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 16, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 17 to 36, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 37 to 44, inclusive, answered orally.

Grant Payments.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

45 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress which has been made on the provision of knowledge acquisitions grants and innovation vouchers to small and medium businesses. [23945/06]

The introduction of Knowledge Acquisition Grants and Innovation Vouchers were recommended by the Small Business Forum in its report submitted to me last month. I set up the Forum last year to consider the environment in which small businesses operate and to advise on the appropriateness and adequacy of the public policy responses in the context of that environment.

Since publishing the report last month my Department has been pursuing the recommendation concerned with the relevant agencies and initial consultations have already taken place with Enterprise Ireland in relation to the proposal for the provision of knowledge acquisition grants. We will be developing an appropriate response to this recommendation over the coming months.

The proposal to introduce innovation vouchers is based primarily on a similar scheme which has recently been put in place by the Dutch Innovation Agency. The proposal is intended primarily as a means of promoting innovation amongst the small business community. This is a novel concept and it will require detailed consideration to establish how exactly it would work. My Department has initiated this examination and hopes to be in a position to respond to the recommendation over the coming months also.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

46 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason the Health and Safety Authority made just 40 prosecutions in 2005 despite the fact that of the 6000 construction site inspections twenty eight per cent were found to have limited or no compliance with the law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23896/06]

The Health and Safety Authority were involved in 40 legal proceedings — 22 summary and 18 on indictment in 2005. The overall conviction rate was 85%.

In addition to the prosecution options, the Health and Safety Authority also has a range of other enforcement remedies available to it, including the seeking of a High Court Order to have a dangerous workplace closed down and the issuing of enforcement notices such as Prohibition and Improvement notices. In the specific area of construction, the Health and Safety Authority carried out 6,203 inspections in 2005 and of this figure, 46% resulted in enforcement action of varying degree, i.e., the issue of 393 Prohibition Notices, 118 Improvement Notices and 2350 written advices. Follow up inspections are undertaken to ensure compliance. Non-compliance in the construction sector showed a marginal reduction in 2005 at 28% in comparison with 33% in the previous year.

Since the year 2000, 70 successful trials on indictment have been concluded on foot of investigations by the Health and Safety Authority, some of which have been in cooperation with An Garda Síochána. These have resulted in fines of up to €1m in some cases and suspended prison sentences for breaches of health and safety legislation and the offence of reckless endangerment under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.

Departmental Bodies.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

47 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has agreed a work programme with the Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority; the number of staff for which the IAASA has approval between 2006 to 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23515/06]

The Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA) submitted its Work Programme for 2006 — 2008 and its Programme of Expenditure for 2006 as provided for under the Section 13(1) of the Companies (Auditing and Accounting) Act, 2003 (the 2003 Act). Under section 13(4) of the 2003 Act I approved, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, and, after considering the views of the prescribed accountancy bodies, IAASA's Programme of Expenditure for the current year and a staff complement of 15 for 2006. I had a copy of IAASA's Work Programme for 2006 — 2008 laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas as provided for by section 13(8) of the 2003 Act. The 2003 Act does not require that I approve IAASA's Work Programme.

The programme of expenditure and staffing levels for IAASA require to be approved on an annual basis.

Economic Competitiveness.

Simon Coveney

Question:

48 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the way in which Ireland can do more to encourage entrepreneurism amongst young people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23899/06]

The value of entrepreneurship amongst young people and enterprise education in contributing to the future strong economic development of this country has been acknowledged in two recent significant policy Reports i.e. the Report of the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) and Report of the Small Business Forum (SBF). Both Reports have outlined a recommended strategic approach to enterprise education going forward and I have asked my Department to examine, in consultation with the Department of Education and Science, how we can best progress these recommendations.

My Department is, however, already involved in a number of initiatives to promote entrepreneurship amongst young people. State funding for enterprise promotion, including the promotion of enterprise within the education system, is primarily channelled through the relevant State Agencies.

In this regard the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) have a well-established role in the delivery of enterprise education. As part of their enterprise promotion activities the CEBs support teachers in the delivery of enterprise programmes designed to give students practical experience of setting up and running their own business. The annual ‘Student Enterprise Awards' (SEA) scheme, organised by the CEBs, involves some 10,000 second-level students each year. The activities of the CEBs in this area already represent a considerable commitment of resources and expenditure of public funds.

In addition Enterprise Ireland is actively involved with all Universities and Institutes of Technology in fostering entrepreneurship amongst the student population and particularly in supporting the translation of research activity into commercial enterprises through its Student Enterprise Awards. Enterprise Ireland is also involved in a number of other enterprise education initiatives such as the ‘Campus Companies Initiative' and the ‘Innovation Partnerships Scheme'. Under this latter scheme financial support is provided to encourage companies to undertake research projects with Irish universities and Institutes of Technology. Enterprise Ireland is also working with Institutes of Technology to develop on-campus incubation centres to facilitate the generation of new high growth companies and Institutes of Technology will receive over €380m for the establishment of business incubation centres.

There are also, of course, a number of non-State organisations involved in enterprise education whose focus is different to that of the CEBs in terms of approach and target audience. As part of the future approach to enterprise education we will need to explore options for closer co-operation between all the players so as to ensure that we can deliver an enterprise education that is integrated and complementary.

Decentralisation Programme.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

49 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in view of the recent agreements in relation to the proposed decentralisation of FÁS to Birr, he will introduce similar protocols for those employees of Enterprise Ireland who do not wish to transfer to Shannon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23499/06]

The recent industrial action by SIPTU members in relation to the Birr relocation of FAS has ended on the basis that all the issues involved will be the subject of discussion under the aegis of the Labour Relations Commission (LRC). Under the LRC proposals it has been agreed that "the process of engagement is designed to allow all parties to deal with their concerns and to jointly arrive at a solution which is acceptable to both sides". Discussions under the Labour Relations Commission are due to begin shortly.

This process is scheduled to conclude not later than two months from the date of the first meeting, and any unresolved issues at that stage will be referred to the Labour Court for recommendation. Once agreement has been reached between the parties, the extent to which it applies to the Enterprise Ireland situation will be considered in conjunction with the Department of Finance.

Consumer Confidence.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

50 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he intends to take to address the concerns of small business owners following the significant drop in consumer sentiment in May 2006 as reported by the ESRI; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23485/06]

Liz McManus

Question:

56 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the ESRI consumer sentiment index for May 2006 has dropped by almost 7 per cent compared to April 2006; the action he intends to take to prevent further drops in consumer sentiment; the further actions he intends to take to address the concerns of small businesses in view of this drop; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23491/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50 and 56 together.

The principal objective of the Consumer Sentiment Index is to record details on consumer attitudes towards trends in the economy. It, therefore, complements other data such as the value of personal consumption. In this respect consumer spending is still very strong with early CSO figures on the value of retail sales showing a 7.6% year-on-year growth for March of this year.

I should also point out that the Index attempts to measure the ‘mood' of consumers, tracking it from month to month. It is not based on hard economic data. As such it is a volatile measurement and while the figure was higher in April, the May figure is, in fact, identical to the figure for March of this year. Accordingly, caution must be exercised in drawing conclusions from short-term movements in the index.

It is a primary objective of this Government to maintain and strengthen the competitiveness of the Irish economy. As stated in the new Partnership Agreement, improving competitiveness also means bringing more competition and a fair deal to consumers. Providing better consumer information and protection will empower consumers to achieve good value for money and help lower costs. The value of a pro-consumer agenda will be promoted in stronger terms as the National Consumer Agency strengthens its operations and as its mandate develops into consumer advocacy, research, information, enforcement, education and awareness. The Agency will, accordingly, become a forceful statutory advocate for consumer rights and will be empowered and resourced to promote the consumers' case with regulated industries and individual regulators. These actions should underpin consumer confidence going forward.

The Small Business Forum, that I established last Summer, has just completed a review of the key issues facing the small business sector. The Forum's report has presented me with a comprehensive set of proposals which were designed to enable the small business sector to achieve its full potential and to enhance the significant contribution which the sector already makes to the economic well-being of this country. I will be seeking to implement all the recommendations that fall within my Department's remit over the coming months and I am working closely with my Government colleagues to look at an implementation path for the remaining recommendations which do not fall within my area of responsibility.

Employment Rights.

Seán Crowe

Question:

51 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the Government plans to ratify the 1990 UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families in view of the fact that there is a need for greater protection of the interests of migrant workers and their families here which is not catered for by Irish law. [23478/06]

As I and other Ministers have indicated in response to similar questions in the past, Ireland is not a party to the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1990. Nor has Ireland ratified this Convention.

Other Member States of the European Union have not signed or ratified this Convention either. In fact, up until last year only 27 countries worldwide had actually ratified it.

This Convention is a complex cross-cutting one, which has been examined by several Government Departments. I understand that before Ireland could consider ratifying it there would need to be significant changes across a wide range of existing legislation, including employment, social welfare, education, taxation and electoral law. Many of the issues addressed by the Convention would have a European Union dimension and this would also complicate any proposed ratification by Ireland of it, if our European partners were to continue to refrain from ratification, as they seem likely to do.

In this context there are no plans to ratify this Convention. However, that is not to say that I am not committed to many of the ideals and aspirations which the Convention tried to further. In particular, I am fully committed to the prevention of exploitation of migrant workers and to ensuring that all workers benefit from the full range of our employment rights protections.

In this respect I would point out that this range of protections has been added to by the Employment Permits Bill 2005, which was passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas on 14th June 2006. It provides a number of new important protections for migrant workers including: the granting of the employment permit to the employee, rather than the employer, the employment permit containing a statement of the rights and entitlements of the migrant worker, including that the employee may change employment through the application for another permit by a new employer.

I would also emphasise that the current proposals for a new Social Partnership agreement contain a new employment rights compliance package for all workers, which includes new legislation as well as the establishment of a new Office for Employment Rights Compliance.

Regulatory Impact Assessments.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

52 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of regulatory impact assessments carried out by his Department since the publication of the White Paper on Better Regulation; if RIAs are planned in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23516/06]

Since the publication of the White Paper on Better Regulation in January 2004, six Regulatory Impact Assessments have been undertaken, or are currently underway, within my Department as follows:

1. A full RIA was carried out, under the aegis of the Company Law Review Group (CLRG), as an integral part of its review in the latter half of 2005 of Section 45 of the Companies (Auditing and Accounting) Act 2003.

2. A screening RIA was carried out on the proposed Export Control Legislation 2005.

3. An impact assessment was carried out on the EU's draft REACH Regulation during 2004 on commissioned by Forfás. While the assessment was far more in-depth than a screening RIA, it was not a full RIA in the sense that it was confined to economic impact, and did not address other impacts.

4. A screening RIA is currently being undertaken on the amended draft Directive on Services.

5. A screening RIA is currently being conducted on a proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the exercise of voting rights by shareholders of companies having their registered office in a Member State and whose shares are admitted to trading on a regulated market, amending Directive 2004/109/EC. The European Commission published this proposal in January 2006.

6. A screening RIA is currently at an advanced stage in relation to new regulations on occupational Safety, Health and Welfare at Work.

Two further Regulatory Impact Assessments are planned to take place in the near future as follows:

1. A screening RIA on the Amended Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on criminal measures aimed at ensuring the enforcement of intellectual property rights.

2. A screening RIA on the Collective Investment Schemes Consolidation Bill.

Research Funding.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

53 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the Government’s strategic implementation plan for investment in scientific research; the budget and the distribution of this budget for each year; the way in which funding will be allocated; if funding will be prioritised for aiding research in the institutes of technology; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23503/06]

The Government launched its whole of Government Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation 2006-13 on Sunday morning last and copies of the Strategy have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Strategy sets out a vision for Ireland as "internationally renowned for the excellence of our research by 2013, to the forefront in generating and using new knowledge for economic and social progress, within an innovation driven culture", and then clearly identifies the challenges ahead and the practical steps which we need to take to deliver on this vision. It is all about enabling Ireland to develop world class people and enterprises with the drive and resources to succeed.

The Strategy clearly identifies how we should develop a world class research system. This will involve us doubling the number of PhDs, addressing the capture, protection and commercialisation of knowledge generated from publicly funded and collaborative research and providing supports and encouragement to industry to dramatically grow business expenditure on R&D to €2.5bn. The Strategy tackles the need to promote science as a subject and a career choice among our young people and the need to give teachers the skills to do this. It covers the whole range of research-performing sectors and focuses on the potential in areas like health, agri-food and forestry, energy, marine and environment. It builds on the potential synergies between sectors and underlines the importance to Ireland of international collaboration and enhanced cooperation on STI issues on the island of Ireland as a whole. In so doing, the Strategy clearly demonstrates that the whole island of Ireland is an excellent place to do research.

The Strategy sets clear targets which will continue to be monitored and fine-tuned during its lifetime by a small number of interconnected high-level groups, including Technology Ireland under the direction of the Cabinet Committee on STI which I chair. This ongoing monitoring will ensure that the important whole of Government approach adopted in preparation is maintained throughout the period of delivery of the Strategy. The timeline of the Strategy is an eight-year one, to 2013 and resources of €192 million up to 2008 have been provided by Government to enable work on delivering the Strategy to commence with immediate effect.

The implementation of the Strategy, which will form a central plank of the forthcoming NDP, will involve Government expenditure of approximately €2.7bn up to 2008. Over €2bn will be spent on maintaining the existing levels of service while almost half a billion euro has already been provided in the form of Capital Envelope commitments by Government Departments in the current budgetary cycle. Of the additional sums available for the years 2007/2008 (€66m in 2007, €126m in 2008) funding will be made available for public sector research, enterprise support, infrastructural support and programmatic measures.

Taking account of the allocations in the existing Capital Envelopes and existing levels of service spending projected to 2013, the net additional resources required to implement the Strategy in full have been costed at €1.88 bn over the period to 2013. As the Strategy indicates decisions on the detailed funding arrangements for the remainder of the Strategy beyond 2008 will be made by Government in the context of the new National Development Plan to be published later this year.

The implementation mechanisms for delivery are set out in detail in the Strategy itself, but, essentially funding under the Strategy will be allocated using a variety of existing means including EI, IDA, SFI, PRTLI and the Research Councils operating in a coordinated manner, with oversight by a Higher Education Research Group and Technology Ireland and reporting to the Interdepartmental Committee on STI, which in turn will report to the Cabinet Committee on STI. This will ensure a complementarity of approach between research funding bodies and focus our research performance in areas of economic and social priority.

Within this process, the Institutes of Technology will have a very important and valuable role to play, supporting the development of R&D performance in regional enterprise and building on collaborative efforts with enterprise. The Strategy envisages that the IoTs will develop a shared agenda that will serve to strengthen their research and commercialisation performance.

Departmental Bodies.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

54 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether the resources allocated to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement are sufficient; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23892/06]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

69 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will accede to the request from the Office of the Director for Corporate Enforcement for an additional allocation of 20 staff; if he has received detailed plans from the Director for Corporate Enforcement setting the way in which additional staff will be utilised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23514/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 69 and 54 together.

I met with the Director recently to discuss his request for additional staff resources. I indicated to him that I was generally disposed to his case. I outlined the very tight parameters that exist under the Public Service staffing reduction programme. I have raised the matter with the Minister for Finance and my officials will be engaging more fully in the matter with the Department of Finance.

Equal Opportunities Employment.

David Stanton

Question:

55 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the labour force initiatives he intends to lead in order to bring more people with disabilities into employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23888/06]

This Government is committed to addressing the needs of those with disabilities. In particular, we are committed to removing the obstacles which make it difficult for people with disabilities to participate in the labour market. We have already done a lot in this area.

Under the Government's mainstreaming policy, my Department through FÁS is seeking to increase the participation of disabled workers through a three-pronged approach involving:

•facilitating progression into sustainable employment through skills development

•stimulating awareness amongst employers of the contribution that disabled people can make and encouraging them to recruit them, and

•providing specific employment supports for disabled people and employers.

People with disabilities now benefit from the full range of FAS training programmes and services. Since 2002 FAS has realised approximately 29,000 placements of people with disabilities in employment, training and other options and the FAS budget for vocational training and employment for people with disabilities has increased from €54 million to over €67 million. Of this €67 million, €46.8million is being used by Specialist Training Providers, over €10 million is for the new Wage Subsidy Scheme, €8 million is for the Supported Employment Programme and €2million is being used for Disability Support Awareness.

FAS also provides an extensive range of schemes and grants specifically to promote the employment of people with disabilities in the private sector. These include:

•The Workplace or Equipment Adaptation Grant

•The Employee Retention Grant Scheme

•The Job Interview Interpreter Grant and

•The Personal Reader Grant.

In 2005 I launched a new Wage Subsidy Scheme. This is a significant initiative, which has a 2006 budget of €10.25m, administered by FAS. The scheme offers financial support to employers outside the public sector to encourage them to employ disabled people who work in excess of 20 hours per week. Unlike other schemes, the potential exists for both the employee and the employer to receive an incentive.

The Sectoral Plan, which my Department is currently finalising for its area of responsibility in the context of the Disability Act, 2005 will help set the agenda for future work addressing issues for people with disabilities participating in the labour market. The Plan will provide for an overall employment strategy of engagement, in collaboration with other key Government Departments and agencies. In this way we will support people with disabilities into employment.

Question No. 56 answered with QuestionNo. 50.

Bullying in the Workplace.

Martin Ferris

Question:

57 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason it is necessary to wait for the results of the follow-up survey on workplace bullying before implementing the recommendations made by the expert group in their report. [23482/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

101 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when the results of the follow-up survey on workplace bullying are due to be published. [23481/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 101 together.

The Expert Advisory Group's Report on Workplace Bullying was launched and published by me on the 17th August 2005. The 2005 Report follows on from a 2001 Report by the Taskforce on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying. The recommendations of the 2001 Taskforce were implemented; the main ones being,

•the publication of the dignity at work charter

•the formulation of codes of practice by the Health and Safety Authority, the Equality Authority and the Labour Relations Commission, and,

•the designation of the Health and Safety Authority as the central coordinating State agency. The Authority established a specialist anti-bullying unit and recruited a psychologist for the work involved.

Despite this, it became evident that the problem of bullying in the workplace has persisted. The Expert Advisory Group, which reported last July, although there was not full agreement within the group, made proposals to deal with the problem. An important recommendation contained in the 2005 Report was that a follow up survey on workplace bullying, similar to that commissioned for the 2001 Report, be conducted as soon as practicable to establish a baseline from which the effectiveness of the new structures and processes would be measured. I am implementing this Recommendation in order to have up-to-date information on which to base further action.

The Department advertised in November 2005 for tenders to undertake the survey but only one tender was received. It was readvertised in January 2006 following which 4 tenders were received. The contract for the survey was recently awarded to the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) following a competitive tendering process. I understand that it will take the institute about 6 months to conduct the survey and report.

I have already given a commitment to publish the results of the survey and to bring the results to Government along with the Report and the views of the Social Partners and other interested parties. The Government will then decide on how best to implement the Report's Recommendations.

When the report of the Expert Advisory Group was published 17 submissions were received in the Department from the Social Partners and other interested parties. The main elements recommended by the Advisory Group are that,

•there should be a statutory provision which required all employers to set down a policy in their Safety Statements to deal with incidents of bullying which come to attention in all workplaces, which the Health and Safety Authority would be responsible for enforcing

•the Labour Relations Commission would be responsible for providing the option of mediation or investigation,

•if internal procedures did not bring about a resolution of a problem at the level of the workplace, even after mediation and investigation, then the State should legislate to provide the services of existing industrial relations machinery to investigate and bring a conclusion to each particular case,

•the recommendations of the Advisory Group in this latter regard are that the services of the Rights Commissioner Service should be availed of; and in the event of an appeal the services of either the Labour Court or the Employment Appeals Tribunal should be used. The decision of either of these two bodies should be final and conclusive; and if necessary legally enforceable through the civil courts.

When the results of the ESRI survey on the incidence of bullying in the workplace are reported the Government will decide on how best to implement the Advisory Group's recommendations.

Work Permits.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

58 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he intends to take in advance of the Employment Permits Bill 2005 to make the work permits scheme more transparent for both potential employers and potential employees; the timetable for introduction of such steps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23512/06]

The Employment Permits Bill 2005 was passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas on 14th June 2006. My priority is now directed towards the early introduction of the new economic migration arrangements which I announced in my opening address on the Second Stage of the Bill on 12th October 2005, comprising:

•a Green Card for occupations where there are skills shortages, which will be for a restricted list of occupations in the annual salary range from €30,000 to €60,000 and for a more extensive list of occupations in the annual salary range above €60,000;

•for other occupations work permits will only be granted for an eligible list of occupations where it can be demonstrated, following a rigorous labour market test, that suitable employees are not available within the EEA;

•the grant and issue in all cases of the employment permit or Green Card to the employee;

•a re-established Intra-Company transfer scheme for temporary trans-national management transfers.

I expect to have these new arrangements put in place and fully operational by 2007 and their details will be accessible on my Department's website.

Regional Development.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

59 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures which have been taken within the framework of the National Development Plan for locating an increased proportion of new investment projects in objective one regions designated under the EU regional aid; the measures adopted in response to the loss of 50 per cent of coverage under the new EU regional aid guidelines. [23955/06]

IDA Ireland is the agency charged with the attraction of foreign direct investment to this country and its regions. Under the Industrial Development Acts I am precluded from giving directives in respect of individual cases or in giving preference to one area over others.

One of the key objectives of IDA Ireland strategy since the beginning of the current Operational Programme for Industry in 2000 has been to encourage more balanced regional development. IDA Ireland has taken a number of proactive steps to promote this objective. The Agency has adopted a target of trying to achieve 50% of all new Greenfield FDI first time jobs to locate in the BMW region. This is an ambitious target relative to the 25% share being won by the BMW region in the late 1990's. Over the 2000-2005 period an estimated 40% of all new Greenfield first time jobs have been located in the BMW region.

Over recent years the Agency has substantially upgraded the scale, resources and management responsibility of its regional offices, in order to enhance its ability to maximise the amount of FDI that locates in the BMW region. The level of infrastructure in much of the Objective 1 region, in terms of scale, capacity and quality, is still being developed with a view to accommodating high technology and infrastructure intensive investment projects. FDI projects also have a very strong preference for locating in a major urban centre, with its concentration of labour, services, transport links, and infrastructure. Development of the NSS Gateways and Hubs will assist in offering a wider choice to potential FDI projects in the future.

With regard to the loss of coverage in part of the country from the beginning of 2007 it should be noted that Regional Aid coverage will be retained in the Objective 1 region and the South-East Region (Waterford, Wexford, Kilkenny, Carlow and south Tipperary), albeit at reduced rates, for the entire 2007-2013 period. The reduced coverage in regional aid directly affects capital and employment grants. Ireland will continue to retain full national coverage for other forms of grant such as R&D and Training, which are classified as "horizontal aids" as opposed to "regional aids". This is important since a key focus of IDA strategy for some time has been to develop the mandate and strategic importance of the existing FDI base, and win new client companies, by promoting Ireland as a premier location for high value/high skill innovation orientated functions such as R&D.

In light of the reduced capability to grant aid in much of the country in the future the current IDA Ireland strategy puts a critical focus on the areas of infrastructure, education and innovation, and is centred round developing an innovation-driven value proposition for Ireland and connecting this offering to international companies in a more globalised world economy.

Business Regulation.

Simon Coveney

Question:

60 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his priorities regarding the reduction of red tape for small businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23898/06]

Last month the Small Business Forum reported to me, making a number of recommendations to improve the environment for the conduct of small business in Ireland. These recommendations include measures to address the administrative burden on small business. These are being followed up on by my Department, other Departments or agencies, as appropriate.

I am currently fast-tracking legislation to raise the audit exemption limit applying to small companies to the maximum permitted by EU legislation, i.e. turnover of €7.3m and balance sheet of €3.65m. This will remove the compulsory annual audit costs from the very large number of companies qualifying from the enhanced exemption level.

The Business Regulation Forum is currently gathering evidence on regulation with a view to making recommendations at the end of this year for reform of areas where regulation is considered disproportionate, inefficient or ineffective. All businesses will benefit from this. The analysis may also suggest measures specifically appropriate to small businesses.

Proposed Legislation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

61 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he intends to bring forward legislative proposals in view of the fact that under current legislation, employers convicted of breaches of health and safety law resulting in serious injury or death are still eligible for public contracts. [23476/06]

It is a matter for the Courts to determine the application of penalties on conviction for breaches of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and other occupational safety and health legislation. Section 78 of the 2005 Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act sets out detailed provisions relating to the penalties that may be applied by the Courts for breaches of that Act.

Where the Courts have applied a sanction and the defendant has complied, there are no administrative or enforcement actions that may be applied as regards eligibility to compete for contracts beyond the standard conditions that apply to all other parties involved in the tendering process. I am advised that it may not be constitutionally open to me to bring forward further legislative proposals to penalise applicants for public contracts.

Job Creation.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

62 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he intends to take to create new jobs specifically targeted at reducing the number of persons in long-term unemployment and those who have left the workforce for a period of time and now wish to return to it; his views on the rise in unemployment recently; the action he intends to take to prevent same from continuing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23493/06]

In the past year the number of persons in employment increased by 89,800 or 4.7%. This indicates that the Irish labour market remains extremely buoyant, with job creation far exceeding job losses. Over 500,000 jobs have been created since 1997, which is testament to the successful economic and enterprise development policies which this Government intends to continue into the future through the implementation of the Enterprise Strategy Group Action Plan. I am confident that these policies will create more jobs into the future.

There were 88,200 persons unemployed in the first quarter of 2006, as measured by the Quarterly National Household Survey, which is an unemployment rate of 4.2% among the lowest rates in the EU. While this represents an annual increase of 6,100, it is 3,100 lower than in the previous quarter. The number of long term unemployed has fallen by 1,600 in the past year to 26,200 and at 1.3% remains extremely low by international and historical standards.

However, we are not complacent about the level of long term unemployment and in order to reduce it a range of measures are being implemented. These include increasing the focus on the activation of the long term unemployed and other disadvantaged groups through the Community Employment and Job Initiative Programmes, the FÁS and Local Employment Services, and the National Employment Action Plan (NEAP) referral process.

Under the National Employment Action Plan (NEAP), FÁS offers unemployed people training, re-training, job placement and other employability measures. This referral process has been very effective in encouraging and supporting the unemployed to participate in the labour market. The extension of the referral process to other disadvantaged groups is currently under consideration.

Other innovative responses developed by my Department and FÁS to assist unemployed persons, have included:

•the Pathways programme which identifies the most appropriate development pathway to assist clients to obtain employment

•the High Supports Process which assists clients on a multi-agency basis to address personal barriers to employments

•the Customised Training Fund to flexibly meet training needs of the unemployed.

We are therefore continuing to engage with those in long-term unemployment through a wide range of labour market measures and activities to help them to return to employment.

Grocery Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

63 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which he has monitored food prices since the abolition of the minimum prices order; if the trend is as anticipated or otherwise; if the consumer has benefited as a result of the abolition of the order; if small retailers or the multiples have gained appreciably in terms of market share in the intervening period; if so, the extent to which they have gained; if discounts are being passed on to the consumer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23653/06]

I presume the question relates to the recent abolition of the Groceries Order. The Groceries Order was abolished because it allowed wholesalers and suppliers to determine minimum retail prices being charged to consumers, virtually eliminated price competition in the grocery trade, resulted in more than 2,000 small independent retailers going out of business in a fifteen year period, and caused the grocery trade in Ireland to become more concentrated in the hands of fewer participants. The combined impact of these events was to create a floor price below which groceries could not be sold and this resulted in Irish consumers paying more for their groceries than would otherwise have been the case.

The Groceries Order was in existence for a period of 18 years and it fundamentally altered the structure and composition of the grocery trade. It is simply unrealistic to expect this process and the damage caused by 18 years of the operation of the Order to be reversed in the space of 3 months. I do not think we should expect to see fundamental changes in market share, for example, in the short term.

Recent inflation figures suggest that grocery prices have increased since the Order was removed. However, suggestions that such increases are as a result of greater competition following the removal of the Order, or that the removal the Order has failed in its objective, are a nonsense and do not stand up to scrutiny.

There are many factors which impact on the price of groceries in our supermarkets. The lack of competition caused by the Groceries Order was only one such factor. Others would include production costs, labour costs, interest rates, overheads, international exchange rates and so on. Because of this, and despite the implication in the Deputy's question, I never made any predictions as to the likely extent of price reductions resulting from the removal of the Order or as to the period of time over which such reductions might be expected to occur.

If we are looking for explanations for rising grocery prices, do not blame the removal of the Groceries Order. On the contrary the removal of the Order will undoubtedly counter other inflationary pressures.

I think consumers are already seeing early benefits with one multiple recently announcing their intention over coming months to implement reductions in the prices of products previously covered by the Groceries Order. The real benefits however will be felt over time, as price competition re-emerges at retail level in the trade thus reversing the 18 years of damage done by the Order.

The removal of the Groceries Order will stimulate competition, drive increased efficiencies at all levels of the distribution chain and eliminate the fixing of minimum retail prices by suppliers. This will create a downward pressure on grocery prices from which consumers will benefit.

I have asked the Competition Authority to closely monitor this process — not least to ensure that the benefits of removing the Order are not thwarted by the emergence of other anti-competitive practices. That is why for example the Competition Act 2006 prohibits practices such as resale price maintenance, which were institutionalised by the Order. It would be very damaging to consumer interests if such practices were to emerge within the grocery trade in another guise.

My officials have had some preliminary discussions with the Authority in this regard and will meet them regularly as the process develops. I have also asked the Authority to report periodically on the results of their monitoring and to make any recommendations they consider appropriate in the light of their findings.

Departmental Briefings.

Willie Penrose

Question:

64 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of briefings given in each of the years 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006 by officials in his Department to Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas, other than those given at meetings of Committees of the Houses; the number of these that related to each political party; the number that were delivered to Members of more than one party at a time; the number of these that took place in locations other than Leinster House and his Department’s offices on Kildare Street; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23497/06]

I have sought clarification from the Deputy's Office and understand the information he requires relates solely to oral briefings, made in person, by officials of my Department. I have also confined my response to briefings made by my Department's Officials to members of the Oireachtas other than myself and the two Ministers of State at my Department.

In May 2005, officials of my Department attended two briefings which were given to opposition party members on the proposed Landlord & Tenant Bill. The first briefing was held with Fine Gael & Sinn Féin and the second briefing was held with Fine Gael, Labour, the Green Party and Sinn Féin. Both briefings were held in my Dáil Office.

In November 2005, an official of my Department attended a meeting with the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party. I requested the official in question to attend the meeting with me in order to provide clarification on technical aspects of my Department's report on the Groceries Order. The briefing was held in Leinster House.

Business Regulation.

John Gormley

Question:

65 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of businesses that will become exempted under the proposed plan to increase the audit exemption threshold to €7.3 million; and the consequent cost to the Exchequer. [23953/06]

The Report of the Small Business Forum, which recommended the increase of the turnover threshold for audit exemption for small businesses to €7.3m., states that this increase will afford the opportunity for audit exemption to approximately 5,000 additional small companies. The increased audit exemption turnover threshold will not entail any cost to the Exchequer.

Employment Rights.

David Stanton

Question:

66 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action which can be taken to improve pay rates for women; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23891/06]

Phil Hogan

Question:

93 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the recently published National Employment Survey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23890/06]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

99 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the results of the National Employment Survey published in May 2006 by the Central Statistics Office that women are paid almost 16 per cent less than men. [23954/06]

Liz McManus

Question:

122 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will report on the efforts being made by his Department in relation to pay equality between the sexes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23495/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66, 93, 99 and 122 together.

The National Employment Survey, which is conducted by the Central Statistics Office, provides more detailed comparisons than previously available of employees' earnings. This Survey is a valuable source of information and will help in the consideration and development of policies in the relevant areas.

Primary responsibility for policy in relation to equal pay is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Addressing the factors behind the gender pay gap is, however, a multifaceted task involving a number of Government Departments. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment undertakes the following actions.

The National Framework Committee on Work/Life Balance Policies, which is chaired by the Department, undertakes a range of activities to raise awareness and encourage the provision of work/life balance arrangements at the level of the enterprise. The committee's activities include the provision of financial assistance to organisations, information dissemination activities, seminars, and research activities.

The introduction of the national minimum wage has also had an impact in addressing the gender pay gap. In this regard, I accepted the Labour Court recommendation and increased the minimum wage to €7.65 per hour with effect from 1 May 2005. Furthermore, the new Social Partnership agreement provides for a further adjustment to the minimum wage with effect from 1 January, 2007.

"Expanding the Workforce", which is run by FÁS, is aimed at proactively encouraging women to return to work. The initiative facilitates women returnees by ensuring that training is provided in a flexible manner and is tailored to meet business requirements and skills needs of employers.

Departmental Agencies.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

67 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of offices and agencies operating within his Department; the functions with which they are charged; and the budgetary allocation afforded to each. [23948/06]

There are currently ten Agencies and twelve Offices operating under the aegis of my Department. Their functions, and their budgetary allocations for 2006, are as shown in the table.

Agencies

Name of Organisation

Functions

Budgetary Allocation 2006

Forfás

Forfás is the national policy and advisory board for enterprise, trade, science, technology and innovation. The broad functions of Forfás are to advise the Minister on matters relating to the development of industry in the State; advise on the development and co-ordination of policy for Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and such other bodies (established or under statute) as the Minister may by order designate; encourage the development of industry, technology, marketing and human resources in the State; encourage the establishment and development in the State of industrial undertakings from outside the State; and advise and co-ordinate Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland in relation to their functions

35,351,000

FAS

FAS is Ireland’s National Training and Employment Authority. The function of FAS is to provide training and re-training in and for employment; recruitment service; employment schemes; placement and guidance services; assistance to community groups; advice for people returning to Ireland, those seeking employment in Ireland or elsewhere in the EU; information, advice or research on labour market issues.

974,375,000

Health & Safety Authority

The Health and Safety Authority is the national statutory body charged with responsibility for the enforcement of occupational safety and health law; the promotion and encouragement of accident prevention; and the provision of information, advice and research. The Authority is a state-sponsored body, established under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989, formerly known as the National Authority for Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH). Since the passing in 2005 of the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 the Authority’s remit is now based on the provisions of that Act. The Authority is the designated interim national competent body for the administration and enforcement of EU chemicals regulation in this country and it is also the national competent authority for the implementation of EU regulations concerning transportable pressure equipment.

20,598,000

The Industrial Development Agency (Ireland) (IDA Ireland)

The functions of IDA Ireland are to promote the establishment and development, in the State, of industrial undertakings from outside the State; to make investments in and provide supports to industrial undertakings which comply with the requirements of the enactments for the time being in force; to administer such schemes, grants and other financial facilities requiring the disbursement of European Community Funds as may from time to time be authorised by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance; and to carry out such other functions as may from time to time be assigned to it by Forfás with the consent of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

139,218,000 C3 (Property programme not included in Finance figure).

Enterprise Ireland (EI)

EI is the Irish state development agency focused on transforming Irish industry. The mission of EI is “To accelerate the development of world-class Irish companies to achieve strong positions in global markets resulting in increased national and regional prosperity”. Its focus is on achieving export sales; investing in research and innovation; competing through productivity; starting up & scaling up and driving regional enterprise. EI also provides assistance for international companies who are searching for world-class Irish suppliers

258,559,000

SFADCo (Shannon Development)

SFADCo is responsible for Industrial & Tourism Development in the Mid-West region. Its primary focus is to lead and encourage the identification and development of solutions to the critical needs or obstacles to development in the region. SFADCo supports firms, which either currently or are likely to achieve significant sales growth of €1.3m and employ in excess of 10 people within 3 years of start-up.

3,400,000

National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI)

The NSAI is Ireland’s Standards body. NSAI facilitates the development of voluntary standard documents which manufacturers or service providers may use as an aid to meeting safety or customer requirements. The functions of the NSAI are specifically detailed within the NSAI and Legal Metrology Legislation. In summary the NSAI operates the following functions: 1. Standards 2. Irish Agrément Board 3. Client Services 4. Legal Metrology Service 5. NSAI Inc. 6. The functions of the National Metrology Laboratory (NML), which were formerly the responsibility of Enterprise Ireland are shortly to be transferred, to the NSAI.

6,891,000

The 35 County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs)

The 35 CEBs were set up in 1993 to meet a need which was identified for support targeted specifically at the micro-enterprise sector. The CEBs develop indigenous enterprise potential & stimulate economic activity at local level. CEB interventions are targeted at projects in the manufacturing and traded services sectors employing ten or less workers.

31,180,000

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI)

The function of the SFI is to build and strengthen scientific and engineering research and its infrastructure in the areas of greatest strategic value to Ireland’s long term competitiveness and development.

149,435,622

Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB)

The PIAB is an independent statutory body. The function of the PIAB is to assess the amount of compensation due to a person who has suffered a personal injury

The PIAB’s operational costs are funded by fees levied on claimants and respondents

Offices

Name of Organisation

Functions

Budgetary Allocation 2006

Patents Office

The main statutory functions of the Controller of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks are concerned with the granting of Patents and the registration of Trade marks and Designs and the administration and maintenance of these industrial property rights. The Controller also has certain statutory functions under the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000.

Nil. (The running of the Patents Office is funded under the Administrative Budget of the Department Of Enterprise, Trade & Employment)

Labour Relations Commission

The Labour Relations Commission has general responsibility for the promotion of good industrial relations through the provision of a comprehensive range of services designed to help prevent and resolve disputes. The Commission provides an industrial relations Conciliation Service; an industrial relations Advisory Development and Research Service (ADRS); and a Rights Commissioner Service

5,012,000

The Labour Court

The Labour Court provides a comprehensive service for the resolution of disputes regarding industrial relations, equality, organisation of working time, national minimum wage, part-time work and fixed-term work matters. The Labour Court also supports the work of the Joint Labour Committees (JLCs) and makes Employment Regulation Orders on foot of proposals from the JLCs.

3,464,000

Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs (ODCA)

The Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs was established under the Consumer Information Act, 1978. The Director is an independent statutory officer, responsible for enforcing a wide spectrum of consumer protection legislation, including the power to seek court orders and to prosecute for breaches of the Consumer Information Act, Consumer Credit, Package Travel, Food and Textile Labelling, Price Display Orders, Product Pricing, Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts and Product Safety legislation.

4,289,000

National Consumer Agency (Board acting in an interim capacity until such time as the agency is established on a statutory basis)

The function of the National Consumer Agency is the promotion and protection of consumer interests including Advocacy, Enforcement, Education and Awareness, Information & Research.

3,000,000

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement is responsible for encouraging compliance with the Companies Acts and investigation and enforcing suspected breaches of the legislation.

4,713,000

Competition Authority

The Competition Authority is an independent statutory body responsible for enforcing competition law in the State

5,831,000

Companies Registration Office

The functions of the Companies Registration Office (CRO) are •Enforcement of Companies Acts to ensure filing of returns. •Provision of public access to accurate company information. •Issue of certificates of incorporation for new companies. •Maintenance of register of mortgages and charges. •Registration of business names and limited partnerships.

9,308,000

Registry of Friendly Societies (RFS)

The functions of the RFS are: The registration of Industrial and Provident Societies, Friendly Societies and Trade Unions. To ensure that various societies and trade unions comply with their statutory obligations. The provision of accurate information to the public about the affairs of Societies and trade unions supervised by the Registry.

The (RFS) is included in the main vote of the Department. It does not have a separate vote

Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT)

The function of the EAT is to adjudicate, process and hear claims in employment rights disputes.

(The running of the Employment Appeals Tribunal is funded under the Administrative Budget of the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment)

InterTradeIreland, The Trade and Business Development Body

InterTradeIreland was established in December 1999, to promote all-island trade and business development. The statutory functions of InterTradeIreland are set down in the British-Irish Agreement Act, 1999 which defines the Body as one “to exchange information and co-ordinate work on trade, business development and related matters in areas where the two administrations specifically agree it would be in their mutual interest”.

10,025000

Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority

The function of the IAASA is to supervise the regulation by the accountancy bodies of their members. IAASA has a wide range of oversight functions in relation to accountancy bodies including the power to •Intervene in the disciplinary processes of the accountancy bodies where it deems it necessary; •Carry out independent investigations of possible breaches of standards of prescribed accountancy bodies by their members; •Require accountancy bodies to amend their rules and their disciplinary and investigation procedures; •Grant recognition to bodies of accountants under the Companies Acts; and •Review the accounts of certain categories of companies and apply to the Courts to compel Directors of a company to amend accounts that are not in compliance with the Companies Acts — this function has yet to be commenced.

919,000

Research Funding.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

68 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the timeline and content of the Government’s proposed research and innovation strategy and the material contribution it will make to reach the target set by the EU’s Lisbon Strategy of increasing economy-wide research and development spending to 2.5 per cent of gross national product by 2013. [23950/06]

The Government launched its Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation 2006-13 on Sunday morning last and copies of the Strategy have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The timeline of the Strategy is an eight-year one, to 2013 and resources of €192 million up to and including 2008 have been provided to enable work on delivering the Strategy to commence with immediate effect.

Advancing the knowledge economy and building world class people and enterprises with the drive and resources to succeed are among the key pillars of the Strategy which covers all sectors in which research, technology development and innovation have a role to play. The Strategy sets out a vision for Ireland as "internationally renowned for the excellence of its research by 2013, to the forefront in generating and using new knowledge for economic and social progress, within an innovation driven culture". It then clearly identifies the challenges ahead and the practical steps which we need to take to deliver on this vision.

The Strategy clearly identifies how we should develop a world class research system. This will involve us doubling the number of PhDs, addressing the need to capture, protect and commercialise knowledge generated from publicly funded and collaborative research, and providing supports and encouragement for industry to dramatically grow expenditure on R&D to €2.5bn per annum by 2013. It tackles the need to promote science as a subject and a career choice among our young people and the need to give teachers the skills to do this. It also covers the whole range of research-performing sectors and focuses on the, potential in areas like health, agri-food and forestry, energy, marine and environment and the potential synergies between these sectors. It also underlines the importance to Ireland of international collaboration and enhanced cooperation on STI issues on the island of Ireland. The aim is to demonstrate clearly that Ireland is an excellent place to do world class research.

Targets and indicators in respect of the key issues have to be set out in the Strategy. These will continue to be monitored and fine-tuned as necessary, under the direction of the Cabinet Committee on STI which I chair. This ongoing monitoring will ensure that the important whole of Government approach adopted in preparation is maintained throughout the period of delivery of the Strategy.

With regard to the EU's Lisbon agenda target for expenditure on R&D, Ireland will continue to make a valuable contribution to the attainment of these goals over the period to 2013. The aim is that the implementation of the Strategy will result in the achievement of a spend of 2.5% of GNP by the public and private sector by 2013. The progress in this direction will be monitored throughout the period.

Question No. 69 answered with QuestionNo. 54.

Regulatory Authorities.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

70 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether there is merit in the suggestion to merge all sectoral regulators into one single regulatory authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23897/06]

As none of the existing sectoral regulators come within my remit as Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment, this is not a matter for which I have any direct responsibility. Having said that, I have no plans to establish a single national regulator.

I am concerned to ensure that our national system of regulation encourages and promotes competition within the economy and that individual regulators recognise such objectives as an important national priority. Indeed, in this regard I am aware that the Competition Authority has already Co-operation Agreements in place with many of the existing sectoral regulators.

There is a danger that the scope of a single regulator would be too broad and that as a consequence speedy decision making would be hampered. Furthermore, the trend internationally is away from the concept of a consolidated regulator towards a sectoral approach.

Proposed Legislation.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

71 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he intends to introduce amendments to corporate law requiring employee representation on company boards of directors, as is the case in many European countries; the minimum size company to which such a regulation would apply; if he or his Department has engaged in discussions with unions or employers’ groups in relation to such a proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23509/06]

Mary Upton

Question:

84 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress on consolidation of companies legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23521/06]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

90 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he intends to make amendments to corporate law in order to widen the recognition of interests to which a company director must have regard in the discharge of their duties to include greater emphasis on employees of the company, its suppliers, its creditors, both present and future, its customers, the wider community, and the environment; his views on whether such amendments are necessary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23506/06]

Joe Sherlock

Question:

118 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans to increase the company size thresholds following the second report of the Company Law Review Group and the recent increase in thresholds agreed in the European accounting directives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23520/06]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

121 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will engage in a review of company law in order to reduce the burden on small companies related to the requirements and restrictions placed upon them which are more relevant to large companies and serve little purpose in their regulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23510/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71, 84, 90, 118 and 121 together.

The General Scheme of the new Company Law Consolidation and Reform Bill is being drafted making use of an advisory body, the Company Law Review Group (CLRG), which is representative of business, regulators, professional bodies and social partners. The General Scheme has been drafted on the basis of a standing consultation process. The outline of the Scheme and the individual Heads are posted on the website of the CLRG for comment by any interested party. These draft Heads are updated on a continuous basis.

The relationships governed by company law are those between a company's officers, shareholders and creditors and it is not proposed to change this emphasis. Obligations arising from employment and environmental law are dealt with appropriately in those respective codes. It is recognised however that at present many of the duties of a company director exist in case law rather than company law. The opportunity will be taken in the new Bill to set out, on a non-exhaustive basis, the main duties of directors.

How any company structures its Board is a matter to be addressed by an individual company and may be provided for in that company's articles of association. It is not the intention to restrict this power in the proposed legislation.

The simplification focus of the proposed Bill will particularly benefit small companies as it should reduce their compliance costs. An immediate concrete expression of our concern to assist the viability of small businesses is that arising from the Report of the Small Business Task Force. I am fast-tracking separate legislation to raise the audit exemption limit applying to small companies to the maximum permissible under EU law. I anticipate taking the General Scheme of the overall Company Law Consolidation and Reform Bill to Government for agreement to draft the Bill proper later this year.

Work Permits.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

72 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of work permits issued by his Department in each year from 2002 to date in 2006; the distribution of these permits between different industry sectors for each year; the number of work permit applications made in each year from 2002 to date in 2006; the number of these applications that were made in respect of an employee who had previously made a successful work permit application; the number of these applications that were made in respect of an employee who had previously made an unsuccessful work permit application; the number of these that were successful; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23511/06]

The figures requested by the Deputy are outlined in the table. By definition the figures for work permit renewals refer to employees who had previously been the subject of successful work permit applications. The Work Permits section has informed me that it does not collate statistics on how many of the work permits issued were in respect of previously unsuccessful applications.

Year

Sector

New Permits

Renewals

Group

Issued

Refused

2006

3,231

7034

427

10,692

610

Agriculture & Fisheries

166

676

0

842

92

Catering

496

2,053

3

2,552

247

Domestic

55

205

0

260

11

Education

129

169

1

299

11

Entertainment

37

38

416

491

3

Exchange Agreements

110

1

0

111

0

Industry

299

407

0

706

38

Medical & Nursing

604

649

0

1253

35

Service Industry

1311

2,796

7

4,114

169

Sport

24

40

0

64

4

2005

7,342

18,949

812

27,103

1,135

Agriculture & Fisheries

329

1,808

0

2,137

52

Catering

1,304

5,646

13

6,963

525

Domestic

145

537

0

682

26

Education

268

456

1

725

16

Entertainment

86

92

784

962

5

Exchange Agreements

120

1

0

121

0

Industry

414

1,264

1

1,679

33

Medical & Nursing

1,299

1,379

0

2,678

48

Service Industry

3,256

7677

10

10,943

427

Sport

121

89

3

213

3

2004

10,004

23,203

801

34,008

1,286

Agriculture & Fisheries

1,104

2,614

0

3,718

107

Catering

1,559

6,708

10

8,277

537

Domestic

156

613

0

769

22

Education

269

446

1

716

17

Entertainment

109

93

781

983

1

Exchange Agreements

145

1

0

146

1

Industry

395

1,777

0

2,172

32

Medical & Nursing

1,036

1,432

0

2,468

77

Service Industry

5,113

9,433

7

14,553

488

Sport

118

86

2

206

4

2003

21,930

25,013

547

47,490

1,627

Agriculture & Fisheries

3,741

3,490

0

7,231

91

Catering

5,021

6,493

10

11,524

692

Domestic

447

495

0

942

16

Education

356

400

0

756

7

Entertainment

361

52

532

945

29

Exchange Agreements

294

5

0

299

0

Industry

1,041

2,332

0

3,373

41

Medical & Nursing

1,239

1,466

0

2,705

44

None specified

0

0

0

0

1

Service Industry

9,287

10,196

5

19,488

702

Sport

143

84

0

227

4

2002

23,306

16,547

431

40,284

1,072

Agriculture & Fisheries

3,988

2,243

0

6,231

107

Catering

6,106

4,184

6

10,296

388

Domestic

556

231

0

787

38

Education

348

262

0

610

11

Entertainment

427

27

420

874

24

Exchange Agreements

295

2

0

297

0

Industry

1,453

1,643

0

3,096

48

Medical & Nursing

1,836

1,044

0

2,880

35

Service Industry

8,184

6,870

5

15,059

417

Sport

113

41

0

154

4

Health and Safety Regulations.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

73 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he is taking in view of the fact that there is a disproportionately high level of fatal injuries in the workplace amongst migrant workers here. [23477/06]

The fact that there is a disproportionately high level of fatal injuries in the workplace among non-Irish nationals is a cause of considerable concern both to me as Minister for Labour Affairs and to the Health and Safety Authority, the State body charged with overall responsibility for administration, enforcement and promotion of workplace safety and health. A total of 9 non-Irish national worker fatalities occurred in Ireland in 2005 and to date in 2006 4 non-Irish national worker fatalities have occurred.

A lack of clear communication and of understanding in any workplace could potentially pose a risk to the health and safety of the workers therein. It is clear that in the construction sector there are many workers who do not have English as a first language and, accordingly it is appropriate that employers and those who are in control of workplaces in this country put in place clear systems of communication to ensure that all safety critical information is conveyed clearly to all workers in the workplace. The Health and Safety Authority has called on all employers to ensure they are adequately communicating the risks and providing appropriate safety training.

There is legislation in place specifying information requirements in workplaces and the Health and Safety Authority recognises the new challenges that the growth of non-Irish nationals within the workforce brings and is taking steps to assist those in workplaces to meet those challenges. Section 9 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 sets out the type of information on safety health and welfare required to be given by employers to employees. It specifies that the information must be in a form, manner and language that can be understood. It must include information on hazards, risks and measures taken as regards safety, health and welfare and the names of emergency staff and safety representatives.

Furthermore, under section 20 of the 2005 Act, an employer is obliged to prepare a written safety statement, based on the identification of hazards and an assessment of risks. This statement must also be in a form and language that can be understood.

Redundancy Payments.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

74 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a decision has been reached on the application by Irish Ferries for a redundancy rebate to fund the voluntary severance package offered to staff in 2006; and if so, the reason for and details of said decision. [23949/06]

An application for a statutory redundancy rebate payment from Irish Ferries under the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967 to 2003 was received by my Department on 17th February, 2006. The matter has been referred for advice on the legal issues arising. A decision will be made on the application as soon as possible.

Proposed Legislation.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

75 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 104 of 17 May 2006, the broader issues other than safety, health and welfare at work which need to be considered before proposing legislative change in view of the fact that such legislation is urgently needed as there were 73 deaths in the workplace in 2005. [23475/06]

Seán Ryan

Question:

104 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his Department has had discussions with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in relation to bringing forward legislation to introduce a crime of corporate manslaughter; if so, the results of these discussions to date; if not, the reason this matter has not been examined in view of the fact that most EU States have such laws; his views of such a law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23508/06]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

123 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if legislation will be introduced to effect the proposals of the Law Reform Commission of October 2005 to provide for the offence of corporate manslaughter. [23474/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 75, 104 and 123 together.

The Law Reform Commission in its report on corporate killing in October 2005 recommended that as the current law of corporate liability for manslaughter does not provide a clear basis for constructing liability, a new basis, in legislative form, is necessary. The Commission also recommended that there should be individual statutory liability for managers who were culpable in the causation of death.

At the time of the drafting by the Department of a Bill, which ultimately became the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005, the Attorney General's Office was consulted on the matter of corporate killing and its appropriateness in an occupational safety Bill. That office was of the opinion that there were much broader issues than safety, health and welfare at work relating to the overall criminal justice system which needed to be considered, as legislating in the relatively confined area of occupational safety and health would omit other sectors where such an offence could be committed. Therefore it was decided that it was not appropriate to deal with the issue of corporate killing in a Bill which was providing for the law and regulation of occupational safety, health and welfare.

The matter of consideration of the recommendations in the report of the Law Reform Commission is one for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in the context of his main responsibilities for the criminal law system. This Department has not had discussions with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on the matter. The matter is dealt with as far as practicable in the 2005 Act under Section 80 which provides for directors, managers or other similar officer of an undertaking to be held liable by the Courts for an offence that is attributable to connivance or neglect on their part.

Departmental Staff.

Martin Ferris

Question:

76 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in order to enable the Labour Inspectorate to meet the needs of a changing workforce and the specific difficulties faced by migrant workers he will ensure affirmative action is taken in order that a proportion of the inspectors are from these communities; and if, failing same, he will ensure that a proportion of all new inspectors employed are proficient in foreign languages relevant to where the majority of the migrant workers are from. [23483/06]

The enforcement of Employment Rights Compliance is primarily based around the legislative provisions governing the statutory records that employers are required to maintain. The generality of investigative work undertaken by Labour Inspectors does not require that they be competent in a variety of languages. Where the need for interpretation services are required, such as in the area of Statement taking or the translation of documents, the Inspectorate has adequate access to a panel of competent individuals who can provide the services necessary in a very broad range of languages.

While I am satisfied that the Labour Inspectorate can, and is, discharging its remit I am equally aware that there are undoubted new and growing challenges arising out of the changing nature of the workforce and economic development. In this regard, I am confident that the proposals for enhancements to the Employment Rights Compliance regime, as agreed with the Social Partners in the new National Agreement, will enable the Labour Inspectorate to manage that evolving remit most effectively.

In the context of other commitments undertaken in the recent Social Partnership talks a major Education and Awareness programme dealing with all aspects of Employment Rights entitlements and obligations will be delivered over the period of the Agreement. While both employers and employees generally will be targeted in the programme a particular feature of this initiative will be a focus on dissemination of Employment Rights information to workers from overseas.

The Employment Rights Information Unit (ERIU) produces a range of materials, e.g. information leaflets and booklets that provide a condensed and simplified version of the large corpus of Employment Rights legislation that is currently on the Statute Books. With particular regard for the needs of workers from overseas the Department has translated key Employment Rights information into nine languages and made this available both in leaflet form and on the Department's website. This information is available in the following languages; Chinese, Czech, English, Hungarian, Irish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian and Russian. The Employment Rights Information Unit distributes thousands of information leaflets and booklets either directly to applicants, through the nation-wide network of citizen information centres and other outlets.

Ministerial Meetings.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

77 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the outcome of his meeting with his Northern counterpart, Economy Minister, Ms Maria Eagle MP regarding North-South economic progress; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23907/06]

I met with Minister Eagle on 1 June at InterTradeIreland's offices in Newry. This was my first opportunity to meet with Minister Eagle since her recent appointment as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland.

The Good Friday Agreement gave a new impetus to North/South economic co-operation and led to the establishment of the North/South Implementation Bodies. InterTradeIreland, the all-island body responsible for co-ordinating work on North/South trade and business development, is co-sponsored by my Department and the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland.

Minister Eagle and I were briefed by the Chairman and Chief Executive of InterTradeIreland on the Body's current programmes and activities and its overall strategy to enhance the development of the all-island economy. InterTradeIreland is supporting a wide range of actions that offer businesses the opportunity to address a larger all-island market and to engage in inter-firm co-operation. Its key strategic objective is to increase the number, effectiveness and value of all-island trade and business development networks. All-island business networks allow firms to share resources, to gain knowledge and expertise, to partner with research institutions, to achieve economies of scale and to open new market opportunities. The work of InterTradeIreland is an example of the practical benefits accruing from cooperation. The Government is committed to supporting the work of the North/South Bodies and to seeing them realise their full potential.

Minister Eagle and I also reviewed progress on the comprehensive study to identify areas for further co-operation in the development of the all-island economy. This study, which was announced recently by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, provides an unprecedented opportunity to identify and take forward new initiatives. The study is being carried out under the direction of key policy Departments, North and South, including the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Northern Ireland Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. InterTradeIreland is providing the secretariat for the study and is working closely with relevant Departments, agencies and business interests, North and South. A progress report will be submitted to the next meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

At our meeting Minister Eagle and I gave our full commitment to the North West Gateway Initiative, which will provide a strategic action plan to further develop the North West region of the island of Ireland. Both Governments are committed to a joint approach to the development of the North West, that is focused on enterprise development, employment, skills, spatial planning and infrastructure.

Question No. 78 answered with QuestionNo. 44.

Small Business Sector.

Shane McEntee

Question:

79 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the recommendations of the Small Business Forum’s recent report which will be implemented in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23901/06]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

109 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the implementation on each of the recommendations of the Small Business Forum; the timetable for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23519/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 109 together.

In launching the report of the Small Business Forum last month I indicated that the Forum had presented me with a comprehensive set of proposals which were designed to enable the small business sector to achieve its full potential and to enhance the significant contribution which the sector already makes to the economic well-being of this country.

I confirmed that I would be seeking to implement all the recommendations that fall within my Department's remit and that I would be working closely with my Government colleagues to look at an implementation path for the remaining recommendations which do not fall within my area of responsibility. My Department has commenced its detailed deliberations on the appropriate means to implement the relevant recommendations, including consultations with relevant agencies. I am confident that significant progress will be made in respect of implementation by the end of the year.

As I also promised when launching the report, I have now invited the members of the Forum to remain in place to act as a body to review the implementation of the report's recommendations and progress in achieving the report's core objectives and I am confident that this will ensure consistent and thorough follow-up and timely implementation of the various recommendations.

Business Regulation.

Shane McEntee

Question:

80 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether the level of fines for failure to properly display prices are adequate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23900/06]

Price display law is covered by Orders made under Section 19 of the Prices Acts 1958 to 1972 and under the European Communities (Requirements to Indicate Product Prices) Regulations 2002, Statutory Instrument No. 639 of 2002. The various Price Display Orders made under the Prices Acts 1958 to 1972 cover Drinks Display in Licensed Premises, Hairdressing Services, Petrol and Diesel and Restaurants. The European Communities (Requirements to Indicate Product Prices) Regulations 2002 requires retailers to display the selling and where appropriate the unit price (the price per litre or kilo) for all products covered by the scope of the Regulations.

The fine for a summary conviction under all of the above legislation is €3,000. I recently increased the maximum fine for a summary conviction under the Prices Acts 1958 to 1972 to this level under Part 7 of the Investment Funds, Companies and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2005 where I took the opportunity to increase the level of fines for a range of consumer law some of which had remained unchanged since the 1970s.

There is therefore a uniform maximum fine of €3,000 for summary convictions of price display law, both domestic and EU. However it is for a Court to decide the amount of any fine taking into account the facts of a specific case.

I am satisfied that the level of fines for offences involving price display infringements is satisfactory. However I am keeping the situation under review and in the legislation I propose introducing this year to establish the new National Consumer Agency and to transpose the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (Directive 2005/29/EC) I will explore the possibility of increasing the fine for a summary conviction for the consumer legislation to be covered by this legislation.

I would, however, point out that convictions under the legislation are not the only method of ensuring compliance. The Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs whose function it is to enforce consumer laws, regularly undertakes surveillance with a view to securing voluntary compliance on the part of traders.

Industrial Development.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

81 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the details of the proposal to build a €400 million liquified natural gas storage terminal in North Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20632/06]

The proposal referred to in this Question is an operational matter for Shannon Development and not one in which I have any direct involvement. Shannon Development has entered into an option-to-purchase agreement with Shannon LNG, in relation to 281 acres of the 600-acre Shannon Development owned land bank between Tarbert and Ballylongford, County Kerry. The site, which has been designated by Shannon Development for deep-water projects, is about 25 km from the national gas pipeline grid.

Under the agreement, Shannon LNG, an Irish subsidiary of Hess LNG Limited, a 50/50 joint venture of Hess Corporation and Poten & Partners, is proposing to build a €400 million liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal on the Shannon Development owned land bank on the Shannon Estuary. The Tarbert/Ballylongford site is considered suitable for deep-water projects, and Shannon Development has accordingly actively marketed the potential of the site to an international business audience over many years. I understand that the purchase option allows time for the detailed design and appraisal of the proposed project and for full consultation with the relevant authorities and the local community.

The promoters advise that the terminal will provide about 50 long-term permanent jobs, along with additional support jobs and around 350 construction jobs at its peak. Shannon LNG has also indicated that it is fully committed to active communication and consultation with the local community and all interested parties. They anticipate that they will apply for planning permission in a year's time and, subject to planning approval, expect to begin construction work in 2008 with the terminal becoming operational in 2011 at the earliest.

Economic Competitiveness.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

82 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the consequences on businesses here of the increase in inflation to 3.9 per cent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23905/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

86 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is satisfied that the economy remains sufficiently competitive to enable the manufacturing and service sectors here to compete effectively on European or global markets; if he has identified the contributory causes of inflationary tendencies which might lead to a lack of competitiveness in the future; if he proposes to take steps to address the issues involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23652/06]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

119 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he intends to take to protect customers and business owners in view of the rise in inflation to 3.8 per cent in April 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23486/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 82, 86 and 119 together.

The Government places top priority on our economy's ability to compete in the global marketplace. Our commitment to taking forward and quickly progressing implementation of both the Enterprise Strategy Group and Small Business Forum recommendations is evidence of our own resolve to ensure that we can continue to compete effectively in global markets.

Being one of the world's most open economies has allowed Ireland to prosper for over a decade but also leaves us prone to the pressures of rising external costs. Escalating and inflationary energy costs are a factor every economy is currently facing. Eurostat recently reported a rise in euro zone inflation to 2.5%, and several of our EU partners are dealing with inflation figures considerably higher than our own.

Maintaining a moderate rate of inflation remains a priority of the Government's economic policy. There are a number of variables, which drive inflation such as oil prices, exchange rates, interest rates and the level of demand in the economy. Not all of these factors are within our control.

The Government is playing its part in controlling inflation by implementing responsible fiscal policies, promoting stronger competition and strengthening consumer protection. In addition, the new Partnership Agreement has reconvened the Anti-Inflation Group to monitor the inflationary threat. The Partnership Agreement also includes proposals to support manufacturing targeted at such key areas as upskilling, R&D and the establishment of a High Level Manufacturing Group to address a broad range of issues affecting Ireland's manufacturing sector.

Departmental Bodies.

Willie Penrose

Question:

83 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the name, purpose and numbers employed in each of the regulatory bodies under the auspices of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23518/06]

The details sought in respect of those bodies under the aegis of my Department which have a regulatory function are as follows: The Irish National Accreditation Board (INAB) is the national body with responsibility for accreditation in accordance with the relevant International Organisation for Standardisation ISO 17000 series of standards and guides and the harmonised EN 45000 series of European standards. The INAB provides accreditation of laboratories, certification and inspection bodies, attestors and attestation bodies and is the statutory body responsible for GLP (Good Laboratory Practice) and EMAS (European Eco-Management and Audit Schemes). INAB has 11 members of staff.

The Legal Metrology Service is a statutory body within the National Standards Authority of Ireland. Under the Metrology Acts 1980 to 1998 it exercises regulation making and control functions with regard to measurements, in particular those used for the purpose of trade. There are currently 27 employees.

The Office of the Registrar of Friendly Societies is a statutory independent office responsible for the registration of Industrial and Provident Societies, Friendly Societies and Trade Unions, to ensure that various societies and trade unions comply with their statutory obligations and the provision of accurate information to the public about the affairs of Societies and trade unions supervised by the Registry. There is ten staff assigned to the Office.

The Companies Registration Office is the statutory authority responsible for ensuring the filing of returns under the Companies Acts, provision of public access to accurate company information, the issue of certificates of incorporation for new companies, the maintenance of a register of mortgages and charges and the registration of business names and limited partnerships. There is currently 150 staff assigned to the CRO.

The Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority was established pursuant to the provisions of Part 2 of the Companies (Auditing and Accounting) Act, 2003 to supervise the regulation by the accountancy bodies of their members. The Authority currently has eight employees, including one temporary staff member.

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement was established in 2001 and is responsible for encouraging compliance with the Companies Acts and investigating and enforcing suspected breaches of the legislation. There is 35.8 staff assigned to the office including 6 members of the Garda on secondment to the office.

The Irish Takeover Panel, established by the Irish Takeover Panel Act 1997, is the statutory body responsible for monitoring and supervising takeovers and other relevant transactions in Ireland. The Panel has a total of five employees.

The Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs was established under the Consumer Information Act, 1978. The Director is an independent statutory officer, responsible for enforcing a wide spectrum of consumer protection legislation, including the power to seek court orders and to prosecute for breaches of the Consumer Information Act, Consumer Credit, Package Travel, Food and Textile Labelling, Price Display Orders, Product Pricing, Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts and Product Safety legislation. There is 65 staff assigned to the office.

The Competition Authority is an independent statutory body responsible for enforcing competition law in the State. The Authority currently employs 47 staff.

The Labour Court provides a comprehensive service for the resolution of disputes about industrial relations, equality, organisation of working time, national minimum wage, part-time work and fixed-term work matters. Some aspects of the Labour Court's responsibilities have a regulatory function, e.g. in relation to Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreements. There is 25 staff assigned to the Labour Court, including four shared with the Labour Relations Commission.

The Health and Safety Authority is the national statutory body charged with responsibility for enforcement of occupational safety and health law; the promotion and encouragement of accident prevention; and the provision of information, advice and research. The Authority is a state-sponsored body, established under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989, formerly known as the National Authority for Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH). Since the passing in 2005 of the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 the Authority's remit is now based on the provisions of that Act. The Authority is the designated interim national competent body for the administration and enforcement of EU chemicals regulation in this country and it is also the national competent authority for the implementation of EU regulations concerning transportable pressure equipment. The Authority's sanctioned staff numbers are 185 for 2006 (including 21 for EU chemicals regulation).

Question No. 84 answered with QuestionNo. 71.

Employment Vacancies.

Mary Upton

Question:

85 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to reports from the ESRI and FÁS that employment vacancies are down from 22 to 16 per cent, a 27 per cent decrease; his views on whether this is a short term anomaly or a longer term trend; the action he intends to take to ensure that a healthy level of vacancies is maintained in order to ensure fluidity in the jobs market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23505/06]

The ESRI carry out a monthly employment and vacancies survey for FÁS. This survey provides very useful up-to-date information on how the labour market is performing. The May survey did show a decline in the number of firms reporting vacancies from 22% to 16%. However, this does not indicate a decline in vacancy activity in the labour market. The previous months figure of 22% was unusually high with the average number of firms reporting vacancies over the last few months at 15%. Thus, the results of the May survey simply show a return to this trend. I understand from FÁS that there may be seasonal factors underpinning the change between April and May and as yet, there is no firm indication of a contraction in employment or vacancy activity.

The survey also provides information on employers' expectations regarding future employment growth. The May survey indicates that employers expect their current employment levels to remain more or less the same over the next few months. In addition, the most recent Quarterly National Household data issued by the Central Statistics Office shows that the labour force increased by 95,800 to 2,086,500 in the year with the number of persons in employment increasing by 89,800 or 4.7%. This continued strong growth indicates that the Irish labour market remains extremely buoyant.

Question No. 86 answered with QuestionNo. 82.

Industrial Disputes.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

87 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he is taking to ensure that workers at a recently closed factory (details supplied) in County Cork are paid the agreed compensation as set down in their partnership agreement with the company and confirmed three times by the Labour Court; the sanctions he will invoke against the company if the redundancy and termination package is not paid over to workers immediately; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23513/06]

The Labour Court operates as an industrial relations tribunal, hearing both sides in a trade dispute. It then issues recommendations setting out its opinion on the dispute and the terms on which it considers the dispute should be settled. In line with the voluntarist nature of the industrial relations system in this country, Labour Court recommendations for the resolution of trade disputes are not legally binding. However, as the Labour Court is a court of last resort in the industrial relations process, it is expected that the parties come to the process in good faith and consequently are prepared to accept the outcome of the process, namely the Labour Court recommendation.

I recently met with a union delegation in relation to this matter and my colleague Minister Martin met both parties and urged them to resolve their differences. However, responsibility for the settlement of a dispute ultimately rests with the parties themselves.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

88 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the recent Health and Safety Authority report, which revealed that one-quarter of local authorities were in limited or no compliance with health and safety obligations. [23944/06]

The Health and Safety Authority carried out a campaign in 2005 which focused on health and safety issues within Local Authorities and, in particular, on roadworks. While most local authorities are in broad compliance with health and safety requirements I understand that some of them would need to do more to demonstrate full compliance.

A concentrated inspection campaign was instigated during the September 2005 Construction Safety Campaign. The campaign was divided in two distinct focus areas — namely site inspections and senior manager meetings. The site inspections focused primarily on roadwork activities, whereas the meeting with the senior managers within local authorities focused on their safety management systems and policies for all construction related activities.

During the course of the campaign inspectors reported on the commitment and willingness of all individuals interviewed. Assurances were offered to inspectors that improvements in health and safety policies and procedures within the Local Authority areas would continue. The Heath and Safety Authority took appropriate enforcement action where necessary during the campaign.

The Health and Safety Authority prepared a report on the campaign detailing the findings and recommendations which was circulated to all Local Authorities. Subsequently, in 2006, the Health and Safety Authority held Seminars for City and County Mangers and are supporting the Local Authorities.

I understand from the Authority that following on from the campaign the County and City Managers, supported by the Local Government Management Services Board, have made strong commitments to ensure that a robust health and safety management system is put in place and are working with the Health and Safety Authority to this end.

Employment Rights.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

89 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will report on progress made in May and June 2006 in relation to the repayment by a company (details supplied) of moneys owed to construction workers here; if he has received satisfactory proof that these workers have been paid the money owed to them; the sanctions which are being sought against the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23502/06]

The Department advised the company by letter dated April 4th 2006 that the material which had recently been supplied by them did not enable the establishment of the factual position in relation to payment of outstanding monies to workers. The company was asked again to supply the missing information.

Papers purporting to show that the company has discharged the financial obligations to employees were lodged with the Department on 6 June, 2006. This documentation is currently being examined by officials with a view to obtaining confirmation that the monies owed to employees have now been paid.

Early last year the Labour Inspectorate undertook an investigation of allegations of non-compliance with labour law by the company. A report on the investigation was prepared and circulated to relevant parties, including the construction firm involved. The Inspector's Report was quashed in the judgment that followed the full High Court hearing of the case. That decision has been appealed to the Supreme Court. I am unable, accordingly, to elaborate any further in relation to any sanctions which may be sought against the company.

Question No. 90 answered with QuestionNo. 71.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

91 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he will take to protect workers employed in domestic service in view of the fact that he has not asked the Labour Court to investigate the employment conditions prevailing for these workers as he is entitled to do under Section 24 of the Industrial Relations Act 1946; and his views on the introduction of an Employment Regulation Order to cover workers in this sector. [23480/06]

The Labour Inspectorate of the Department is responsible for monitoring certain employment conditions for all categories of workers in Ireland.

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

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

The new Social Partnership Agreement recognises the need for special measures to support the employment rights of persons employed in other people's homes. To this end, the Government has agreed with the Social Partners that the Labour Relations Commission will be asked to develop a Code of Practice which will set out the current employment rights and protections for those working in the home.

Skill Shortages.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

92 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the findings of the expert group on future skills which claims that the existing infrastructure for management training is not sufficiently focused on the real needs of the managers of small and medium enterprises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23903/06]

The recently published Expert Group on Future Skills Needs report SME Management Development in Ireland concluded that while there was no evidence that Irish SME managers were less skilled or competent than those in other countries, enhanced capabilities are required to meet future business challenges. It therefore recommended that both the incidence and effectiveness of management development activities be increased and that Ireland move to a situation where all SME principals would be able to identify their own training needs and those of their staff and find cost effective, relevant, development opportunities to meet such needs.

The Report found that the majority of owner/managers have not engaged in formal management development. It suggested that much of the existing management development provision may be provider-driven and not sufficiently focused on the real needs of SMEs.

The Small Business Forum Report also published recently concluded that SME owner/managers would not participate in training unless they see a clear connection between specific programmes and the success of their individual businesses. It concluded that, with the substantial increases in State funding for in-company training over past two years, that resource constraints are not the primary barrier to enhancing management competence.

The Small Business Forum considered that many owner/managers feel that available training is insufficiently targeted at their needs. They therefore recommended that a Management Development Council be established under the auspices of my Department to ensure targeting is informed directly by business needs.

I agree with the conclusion that expanding awareness of the value of investment in management training, both in terms of commercial profitability and providing the competencies to meet emerging change and challenges, is central. I am currently considering how this can best be achieved.

Question No. 93 answered with QuestionNo. 66.

Competition Authority.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

94 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will report on the work of the Competition Authority in the first five months of 2006; the priorities of the Competition Authority for the second half of 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23494/06]

The Competition Authority is an independent statutory agency responsible for the enforcement of competition law across all sectors of the Irish economy. Its mandate and functions are contained in the Competition Act, 2002, as amended.

Section 42 of the Competition Act, 2002 provides that the Authority shall publish an annual report of its activities within two months of the end of each financial year. The Authority's Annual Report for 2005 was published and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas in February 2006.

In relation to the Authority's priorities, in December 2005, I received the Authority's Strategy Statement for 2006 to 2008 as required under Section 33 of the Competition Act, 2002, which was subsequently laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Authority published the Strategy Statement 2006-2008 in March 2006. The Strategy Statement sets out the Authority's objectives for the next three years and its plans on how it proposes to implement those objectives. The Authority states that the focus of its strategy over the next three years is no longer on building capacity but rather about discharging its functions in the most timely, efficient and effective way possible.

In addition to these various reporting requirements, the Authority Chairperson is obliged to attend, if required, before the Committee on Public Accounts in relation to the Comptroller and Auditor General's annual report on the Competition Authority's audited accounts. The Authority's Chairperson is also obliged, under Section 38 of the Competition Act, 2002, to attend before any other committee of the Oireachtas, if required.

The Competition Authority, through the Director of Public Prosecutions, has secured fifteen criminal convictions for breaches of competition law so far this year. There are a further five defendants before the courts in relation to this particular case which involved a price fixing cartel in the home heating oil sector in the West of Ireland. To date, fines amounting to €98,000 and one six month prison sentence have been imposed. These are the first criminal convictions on indictment for competition law offences in Ireland and in Europe. The additional resources provided to the Authority this year for its cartel enforcement work will increase the Authority's capacity to investigate and prosecute serious breaches of competition law.

Decentralisation Programme.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

95 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of the decentralisation of FÁS to Birr; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23902/06]

Under the Government's decentralisation programme, FÁS is due to transfer its head office including 383 staff to Birr, County Offaly with a target date of 2009.

The recent industrial action by SIPTU members in relation to the Birr relocation has ended on the basis that all the issues involved will be the subject of discussion under the aegis of the Labour Relations Commission. Under the LRC proposals it has been agreed that "the process of engagement is designed to allow all parties to deal with their concerns and to jointly arrive at a solution which is acceptable to both sides". Discussions under the Labour Relations Commission are due to begin shortly.

Job Protection.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

96 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the actions he intends to take to stem the outward flow of manufacturing jobs from this country; if he has discussed this matter with Enterprise Ireland or the IDA; the incentives he intends to introduce to encourage manufacturing industry here, particularly in view of the increasing price of oil and the consequent increasing price of transporting manufactured goods to Ireland from other countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23484/06]

Ireland is not unique in terms of recent employment losses in manufacturing. Employment in manufacturing is falling globally and this trend is not limited to developed countries. ILO and UNIDO employment estimates for key non-OECD countries such as Brazil, China and Russia show that manufacturing employment has also declined in these countries. A recent study cites a net job loss of more than 4 million jobs between 1995 and 2002 in China's manufacturing sector.

This suggests that the decline in manufacturing employment in OECD countries is not solely attributable to a shift of production from OECD to non-OECD countries. While this has certainly played a role for some countries and some industries, an important factor driving the decline in manufacturing employment is productivity growth.

CSO data indicates that manufacturing production (in volumes) increased by 28 percent between 2000 and 2005. This implies that in recent years more manufacturing goods have been produced by fewer people, indicating that productivity growth has been a contributor to the decline in employment of manufacturing in Ireland.

Also, other factors such as increased offshoring and trade play a role in explaining the decline in manufacturing employment in Ireland in recent years. Offshoring of lower value-added functions is a reality of modern global manufacturing. Offshoring can occur because of increasing cost competitiveness in other locations or because firms need to gain more efficient access to vital markets. Productivity gains achieved through offshoring represent an opportunity to develop higher end manufacturing and related activities domestically, such as R&D, marketing and sales functions.

The increasing price of oil must be paid for by manufacturers the world over, so this does not place Ireland at a particular competitiveness disadvantage. The issue of cost competitiveness and the health of manufacturing depends on a much wider array of issues, from the availability of suitable skills to the impact of higher wage costs.

The difficulty being faced by some manufacturing sectors in Ireland is mainly due to shifting patterns of international comparative advantage and the process of structural change, with capital and labour resources of declining firms and industries now being allocated to other higher value-added activities more suited to the new, higher cost, Irish operating environment. While employment within manufacturing has fallen by 31,000 since peaking at 251,000 in 2000 at the same time there has been a large increase in employment in the services and construction sectors. Employment in financial services and other business services grew by almost 100,000 while employment in the construction sector grew by 130,000 since 1997. Overall employment has increased by 500,000 in that period.

I am keenly aware of the role played by manufacturing and its continuing importance in the Irish economy. To assist industry maintain competitiveness and increase productivity the economic development agencies are working on an ongoing basis to promote the adoption of new technology and best practice at company level. The agencies aim to support sustainable, high value added enterprise in Ireland through the provision of mentoring and developmental supports, the enhancement of management capabilities and critical workforce skills in client companies, support for the creation and implementation of strategies for market entry, development and growth, and strong supports for innovation and for research and development. The recently concluded social partnership agreement Towards 2016 also recognises the importance of the manufacturing sector with a proposal to establish a high level manufacturing group.

World Trade Negotiations.

Dan Boyle

Question:

97 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether the proposals from the European Union to use a so-called simple Swiss formula for the negotiations at the WTO with coefficients of 10 and 15 would mean that developing countries would undergo greater cuts to their industrial tariffs than developed countries going against the commitment to less than full reciprocity in tariff reductions. [23947/06]

Dan Boyle

Question:

124 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether least developed countries should not be asked to take on additional commitments as part of the WTO negotiations; and if so, if he will therefore communicate to the European Commission the view that the EU should not request that LDCs increase their tariff bindings as part of the current talks. [23946/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 124 together.

In the context of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations on non- agricultural market access, Ireland and EU Member States are asking that all participants contribute according to their means with due regard to their level of development. The EU approach is that developing countries should do less than developed and that the poorest and most vulnerable should make no new market access commitments. It is on this basis that the EU have sought the use of two coefficients in the industrial tariff negotiations. Using a coefficient of 10 for developed countries, in a formula, will deliver final maximum tariffs of no more than 10%. The use of a higher coefficient of 15, in the case of developing countries, would result in developing countries having to reduce their tariffs to a maximum of 15%.

The Framework Agreement agreed by WTO Ministers at the General Council, in July 2004, includes elements of flexibility for developing countries which remain subject to negotiation and final agreement. These elements of flexibility include, for example, less than formula cuts on a certain percentage of tariff lines, or keeping tariffs unbound, or not applying formula cuts to a certain percentage of tariff lines, all of which can contribute to developing countries delivering tariff cuts on a basis of less than full reciprocity.

Furthermore, the Framework Agreement, adopted by all WTO Members, specifies that least developed countries (LDCs) shall not be required to apply the formula tariff cuts nor participate in the sectorial approach, but that as part of their contribution to the Round of negotiations they are expected to increase their level of binding commitments. In addition, as reflected in the Industrial Goods Market Access Annex of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration, of December 2005, "there appears to be a common understanding that LDCs will be the judge of the extent and level of the bindings that they make."

Enterprise Strategy Group.

Jack Wall

Question:

98 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made on the implementation of the recommendations of the Enterprise Strategy Group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23522/06]

Implementation of the Enterprise Strategy Group Report is ongoing. The implementation process is overseen by the Enterprise Advisory Group (EAG), consisting of representatives of the business community under the chairmanship of Michael Buckley with the participation of Secretaries General from relevant Government Departments. The EAG is currently finalising its first progress report which will be submitted to me shortly.

I am satisfied that good progress is being made on all the recommendations. I look forward to receiving the Group's Report and their comments on progress made.

Question No. 99 answered with QuestionNo. 66.

County Enterprise Boards.

Denis Naughten

Question:

100 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will provide additional funding to efficient county enterprise boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23438/06]

Phil Hogan

Question:

102 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is satisfied that State funding for county enterprise boards is sufficient for them to carry out their remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23889/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 102 together.

I have provided funding of more than €30m to the County and City Enterprise Boards this year. This represents an increase of nearly 8% on the allocation provided in 2005. In addition to the Exchequer funding provided, the CEBs have an increasing flow of funds available to them from repayments of refundable grants provided in earlier years. It is estimated that some €3m will be available to the CEBs in 2006 from this source.

I believe that the level of funding available to the CEBs is adequate and appropriate at this time and that it enables all CEBs to fulfil their function and their remit in maximizing entrepreneurial development in the micro-enterprise sector throughout the country. The CEBs play an extremely important role in the development of indigenous enterprise in Ireland and it is my intention that an appropriate level of financial support for all CEBs will continue to be made available. I am confident that the level of funding available is sufficient to enable any CEB support any good quality projects that may present.

In determining the allocations for individual CEBs, my Department adopts a systematic approach to ensure the maximum degree of objectivity and equity of treatment. This approach involves the provision of funding on the basis of a standard initial allocation to each CEB as well as an additional allocation that is determined mainly by population but which also takes account of issues such as local unemployment trends, capacity to spend, existing commitments and regional spread. Furthermore, my Department works closely with the CEBs throughout the year to ensure that the available funding is utilised to the maximum extent possible. This can involve funds being reallocated from Boards that are not in a position to spend their full allocations to Boards that have a demand for additional funding.

Question No. 101 answered with QuestionNo. 57.
Question No. 102 answered with QuestionNo. 100.

Denis Naughten

Question:

103 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans to review the eligibility criteria for funding from county enterprise boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23437/06]

The basic criteria under which the County Enterprise Boards have been operating since their inception in 1993, and under which funding is available, is based primarily on factors such as the sector of the economy in which an enterprise is operating or intends to operate and the size or proposed size of the enterprise. CEBs can assist, through either financial or non-financial means, in the establishment and/or development of new and existing enterprises from individuals/sole traders, companies and community groups subject to the following eligibility criteria:

•the enterprise must be in the commercial sphere;

•the enterprise must demonstrate a market for the product/service;

•the enterprise must have a capacity for growth and new job creation;

•the enterprise must not employ more than 10 people.

Within the above eligibility criteria there are certain priorities and restrictions imposed such as the following:

•priority must be given to enterprises in the manufacturing or internationally traded services sector which over time can develop into strong export entities and graduate to the Enterprise Ireland Portfolio;

•tourism enterprises must be aimed predominantly at overseas visitors;

•locally provided enterprises promoted by the unemployed, those recently made redundant and women re-entering the workforce can be supported provided that those enterprises do not give rise to concerns about deadweight or displacement;

•it is considered inappropriate to support other areas such as retail enterprises, personal services (e.g. hairdressers, gardeners, etc), professional services (accountants, solicitors, etc), construction, as it is considered that these generally give rise to unacceptable deadweight (where projects would have proceeded anyway) and/or displacement (where the projects simply displace business from other players in the market) concerns;

•in relation to the provision of financial assistance there has been an increasing recourse to repayable forms of assistance.

In 2003, my Department, through Forfás, commissioned a comprehensive review of the role and functions of the CEBs in the development of micro-enterprises. The Review largely endorsed the activities and operations of the CEBs and concluded that there is justification for continued state support to micro-enterprises and that the CEB network can continue to play a useful role in the overall national enterprise development policy. It also recommended that, in providing assistance to micro-enterprises,

•CEBs should focus more on economic, rather than social or local development, objectives;

•there should be a renewed focus on the core enterprise mission;

•the issues of potential deadweight, displacement and duplication should be more systematically and rigorously addressed and

•there should be a move away from direct grant aid to repayable finance as well as a greater provision of soft supports as an alternative to grant aid.

The recent report of the Small Business Forum endorsed the key recommendations of the Fitzpatricks Report in relation to the future focus of CEB support and assistance. My Department is in dialogue with the CEBs in relation to the implementation of these recommendations in an appropriate manner and in relation to determining how best the CEBs can re-focus their supports in line with the recommendations of both the Reports in order to ensure that the eligibility criteria remain fully relevant to current market conditions.

Question No. 104 answered with QuestionNo. 75.

Fair Trade Products.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

105 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress that has been made in relation to introducing Fair Trade products to his Department’s offices and to setting a target date for making the canteens, cafeterias and restaurants under the control of his Department and its agencies use only Fair Trade tea, coffee, sugar and other products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23490/06]

My Department's offices are spread over 8 separate buildings, none of which have cafeterias or restaurants. My Department has only a medium sized canteen in Davitt House and a very small canteen in Kildare Street. As indicated in my reply to a similar question by Deputy McManus last month, the tea, coffee, sugar and other products served in those two canteens are not confined to Fair Trade products which, I understand, is also the position in relation to any canteens, restaurants or cafes of the agencies under the aegis of my Department.

I have asked that consideration be given to the enhanced sale of Fair Trade tea, coffee, sugar and other products in my Department's two canteens and in those of the agencies under the aegis of my Department but it would not be appropriate to impose an obligation on the proprietors involved to use only Fair Trade products. Since the matter was raised by Deputy Liz McManus last month, I can confirm that the two canteens in my Department have introduced Fair Trade products for sale or are in the process of doing so, which is a development I very much welcome.

Employment Rights.

Bernard Allen

Question:

106 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of languages employee rights information is available in; the obligations of employers to provide this information in the first language of their employees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23894/06]

I am conscious of the difficulties sometimes experienced by non-native speakers in understanding their rights and conditions of employment. With particular regard for the needs of employees from overseas the Department has translated key Employment Rights information into nine languages namely Chinese, Czech, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, and Russian. The information, which is also available in Irish as well as English, can be obtained in leaflet form and from the Department's website. The Employment Rights Information Unit in the Department distributes thousands of information leaflets and booklets through citizen information centres and other outlets around the country.

Statutory employment rights and protections apply to all workers whether they are Irish Citizens or workers from overseas. There is no legal obligation on employers to provide information to employees on the generality of Employment Rights legislation. In this connection, however, certain legislation requires that specific information, though not necessarily in every employee's first language, be placed on public display in poster form in a relevant place of employment.

In the context of commitments under the National Partnership Agreement Towards 2016 a structured programme of Education and Awareness in respect of Employment Rights entitlements and obligations is planned. The programme will address both employers and employees with targeted information. A particular feature of the programme will be a focus on delivery of information to workers from overseas.

World Trade Negotiations.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

107 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on Commissioner Mandelson’s concerns in regard to intellectual property issues in trade with China; the action he advocates at both national and European levels; if the matter has been discussed at European Council of Ministers meetings; if his Department has discussed the issue at the World Trade Organisation; if so, the manner in which they were discussed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23504/06]

The Deputy appears to be referring to a recent speech by Commissioner Mandelson, at Renmin University in Beijing, at which he encouraged China to meet its World Trade Organisation (WTO) obligations or risk a backlash from Europe. I have noted the Commissioner's comments in which he pointed to the need for effective action by China on several WTO fronts including, in respect of Intellectual Property (IP) issues.

It must be acknowledged that China has made significant strides since joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in strengthening its legal framework and amending laws on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) to comply with the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Despite these improvements, known IPR infringements, in the form of counterfeiting and piracy, remains a major problem. There remains considerable concern over enforcement measures which to date have not been sufficient to deter IPR infringements effectively. IP in trade terms is not the sole preserve of Member States. The European Commission, on the basis of a mandate from the European Council, negotiates on behalf of EU Member States with Third Country WTO Members. In this regard the EU has recently transmitted a Communication to the WTO TRIPS Council designed to raise the level of awareness of problems regarding effective enforcement.

In addition the EU has on-going bilateral initiatives with countries, including with China, aimed at improving communication and co-operation on the protection of IPRs and the establishment of a long-term strategy on IPR enforcement supported by EU technical assistance programmes.

Ireland, as with other EU Member States, supports the EU approach on enforcement. This approach to China, and to other third countries presenting challenges in this regard, is based on the collective trading interests of the EU Member States and on the need to protect our firms' IP. The objective of the approach is to improve the legal and institutional and also, the enforcement regimes, in third countries to facilitate trade.

EU Directives.

Joe Costello

Question:

108 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of all outstanding EU directives due to be transposed in whole or in part by his Department; if he will list those directives for which his Department has received one or more warnings from the EU in relation to non-transposition or incorrect transposition; the timetable for implementation of all outstanding directives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23492/06]

There are currently a total of twenty-seven Directives to be transposed by this Department. Of these, 16 remain to be transposed up to the end of 2006, details of which are given in the Table below. Another 11 Directives require to be transposed in 2007 and subsequent years.

Regulations to implement Directive 2001/84 (Resale right for the benefit of the author of an original work of art) were signed on 13 June 2006. Formal notification of the transposition of this Directive will be made to the Commission following advertisement in Iris Oifigiúil. Draft Regulations in respect of two further Directives (2004/111 and 2004/112) are awaiting clearance in the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. A Commencement Order which will give effect to Directive 2002/14 is also being prepared by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel and it is expected that this will be finalised at an early date.

Of the 16 Directives due to be transposed by the end of 2006, 11 are overdue for transposition. It is anticipated that by the end June 2006, 5 of the Directives currently overdue will have been transposed while another 4 overdue Directives are expected to be transposed by end July 2006. The Department has received three Reasoned Opinions and six Letters of Formal Notice from the Commission in relation to overdue Directives.

It is not possible to provide definitive information on proceedings relating to the delay or non-implementation of Directives prior to 2001. However, since 2001, my Department has received 26 notifications (additional to the nine extant notifications in the Table below) from the Commission in respect of the non-transposition of EU Directives. All of the Directives covered by the previous 26 notifications have now been transposed. My Department continues to accord a high priority to the transposition of Directives and makes every effort to transpose Directives in time to meet the deadline given for transposition.

Overdue Directives as at 20th June 2006

Description of Directive

Deadline for Transposition

Current position

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

19/7/2004

Drafting of Regulations almost complete at the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. Court proceedings have been instituted by the ECJ and Ireland has lodged a defence. ECJ deadline for rejoinder is 26 June 2006. Expected date of transposition: End-June 2006. Reasoned Opinion issued by Commission

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

8/10/2004

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

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

23/3/2005

The Employees (Provision of Information and Consultation) Bill 2005 was signed by President on 9th April 2006. A Commencement Order to give effect to the Directive is currently being prepared by the OPC. It is expected that this will be finalised at an early date. Reasoned Opinion issued by Commission

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

1/7/2005

Commission Directives 2004/111/EC and 2004/112/EC are linked. Substantial drafts of Regulations under The Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road Act 1998 were received on 11th May. Accompanying draft Regulations under the 1972 European Communities Act are awaiting clearance in the OPC. These are expected to be finalised shortly. Expected date of transposition: End June 2006.

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

6/7/2005

Drafting of Regulations completed in the Health and Safety Authority. These will be finalised by Counsel hired by HSA. Expected date of transposition: End July 2006. Letter of Formal Notice issued by Commission

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

14/12/2005

Commission Directives 2004/111/EC and 2004/112/EC are linked. Substantial drafts of Regulations under The Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road Act 1998 were received on 11th May. Accompanying draft Regulations under the 1972 European Communities Act are awaiting clearance in the OPC. These are expected to be finalised shortly. Expected date of transposition: End June 2006 Letter of Formal Notice issued by Commission

Directive 2001/84/EC. . . of 27 September 2001 on the resale right for the benefit of the author of an original work of art (deadline 1/1/2006)

1/1/2006

Regulations (SI 312/2006) signed on 13 June 2006. Notification of transposition to appear in Iris Oifigiúil followed by formal notification to the Commission. Letter of Formal Notice issued by the Commission.

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

15/2/2006

Public consultation process completed and the Health and Safety Authority are finalising Regulations which are being drafted (legal settlement) by Counsel hired by the HSA. Expected date of transposition: End July 2006. Letter of Formal Notice issued by Commission

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

15/4/2006

Regulations being drafted (legal settlement being outsourced), in agreement with OPC. Expected date of transposition: End July 2006. Letter of Formal Notice issued by Commission

Directive 2004/48 EC on the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights

26/4/2006

Office of Parliamentary Counsel currently drafting Bill to give effect to the Directive. Letter of Formal Notice issued by Commission

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

30/4/2006

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

Directives due for Transposition June 2006-December 2006

Description of Directive

Deadline for Transposition

Current position

Directive 2005/84 amending Directive 76/769/EEC . . . relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations

16/7/2006

Four separate amendments of Directive 76/769 have been drafted into one set of Regulations which are currently the subject of public consultation. Legal settlement being outsourced, in agreement with OPC.Transposition deadline expected to be met.

Directive 2003/72 EC supplementing the Statute for a European Cooperative Society with regard to the involvement of employees

18/8/2006

The EU Council of Ministers adopted the Regulation and Directive on the European Cooperative Society on 22 July 2003. Consultation regarding the options in the Regulation has been concluded. Draft Regulations are being finalised in tandem with the Company Statute regulations and it is intened to send them to the OPC shortly.It is expected that Regulations will be signed into effect by 18 August 2006.

Directive 2005/59 EC amending for the 28th time Council Directive 76/769/EEC relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations (Toluene and Trichlorobenzene)

26/10/2006

See 2005/84 above.Transposition expected by 15 July 2006, well ahead of deadline.

Directive 2003/58 EC of 15 July 2003 amending Council Directive 68/151/EEC {First Company Law Directive}, as regards the disclosure requirements in respect of certain types of companies

31/12/2006

Company Law Administration Section is in consultation with the Companies Registry Office in regard to implementation and it is expected that the deadline of 31st December 2006 will be met.

Directive 2005/69/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 November 2006 amending for the 27th time

29/12/2006

See 2005/84.

Council Directive 76/769/EEC on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in extender oils and tyres)

Transposition expected by deadline date of 29 December 2006.

Question No. 109 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

Job Creation.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

110 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he will take to improve the economic development of the west of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23893/06]

Support for job creation and investment in individual counties and regions is a day-to-day operational matter for the development agencies as part of their responsibility under the Industrial Development Acts. While I may give general policy directives to the agencies I am precluded under the Industrial Development Acts from giving directives regarding individual undertakings or from giving preference to one area over others.

The pursuit of the national goal of balanced and sustainable regional development is an important goal for my Department and the agencies under its remit. The National Spatial Strategy provides a framework for this goal wherein the focus is on the Gateway and Hub locations throughout the State.

The agencies under the remit of my Department are endeavouring to attract new investment, encourage the start-up of new businesses, grow existing businesses and develop the labour market in the Western region. The agencies offer supports to prospective and existing employers ranging from mentoring, training and development programmes to employment, research and development grants.

IDA Ireland which is the agency charged with the attraction of foreign direct investment to this country has set itself a target of trying to achieve 50% of all new Greenfield FDI first time jobs to locate in the BMW region including Galway, Roscommon and Mayo. Where appropriate, IDA utilises the higher grant ceilings available in the BMW Region relative to the rest of the country in order to encourage investment projects to locate within the BMW region. In addition IDA is investing significantly in the provision of planned and focussed property solutions in the West region.

The overall aim of Enterprise Ireland is to transform Irish companies into market-focused and innovation-driven businesses and to increase their exports, sales and employment. Enterprise Ireland provides preferential funding for companies, with detailed export plans, that are establishing or expanding a business in the West as part of the BMW Region.

In addition, during 2005, the Galway, Mayo and Roscommon County Enterprise Boards paid out over €1m in grant aid to 113 projects in the Western region and assisted in the creation of 238 net jobs in the area. I am confident that the policies being pursued by the agencies together with the commitment of Government to regional development will continue to bear fruit in terms of investment and employment for the region.

Job Losses.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

111 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the fact that the number of redundancies for the first four months of 2006 was 7,723, a 12 per cent jump on the same period in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23906/06]

The number of actual redundancies for the first four months of 2006 was 7746 a 12.4% increase on the same period in 2005. The months of April and May 2006 have seen a drop in the numbers of redundancies at levels of 27% and 10% respectively, below those for the same months last year. Cumulatively, from January to May 2006 the number of redundancies was 6.6% up on the first five months of 2005. I have no control over the number of redundancies that occur at any given time.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

112 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of plans for decentralisation of units, sections or agencies in his Department; the duties of FÁS which are to be assigned to employees remaining in Dublin after decentralisation; the duties which will be transferred to Birr; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23498/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

167 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which decentralisation proposals for his Department or its subsidiary bodies have been achieved to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24119/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 112 and 167 together.

My Department is required to move 250 posts to Carlow under the Government's Decentralisation Programme. In addition, four of the Agencies under the aegis of my Department are due to decentralise as follows: FÁS is to move 383 posts to Birr, Co. Offaly; Enterprise Ireland is to move 292 posts to Shannon; The Health and Safety Authority is to move 110 posts to Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, and The National Standards Authority of Ireland is to move 132 posts to Arklow, Co. Wicklow.

My Department is required to move 250 posts to Carlow under the Government's Decentralisation Programme. The second iteration of the Department's Decentralisation Implementation Plan, which was submitted to the Department of Finance last year, sets out how the decentralisation programme will be implemented within the Department.

The number of posts in Business Units decentralising to Carlow, as at 16th May, is 276. The following business units have been earmarked for decentralisation:

•Companies Registration Office / Registry of Friendly Societies

•Work Permits

•Labour Inspectorate / Employment Rights

•Redundancy & Insolvency

Having regard to the Department of Finance agreed staff protocols, my Department has approached all General Service staff who expressed a first preference before 7th September 2004 i.e Priority Applications for relocation to Carlow through the Central Application Facility and there are currently 169 priority first preference applications for Carlow, with good interest across all grades.

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

My Department currently has 97 Carlow-bound applicants assigned to decentralising posts and we expect to have all decentralising posts filled in sufficient time to ensure that staff are adequately trained in advance of the move to Carlow.

With regard to the property side of the Department's move, the Office of Public Works completed the purchase of a site in Carlow town centre late last year. On 31st May 2006, the OPW commenced the tendering process by seeking expressions of interest from developers in relation to the design, build, finance and maintenance of new office accommodation and car parking for the Department in Carlow.

On completion of this stage, a short-list of developers will be drawn up from whom tenders will be invited. Following the tender evaluation process the preferred tenderer will be requested to seek suitable planning permission. On obtaining this, the OPW will formally award the contract and construction will commence. The OPW expect construction to begin early in 2007 and the construction phase may take up to 24 months.

In order to accommodate staff who wish to move earlier than the projected building completion date, officials of my Department, in consultation with the Department of Finance and the OPW, as well as decentralising staff and Business Units, are actively exploring the option of an earlier move to Carlow, subject to securing high quality temporary accommodation. This latter option could allow for the movement of approximately 80 decentralising staff to Carlow during the first half of next year, on a voluntary basis. A revised implementation plan will be drawn up by my officials once a decision has been taken on the temporary accommodation available.

My Department continues to provide advice and support to each of the four Agencies in progressing their decentralisation programmes and there is a dedicated Agency Decentralisation Committee to drive the process forward. In addition, I am satisfied that each Agency is fully engaged in the process and taking all of the relevant steps to advance their decentralisation plans. In outlining the current Agency position on decentralisation, it must be remembered that CAF data is based on priority first preference applications.

Under the Government's decentralisation programme, FÁS is due to transfer its head office including 383 staff to Birr, County Offaly with a target date of 2009. Contracts for the purchase of a site in Birr have been signed. To date, a total of 152 staff have expressed an interest in relocating to Birr, of which 85 are internal FÁS staff, broken down as follows:

•14 FÁS staff have volunteered to move (outside of CAF)

•6 FÁS staff have signed up trough the CAF

•29 New Entrants have signed contracts with the relocation clause

•36 Promoted staff have signed contracts with the relocation clause, however these cases will be examined by the parties as part of the LRC proposed process.

With regard to the ongoing dispute between FÁS and SIPTU in relation to decentralisation, I welcome the fact that an LRC proposal has been accepted by both sides. The proposal provides for the parties to enter a process of discussion, facilitated by the LRC, on the arrangements to apply in respect of promotion in light of the relocation of FÁS Head Office to Birr. The process should conclude not later than two months from the date of the first meeting, and any unresolved issues at that stage should be referred to the Labour Court for recommendation.

All the duties/activities carried out in the Head office of FÁS are scheduled to be transferred to Birr. In line with the Government's commitment on this issue, all employees not wishing to transfer out of Dublin will be facilitated with an alternative post in Dublin, and all relevant issues will be discussed with the unions.

Enterprise Ireland is to move 292 posts to Shannon. The most recent CAF figures show that a total of 52 people (of which 19 are internal EI staff) have signalled their interest in moving to Shannon, at this stage. The most immediate implementation step for Enterprise Ireland is to provide for a new HQ building, designed to meet the business needs of the organisation. Enterprise Ireland, working closely with the Office of Public Works (OPW), has identified but not yet acquired a preferred site in Shannon.

The Health and Safety Authority is to move 110 posts to Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny. The Authority has been advised by OPW that as the site procurement is in the final stages, the current timeline for availability for occupancy is late 2008. To date, a total of 62 people (11 HSA staff (including 9 promotions), 41 Civil Servants, 10 Public Servants) have expressed an interest in transferring to Thomastown, through the CAF. In addition, there are 21 staff in the process of being recruited for the REACH Chemicals Strategy. These 21 new recruits, along with four serving staff who wish to move in advance of the Thomastown premises being available, will shortly move to interim accommodation in Kilkenny city.

The National Standards Authority of Ireland, with a total of 132 staff, is to be relocated to Arklow. The latest available CAF figures show a total of 130 first preference priority applications for Arklow (of which 11 are from within the Authority). NSAI are working closely with OPW in identifying and securing suitable office accommodation in the Arklow area and the NSAI anticipate a target date of April 2009 as the completion date of its decentralisation plan.

Industrial Development.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

113 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures he intends to take to boost manufacturing production which showed a 5.3 per cent drop for the period from February to April 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23904/06]

Quarterly results need to be interpreted with caution. Quarterly Indices are best compared to performance relative to the corresponding quarter of the previous year rather than relative to the preceding quarter. Furthermore, quarterly indices tend to fluctuate frequently and should more appropriately be viewed in the context of overall annual performance.

The manufacturing sector in Ireland continues to perform strongly, both in terms of increasing turnover (monetary value) and production (volumes of units produced). According to the latest CSO Release — Industrial Production and Turnover (dated 9th June 2006), overall production in 2005 is up 28 percent relative to 2000 in manufacturing industries. While the CSO data indicates that production decreased by 5.3% in the period Feb-April 2006 compared to the period Nov. 2005-Jan. 2006, it should be noted that, on an annual basis, production for manufacturing industries in April 2006 showed an increase of 8.6% over April 2005 with the modern sector, comprising a number of high-technology sectors, showing an annual increase in production to April 2006 of 12.2 percent while an increase of 6.9 per cent was recorded in the Traditional sector.

I am keenly aware of the role played by manufacturing and its continuing importance to the Irish economy. To assist industry maintain competitiveness and increase productivity the economic development agencies are working on an ongoing basis to promote the adoption of new technology and best practice at company level. The agencies aim to support sustainable, high value added enterprise in Ireland through the provision of mentoring and developmental supports, the enhancement of management capabilities and critical workforce skills in client companies, support for the creation and implementation of strategies for market entry, development and growth, and strong supports for innovation and for research and development. The recently concluded social partnership agreement Towards 2016 also recognises the importance of the manufacturing sector with a proposal to establish a high level manufacturing group.

Business Regulation.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

114 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the response rate to the recent call by the Business Regulation Forum for submissions; the purpose of this consultation process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23517/06]

A public call for submissions by any interested party to the Business Regulation Forum was carried out by means of advertisements in national newspapers on 23 and 24 March 2006. This was supplemented by a direct invitation to submit sent to 152 public and private sector entities on 25 May 2006. In response, 28 submissions have been received to date.

The purpose of the call for submissions is, firstly, to apply good practice in terms of consulting on this important area impacting on national economic and social issues and on competitiveness and secondly, to collect evidence directly from business and those who deal with businesses about the specific regulatory burdens they face as well as to seek suggestions for possible solutions in instances where they perceive regulations to be disproportionate, inefficient or ineffective. The submissions will constitute one of the sources of information on which the Business Regulation Forum will draw in carrying out its analysis, preparing its report for end-2006 and developing the recommendations for inclusion in that report.

Skill Shortages.

Joan Burton

Question:

115 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to reports from the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland that a skills shortage is putting foreign direct investment at risk; his Department’s views on this claim; the actions being taken by his Department and the discussions his Department has had with other Government Departments in relation to a possible skills shortage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23496/06]

In a tight labour market such as exists in Ireland, it is understandable that there will be some difficulty at times for individual companies in recruiting suitable personnel for their vacancies. However, I think it is valid to claim that in Ireland, more than in most countries, there is a sustained commitment to do whatever is necessary to ensure that the necessary pool of qualified and skilled labour is available and that all reasonable and appropriate steps at Government level are taken to anticipate skills gaps.

The work of the Expert Group on Future Skills Group has been monitoring our future skills needs since 1997 and much has been done in the interim to ensure awareness of, and responsiveness to, our national skills needs at all levels. The Expert Group is currently undertaking research for my Department to underpin a National Skills Strategy out to 2020.

The introduction of the National Skills Bulletin in 2005, which is to be published annually by the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit under the aegis of the Expert Group and FÁS, provides a comprehensive picture of the skills demand and supply situation in the economy. The most recent information from this source confirms that there are some shortages of both labour and skills in particular sectors and occupations. That is understandable given the pace of growth across all sectors of the economy.

A particular concern expressed in the American Chamber of Commerce survey relates to fourth level graduates, especially in engineering and finance disciplines. In this regard, I should mention that the Government's Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation 2006-2013 which was launched earlier this week includes a target of doubling the number of post graduates, many of whom it is expected will be utilised by the enterprise sector.

Job Losses.

John Gormley

Question:

116 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures he has taken to monitor and respond to the reasons for job losses in view of the 12 per cent increase in redundancies in the first quarter of 2006; and if he intends to formulate employment solutions for vulnerable industries. [23952/06]

My Department operates an internal Early Warning System of potential job losses and firms in difficulty, based on material provided on a confidential basis by IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Shannon Development. This information includes details as to why each particular situation has developed. While the number of redundancies was higher in the first three months of 2006 than the corresponding months in 2005 this trend has ceased and the number of redundancies in April and May were less than in the same months in 2005.

Changes in the level of redundancies must be viewed in the context of sustained employment growth. The latest data from the Quarterly National Household Survey for Quarter 1 2006 shows that employment increased by 89,800 (4.7%) to 1,998,100 in the year while the rate of unemployment continues to be low by both international and historical standards at 4.2%. In addition, the latest FÁS/ESRI job vacancy data indicates that the demand for labour remains strong. This indicates that the Irish labour market remains extremely buoyant, with job creation far exceeding job losses.

Where redundancies occur, the State agencies under the aegis of my Department (FÁS, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA) endeavour to find alternative employment for those involved. In addition, to the existing initiatives aimed at low skilled workers and workers in vulnerable industries there are proposals outlined in the new social partnership agreement which provide for a number of initiatives aimed at workers in vulnerable industries. These include enhanced programmes to upskill the low-skilled, older workers and those in vulnerable employment and the establishment of a High Level Working Manufacturing Group which will review the challenges facing the sector and identify further measures to meet those challenges.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

117 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the high number of persons affected by collective redundancies in the first five months of 2006 relative to previous years; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that if such collective redundancies continue at the same rate for the remainder of 2006 they will exceed the number for 2001 when the dot-com bubble burst; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23487/06]

The number of employees who received collective redundancy notice as advised to the Department under the Protection of Employment Act, 1977 has seen an increase for the first five months of 2006 of 44% over the same period last year. I should point out that the more reliable indicator of redundancies relates to those people who have actually been made redundant during the same period. The number for the first five months of this year is 9933 an increase of 6.6% over the same period last year. It is not possible to say at this stage what the final tally will be by year-end.

Question No. 118 answered with QuestionNo. 71.
Question No. 119 answered with QuestionNo. 82.

Departmental Bodies.

Bernard Allen

Question:

120 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the budget for FÁS for 2006 and for the years 1997 to 2005 inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23895/06]

A budget of €974.375 million has been allocated to FÁS for 2006. Expenditure by FÁS for the years 1997 to 2005 was as follows:

Year

€m

1997

498.648

1998:

517.101

1999

577.935

2000

674.732

2001

792.061

2002

850.680

2003

814.602

2004

815.576

2005

903.769

Funding has almost doubled over the period. While some of this increase is due to inflation, the vast bulk of it reflects both increases in social welfare allowances, to which training allowances are linked, and an expansion in training and employment programmes.

Question No. 121 answered with QuestionNo. 71.
Question No. 122 answered with QuestionNo. 66.
Question No. 123 answered with QuestionNo. 75.
Question No. 124 answered with QuestionNo. 97.

Health Services.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

125 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a waiting list of 11 months for heroin addicts to enter a methadone treatment programme in the Health Service Executive treatment centre (details supplied) in County Laois; if her attention has further been drawn to the risk that this poses to heroin addicts; if she will ensure extra medical personnel are provided to this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24011/06]

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.

Finian McGrath

Question:

126 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the director of human resource of the Health Service Executive north west not getting involved in the mediation process on a case; and if she will resolve this matter. [24012/06]

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

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Dan Neville

Question:

127 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for the housing aid for the elderly scheme by a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [24013/06]

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

Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

128 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 94 of 2 December 2004, the Medical Council have examined the report on the death of a person (details supplied); and if the Medical Council has decided on the way in which it intends to deal with the issue. [24014/06]

I submitted the report referred to by the Deputy to the Medical Council for its information and for any action which the Medical Council may deem appropriate in November 2004. It was indicated to my Department that the report would be brought to the attention of the Medical Council for discussion in December 2004.

The Medical Council is the independent authority charged with primary responsibility for the registration and regulation of medical practitioners in the State. The Medical Council is the body with statutory responsibility for issues relating to fitness to practice of medical practitioners and I have no function in relation to any such enquiries.

Under section 45(5) of the Medical Practitioners Act 1978 the findings of the Fitness to Practice Committee on any matter referred to it and the decision of the Medical Council on any report made to it by the Fitness to Practice Committee cannot be made public without the consent of the person who has been the subject of the inquiry before the Fitness to Practise Committee unless such person has been found, as a result of such inquiry, to be: (a) guilty of professional misconduct, or (b) unfit to engage in the practice of medicine because of physical or mental disability, as the case may be.

I trust the Deputy will appreciate that I am unable to provide any further information on the Medical Council's response to the report.

Hospital Procedures.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

129 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the delay of 14 days from the time a biopsy is taken until a person (details supplied) in County Wexford receives their results is due to medical necessity or is an administrative issue; if the stages between the biopsy being taken to receipt of results will be explained to allow the patient to have a greater understanding of the processes involved; and the reason for the 14 day timeframe. [24023/06]

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.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

130 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will carry out an inquiry into a nursing home (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24025/06]

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.

Medical Cards.

Liz McManus

Question:

131 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the fact that she is providing medical cards for people over 70 years which also covers dental care excluding cosmetic, the reason this medical card only covers root canal fillings on front teeth and not back teeth as same could not be considered cosmetic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24029/06]

A range of dental services for adult medical card holders are available under the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) from participating dentists holding contracts with Health Service Executive (HSE). The treatments provided include examinations, fillings, extractions, dentures and x-rays. The scheme is administered by the HSE — Primary Care Reimbursement Service on behalf of the HSE and it is monitored at a local level by Principal Dental Surgeons with a regional responsibility for the DTSS.

A DTSS Review Group has been established to undertake a comprehensive review of Primary Care Oral Health Services provided under the DTSS. Represented on the Review Group are the HSE, the Department of Health and Children, the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the Department of Finance, the Irish Dental Association and the HSE Employers Agency. The schedule of services provided for under the DTSS will be examined as part of the review, as well as monitoring and evaluation procedures.

Hospital Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

132 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reasons a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 is on a trolley at Beaumont Hospital; and if she will assist their family in obtaining a place in a nursing home. [24048/06]

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 Accommodation.

Jack Wall

Question:

133 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application by a person (details supplied) in County Laois for a long term stay bed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24049/06]

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

National Cancer Strategy.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

134 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals in the matter of obtaining multi annual funding for the implementation of the new cancer strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24050/06]

Last week I formally launched a new Strategy for Cancer Control which has been developed by the National Cancer Forum. The Strategy makes recommendations in relation to organisation, governance, quality assurance and accreditation across the continuum of cancer care from prevention and health promotion through to treatment services, palliative care and research.

The Government is fully committed to significant additional investment in cancer control based on the reform programme now being implemented by the HSE. Additional investment will be addressed from within the annual financial allocation approved by Government commencing in 2007. To this end, I have asked the HSE to prepare a robust needs assessment for cancer control for the next five years to reflect priorities in cancer control, equitable distribution and priority setting that maximises efficiency and reduces dependancy on hospital in-patient care.

The HSE has announced the establishment of a National Cancer Control Programme to implement the new Strategy, details of which will be outlined by the Executive over the coming weeks. The Programme will provide the necessary leadership, governance and integration to create an essential framework for cancer control. It will be led by a National Programme Director and will host a single national budget for all cancer control activities. Since the implementation of the National Cancer Strategy commenced in 1997, approximately €920 million has been invested in the development of cancer services. The Vote for the Health Service Executive in 2006 includes a sum of €9 million to continue to meet the additional service pressures in cancer care, improve the quality of care, facilitate better access to radiation oncology services and to continue the preparation for the national cervical screening programme.

Nursing Home Charges.

Michael Ring

Question:

135 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the changes made in the way in which people can make a claim for money lodged in the accounts of deceased family members who had been in long term care prior to their death; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24069/06]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has issued interim guidelines in respect of the administration of patient private property accounts, in advance of the issue of final guidelines following the enactment of the Health (Repayment Scheme) Bill 2006. These guidelines standardise the operation of these accounts throughout the HSE.

Following the death of a patient there is a legal obligation on the HSE to ensure that any funds held on behalf of the patient are preserved for the beneficiaries of the patients' estates. Patients' funds can be released to the administrator of an estate on production of the letters of administration issued by the Probate Office. In instances where, having made all reasonable enquiries, the HSE is advised that there is no will and no intention to seek formal appointment of an administrator, the HSE may pay out patient funds where the balance held is less than €15,000. In such instances payment will be made to the next of kin, on production of the required documentation and following consultation with a solicitor acting on behalf of the HSE, in accordance with the succession act.

Michael Ring

Question:

136 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person who was a patient in an acute hospital and was subsequently offered a bed in a public nursing home but was too ill at the time to be moved there will be refunded under the national repayment scheme for the five years spent in a private nursing home. [24081/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, the placing of a person in a private nursing home is a private matter between the person or his or her representatives and the nursing home proprietor, as are the fees charged in these facilities. The Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990 allows for the payment of a subvention towards the cost of such care based on a medical and means assessment. The process used in determining a person's eligibility for subvention is set out in the Nursing Homes Regulations 1993. The repayment scheme for charges for publicly funded residential long term care does not apply to individuals in private nursing homes who pay the full cost of private nursing home care or who have entered these homes under the Nursing Home Subvention Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

137 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when people will be paid the money due to them under the national repayment scheme in relation to the nursing home charges. [24082/06]

The Health (Repayment Scheme) Bill 2006 was published on 16 March 2006 and the Bill completed all stages in the Oireachtas on 14 June 2006. The Bill has now been forwarded to the President for signing into law. This Bill provides a clear legal framework for a scheme to repay recoverable health charges for publicly funded long term care.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) are in the process of announcing the appointment of a preferred service provider to administer this repayment scheme. On appointment the company will immediately begin work on the scheme to ensure that a significant proportion of patients will receive their repayments within a short period. The company will, within four weeks of appointment, begin to issue application forms and begin notifying approximately 7,600 living patients of the amount of repayment due to them.

The HSE has indicated that the details of these repayments have been prepared in advance of the appointment of the company. On submission of an application and receipt of notification of the calculated amount of repayment due, the applicant will have a period of 28 days in which to appeal or reject the calculated amount of repayment due prior to the issuing of money by the HSE.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Mary Upton

Question:

138 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will provide information on funding for the Rehab Group (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24083/06]

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

Health Services.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

139 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway who was hospitalised in University College Hospital Galway in 2004 and subsequently transferred to a nursing home in County Galway did not receive the two weeks respite care that such patients are entitled to free of charge; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24084/06]

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.

John Perry

Question:

140 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene with the rehabilitation unit in St. Michael’s Hospital, Dún Laoghaire on behalf of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo and have them admitted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24101/06]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John Perry

Question:

141 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Sligo will be called for their MRI; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24102/06]

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.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Michael Ring

Question:

142 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person in County Mayo (details supplied) will be provided with an electric wheelchair and a small chair. [24129/06]

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:

143 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a decision to refuse a medical card to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be reviewed; if she will expedite a response; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24148/06]

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.

EU Directives.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

144 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance if he has satisfied himself that the Life Assurance Directive 2002/83/EC and the Insurance Intermediaries Directive 2002/92/EC have been correctly transposed into law; if he has had communications from the Commission in relation to the manner of transposition of either Directive; if further action will be necessary or appropriate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24092/06]

The Life Assurance Directive 2002/83/EC is effectively a consolidation of Directive 79/267/EEC (First Life Directive), Directive 90/619/EEC (Second Life Directive) and Directive 92/96/EEC (Third Life Directive). The original Directives were transposed into law by the European Communities (Life Assurance) Regulations, 1984 (S.I. No. 57 of 1984) and by the European Communities (Life Assurance) Framework Regulations, 1994 (S.I. No. 360 of 1994). Therefore, no further transposition was required for the provisions of the early Directives that were consolidated into Directive 2002/83/EC because these already existed in Irish law. However, Directive 2002/83/EC contained new updated solvency requirements and these were transposed by the European Communities (Life Assurance) Framework (Amendment No. 2) Regulations 2004 (S.I. No. 729 of 2004). My Department is not aware of any problems with the transposition of the Life Assurance Directive.

In May this year, the Commission was in touch with my Department seeking certain details about the transposition process. My Department provided the details required to the satisfaction of the Commission. The Insurance Mediation Directive (2002/92/EC) was transposed into Irish law on 13 January 2005 by way of Statutory Instrument No. 13 of 2005. A number of representations were subsequently made to my Department in relation to certain technical drafting issues arising from the transposition of the Directive. These have been examined carefully by my Department in consultation with industry representatives and I expect to be in a position to bring forward revised Regulations shortly.

In November 2005, the Department received a query in quite general terms from the European Commission regarding the way in which we had transposed the IMD. The Department replied that Ireland had met the transposition deadline but that the domestic industry had subsequently identified some technical difficulties with our transposing legislation, that we had been in consultation with them with a view to resolving these difficulties and that this was likely to necessitate an amendment to our original transposing S.I. In response the Commission asked to be kept informed of developments.

In April 2006 we received a further letter from the Commission asking us to clarify certain issues in our original transposing Regulations. These queries were of a routine nature and, indeed, referred to some of the issues which were identified in the consultation exercise and which it is intended to address in the revised Regulations.

State Property.

Billy Timmins

Question:

145 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the number and details of the tenders submitted for a site (details supplied) in Dublin 4 including the amount of each offer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24008/06]

Five tenders were received for the sale of the Veterinary College site in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. The highest valid bid was €171,556,000 and this was accepted by the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland. Details of the other bids are deemed commercially sensitive and thus not for publication.

Site Acquisitions.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

146 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works made an offer to purchase a lodge and the surrounding lands (details supplied) in County Kildare; if so, the amount offered; and if the OPW are still intended in buying the property. [24020/06]

Agreement to purchase the property in question was reached in September 1996 but the vendor subsequently withdrew from the sale. In the context of consolidating the Castletown demesne generally, acquisition of the property would be desirable. It is not however a critical acquisition in terms of Castletown. As the current commercial market value of the property well exceeds the value of the property for amenity purposes, it is unlikely that the Commissioners could justify its acquisition.

House Prices.

Joan Burton

Question:

147 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on recent reports that the amount that first time buyers can borrow may fall by up to €100,000 by early 2007 if interest rates continue to rise at expected rates; the measures he will take to address the danger that first time buyers will be priced out of the market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24047/06]

This Government has already taken measures that seek to address problems faced by first time buyers. The situation is kept under review each year at budget time. There are already fiscal measures which support first-time buyers, including preferential stamp duty rates for first-time owner-occupiers of second-hand houses, who are exempt from stamp duty on properties valued at €317,500 or less with reduced rates applying on properties valued from €317,500 up to €635,000. First-time owner-occupiers are also exempt from stamp duty on new properties with a floor size of 125 square metres or less. There are also mortgage interest rate reliefs which give preferential treatment to first time buyers.

Garda Stations.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

148 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if he will arrange to have special works carried out to a limestone sculpture (details supplied) in County Cork, which is in the ownership of the Office of Public Works; and if arrangements will be made for regular maintenance of this sculpture. [24068/06]

The limestone sculpture referred to by the Deputy was commissioned for Mitchelstown Garda Station by the OPW from sculptor Cliodhna Cussen. The cleaning project will be undertaken in consultation with the sculptor.

Departmental Staff.

Joan Burton

Question:

149 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the number of staff in his Department in the general service grades of principal officer, assistant principal officer, higher executive officer, executive officer, staff officer and clerical officer who have resigned in the each of the years from 2002 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24094/06]

The following are the number of staff in general service grades in my department who have resigned each year from 2002 to date:

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Principal Officer

0

0

0

0

0

Assistant Principal Officer

0

1

0

0

0

Higher Executive Officer

0

0

0

0

0

Administrative Officer

2

1

1

1

0

Executive Officer

1

0

0

0

0

Staff Officer

0

0

0

0

0

Clerical Officer

8

9

5

5

0

Alternative Energy Projects.

Seán Ardagh

Question:

150 Mr. Ardagh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will examine the invention of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; and the steps they should take to further develop the invention for the harnessing of electricity using underwater cables. [23991/06]

I have asked my officials to forward details of the individual's proposal to Sustainable Energy Ireland for their views and I will revert to the Deputy on this issue once it has been examined.

Marian Harkin

Question:

151 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason Sustainable Energy Ireland does not favour the provision of small wind turbines to be used as energy generators for domestic dwellings, in view of the fact that SWTs produce no carbon dioxide, are more mature technologies than other renewable technologies and present little difficulty technical or regulatory in connection SWTs. [24058/06]

Wind energy projects are currently supported on a community and commercial scale. Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) has published a study on the metering options for Small Scale Renewable electricity and Combined Heat and Power Generation (CHP) in Ireland. The study identified a number of areas which require further analysis including the ability of such processes to secure adequate payment for their exports; connection standards and processes for smaller generators, and the implications of the single electricity market for small-scale electricity generation. SEI is commissioning work to address these issues in 2006 and this will inform further policy decisions in relation to domestic wind turbines.

Coastal Protection.

David Stanton

Question:

152 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the amount, per county, made available to enable coastal protection works to be carried out in 2004, 2005, and to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24093/06]

Details of coastal protection grants paid to local authorities by county for 2004 and 2005 and the amounts approved by county for 2006 are set out in the table. These amounts include a 25% contribution from the local authorities.

County

2004 Total Cost

2005 Total Cost

2006 Total Approved

Louth

328,563.30

117,098.36

169,000.00

Meath

40,000.00

0

124,000.00

Dublin

66,792.00

435,630.00

637,975.00

Wicklow

70,000.00

226,028.53

153,113.00

Wexford

532,313.33

56,009.67

950,000.00

Waterford

94,537.01

116,425.79

975,000.00

Cork

696,383.06

508,595.20

275,000.00

Kerry

273,843.72

170,520.63

188,000.00

Galway

193,243.82

432,930.55

0

Mayo

0

100,000.00

100,000.00

Clare

0

190,960.00

0

Sligo

0

56,924.55

0

Donegal

0

616,000.00

104,500.00

Totals

2,295,708.84

3,027,123.28

3,676,588.00

Work Permits.

Pat Breen

Question:

153 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare did not qualify for a work permit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24076/06]

The Government recently decided that the current Spousal Work Permits Scheme would be expanded to include Spouses of all Employment Permit Holders. These new arrangements will give greater ease of access to employment for spouses who have been admitted to the State under Family Reunification.

The Work Permits section is currently finalising the administrative details of the extended scheme. When this is done, information and details of how to apply under the new Scheme will be available on this Department's website at www.entemp.ie. In the meantime I have asked my officials to review this case and contact the person involved.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

154 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason the State has not ratified ILO convention 184 of 2001 on Safety and Health in Agriculture in view of the ongoing high incidence of work related accidents and fatalities in the agriculture sector; and the further reason the State has not ratified ILO convention 167 of 1988 on Safety and Health in Construction in view of the continuing high rate of accidents and fatalities in the construction sector. [23997/06]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

155 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason the State has not ratified ILO convention 174 of 1993 on Prevention of Major Industrial Accidents, ILO convention 171 of 1990 on Night Work and ILO convention 168 of 1988 on Employment Promotion and Protection against Unemployment. [23998/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 154 and 155 together.

Ireland only ratifies ILO Conventions where we can accept every single provision with which our legislation is fully in conformity. This also allows for absolute compliance. In adopting Conventions, the ILO operates by way of a double discussion procedure whereby proposals for International Labour Standards are discussed over two successive years at the annual International Labour Conference which is held in Geneva in June.

ILO Conventions have the status of International Treaties, and as such are subject to ratification, whereas ILO Recommendations, which mostly cover the same issues as Conventions, are more aspirational in nature and do not have to be ratified by Member States. The choice between favouring a Convention or favouring a Recommendation is dictated not so much by the content of the proposed standard, but influenced by whether the Government sees it appropriate to legislate in order to achieve the desired end. To ratify a Convention may require legislation, whereas a Recommendation can be put into effect through a change in policy without necessarily going through the legislative route. The fact that Ireland has not ratified a particular Convention does not mean that we do not have in place effective and up-to-date legislation and enforcement mechanisms relating to the sector in question i.e. such legislation tends to reflect an approach developed within a broader EU framework.

In relation to the Conventions referred to in the Questions, the position is that Departments have not confirmed conformity with the following Conventions:

•Convention 167 and associated Recommendation 175 concerning Safety and Health in Construction, 1988

•Convention 168 and associated Recommendation 176 concerning Employment Promotion and Protection against Unemployment, 1988

•Convention 171 and associated Recommendation 178 concerning Night Work 1990

•Convention 174 and associated Recommendation 181 concerning the Prevention of Major Industrial Accidents, 1993.

I am pleased to state that Ireland is ready to ratify Convention 184 and to adopt the associated Recommendation 192 concerning Safety and Health in Agriculture, 2001. I will bring proposals in this regard to Government and place the associated White Paper before both Houses in the near future. I should also point out, that in 2005, the Health and Safety Authority signed up to the ILO's Guidelines on Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems (ILO-OSH 2001). These Guidelines promote a management systems approach to safety and health at work and were developed in the tripartite ILO system. A growing number of countries have already signed up to these Guidelines.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

156 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a company (details supplied) has been commissioned to conduct a review of training delivery by FÁS and the Health Service Executive sponsored bodies such as the National Learning Network; his views on the reason this review is considered necessary in view of the fact that three independent quality assurance reviews of this sector have been carried out over the past three years; the cost of the new review process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24037/06]

My Department, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Children and FÁS, has commissioned Indecon International Economic Consultants to examine the efficiency and effectiveness of contracted vocational and rehabilitative training services for people with disabilities. The study will make recommendations on the appropriateness and effectiveness of current levels of State funding and the extent to which it is positively impacting on the vocational advancement of programme participants and compare training services provided for people with disabilities with similar types of training available nationally and internationally. This comparison will address costs, training duration, the outcomes achieved for the different types of training courses, and delivery methods relating to both vocational training and rehabilitative training.

The cost of the review is €152,599, inclusive of VAT, and is being shared by the three commissioning parties as above indicated. The recommendations to be made by the consultants will provide a basis for improved financial and operational transparency. They will also facilitate the progressive improvement of training services that are resourced from public funds for people with disabilities. The three items referred to by the Deputy relate to the achievement of quality accreditation rather than reviews and as such are not duplicated by the current review.

Employment Rights.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

157 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, under employment legislation, a person has a right to receive an explanation as to the reason their employment was terminated after only two weeks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24046/06]

Section 14(4) (as amended) of the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 provides that where an employee is dismissed, the employer shall, if requested, provide particulars in writing of the principal grounds for dismissal to the employee within 14 days of the request.

However, the Unfair Dismissals Acts generally do not apply to employees with less than one year's continuous service, with certain exceptions. These are:

•an employee's pregnancy, giving birth or breastfeeding or any matters connected therewith;

•the exercise or proposed exercise by an employee of a right under the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004;

•the exercise or contemplated exercise by an employee of the right to adoptive leave or additional adoptive leave under the Adoptive Leave Acts 1995 and 2005;

•the exercise or proposed exercise by the employee of the right to parental leave or force majeure leave under and in accordance with the Parental Leave Acts 1998 and 2006;

•an employee's entitlements, future entitlements, exercise or proposed exercise of rights under the National Minimum Wage Act 2000;

•an employee's trade union membership or activities;

•the exercise or proposed exercise by the employee of the right to carer's leave under and in accordance with the Carer's Leave Act 2001 (as amended).

When determining if an employee has the necessary service to qualify under the Acts, a Rights Commissioner, the Employment Appeals Tribunal or the Circuit Court, as the case may be, may consider whether the employment of a person on a series of two or more contracts of employment, between which there were no more than 26 weeks of a break, was wholly or partly for or connected with the avoidance of liability by the employer under the Acts. Where it is so found, the length of the various contracts may be added together to assess the length of service of an employee for eligibility under the Acts.

Employees with less than one year's service, and who do not qualify under any of the above exceptions, may consider availing of a mechanism under the Industrial Relations Act 1969 whereby the Rights Commissioner Service of the Labour Relations Commission may investigate disputes and grievances (including matters associated with dismissal) which are referred to them by individuals or small groups of workers. Having carried out an investigation, a Rights Commissioner issues a recommendation giving his/her opinion on the merits of the dispute. The matter may then be appealed to the Labour Court or, alternatively, the matter can be heard by the Labour Court in the first instance under certain conditions. It is important to note that the recommendations made by the Rights Commissioners and/or Labour Court under this process are not legally enforceable.

Departmental Staff.

Joan Burton

Question:

158 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of staff in his Department in the general service grades of principal officer, assistant principal officer, higher executive officer, executive officer, staff officer and clerical officer who have resigned in the each of the years from 2002 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24095/06]

The table identifies the number of staff in the general service grades that resigned from this Department in each of the years from 2002 to date in 2006.

Principal Officer

Assistant Principal

Admininstrative Officer

Higher Executive Officer

Executive Officer

Staff Officer

Clerical Officer

2002

3

9

2003

1

2

2

15

2004

2

1

1

13

2005

1

4

5

5

8

2006

1

1

4

Job Creation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

159 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if inward investment trends are indicative of future economic well-being with particular reference to present and future employment needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24111/06]

Inward investment into Ireland by foreign companies has played a critical role in the performance of the Irish economy over the last two decades, and our ability to attract the world's leading firms will continue to be an important aspect of our future prosperity. In this respect, Ireland has many reasons to be optimistic for the future. IDA Ireland recently announced strong results for 2005, with the successful negotiation of 71 new business projects with new and existing clients, involving a total investment over the coming years of more than €760 million. The IDA reported a net gain of jobs of 3,412, the highest net gain since 2000.

Of course, with an economy characterised by very high employment levels, the quality of jobs is increasingly a more important measure of Ireland's success in attracting FDI than the number of jobs. As such, it is encouraging that of the jobs created, half were very high quality, requiring third-level or higher qualifications, covering a range of disciplines. The IDA also report that this strong performance is continuing into 2006.

In recent years this Government has been placing a greater emphasis on the development of indigenous companies, to ensure that our economic prosperity is built on as wide an enterprise base as possible. We continue to make significant efforts to enhance our framework competitive conditions, and to develop new areas of competitive advantage, such as by developing our R&D base as envisaged in the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation. Our focus is on the creation of new jobs which are concentrated in high value added, knowledge based companies that offer greater security in the face of intense international competition. To this end, the enterprise development agencies have been mandated to work with companies to develop management capabilities, workforce skills, capacity for innovation and for research and development, to build productivity and to support the development of strategies for market entry, development and growth.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

160 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the way in which he proposes to curtail industrial costs with a view to ensuring the competitiveness of Irish exports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24112/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

166 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if exports are indicative or the competitiveness of Irish products on European or other markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24118/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 160 and 166 together.

Ireland's success as an open market economy depends on its export performance. The seasonally adjusted NCB Purchasing Mangers' Index for May shows the best figures for Irish manufacturing since July 2004 with strong growth in new orders and output, particularly for exports. Indeed, May saw the highest rate of export orders growth in Ireland for six years. This is in the wider context of an economy that has seen its goods and services exports grow eightfold in fifteen years.

The Government is working successfully with business to promote competitive Irish exports. I have given a strong mandate to Enterprise Ireland to drive the transformation of its client base as the agency's new corporate strategy is aligned with the needs of Irish business in a competitive and global economy.

Enterprise Ireland is achieving both rapid and tangible progress in accelerating the capacity of its clients to enter export markets and their success in winning business. In 2005, export sales from Enterprise Ireland clients rose by 7.2% to €10.7 billion. Of this an impressive €1.25 billion came from an increase in new exports, an indication both of the success of Enterprise Ireland's policies and of growing competitiveness and indigenous sector strength. Despite the challenges in terms of new competition and lower costs coming from Asian economies, EI's clients grew their exports to this region by almost 15% last year. This suggests that Irish firms are competitive in those markets where we are building competitive advantage in terms of skill, innovation and high value products and services. The overall impressive export performance was supported by EI streamlining its overseas network, in line with the Enterprise Strategy Group's Action Plan to improve support for Irish exporters.

The level of industrial costs is of particular concern to this Government. Some costs, such as interest rates, fuel prices and the high demand for raw materials in Asia, are not under the direct control of Government. However, the Government is examining how to alleviate industrial costs in other areas. I would draw the Deputy's attention to the recently concluded Social Partnership negotiations where, pending formal ratification by the parties involved, it has been decided to re-establish the Anti Inflation Group and to set up a High Level Manufacturing Group. These will work towards creating a better competitive environment for our exporters.

Overseas Trade.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

161 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the top 10 EU and non-EU countries with which this country has had the most favourable trade balance in each of the past five years; the trends emerging; the future prospects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24113/06]

The table provides details of the top 10 EU and non-EU countries for which Ireland has had the most favourable trade balance, in descending order, in respect of each of the years 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002 and 2001. Based on the table it can be seen that there has been a considerable degree of consistency in regard to the list of countries with which Ireland has had the most favourable trade balance over the past five years, in both the EU and non-EU categories. For example, Belgium, France, Germany Italy and the Netherlands have regularly featured in the first five EU countries with the most favourable trade balance, whereas elsewhere, in the non-EU category, the USA, Switzerland, Australia, Hong Kong and Mexico have tended to predominate during the five year period.

It is notable also that in 2001 Ireland had a favourable trade balance with China but, since then, the growth of Chinese exports to Ireland has created a trade deficit with China at a ratio of approximately 3:1. Although Irish exports to China are growing at a significant rate, imports from China are growing at a faster rate due to the phenomenal growth of the Chinese economy.

At the macro level, however, Ireland has for many years now been in the fortunate position of having an external trade surplus, and latest figures for 2005 indicate a trade surplus of €31.6 billion. Against the continuing background of a difficult global trading environment, therefore, I consider that Irish exporters have performed extremely well and are well poised to take advantage of an expected upturn in world trading conditions, going forward.

List of Top Ten EU and Non-EU countries for which Ireland has had the most favourable trade balance 2001-2005.

EU

2005 — Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, Sweden, Luxembourg, Greece, N. Ireland.

2004 — Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, N. Ireland, Greece, Austria.

2003 — Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, N. Ireland, Greece, Austria.

2002 — Belgium, Germany, Italy, France, Great Britain, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, N. Ireland, Greece.

2001 — Great Britain, Belgium, Germany, France, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, N. Ireland, Sweden, Denmark.

Non-EU

2005 — USA, Switzerland, Australia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Philippines, Israel, Russia, Hong Kong.

2004 — USA, Switzerland, Australia, Hong Kong, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Japan, Russia, Nigeria.

2003 — USA, Switzerland, Australia, Hong Kong, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Russia, South Africa, Nigeria, Israel.

2002 — USA, Switzerland, Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Mexico, South Africa, Israel, U.A.E.

2001 — USA, China, Japan, Switzerland, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia.

Job Creation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

162 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of new enterprises, small, medium or large which have been set up throughout the country in each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24114/06]

Figures are not available for overall numbers of enterprises established in the economy over the last three years. The performance of the enterprise development agencies, however, gives an indication of the relative strength of the economy. From 2003 to 2005, 2,025 new start-up projects were approved for grant assistance by the County and City Enterprise Boards. Of these 724 start-ups were approved for assistance in 2003, 618 in 2004 and 683 in 2005. (Grant approval does not always indicate a viable subsequent start-up, so these figures should only be taken as indicative).

In 2005, Enterprise Ireland supported the establishment of 75 new export-focused high potential companies, which had a total investment of €83m (Enterprise Ireland approved funding of around €17 million). In 2004, Enterprise Ireland supported the establishment of 65 new export focused high potential companies involving a total investment of €80m (around €18 million approved by EI) and 61 new high growth potential start-up businesses in 2003 involving a total investment of €75 million (support in the region of €14 million provided by Enterprise Ireland). In 2005, Shannon Development supported 38 start-ups in the mid-west region, 21 of which were HPSUs. This compares to 10 projects in 2004 with a job potential of 200 over 3-5 years and 11 in 2003 with a similar job potential.

During 2005, 20 new start-ups were supported by IDA. In 2004 there were 24 such start-ups, in 2003 there were 27. Moreover, in 2005, IDA negotiated 71 new business projects with new and existing clients, involving a total investment over the coming years of more than €760 million, with 46 of these locating outside Dublin. In 2004, 70 new business projects were negotiated with new and existing clients, which involve a total investment over the coming years of over €5 billion. Some 64 projects were negotiated and secured by IDA during 2003. In the period in question Shannon Development supported 2 start-ups in the Shannon Free Zone and a number of FDI companies also expanded their operations.

Ireland is one of the leading countries in Europe in terms of entrepreneurship, with levels of early stage entrepreneurial activity approaching those of the US. Research suggests that almost one in ten of the population living here is actively planning or has recently set up a new business. The recently published report of the Small Business Forum, Small Business is Big Business, examines the issues and challenges currently facing the small business sector and makes a number of key recommendations designed to enable the small business sector to achieve its full potential and enhance the significant contribution the sector already makes to the economic well-being of our country.

In the context of the various pressures affecting global markets during the period, our overall economic performance is one of which we should be proud. Having said this, we must remain proactive in the context of maintaining and developing our competitive advantages. One of my Department's principal tasks is to ensure that Ireland continues to be an attractive place to do business, and to support the development of economic competencies higher up the value chain. In that regard, we have made significant efforts to maintain and enhance our framework competitive conditions, and to promote new areas of competitive advantage, such as developing our R&D base.

Job Protection.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

163 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he has taken or proposes to take to combat job relocation to low cost economies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24115/06]

As we have seen over the past 15 years, long term, sustainable economic growth and expansion in employment depends on a competitive and adaptable economy. The effects of globalisation are being felt in even the smallest markets and global competition will both intensify and extend its reach well into the foreseeable future. For a long time this Government has recognised the inevitable changes taking place across world markets for both trade and investment. Enterprise policies that equip companies with the ability to better compete in world markets, capture the opportunities from globalisation and build competitive advantage in innovation and knowledge have been central to policy development and the impact is tangible.

While some economic activity has moved to lower cost locations, for the most part this has been confined to lower value added activities where we no longer have a competitive advantage. Meanwhile employment creation and investment has developed in areas of product and service sophistication and we have won considerable new foreign investment in high technology sectors, research activities and from global companies selecting Ireland as a location for their European headquarters. For example, last year IDA Ireland supported some 50 research and development (R&D) projects involving business investment of over €275 million. This was a record both in number and value.

At the same time Enterprise Ireland's strategy to help transform its client base is making solid progress. Its support to Irish companies helped them increase exports last year by over 7% and to Asia in particular by almost 15%. Enterprise Ireland's mandate to prioritise R&D supports helped 515 of its clients invest over €100,000 each in meaningful R&D in 2005, while 33 companies were involved in significant R&D, i.e. involving an investment over €2 million.

This commitment of both resources and policy development is reflected in Ireland's employment performance. According to the CSO, employment increased by an annualised 89,800 to February 2006, or by 4.7%. This was the largest growth in employment Ireland has seen since 2000 and compares very favourably to the eurozone average of 1%.

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

Many challenges remain and while Ireland has traditionally underperformed in research and development, this Government is leading change with the announcement this week of the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation. This Strategy is a key element of investment in the next National Development Plan and will oversee investment of €3.8 billion by the public and private sector — investment that will help secure the future competitiveness of the economy.

Grocery Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

164 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has measured the extent to which the community has benefited from the abolition of the minimum prices order; the extent to which the change has positively impacted on supermarkets, small shops or consumers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24116/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

165 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his projections arising from the abolition of the minimum prices order have been realised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24117/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 165 and 164 together.

I presume the questions relate to the recent abolition of the Groceries Order. The Groceries Order was abolished because it allowed wholesalers and suppliers to determine minimum retail prices being charged to consumers, virtually eliminated price competition in the grocery trade, resulted in more than 2,000 small independent retailers going out of business in a fifteen year period, and caused the grocery trade in Ireland to become more concentrated in the hands of fewer participants. The combined impact of these events was to create a floor price below which groceries could not be sold and this resulted in Irish consumers paying more for their groceries than would otherwise have been the case.

The Groceries Order was in existence for a period of 18 years and it fundamentally altered the structure and composition of the grocery trade. It is simply unrealistic to expect this process and the damage caused by 18 years of the operation of the Order to be reversed in the space of 3 months. I do not think we should expect to see fundamental changes in market share, for example, in the short term.

Recent inflation figures suggest that grocery prices have increased since the Order was removed. However, suggestions that such increases are as a result of greater competition following the removal of the Order, or that the removal the Order has failed in its objective, are a nonsense and do not stand up to scrutiny.

There are many factors which impact on the price of groceries in our supermarkets. The lack of competition caused by the Groceries Order was only one such factor. Others would include production costs, labour costs, interest rates, overheads, international exchange rates and so on. Because of this, and despite the implication in the Deputy's question, I never made any predictions as to the likely extent of price reductions resulting from the removal of the Order or as to the period of time over which such reductions might be expected to occur.

If we are looking for explanations for rising grocery prices, do not blame the removal of the Groceries Order. On the contrary the removal of the Order will undoubtedly counter other inflationary pressures. I think consumers are already seeing early benefits with one multiple recently announcing their intention over coming months to implement reductions in the prices of products previously covered by the Groceries Order. The real benefits however will be felt over time, as price competition re-emerges at retail level in the trade thus reversing the 18 years of damage done by the Order. The removal of the Groceries Order will stimulate competition, drive increased efficiencies at all levels of the distribution chain and eliminate the fixing of minimum retail prices by suppliers. This will create a downward pressure on grocery prices from which consumers will benefit.

I have asked the Competition Authority to closely monitor this process — not least to ensure that the benefits of removing the Order are not thwarted by the emergence of other anti-competitive practices. That is why for example the Competition Act 2006 prohibits practices such as resale price maintenance, which were institutionalised by the Order. It would be very damaging to consumer interests if such practices were to emerge within the grocery trade in another guise. My officials have had some preliminary discussions with the Authority in this regard and will meet them regularly as the process develops. I have also asked the Authority to report periodically on the results of their monitoring and to make any recommendations they consider appropriate in the light of their findings.

Question No. 166 answered with QuestionNo. 160.
Question No. 167 answered with QuestionNo. 112.

Work Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

168 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of work permits issued in each month to date in 2006; the number for the corresponding period in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24120/06]

I am informed by the Work Permits section that a total of 10,649 permits have issued up to the 19th June, 2006 compared to a total of 13,552 for the period January to end June 2005.

The figures broken down by month are set out in the table.

Year

Month

New

Renewals

Group

Total

2006

3,224

7,000

425

10,649

January

520

854

55

1,429

February

580

957

44

1,581

March

595

1,845

70

2,510

April

477

818

88

1,383

May

695

1,868

94

2,657

June

357

658

74

1,089

2005

3,532

9,607

413

13,552

January

572

1,312

52

1,936

February

540

1,057

39

1,636

March

566

1,647

52

2,265

April

665

2,721

78

3,464

May

519

1,255

73

1,847

June

670

1,615

119

2,404

Company Closures.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

169 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of enterprises that have ceased trading and the number of jobs lost as a consequence in this country in the past five years; if any of these jobs have relocated to other jurisdictions; if so, the extent to which they have been relocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24121/06]

The tabular statement gives redundancies notified to my Department from 2001 to date. These figures do not show the number of companies which have ceased trading; companies can have redundancies without ceasing to trade. Figures relating to company closures are not available. Nor is it possible to determine the number of these jobs, if any, which have relocated to lower wage economies. Relocation is just one factor in the many enterprise-related issues that determine employment levels.

My Department is continuing to work to ensure that Ireland remains an attractive place to do business. In that regard, we are making significant efforts to enhance our framework competitive conditions, and to promote new areas of competitive advantage, such as by developing our R&D base as elaborated in the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation. Our priority remains the creation of high quality, sustainable employment, driven by companies with higher profitability, that are more technologically advanced and prove a better fit with the competitive characteristics of our economy, and that are consequently less likely to move on the basis of simple cost influences.

To enhance competitiveness and increase productivity, the enterprise development agencies are working with companies to provide mentoring and developmental supports, develop management capabilities and critical workforce skills, support the creation and implementation of strategies for market entry, development and growth, to build productivity, and to provide support for innovation and for research and development. Furthermore, we are continuing to pursue policies to promote lifelong learning and up-skilling to improve labour market flexibility and, where necessary, ensure that appropriate training supports are provided for workers in sectors that are no longer competitive, to help them find alternative employment.

Redundancies 2001 to date

2001

16,085

2002

24,432

2003

25,769

2004

25,041

2005

23,156

2006 (to May)

9,933

Total

124,416

Skill Shortages.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

170 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which he has satisfied himself regarding the adequacy of future numbers and skills of the labour force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24122/06]

Our economy now has more than 1.9 million people in employment and continues to experience growth. This has led to skills shortages in some areas. However, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) has been charged with monitoring emerging Ireland's skills requirements. Since 1997, it has produced estimates of skills requirements by sector, including in ICT, Biotechnology, Finance, Engineering, and Construction. These estimates are regularly updated as the influencing factors change.

The EGFSN provides my Department with a summary of current and future skills requirements in the form of a National Skills Bulletin. This identifies areas of growth where skills are in short supply; and also contains data on skills supply provided through the education and training system. It also provides advice to both my Department and the Department of Education and Science on how numbers and skills needs may be met through education and training, as well as through managed migration.

Additionally much has been done to ensure that the skills needs of the economy can, to the extent possible, be addressed through the upskilling of the existing workforce. Significantly, increased funding has been made available since 2005 for in-company training and for the development and expansion of the education system. My Department is currently preparing a National Skills Strategy which will review the likely skill needs of the economy to 2020.

Social Welfare Code.

John Perry

Question:

171 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he plans to replace the rent supplement with housing benefit in view of the Comptroller and Auditor General expressing concern regarding the rise in the cost of rent supplement; the amount expended in the scheme to date in County Sligo; if he has received representations from local authorities to increase the maximum rent offered as rents have risen significantly; if he will grant such increases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24005/06]

I have no plans to replace rent supplement with housing benefit. While expenditure on rent supplement is unavailable on a county by county breakdown I can confirm that expenditure this year on the rent supplement scheme up to the end May 2006 in the HSE North West Area covering counties Sligo, Donegal and Leitrim is €5.63 million while expenditure nationally is €161,172 million.

Rent supplements are subject to a limit on the amount of rent that an applicant for rent supplement may incur. I have not received representations from local authorities seeking increases in these limits. Setting maximum rent limits higher than are justified by the open market would have a distorting effect on the rental market, leading to a more general rise in rent levels and in landlord income. This in turn would worsen the affordability of rental accommodation unnecessarily, with particular negative impact for those tenants in low income employment who may not qualify for rent supplement.

My Department is in regular contact with the community welfare staff of the Health Service Executive regarding the various elements of the scheme. In the course of these ongoing contacts, the prescribed upper limits on rent levels supported under the rent supplement scheme have not emerged as having a detrimental impact on the ability of eligible tenants generally to secure suitable rented accommodation to meet their needs.

My officials will again be reviewing the current levels of rent limits later this year in order in determine what limits should apply from December 2006 onwards. The review will take account of prevailing rent levels in the private rental sector generally, based on indices from the Central Statistics Office, together with detailed input from the Health Service Executive on the market situation according to patterns of rent supplement applications within each of its operational areas.

The review will also include consultation with the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. In addition, it is expected a number of the voluntary agencies working in this area will also make detailed submissions. This process will ensure that the new rent limits reflect realistic market conditions throughout the country, and that they will continue to enable the different categories of eligible tenant households to secure and retain suitable rented accommodation to meet their respective needs.

Departmental Staff.

Joan Burton

Question:

172 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of staff in his Department in the general service grades of principal officer, assistant principal officer, higher executive officer, executive officer, staff officer and clerical officer who have resigned in each of the years from 2002 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24096/06]

A total of 214 staff, under age 60, in the general service grades listed by the Deputy, have resigned from my Department from January 2002 to date. This figure includes 14 staff members who have voluntarily resigned under the Cost-Neutral early retirement scheme, which allows officers between the ages of 50 and 60 to retire with reduced pension and lump sum. A breakdown by grade for each year is set out in the table.

Year

Principal Officer

Assistant Principal Officer

Higher Executive Officer

Executive Officer

Staff Officer

Clerical Officer

Total

2002

1

0

2

6

2

40

51

2003

0

0

2

6

0

44

52

2004

1

1

2

7

1

33

45

2005

0

0

5

5

2

34

46

2006

1

0

1

1

2

15

20

Total

3

1

12

25

7

166

214

International Agreements.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

173 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the EU plans in respect of open skies further to the recent vote in the US to prevent the purchase of US airlines by foreigners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24026/06]

In November 2005 EU and US negotiators concluded work on the text of a first-phase EU-US Open Skies agreement. The text was unanimously endorsed at the December 2005 Transport Council subject to sufficient progress by the US side on opening up ownership and control of US airlines to EU investors. The formal US process of changing its ownership and control rules was expected to be concluded early in 2006 so that a final decision could be taken at the June Transport Council. However, due to difficulties on the US side the rule-making process has been extended but they remain confident that the matter will be concluded in August in time for agreement at the October Transport Council.

Road Traffic Offences.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

174 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide the number of drivers by the number of penalty points accumulated and by age. [24053/06]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

175 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide the number of drivers by the number of penalty points accumulated and by licence status. [24054/06]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

176 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide the number of drivers by the number of penalty points accumulated and by licence category. [24055/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 174 to 176, inclusive, together.

The information sought by the Deputy has been requested from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government which holds and administers the National Driver File and will be forwarded to the Deputy when it is available.

Richard Bruton

Question:

177 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the nature of the records presently maintained in respect of penalty points for traffic offences; the arrangements made to facilitate An Garda Síochána, the Courts and motor insurance companies to access penalty points registered against names persons; and the arrangements in place to facilitate those who have attracted penalty points to enable them to ascertain the number of points recorded to date. [24108/06]

Penalty points are recorded on the relevant driving licence records contained in the National Driver File, which is held and administered by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The record is established under section 60 of the Finance Act, 1993, which provides that an officer of a Minister of the Government, a licensing authority or the competent authority for licensing vehicles and drivers of vehicles in another Member State of the European Communities, an officer of the Revenue Commissioners, a member of the Garda Síochána or such other persons as may be prescribed shall have access to and may inspect and examine these records. Article 11 of the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations, 1999 allows licensing authorities to supply such information as is requested in relation to a driving licence or provisional licence to a member of An Garda Síochána.

In relation to access by motor insurer's to penalty point data the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, in exercise of the powers conferred on him by sections 58(1) and 60(3) of the Finance Act 1993 has made regulations which provide for the release of data, inter alia, to "Motor insurers approved by the Department of Transport for the purposes of supplying details of Driver Penalty Points imposed under the Road Traffic Act 2002 to facilitate insurance premium discounts to policy holders". Currently penalty point data is being made available to one motor insurer. A licence holder may make application to his or her licensing authority for a statement of the penalty points held on his or her licence record.

Inland Waterways.

John Gormley

Question:

178 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the need for Waterways Ireland to clean up the Grand Canal particularly in and around the graving docks at Camden Lock, Dublin 4; if he will request Waterways Ireland to take action on same as soon as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24039/06]

John Gormley

Question:

179 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the need for Waterways Ireland to clean up canals; the cleansing works taking place; the funds available for this; if he will request Waterways Ireland to deal with same matter as soon as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24040/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 178 and 179 together.

Maintenance and cleaning of the Canal network is an operational matter for Waterways Ireland, who inform me that they carried out a major clean up of the area in and around the site of the large graving dock at Ringsend Basin on 30 May 2006. The site, known locally as Heiton's Yard, contained remnants of old boats and general rubbish and the material was loaded into skips and removed to an approved landfill site.

In relation cleaning of the canals in general, I am informed that Waterways Ireland employs dedicated Operational Staff who are responsible for the upkeep of the canal network. These staff carry out day-to-day maintenance, operation and cleaning duties including weed control (cutting and spraying), dredging, grass cutting, hedge cutting, towpath/bank maintenance and litter collection. The litter removal and grass cutting work is generally undertaken on a continuous basis with each section being attended to on a rotating basis. In 2005, approximately €7.57m was spent on maintaining the Canals. Approximately €2.88m has been expended for this purpose to date in 2006.

Food Imports.

Mary Upton

Question:

180 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of eggs and their form which were imported into Ireland during each of the past five years; and the countries from which they were imported. [23990/06]

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) is responsible for the collection of statistics in relation to imports of eggs and egg products. The tables, compiled from data supplied by that Office include eggs imported for breeding and sets out the details requested by the Deputy. In relation to the tables the following should be noted:

1. In certain cases the record of import may include the re-import of Irish products that were originally the subject of an export from this country.

2. Minor arithmetic discrepancies in these tables are due to rounding where small quantities of import are involved.

3. While every effort is made to ensure accuracy, these returns may stand to be adjusted marginally as data is rechecked by the CSO.

2005

Birds' Eggs in Shell Fresh Preserved or Cooked

Birds’ Eggs Not in Shell, and Egg Yolks: Dried

Birds’ Eggs, Not in Shell, & Egg Yolks: Other than Dried

Egg Albumin

Totals

Tonnes

Tonnes

Tonnes

Tonnes

Tonnes

Belgium

18

75

93

Denmark

1

1

France

163

15

38

216

GB

1,426

221

495

91

2,233

Germany

4

1

1

246

252

Italy

1

4

5

Netherlands

271

213

100

1

585

Northern Ireland

2,776

5

105

2,886

USA

1

1

Totals

4,641

477

814

340

6,272

2004

Birds' Eggs in Shell Fresh Preserved or Cooked

Birds’ Eggs Not in Shell, and Egg Yolks: Dried

Birds’ Eggs, Not in Shell, & Egg Yolks: Other than Dried

Egg Albumin

Totals

Tonnes

Tonnes

Tonnes

Tonnes

Tonnes

Belgium

1

77

78

Denmark

7

1

8

France

69

10

117

4

200

GB

1,613

270

295

124

2,302

Germany

11

1

304

316

Ireland

208

208

Italy

2

2

Netherlands

48

200

80

328

Northern Ireland

1,817

3

104

1,924

USA

6

1

7

Totals

3,772

493

674

434

5,373

2003

Birds' Eggs in Shell Fresh Preserved or Cooked

Birds’ Eggs Not in Shell, and Egg Yolks: Dried

Birds’ Eggs, Not in Shell, & Egg Yolks: Other than Dried

Egg Albumin

Totals

Tonnes

Tonnes

Tonnes

Tonnes

Tonnes

Belgium

178

178

Denmark

1

1

France

1

1

167

1

170

GB

1,262

170

126

99

1,657

Germany

581

324

905

Netherlands

196

23

219

Northern Ireland

1,689

1

87

1,777

USA

1

1

2

Totals

3,534

369

582

426

4,911

2002

Birds' Eggs in Shell Fresh Preserved or Cooked

Birds’ Eggs Not in Shell, and Egg Yolks: Dried

Birds’ Eggs, Not in Shell, & Egg Yolks: Other than Dried

Egg Albumin

Totals

Tonnes

Tonnes

Tonnes

Tonnes

Tonnes

Belgium

1

17

353

1

372

Denmark

1

1

France

1

21

111

1

134

GB

1,272

108

115

59

1,554

Germany

1,031

323

1

376

1,731

Ireland

108

108

Netherlands

159

18

4

181

Northern Ireland

251

25

79

355

Sweden

4

4

USA

4

1

5

Totals

2,668

657

678

444

4,447

2001

Birds' Eggs in Shell Fresh Preserved or Cooked

Birds’ Eggs Not in Shell, and Egg Yolks: Dried

Birds’ Eggs, Not in Shell, & Egg Yolks: Other than Dried

Egg Albumin

Totals

Tonnes

Tonnes

Tonnes

Tonnes

Tonnes

Belgium

257

257

Denmark

1

1

France

1

7

57

65

GB

1,510

423

191

183

2,307

Germany

109

485

11

133

738

Italy

4

4

Ireland

490

490

Netherlands

42

63

1

106

Northern Ireland

493

52

161

706

Georgia

18

18

USA

3

1

4

Totals

2,606

1,009

743

336

4,694

Land Annuities.

John Perry

Question:

181 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of farmers in County Sligo entitled to participate in the land annuity capital discounted buyout scheme; the number in County Sligo who have already applied to participate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24006/06]

The number of annuitants in County Sligo entitled to participate in the land annuity discount buyout scheme is 46. To-date 11 annuitants have availed of the offer. The scheme is due to terminate on 30 June 2006.

Grant Payments.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

182 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if an application has been received from a person (details supplied) in County Donegal for force majeure under the single payment scheme; if the person has applied under the national reserve provisions; if their application has been approved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24034/06]

The person named submitted an application on 06 February 2004, for consideration of his circumstances under the Force Majeure/Exceptional Circumstances measure of the Single Payment Scheme. Having assessed the application, the Single Payment Entitlements Unit informed the person named that the circumstances outlined did not fulfil the Force Majeure criteria laid down in Article 40 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1782/2003. The person named then appealed this decision to the Independent Single Payment Appeals Committee who recommended that the decision of the Single Payment Entitlements Unit should be upheld.

The person named submitted an application to the National Reserve under the Hill Farmers Scheme which caters for farmers with commonage land who were prevented from expanding their sheep production prior to or during the 2000-2002 reference period pending publication of the Commonage Framework Plans in 2002.

This application has not yet been fully processed by my Department. A decision will issue to the applicant as soon as processing is completed.

Departmental Staff.

Joan Burton

Question:

183 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of staff in her Department in the general service grades of principal officer, assistant principal officer, higher executive officer, executive officer, staff officer and clerical officer who have resigned in the each of the years from 2002 to date in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24097/06]

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

General Service Grades who resigned for domestic reasons or to take up other employment or self employment, etc.

Grade

2002

2003

2004

2005

01/01/06-20/06/06

Principal Officer

1

Assistant Principal

Higher Executive Officer

1

Administrative Officer

1

Executive Officer

2

5

2

2

2

Staff Officer

1

Clerical Officer

8

9

4

1

2

Temporary Clerical Officer

2

5

2

Neighbourhood Watch Scheme.

John Perry

Question:

184 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of community alert groups or neighbourhood watch groups in County Sligo and north Leitrim for the years 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24007/06]

The Neighbourhood Watch scheme was established in 1985 by the Garda authorities as a crime prevention measure. In common with other community based schemes, it enlists the voluntary help of the community in co-operating with the Garda Síochána and is most suitable for urban areas. There are approximately 2,600 Neighbourhood Watch schemes in operation nationwide with over 400,000 households involved. The Community Alert programme is a community based crime prevention initiative in rural communities which was set up by Muintir na Tíre in association with the Garda Síochána in 1985. It is a national movement with a network comprising over 1,290 local groups dedicated to improving the quality of life of people in rural communities.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the numbers of Neighbourhood Watch and Community Alert schemes in County Sligo and North Leitrim in each of the past five years is set out in the table.

Neighbourhood Watch

Community Alert

County Sligo

North Leitrim

County Sligo

North Leitrim

2002

28

1

20

15

2003

28

1

20

15

2004

28

1

20

15

2005

28

1

20

15

2006 to date

29

1

20

15

Garda Investigations.

Seán Crowe

Question:

185 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to a case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; the reason the response time from An Garda Síochána was so unsatisfactory; the efforts which were made to locate the truck or its valuable cargo at the time; and the efforts which are being made to resolve this case at present and to inform the person in question of any progress. [24015/06]

I requested a report from the Garda authorities in respect of the issues raised by the Deputy.

On 30 May, 2006 a call was made to the Garda Command and Control Communications Centre reporting the unauthorised taking of a van delivering to a business premises in Dublin 11. The vehicle was unattended with the keys in the ignition and the engine running at the time it was taken. The details were circulated by the Garda authorities to all Garda patrols at 11.21 am. A Garda Detective Unit was dispatched to this call at 11.22 am and was subsequently joined by a uniform Garda patrol car. Both units carried out a search of the area. The priority for the Gardaí was to attempt to intercept the vehicle.

At 12.26 pm a Garda unit went to the scene and a report was taken from the person in question. I am further informed that to date neither the vehicle nor its contents have been located and that the incident is being actively investigated by the Garda authorities. I understand that a Garda Inspector has updated the person in question on all aspects of the Garda investigation.

Martin Ferris

Question:

186 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has informed the US Department of Justice that a person (details supplied) is currently resident in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24016/06]

Martin Ferris

Question:

187 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) in County Kerry is known to the Garda; and if they have been placed on the sex offenders register in view of the concerns that residents in Kerry have regarding this person. [24017/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 186 and 187 together.

The Sex Offenders Act, 2001 sets out the obligations on persons convicted of a range of sexual offences. A convicted sex offender must notify his/her name(s), date of birth and current home address to the Garda Síochána within seven days of the conviction for the sexual offence concerned or, where the offender is sentenced to imprisonment, from the date of full release from prison.

Thereafter, the offender must notify the Gardaí of any change of name or address within seven days of that change. Notification of any address where the offender spends either as much as seven days or two or more periods amounting to seven days in any twelve month period must also be given to the Gardaí.

If the offender intends to leave the State for a period of seven days or more s/he must inform the Gardaí of this fact and the address at which s/he intends to stay and also notify the Gardaí of his/her return. If s/he did not intend to stay away for more than seven days but did, s/he must inform the Gardaí within a further seven days. The provisions of the Act extend to any sex offenders entering this jurisdiction from abroad who have an obligation to register in their own countries.

It is an offence to fail to comply with the notification requirements. The penalty is imprisonment for up to 12 months or a fine of €1,900 or both. The Garda Síochána pursue all cases which come to their attention of persons who do not fulfil the reporting obligations placed on them by the Act.

Garda Stations.

Dan Neville

Question:

188 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 291 of 7 July 2004, when the Garda barracks will be constructed at Kilfinane, County Limerick. [24018/06]

The Deputy will be aware that Kilfinane was one of 8 Garda stations in Counties Limerick and Tipperary which were selected by the Office of Public Works, following consultation with my Department and the Garda authorities, for inclusion in that Office's pilot Equity Exchange Programme which was publicised in 2004. However, the Office of Public Works considered that the level of interest expressed was not adequate to meet the requirements of that Programme. Further consideration has now been given by the Office of Public Works to an alternative approach and it is now proposed to build a new Basic Unit Type Garda Station at Kilfinane. In this regard, a brief of the accommodation requirements for the new station was agreed recently by all the relevant stakeholders and has just been received in my Department. The brief will now be forwarded to the Office of Public Works for appropriate action.

Residency Permits.

Willie Penrose

Question:

189 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will take steps to have the application of a person (details supplied) for permission to remain in the State processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24030/06]

As previously indicated in my reply to Parliamentary Question No 174 on 1st June 2006, applications for residency of the type referred to by the Deputy are dealt with in strict chronological order and currently take approximately four months to process following receipt of all relevant information. It is not the normal practice of my Department to expedite cases save in certain exceptional emergency circumstances. Such circumstances are considered on a case by case basis by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service following receipt of a written representation. It is open to the person in question to make such a request.

Visa Applications.

Willie Penrose

Question:

190 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will examine correspondence (details supplied) with a view to ascertaining the steps which can be taken to facilitate the entry of the person into Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24031/06]

The person referred to by the Deputy is a citizen of Tanzania and is visa required to enter the State. The application, including all supporting documentation should be submitted, for consideration, to the Irish Embassy in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. The application will be assessed in accordance with normal practice and should any additional documentation or information be required the applicant will be notified accordingly.

Prisoner Releases.

Pat Breen

Question:

191 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be eligible for early release from prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24032/06]

The person referred to is serving a life sentence for murder since December 1992. His case was reviewed by the Interim Parole Board in early 2002 and, following that review, the then Minister agreed to his transfer to the Training Unit. His temporary release programme was suspended in 2003 when he tested positive for cannabis on his return to the Training Unit. He was subsequently transferred to Wheatfield Prison, but returned to the Training Unit in January 2004.

Following a review of his case in February 2005, he was encouraged to engage with the therapeutic services available in the Training Unit in order to address specific concerns about his behaviour which had been highlighted in previous reviews. In light of his reported progress during this particular process I decided to approve his participation in a community based work and training programme, on a part-time basis. His participation and behaviour on this scheme will determine whether approval is granted in the future for an increase in the amount of time per week he is allowed to engage with this type of programme. Officials of the Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform are currently putting in place the necessary arrangements for this process to commence. His case will, of course, continue to be kept under review.

Garda Deployment.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

192 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if extra Garda patrols will be provided in an area (details supplied) in Dublin 11 during the summer months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24033/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the area in question is covered by Finglas Garda Station and that they are aware of the concerns of the residents of this area in relation to anti-social behaviour. The area is patrolled regularly by the local patrol cars and by members of the Community Policing Unit on foot and bicycle patrols. These patrols are augmented by the Divisional Crime Task Force and Divisional Traffic Units. Local policing requirements are regularly reviewed by local management to ensure that they meet the policing needs of the area.

I am assured that the area in question will continue to receive the attention of the Gardaí at Finglas. I am pleased to note that an additional four Gardaí have recently being allocated to Finglas Garda station.

Stardust Tragedy.

Finian McGrath

Question:

193 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reasons there is no inquiry into the Stardust fire tragedy; and if he will re-examine all new evidence. [24051/06]

I can inform the Deputy that the position remains as set out in my response to Parliamentary Question No. 352 (ref:11568/06) on 28th March, 2006.

Garda Investigations.

Pat Breen

Question:

194 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way in which an internal Garda inquiry is being carried out into the circumstances of an accident (details supplied); when it is envisaged the inquiry will be completed; the person who the inquiry will be made available to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24070/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Assistant Commissioner of the Western Region has appointed a Garda Superintendent from outside the Garda Division in which the fatal collision referred to by the Deputy took place to carry out a full assessment of the investigation into the collision. The review will include an assessment of the investigation file forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions. While it is not possible to state when the review will be completed, it is being carried out as expeditiously as possible and it is envisaged that it will be completed in the near future. The review of the investigation along with the recommendations of the appointed officer will then be considered by senior Garda management.

Citizenship Applications.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

195 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on a citizenship application by persons (details supplied) in County Mayo. [24071/06]

The applications for certificates of naturalisation referred to by the Deputy were received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in October 2005.

Applications received in the first half of 2004 are currently being processed and there are approximately 5,500 applications awaiting processing before those of the persons in question. It is likely that processing of the applications in question will commence in or around the end of 2007 or start of 2008.

I will inform the Deputy and the person concerned when I have reached a decision on the applications.

Garda Operations.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

196 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he will take on foot of the revelations made in a television programme (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24077/06]

I am informed by An Garda Síochána that they are aware of the identity of a number of Irish citizens who currently reside outside this jurisdiction and are believed to be involved in the sale and distribution of illicit drugs. In fact, many of these individuals choose to reside abroad for a variety of reasons, not least of which are the ongoing activities of An Garda Síochána in counteracting the sale and supply of illicit drugs within the State.

Although the individuals concerned reside outside Ireland, An Garda Síochána, along with other law enforcement authorities, continues to target the activities of these individuals both within and outside this jurisdiction. This is achieved in a number of ways, including:

•Ongoing investigations and intelligence gathering by the Garda National Drugs Unit in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies both national and international, including the Customs Service;

•Ongoing investigations and intelligence gathering by other national units, including the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation; and

•Ongoing investigations and activities by divisional and district drug units operating throughout the State.

All of these activities identify key organisations involved in drug trafficking and distribution. Having identified the key players, the relevant units undertake targeted operations designed to reduce the supply of drugs within society and gather sufficient evidence to sustain successful prosecutions against the principals involved.

In order to facilitate co-operation between law enforcement agencies in the investigation of criminal activity, An Garda Síochána has a number of liaison officers posted in EU Member States. In addition, Ireland is a member of Europol and has access through liaison officers, based at The Hague, to police forces throughout the European Union. Ireland also has direct access to all Interpol National Bureaux, which enhances and facilitates police co-operation even further.

An Garda Síochána works with law enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions in a number of ways. These include:

•The exchange of strategic intelligence on the activities andmodus operandi of criminal networks involved in the international trafficking of controlled drugs;

•The exchange of operational intelligence on the activities of criminal organisations involved in drug distribution;

•The conducting of investigations within the State at the request of foreign law enforcement agencies, in accordance with legislation governing mutual assistance in criminal matters;

•and Requesting the assistance of other jurisdictions in conducting investigations on behalf of the Irish State, in accordance with arrangements for mutual assistance in criminal matters.

The Garda National Drugs Unit has primary responsibility for the investigation of illicit drug trafficking. Their strategies for dealing with drug offences are designed to undermine the activities of organised criminal networks involved in the trafficking and distribution of illicit drugs.

In 2005, the Garda National Drugs Unit conducted separate investigations into the activities of Irish criminals operating in Belgium, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands. These investigations led to the arrest of a number of major criminals both here and abroad and the seizure of substantial quantities of illegal drugs. In fact, the recent "Prime Time Investigates" programme pointed to the success of joint investigations by An Garda Síochána and law enforcement authorities in other EU Member States.

Also, in November last year, the strength of the Organised Crime Unit in the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation was augmented by 55 officers, who are specifically tasked with targeting organised crime groups through various targeted operations. Criminal gangs are targeted through intelligence led operations using all the resources available to An Garda Síochána, including surveillance, monitoring, searches and general disruption of criminal activities through patrolling and check points.

"Operation Delivery" has targeted organised gangs involved in armed robberies and has resulted in a reduction of this type of crime this year. This, in turn, impacts on money available to criminals to purchase drugs, firearms and other resources.

Moreover, the assets accumulated by organised crime gangs have been targeted by the Criminal Assets Bureau. A substantial number of properties believed to be the proceeds of crime have been identified and inquiries are ongoing in this regard.

I am assured by the Garda authorities that operations at an international, national and local level to counteract the activities of both existing and emerging criminal networks will be continued and that every possible law enforcement measure will be utilised against them.

Finally, but not least, I will continue to keep the measures and resources for tackling organised crime, including drug trafficking, under review. I will also continue to work with my EU colleagues in the Justice and Home Affairs Council to ensure that every possible measure, legislative or otherwise, is put in place to enhance EU strategies for combating transnational organised crime.

Proposed Legislation.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

197 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the changes he intends to make to the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2006, aimed at tightening the enforceability of gaming and lotteries law, including the effects thereof. [24078/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

198 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the basis on which he claims that Houses of the Oireachtas policy stands for the prohibition of casino-style operations here and against the idea that casinos should be permitted and regulated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24079/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 197 and 198 together.

The Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956-86 prohibit gambling except in certain specifically defined circumstances. Casino-style operations are not covered within these exceptions. Such operations are therefore unlawful. I have no proposals that would alter the present policy of the Acts, but rather to tighten the enforceability of that policy by way of better provision on the evidence to be obtained in relation to unlawful gambling and on the procedure involved in closing down a casino. The provisions by which it is intended to achieve this are being developed in my Department in consultation with the Attorney General, among others. The details will be announced as amendments for inclusion in the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill at Committee Stage.

Juvenile Offenders.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

199 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of juvenile reoffenders, that is, those found guilty of an offence who had previously been found guilty of an offence, for each year from 1997 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24080/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily available and is currently being researched. I will contact the Deputy again when the information is to hand.

Departmental Staff.

Joan Burton

Question:

200 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of staff in his Department in the general service grades of principal officer, assistant principal officer, higher executive officer, executive officer, staff officer and clerical officer who have resigned in the each of the years from 2002 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24098/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the table.

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Grade

PO

0

0

0

0

0

AP

0

0

0

0

0

HEO

0

0

1

0

0

EO

7

8

12

6

0

SO

0

0

0

0

0

CO

37

50

66

33

18

Total

44

58

79

39

18

* The method of recording this data changed in 2003. The figures for 2002 refer to the Head Office and Asylum Divisions of the Department only.

Garda Strength.

John Deasy

Question:

201 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí in Cork, Dublin, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. [24103/06]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,641 (all ranks) on Thursday 8 June with the attestation of 273 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June 1997 and represents an increase of 1,939 (or 18.1%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. I am further advised that the personnel strengths (all ranks) in each Division covering the cities and counties of Cork, Dublin, Limerick, Galway and Waterford as at today's date are as set out in the table.

Division

Cork City

636

Cork North

258

Cork West

253

D.M.R. North

614

D.M.R. North Central

655

D.M.R. South

571

D.M.R. South Central

721

D.M.R. West

693

D.M.R. East

572

Limerick

495

Galway West

390

Roscommon/Galway East

256

Waterford/Kilkenny

366

It is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within Divisions on a priority basis in accordance with the requirements of different areas. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends, administrative functions and other operational policing needs. Such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

I should add that the current recruitment drive to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members, in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of this year. The first group of newly attested Gardaí under this accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March and the second such group did so on the 8th of June. Further tranches of approximately 275 newly attested Gardaí will follow every 90 days thereafter until the programme is complete.

The Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources, and in this context the needs of the areas referred to by the Deputy will be given the fullest consideration.

Garda Investigations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

202 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 423 of 16 May 2006 and subsequent events, the way in which it has transpired that the person concerned was imprisoned when they attended court on 31 May 2006; the location at which the prisoner was detained and the length of time; the basis for their detention; if a series of 14 summons have been issued, served or are pending, following these events in respect of offences, some of which the person was unaware of; if it is not a coincidence that the person has been accused of numerous offences in the past three years that they have never been in any conflict with the authorities previously; if a history of the case has been referred to in the context of the recent Garda report; if, in respect of an alleged hit and run, they were arrested as a consequence; if information has been furnished as to the identity of the victim; the nature of the injury or injuries; if medical or hospital reports have been sought or provided; if further charges are pending; the basis for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24123/06]

I requested a report from the Garda authorities in respect of the issues raised by the Deputy.

The person referred to attended District Court 53 on 31 May, 2006 following summons for an alleged offence of careless driving on 30 August, 2004. This prosecution was directed by the Director of Public Prosecutions. The summons was adjourned to the 28 November, 2006. However, the person referred to was found to be in contempt of court by the District Judge and was sentenced to seven days imprisonment in Mountjoy Prison. A committal warrant was issued and the person referred to was lodged in custody at the Bridewell Prison section and subsequently taken to Mountjoy Prison on 31 May, 2006. On 1 June, 2006 the person referred to was granted leave to seek a judicial review and was granted High Court bail.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that there are currently sixteen summons before the courts or pending against the person referred to. I have no role in relation to the investigation or prosecution of offences and it would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this time.

Garda Complaints Procedures.

Finian McGrath

Question:

203 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there will be an independent inquiry into the deaths of persons (details supplied); and the reason their families are being harassed by the Gardaí. [24130/06]

At the outset I should say that the tragic deaths to which the Deputy refers are unrelated save for the fact that both occurred following detention in Garda custody. The circumstances of the first case are quite different from those of the second case. In the first case, unlike the second case, all are agreed that the young man in question suffered serious injuries in a Garda Station.

In so far as the question of independent inquiries is concerned I have nothing to add to the positions as set out in my responses to Parliamentary Question No. 77 of 8 June 2006 and No. 409 of 6 July 2004 respectively. With regard to the second aspect of the Deputy's question, the information currently available to me is at variance with what the Deputy characterises as harassment. However, I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that an incident concerning the first family is the subject of an investigation by a Detective Superintendent from a Division outside the relevant area.

School Accommodation.

Willie Penrose

Question:

204 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the position relating to the application by a school (details supplied) in County Westmeath for additional ancillary accommodation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23992/06]

The School Planning Section of my Department received an application for additional accommodation from the school to which the Deputy refers. The application is currently being assessed. A decision in the matter will issue to the school authority as quickly as possible.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

205 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans to improve the teacher/pupil ratio at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24; if her attention has been drawn to the significant international community in these schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23993/06]

Major improvements in school staffing have been made in recent years with the hiring of more than 5,000 additional primary teachers. This represents the largest increase in teacher numbers since the expansion of free education. Today there is one teacher for every 17 children, the lowest pupil teacher ratio in the history of the State.

Aside from decreasing average class size, the unprecedented increase in school staffing in recent years has also greatly improved the services provided for children with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas. Under DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) the action plan for education inclusion that I launched in May, 2005, there will be a reduction in class sizes to 24:1 at senior level and 20:1 at junior level in the 180 primary schools serving communities with the highest concentrations of disadvantage. With more than 600 extra resource teachers put in place in this school year, children with special needs are getting more support than ever before. It should be acknowledged how much progress has been made in this area in recent years.

Recently I announced that I have secured sufficient funding to provide even smaller classes in our primary schools in the next school year, and the Minister for Finance has committed to a further reduction in class size in the following year. Accordingly, over the next 2 years, my Department will put 500 extra teachers into primary schools to reduce class size and to tackle disadvantage.

The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on the 30th September of the previous school year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule which is issued annually to all primary schools.

The general rule is that the schedule provides at least one classroom teacher for every 29 pupils in the school. Of course, schools with only one or two teachers have much lower staffing ratios than that — with two teachers for just 12 pupils in some cases and so on — but the general rule is that there is at least one classroom teacher for every 29 children in the school. Next year this is being reduced to 28 children per classroom teacher and in 2007/2008 it will be reduced to 27 children per classroom teacher. Circular 0023/2006 outlining the revised staffing schedule for the 2006/2007 school year is available on the Department of Education & Science website. Hard copies of the circular have been issued to all primary schools.

Within the terms of the current staffing arrangements for primary schools there is provision for additional posts, referred to as developing school posts, to be assigned to schools on the basis of projected enrolments for the next school year. Under these arrangements, a developing school post may be sanctioned provisionally where the projected enrolment at 30th September of the school year in question equals or exceeds a specified figure. If the specified figure is not achieved on 30th September, sanction for the post is withdrawn.

The mainstream staffing of the schools referred to by the Deputy for the 2006/2007 school year will be a Principal and 19 mainstream class teachers, based on an enrolment of 521 pupils on 30th September 2005, in the junior school and Principal and 14 mainstream class teachers, based on an enrolment of 395 pupils on 30th September 2005, in the senior school.

It is open to the Board of Management of a primary school to submit an appeal, under certain criteria, to the Primary Staffing Appeal Board. The Board adjudicates on appeals on mainstream staffing allocations in primary schools and operates independently of the Minister and my Department. The Board's decisions are final. The criteria under which an appeal can be made have been revised and are set out in Primary Circular 0024/2006, which is available on my Department's website. The closing date for the receipt of staffing appeals are 24th June 2006 and 18th October 2006.

Schools catering for newcomer pupils who have significant English language deficits are entitled to assistance to enable these pupils gain full access to the curriculum. Schools that have 14 to 27 non-English speaking pupils enrolled are entitled to a full-time temporary language support teaching post at primary level. Schools with 28 or more such pupils are entitled to two full-time temporary language support teachers. In exceptional cases, following consideration by my Department's Inspectorate, a third teaching post may be sanctioned. The support for an individual pupil is provided for a period of up to two years.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that both the junior and senior schools in question will have three temporary language support teacher posts for the 2006/07 school year.

Special Educational Needs.

David Stanton

Question:

206 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science if a scheme exists through her Department or if her attention has been drawn to a way in which a physically disabled pupil at primary school level can receive help to purchase a computer and associated equipment to enable the pupil to study and do homework at home in view of the fact that the student would have such equipment at school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23994/06]

My Department operates a scheme of grants to primary and post primary schools to facilitate the purchase of special equipment, including computers, for the use of pupils with special educational needs. Under the terms of the scheme, pupils may with the consent of the Board of Management of the school, use such computer equipment at home to assist them in their education. It is open to the parents to discuss this option with the school management.

Educational Disadvantage.

Martin Ferris

Question:

207 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science the criteria under which a school may qualify for inclusion in the DEIS programme; and the reason a school (details supplied) in County Kerry was not included despite taking most of its pupils from the two national schools in Ballybunion which are included. [23995/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

223 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science the criteria used to choose schools for the DEIS programme; the reason a school (details supplied) in County Kerry was not included; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24126/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 207 and 233 together.

The process of identifying primary and second-level schools for participation in the new School Support Programme under DEIS was managed by the Educational Research Centre (ERC) on behalf of my Department and supported by quality assurance work co-ordinated through the Department's regional offices and the Inspectorate. The ERC's overall approach was guided by the definition of educational disadvantage in the Education Act (1998), section 32(9), as: "...the impediments to education arising from social or economic disadvantage which prevent students from deriving appropriate benefit from education in schools".

In the primary sector, the identification process was based on a survey of all primary schools in May 2005, from which a response rate of more than 97% was achieved. The analysis of the survey returns by the ERC identified the socio-economic variables that collectively best predict achievement, and these variables were then used to identify schools for participation in the School Support Programme. The variables involved are:

% unemployment

% local authority accommodation

% lone parenthood

% Travellers

% large families (5 or more children)

% pupils eligible for free books

In the case of second-level schools, the Department supplied the ERC with centrally-held data from the Post-Primary Pupils and State Examinations Commission databases. Based on an analysis of these data, the variables used to determine eligibility for inclusion in the School Support Programme were as follows: Medical card data for Junior Certificate candidates (including Junior Certificate School Programme candidates) Junior Certificate retention rates by school Junior Certificate exam results aggregated to school level (expressed as an OPS "Overall Performance Scale" score). This was based on each student's performance in the seven subjects in which s/he performed best Leaving Certificate retention rates by school.

While the whole rationale behind the new programme is to ensure that the most disadvantaged schools benefit from all of the available supports, schools that are benefiting from pre-existing schemes will keep the extra resources, financial and human, that they are getting under these initiatives for the 2006/07 school year. After that they will continue to get support in line with the level of socio-economic disadvantage among their pupils. The school to which the Deputies refer is not in any of the pre-existing schemes to address educational disadvantage.

Schools Building Projects.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

208 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science when the schedule of work will be made available for the construction of classrooms to replace two prefabs and toilets including a disabled toilet and resource rooms at a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24024/06]

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an early stage of the architectural planning process and was listed in my announcement of April 2005 as a project to progress through the architectural planning process up to pre-tender stage.

In December 2005 following a review of the long-term accommodation needs of the school, my Department's officials visited the school in question in order to compile schedules of accommodation which will adequately meet the schools accommodation requirements into the future. When these schedules are completed my Department will be in further contact with the school authorities as to the next steps involved in progressing this project.

My Department's Planning and Building Guidelines state that a design team should be appointed, consisting of an Architect, a Quantity Surveyor, a Structural Engineer and a Services Engineer to ensure that educationally, architecturally, and economically it meets the standards as set down by my Department. The design team for this project is in the process of being appointed and my officials will be advising the school regarding the appointment of the remaining Design Team disciplines. A decision on which school building projects will advance to tender and construction will be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme 2006-2010.

Psychological Service.

Richard Bruton

Question:

209 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of training places available for the training of clinical psychologists; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there are an estimated 100 vacancies for such skills unfilled; and her plans to expand the training opportunities for this important expertise. [24035/06]

The provisional student numbers for the 2005/06 academic year indicate that there are a total of 90 students on Clinical Psychologist courses in Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, the National University of Ireland, Galway and the University of Limerick. The course in NUI, Galway commenced in the 2003/04 academic year while the course at the University of Limerick only commenced in the current academic year. A national audit undertaken by the Heads of Psychology in 2004/2005 identified the number of clinical psychologists available, together with current vacancies, across care groups within the health services.

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for human resource management. In 2005, the Health Service Executive established a more systematic and co-ordinated approach to postgraduate training initiatives in clinical psychology and has allocated significant additional revenue funding, €1m in 2006, to assist the development of these programmes.

Higher Education Grants.

Seán Crowe

Question:

210 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Galway who has been refused a maintenance grant as they lived outside Ireland for three years; her views on the fact that the cross-border LLM is not regarded as an approved course here and that as part of the course was outside this jurisdiction in Belfast, Galway County Council refused to pay the fees; if she will review the fact that this person was regarded as an EU applicant as opposed to an Irish one; and her views on whether students should be encouraged to pursue cross-border courses instead of being deterred in this way in view of political developments, particularly the Good Friday Agreement. [24041/06]

The three Third Level Student Support Schemes, administered by the Local Authorities and the Vocational Education Committees on behalf of my Department, offer financial assistance to eligible students attending approved third level courses. Students entering approved courses for the first time are, generally speaking, eligible for grants where they satisfy the relevant conditions as to age, residence, means and nationality.

Under the Free Fees Initiative, my Department meets the tuition fees of eligible students who are attending full-time undergraduate courses in the State, which must be of at least two years duration, at an approved college. Where a candidate is pursuing an approved course at Postgraduate level in an institution listed as an approved institution for the purpose of my Department's Higher Education Grant Scheme and VEC Scholarship Scheme the Awarding Body may award a full or part grant in respect of the candidate's lecture fee subject to the terms of the Scheme.

My Department has examined the details of the course to which the person the Deputy refers is attending on the basis as to whether or not an application could be made for assistance under the 2005 Higher Education Grant Scheme. My Department is aware that the first semester of the LLM Human Rights Cross Border course is completed in Queen's University, the second in NUI Galway and the third can be spent in either Queen's University or NUIG. The person the deputy refers to has chosen to remain in NUIG for the third semester. However, my Department understands that all fees are paid to Queen's University who in turn make a payment to NUIG in respect of the period of study there.

The residency requirement, under the prescribed provisions of the 2005 Higher Education Grant Scheme, requires in the case of an independent mature candidate the candidate to have been ordinarily resident in the administrative area of the Local Authority from the 1st October 2004. The person to whom the Deputy refers has confirmed to my Department and to Galway County Council that she resided in Scotland for the past number of years. Candidates who are E.U. nationals and who do not satisfy the residency requirement are eligible to apply for a means tested fees only grant in respect of an approved course.

The particular clause which applies in this case is Clause 4.1.2 of the 2005 Higher Education Grant Scheme which states as follows:—

"Candidates who are E.U. nationals and who do not satisfy the residency requirement are eligible to apply for a means-tested fees only grant in respect of approved courses in the Republic of Ireland, provided they have been ordinarily resident, for a purpose other than wholly or mainly to receive full-time education, in an E.U. Member State from 1 October, 2004. Such candidates shall apply to the Local Authority in which the college they propose to attend is situated."

There are two points in this clause that impacts on this candidate's eligibility under the prescribed provisions of my Department's 2005 Higher Education Grant Scheme. The first is "in respect of approved courses in the Republic of Ireland". As the course is run by Queen's University, Belfast it does not meet the criteria of an approved course in the Republic of Ireland. Secondly, the last line of the clause "candidates shall apply to the Local Authority in which the college they propose to attend is situated". As Queen's University is located in Belfast it is not located in a Local Authority administrative area and, consequently, a grant application cannot be submitted to a local authority in the area in which the university is situated.

My Department understands that students attending the LLM Human Rights Cross Border course must pay their full fees to Queen's University, a facility does not exist for a student to divide and pay the institutions separately. All applications for the course must be submitted to Queen's University and not through NUIG.

An application for a means tested fees only grant in respect of the part of the course pursued in NUIG cannot be considered independently for assistance.

State Examinations.

Liz McManus

Question:

211 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on providing an amnesty for students to have a pass in the honours mathematics leaving certificate paper in order to assist their access to third level education in view of the widespread public concern regarding the high standard of questions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24042/06]

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations, including organising the holding of examinations and making arrangements for the marking of work presented for examination.

I understand from the State Examinations Commission that all observations received by the Commission in relation to the Leaving Certificate Higher Level Mathematics examination are passed to the Chief Examiner for consideration in the context of finalising the marking scheme for the subject. In relation to access to third level, the position is that entry requirements are determined by the third level institutions and I have no function in the matter.

Class Sizes.

Finian McGrath

Question:

212 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on primary school students in classes of 30 or more. [24043/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, major improvements have been made in primary school staffing in recent years. Next September there will no less than 4000 extra teachers in our primary schools, compared with 2002. Not only is the average class size in our primary schools down to 24, but there is now one teacher for 17 pupils at primary level, including resource teachers etc.

Children with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas are getting more support than ever before to help them to make the most of their time at school. Indeed, with the thousands of extra primary teachers hired by this Government, recent years have seen the largest expansion in teacher numbers since the expansion of free education. Over the next two school years even more teachers will be put in place both for the above priority areas of disadvantage and special education and also under a reduction in the mainstream staffing schedule.

As you know all schools are staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 29 children. Of course, schools with only one or two teachers have much lower staffing ratios than that — with two teachers for just 12 pupils in some cases and so on — but the general rule is that there is at least one classroom teacher for every 29 children in the school. Next year this is being reduced to 28 children per classroom teacher and in 2007/2008 it will be reduced to 27 children per classroom teacher.

So, as I have pointed out the general rule in the current school year is that at least one classroom teacher is provided for every 29 pupils. Furthermore, the actual average class size nationally is 24.

It is important to appreciate that there are a number of different reasons why a particular school may have a large class in a given year. Reasons why there are large classes include a significant fluctuation in enrolments from one year to the next and/or a decision by the school principal not to have multi-grade classes. Regardless of the reason why there is a large class in a particular school one year, it should be noted that in the majority of cases this is not the situation in the following year. In the main, the same schools do not have large classes year after year and so the same children are not in large classes year after year.

Where some classes in a school have class sizes of greater than 29, it is often because a decision has been taken at local level to use their teaching resources to have smaller numbers in other classes. Indeed, I often find that when I look into why a particular school has a class of 35 in a particular grade, the answer is because there is another class in the same school with a much lower than average number of pupils in it.

I appreciate that splitting classes may not always be an option for a particular school, because for example there might be a large group in junior infants and a small group in sixth class and so on. But where it is possible, I believe that principals should consider the benefits of having smaller multi-grade classes as against having large differences in class sizes at different levels in the school.

This Government has clearly demonstrated its commitment to improving staffing in our primary schools by hiring thousands of extra teachers in recent years and we will continue to make progress on this issue.

School Staffing.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

213 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on whether school chaplains in community and comprehensive schools, meet the criteria as set out in circular letter PPT 14/05 Protection of Employees (Fixed Term Work) Act 2003 to be granted contracts of indefinite duration; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24044/06]

Discussions among the relevant parties, including the relevant religious authorities, are ongoing at present in relation to the issue raised. The outcome of these discussions will be notified to the relevant parties in due course.

Schools Building Projects.

Mary Upton

Question:

214 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science the approaches her Department has had regarding the relocation of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 8; if she is satisfied that the submitted plans conform to her Department’s requirements in respect of such a new school; when the school will have to vacate its current site; if a new school will be provided at a site currently in the ownership of a developer; the apportionment of the costs of building a new school including site costs her Department expect to bear; the basis upon which a sixteen classroom school would be sufficient for current and future needs in the area in question; if she has further satisfied herself that the new school will be built as part of the final phase of the development; and her views on requiring same to be built as part of the first phase in view of the fact that the new school will mainly cater for existing pupils from an existing school. [24045/06]

My Department has been in discussions with the management authority of the school referred to by the Deputy regarding the long term accommodation needs of the school. In conjunction with the local inspector, it has been determined that a 16 classroom primary school will adequately meet the long term requirements of the school.

The management authority of the school has proposed that their permanent accommodation solution be provided as part of the development referred to by the Deputy. The school authority was to submit firm proposals to my Department and these proposals are awaited.

Teachers’ Remuneration.

Richard Bruton

Question:

215 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the basis on which incremental credits of eight years were awarded to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 and have been revised to five years, despite the fact that the pension entitlement award conferred an entitlement of six and a half years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24066/06]

The person referred to by the Deputy first made application to my Department for incremental credit in respect of the service in question in 1975. He again applied in 1980. On both occasions he was informed that the service did not come within the scope of the scheme for the award of incremental credit. He was further advised by letter dated 10 October 2003 that this service did not qualify for the award of credit.

He applied again for credit in respect of the same service on the 21st February 2005 and indicated in his claim that he had not previously applied in respect of this service. Validation procedures in respect of approved claims showed that an award had been made erroneously in this case and payment was withheld. The person in question was so advised and subsequently was awarded credit in respect of 5 years' service. He was notified of this award on 14th July 2005.

My Department is currently reviewing the teacher's claim and service history in the light of subsequent correspondence from him. A decision in the matter will be conveyed to the applicant in the near future.

Special Educational Needs.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

216 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Education and Science the home schooling entitlements available to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [24067/06]

My Department considers that school-based education provision is the most appropriate intervention for all children, including those with special educational needs. Where a school placement is available, then the issue of home tuition does not arise.

In the absence of specific information concerning the pupil in question, I would advise the parents of this particular student to contact their school's special educational needs organiser to discuss any particular difficulties.

Disadvantaged Status.

John Perry

Question:

217 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools and secondary schools in County Sligo and north County Leitrim that will lose their disadvantaged status post 2007 as a result of the new indicators in the integrated schools support programme envisaged under the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24074/06]

At the outset, I want to state that no school has been told that they are going to lose any of the resources that they have been receiving under pre-existing schemes for tackling disadvantage as a result of the introduction of the new DEIS initiative. On the contrary, the new School Support Programme is aimed at providing even more extra resources for the most disadvantaged schools in the country.

Schools that did not qualify for the new programme will keep the extra resources they are getting under pre-existing schemes for the 2006/07 school year and after that they will continue to get support in line with the level of disadvantage among their pupils.

The new DEIS programme will be of huge benefit to schools in Leitrim and Sligo. One urban/town primary school and 9 rural primary schools in County Leitrim will benefit from the supports available from the new programme. In County Sligo, 3 urban/town primary schools, 11 rural primary schools and 4 second-level schools will benefit.

I am sure the Deputy will agree that it is important to ensure that schools serving the most disadvantaged communities get all the extra support possible and will welcome the extra resources that DEIS will provide for schools in Leitrim and Sligo. I can assure the Deputy that there is no reason for schools that have not been identified for the new programme to worry as they will continue to get support in line with the level of disadvantage among their pupils.

A review mechanism has been put in place to address the concerns of schools that did not qualify for inclusion in the School Support Programme but regard themselves as having a level of disadvantage which is of a scale sufficient to warrant their inclusion in the programme. This review process is under way and it is anticipated that it will be completed by the end of the current school year.

Higher Education Grants.

John Perry

Question:

218 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount allocated by her Department for the maintenance grants scheme for students attending PLC courses in County Sligo and north County Leitrim for 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006; the number of students in receipt of such grants for 2006, itemised as full, 75 per cent, 50 per cent or 25 per cent recipients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24075/06]

The statistical information requested by the Deputy is not immediately available in my Department. The information requested is being compiled, in so far as it is available, and will be issued directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Departmental Staff.

Joan Burton

Question:

219 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of staff in her Department in the general service grades of principal officer, assistant principal officer, higher executive officer, executive officer, staff officer and clerical officer who have resigned in the each of the years from 2002 to date in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24099/06]

In response to the Deputy's question, a total of 16 officers in the relevant general service grades have resigned from my Department from 2002 to date. The detail of the resignations is as follows:

2002: — 3 Clerical Officers

2003: — 3 Clerical Officers

2004: — 3 Clerical Officers and 1 Executive Officer

2005: — 3 Clerical Officers and 1 Executive Officer

2006: — 1 Clerical Officer and 1 Executive Officer.

The reasons for the resignations include personal/family reasons, full time study and taking up other employment. Of the 16 officers, 14 are female and 2 were male.

Pension Provisions.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

220 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the implementation of the pension scheme for primary school caretakers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24105/06]

My Department provides funding towards the cost of caretaking services in primary schools under two separate schemes. One scheme is the 1979 scheme for the employment of full-time caretakers in primary schools, under which my Department meets the full cost of salary. These caretakers are paid directly on my Department's payroll.

I can confirm that my Department has introduced a superannuation scheme for caretakers employed under the 1979 scheme. Deductions have commenced from salaries of eligible personnel with effect from 7 March 2006. The scheme has been introduced with retrospective effect to 1 September 2001 and eligible caretakers will be notified in due course of the arrears of contributions due in respect of the period since 1 September 2001. In accordance with standard public service arrangements, there is provision for reckoning previous service given, subject to payment of appropriate contributions.

Eligible personnel and school authorities were informed of the introduction of the superannuation scheme prior to the commencement of deductions from salaries. A formal circular, setting out further details regarding the superannuation scheme, will issue from the Pensions Unit in my Department as soon as possible.

The 1979 scheme is being phased out as posts become vacant and no new posts are being created. It has been superseded by a more extensive grant scheme now referred to as the Ancillary Services grant. The Ancillary Services grant provides additional per capita funding for primary schools towards the cost of secretarial and caretaking services. The scheme, by its nature, is flexible and gives Boards of Management discretion as to the manner in which secretarial and caretaking services are provided.

The caretakers employed under the Ancillary Services Grant are paid by the managerial authorities of the schools. These personnel can avail of Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) to provide for their retirement.

Schools Building Projects.

Richard Bruton

Question:

221 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the construction of additional classroom and other school facilities in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 16; and the reason greater progress has not been made to date to ensure proper facilities for the children attending the school. [24107/06]

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an early stage of architectural planning. My Department's officials have recently received a draft sketch scheme from the school authorities. When the draft sketch scheme is reviewed, my Department will be in further contact with the School Authorities as to the next steps involved in progressing this building project.

A decision on which school building projects will advance to tender and construction will be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme 2006-2010.

Institutes of Technology.

John Perry

Question:

222 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science the orders she has given with regard to the programme for development of the science block in Sligo Institute of Technology; the timescale involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24124/06]

The allocation of capital funding amounting to €900m to cover the period 2006-10 for the third level sector has enabled me to deal with a number of key priority projects in the sector. These projects were identified during the needs assessment and prioritisation work carried out by the Kelly Review Group, which reported in September 2004.

As a result of this allocation, in December 2005, I gave approval for a further 35 priority projects to be delivered. A total of 18 of these projects will be delivered by conventional procurement involving direct Exchequer funding while the balance of 17 will be delivered through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) process.

The Institute of Technology Sligo received approval to proceed with its Canteen and School of Science project. However, the management authorities at the Institute requested my Department to allow the refurbishment of the 1970 building to proceed ahead of the Canteen and School of Science project. The authorities indicated that the refurbishment project was well advanced in architectural planning and represented the single most critical priority for the Institute. My Department acceded to the Institute's wishes in this matter. The Canteen and School of Science project will be considered in the future.

Question No. 223 answered with QuestionNo. 207.

Special Educational Needs.

Michael Ring

Question:

224 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to the redundancy package for special needs assistants employed in primary and second level schools; and if the circular letters in question have been issued to the schools. [24128/06]

A Circular Letter outlining the details of the arrangements relating to redundancy for Special Need Assistants have been prepared by my Department. The number of the Circular letter is 0058/2006 and is titled " Redundancy Arrangements for Special Need Assistants in Primary and Second Level Schools". It can be accessed on my Department's website as follows — Enter the website, then enter under "Education Personnel" and "Special Need Assistants". Copies of the Circular Letters are currently being issued to schools.

School Absenteeism.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

225 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the cost to her Department of approved school absences, at primary and post-primary level, for the three most recent school years for which figures are available; the manner in which this scheme is operated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24132/06]

The information available in my Department in relation to the matter referred to by the Deputy is being compiled and will be forwarded directly to her.

School Staffing.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

226 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if the provisions of the contract of indefinite duration apply to her Department, to primary and post-primary schools, and to all other educational institutions; the details of the contract of indefinite duration; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24133/06]

The provisions of Contracts of Indefinite Duration are being applied to all educational institutions. Discussions are at an advanced stage in relation to teachers, facilitated by a Rights Commissioner, and are expected to conclude in the near future.

Overseas Missions.

Finian McGrath

Question:

227 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the risks in Sudan for Irish troops participating in future United Nations missions; and the precautions taken by the Defence Forces to ensure maximum safety. [24060/06]

Ireland has been strongly supportive of the peace process in Sudan, generally, and also in the troubled region of Darfur, providing financial support to the UN-authorised African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) there, as well as seconding an army officer, as a military observer, to it between July 2004 and June 2005. Since July 2005, Ireland has provided one officer — a Logistics Planner — as part of the EU support staff to the mission. In addition, Ireland also provides one officer, who acts as Deputy Military Adviser to the EU Special Representative to the Sudan and one non-commissioned officer. All 3 personnel are currently based in Addis Ababa.

On 16 May, 2006, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1679, which paves the way for a UN force in Darfur and for the transition of the present UN-authorised African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) to UN command. The UN has been engaged for some time in planning and identifying the military capabilities that may be required, and has commenced consultations with member states, including Ireland, to accelerate the sourcing of these capabilities. An informal request for Irish Defence Forces participation was received from the UN last month. However, after careful consideration of the request, the UN was advised that, due to the extension of our engagement in Liberia to May 2007, together with our other substantial commitments to UN Peace support operations, we are not at this time in a position where we could provide personnel to the prospective UN Mission in Sudan.

Among the factors to be taken into account by Ireland when considering any particular request to participate in a mission, is the degree of risk involved. A detailed reconnaissance, including a security assessment of the mission area, is conducted by a Defence Forces team prior to the deployment of personnel to any new mission. The safety of Irish personnel serving overseas is always of paramount concern to me. While no absolute guarantees can be given with regard to the safety of troops serving in missions, it is my policy and practice to ensure that Defence Forces personnel are appropriately trained and equipped to carry out their mission. All possible precautions are taken to ensure the safety of our troops. I can assure the Deputy that, in the event of any deployment of the Defence Forces to Sudan as part of a UN mission in the future, a full risk assessment will be conducted in accordance with standing procedures and all appropriate measures to protect and ensure the safety of our troops will be taken.

Finian McGrath

Question:

228 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Defence the reasons Ireland is contributing ten soldiers to an EU military mission to the Congo; and the person in charge of this operation. [24061/06]

MONUC is the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and was established in February 2000 by Resolution 1291 of the United Nations Security Council. It is headquartered in Kinshasa and consists of about 16,000 troops. Ireland contributes three military observers to the mission.

Elections are due to take place in DRC under UN supervision in July 2006. In December 2005, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) invited the EU to consider the possibility of providing "a suitably earmarked force reserve that could enhance MONUC's quick reaction capabilities during and immediately after the electoral process." The EU responded positively to the UN request and EUFOR RD Congo will be deployed to support MONUC during the electoral process. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1671 of 25 April, 2006 authorised the EU to deploy a European Union Force, codenamed "EUFOR RD Congo", in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in support of MONUC, during the electoral period in the DRC, for a period ending four months after the date of the first round of the presidential and parliamentary elections there. The DRC authorities have welcomed the EU military support to MONUC during the electoral process. On 25 April, 2006, the Council of the EU adopted a "Joint Action" to launch the EU mission in support of MONUC. The Council appointed Lieutenant General Karlheinz Viereck (Germany) EU Operation Commander and Major General Christian Damay (France) EU Force Commander.

Ireland from the outset has been positively disposed towards the proposed mission and on 9 May 2006 the Government authorised the Minister for Defence to despatch up to ten (10) members of the Permanent Defence Force for service with EUFOR RD Congo. Ireland offered up to 10 Staff Officers for the Headquarters of the Force. However, the mission is oversubscribed, so only 7 of the 10 will be deployed, 5 in Potsdam in the Operational Headquarters and 2 in Kinshasa in the Force Headquarters. Five Defence Forces personnel assigned to the Operational Headquarters for the mission in Potsdam (Germany) have now deployed. The two remaining personnel assigned to the Force Headquarters in Kinshasa will deploy shortly. Under the responsibility of the Council of the EU, the Political and Security Committee will exercise the political control and strategic direction of EUFOR RD Congo.

Finian McGrath

Question:

229 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Defence the measures his Department are putting in place to ensure the safety of Irish soldiers serving under NATO command in view of the recent upsurge in violence in Afghanistan. [24062/06]

Ireland has participated in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan since 5 July, 2002, following Government Decision S140/45/28/0002 of 2 July, 2002 authorising the provision of seven members of the Permanent Defence Force for service with the force. The level of threat to Defence Forces personnel on all Peace Support Operations is kept under constant review and the necessary force protection measures are put in place as required.

The overall threat to ISAF assets in Kabul, Afghanistan, where the seven members of the Defence Forces are operating, is currently assessed as "significant". Ongoing risk assessments will continue to take account of the situation on the ground. In view of the increased risks in ISAF and following a review of the threat to our personnel in Kabul, additional security and protective measures have been put in place. Armoured protection vehicles have now been provided to the personnel serving in Kabul and other security measures in relation to routes and travel have also been taken.

The safety of Irish personnel serving overseas is always of paramount concern to me. While no absolute guarantees can be given with regard to the safety of troops serving in missions, it is my policy and practice to ensure that Defence Forces personnel are appropriately trained and equipped to carry out their mission. All possible precautions are taken to ensure the safety of our troops. None of the troops is exposed to any unnecessary risks and all possible precautions are taken to ensure their safety. In addition, Standard Operating Procedures are kept under review in light of experience and best practice.

Troops selected for overseas service undergo a rigorous programme of training designed to help them carry out their peacekeeping mission and to provide for their protection. Pre-deployment training is provided to members of the Permanent Defence Force and is updated in the light of any increased threat. I am satisfied that all appropriate security measures are in place to ensure the safety of all Defence Forces personnel serving overseas.

Finian McGrath

Question:

230 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Defence if Irish Army personnel who liaise with the Afghan Intelligence Directorate have access to information on the Afghan hunger strikers in St. Patrick’s Cathedral; and if the Irish personnel seek information from the Afghan authorities on these men or if they pass on information to the Afghan intelligence services regarding the activities of these men here that might endanger them on their repatriation or deportation to Afghanistan. [24063/06]

Seven Irish Defence Forces personnel are currently serving with the UN authorised International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. All personnel are stationed in the Kabul area. Three (3) personnel are employed at ISAF HQ while the remaining four (4) personnel are working with the Kabul Multinational Brigade (KMNB).

The three (3) personnel at ISAF HQ hold staff appointments in the information operations section. The four (4) Defence Forces personnel employed with KMNB are solely engaged in liaison duties between KMNB, the Afghan National Directorate of Security, the Kabul city police and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and their liaison remit is strictly confined to information exchange concerning security issues directly related to the ISAF mission. Defence Forces personnel serving with ISAF in Afghanistan are not involved in the exchanging of information on Afghan nationals residing in this jurisdiction.

Defence Forces Recruitment.

Finian McGrath

Question:

231 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Defence the reason for women being under represented in the Defence Forces; the further reason the Defence Forces, five years after a study by a person (details supplied) that uncovered evidence of widespread gender based discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment, have not formulated an equality policy or mission statement or appointed an equality officer. [24064/06]

I am pleased to say that I have recently received from the military authorities their report on the minimum height standards for Defence Forces personnel. This report was prepared in the context of encouraging more women to apply to join the Defence Forces. The report deals comprehensively with the complex issues relating to this matter and as such requires careful consideration. I will be reviewing the height requirement for entry to both the Permanent Defence Force and the Reserve Defence Force, in the light of this report, and would expect to be able to make a decision on this matter shortly. It is also my intention to publish the report in the near future.

I would point out that height is not the only issue in encouraging more women to apply to join the Defence Forces. Accordingly, I have recently initiated more general research in this area. To this end, tenders have been received from companies willing to undertake research into the issues of the recruitment and retention of women in the Defence Forces. It is intended that the research will test women's attitudes to military life and careers in the Defence Forces. I envisage that the research will include interviews with serving female members of both the Permanent Defence Force and the Reserve Defence Force, and also with members of the general public. The contract for the research will be awarded in the very near future.

The Government is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for men and women throughout the Defence Forces, in the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service and including the Reserve Defence Force, and to the full participation by women in all aspects of Defence Forces activities. In effect this means that women are eligible on the same basis as men for participation in operational and ceremonial activities, for assignment to all military appointments and educational and training courses and for promotion. All female personnel undergo the same training and receive the same military education as their male counterparts. All applicants for service in the Defence Forces, both male and female, are interviewed on an equal basis and then placed in order of merit. It is not possible to give one gender priority over another as this would result in an equality issue.

All competition selection boards and general service interview boards are briefed on equality issues and specifically in relation to gender and diversity issues. All new entrants into the Defence Forces receive training during induction on equality and interpersonal relationships and on redress systems. All career courses and leadership seminars contain modules on equality and interpersonal relationships. All instructors are briefed on bullying and discrimination, and there is an instruction guiding instructors and students alike. The Defence Forces have no restrictions or barriers to females serving in any appointment or in any rank. Selection and promotion is based on merit.

Female strength levels in the Permanent Defence Force have increased from 4.4% of overall strength in 2001 to 5% of overall strength in 2005. The Defence Forces have, in the last five years, doubled the percentage intake of female Cadets to an average of 20%. In 2005, 10.4% of enlistments for General Service were by females. This is measurable progress in increasing gender balance in the Defence Forces. Females make up approximately 25% of the Reserve Defence Force personnel. Some 30% of last years Reserve Defence Force recruit intake were female. The percentage of females enlisted for General Service is, in general, in proportion to the number of enlistment applications received from females.

The table shows the percentage of female applications in comparison to male applications to the Permanent Defence Force in 2005.

Year 2005 General Service Recruits

Total

Male

Female

Number of Applications

1,125

1,024

101

% of Applications

91%

9%

Number Enlisted

384

344

40

% of Enlisted

89.6%

10.4%

Elements of the Doctoral thesis of a former member of the Defence Forces received certain publicity in the media approximately five years ago. The elements of the thesis, which received widest publicity, related to alleged incidences of bullying and harassment experienced by members of the Defence Forces. In September 1991, my predecessor established an Independent External Advisory Committee chaired by Dr Eileen Doyle to examine the nature and extent of any inappropriate interpersonal behaviours such as harassment, bullying, sexual harassment or discrimination within the Defence Forces and to make recommendations.

Their report in 2002 "Challenge of a Workplace" was followed up by the report of the subsequent Independent Monitoring Group (IMG). The IMG were charged with giving effect to the recommendations of the 2002 report. The report of the IMG was published in 2004. This latter report "Response to the Challenge of a Workplace" details the extensive range of measures taken to implement the recommendations of the initial 2002 report. The IMG report acknowledged that significant advances had been made. Since then, the majority of recommendations in both reports have been implemented with the remainder under active consideration. I am satisfied that the Defence Forces comply with best practice in the human resources area and that the Defence Forces are leaders in this area.

Contrary to the claim in the Deputy's question, in accordance with the Independent Monitoring Group Report, the Defence Forces appointed an Equality Officer in June 2004; this position has been filled continuously since that date. The Defence Forces have published their Equality and Equal Status Policy, which commits the Defence Forces to embedding equality in all aspects of the Defence Forces working environment. The Defence Forces provide a wide range of support measures such as the Chaplaincy Service, the Personnel Support Services, an independent Confidential Helpline Service, a ‘Designated Contact Person' Scheme, Representative Associations, Welfare Committees and Medical Services to support a positive progressive working environment.

The Defence Forces comply fully with all provisions of the Employment Equality Acts applicable to them. Because of the particular requirements and nature of military life, the Defence Forces are exempt from the age and disability grounds of the Employment Equality Acts. Within the Defence Forces, both men and women have ‘equality of opportunity' for employment and career advancement on the basis of merit and personal ability. Discrimination is prohibited. It is Defence Forces policy that all members have a right to be treated with respect and dignity and to carry out their duties free from any form of sexual harassment, harassment or bullying. This commitment requires all Defence Forces personnel to treat colleagues with respect and ensure that their own actions and behaviour do not cause offence.

Finian McGrath

Question:

232 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Defence the reasons for ethnic minorities being under-represented within the Defence Forces; and if he will institute changes to the Defence Forces recruiting policy that might allow for the increased recruitment of ethnic minorities and women. [24065/06]

The question of the recruitment of ethnic minorities is not a new one, Defence Force Regulations have always allowed for the recruitment of ethnic minorities to the Defence Forces. Entry to the Permanent Defence Force is either through the Cadetship Competition, Apprenticeship Competition, General Service Enlistment or Direct Entry Competitions which are held to fill vacancies in specialist appointments. All applicants for each of these entry streams are required to meet qualifying criteria.

I have recently made changes to the Cadet competition to broaden the entry criteria thereby making it easier for qualifying foreign nationals/ethnic minorities to apply for cadetships. In addition, the Defence Forces Equality Policy which was recently produced and formalised underpins equality legislation and states that the Defence Forces:

•Are committed to the principles of equal opportunities in all its employment policies, procedures and regulations;

•Will operate in an environment without discrimination in areas as provided by the Equality Acts;

•Will ensure that the principles of employment equality are employed in recruitment, promotion, training and work experience;

•All regulations and Administrative Instructions concerning service in the Defence Forces shall be set out in a manner consistent with this policy of equal opportunity; and

•This policy will be reviewed along with the Defence Force regulations on an ongoing basis by the Deputy Chief of Staff (Support) to ensure compliance with best practice and to maintain a working environment that treats all members of the Defence Forces in a manner consistent with equal opportunities.

The primary focus in recruitment is to attract people with the core competencies required by the Defence Forces. In relation to the recruitment of women into the Defence Forces I am pleased to say that I have recently received a report from the military authorities on the height requirement. I will be reviewing the height requirement for entry to both the Permanent Defence Force and the Reserve Defence Force, in the light of this report, and would expect to be able to make a decision on this matter in the near future.

However as I have mentioned previously I believe that the height requirement is only one element of the overall matter of how more women might be encouraged to enlist in the Defence Forces. In this context I believe it is important that we look at the whole range of possibly contributing factors. To that end I intend shortly to award a contract for research into women's attitudes to military life and a career in the Defence Forces, which will inform our recruitment policy in the future.

The operational requirements of An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces are not directly comparable. My Department is not specifically targeting the recruitment of ethnic minorities for the Defence Forces at present. Currently my emphasis is on ensuring that there are no barriers to ethnic minorities or foreign nationals joining the Defence Forces.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Finian McGrath

Question:

233 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will work with Dublin City Council, the Health Service Executive and Health Safety Authorities on the complaints regarding dust, pollution and other environmental matters at the construction company on Richmond Estate, Richmond Avenue, Dublin 3; and if assistance will be given to the local residents on this matter. [24000/06]

Monitoring and enforcement of environmental legislation in individual cases is a matter for the local authority concerned or the Environmental Protection Agency.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

234 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if further to his comments during replies to Parliamentary Question Nos. 53 and 55 of 13 June 2006 in the Houses of the Oireachtas, he will identify five developments in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford where affordable houses below the figure of €200,000 are currently available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24001/06]

Information supplied by the relevant local authorities, which is set out below, indicates some examples of housing units being sold at prices below €200,000 under the affordable housing scheme:

•Dublin City Council is selling units in the price range of €170,000 to €190,000 at Parnell Street and Cork Street;

•South Dublin County Council sold some of the units in Citywest and Clondalkin arising from the Harcourt Terrace land swap for between €142,000 and €172,000;

•Waterford City Council is currently selling units from €171,000 at Meadowbank;

•Galway City Council is selling units in the price range of €114,000 to €135,000 at Merlin Park;

•Limerick City Council's most recent affordable housing scheme saw units selling at €150,600 earlier this year; and

•Cork City Council have been recently advertising affordable units for sale at prices ranging from €126,000 to €173,000 depending on type, size and location in developments in Blackrock, Tivoli and Hollyhill.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Dan Neville

Question:

235 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when a sewerage scheme will be upgraded at Glin, County Limerick. [24002/06]

The Glin Sewerage Scheme, which is being advanced as part of a grouped project that also involves Athea, Askeaton, Foyes and Shanagolden, is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2005-2007 as a scheme to commence construction in 2007. My Department has given Limerick County Council approval to prepare Preliminary Reports for the five locations involved and it is now a matter for the Council to proceed with this process.

Dan Neville

Question:

236 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the Patrickswell and Adare water scheme will be upgraded. [24003/06]

The Limerick County Trunk Water Mains Scheme to serve Patrickswell and Adare is approved for construction in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2005 — 2007. Limerick County Council's Contract Documents and Water Services Pricing Policy Report for the scheme will be further considered by my Department on receipt of additional information requested from the Council in October 2005.

Radon Gas.

John Perry

Question:

237 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of homes in County Sligo and north Leitrim that have been identified with the presence of radon gas; the order he has given on the introduction of a grant system to tackle radon gas; if the essential repairs grant scheme or housing aid for the elderly will cover remedial radon works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24004/06]

To date, the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) has carried out 1222 measurements for radon in homes in County Sligo. Of these, 302 had radon concentration levels in excess of the national reference level of 200 Becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3). Of the 209 homes measured by the RPII for radon in County Leitrim, 13 had concentration levels in excess of the national reference level. I should mention that the RPII is not the only organisation carrying out a radon measurement service. There are companies in the private sector which also provide this service.

The Government, largely through the RPII, has for many years committed significant resources to assessing the extent of the radon problem throughout the country and to highlighting public awareness of radon and the health risks associated with prolonged exposure to high radon concentrations. Householders, particularly those in high radon areas, have been strongly encouraged to have their homes tested for radon and to undertake radon remediation works where necessary. Government efforts and resources, together with those of the RPII, continue to focus on highlighting public awareness of radon and on improving information to householders so as to enable and encourage them to address monitoring or remedial requirements effectively and economically.

On the question of grant assistance, I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 82 and 98 of 13 June 2006.

Social and Affordable Housing.

John Perry

Question:

238 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of social and affordable housing stock owned by local authorities in County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24005/06]

Up to 31 December 2005 the total local authority housing stock in County Sligo stood at 1710. A further 332 social units have been provided by the voluntary and co-operative sector. In addition based on recent data a stock of 233 affordable units was provided in County Sligo from 1999 up to end December 2005.

Planning Issues.

Billy Timmins

Question:

239 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the criteria for receiving approval for the construction of a rural cottage; if a design or size criteria is laid down; if so, the scales or levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24009/06]

It is open to local authorities to construct single rural houses as part of their housing construction/acquisition programmes. Guidelines for the construction of these houses are set out in my Department's Social Housing Design Guidelines. My Department notifies local authorities on an annual basis of the all-in-cost thresholds for the construction of a single rural house. Where the estimated all-in-cost of a rural house comes within the approved threshold and the house to be built is to a plan already approved by my Department, the approval of my Department is not required to the seeking of tenders nor the acceptance of a tender, where it is the lowest valid tender.

Special Housing Needs.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

240 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to an application from a group (details supplied) in County Galway for funding for five houses for the elderly under the capital assistance scheme; the position of the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24090/06]

My Department's involvement with the Capital Assistance Scheme relates primarily to the provision of funds for individual projects. The administration of the scheme, and the certification that particular projects comply with the terms of the scheme, are the responsibility of the local authority, in this instance Galway County Council. An application for funding of this project has not been received from the Council.

Jack Wall

Question:

241 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the funding available from his Department to local authorities for the provision of facilities to facilitate persons in need of care that are resident in residential care or units; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24106/06]

Capital funding is available through my Department's Capital Assistance Scheme to approved voluntary housing bodies to provide accommodation to meet special housing needs, such as elderly, homeless or persons with disabilities. The scheme is not intended for the provision of nursing home or similar accommodation where residents would require extensive medical, nursing or institutional type care. My Department's involvement with the scheme relates primarily to the provision of funds for individual projects. The administration of the scheme, and the certification that particular projects comply with the terms of the scheme, are the responsibility of the appropriate local authority.