Ballyheigue/Inch, County Kerry

Road Protection Works

552,325

Knightstown, County Kerry

Protection Works

50,475

Carrigaholt, County Clare

Protection Works

61,196

Shanganagh, County Dublin

Study

9,977

Bray, County Wicklow

Pier Repair Works

586,992

Dunlaoghaire, County Dublin

Vico Road Revetment

283,624

Portmarnock, County Dublin

Dune Protection Works

49,984

Coastal Study

Consultancy Study

2,955

Coastal Surveys

General Coastal & Project Related

4,212

GIS System

Customisation, Maintenance & Training

9,537

Wave Buoys

Maintenance & Deployment

7,391

Beach Monitoring

Monitoring of Nourished Beach, Bray

5,816

East Coast

Aerial Survey — Carnsore to Killiney

21,785

2003 Coast Protection Programme

Location

Project

Total cost

Elly Bay, County Mayo

Installation of ECAB Units

92,244

Devlin, County Mayo

Rock Armour, Retaining Wall

80,000

Bellurgan, County Louth

Embankment Reinstatement

7,648

Salterstown, County Louth

Repairs & Protection of Road Verge

120,000

Carlingford Harbour, County Louth

Damaged Navigational Light

3,004

Shore Road, Dundalk, County Louth

Sea Defence Embankment

78,000

Blackrock, County Louth

Rock Armour

54,540

Annagassan, County Louth

Protection Works

8,942

Cruisetown, County Louth

Extend coastal protection

80,984

Salterstown Pier, County Louth

Protection Works

30,037

Drung, Quigleys Pt., County Donegal

Road Protection Works

53,703.45

Meenacross, County Donegal

Rebuild Portion of Wall, Repoint Wall

20,000

Muckross, County Donegal

Rock Armour Revetment to Protect Public Road

80,000

Carrigaholt Castle, County Clare

Protection Works to National Monument

43,549

Cappagh, County Clare

Road Protection Works

99,600

Carrigaholt, County Clare

Reconstruction of Rock Revetment

29,004

Doonbeg, County Clare

Rock Armour

22,682

Liscannor, County Clare

Rock Armour

18,280.70

Rosslare Strand, County Wexford

Study

11,488

Rosslare Strand, County Wexford

Capital Works

19,054

Rosslare Strand, County Wexford

Maintenance

7,957

Rosslare, County Wexford

New Scheme

207

Cahore, Wexford

Rock Groynes, Beach Nourishment

57,715.22

Rosslare, County Wexford

Revetment Works

37,094.68

Ballyconnigar, County Wexford

Rock Revetment

29,652

Warren Strand, County Cork

Beach Groynes

160,000

Youghal, County Cork

Coastal Protection Phase, Prep Contract Docs

30,250

Warren Strand, County Cork

Complete Phase 2 Groyne

55,497.74

Tramore, County Waterford

Promenade Refurbishment

23,429.73

Cunnigar, County Waterford

Balance of 2001 Grant

1,339

Dublin City Council, Dublin

Risk Assessment Study

484,890

Ballyheigue, County Kerry

Road Protection Works

200,000

Ballyheigue, County Kerry

Complete Phase 1

300,000

Ventry, County Kerry

Coastal Protection Works

29,047.31

Kenmare, County Kerry

Sea Wall

15,026.36

Brittas Bay, County Wicklow

Update Study, Extension of Scheme

49,802.39

Burrow, Portrane, Fingal

Repairs to Embankment, etc.

10,000

Portmarnock to Malahide Fingal

Repairs to Coastal Walkway

5,000

Coast Protection Strategy Study

370,471

GIS System

Maintenance and Customisation

26,726

Bray

Beach Monitoring

4,646

Basic Research Tide Gauge

Review Statistical Analyses

19,800

Coast Protection Programme 2004

Location

Project

Total cost

Louth

Bellurgan

Erosion (Road)

10,968.45

Annagassan, Strand Road

Concrete undepinning and rock armour

149,998.85

Salterstown

County road erosion to road edge

70,450.00

Drogheda

Erosion of R167

38,648.00

Cooley (Whitetown/Ballagan)

Replacement of rock armour

58,498.00

Meath

Laytown

Laytown Study

40,000.00

Galway

Inisboffin

Emergency work

193,243.82

Kerry

Kilfinora

Revetment works

156,389.99

Baile an Ruinnaig, Burial Place

Provision of rock armour

117,453.77

Dublin

Dún Laoghaire Rathdown CC

Coastal Survey

25,652.00

Corbawn Lane

Contract documents etc;

41,140.00

Cork

Warren

Coast protection works

190,437.89

Youghal

Phase 1

505,945.17

Waterford

Helvic

Emergency works and diving survey

94,537.01

Wexford

Courtown

Design of breakwater etc;

490,938.77

Curracloe

Dune protection

41,374.56

Rosslare Maintenance

Beach and Compound Maintenance work

83,198.63

Wicklow

Greystones

Site Investigation

70,000.00

General

Coastal Protection Strategy Study

174,220.62

GIS System

Maintenance and Custimisation

31,389.95

Wave Buoy

Maintenance and Deployment

45,188.39

Beach Monitoring

Monitoring of Nourished Beach at Bray

16,992.27

Basic Research Tide Gauge

Installation of gauge for monitoring mean sea level

11,335.64

Coastal Video Survey

Video Survey of National Coastline

30,991.50

2005 Coast Protection Programme

Location

Project

Total cost

Donegal

Curransport, Meenlaragh

Protection works

70,000.00

Gweebarra Bends

Protection to Sea Wall

40,000.00

Inver Village

Extension to protection wall

70,000.00

Lagg

Beach Protection works

60,000.00

Moville

Green amenity area and path

6,000.00

Rosbeg

Protection works

20,000.00

Rye, Rathmullen

Protection works

140,000.00

Aranmore

Protection works

85,000.00

Maghery

Protection works

100,000.00

Muckross

Protection works

25,000.00

Louth

Annagassan

Strand Road

37,836.36

Salterstown

Road Protection works

64,258.00

Port Beach

Study

15,004.00

Mayo

Bertra Beach, Westport

Protection Works

100,000.00

Sligo

Mullaghmore

Dune Management Scheme

15,121.00

Rathlee

Coast Protection Works

41,803.55

Galway

Innishboffin

Road protection Works, Design, Tenders, etc;

232,930.55

Innishboffin

Road Protection Works

200,000.00

Cork

Gyleen

Village Protection Works

198,071.87

Youghal

Phase 1 completion

310,523.33

Clare

Ross/Kilbaha

Rock gabions & Rock revetment

118,650.00

Carrigaholt

Road Protection Works

72,310.00

Kerry

Killelan Caherciveen

Road Protection Works

20,000.00

Baile an Rannaig

Provision of rock armour

2,625.17

Reen Ballinskelligs

Protection works

20,000.00

Maherees

Road Protection Works

99,761.97

Kilfenora

Revetment Works

28,133.49

Dublin City Council

Merrion Gates

Provide banking/ramping to seal opening

48,514.79

Clontarf Promenade

Flood Defences Detailed Design

40,293.00

Spencer Dock

Sea Surge Defence Barrier

161,192.21

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

Killiney

Repairs to Beach Gabions

145,700.00

Corbawn/Shankill

Repairs to Beach Access

39,930.00

Waterford

Bunmahon

Protection Works/Scheme Design

23,769.69

Cunnigar, Dungarvan

Protection Scheme/Design

92,658.10

Wexford

Cahore

Continuation of Revetment works

22,155.82

Kilpatrick

Soft engineering Works to Beach

20,361.90

Rosslare

Soft Engineering Works to Beach

13,491.85

Wicklow

Arklow

South Beach

59,141.53

Bray to Greystones

Cliff path works

92,887.00

Bray

Promenade flood prevention wall at Bray

74,000.00

General

Coastal Protection

Strategy Study

132,816.27

GIS System

Customisation, maintenance and training

18,929.16

Wave Buoys

Maintenance and Deployment

8,556.06

Beach Monitoring

Monitoring of nourished beach at Bray, County Wicklow

4,646.40

Tide Gauge

Installation of gauge for monitoring mean sea level

19,723.00

Detailed survey of selected coastal areas

41,881.85

Rosslare

Maintenance

14,832.08

Decentralisation Programme.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

259 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of civil servants who have requested a place in Cavan under the decentralisation programme; if that number includes transfers from the Department of Agriculture and Food offices in Cavan; if so, the number of transfers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23529/06]

A total of 153 civil servants expressed a first place priority Central Applications Facility (CAF) application to decentralise with my Department to Cavan. Included in this figure are 19 first preference priority CAF applicants from civil servants working in the Department of Agriculture and Food's offices in Cavan.

Telecommunications Services.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

260 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if, in view of the indications of continuing significant levels of consumer dissatisfaction with Internet service providers levels of service and the conclusion of his Department in its January 2006 discussion paper, Broadband Demand, he will consider consumer rights legislation specific to the telecommunications and broadband sector empowering and giving rights to consumers in view of the prevalence of dominance and the absence of competition in the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23530/06]

I have no plans for consumer legislation specific to the telecoms area and have no function in this area. The area of consumer protection falls within the remit of my colleague the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs.

In addition, the Deputy may be aware that the objectives of the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg, in relation to the provision of electronic communications networks, electronic communications services and associated facilities, include both the promotion of competition and the promotion of the interests of users within the European Communities. ComReg is independent in the exercise of its functions.

Fisheries Protection.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

261 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the stage of development and future plans during 2006 and 2007 for the EU Fisheries Central Centre at Vigo, Spain; the relationship of this centre with the Irish fisheries control authorities in Haulbowline, the Navy and the proposed new Irish Fisheries Protection Authority. [23562/06]

The Community Fisheries Control Agency (CFCA) was established by Council Regulation No. 768/2005 of 26 April 2005. The CFCA will coordinate fisheries control and inspection activities by Member States through the establishment of Joint Deployment Plans agreed in consultation with the Member States concerned, where a specific monitoring programme has been agreed at EU level and on the basis of control resources made available to it by Member States. The Member States remain responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The establishment of the Irish Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority will not change the relationship between the Irish control authorities and the CFCA.

Since then, Council Regulation work has been progressing on the development of the CFCA. An administrative board has been established comprising representatives of the Commission and of each Member State and the candidate countries of Romania and Bulgaria. At a meeting of the administrative board in Vigo last week, Mr. Harm Koster was appointed as Executive Director of the CFCA. Implementing rules under the CFP governing inspections and the reporting of infringements were agreed in May 2006. The CFCA is to commence its operations in Brussels before moving to Vigo in early 2008.

Harbours and Piers.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

262 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the capital investment by the State in fishery harbours here under the port infrastructure improvement programme for each of the years 2000 to date in 2006. [23563/06]

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. Expenditure details for the years 2000-2005 are set out in the table. Funding of €22.5 million is available for the Fishery Harbours Development Programme in 2006, which is now fully allocated.

Port Infrastructure Improvement Programme Expenditure 2000-2005

Year

DCMNR

Local Authority

Total

€ Million

€ Million

€ Million

2000

12.719

0.639

13.358

2001

12.912

1.468

14.380

2002

27.508

2.408

29.916

2003

29.163

0.631

29.794

2004

13.517

0.434

13.951

2005

17.048

1.887

18.935

Totals

112.867

7.467

120.334

Marine Research.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

263 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the key targets, components and sources of funding for the Marine Research and Innovation Strategy for 2007 to 2013. [23564/06]

The Marine Institute has recently completed a draft Marine Knowledge, Research and Innovation Strategy for Ireland for the period 2007-2013. The strategy is designed to underpin the development of the marine sector for the coming years and aims to ensure that Ireland fully maximises the economic, social and environmental contribution of its marine resources.

It is my intention to bring the report to Government in the near future and to have it published as soon as possible thereafter. As the Deputy will appreciate, until such time as the report is presented to Government, I am not in a position to comment further.

Aquaculture Industry.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

264 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his investment and product targets and plans for the development of the aquaculture industry here during the period of the next National Development Plan to 2013; his targets for production of fish in tonnes; his views on the key species which should be developed; the levels of employment which may be obtained; and his further plans for protection of the environment as the industry develops. [23569/06]

The central strategic goal of the new NDP 2007- 2013 must be to ensure the long term economic, social and environmental sustainability of the seafood industry as a whole, thus maintaining the value of its activity to the coastal and rural communities who rely upon it, and to the economy as a whole.

With regard to future priorities for aquaculture under the NDP 2007- 2013, given that Ireland is no longer a low cost economy, constant improvement in efficiency is required of this sector for it to remain competitive. Key to achieving this will be the application of technological innovation to further develop environmentally sustainable techniques, including organic farming, and achieve successful diversification into new species, while ensuring the highest international quality standards are met.

Detailed priorities for aquaculture will be defined as part of the development of the overall programme for investment in the seafood sector under the new NDP, taking into account the final form of the European Fisheries Fund, which was agreed at the EU Fisheries Council on 19 June. In order to inform this process, I have proposed 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.

Fisheries Protection.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

265 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the situation with regard to the establishment of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority; the expected cost of the Authority in 2006 and 2007; the personnel numbers and skills of the Authority; the maritime and other resources of the Authority; the proposed location of the Authority; and if should be based in a national fisheries harbour. [23570/06]

The establishment of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority is provided for in the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006. In accordance with the legislation existing staff in my Department assigned to the Seafood Control Division will transfer to the new authority. In addition sanction is in place for 45 additional posts and a significant recruitment drive is taking place at present. The Authority will be located in Clonakilty, County Cork, as will the seafood functions of my Department which are relocating there as part of the Government's decentralisation plans. The budget for the new Authority has yet to be settled.

International Agreements.

John Gormley

Question:

266 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if it is intended to allow Irish fishing boats to fish in the waters of Western Sahara following the agreement between the EU and Morocco despite the fact that the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara has been found to be illegal by the International Court of Justice. [23588/06]

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.

At the Fisheries Council in May 2006 which ratified the agreement, Ireland made the following statement to the Council setting down its position on the Fisheries agreement in relation to the Western Sahara situation: 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. Under the terms of the Regulation, Ireland was allocated 2,500 tonnes of pelagic fish per annum. The conditions in place for Irish fishing boats will be the same as will apply to all EU fishing boats under the terms of the agreement.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

267 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on including small wind turbines which are used for home water heating in the Sustainable Energy Ireland’s greener homes grant programme in view of the fact that wind is one of our best renewable energy resources and that there are no issues about grid connection as small wind turbines are directly connected to a water heater; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23798/06]

I have asked Sustainable Energy Ireland to examine the issue of small wind turbines that are directly connected to water heaters in the overall context of the Greener Homes Scheme.

Telecommunications Services.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

268 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the announcement in Northern Ireland that full broadband access will be made available to rural and remote communities in the immediate term; and if he will make a statement on the roll-out of broadband in this jurisdiction. [23839/06]

The telecommunications sectors in both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland are fully liberalised but regulated, by ComReg in the Republic and by OFCOM in Northern Ireland. While private sector broadband infrastructure is currently more extensive in Northern Ireland and the percentage of broadband subscribers is higher, the gap continues to narrow. My Department and Northern Ireland's Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment are jointly implementing the €7.5 million, EU supported, INTERREG IIIa initiative, which is funding a number of projects to improve broadband connectivity in border areas.

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.

Harbours and Piers.

Joe Walsh

Question:

269 Mr. Walsh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will approve a grant towards improvement works to a pier (details supplied) in County Cork. [23857/06]

Garnish Pier is owned by Cork County Council and responsibility for its repair and maintenance rests with the local authority in the first instance. Cork County Council submitted a proposal to the Department of Communications Marine and Natural Resources for works at Garnish Pier at an estimated cost of €750,000. Last year, under the Small Fishery Harbours Programme, the Department allocated funding of €45,000 to Cork County Council towards pier improvement works at Garnish Pier costing a total of €60,000.

Garnish Pier is in an area coming within the scope of the CLÁR Programme. However, the current project cannot be considered for funding under the coastal development measure of that Programme, which is co-funded between the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and this Department. One of the criteria for grant aid under this scheme is that only projects costing up to a maximum of €200,000 per project are funded.

There was no funding available from the Department of Communications Marine and Natural Resources in 2006 for this project. The question of providing funding in the post 2006 period will be considered in the context of the amount of the funding available for works at fishery harbours generally and overall national priorities.

Fisheries Protection.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

270 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his proposals in regard to the national eel fishery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23925/06]

Scientific advice indicates that the eel stock is highly depleted, not only in Ireland but worldwide. Indeed the entire European stock of eel is so seriously depleted that the EU Commission is proposing to introduce a regulation designed to assist in stock recovery. I understand that the life cycle of the eel is such that stock recovery will take several years. The EU regulation, as drafted, will require the preparation of management plans for the recovery of eels in river basin districts as defined under the water framework directive. The Commission proposal also includes emergency measures to be applied, which currently include at least a 50% reduction in exploitation.

The key objective of each management plan will be to allow a minimum of 40% escapement, as would apply in pristine conditions, of adult eel from rivers to the sea to allow for spawning. The plan will set out the mechanisms by which this objective will be achieved and the methods to be employed to monitor their implementation. The Commission has proposed that under the current timescale, plans should be submitted by the end of 2006 and operational, subject to approval in the scientific, technical and economic committee for fisheries, by July 2007.

The methods of application and extent of the prohibition on fishing effort is the subject of on-going debate among member states. In the meantime, the options for implementation of the draft regulation are under consideration by a national working group of officials, even while clarification from the Commission on technical matters is awaited. The fisheries boards will communicate with the industry and keep it informed .

Human Rights Issues.

Finian McGrath

Question:

271 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will request the Government of Burma to work with the UN Secretary General in implementing a plan for national reconciliation; if he will further request the UN Secretary General to remain involved in the reconciliation process and to report back to the Council on a regular basis;if he will urge the Government of Burma to ensure immediate, safe and unhindered access to all parts of the country for the United Nations and international humanitarian organisations to provide humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable groups of the population, including internally displaced people; if he will call for the immediate and unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners in Burma; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23302/06]

Ireland takes a consistently strong position on Burma, including in the European Union framework and at the United Nations. Together with our EU partners, we avail of all opportunities to condemn the abuse of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Burma and deplore the lack of progress towards democracy.

The recent visit by Mr. Gambari, the UN Under-Secretary-General, to Burma from 18-20 May, was the first high-level visit to that country by a UN representative in more than two years. I welcome the fact that he was able to meet with the most senior Burmese leaders as well as with Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of her party, the National League for Democracy, during the visit. I also welcome the agreement by the Burmese government that the UN should play a role in promoting common ground between the government and the National League for Democracy so that the National Convention, which is due to resume its work in October, can proceed in a more inclusive way. I would appeal to the Burmese authorities to live up to their undertakings in this regard.

While welcoming the above developments, I remain very concerned about the situation. On 26 May, the EU issued a statement which noted with deep concern that the process of democratisation in Burma had recently suffered a worrying setback as the Burmese government stepped up its pressure against ethnic groups and the two main political parties. The statement noted that these actions contradict the professed intention to establish a genuine democratic nation. The statement also urged the Burmese government to accelerate the democratisation process, a process which should engage all political and ethnic forces in the country in a genuine dialogue and lead to the speedy completion of a constitution under civilian rule, which commands popular support and promotes peaceful and sustainable development.

I remain deeply concerned that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained continuously for three years without charge and, once more, urge the Burmese government to restore fully her freedom and civil liberties. UN USG Gambari's visit generated high hopes that her detention under house arrest, which was up for renewal a few days after he left Burma, might not be renewed by the authorities. This did not happen. On 27 May, the EU issued a further statement which deeply regretted the decision of the Burmese government to extend the house arrest of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and deplored the fact that international appeals, including that of the EU, had once again gone unheard. It said that this decision will be seen as yet another sign that the Burmese government is unwilling to compromise and move in the direction of an all-inclusive democracy.

I will continue to raise concerns about Burma on all possible occasions and to call on the Burmese government to assume its responsibilities towards its people and to allow the fullest possible UN involvement in a genuine process of democratisation and reconciliation. I am also strongly supportive of the fullest possible involvement by the UN Secretary-General, and his representatives, in working with the Burmese authorities on a genuine process of democratisation and reconciliation and in responding to the humanitarian needs of the long-suffering Burmese people.

Finian McGrath

Question:

272 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will raise the issue of the deaths at Guantánamo Detention Centre and challenge the US on their outbursts on these deaths. [23326/06]

The Government regrets the recent deaths at Guantánamo Bay. While the full circumstances surrounding the deaths remain unclear the fact that three detainees committed suicide is deeply troubling. I welcome the fact that the US government has promised a full review of procedures at the camp and that it has been agreed that the International Committee of the Red Cross may shortly undertake another visit to the camp.

The Government has raised the issue of the detainees in Guantánamo Bay with the US Authorities on numerous occasions and we have always made it clear that we believe that those detained in Guantánamo must be treated in accordance with the requirements of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. This position is shared by the EU as a whole and at the meeting of EU Foreign Ministers that I attended in Luxembourg on 12 June, there was general consensus that Guantánamo should be closed as soon as possible. This is also the view of the UN Secretary General.

As I have said previously, I fully endorse the UN Secretary General's view that those held in Guantánamo Bay should either be charged or released, and that the US should close this facility.

Foreign Conflicts.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

273 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the contacts he has had with the new Government of Iraq; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23379/06]

The new Iraqi national unity Government was approved by Parliament on 20 May 2006, and the outstanding positions of Defence, the Interior and National Security were filled on 8 June. Iraq now has a sovereign and democratic Parliament and Government, mandated for four years. This is a very significant step in the rebuilding of a democratic Iraq following years of brutal dictatorship.

In order to underline the strong support of the European Union for the new Government, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari was invited to meet with EU Foreign Ministers, including myself, during the General Affairs and External Relations Council in Luxembourg on 12 June. We had a good exchange of views on the situation in Iraq and on the prospects for the development of a new relationship between Iraq and the EU. The European Council, on 16 June, emphasised the readiness of the EU to renew its engagement with the Government and people of Iraq and looked forward to rapid and early political dialogue with the new Government.

The Government and our EU partners recognise the serious challenges facing the new national unity Government, and are committed to assisting it in its efforts to build security and prosperity for the Iraqi people. Our assistance will be based on the priorities established by the Iraqi Government. The recent opening of an office of the European Commission in Baghdad will enhance this cooperation.

Since 2003, the EU has provided over €700 million in Community support for the reconstruction of Iraq. In the coming year, the Union's contribution will include support for the national reconciliation and constitutional review process, in close cooperation with the UN. The EU will also continue its efforts to promote the rule of law and respect for human rights, including through the Integrated Rule of Law Mission for Iraq. I also expect that the EU will be in a position to launch the negotiation of a Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the new Iraqi Government in the near future.

Emigrant Support Services.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

274 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the details of recent initiatives in respect of the Irish Abroad Initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23380/06]

Maintaining and strengthening links with Irish communities abroad is a key priority of my Department. Officials in our diplomatic missions and in the Irish Abroad Unit are very active in this regard and work closely with Irish community organisations across a wide range of issues.

The Government's firm commitment to enhance support for our communities abroad is reflected in the very substantial level of funding now available for emigrant services. This year, the unprecedented amount of €12 million has been secured for this purpose. This amount follows on other large increases in recent years, so that funding is now 12 times the sum that was available when this Government came to office in 1997.

While the primary emphasis of Government funding continues to be to support frontline welfare services, I am pleased that the additional funding has also made it possible to support a number of capital projects as well as initiatives which foster a greater sense of community.

Supporting the Irish community in Britain, in particular our older emigrants and those at risk of social exclusion, is an area of great importance. In recognition of this, I expect that some 80% of this year's overall allocation will be disbursed to groups there. Grant applications are currently under consideration and I look forward to making an announcement shortly.

Another priority area is that of the undocumented Irish in the United States. Over the St. Patrick's Day period, the Taoiseach and I availed fully of our valuable meetings with President Bush and Members of Congress to make known our strong support for measures that would enable the undocumented to regularise their status. I returned to Washington DC on 24 May to meet again with key legislators so as to reiterate the importance that we attach to this issue. The Ambassador and our officials in the US continue to raise the Government's views in their on-going contacts with key figures.

During my visit to Washington in May, I was happy to meet again with representatives of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR). This group is proving most effective and the Government has been happy to provide it with financial support. I also greatly appreciate the important work of the Irish welfare and advisory organisations in the US which assist our community there.

While most funding is directed to organisations abroad, I was happy to provide financial support recently totalling €200,000 to three organisations based in Ireland that are engaged in activities of benefit to Irish people abroad. The organisations in question are Emigrant Advice, the Safe Home Programme and the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas.

Another positive development has been the recent decision of the Government to widen the eligibility criteria of the Centenarian Bounty scheme such that all Irish citizens born in the island of Ireland who have reached 100 years of age, wherever they may reside, are now eligible to apply for the Bounty.

Diplomatic Representation.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

275 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his contacts with the Democratic Republic of Congo particularly in respect of the forthcoming elections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23381/06]

Presidential and parliamentary elections are now scheduled to take place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on 30 July 2006. These will be the first multi-party elections in the DRC in over 40 years. A total of 33 candidates will contest the presidency while some 260 political parties and over 9,300 candidates will compete for the 500 legislative seats in the new parliament. Over 25 million people out of an estimated potential electorate of 28 million have registered to vote.

Successfully conducted elections are absolutely critical to the consolidation of peace and security in the DRC and in the Great Lakes Region as a whole. The international community, including Ireland and its EU partners, is investing heavily in ensuring that the forthcoming elections are successful, given the major organisational challenge they represent for a country the size of western Europe with extremely poor basic infrastructure and ongoing security problems. The EU and its Member States alone are contributing some €235 million towards the overall cost of the elections which are estimated at well over $300 million. The EU will also deploy a 250-strong electoral observation mission to monitor the elections.

Nationally, Ireland is also actively supporting the electoral process in the DRC. I was pleased to announce an initial contribution of €500,000 to the UNDP Trust Fund established to meet the costs of the elections, following my meeting last September with the Foreign Minister of the DRC, Mr. Raymond Ramazani Baya, en marge of the UN General Assembly. A further contribution of €800,000 was announced by my Department last month in support of the South African Independent Electoral Commission which is assisting in the logistical organisation and oversight of the elections. The Government has also decided to provide up to ten Permanent Defence Force personnel to serve with the EUFOR RDC mission which the EU is deploying, at UN request, to provide support, if required, to the UN MONUC peace-keeping mission during the electoral period. Ireland also provides three members of the PDF who serve with MONUC while the Government has also contributed over €11 million for emergency and recovery activities in the DRC since 2002, almost €5 million of which has been provided to date in 2006.

Ireland's diplomatic relations with the DRC are handled through our Embassy in South Africa. Officers from the Embassy visit and regularly report on political developments in the DRC, including election preparations and the difficult security situation in eastern DRC, as well as the important role being played by South Africa in support of successful completion of the transition process in the DRC. My Department also maintains regular contact with representatives of the Congolese community based in Ireland.

Visa Applications.

Michael Lowry

Question:

276 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of visas issued to Belorussian nationals each year since 1986. [23416/06]

Belarus became independent only in 1991 and for some years after that its citizens travelled using USSR passports. Ireland has no representation in Belarus, but the Embassy in Moscow is accredited to that country. The vast majority of visas for Belorussian citizens are, as a result, issued by our Moscow Embassy. Figures for the numbers of visas issued to Belorussian citizens by the Embassy in Moscow are available only from 2003. Following are the available statistics: Visas Issued by the Embassy in Moscow for Belorussian citizens:

740 visas were approved in 2003

322 in 2004

427 in 2005

1,201 in 2006 (up to 31 May).

As a child protection measure, the visa-free status of children who are victims of the Chernobyl disaster was recently lifted and this accounts for the large rise in the numbers issued by the Embassy in Moscow in 2006. In addition to the above, some 89 visas were issued in 2005 by the Visa Office in Dublin for Belorussian citizens, and 56 up to 31 May this year.

Emigrant Support Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

277 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the sums committed and those transferred directly or drawn down in each of the years 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006 and projected to year end for emigrant support projects in Britain; the location of each recipient group and their stated programme of work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23533/06]

Supporting the Irish community in Britain, in particular the more vulnerable members of our community there, is a key priority for the Government. In view of this, most of the Government's emigrant services funding is directed to organisations in Britain that are engaged in a wide range of activities of benefit to our community there.

In 2004, the initial allocation to groups in Britain was €3.57 million. However, during that year additional resources were secured for emigrant services and the final amount distributed to groups in Britain reached €4.33 million. Details of the grants approved and paid out in that year are set out in the table.

In 2005, a further substantial increase in funding for emigrant services was secured. I was happy to approve grants to groups in Britain totalling €7.06 million, an increase of 63% on the previous year. Details of these grant payments are also set out. While the primary area of funding was to support frontline welfare services, additional funding made it possible to also support a number of projects which assist our community in Britain in their wish to maintain and to develop Irish community networks.

This year, €12 million is available for emigrant services worldwide. This figure represents an increase of 45% on 2005 and is twelve-times greater than the 1997 allocation. I expect that some 80% of this will be disbursed in grants to groups in Britain during the course of the year. Grant applications are currently under consideration and I look forward to making an announcement shortly.

2004 Grants to support services for Irish emigrants in Britain

Location

Activities of organisation

Acton Homeless Concern, North London

67,560

London

Welfare

Age Concern Ealing

51,600

London

Welfare

Age Concern Hackney Borough

26,160

London

Welfare

Aisling Return to Ireland Project

49,980

London

Welfare

Arlington Action Group

36,420

London

Welfare

Birmingham Irish Community Forum

40,500

Birmingham

Welfare

Blackfriars Advice Centre

47,580

London

Welfare

Brent Irish Advisory Service

120,000

London

Welfare

Broadway — Day Centre & Night Shelter London

44,800

London

Welfare

Cairde na nGael — Newham & District Friends of Ireland

61,920

London

Welfare

Camden Elderly Irish Networks

66,660

London

Welfare

CARA Irish Housing Association

27,120

London

Welfare

Coventry Irish Society

93,240

Coventry

Welfare

Cricklewood Homeless Concern

215,560

London

Welfare

Federated Irish Association, Nottingham & Notts (FIANN)

43,680

Nottingham

Community Networks & Heritage/Cultural

Federation of Irish Societies

403,080

London

2nd Tier organisation (supports frontline services)

Finsbury Park Street Drinkers Initiative

39,600

London

Welfare

GAA London Schools Project

38,400

London

Sport

Gloucester Emergency Accommodation Resource

15,600

Gloucester

Welfare

Haringey Irish Cultural &Community Care Centre

99,420

London

Welfare

Immigrant Counselling & Psychotherapy (ICAP)

110,400

London

Welfare

Irish Centre Housing / Job Powerhouse

39,120

London

Welfare

Irish Charitable Trust/ ISAS Hammersmith

124,000

London

Welfare

Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas

132,000

London

Welfare

Irish Community Care Manchester

128,320

Manchester

Welfare

Irish Community Care Merseyside

130,620

Liverpool

Welfare

Irish Democratic League clubs Lancashire and Yorkshire

45,000

Lancashire and Yorkshire

Community Networks & Heritage/Cultural

Irish in Greenwich Project

111,120

London

Welfare

Irish Travellers Movement

56,580

London

Welfare

Irish Welfare and Information Centre Birmingham

181,620

Birmingham

Welfare

Kilburn Irish Pensioners Club

3,600

London

Welfare

Leeds Irish Health and Homes

100,440

Leeds

Welfare

Leicester Irish Forum

25,200

Leicester

Welfare

Lewisham Irish Community Centre

35,640

London

Welfare & Heritage/Cultural

London Gypsy and Traveller Unit

77,400

London

Welfare

London Irish Centre Charity Camden

291,580

London

Welfare & Heritage/Cultural

London Irish Elders Forum

50,400

London

Welfare

London Irish Women’s Centre

104,760

London

Welfare

Luton Irish Forum

42,180

Luton

Welfare

New Horizon Youth Centre

38,400

London

Welfare

NOAH Enterprise (Luton Day Centre for the Homeless)

67,320

Luton

Welfare

Northampton Irish Support Group

49,980

Northampton

Welfare

RehabCare, Coventry

65,760

Coventry

Welfare

Safe Home Programme Ltd. (Based in Ireland. Grant in respect of services to emigrants resident in Britain)

132,000

Ireland

Welfare

Safe Start Foundation

46,260

London

Welfare

Sandwell Irish Society, West Midlands

42,360

West Bromwich West Midlands

Welfare & Heritage/Cultural

Sheffield Gypsy and Traveller Support Group

22,080

Sheffield

Welfare

Sheffield Irish Peoples’ Support & Development Group

53,280

Sheffield

Welfare & Heritage/Cultural

South London Irish Welfare Society, Wimbledon

82,860

London

Welfare

Southwark Irish Pensioners Project

79,680

London

Welfare

Southwark Travellers’ Action Group (STAG)

70,500

London

Welfare

St. Mungo’s Housing Association

34,500

London

Welfare

Tara Irish Pensioners Club

3,600

London

Welfare

The Connection at St. Martin’s

28,440

London

Welfare

The Emerald Circle, Harrow

3,600

London

Welfare

The Maya Centre

21,840

London

Welfare

The Passage

55,210

London

Welfare

The Simon Community

56,890

London

Welfare

2005 Grants to support services for Irish emigrants in Britain

Location

Activities of organisation

Acton Homeless Concern

55,128

London

Welfare

Age Concern Ealing

50,776

London

Welfare

Aisling Return to Ireland

87,045

London

Welfare

Angel Drug Service

40,621

London

Welfare

Arlington House

7,330

London

Welfare

Batley Irish Democratic League Club

14,507

Batley, Yorkshire

Community Networks & Heritage/Cultural

Birmingham Irish Club

53,833

Birmingham

Community Networks & Heritage/Cultural

Birmingham Irish Community Forum Ltd.

87,045

Birmingham

Welfare & Heritage/Cultural

Blackfriars Advice Centre

54,403

London

Welfare

Bolton Irish Community Association

53,678

Bolton

Community Networks & Heritage/Cultural

Brent Adolescent Centre

14,660

London

Welfare

Brent Irish Advisory Service (BIAS)

130,643

London

Welfare

Brian Boru Irish Democratic League

29,015

Wigan

Community Networks & Heritage/Cultural

Broadway Homelessness & Support

36,269

London

Welfare

Cairde na nGael

50,776

London

Welfare

Camden Elderly Irish Networks

63,989

London

Welfare

Cara

28,044

London

Welfare

Celtic & Irish Cultural Society

7,254

Crawley West Sussex

Heritage/Cultural

Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann

79,791

London

Heritage/Cultural

Conradh na Gaeilge

29,015

Glasgow

Heritage/Cultural

Coventry Irish Society

117,672

Coventry

Welfare

Cricklewood Homeless Concern

305,492

London

Welfare

Croy Historical Society

1,451

Glasgow

Heritage/Cultural

Cumann na mBunscoil

43,522

London

Heritage/Cultural

Dundee Dalriada GAA

7,330

Dundee Scotland

Sport

Equinox Care

14,507

London

Welfare

Federation of Irish Societies

870,448

London (with regional staff)

2nd Tier organisation (supports frontline services)

Feis Ghlaschú

2,932

Glasgow

Heritage/Cultural

Fiann

39,170

Nottingham

Community Networks & Heritage/Cultural

Finsbury Park Street Drinkers Initiative

36,269

London

Welfare

Fireside Day Centre

47,225

Birmingham

Welfare

GEAR Projects

29,015

Gloucester

Welfare

Greenwich Irish Pensioners

2,932

London

Welfare

Halifax Irish Amateur F.C.

1,451

Halifax, Yorkshire

Sport

Halifax Irish Amateur Rugby League Club

1,451

Halifax, Yorkshire

Sport

Halifax Irish Centre

10,155

Halifax, Yorkshire

Community Networks & Heritage/Cultural

Halifax Irish Junior FC

1,451

Halifax, Yorkshire

Sport

Halifax Irish Society

7,254

Halifax, Yorkshire

Heritage/Cultural

Hammersmith Irish Centre

36,269

London

Heritage/Cultural

Haringey Irish Cultural & Community Centre

217,612

London

Welfare & Heritage/Cultural

Haringey Irish Pensioners

4,398

London

Welfare

Harrow Emerald Circle

2,932

London

Welfare

Hillingdon Borough Irish Society

59,481

London

Welfare

Huddersfield Irish Centre

14,507

Huddersfield

Welfare

Immigrant Counselling & Psychotherapy (ICAP)

142,355

London

Welfare

Irish Association High Wycombe

14,507

High Wycombe Bucks.

Welfare

Irish Centre Housing

21,761

London

Welfare

Irish Chaplaincy in Britain

4,000

London

Welfare

Irish Chaplaincy Traveller Outreach

58,258

London

Welfare

Irish Charitable Trust, Hammersmith

90,022

London

Welfare

Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas

151,040

London

Welfare

Irish Community Care Manchester

184,245

Manchester

Welfare

Irish Community Care Merseyside

188,597

Liverpool

Welfare

Irish Democratic League - Haslingden Davitt Branch

93,058

Haslingden

Community Networks & Heritage/Cultural

Irish Diaspora Foundation

47,875

Manchester

Heritage/Cultural

Irish Heritage in Haslingden

5,658

Haslingden

Heritage/Cultural

Irish In Greenwich

137,972

London

Welfare

Irish Music Project Leeds

29,015

Leeds

Heritage/Cultural

Irish National Institute

14,507

Ashton under Lyne Lancashire

Community Networks & Heritage/Cultural

Irish Travellers Movement in Britain

60,048

London

Welfare

Irish Welfare and Information Centre, Birmingham

174,595

Birmingham

Welfare

Irish World Heritage Centre

14,507

Manchester

Heritage/Cultural

Kilburn Irish Pensioners Club

4,352

London

Welfare

Kingdom Kerry Gaels

7,330

London

Sport

Lancashire Federation of the Irish Democratic League

21,822

Nelson & Bolton Lancashire

Community Networks & Heritage/Cultural

Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange (GATE)

52,328

Leeds

Welfare

Leeds Irish Health & Homes

180,805

Leeds

Welfare

Leicester Irish Forum

35,906

Leicester

Welfare

Lewisham Irish Community Centre

53,678

London

Welfare

Lichen Films -Tattie Hokers’ film

10,262

Edinburgh

Heritage/Cultural

London Gypsy and Traveller Unit

111,435

London

Welfare

London Irish Centre

399,930

London

Welfare & Heritage/Cultural

London Irish Elder’s Forum

17,825

London

Welfare

London Irish Pensioners Choir

1,466

London

Welfare

London Irish Women’s Centre

101,552

London

Welfare

Luton Irish Forum

295,970

Luton

Welfare

Manchester Irish Festival

21,761

Manchester

Cultural

Marian Senior Citizens Club

7,254

London

Welfare

New Horizon Youth Centre

47,951

London

Welfare

Noah Enterprise

84,786

Luton

Welfare

Northampton Irish Support Group

82,693

Northampton

Welfare

Oldham Irish Society

7,254

Oldham

Community Networks & Heritage/Cultural

Pendle and District Irish Society

1,451

Nelson Lancashire

Heritage/Cultural

Queens Park Senior Citizens Group

4,398

London

Welfare

Rehab Irish Elders Centre Coventry

101,552

Coventry

Welfare

Round Towers and Treacy Minor GAA

9,865

North Cheam Surrey

Sport

Safe Home Programme Limited (Based in Ireland. Grant in respect of services to emigrants resident in Britain)

124,743

Mulranny

Welfare

Safe Start Foundation

72,537

London

Welfare

Sandwell Irish Society

20,501

West Bromwich West Midlands

Welfare

Shalloe Pearses GFC

7,330

London

Sport

Sheffield Gypsy & Traveller Support Group

21,625

Sheffield

Welfare

Sheffield Support & Development Group

90,763

Sheffield

Welfare & Heritage/Cultural

South London Irish Association

29,091

London

Welfare

South London Irish Welfare Society

89,946

London

Welfare

Southwark Irish Pensioners

83,135

London

Welfare

Southwark Irish Youth

4,352

London

Welfare

Southwark Travellers Action Group (STAG)

87,045

London

Welfare

St. Anne’s Senior Citizens Club

2,932

Birmingham

Welfare

St. James The Great Branch Comhaltas

5,803

Glasgow

Heritage/Cultural

St. Mary’s Social Club & Parochial Hall

14,507

Batley West Yorkshire

Community Networks & Heritage/Cultural

St. Michael’s Irish Centre, Liverpool

42,264

Liverpool

Welfare & Heritage/Cultural

St. Mungo’s

45,535

London

Welfare

St. Patrick’s Festival Committee

14,529

Coatbridge Scotland

Heritage/Cultural

St. Patrick’s Traditional Music Group

2,901

Coatbridge Scotland

Heritage/Cultural

St. Theresa’s House, Peterborough

43,979

Peterborough

Welfare

Tara Irish Pensioners

3,661

London

Welfare

The Connection at St Martin’s

21,761

London

Welfare

The Irish Club

10,764

Warrington Cheshire

Community Networks & Heritage/Cultural

The London Irish Networks

5,513

London

Community Networks & Heritage/Cultural

The Maya Centre

26,552

London

Welfare

The Passage

55,833

London

Welfare

The Simon Community

52,208

London

Welfare

Tír Conaill Harps

29,015

Glasgow

Sport

Tuesday Club

4,352

Leeds

Welfare

Tyneside Irish Centre

58,030

Newcastle upon Tyne

Welfare & Heritage/Cultural

Tyneside Irish Cultural Society

14,507

Newcastle upon Tyne

Heritage/Cultural

Warwickshire GAA

29,015

Birmingham

Sport

Payments made in 2005 in respect of grants approved in 2004

Lancashire & Yorkshire Irish Democratic League Clubs

10,000

Nelson, Yorkshire

Community Networks & Heritage/Cultural

Tara Irish Pensioners Club

600

London

Welfare

Emerald Circle, Harrow

600

London

Welfare

Coventry Irish Society

15,535

Coventry

Welfare

International Agreements.

John Gormley

Question:

278 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the status of the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement; and the efforts which Ireland has made to exclude the waters of the Western Sahara from the provisions of this agreement, in view of the fact that the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara has been found to be illegal by the International Court of Justice. [23587/06]

The EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement was adopted by the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 22 May 2006. When Morocco has completed its ratification procedures, the Agreement will come into force following an exchange of notifications by both sides.

The Agreement states that it applies to the waters falling within the sovereignty or jurisdiction of the Kingdom of Morocco. As the Deputy will be aware, Morocco regards the Western Sahara and its waters as a part of its territory. However, Ireland and our EU partners do not recognise Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara. The Government strongly supports the right to self-determination of the people of the territory.

The European Commission is responsible for the negotiation of such agreements with third countries. They are adopted by the Council by Qualified Majority Vote. In 2005, the Council approved the Commission's mandate for the negotiations with Morocco. At that time, Ireland raised concerns about possible implications for the overall issue of the status of the Western Sahara and regarding the exploitation of the resources of the Saharawi people. The Commission undertook to ensure that the Agreement would not compromise the issue of status, and would reflect exactly the terms in relation to territorial extent contained in previous Fisheries Agreements between the EU and Morocco.

During consideration by the Council of the draft Agreement negotiated by the Commission, Ireland again focused on these issues. The Government proposed that, in order to clarify the situation beyond question, the EU might adopt a Declaration which would accompany the Agreement. However, it emerged that there was a qualified majority of Member States in favour of approving the Agreement without an EU Declaration.

At the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 22 May, Ireland agreed to the adoption of the Fisheries Partnership Agreement, which is regarded as very important by the European fishing industry, and made a National Statement in relation to the Western Sahara. The full text of the Statement 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