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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 27 Jun 2006

Vol. 622 No. 3

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 5, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 6 to 28, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 29 to 35, inclusive, answered orally.

Bovine Disease Controls.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

36 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans to introduce a bovine vaccination programme for tuberculosis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23610/06]

There is no TB-vaccine licensed anywhere in the world for use in a food producing animal and therefore there is no possibility of introducing a bovine vaccination programme for TB. Indeed, the position is that vaccine trials in the past demonstrated that vaccination did not prevent disease.

Apart from the foregoing, cattle vaccinated against TB could not be traded because they would be unable to comply with Council Directive 64/432/EEC on animal health problems affecting intra-Community trade in bovine animals and swine. This Directive provides that, prior to export, bovine animals for breeding and production must come from an officially tuberculosis-free herd and, in the case of animals more than six weeks old, must have reacted negatively to an intradermal tuberculin test carried out during the 30 days prior to leaving the herd of origin. Given the difficulties that would arise in distinguishing between real infection and vaccine immunity, vaccinated animals could not be certified as complying with the requirements of the trade Directive and the export of live cattle to other Member States would not be permitted.

I should point out that my Department, in conjunction with a badger vaccine research group based at University College Dublin, is currently seeking to develop a vaccine for badgers, which is not a food producing animal. It is accepted that the availability of such a vaccine is a prerequisite if eradication of tuberculosis from the cattle population is to be achieved. The objective of the project is to secure an orally delivered preparation of BCG vaccine for use in badgers that will result in lower TB levels in that species. With this in mind, a large scale field trial of BCG in badgers is planned to test the efficacy of the vaccine, as testing carried out to date under experimental conditions have shown encouraging results. However, any vaccine will not be available for wider use in the immediate future and the existing strategy will remain in place for some time.

In spite of the wildlife problem, there has been some progress in the eradication of the disease in the past 8 years: for example, the number of reactors in 2005 was just under 26,000 compared with 45,000 in 1998 and 1999. Nevertheless, the disease is still present in the country and a significant number of animals continue to be removed annually as reactors. The objective remains the eventual eradication of the disease but this objective is contingent on a successful wildlife vaccination programme, which is still some way into the future.

In conclusion, the consensus is that the existing test and slaughter policy is currently the only effective mechanism for dealing with the disease.

Animal Welfare.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

37 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of animal welfare officers here; the funding provided by her Department to the ISPCA; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23608/06]

My Department has certain statutory responsibility for the welfare and protection of farmed animals. The legislation governing this is the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes Act 1984 and the European Communities (Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes) Regulations, 2000. In addition there is specific legislation in relation to pigs, calves and laying hens and to the slaughter of animals.

Primary responsibility for protecting the welfare of animals rests with the owners or keepers of the animals concerned. Welfare cases which come to notice are dealt with, generally, by officers based in my Department's District Veterinary Offices. These officers deal with the implementation of animal welfare legislation as well as having responsibilities in a wide number of other areas related to animal health, disease control etc. Funding is available to deal with emergency care, feeding, transport etc. of welfare compromised farm animals. I am satisfied that the resources available within my Department are sufficient to deal with such cases and to provide a high standard of animal welfare.

In 2004 the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council (FAWAC) developed an Early Warning/Intervention System (EWS) for dealing with animal welfare cases involving my Department, the Irish Farmers' Association and the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals. The objective of the system is to provide a framework within which farm animal welfare problems can be identified before they become critical or overwhelming. The new system allows for concerned individuals to approach their local IFA representatives, their local SPCA or my Department in the knowledge that the matter will thereafter be dealt with in the most effective, timely and sensitive manner.

In addition to the foregoing, my Department makes ex gratia payments annually to organisations, including the ISPCA, involved in the direct delivery of animal care and welfare services to assist in their on-going work. To date we have provided a total of €5.97 million to such bodies, some €1.2m of which was paid to 86 organisations in December last to assist them during 2006. A provision of €1.1m for this purpose is included in my Department’s Estimates for 2006 and applications will be invited later this year for payments in respect of 2007. Between headquarters and affiliated branches approximately €543,000 has been paid to date to the ISPCA.

The main statutes governing cruelty to animals in this country are the Protection of Animals Acts 1911 and 1965. Responsibility for pursuing complaints under that legislation rests with An Garda Síochána who may, on receipt of a complaint, investigate and bring a prosecution against any person alleged to have committed an act of cruelty against an animal. Officers of my Department are regularly involved in assisting the Garda in such cases.

Animal Remedies Regulations.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

38 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the status of the animal remedies regulations; the discussions to date with the EU on the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23626/06]

As the Deputy is aware, the EU Directive 2004/28, which was transposed into law through the 2005 Animal Remedies Regulations, provided that veterinary medicines for food producing animals may only be supplied on the basis of a veterinary prescription, unless exempted from this requirement under criteria to be drawn up at EU level before 1 January 2007. However, I decided to avail of another provision in the Directive which permitted Member States to retain existing national prescription arrangements pending a decision at EU level on the exemption criteria. In effect, this enabled all existing 'off-prescription' medicines to remain off-prescription until the end of this year and farmers are continuing to get such medicines over the counter at pharmacies and licensed merchants.

The European Commission began a public consultation phase on draft exemption criteria last February. Our analysis of the draft criteria suggested that they would place severe restrictions on the range of medicines which could remain 'off prescription'. In view of this, my Department made a submission to the Commission in March last setting out the disadvantages associated with their draft criteria and arguing in favour of a more flexible regime under which greater discretion would be given to Member States in determining, on a scientific basis, the appropriate route of supply for veterinary medicinal products based on the risk/benefit profile of individual products.

Although the draft criteria were considered by experts from Member States at the end of March, the Commission has not yet adopted the draft criteria as formal Commission proposals. When they are eventually formally adopted by the Commission, they will be subject to further consideration and vote at the regulatory committee in Brussels. We will continue to press its position and seek to have criteria adopted which give the maximum discretion to Member States in determining whether individual veterinary medicines should become prescription only.

During the negotiations on the regulations last Autumn, I gave a commitment that I would review the national distribution arrangements in consultation with stakeholders in the light of the outcome of the exemption criteria aspect and, in particular, to consider whether persons other than vets should be permitted to prescribe veterinary medicines. In light of this, it is evident that, if the criteria are not altered significantly, my Department will revisit the prescribing aspects of the 2005 Regulations.

Agrifood Sector.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

39 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans to ensure the survival of the agri-food sector with particular reference to the implications of the WTO and the need to recognise this country’s role as a food producer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24567/06]

The Agri-Vision 2015 Action Plan was produced by my Department to map out the actions needed to ensure the ability of the agri-food sector to compete in a changing national and international food market.

This Plan sets out the vision for the future of the sector in the light of a more liberalised trade regime arising from the WTO negotiations, changes in food market trends, consumer tastes and demands, and major changes in the structures of farming and retailing. The Plan is based on three key drivers:

Competitiveness: As an export-oriented sector, the agri-food must be highly competitive on EU and international markets if it is to survive.

Innovation: The modern food industry is a highly sophisticated knowledge based sector and it is essential that the knowledge-base and technical skills of the Irish industry are developed to place it in a world leading position.

Consumer Focus: Meeting consumer demands on product, presentation and price is critical to continuing success.

The Plan contains over 160 specific actions designed to ensure that the Irish agri-food sector compares to the best in the EU and in the world in terms of its knowledge base, competitiveness, innovation and marketing. The main actions proposed are as follows:

Strengthening Competitiveness at Farm Level

At EU level, Ireland will continue to negotiate an appropriate support framework that will secure a competitive milk production sector within the EU and export competitiveness on world markets.

A substantial change in the milk quota system will commence in 2007. This will be designed to release greater quantities of milk quota at a faster rate than heretofore to committed dairy farmers. This is a very important development for our commercial dairy farmers and should improve scale, efficiency and general viability of diary farms.

The genetic improvement of both beef and dairy herds will be pursued to improve milk and meat yields.

Beef processing plants will be encouraged to refine quality related pricing systems to encourage production of high quality carcases which meet consumer preferences. They should also engage in partnership and supply chain management arrangements with individual beef producers to actively match specific consumer requirements with product delivered.

The Government will continue its strong political and diplomatic effort to maximise the access of Irish meat and meat products to international markets and to seek to remove any inappropriate technical barriers that block entry to such markets.

The prospects for the sheepmeat sector will be improved through the implementation of the recommendations of the Report of the Sheep Industry Strategy Group.

Strategic funding will be provided for capital investment projects in the horticulture sector that contributes to this sector's overall competitiveness.

Investment aid and further support measures are being introduced for the organic sector.

Teagasc will implement a comprehensive advisory programme with specialist enterprise advisors to promote the adoption of proven and innovative farm production.

Strengthening Competitiveness in the Food Sector

A high-level group of CEOs of the food agencies, chaired at ministerial level, will be established to implement a fully consolidated approach towards the development of the food sector, as a whole.

Bord Bia will strengthen its strategic market intelligence capability and will develop its promotion and market development services with clear targets and objectives to meet current and future challenges.

Bord Bia has set a target of doubling the value of food and drink exports to the Far East over three years.

A Centre of Excellence will be established to service the market development needs of small businesses.

A Food Industry Committee will be established to identify and address issues impeding the development of the sector.

Innovation & Research

The food industry currently only spends about 0.3 % of sales on R & D. To survive and develop, the level of both public and private investment in the industry will have to change as will the level of applied research on product development.

Research funding for Teagasc and the food industry is made available through the competitive research funding programmes, the Food Institutional Research Measure (FIRM), the Research Stimulus Fund (RSF) and the Forestry Measure (COFORD). Funding of food industry applied research is also available through Enterprise Ireland.

Further support will be provided for R & D and market development projects in the context of the national Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation 2006-2103 and the National Development Plan 2007-2013.

My Department is actively working with Teagasc, Bord Bia and third level institutions to improve industry research collaboration so as to foster early dissemination of food research by industry and adoption of new technologies and processes by farmers. This is an aspect of R & D which must be strengthened to underpin a competitive and profitable Irish agri-food sector.

My Department's veterinary and agricultural research laboratories will operate as science based centres and will be integrated into the national research infrastructure

The results of food R & D will be rapidly disseminated through RELAY.

My Department will play an active role in the development of a cohesive national policy approach to biofuels to ensure that maximum use is made of renewable energy materials from agriculture and forestry. Currently, the Department is finalising two new schemes in the area of renewable energy. The first is a new scheme of supports for the purchase of specialist wood biomass harvesting equipment. The second is a scheme to grant-aid the planting of willow, as a further source of bio-energy.

The Department also uses the Research Stimulus Programme to encourage research projects on biofuels and other non-food use of crops. Teagasc is also committing additional resources to this area.

Consumer Focus

My Department, in conjunction with other Departments/Agencies, will provide consumers with 'country of origin' information on beef and as soon as possible thereafter follow this up with similar information on other meat products.

Our traceability systems provide consumers with an unrivalled level of assurance on safety and are among the best in the world. This advantage needs to be highlighted for consumers and also to gain competitive advantage for our exports.

The School Milk Scheme is being updated and re-launched

The operation of the Consumer Panel is being reviewed and strengthened to ensure that an up-to-date consumer viewpoint is available on all Department activities.

Bord Bia is working to extend the Quality Assurance schemes to the main agricultural products.

The implementation of the Action Plan will increase the competitive and innovative ability of the sector and enable it to prosper in a more liberalised trading environment.

Animal Diseases.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

40 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the action her Department is taking arising from the discovery of equine infectious anaemia here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24615/06]

My Department has confirmed the presence of Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA) in horses from two separate establishments in Co. Meath. My Department's immediate priority has been to identify the extent of the disease and to trace the direct and indirect contacts from the infected premises. The two premises in question are now both under restriction for trade purposes.

My Department has been tracing those horses which, since 1 March 2006, have passed through the premises on which the infected horses were located. Results of blood tests from other horses on the infected premises have, to date, been negative for EIA. The Department had also advised any other Member States to which horses were exported from the infected premises since the suspected date of infection and the date of confirmation and all blood test results from any such horses have, to date, been negative, though they are not yet complete.

As a further precaution, and in the interests of horse owners, trainers, stud managers and the bloodstock industry, my Department has advised that all horses that may have moved during the breeding season be tested for any evidence of the disease. Approximately 900 test results on horses in 20 different premises carried out by owners/trainers/stud managers throughout the bloodstock industry have all been negative for EIA.

Based on our enquiries and the knowledge acquired to date, including all of the negative test results of which we have been made aware, we have no reason to believe that the disease is any more widespread than those cases of which we are currently aware.

Our enquiries are continuing with regard to the source of the disease. However, our initial investigations suggest that the source of the disease may have been from imported equine serum that was inadvertently or accidentally contaminated with the EIA virus prior to importation.

Until our investigations in this regard have been completed it would be inappropriate for me to comment any further on this aspect.

Milk Quota.

Phil Hogan

Question:

41 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans for the reform of milk quota; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23629/06]

In March I announced my intention to move to a more open market system for transferring milk quotas, which will come into effect on the 1st April 2007. It must be borne in mind that over the last five years on average less than 4% of the total milk quota changed hands each year under the existing restructuring scheme.

My Department and I are progressing with the ongoing consultation process on the detailed arrangements to give effect to my decision. This has comprised of meetings with the relevant farm organisations and with representatives of the milk-processing sector and individual co-ops. The issue of future milk quota policy has also been discussed with the participating farm organisations at the partnership negotiations. Furthermore, there has been contact with colleagues in other countries with experience of operating more open market systems.

We are now continuing with a comprehensive analysis of the issues raised and the options for dealing with them, with a view to designing an appropriate transfer mechanism. Further consultations will take place before finalising the new system, and the operational details will be announced in good time to allow for all parties concerned to make appropriate plans before the start of the 2007/2008 milk quota year.

Animal Identification Scheme.

Martin Brady

Question:

42 Mr. M. Brady asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans for simplifying the registration system for sheep here. [24481/06]

On the 14th June I announced that, following discussions at EU level and consultations at national level, certain adjustments were being made to the sheep flock register, to the dispatch document and to the tagging requirements for bought-in sheep, the aim of which is to simplify the arrangements for producers.

New formats for the flock registers and dispatch documents have now been agreed and finalised. These new formats meet the EU requirements and will reduce the amount of recording that will have to be undertaken by flock owners. In particular, the dispatch document will now have certain details pre-printed and will therefore be more user friendly. The new format registers and dispatch documents together with guidelines for producers will be supplied directly to flock owners in early Autumn.

I have also provided for a significant change to the tagging requirements for bought-in sheep under the National Sheep Identification System. In future, sheep bought for fattening may be tagged on exit from the new holding rather than on entry as required heretofore with, however, all such sheep required to be tagged by the 1st of May following purchase. This new regime will allow tagging and recording to be sequential, with a consequent reduction in workload for flock owners.

I am aware that the identification system imposes a burden on producers. However, it is a legal requirement on producers across the EU and is vital to ensure traceability, particularly in the context of animal disease controls. We must not lose our focus on this as we strive to develop additional markets for our product. I am, however, confident that the new arrangements will help to ease the burden and will make compliance easier to achieve. I am, of course, always open to consider other improvements which might be made to the system so long as they do not compromise traceability. I am pleased that the changes which I announced have been welcomed by farmer representatives.

Direct Payment Schemes.

Dan Boyle

Question:

43 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) is reportedly receiving €10,000 a week in single farm payments. [24628/06]

The Single Payment Scheme was introduced in Ireland in 2005 as part of the new measures agreed in the Common Agricultural Policy, following conclusion of the Mid-Term Review. As the Deputy will be aware the Mid-Term Review proposals provided for a radical overhaul of the direction of the Common Agricultural Policy by removing the direct link between production and subsidies.

The outcome of the Mid-Term Review is reflected in Council Regulation (EC) No 1782/2003, the provisions of which are directly applicable in every Member State. Following the adoption of Council Regulation (EC) No 1782/2003, Ireland decided to decouple all Direct Payments Schemes. The decision was announced in October 2003 following the conclusion of an extensive public consultation process.

In accordance with the provisions of the Council Regulation, Ireland also decided to implement the Historical Model for the establishment of entitlements under the Single Payment Scheme. The entitlements of individual farmers, including those for the person named, were established, under the provisions of the Council Regulation and were based on a farmer's participation in the Livestock Premia Schemes, Arable Aid Scheme, etc. during the 2000 to 2002 reference period.

Therefore, the Single Payment entitlements established for individual farmers reflect the level of applications under the Livestock Premia and Arable Aid Schemes during the reference period in line with the requirements of Council Regulation (EC) No 1782/2003.

Importation of Birds.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

44 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps which she is taking to stop the illegal import of exotic birds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23603/06]

Following the outbreak of avian influenza in late 2003 in south-eastern Asia, caused by a highly pathogenic strain of the virus, the European Commission adopted a series of protection measures in relation to the disease. These measures included, in particular, the placing of additional movement controls on birds accompanying their owners into the EU from third countries and the prohibition of import into the EU of captive birds from third countries. These restrictions are currently in force and, under a new proposal, will remain in place until at least the end of 2006.

The EU-wide provisions of the Commission Decision concerning the movement of birds accompanying their owners, stipulate that the import of exotic birds into the EU from third countries (accompanying their owners) can only take place in the context of a permanent change of residence and is then limited to importations of individual consignments of five or fewer birds. Stringent conditions must be complied with, including pre or post-importation quarantine, vaccination and laboratory testing of birds for avian influenza at entry into the EU.

Advance notification of all such importations must be given to my Department and, since 1 January 2006, there have been only 3 such consignments notified.

Intra-community trade in exotic birds, however, is permitted under EU rules, which do not specify a quarantine requirement. Such imports must comply with the requirements of a General Authorisation issued under the European Communities (Diseases of Animals Acts, 1966 and 1979 Orders) (General Authorisations for Imports) Regulations 1985, which provide that the birds must:

come from a holding which has been registered for export by the competent authority of the country of origin in accordance with Article 4 of Council Directive 92/65/EEC;

come from a holding in which Avian Influenza has not been diagnosed in the 30 days preceding the dispatch;

come from a holding and an area not subject to restrictions under Council Directive 92/66/EEC introducing Community measures for the control of Newcastle Disease;

be accompanied by a declaration to this effect completed and signed by the owner of the hobby birds on the day of movement;

in the case of psittacidae, be accompanied by a certificate signed by an official veterinarian of the country of export.

In addition to these requirements, advance notice is required to be given not less than 24 hours prior to the intended date of importation and for animal disease control measures, an official notification of the consignment (TRACES) is dispatched from the District Veterinary Office of the country of origin to the District Veterinary Office of the country of destination.

While my Department does undertake some inspections at points of import, it is precluded, by EU rules, from inspecting all import consignments. However. a spot-check regime is in place based on risk assessment for disease purposes.

In the context of avian influenza, my Department has introduced a robust range of precautionary measures and fully implements all EU controls, including those relating to the importation of exotic birds. It should be noted that imports of pet birds from within the EU represent a relatively low risk to Ireland's health status, compared with wild birds whose entry into this country cannot be controlled or certified by competent authorities.

Sugar Beet Industry.

Paul McGrath

Question:

45 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans for the future utilisation of lands previously used to grow sugar beet; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23613/06]

Following the introduction of the Single Payment Scheme last year, farmers now have the freedom to choose whatever farming enterprise is most appropriate to their circumstances. Under the agreement on reform of the EU sugar regime, the Single Payment Scheme is being extended to cover sugar beet compensation.

The sugar reform agreement also provides for the introduction of aid for diversification measures in the event that sugar beet production completely ceases. This aid, worth almost €44m, would be drawn down in the framework of a national restructuring programme. Under the draft Commission implementing regulation, which has still to be published, Ireland will be required to provide a restructuring plan to the Commission by the end of this year.

Farmers are showing increasing interest in the potential of energy crop cultivation for biofuel purposes, as was evident from last week's 'Agriculture and Food 06' event organized by Teagasc. Support to farmers for growing such crops is provided under the Energy Crops Scheme. The current aid level of €45 per hectare available under the Scheme has not proven to be sufficiently attractive in itself to stimulate the growing of such crops. I raised this matter at the Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting last February and I am pleased to say that the EU Commission has undertaken to review the operation of the scheme this year.

The production and utilisation of agricultural products for energy purposes can only be sustained in the longer term if biofuels generate a more favourable return than traditional market outlets. I am confident that the extension in the last Budget of excise relief of €205m which, when fully operational, will support the use and production of 163 million litres of biofuels annually, will help drive additional demand for the production of energy crops. I am working directly in this matter with the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources who has overall responsibility for energy policy.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

46 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will provide this Deputy with a copy of the Teagasc Report on the economic implications of the use of genetically modified organisms; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24596/06]

As part of the work related to the establishment of efficient and effective GM coexistence measures I requested Teagasc to carry out an evaluation of the possible national economic implications for the Agri-Food industry from the use of GMOs in crop and livestock production. Teagasc have completed their study which was based on two scenarios:

(i) The economic implications of only allowing the importation into Ireland of certified GM-free soyabean and maize livestock feed ingredients; and

(ii) The economic implications of GM-free crop cultivation in Ireland for certain crops.

In the first scenario the study showed that substantial additional costs would be placed on the livestock sector, particularly on specialist dairy and beef farmers, if they were to use only certified GM free soya and maize in feedingstuffs. In the second scenario the study examined five hypothetical GM crops which could be grown here — herbicide tolerant sugar beet, Septoria resistant winter wheat, Fusarium resistant winter wheat, Rhyncosporium resistant spring barley and blight resistant potatoes. This study showed that increased profits could be generated for growers of these crops compared to their conventional equivalent. However, the study showed that there could be a significant cost in relation to Identity Preservation for conventional growers in a coexistence arrangement.

I will arrange to have a copy of the Teagasc Report sent to the Deputy within the next couple of days.

Animal Health Policy.

Mary Upton

Question:

47 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the way in which the development of animal health policy is being pursued in the context of north south cooperation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24586/06]

There is already a long history of co-operation between the administrations north and south on animal health issues. The administrations have traditionally shared information at local and national levels on disease control and surveillance issues and have worked together to combat illegal movements of animals and animal products. During the Foot and Mouth emergency of 2001 the co-operation and consultation at official, Ministerial and political levels was vital. Likewise, both administrations are currently co-operating and sharing information on measures relating to avian influenza.

The establishment of the North South Ministerial Council (NCMC) offered an opportunity to build on existing co-operation arrangements and provided a framework for the development of an all-island animal health policy.

The main objectives of the Council are to foster co-operation and to devise a common, unified animal health strategy for the island as a whole. This involves the convergence of animal health policies and the development of joint strategies for dealing with animal diseases. The ultimate objectives are to establish a common import regime and equivalent internal arrangements with a view to achieving free movement of animals and animal products within the island.

The programme of work mandated by the NSMC strategy, has been taken forward by nine working groups at official level. The remit of these groups includes TB and Brucellosis, TSEs (BSE and Scrapie), veterinary medicines, other Zoonoses and animal diseases, disease surveillance, animal welfare, import and export of live animals and animal products, animal identification, traceability and cross-border aspects of fraud.

These working groups meet regularly and their work has focused on three main themes:

Common or equivalent controls at points of entry to the island;

Convergence of internal animal health policies; and

Development of joint strategies for the control of animal disease.

The main achievements to date are the development of a co-ordinated and complementary approach towards import policies and portal controls at points of entry to the island, the convergence of policies in regard to animal identification and Scrapie and the strengthening of co-ordination and co-operation between both administrations on a variety of issues such as TB, Brucellosis, FMD, BSE, Avian Influenza, cross-border fraud etc. These groups continue to report progress on exchange of information and in implementation of initiatives aimed at policy convergence and the development of a common unified strategy for the island as a whole.

The Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council includes representation from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, (DARD). DARD was also represented at recent meetings of the Avian Influenza Advisory Group and will also be represented at future meetings of the Group.

Since the decision at EU level to lift the BSE ban on exports from the United Kingdom from 3 May 2006, arrangements are in place and working well between the two administrations facilitating the trade of cattle from Northern Ireland for slaughter, breeding and production.

The achievement of an all-island animal health strategy involves complex dialogue and negotiation over a range of areas between the Irish, Northern Irish and British authorities. Ultimately, the agreement of the European Union will be required.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Paul McGrath

Question:

48 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the measures she intends to take to address the problems experienced by farmers in the Shannon Callows, as a result of proposals which do not allow them to split their lands for grant aid purposes between REPS funding and funding allocated under the SAC and SPA designation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23637/06]

The designation of land under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives is a function of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The question of compensation for farmers in the Shannon Callows area is a matter, in the first instance, for that Department, and I understand that discussions on the matter with the farming bodies have been going on for some time.

As far as REPS is concerned, arrangements are already in place designed specifically to address the situation of farmers in the Shannon Callows. Farmers in this area who wish to join REPS, but believe that the REPS payments do not fully offset any income loss arising from the restrictions placed on their farming activities because of designation under the Birds and Habitats Directives, may now also apply to the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government for additional compensation. Before this arrangement was introduced in September 2004, such farmers had to choose between REPS and the compensation arrangements operated by NPWS but could not benefit from both.

This further concession was additional to the inclusion of a new Supplementary Measure in REPS when REPS 3 was introduced in June 2004. Designated areas are already eligible for payments under REPS Measure A of €242 per hectare for the first 40 hectares and lesser amounts for areas over 40 hectares. The new Supplementary Measure provides for an additional payment of €100 per hectare on particular sites in the Callows which are important corncrake habitats. Those sites are monitored by BirdWatch Ireland, and REPS farmers can qualify for the additional payment by subscribing to BirdWatch Ireland management prescriptions for them.

I believe that the arrangements I have outlined should address the situation in the Shannon Callows adequately as far as my Department is concerned. Nevertheless I have asked my officials to examine the issue again in the context of the current consultation process on REPS, out of which proposals will be sent to the Commission for a revised Scheme.

Social Partnership.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

49 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the status of the agriculture strand of the social partnership talks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24602/06]

The negotiations for a successor national partnership agreement to Sustaining Progress commenced in February of this year and have been the subject of a number of meetings with the farming pillar since then. Three of the four farming organisations left the talks at an early stage but all subsequently rejoined and are taking a full part in the negotiations.

Significant progress has been made towards finalising the issues involving the agricultural strand of the social partnership talks. The substantive outstanding issue on which agreement has not been reached relates to the level of funding to be provided for the 2007-2013 Rural Development Programme. I recognise the importance of this issue to all parties, involving as it does the future funding for the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme, the Farm Investment Schemes, the Compensatory Allowances for Disadvantaged Areas, the Scheme of Installation Aid, the Early Retirement Scheme and Forestry.

Detailed technical discussions are taking place between my Department and the farming bodies to identify common ground and to prioritise funding areas with a view to achieving a satisfactory outcome on this issue. I am confident that agreement can be reached on the outstanding issues.

Milk Quota.

Billy Timmins

Question:

50 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her proposals on the allocation of milk quota; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23631/06]

In March I announced my intention to move to a more open market system for transferring milk quotas, which will come into effect on the 1st April 2007. It must be borne in mind that over the last five years on average less than 4% of the total milk quota changed hands each year under the existing restructuring scheme.

My Department and I are progressing with the ongoing consultation process on the detailed arrangements to give effect to my decision. This has comprised of meetings with the relevant farm organisations and with representatives of the milk-processing sector and individual co-ops. The issue of future milk quota policy has also been discussed with the participating farm organisations at the partnership negotiations. Furthermore, there has been contact with colleagues in other countries with experience of operating more open market systems.

We are now continuing with a comprehensive analysis of the issues raised and the options for dealing with them, with a view to designing an appropriate transfer mechanism. Further consultations will take place before finalising the new system, and the operational details will be announced in good time to allow for all parties concerned to make appropriate plans before the start of the 2007/2008 milk quota year.

Food Safety Standards.

Joe Costello

Question:

51 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when she expects the Brazilian Government to submit an action plan in response to the recommendations of the EU FVO review of the animal health and public health control systems, traceability and certification procedures in place in Brazil; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24589/06]

The Commission has confirmed to my Department that the action plan in question has been received from the Brazilian Authorities and is being assessed by the Food and Veterinary Office of the European Communities (FVO). This assessment also includes a second action plan that was required from the Brazilian Authorities in response to the findings of a subsequent mission to Brazil carried out from 23 November to 1 December 2005 concerning the evaluation of the control of residues and contaminants in live animals and animal products, including controls on veterinary medical products.

The FVO will report on its assessments to the European Commission and, where action is considered necessary to ensure the safety of food and the protection of consumers and animals in the EU, appropriate proposals would be formulated and submitted to the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) on which my Department is represented.

In the current WTO discussions in the Council, I have pressed very strongly the non-trade aspect of market access, which I regard as a crucial element in the overall negotiations. I have taken every opportunity to remind the Commission of the importance of equivalence in standards, particularly in relation to all exporting countries, including Brazil.

I fully support the policy that animal products imported into the EU from Third Countries meet standards at least equivalent to those required for production in, and trade between, EU Member States. In this context I have been in direct contact with the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Mr Markos Kyprianou concerning the sanitary rules applying to the import of livestock products, especially beef, into the European Union.

The Commissioner has assured me that the Commission will not hesitate to take the appropriate protection measures if a product, imported from a third country or produced in the domestic market represents a risk for the health of EC consumers, livestock or plants. He has pointed to the adoption of safeguard measures in relation to imports, for example, in the matter of dealing with the risk to the EU of the spread of high pathogenic avian influenza, in the finding of residues of unauthorised substances in poultry meat and in the quick and proportionate protective measures applied to imports of beef as a result of the recent outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) as demonstrating the Commission's primary objective of maintaining the high sanitary status of the Community and respecting the EU's commitment under the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS agreement).

I recently brought to the attention of the Commissioner the findings of an Irish delegation of farmers and journalists who visited the meat producing regions in Brazil and my Department is also seeking assurances from the Commission that the FVO will undertake further missions to Brazil to evaluate the implementation of the action plans submitted by the Brazilian authorities. In the meantime additional health certification requirements have been introduced for imported beef from Brazil under Commission Decision 2006/259/EC requiring guarantees concerning animal contacts, vaccination programmes and surveillance. These provisions took effect from 31 March 2006 and are checked by EU approved Border Inspection Posts through which all 3rd country imports must first be submitted.

Alternative Farm Enterprises.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

52 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps which she is taking to develop an alternative energy sector based on agricultural land; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23635/06]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

66 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she is taking to develop the biofuel sector; the discussions she has had with the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23641/06]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

71 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will accede to the IFA request for a substantial increase in payments for energy crops with €125 per hectare being recommended for oilseed rape, elephant grass and so on to ensure a viable return on such crops. [24631/06]

John Perry

Question:

97 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the measures which she intends to take to promote alternative renewable energy from agriculture; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23634/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 52, 66, 71 and 97 together.

The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources has overall responsibility for energy policy and is leading a cross-Departmental, cross-agency approach in developing and implementing renewable energy policy. As Minister for Agriculture and Food, I have a special interest in the development of the renewable energy sector — and of biofuels in particular, given that agriculture is the source of most of the raw materials used to manufacture biofuels. My Department has accordingly been working closely with the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources on the matter.

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

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

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

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

On the wider agricultural and energy policy agenda, biomass is of increasing importance and significance. Biomass energy in Ireland is mainly derived from wood products, which are converted into heat. I believe that the exploitation of the wood resource especially pulpwood, sawmill residues and harvestable forest residues offers enormous potential and could contribute significantly to our energy and heat requirements. Ireland has an excellent growing climate and an ongoing supply of raw material for wood fuel.

Wood residues are already being used to produce heat for sawmills across the country and the wood energy market is poised for growth with a number of commercial start-ups and a supply chain emerging. The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources recently launched two schemes to help drive demand for wood biomass. The €27m "Greener Homes" grant programme for the domestic sector to support investment in renewable energy heat technologies such as wood chip and wood pellet boilers and stoves, among other items, has proven to be extremely popular with over 2,500 applications for grant aid submitted so far. A further €22m in grant aid is being provided to support investment in commercial renewable heat technologies and will provide up to 30% grant aid to allow companies and small businesses install wood chip and wood pellet boilers in large buildings and commercial premises.

My Department is also actively promoting the use of wood biomass through grants to promote and develop sustainable forestry, including alternative timber uses and we are close to finalising a scheme of supports for the purchase of specialist wood biomass harvesting equipment. We are directly promoting the use of wood biomass by the installation of a wood heating system at the Department's offices at Johnstown Castle.

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

Meanwhile my Department in conjunction with Teagasc and COFORD has examined the potential of energy crops, wood biomass and farming and food by-products. Last year, we began providing direct funding, on a competitive basis, to support priority research projects in relation to biofuels. This funding is channelled through the Department's Research Stimulus Fund Programme. Five of the projects selected under the 2005 and 2006 calls for proposals directly relate to biofuels and energy crops and received total grant assistance of some €1.5m.

Apart from purpose grown energy crops and wood biomass, there are several by-products of the farming and food processing industries that can be recovered and used in various ways as biofuels. These are mainly animal by-products such as meat and bone meal, tallow, animal manures and food by-products. There are significant opportunities for the use of animal by-products as biofuels some of which are being considered actively. Commercial realities are driving these proposals. The disposal of by-products imposes a cost on industry and it makes economic sense to offset this cost by realising the potential of the by-products as an energy source.

The importance of biofuels and bioenergy is recognised in the AGRI Vision 2015 ACTION Plan and I will continue to work closely with my colleague the Minister for Communications Marine and Natural Resources to ensure that agriculture contributes to the development of biofuels as part of a coherent energy policy.

Food Industry.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

53 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will report on the food forum in the north east which took place on 12 June 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24590/06]

This forum entitled "Market Focus for Small Food Enterprises" was the second in a series of regional food fora organised by my Department and An Bord Bia to promote regional and local food production. This was geared towards small food producers and would-be food producers in Counties Cavan, Monaghan, Louth and Meath. The event comprised an address by Minister of State with responsibility for food, Brendan Smith, a panel of speakers who shared their experiences and insights, opportunities for food producers to network with development agencies and a showcase of products from the region.

Presentations were made by John Mc Kenna, author of the Bridgestone Guides, and by Muiris Kennedy, Bord Bia's Marketing and Services Director, on the market opportunities that exist for speciality food products. Another feature of the event was the launch of the North East Food & Drink Directory — a comprehensive food directory which Bord Bia had compiled and which gives details of food producers in the region as well as development agencies at local and national level.

The forum was attended by some 70 food producers from the four counties. Bord Bia is currently evaluating the impact through questionnaires issued to attendees and the early indications are that it was very favourably received and useful.

Milk Quota.

Liz McManus

Question:

54 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she will take to ensure, that the views of a recent Europe-wide study published by the European Association of Agricultural Economists, that in the absence of milk quotas Irish milk output would soar by 40 per cent; her views on the outcome of this study; her further views of the likely difference in milk output if milk quotas were withdrawn; her further views on the opinion that even if such a study’s outcome is unlikely, in view of the fact that milk quotas are not likely to be abolished in the near future, the projected outcome reflects badly on the progress of diversification in agriculture here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24616/06]

I am aware of the study to which the Deputy refers.

The Milk Quota System was introduced in 1984 to control the over-supply of milk in the EU, and the Mid Term Reform of the CAP has ensured its continuation until 2014/15. However, this reform is due to be reviewed in 2008. The fact is that the Milk Quota System exists and will continue to exist at least for some years yet.

My role, as Minister for Agriculture and Food, is to ensure that the areas within my scope of influence operate in a manner that enables our agriculture generally, and in this case the dairy sector, to remain competitive and thereby continue to develop and support farmers' incomes. It is clear, in the light of the Prospectus Report on the dairy sector and the Mid Term Review CAP reform decisions, that increased scale at producer level is needed to achieve competitiveness in the dairy sector and to maintain producer incomes.

In March I announced my intention to move to a more open market system for transferring milk quotas, which will come into effect on 1st April 2007. I made this decision because the current restructuring model will not meet the future needs of the industry and a more effective response is required in order to meet future competitive pressures. This is crucial given the growing competition faced by the sector both internally in the EU and on international markets. These competitive pressures will increase as we move towards the conclusion of a new WTO agreement. I want to ensure that the Irish dairy sector is well prepared for these challenges while also having the capacity to secure its share of global growth in demand for dairy products.

Farm Consolidation.

John Deasy

Question:

55 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans to increase land mobility; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23611/06]

There has been some improvement in farm structures in recent years, however, low levels of land sales and land mobility can be obstacles for those who wish to enter farming or expand the size of their holdings. The volume of agricultural land being offered for sale is at historically low levels while land prices have risen dramatically.

The amount of agricultural land sold has declined by 71% between 1995 and 2004, while the average price of agricultural land has increased from €5,641 to €16,261 per hectare over the same period. Clearly, the lack of land available for sales combined with high sale prices can act as constraints on some farmers. In order to overcome this, many farmers who wish to expand production are opting to lease or rent farmland. Approximately one-fifth of farm land was leased in 2003, the latest year for which data is available.

In order to encourage land mobility, and to reduce the costs of land transfer, the Government has a number of incentives in place, these include:

An Early Retirement Scheme pension of up to €13,515 for a period of 10 years on farms transferred by gift, sale or lease.

An installation aid grant of €9,520 for young trained farmers.

Capital Gains Tax — Retirement Relief for farmers over 55 years.

A rental income tax exemption of up to €15,000 for farmers over 40 years who lease out land for a period of 7 years or more.

A rental income tax exemption of up to €10,000 for farmers over 40 years who lease out land for a period of 5 to 7 years.

A 90% Agricultural Relief from Capital Acquisitions Tax.

The provision of full Stamp Duty relief for young trained farmers.

Stamp Duty relief for land swapped for the purpose of farm consolidation between two farmers.

These incentives helps to improve land mobility through early farm transfer, encouraging leasing and land swaps. These, in turn, help improve the availability of land to farmers who wish to enter farming or increase their scale of production.

Cattle Breeding.

Jimmy Devins

Question:

56 Dr. Devins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on recent developments in cattle breeding here. [24480/06]

Up to the 1990s my Department operated a series of cattle breed improvement measures including milk recording, on farm weight recording, genetic evaluations, development of livestock improvement programmes, and the management of the Central Bull Performance Testing Station at Tully, Co. Kildare. In the 1990s there were a series of initiatives to reduce the Department's involvement in cattle breeding improvement and at the same time to provide a structure that would facilitate more rapid genetic gains in the Irish herd. A feasibility study funded under the Operational Programme for Agriculture, Rural Development and Forestry (OPARDF) in 1995 confirmed an industry led proactive approach to cattle breed improvement with some State leadership and involvement as the best way forward. This led to the establishment in 1997 of the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF), which is an organisation mainly controlled by the industry. ICBF's goal is to achieve the greatest possible genetic improvement in the national cattle herd for the benefit of Irish farmers, the dairy and beef industries and its members. My Department is mindful of the key role that ICBF needs to play if Irish agriculture is to prosper in the future and has since the inception of ICBF in 1997 provided a total of €10.7m (through grant aid (€5.4m) and NDP/OPARDF (€5.3m) to the organisation to assist it in pursuit of its very challenging goals.

In addition to taking over functions from the Department of Agriculture and Food, ICBF has made a great deal of progress in relation to the collection, storage and evaluation of the data that is so essential for cattle breeding. ICBF has developed database systems used for cattle breeding in a way that eliminates duplication and facilitates the efficient collection of a wider range of accurate information than was the case heretofore. The ICBF database is now operational for dairy, beef, milk recording, beef performance recording, genetic evaluations and herdbooks. The current database offers greatly increased functionality compared with that offered by previous systems. It also has significantly improved the accuracy and scope of both beef and dairy genetic evaluations. As beef and dairy breeding decisions are increasingly based on these more accurate genetic evaluations, the profitability of beef and dairy farming is being advanced. ICBF is delivering to the industry and to farmers improved information on which they can make decisions based on knowledge. This is of growing importance in the current era of "de-coupling".

My Department contributed funding to the successful Spring AI campaign this year which is aimed at improving the low uptake of AI in Ireland. The promotion was coordinated by ICBF in partnership with the AI organisations and Teagasc. An increase in the usage of AI is vital to ensure rapid genetic progress in the National cattle herd.

The development by ICBF of the EBI or Economic Breeding Index has helped farmers identify easily how much extra profit a farmer can expect to make through using a particular bull in his herd.

Recent developments in relation to making use of new technologies by the introduction of Electronic DIY milk recording and portable handheld computers for AI technicians are also very valuable improvements to the National Cattle breeding Infrastructure.

I am pleased to report that my Department has contributed funding under the NDP 2000-2006 to Milk Recording Service providers to assist them with the purchase of new equipment, which will enable them to offer farmers the option of Electronic DIY Milk Recording. This represents a major advance on the Milk Recording Service on offer to farmers heretofore. I expect that the result will be a more efficient service for both the individual farmer and the service provider, which should lead to an increase in the number of farmers participating in milk recording and as a consequence making more data available for genetic evaluation. This is very significant given the vital role that Milk Recording plays in the National Genetic improvement programme.

The Irish AI industry has traditionally been small and fragmented. Commercial pressures have led to increases in costs and a reduction in revenue. The recent establishment of the National Cattle Breeding Centre will deliver economies of scale and structures that will afford opportunities to expand existing breeding programmes for both dairy and beef breeds with the ultimate aim of delivering optimal genetics for Irish farmers to increase their profitability.

The approved Cattle Breed Societies have made excellent and vital contributions of time, data, funds and resources in a cooperative approach to ensuring cattle breeding is enhanced. They have also played a major role in educating farmers about the goals that are achievable through better cattle breeding.

I believe that we are making great progress on cattle breeding. Credit must go to all parties involved, the IFA, ICMSA, AI Companies, Milk recording Companies, ICBF, National Cattle Breeding Centre and the Breed Societies in what truly is a partnership process with a common aim of facilitating the greatest possible genetic gain in the national cattle herd. It is the firm intention of my Department, with the cooperation of all industry partners over the next ten to twenty years to make Ireland a leading world centre in cattle breeding.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Joan Burton

Question:

57 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the EU stipulation of rules governing the co-existence of genetically modified organism products and conventional products; when the outcome of the consultation on co-existence arrangements conducted by her Department in 2006 is expected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24588/06]

Following the decision by the EU Commission that the rules and regulations governing the coexistence of GM crops alongside non GM crops was to be a matter for national authorities, my Department established an interdepartmental/interagency Working Group in August 2003 to identify the issues and implications for Ireland of the cultivation of GM crops and to develop proposals for a national strategy and best practices to ensure efficient and effective coexistence. With the benefit of EU Commission Guidelines, set out in Commission Recommendation 2003/556/EC, the Working Group completed its work in December 2005 and a public consultation process followed. I am now in the process of considering the observations received from that consultation process and I will take these into account along with the recommendations made in the Report. I hope to be in a position to bring forward some draft legislation on strategies and procedures to facilitate coexistence of GM and non GM crops by the end of the year.

Farmers’ Markets.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

58 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will now answer Parliamentary Question No. 10 of 18 May 2006 as to whether she will meet with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to establish a programme of re-establishing community run farmers’ markets. [24635/06]

As I indicated in my reply to Parliamentary Question No 10 of 18th May last, under the Casual Trading Act 1995, local authorities have responsibility for market rights within their functional areas.

Bord Bia, under the aegis of my Department, works closely with the local authorities and State agencies to ensure that this route to market is exploited fully for the benefit of local food producers and entrepreneurs.

Forestry Industry.

Ollie Wilkinson

Question:

59 Mr. Wilkinson asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the contribution forestry makes to the environment here. [24475/06]

Forestry makes a significant contribution to the Irish environment. It plays a key role in delivering on targets under both the National Climate Change Strategy and the National Biodiversity Plan.

All new forests established under grant aid by my Department since 1990 qualify as areas that will contribute to Ireland meeting its emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Current indications are that forests planted since 1990 will absorb, on average, over 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year over the period 2008-2012. Almost all of this contribution will come from trees that are already in the ground, established following government grant aid. All these amounts of verified carbon dioxide sequestration can be used, under the current international agreements, to offset emissions of greenhouse gases, and contribute to compliance with the Kyoto Protocol to UN Convention on Climate Change.

Well-planned forestry can contribute positively to biodiversity. Existing guidelines describe practical measures to achieve biodiversity objectives. These include the need to identify existing habitats and fauna of particular interest; the importance of species selection; and the incorporation of open area and retained habitat in the forest. The pattern of Irish forestry is changing to one of smaller forests with greater species diversity, embedded in a mixed landscape of cropland, pasture, wetland and upland. This is yielding a mosaic of different habitat types. Taking account of recent research on biodiversity, the new Rural Development Plan will develop this trend and will address ways to support forestry with enhanced environmental objectives.

We have seen substantially increased broadleaf planting over the period of the current Rural Development Programme, and I am pleased to say that the target in this regard which was set at the start of the Programme has been achieved, with broadleaves now representing 30% of all new planting. This has ensured a more balanced approach to the species mix in Irish forests.

Government policy is to increase forest cover for economic, environmental and social reasons. The contribution to climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration and to biodiversity are aspects that are balanced with the need to provide other environmental services, as well as wood raw material for economic development

Export Subsidies.

Shane McEntee

Question:

60 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her Department’s position regarding the abolition of export refunds by the EU; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23646/06]

The Framework agreement for the current WTO round which was concluded in Geneva in August 2004 commits member countries, including the EU, to negotiate detailed rules, including an end-date, for the parallel elimination of all forms of export subsidies and for the introduction of disciplines on export measures with equivalent effect. The Framework agreement covers export refunds, export credits, the trade-distorting practices of State Trading Enterprises and Food Aid practices which are not in conformity with disciplines to be introduced.

Agreement was reached at the WTO Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in December 2005 on end 2013 as the end date for all forms of export subsidy. The EU's acceptance of this end date was conditional on the application of equivalent disciplines on all forms of export subsidy. The parallel elimination of all export subsidies should ensure equal competition on the world market for all exporters.

The negotiations are continuing and a WTO Ministerial meeting will take place in Geneva later this week. My objective is to ensure that full parallel elimination of all forms of export subsidy is delivered by the negotiating partners and that, in so far as EU export refunds are concerned, the most flexible phasing-out arrangements are achieved.

EU Directives.

David Stanton

Question:

61 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the status of the application for a derogation to the Nitrates Directive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23625/06]

Proposals for amendments to the Nitrates Regulations, along with the scientific arguments to justify the changes, were forwarded to the European Commission by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on 18 May. There have since been discussions and other contacts between officials of the two Departments, Teagasc representatives and the European Commission.

The proposals were developed in conjunction with my Department and with the input of Teagasc and address a range of important issues identified in the Teagasc submission and raised by the farming bodies. I am satisfied that the changes proposed to the Commission will be of major benefit to Irish farmers, in that, they will provide them with greater flexibility in complying with fertiliser limits and simplify certain aspects of the Regulations.

I am hopeful that discussions on the Regulation can be brought to a quick conclusion so that negotiations can proceed on a derogation to allow certain farmers to operate, under appropriate conditions and controls, up to a level of 250 kgs of organic nitrogen per hectare. The derogation proposal was given an initial presentation to the EU Nitrates Committee in December, 2005 and further scientific data have been supplied to the Commission following bilateral discussions. The proposal will have to be discussed further at future meetings of the Nitrates Committee before approval can be obtained.

Farm Waste Management.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

62 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she is taking to ensure the maximum possible uptake of the farm waste management grants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23599/06]

The revised Farm Waste Management Scheme has been publicised widely.

In addition my Department has participated at a number of information meetings arranged by the farm bodies around the country. My Department has also arranged a number of seminars at various locations for private/Teagasc planners involved in the Scheme.

Scheme documents are available in each local Agricultural, Environment and Structures office of my Department and also on the Department's website.

I am satisfied that those farmers who might wish to participate in the Scheme are well aware of its existence and conditions. Since March 2006, when I launched the Scheme, nearly 4000 applications have already been received.

Animal Remedies Regulations.

John Perry

Question:

63 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the status of her application to the EU Commission for an exemption list under the animal remedies regulations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23605/06]

As the Deputy is aware, the EU Directive 2004/28, which was transposed into law through the 2005 Animal Remedies Regulations, provided that veterinary medicines for food producing animals may only be supplied on the basis of a veterinary prescription, unless exempted from this requirement under criteria to be drawn up at EU level before 1 January 2007. However, I decided to avail of another provision in the Directive which permitted Member States to retain existing national prescription arrangements pending a decision at EU level on the exemption criteria. In effect, this enabled all existing 'off-prescription' medicines to remain off-prescription until the end of this year and farmers are continuing to get such medicines over the counter at pharmacies and licensed merchants.

The European Commission began a public consultation phase on draft exemption criteria last February. Our analysis of the draft criteria suggested that they would place severe restrictions on the range of medicines which could remain 'off prescription'. In view of this, my Department made a submission to the Commission in March last setting out the disadvantages associated with their draft criteria and arguing in favour of a more flexible regime under which greater discretion would be given to Member States in determining, on a scientific basis, the appropriate route of supply for veterinary medicinal products based on the risk/benefit profile of individual products.

Although the draft criteria were considered by experts from Member States at the end of March, the Commission has not yet adopted the draft criteria as formal Commission proposals. When they are eventually formally adopted by the Commission, they will be subject to further consideration and vote at the regulatory committee in Brussels. We will continue to press its position and seek to have criteria adopted which give the maximum discretion to Member States in determining whether individual veterinary medicines should become prescription only.

During the negotiations on the regulations last Autumn, I gave a commitment that I would review the national distribution arrangements in consultation with stakeholders in the light of the outcome of the exemption criteria aspect and, in particular, to consider whether persons other than vets should be permitted to prescribe veterinary medicines. In light of this, it is evident that, if the draft criteria are not altered significantly, my Department will revisit the prescribing aspects of the 2005 Regulations.

Food Labelling.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

64 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the discussions she has had with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland on its report into breaches of food labelling laws; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23649/06]

Bernard Allen

Question:

70 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the discussions she has had with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland on its report into breaches of food labelling laws of 90 food businesses completed in 2004; the action which her Department has taken following the reporting of breaches in the legislation under its control; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23596/06]

John Deasy

Question:

146 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the discussions she has had with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland on the enforcement of the food labelling laws in view of their report to her Department of breaches in the law under her jurisdiction following an investigation of 90 food businesses completed in 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23595/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 64, 70 and 146 together.

The enforcement of food labelling regulations is centralised in the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) who ensure that the appropriate controls are carried out by the relevant official agencies. The official agencies include the Health Service Executive, my Department, the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs and the local authorities.

My Department is in touch with officials of the FSAI on an ongoing basis and regular meetings are held to discuss a wide range of issues. Any issues which arise in relation to the enforcement of food legislation, including enforcement of labelling legislation, are discussed where necessary, in this context. Prior to the recent introduction of labelling regulations extending the beef regulations to the catering sector, my Department held a number of meetings with the FSAI to ensure that appropriate enforcement procedures would be put in place.

My Department received the elements of the FSAI report that referred specifically to plants that came within its remit. These related to 11 premises and were all minor breaches. The issues identified by the FSAI audit were addressed by my Department to the satisfaction of the FSAI.

Martin Brady

Question:

65 Mr. M. Brady asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans for the labelling of beef by the catering and restaurant sector. [24482/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

98 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when she will introduce country of origin labelling within the catering trade; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23650/06]

Mary Upton

Question:

119 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the success of the voluntary arrangement with the catering industry, for labelling of beef with country of origin; when she expects to be able to include poultry meat in this scheme; her further views on a voluntary code of labelling with country of origin for foods other than beef; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24607/06]

Richard Bruton

Question:

144 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the voluntary code for country of origin labelling within the catering trade has been successful; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23651/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 65, 98, 119 and 144 together.

Regulations for the purpose of beef labelling in the restaurant and catering sectors have now been made by the Minister for Health and Children, making the provision of country of origin information on beef in these sectors mandatory. These Regulations, entitled Health (Country of Origin of Beef) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 307 of 2006), will come into operation on 3 July 2006. They require that a food business operator providing prepared beef to consumers shall not (a) advertise beef for sale or supply, (b) present it for sale or supply, or (c) sell or supply it unless the country or countries of origin of the beef is indicated at the point of advertising, presenting, sale and supply in clear legible type on the advertisement, menu or other presentation used.

The introduction of these regulations followed a period of consultation with the Department of Health and Children, the FSAI and the representative bodies for hotels, restaurants and pubs on the details involved including their enforcement. These regulations will be enforced by the FSAI through checks to be carried out by Environmental Health Officers throughout the country.

While the enabling legislation passed by the Oireachtas in March of this year also facilitates the extension of country of origin labelling to all meats, due to different systems of traceability and some import/export complexities, it is not as straightforward as it is for beef. In addition, the EU Commission is opposed to Member States introducing legislation in this area that is in excess of common EU requirements. Serious challenges could arise in the implementation and enforcement of national legislation that is not underpinned by harmonised EU provisions due to such factors as the amount of processing and repackaging operations that poultry, in particular, may be subjected to before arrival in this country.

Consequently, the preferred way forward is that the EU Commission would progress the question of country of origin labelling of all meat. I wrote earlier this year to the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection requesting that consideration be given to extending the rules in regard to country of origin labelling at EU level in relation to poultry in particular because of concerns raised in the context of developments on Avian Influenza. I also raised the matter in the Agriculture Council some months ago and will continue to take every opportunity to press for progress on this matter.

I am glad to say that the Health and Consumer Protection Directorate of the EU Commission has recently commenced a consultative process on a wide range of issues in this area, under a document entitled 'Labelling: Competitiveness, Consumer Information and Better Regulation for the EU'. I have arranged for my Department to make a submission on food labelling and country of origin labelling of meat in particular to the Department of Health and Children who are co-ordinating the Irish contribution to this process.

With regard to the implementation of the voluntary code on beef labelling in the catering sector, I am unable to give specific information as a detailed survey was not carried out. This voluntary code will now be superseded by the new Regulations with effect from 3 July 2006.

Question No. 66 answered with QuestionNo. 52.

Afforestation Programme.

Donie Cassidy

Question:

67 Mr. Cassidy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the prospects for forestry plantings in 2006. [24467/06]

Demand under the afforestation scheme has been less than anticipated this year. However, my Department has issued substantial numbers of approvals already and it is still possible that afforestation levels can be held at, or close to, 2005 levels. However last estimates at present are that planting levels will be around 8,000 hectares for the year.

I would like to remind farmers of the attractiveness of the current scheme. 100% of the costs of planting are covered and tax-free premiums of up to €500 per hectare are available for a full 20 years at present. In addition, farmers can plant up to 50% of their land, and draw down the relevant forestry premium, without affecting their Single Payment. The current package is without doubt the most attractive that has ever been made available and I would urge farmers, and indeed all land-owners, to strongly consider the opportunities that forestry offers.

Fruit and Vegetable Sector.

John Gormley

Question:

68 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if her attention has been drawn to the difficulties for potato growers; and the improvements by way of grant assistance and so on she will make for this sector. [24633/06]

My Department has provided substantial grants for both the ware potato and seed potato sectors in recent years. In 2005 grant aid amounting to €0.56m was paid to the industry of which €458,000 was paid to ware growers and €98,000 to the seed growers.

The funding available for the seed potato sector in 2006 is €1.5m. These funds are made available through the National Development Plan and are aimed at developing a modern seed potato industry. Applicants can apply for grant aid up to a maximum eligible investment of €400,000 for each phase of the scheme. To date 14 approvals for investment have been issued under phase 1 and a further 16 applications are being considered under phase 2 of the scheme.

Food Labelling.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

69 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans to establish an All Ireland food label; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23619/06]

I am supportive of initiatives to promote food on all-island basis where this is of mutual benefit and leads to closer economic co-operation. An Bord Bia, as part of its statutory role in promoting the development of Ireland's food and drink industry works in close co-operation with its counterpart in Northern Ireland, Invest Northern Ireland (INI). Joint promotions and events have been successfully organised especially in the speciality food sector. Bord Bia is currently discussing a formal Inter Agency Agreement to provide for structured ongoing co-operation in food promotion at International Trade Fairs, retail promotions on the UK market, co-operation on developing the speciality sector on an all island basis and market research and intelligence.

The development of an all-island animal health policy is however a necessary prerequisite to the establishment of an all-island food label. The development of the animal health policy is being actively pursued in the context of North/South cooperation. In addition an all-island food label would require negotiation between the relevant authorities regarding its status and conditions for use and general acceptance from consumers and buy-in by producers and processors island-wide.

Question No. 70 answered with QuestionNo. 64.
Question No. 71 answered with QuestionNo. 52.

Forestry Industry.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

72 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views regarding the situation where farm forest owners over the past six years received no increase in premium despite large overheads and cost of living increases. [24626/06]

I am aware that the premium paid to forest planters has not been increased since 2000. The premium levels are under review at present.

Alternative Farm Enterprises.

John Curran

Question:

73 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the grant assistance available in the bio-energy and agri-environment areas under the research stimulus fund. [24473/06]

The areas of bio-energy and agri-environment are of particular interest due to the environmental advantages of biofuels, the increasing cost of fossil fuels, the opportunity farmers now have to explore alternative farm enterprises and the current requirements on farmers to farm in an environmentally friendly way. In view of this the call for proposals under the Research Stimulus Fund Programme in 2005 and the new round of research proposals being funded under the 2006 Research Stimulus Fund Programme includes both of these areas.

Under the 2005 Research Stimulus Fund Programme, 12 research projects were awarded grant assistance totalling €4.5 million. The research projects selected for funding cover a broad range of areas including agri-environment, non-food crops and agri-food economics and will involve inter-institutional collaboration. 3 of the projects selected for funding relate to research projects involving biofuels and energy crops and received total grant assistance of some €0.9 million. 5 of the projects selected relate to the agri-environment area and were awarded total grant assistance of €2.6 million.

Funding, recently awarded for the new round of research proposals under the 2006 Research Stimulus Fund Programme, provides grant assistance totalling €18m to 35 research projects and will involve inter-institutional collaboration. The research projects selected include also the theme areas of animal and plant biosciences in addition to the non-food uses of agricultural land, agri-environment and agri-economy and policy. 2 of the projects selected for funding relate to research projects involving biofuels and energy crops and received total grant assistance of some €0.6 million. 8 of the projects selected relate to the agri-environment area and were awarded total grant assistance of €6.2 million.

The research will support sustainable agricultural production in its broad sense, particularly development and use of knowledge in the biosciences in order to exploit new and emerging opportunities that support competitiveness and the sustainable use of natural resources.

The projects being funded both under the 2005 and 2006 programmes should produce benefits not only for producers but also for the wider community. They will also contribute to improved collaboration between various research institutions and to the establishment of critical mass in certain research areas.

World Trade Negotiations.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

74 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the content of her recent discussions with the EU Trade Commissioner in relation to the World Trade Organisation arrangements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24614/06]

Jim Glennon

Question:

75 Mr. Glennon asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her assessment of the state of the World Trade Organisation negotiations; and her efforts to protect the agriculture sector here. [24477/06]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

91 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the status of the WTO talks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23628/06]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

95 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the action she is taking to protect agriculture here in the forthcoming World Trade Organisation talks; if the EU Commissioner for Trade is visiting Ireland in the near future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24613/06]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

100 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Agriculture Commissioner, Ms Bohl, reportedly intends to go beyond her mandate in signing off an agreement for the EU at the World Trade Organisation negotiations; and if she and the Government will request that no signing of an agreement takes place before the Council of Ministers has considered and decided on details and implications of draft proposals from the WTO talks in Geneva. [24629/06]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

141 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the status of the Doha round negotiations of the World Trade Organisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24592/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 74, 75, 91, 95, 100 and 141 together.

The current negotiations on a new WTO Agreement, which cover a broad trade liberalisation agenda, have been under way since they were launched in Doha in November 2001. Significant progress towards concluding an agreement has been made in the Framework Agreement which was reached in August 2004 and at the Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong in December 2005. The Hong Kong Conference set clear deadlines for the completion of the negotiations on agriculture. End April 2006 was set as the deadline for the completion of the modalities, or detailed provisions, of the new agreement and a deadline of end July 2006 was set for the submission of schedules, or specific commitments, by all WTO member countries. Despite intensive negotiations, the end of April deadline has passed without the planned progress on modalities. A further WTO Ministerial meeting will be held later this week, commencing on 29 June in Geneva, with a view to making further progress towards a final agreement.

In overall terms, I am seeking a balanced WTO agreement both as between the different aspects of the negotiations and between the various elements of the agreement on agriculture. My overriding objective is to ensure the final agreement will not require a further reform of the Common Agriculture Policy. This represents the limit of the EU Commission's negotiating mandate as agreed, and endorsed on several occasions, by the Council of Ministers. The Commission negotiates in the WTO on behalf of the EU and is obliged to seek the agreement of the Council to amend the mandate or to commit the EU to an agreement which exceeds the mandate. The Council of General Affairs and External Relations Ministers will be meeting in special session in Geneva this week to monitor progress and to provide direction to the Commission in the ongoing negotiations. EU acceptance of the final agreement will have to be approved by the Council.

I have had bilateral meetings with the Commissioners for Trade and Agriculture and Rural Development earlier in the year and I outlined to them in the clearest terms that the Commission must remain within the terms of its negotiating mandate and protect the CAP from further reform. I have also expressed my position in the strongest possible terms in the Council of Agriculture Ministers at every opportunity in recent months, most recently at the 19 June meeting. My colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs also stated the Irish position at the meeting of the Council of General Affairs and External Relations Ministers on 12 June. I have been, and will continue, to work closely with Ministers in like-minded Member States to seek support for my position. While the Commission has indicated that the EU should move once there is significant movement in relation to various issues by the negotiating partners, I am not aware of any statement by the Commission that it will exceed its mandate.

A recent planned visit by Commissioner Mandelson was cancelled. I am not aware that arrangements are being made to reschedule this meeting in the near future.

I will be attending the WTO Ministerial meeting in Geneva later this week and I will continue to take an active role in seeking the best possible outcome for Irish and EU agriculture in the negotiations. My specific priorities are:

On domestic supports, to ensure that the EU's system of decoupled direct payments to farmers continue to qualify as non-trade-distorting payments under the so-called WTO Green Box and so remain exempt from reductions under the new round,

On Export Subsidies, to ensure that full parallel elimination of all forms of export subsidies is undertaken by all WTO member countries, as agreed in the WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong, and that the most flexible phasing-out arrangements for EU export refunds are achieved,

On Market Access, to retain the maximum possible level of protection against increased imports into the EU, especially in sectors in which Ireland has particular interests, through minimising tariff cuts, establishing sensitive product status where necessary and through the continuation of an effective Safeguard Clause.

EU Directives.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

76 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the status of the Nitrates Directive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23620/06]

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government made Regulations in December 2005 giving legal effect to Ireland's Nitrates Action Programme. The Regulations came into effect on 1 February 2006, but the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government then announced a brief de facto deferral of the implementation of Part 3 of the Regulations dealing with nutrient management. This was to allow time for Teagasc to submit revised scientific advice, which was received early in March.

Detailed proposals for amendments to the Regulations, along with the scientific arguments to justify the changes, were forwarded to the Commission by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on 18 May. There have since been discussions and other contacts between officials of the two Departments, Teagasc representatives and the European Commission.

The proposals, which the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has put forward, were developed in conjunction with my Department and with the input of Teagasc and address a range of important issues identified in the Teagasc submission and raised by the farming bodies. I am satisfied that the changes proposed to the Commission will be of major benefit to Irish farmers, in that they will provide them with greater flexibility in complying with fertiliser limits and simplify certain aspects of the Regulations.

Farm Waste Management.

Peter Power

Question:

77 Mr. P. Power asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans for aiding digesters and other new technology to deal with pig and poultry manure arising from the application of the Nitrates Directive. [24469/06]

I recently announced the introduction of a new Scheme, the Scheme of Investment Aid for Demonstration On-Farm Waste Processing Facilities, which will provide grant-aid for up to ten projects throughout the country which will demonstrate the advantages of new technologies, such as fluidized bed combustion or treatment plants comprising of anaerobic or aerobic digestion, for the processing of livestock manure or mushroom compost.

The maximum investment ceiling per project is €1 million and the grant-rate is 40% , thereby bringing the total State contribution to a maximum of €4 million.

The Scheme which forms part of the National Development Plan 2000-2006 will close for applications on 31 December 2006.

Animal Diseases.

Phil Hogan

Question:

78 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she is taking to reduce inheritable wind disease in National Hunt stallions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23594/06]

Under the provisions of The European Communities (Equine Stud-Book and Competition) Regulations 2004, SI 399 of 2004, I am empowered to grant approval to a person, an international association or organisation for the purposes of maintaining a stud-book subject to compliance with the requirements of the relevant legislation in force. Weatherbys Ireland GSB Limited is the organisation approved to maintain the Thoroughbred studbook in which National Hunt stallions in Ireland are registered.

The legislation provides for keepers of approved stud-books to divide the main section of their stud-book into classes according to the animal's merits. Therefore, approved studbooks can choose to classify animals in their studbook according to their merits' (such as the inheritance of wind disease) in order to discourage the breeding of animals with a genetic defect.

I do not propose to interfere in the day to day business of approved stud book keeping organisations.

Sugar Beet Industry.

David Stanton

Question:

79 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food steps which she is taking to protect sugar beet growers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23623/06]

Pat Breen

Question:

85 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the procedure she intends to employ when distributing the compensation envelope to those within the sugar industry who face substantial losses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23612/06]

Gerard Murphy

Question:

89 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the procedures to be employed to distribute the sugar compensation package; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23615/06]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

104 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans for the distribution of the sugar compensation package; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23607/06]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

120 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she intends to take to secure the maximum level of compensation for beet growers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23617/06]

Billy Timmins

Question:

393 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the action she will take to secure the maximum level of compensation for beet growers; when this decision will be made; the factors which will influence this decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24973/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79, 85, 89, 104, 120 and 393 together.

The compensation package negotiated in the context of reform of the EU sugar regime is worth over €310m to Irish stakeholders. There are three elements to the compensation package, which is governed by Council Regulations adopted on 20 February 2006.

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

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

The third element of the package is the diversification aid, worth almost €44m in Ireland's case, which would be drawn down in the framework of a national restructuring programme to be prepared and submitted to the Commission by the end of the year.

Regarding the second element, the restructuring aid provided for in Council Regulation (EC) No 320/2006 is subject to the submission by the processor of a detailed restructuring plan for the industry following consultations with the beet growers. The Regulation also provides that at least 10% of the restructuring aid shall be reserved for sugar beet growers and machinery contractors and that the percentage may be increased by Member States after consultation of interested parties provided that an economically sound balance between the elements of the restructuring plan is ensured. In that context, my Department last month issued an open call for submissions which will be subject to scrutiny by Indecon International Economic Consultants, who have been appointed by the Government to provide me with independent expert advice on matters relating to the implementation of the restructuring aid. Those who made submissions were invited to a series of consultation meetings to afford them the opportunity to make any supplementary points regarding their submissions. A final decision on the percentage will be made in due course having regard to the independent expert advice and following the publication in the near future of the Commission Regulation laying down detailed rules for the implementation of the restructuring aid.

The timescale for implementing the restructuring aid is very tight where, as in Ireland's case, restructuring takes place in the first year of the new regime. The Council Regulation requires that the application for restructuring aid must be made by the processor by 31 July 2006. The application must include a detailed restructuring plan for the industry. A decision on the granting of the aid must then be made by the Member State by 30 September 2006 at the latest.

It is my intention that the restructuring aid will be implemented in a fair and equitable manner and strictly in accordance with the relevant EU regulations.

Poultry Industry.

Joan Burton

Question:

80 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the recent EFSA report on the incidence of salmonella in eggs in a number of European countries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24610/06]

The baseline study on the prevalence of Salmonella in flocks of laying hens, which is the subject of the recent EFSA preliminary report, was conducted in all EU countries during the year from October 2004 to September 2005. The study consisted of an extensive sampling and testing programme. In Ireland's case the testing of samples was conducted in my Department's Central Veterinary Research Laboratory.

The baseline study is the first element of a strategy to control salmonella in table eggs throughout the EU. A target for the reduction of Salmonella enteritidis and Salmonella typhimurium has recently been set. The target indicates the percentage reduction in positive flocks that each country must achieve. As from 2008 there will be a legal requirement for each laying flock in the EU to undertake its own programme of salmonella testing and there will also be a scheme of official testing. With effect from 1st January 2010 eggs from the following flocks may not be sold for consumption as table eggs: flocks not complying with the required testing regime and related controls specified in national control programmes, flocks of unknown health status, infected flocks and flocks suspected of being infected.

The EFSA report indicates a worrying level of salmonella in some Member States and it is important to public health that the EU should press on with the strategy that is in place to remedy this problem. I am glad to see that no case of S enteritidis or S typhimurium was found in Ireland in the course of the baseline study and only 4 cases of Salmonella with no public health significance were detected. This puts us in a small group of countries with an excellent status on Salmonella. This is due in no small part to the proactive and responsible attitude taken by the Irish egg industry over the years. The Bord Bia Egg Quality Assurance Scheme has also been a significant driver in promoting egg safety and most eggs sold at retail level come under this scheme. My Department will continue to work with the industry to ensure that this favourable situation continues.

Milk Quota.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

81 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the nature of the solid progress she and her Department have made in the continuing consultation process on the detailed arrangements to give effect to her decision in relation to the move to a more open market system for transferring milk quotas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24594/06]

In March I announced my intention to move to a more open market system for transferring milk quotas, which will come into effect on 1st April 2007.

My Department and I are progressing with the ongoing consultation process on the detailed arrangements to give effect to my decision. This has comprised of meetings with the relevant farm organisations and with representatives of the milk-processing sector and individual co-ops. The issue of future milk quota policy has also been discussed with the participating farm organisations at the partnership negotiations. Furthermore, there has been contact with colleagues in other countries with experience of operating more open market systems.

We are continuing with a comprehensive analysis of the issues raised and the options for dealing with them, with a view to designing an appropriate transfer mechanism. Further consultations will take place before finalising the new system, and the operational details will be announced in good time to allow for all parties concerned to make appropriate plans before the start of the 2007/2008 milk quota year.

Food Labelling.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

82 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she has taken or proposes to take to ensure that all meat and poultry sold here accurately reflect the country of origin and that traceability, health, hygiene, husbandry and processing procedures are in accordance with EU and Irish law; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24568/06]

Regarding the labelling of beef, this is governed by comprehensive EU regulations which were introduced in 2000 and are underpinned by a full national animal identification and traceability system. These compulsory labelling regulations require all operators and organisations marketing beef within the Community to provide information on the label to enable the beef to be traced back to the animals from which it was derived and the information must include details on the slaughterhouse, de-boning hall and the country in which the animal was born and reared.

These requirements apply to all beef sold at retail level regardless of whether that beef was produced within the Community or in a Third Country. Where beef is imported into the Community from a Third Country and all the above details are not available, that beef must, at a minimum, be labelled as "Origin: non-EC" along with an indication of the Third Country in which slaughter took place.

Regulations for the purpose of beef labelling in the restaurant and catering sectors have now been made by the Minister for Health and Children, making the provision of country of origin information on beef in these sectors mandatory. These Regulations, entitled Health (Country of Origin of Beef) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 307 of 2006), will come into operation on 3 July 2006. They require that a food business operator providing prepared beef to consumers shall not (a) advertise beef for sale or supply, (b) present it for sale or supply, or (c) sell or supply it unless the country or countries of origin of the beef is indicated at the point of advertising, presenting, sale and supply in clear legible type on the advertisement, menu or other presentation used.

Regarding the labelling of poultrymeat, there are EU Regulations which provide for the labelling of unprocessed poultrymeat at retail level. The Regulations require such poultrymeat to be labelled with the information regarding class; price per kg; condition; registered number of slaughterhouse or cutting plant and, where imported from a Third Country, an indication of country of origin.

There are no specific EU regulations governing the labelling of pigmeat or sheepmeat beyond the general food labelling regulations which do not require ‘country of origin' information.

The general EU food labelling regulations covering all food sold in Ireland require that the information be given clearly, accurately and in a language understood by the consumer. Among these requirements is origin marking in cases where failure to provide such information would be likely to mislead the consumer to a material degree. This legislation comes under the remit of the Department of Health and Children.

Food labelling legislation is enforced by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

On the food labelling issue in general, I must emphasise that my primary aim is to protect consumer interests and to ensure that the consumer is properly informed. Ireland is a major exporter of food and food products and indeed there are also considerable imports, so it is imperative that the same standards are applied to the labelling of foods in every sector and that there is a level playing field for the food industry at all levels. In this context, at a meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers earlier this year I raised again the issue of labelling of foodstuffs and I, along with a number of Member States, asked the Commission to further examine how best food labelling should be handled at EU level in order to best protect the interests of the consumer.

I am glad to inform the Deputy that the Health and Consumer Protection Directorate of the EU Commission has recently commenced a consultative process on a wide range of issues in this area, under a document entitled ‘Labelling: Competitiveness, Consumer Information and Better Regulation for the EU'. I have arranged for my Department to make a submission on food labelling and country of origin labelling of meat in particular to the Department of Health and Children who are co-ordinating the Irish contribution to this process.

Various bodies have responsibility for the other aspects raised in the question and I am satisfied that where they come within the remit of my Department the relevant EU and Irish law relating to traceability, health, hygiene, husbandry and processing is satisfactorily enforced.

World Trade Negotiations.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

83 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the World Trade Organisation Consultancy Group last met; the agenda at its last two meetings; when it will meet again; the persons who are the members of the group; their qualifications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24601/06]

The WTO Consultative Group was established to enable interested groups and organisations to review and discuss current developments in the ongoing negotiations and to offer material, advice and expertise to my Department in the process of policy formulation. The Group met last on 4 April 2006. The agenda for the last two meetings provided for a comprehensive update on the state of play in the negotiations, analysis and discussion of the implications for Ireland and the EU as well as examination and discussion of material submitted by members of the Group. A further meeting of the Group will be held in mid-July following the WTO Ministerial Meetings in Geneva from 28 June to 2 July.

The Group comprises officials of my Department and representatives of the following organisations; Irish Farmers Association (IFA), Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), Teagasc, Bord Bia, Irish Dairy Board, IBEC, Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS), Irish Grain and Feed Association, Macra Na Feirme and two independent agricultural economists.

Animal Welfare.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

84 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of animal welfare officers here; the steps she is taking to ensure good animal welfare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23609/06]

My Department has certain statutory responsibility for the welfare and protection of farmed animals. The legislation governing this is the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes Act 1984 and the European Communities (Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes) Regulations, 2000. In addition there is specific legislation in relation to pigs, calves and laying hens and to the slaughter of animals.

Primary responsibility for protecting the welfare of animals rests with the owners or keepers of the animals concerned. Welfare cases which come to notice are dealt with, generally, by officers based in my Department's District Veterinary Offices. These officers deal with the implementation of animal welfare legislation as well as having responsibilities in a wide number of other areas related to animal health, disease control etc. Funding is available to deal with emergency care, feeding, transport etc. of welfare compromised farm animals. I am satisfied that the resources available within my Department are sufficient to deal with such cases and to provide a high standard of animal welfare.

In 2004 the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council (FAWAC) developed an Early Warning/Intervention System (EWS) for dealing with animal welfare cases involving my Department, Irish Farmers' Association and the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals. The objective of the system is to provide a framework within which farm animal welfare problems can be identified before they become critical or overwhelming. The new system allows for concerned individuals to approach their local IFA representatives, their local SPCA or my Department in the knowledge that the matter will thereafter be dealt with in the most effective, timely and sensitive manner.

In addition to the foregoing, my Department makes ex gratia payments annually to organisations involved in the direct delivery of animal care and welfare services to assist in their ongoing work. To date we have provided a total of €5.97 million to such bodies, some €1.2m of which was paid to 86 organisations in December last to assist them during 2006. A provision of €1.1m for this purpose is included in my Department’s Estimates for 2006 and applications will be invited later this year for payments in respect of 2007.

The main statutes governing cruelty to animals in this country are the Protection of Animals Acts 1911 and 1965. Responsibility for pursuing complaints under that legislation rests with An Garda Síochána who may, on receipt of a complaint, investigate and bring a prosecution against any person alleged to have committed an act of cruelty against an animal. Officers of my Department are regularly involved in assisting the Garda in such cases.

Question No. 85 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

Food Health Promotion.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

86 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans to more effectively promote fresh vegetables and potatoes as part of a healthy diet for young people particularly in view of the heavy advertising aimed at children by manufacturers of high sugar, salt and fat food products. [24632/06]

I am very aware of the need to promote sensible and healthy eating habits among our young people. Not alone do health, diet and nutrition impact on societal well-being, mental health and life expectancy, it pervades into every area of our economy, from lost work days to increased healthcare costs. The case for targeting the dietary habits of young people in their formative years is compelling. That is why I have introduced a range of measures in the area of research and in the area of promotion, all of which recognise the need for a collaborative, multi-stakeholder approach.

Under the FIRM programme my Department funds public good research by the food research institutions. The 2006 call for proposals included a Food and Health theme. The proposals submitted included multi-annual projects on reducing the salt content of certain foods. Following external evaluation I anticipate that up to €2 million will be approved in this area. Projects previously funded include research into developing gluten free bread and reduced fat cheese toppings.

The Scientific Study on Children's Diet, which was co-funded by my Department and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), was the first study to benchmark dietary intakes of a nationally representative sample of Irish children. The work was carried out by researchers in Trinity College, Dublin and University College, Cork who surveyed 600 children aged 5-12 years from primary schools throughout Ireland during 2003 and 2004. The researchers collected information on diet, physical activity and body measurements on each child in addition to lifestyle information for both the children and their parents.

In relation to diet, the study identified that intake of fruit and vegetables was low and on average well below international recommendations. Fat and salt intakes were higher than recommended while overweight and obesity in 5-12 year old schoolchildren was relatively high and increasing.

I considered it important that the data on diet and physical exercise collected in the study should be further analysed and cross-referenced with other available information to assist in evidence-based policy formulation and implementation, and to provide the public and the food industry with useful information in this area. This research, jointly funded by DAF and FSAI, commenced earlier this year and I am confident the results will assist the food industry to tailor product development and promotion to lifestyle patterns and trends based on the scientific data gathered. The research will also be of valuable assistance in formulating new products to meet emerging nutritional demands.

As part of a twin track approach, my Department has also focused on the promotion of fresh fruit and vegetables. The Food Dude Programme, which was launched last year, aims to increase consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables by primary school children at school and in the home. The Programme, jointly funded by the EU Commission, my Department and the trade, is managed by An Bord Bia, and will be run in 150 primary schools over 3 years. It was developed by the University of Wales, Bangor and studies show that it can deliver long-lasting results across the primary school age range in terms of improving dietary habits and creating a healthy eating culture. Evidence to date indicates that the programme has been hugely successful in its inaugural year.

In addition, a 3-year advertising, PR and promotion campaign aimed at increasing the consumption of mushrooms by young households and young people has recently concluded. This programme was again a collaborative approach involving the EU Commission, my Department and the mushroom industry, through Bord Bia. In 2005, the advertising campaign achieved population coverage of 1.2 million people and, in general, has led to increased spend on mushrooms in retail outlets.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

87 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on whether the disadvantaged areas scheme might be improved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24623/06]

The position is that under the current Disadvantaged Areas Compensatory Allowance Scheme over 100,000 farmers qualify for payments totalling some €233million annually.

The current payment levels are as follows: More Severely Handicapped (lowland) €88.88 per hectare up to 45 hectares. Less Severely Handicapped (lowland) €76.18 per hectare up to 45 hectares. Mountain type land €101.58 per hectare on first 10 hectares or part thereof and €88.88 per hectare on remaining hectares subject to an overall payment ceiling of 45 hectares.

For 2006, as a once-off measure, I have decided that modulated funds of approximately €18m will be spent in the disadvantaged areas and this will have the effect of increasing the payment levels per hectare in 2006 — from €88.88 to €95.02, from €76.18 to €81.44 and from €101.58 to €108.00.

The Council of Agriculture Ministers agreed on 20 June 2005 a new framework for rural development for the period 2007 to 2013 which provided for the maintenance of the existing arrangements for the Less Favoured Areas until 2010. Before then, the Commission will present a report and proposals to the Council concerning the future payment system and designation of these areas. My Department is currently engaged in drawing up Ireland's Rural Development Programme for the period 2007-2013. Funding levels for the Scheme under this Programme are the subject of discussion in the farming pillar of the current Partnership talks.

The cost of the old coupled Disadvantaged Areas Compensatory Allowance schemes in year 2000 was €155m in respect of which 92,000 farmers qualified for payment i.e. an average payment of €1,684 compared with the current average of €2,316 — an increase of 37.5%. The number of beneficiaries has also increased by 9.3%, from 92,000 in 2000 to 100,600 in 2005. On the changeover to the area based scheme an additional €76m (£60m) was added from the Exchequer.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Shane McEntee

Question:

88 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her position on the deliberate release of genetically modified crops; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23643/06]

The ‘Report of the Interdepartmental Group on Modern Biotechnology' published by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in October 2000 established the Irish Government's positive but precautionary position on biotechnology. This position was based on the potential that biotechnology offers in the fields of medicine, health, agriculture, etc., while at the same time recognising that caution must be exercised to ensure that food safety and the environment are protected.

EU Directive 2001/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms lays down a binding, Community-wide, framework for regulating the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms into the environment, including for the purposes of field trials and cultivation. Taking into account the precautionary principle, it seeks to ensure that high levels of protection are afforded to the environment and human health and requires, inter alia, the carrying out of a comprehensive environmental risk assessment, as part of the notification process, and post release monitoring. Any environmental risk to plants in the vicinity of the cultivation of genetically modified crops is considered in the foregoing context.

While responsibility for decisions on proposals for field trials rests with the EPA, responsibility for the establishment of measures to ensure the effective and efficient coexistence of authorised GM crops alongside non GM crops rests with my Department.

Question No. 89 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

EU Directives.

Liam Twomey

Question:

90 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the status of Ireland’s application for a derogation under the Nitrates Directive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23636/06]

Proposals for amendments to the Nitrates Regulations, along with the scientific arguments to justify the changes, were forwarded to the European Commission by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on 18 May. There have since been discussions and other contacts between officials of the two Departments, Teagasc representatives and the European Commission.

The proposals were developed in conjunction with my Department and with the input of Teagasc and address a range of important issues identified in the Teagasc submission and raised by the farming bodies. I am satisfied that the changes proposed to the Commission will be of major benefit to Irish farmers, in that they will provide them with greater flexibility in complying with fertiliser limits and simplify certain aspects of the Regulations.

I am hopeful that discussions on the Regulation can be brought to a quick conclusion so that negotiations can proceed on a derogation to allow certain farmers to operate, under appropriate conditions and controls, up to a level of 250 kgs of organic nitrogen per hectare. The derogation proposal was given an initial presentation to the EU Nitrates Committee in December 2005, and further scientific data have been supplied to the Commission following bilateral discussions. The proposal will have to be discussed further at future meetings of the Nitrates Committee before approval can be obtained.

Question No. 91 answered with QuestionNo. 74.

Animal Health Policy.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

92 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she intends to take to develop an all Ireland animal health regime; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23624/06]

Michael Ring

Question:

142 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps which she is taking to introduce an all island animal health regime; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23600/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92 and 142 together.

There is already a long history of co-operation between the administrations north and south on animal health issues. The administrations have traditionally shared information at local and national levels on disease control and surveillance issues and have worked together to combat illegal movements of animals and animal products. During the Foot and Mouth emergency of 2001 the co-operation and consultation at official, Ministerial and political levels was vital. Likewise, both administrations are currently co-operating and sharing information on measures relating to avian influenza.

The establishment of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) offered an opportunity to build on existing co-operation arrangements and provided a framework for the development of an all-island animal health policy.

The main objectives of the Council are to foster co-operation and to devise a common, unified animal health strategy for the island as a whole. This involves the convergence of animal health policies and the development of joint strategies for dealing with animal diseases. The ultimate objectives are to establish a common import regime and equivalent internal arrangements with a view to achieving free movement of animals and animal products within the island.

The programme of work mandated by the NSMC has been taken forward by nine working groups at official level. The remit of these groups includes TB and Brucellosis, TSEs (BSE and Scrapie), veterinary medicines, other Zoonoses and animal diseases, disease surveillance, animal welfare, import and export of live animals and animal products, animal identification, traceability and cross-border aspects of fraud.

These working groups meet regularly and their work has focused on three main themes:

Common or equivalent controls at points of entry to the island;

Convergence of internal animal health policies; and

Development of joint strategies for the control of animal disease.

The main achievements to date are the development of a co-ordinated and complementary approach towards import policies and portal controls at points of entry to the island, the convergence of policies in regard to animal identification and Scrapie and the strengthening of co-ordination and co-operation between both administrations on a variety of issues such as TB Brucellosis, FMD, BSE Avian Influenza, cross-border fraud, etc. These groups continue to report progress in exchange of information and in implementation of initiatives aimed at policy convergence and the development of a common unified strategy for the island as a whole.

The Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council includes representation from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, (DARD). DARD was also represented at recent meetings of the Avian Influenza Advisory Group and will also be represented at future meetings of the Group.

Since the decision at EU level to lift the BSE ban on exports from the United Kingdom from 3 May 2006, arrangements are in place and working well between the two administrations facilitating the trade of cattle from Northern Ireland for slaughter, breeding and production.

The achievement of an all-island animal health strategy involves complex dialogue and negotiation over a range of areas between the Irish, Northern Irish and British authorities. Ultimately, the agreement of the European Union will be required.

Farmers’ Markets.

Willie Penrose

Question:

93 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will provide this Deputy with a list of all the farmers’ markets operating here that her Department is aware of; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24597/06]

While there is no formal register of Farmers' markets in Ireland, An Bord Bia, which operates under the aegis of my Department, works closely with other State and local agencies to exploit the growing opportunities for farmers' markets. In co-operation with Invest Northern Ireland, the Board has published a comprehensive information guide on the operation of farmers' markets and the Bord Bia website www.bordbia.ie includes a list of over a 100 markets currently in operation throughout the island. If the Deputy is aware of any other market not on the list, An Bord Bia will be happy to post it on its website.

County

Market

Location

Day

1

Antrim

Origin Farmers Market Ballymoney

Castlecroft, Main St

Last Saturday of month 11-2pm

2

Antrim

City Food And Garden Market Belfast

St George’s Street

Saturday 9-4pm

3

Antrim

Templepatrick Farmers Market

Colmans Garden Centre

4

Antrim

Lisburn Market

Saturday

5

Armagh

Portadown Market

Last Saturday of month

6

Carlow

Carlow Farmers Market

Potato Market Carlow

Saturday 9-2pm

7

Cavan

Cavan Farmers Market

McCarren’s, Farham Road, Cavan

Saturday 10am-4pm

8

Clare

Ballyvaughan Farmers Market

The Old Schoolhouse

9

Clare

Ennis Farmers Market

Car Park, Upr. Main Street

Friday 8-2pm

10

Clare

Killaloe Farmers Market

Between the Waters

Sunday 11-3pm

11

Clare

Kilrush Farmers Market

The Square

Thursday 9-2pm

12

Clare

Shannon Farmers Market

Town Centre, next to Skycourt Shopping Centre

Friday 12.30-7pm

13

Cork

Ballydehob Food Market

Community Hall

Friday 10.30-12pm

14

Cork

Bandon Market

Bandon

Friday 10.30-1pm

15

Cork

Bantry Market

Main Square

1st Friday of month

16

Cork

Blackwater Valley Farmers Market

Nano Nagle Centre, Mallow

Every 2nd Saturday 10.30-1pm

17

Cork

Castletownbere

1st Thursday of month

18

Cork

Clonakilty Farmers Market

McCurtain Hill

Thursdays & Sundays 10-2pm

19

Cork

Cobh Market

Sea Front

Friday 10-1pm

20

Cork

Cornmarket Street Market

Cornmarket Street

Saturday 9-3pm

21

Cork

Douglas Food Market

Douglas Community Park

Saturday 9.30-2pm

22

Cork

Dunmanway

The Old Mill, Castle St

Fridays 10-2pm

23

Cork

English Market Cork

Entrances on Princes St & Grand Parade

Daily

24

Cork

Fermoy Farmers Market

Opposite Cork Marts

Saturday 9-1pm

25

Cork

Inchigeelagh Market

Creedons Hotel

Last Saturday of month

26

Cork

Mahon Point Farmers Market

West Entrance, Mahon Point Shopping Centre

Thursday 10-2pm

27

Cork

Macroom Farmers Market

The Square

Tuesday 9-3pm

28

Cork

Midleton Farmers Market

Hospital Road

Saturday

29

Cork

Mitchelstown Farmers Market

Main Square

Saturday 9-1pm

30

Cork

Schull Farmers Market

Car Park Near Pier

Sunday 10-3pm

31

Cork

Skibbereen Farmers Market

Old Market Square

Saturday 10-2pm

32

Derry

Guildhall Country Fair

Last Saturday in month

33

Donegal

Ballybofey Farmers Market

GAA grounds

Friday 12-4pm

34

Donegal

Donegal Town Farmers Market

Diamond

3rd Saturday of Month

35

Down

Newry Dundalk Farmers Market

Newry Marketplace, John Mitchell Place

Friday 9am -2-pm

36

Dublin

Dalkey Market

Dalkey Town Hall

Friday 10-4pm

37

Dublin

Dundrum Farmers Market

Airfield House

Saturday 10-4pm

38

Dublin

Dun Laoghaire Harbour Market

Dun Laoghaire Harbour

Saturday 10-4pm

39

Dublin

Dun Laoghaire People’s Park Market

People’s Park

Sunday 11-4pm

40

Dublin

Dun Laoghaire Shopping Centre

Dun Laoghaire Shopping Centre

Thursdays 10-5pm

41

Dublin

Farmleigh Food Market

Farmleigh House

2006 dates TBC

42

Dublin

Fingal Food Fayre

Fingal Arts Centre

Last Sunday every month 12-5pm

43

Dublin

Howth Harbour Market

The Harbour, Howth

Sunday 10-3pm

44

Dublin

IFSC Farmers Market

Mayor Square, IFSC

Wednesday 11-3pm

45

Dublin

Leopardstown Farmers Market

Leopardstown Racecourse

Friday 11-7pm

46

Dublin

Malahide Market

GAA facility, Church Rd

Saturday 11-5pm

47

Dublin

Marley Park Food Market

Marlay Park Craft Courtyard

Saturday 10-4pm

48

Dublin

Monkstown Village Market

Monkstown Parish Church

Saturday 10-4pm

49

Dublin

Pearse Street Market

St Andrews Centre

Saturday 9.30-3pm

50

Dublin

Ranelagh Market

Multi Denominational School

Sunday 10-4pm

51

Dublin

Temple Bar Market

Meeting House Square

Saturday 9-5pm

52

Galway

Ballinasloe Farmers Market

Croffy’s Centre, Main Street

Fridays, 10-3pm

53

Galway

Galway Market

Beside St Nicholas Church

Saturday, 8.30-4pm & Sunday 2-6pm

54

Kerry

Cahirciveen Market

Community Centre

Thursday 10-2pm (Jun-Sept)

55

Kerry

Caherdaniel Market

Village Hall

Friday 10-12am (Jun-Sept & Christmas)

56

Kerry

Dingle Farm Produce & Craft Market

by the fishing harbour near bus stop

Friday 9.30-4pm

57

Kerry

Kenmare Farmers Market

Wed-Sun 10-6pm (7 days Jul-Aug)

58

Kerry

Listowel Food Fair

Seanchai Centre

Thursday 10-1pm

59

Kerry

Milltown Market

Old Church

Sat 10-2pm

60

Kerry

Milltown Market

Organic Centre

Tuesday-Friday, 2-5pm

61

Kerry

Sneem Market

Community Centre

Tuesday 11-2pm (Jun-Sept & Christmas)

62

Kerry

Tralee Farmers Market

Friday 9-5pm

63

Kildare

Athy Farmers Market

Emily Square

Sunday 10-2pm

64

Kildare

Larchill Market

Larchill Arcadian Gardens

3rd Sunday in month

65

Kildare

Naas Farmers Market

The Storehouse Restaurant

Saturday 10-3pm

66

Kildare

Newbridge Farmers Market

The Courtyard Shopping Centre

Friday 10-3pm

67

Kilkenny

Kilkenny Farmers Market

Gowran Park

1st & 3rd Sunday of month

68

Leitrim

Origin Farmers Market (Manorhamilton)

Beepark Resource Centre

Last Friday of each month

69

Limerick

Abbeyfeale Farmers Market

Parish Hall

Friday 9-1pm

70

Limerick

Kilmallock Farmers Market

The Kilmallock GAA Club

Friday 9-1pm

71

Limerick

Limerick Milk Market

Limerick Milk Market

Saturday 8-1.30pm

72

Longford

Longford Farmers Market

Temperance Hall

Saturday 9.30-1pm

73

Louth

Castlebellingham Farmers Market

Bellingham Castle Hotel

1st Sunday of month

74

Louth

Newry Dundalk Farmers Market

The County Museum, Jocelyn Street, Dundalk

Saturday 10am -2-pm

75

Louth

Dundalk Town Producers Market

The Square, Dundalk

Saturday 10am -2pm

76

Meath

Kells Farmers Market

FBD Insurance Grounds

Saturday 10-2pm

77

Monaghan

Monaghan Farmers / Country Market

Castleblayney Livestock Salesyard

Last Saturday of month , 9-1pm

78

Offaly

The Full Moon Market

The Chestnut Courtyard

Every 3rd Sunday

79

Offaly

Tullamore Country Fair

Millenium Square

Saturday 9-4pm

80

Roscommon

Origin Farmers Market (Boyle)

Grounds of King House

Saturday, 10-2pm

81

Sligo

Origin Farmers Market (Sligo)

Sligo IT Sports Field Car Park

Saturday

82

Tipperary

Cahir Farmers Market

Beside The Craft Granary

Saturday 9-1pm

83

Tipperary

Clonmel Farmers Market

St Peter & Paul’s Primary School, Kickham Street, beside Oakville Shopping Centre

Saturday 10-2pm

84

Tipperary

Carrick-on-Suir

Heritage Centre, Main St

Friday 10-2pm

85

Tipperary

Nenagh Farmers Market

Teach an Lean

1st Saturday of month 10-2pm

86

Tyrone

Origin Farmers Market, Strabane

The Score Centre, Dock Rd

Last Saturday of month

87

Tyrone

Tyrone Farmers Market

Tesco Carpark, Dungannon

1st Saturday of month 8.30-1pm

88

Waterford

Dunhill Farmers Market

Parish Hall

Last Sunday of month 11.30-2pm

89

Waterford

Dungarvan Farmers Market

Scanlon’s Yard (beside Friary St & Mary St)

Thursday 9.30-2pm

90

Waterford

Lismore Farmers Market

Blackwater Valley

91

Waterford

Stradbally Community Market

1st Saturday of month 10-12.30pm

92

Waterford

Waterford Farmers Market

Jenkins Lane

Saturday 10-4pm

93

Westmeath

Athlone Farmers Market

Market Square, Athlone

Saturday 10-3pm

94

Westmeath

Mullingar Farmers Market

Harbour Place Shopping Centre

1st & 3rd Sunday of Month

95

Wexford

New Ross Farmers Market

Conduit Lane

Saturday 9-2pm

96

Wexford

Wexford Farmers Market Dunbrody

Dunbrody Abbey Centre

Sunday 12-3.30pm

97

Wexford

Wexford Farmers Market Community Partnership

The Abbey Square Carpark

Saturday 9-2pm

98

Wexford

Wexford Farmers Market

Trimmers Lane West (beside La Dolce Vitae Restaurant)

Friday 9-2pm

99

Wicklow

Brooklodge Organic Market

Macreddin Village

1st & 3rd Sunday of month

100

Wicklow

Glendalough Farmers Market

Brockagh Resource Centre

2nd Sunday of month 11-6pm

101

Wicklow

Kilcoole

Saturdays — 10.30-11.30am

102

Wicklow

Powerscourt Waterfall Market

Farmyard, almost next to Powerscourt Waterfall

2nd and 4th Sunday of every month

103

Wicklow

Bray Farmers Market

Killarney Road near the Boghall Road

Saturday 10-3pm

104

Wicklow

Bray Seafront Market

Albert Avenue, just across from the aquarium

Friday & Sunday weekly

Installation Aid Scheme.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

94 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of young farmers who have applied for an installation grant in each of the past five years; if she is satisfied that every encouragement possible under EU rules is being given to such farmers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24583/06]

The number of applicants in respect of the current Installation Aid Scheme for the past five years is set out in the table below.

Year

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

Total

Applications

754

934

833

826

795

4,142

Every encouragement is being given to young farmers to participate in the Scheme.

Question No. 95 answered with QuestionNo. 74.

European Council Meetings.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

96 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the next Council of European Agriculture Ministers will be meeting; what is on the agenda; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24618/06]

The next meeting of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, 18th July under the Finnish Presidency. I do not expect that the agenda for the meeting will be available until 4th Julynext.

Question No. 97 answered with QuestionNo. 52.
Question No. 98 answered with QuestionNo. 65.

Subsidy Payments.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

99 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the status of the EU Agriculture Commissioner’s stated aim to place a ceiling on the amount of subsidies single land owners can receive; when this ceiling is expected to be discussed at the European Council of Ministers; when it is discussed, if she will indicate her approval of such a ceiling; when it is expected to be implemented; the likely effect on Irish landowners; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24617/06]

I am aware that reference was made by the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development in a recent speech to the possibility that a ceiling would be introduced on the amount of subsidies a single landowner could receive. No proposals have been made by the Commission to this effect and I have no further details of the Commissioner's intention to submit such a proposal to the Council of Ministers.

Question No. 100 answered with QuestionNo. 74.

Farm Incomes.

Willie Penrose

Question:

101 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the action she has taken at EU level to protect the income of dairy farmers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24606/06]

Dairy farmers' incomes are made up of a combination of the market price paid for milk and direct income support. The price of milk paid to dairy farmers is a commercial matter between milk producers and milk purchasers and I have no direct role in this area.

Milk prices are influenced by a variety of factors including the structure of the dairy operation at producer and processor level, the prices paid in international markets for dairy products including currency fluctuations, the product type, the final destination of the product and the overall operation of the EU dairy market support mechanisms.

The Mid Term Reform of CAP provided that the intervention prices of milk products would reduce in the period 2004-2007 and these reductions would be compensated by the introduction of a direct premium payment. This compensation amounts to 3.6 cent per litre equivalent to €180 million in 2006.

I have consistently challenged the pace and level of the milk product price reduction towards the new MTR levels. In my view it is crucially and strategically important that the EU consolidates its international market share while challenging competition on its domestic market. I have consistently urged the Commission to maintain a competitive combination of aids and subsidies on both the internal EU market and on international export markets to achieve these objectives.

Departmental Investigations.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

102 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding Parliamentary Question No. 2 of 18 May 2006; if the meeting took place with the persons concerned; if a date from the Environmental Protection Agency was provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24605/06]

The herd owner, his private veterinary practitioners, representatives from my Department and a number of other agencies attended the meeting which was held on 2 June 2006. At that meeting which was chaired by a representative of the Veterinary Faculty of UCD a number of action points were agreed in relation to further environmental, ecological and epidemiological work as well as animal health studies. Included as part of this programme will be a report by the EPA on work to date.

It was agreed that a further meeting would take place in early autumn to review progress.

Animal Feedstuffs.

Jack Wall

Question:

103 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when she expects to receive and to publish the Inter-Department Agency Committee to Examine Meat and Bone Meal Disposal in Non-Agriculture or Energy Sectors Report; the persons who are the members of this committee; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24604/06]

The Report of the Inter Departmental/Agency Committee on Disposal Options for Meat and Bone Meal (MBM) was submitted to Government on 9 December 2003. The Report is available on the Department's website at www.agriculture.gov.ie under 2003 Publications.

The Committee members were Tom Moran (Chairman), Kevin Cassidy, Noel Dinneny, Michael Gunn and David Lynch (Department of Agriculture and Food); Liam Whelan (Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government); Robert Carey (Department of Finance); Gerry Wrynn (Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment); Tom Kennington (Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources); Marie O'Connor and Leo Sweeney (Environmental Protection Agency); David Nolan (Food Safety Authority of Ireland); Derek Breen and Fred McDarby (Enterprise Ireland).

The Committee was established by the Government in April 2002 to consider the options for disposal of MBM in Ireland in the non-agriculture or energy sectors and to make appropriate recommendations on those best suited to Irish conditions. This followed the introduction of an EU ban on the use of MBM in feed for farmed animals as a precaution against the spread of BSE.

The Committee concluded that co-incineration of MBM in the manufacture of cement would be the most practical recovery outlet. Use of MBM as a substitute fuel for energy production provides a safe recovery outlet. In addition, the incineration of MBM would also provide a safe recovery outlet. Use of MBM in petfood production offered only limited potential. Other possible mechanisms needed to be kept under ongoing review.

The Committee's recommendations have impacted on policy in this area, and as a consequence the range of productive outlets for safe disposal of MBM within the country has been expanded.

Question No. 104 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

Energy Crops Scheme.

Seán Ryan

Question:

105 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the EU Commission will be reviewing the operation of the premium allowed under the energy crops scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24599/06]

While Council Regulation (EC) No 1782/2003 provides, inter alia, for the payment of Aid for Energy Crops, at a rate of €45.00 per hectare on arable land, in respect of products considered as biofuels, Article 92 of that Regulation provides for a review of the Energy Crops Scheme. The Commission is required to submit a report to the Council by 31 December 2006, on the implementation of the Scheme, accompanied, where appropriate, by proposals taking into account the implementation of the EU Biofuels initiative. As the aid of €45 per hectare available under the Energy Crops Scheme has proven not to be sufficiently attractive in itself to stimulate the growing of such crops, at the February Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting I called for a review of the rate of premium and I am pleased to say that the EU Commission has undertaken to review the operation of the scheme.

Nitrates Action Programme.

Damien English

Question:

106 Mr. English asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her role to date on the implementation of the nitrates action plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23618/06]

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government made Regulations in December 2005 giving legal effect to Ireland's Nitrates Action Programme. Those Regulations were finalised in consultation with my Department and in conjunction with Teagasc, following an extensive consultation process involving all stakeholders.

The Regulations came into effect on 1 February 2006, but the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government then announced a brief de facto deferral of the implementation of Part 3 of the Regulations dealing with nutrient management. This was to allow time for Teagasc to submit revised scientific advice, which was received early in March.

Detailed proposals for amendments to the Regulations, along with the scientific arguments to justify the changes, were forwarded to the Commission by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on 18 May. There have since been discussions and other contacts between officials of the two Departments, Teagasc representatives and the European Commission.

The proposals, which the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has outlined, were developed in conjunction with my Department and with the input of Teagasc and address a range of important issues identified in the Teagasc submission and raised by the farming bodies. I am satisfied that the changes proposed to the Commission will be of major benefit to Irish farmers, in that they will provide them with greater flexibility in complying with fertiliser limits and simplify certain aspects of the Regulations.

Afforestation Programme.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

107 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the way in which she will remedy the shortfall in the afforestation programme which over the past 20 years saw an average of 15,000 hectares of new forests per year while in the past three years the average has dropped to 10,000 hectares a year, a 50 per cent drop; and her views on the need to remedy this shortfall in view of the demand for timber and wood fuel which SEI is promoting. [24625/06]

Gay Mitchell

Question:

149 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps which she is taking to encourage the planting of forestry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23640/06]

Denis Naughten

Question:

369 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans to improve the area of forestry being planted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24582/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107, 149 and 369 together.

A comprehensive range of incentives and supports is available to encourage the planting of forests in Ireland. Under the current Forestry Grant and Premium Scheme, grants are available to cover 100% of planting costs, as well as a 20 year tax-free premium for farmers (15 years for non-farmers) of up to €500 per hectare, depending on the species planted. Substantial tax concessions are also in place for forest-owners. The Single Farm Payment Scheme enables farm-foresters to plant up to 50% of their eligible claimed areas with forestry, attracting immediate payment of forestry premiums, while still drawing down their full Single Farm Payment. Supports are also available for the growing forest in the form of grants for the shaping of broadleaves and pruning of conifers, and for the construction of forest roads.

In addition to these direct supports, funding is provided for research, advisory services and promotion. Free and independent advice on all forestry matters is available from Teagasc. This advice is provided with funding support from my Department.

Approximately 10% of Irish land is afforested compared to an EU average of 35%. Over 90% of all new planting is now undertaken by farmers, which is significantly changing the structure of forest-ownership in Ireland, with some 16,000 private plantations now established. As these forests mature, the timber output and other non-timber benefits of forestry will play an increasingly important role in securing the economic viability of the farm holding.

Forestry will continue to remain an important alternative through the changing times ahead as the CAP Reform measures begin to take hold. A new forestry programme, in consultation with the sector, for the period 2007-2013 is being drawn up at present. I am confident that a combination of innovative support schemes, and attractive grant and premia rates along with the opportunity to consolidate under the Single Farm Payment, will lead to higher levels of planting in the coming years.

Sustainable forestry is of major importance to securing the viability of rural Ireland and adding to the quality of life of all citizens. It represents a major option for effective land-use in Ireland.

Beef Imports.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

108 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the amount of beef imported from each part of Brazil during each of the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24608/06]

My Department does not capture the level of detail of data requested by the Deputy. This information is contained on health certificates that accompany all imported consignments and are retained at Border Inspection Post (BIP) of entry into the EU.

In accordance with EU legislation consignments of animal products being imported from third countries must be notified in advance to the EU approved BIP where it is proposed to enter the EU. It must be accompanied by an approved model of veterinary health certificate and be presented at the BIP to undergo documentary, identity and physical checks in accordance with Community rules.

At the BIP, in co-operation with the Customs Services, detailed checks are carried out to check that the origin of the products conforms to the approved countries and establishment listed in EU legislation and that account is taken of any safeguard Decisions introduced by the Community to control imports where there are incidents of disease outbreaks affecting third countries or regions of third countries. A careful examination of the health certification is carried out to ensure that the EU's certification requirements have been met. Once a consignment has been deemed to meet all these conditions, and it has received the required checks, and the veterinary inspections fees are received, it is then released to the Customs Services for clearance for free circulation within the EU. Copies of the BIP clearance document (Common Veterinary Entry Document — CVED) and the health certificate must accompany the consignment to its destination. The BIP retains the health certificates and record of the examinations it has applied.

The Food and Veterinary Office of the EU carries out audits of the operation of BIP in all the member States and publishes its findings on the Commission's website.

Dairy Industry.

Dan Neville

Question:

109 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the discussions she has had at EU level to protect dairy supports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23622/06]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

143 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she is taking to maintain and improve the support for dairy farmers at Irish and European level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24584/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 and 143 together.

The Irish dairy industry continues to contribute very substantially to the national economy, with an annual output value of some €2.3 billion. In 2005 Irish dairy exports performed exceptionally well totalling €2 billion, despite downward adjustments to EU market supports brought about by the implementation of the Mid Term reform of the CAP.

A loss of competitiveness on world markets caused by greater competition and the fluctuating value of the US dollar have meant that 2006 is proving to be a more challenging year for the industry. The butter market, in particular, continues to experience serious difficulties. The Intervention limit of 50,000 tonnes of butter was reached at the end of May and a tendering regime for intervention purchases was opened. Under the tendering regime for intervention purchases, the EU Commission is pushing the internal market prices of butter downward to the new Mid Term Reform levels. On a more positive note, I very much welcome the Commission's decision to maintain the tendered export refund for butter and I hope this will facilitate the export of significant quantities of butter to international markets.

I remain concerned about the aggressive actions of the Commission in the past months to reduce internal aids and export subsidies to the new intervention price levels and I have regularly requested the Commissioner to redirect policy and support both the internal and international butter markets. The Commissioner is fully aware of my view that market stability is essential to allow the dairy industry time to adjust to the current market realities and adapt their business strategies accordingly.

At national level, I have already announced my intention to move to a more open market system of transferring milk quotas between producers with the ultimate aim of increasing the scale and long-term efficiency of dairy production in Ireland. Consultation is ongoing with the relevant stakeholders.

Meat Imports.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

110 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the amount of meat other than beef, pork and chicken, imported for 2003, 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24609/06]

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) is responsible for the collection of statistics in relation to imports of meat other than beef, pork and chicken. The following tables, compiled from data supplied by that Office, set out the details in relation to imports of meat (not including meat products) 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. While every effort is made to ensure accuracy, these returns may stand to be adjusted marginally as data is rechecked by the CSO.

3. Imports of products processed from meat are not included.

Imports of Meat into Ireland (Tonnes)

2003

2004

2005

2006*

Mutton Fresh, Chilled or Frozen

1,461

2,310

2,020

175

Other Meat and Meat Offal, Fresh, Chilled or Frozen

51

216

286

6

Meat and Eddible Offal of Rabbits and Hares

6

144

437

21

Goat Meat, Fresh, Chilled or Frozen

0

26

39

0

Meat of Horses, Asses, Mules, Hinnies, Fresh Chilled or Frozen

0

14

22

0

Frogs Legs

1

2

4

0

*To Jan 2006.

EU legislation requires that all our meat products (for export) within the EU or to third countries must be produced in approved establishments supervised by official veterinarians. Under EU harmonized rules the import of meat into the European Union may only take place from third countries where similar rules apply, i.e. from establishments in those countries which are approved by the European Commission and which are subject to veterinary audits by the EU's Food and Veterinary Office. On import into the EU these products must be presented at an approved Border Inspection Posts where they are subject to the checks laid down in these harmonised rules to ensure compliance with EU standards in respect of animal and public health. They must be accompanied by veterinary health certification from the authorities in the country of export. Having passed these controls, the meat is regarded as being in free circulation within the EU.

Direct Payment Schemes.

Dan Boyle

Question:

111 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the criteria for receipt of national reserve entitlements from an equity point of view, in view of the fact that a 22 year old agricultural college graduate, who not owning land can just about afford to rent 30 acres is refused entitlements, whereas a retired wealthy farmer can receive entitlements up to €50,000; and if she will reform the criteria to ensure young people are not prevented from making a career in farming as is happening at present. [24627/06]

The position is that the Single Payment Scheme is applicable to farmers who farmed during the three-year reference period 2000-2002, who drew down livestock or Arable Aid premia in at least one of those years and who continued to farm in 2005. Special provisions were made for farmers (including young farmers) who entered farming for the first time in either 2001 or 2002. Their Single Payment was determined based on the average of the years 2001 and 2002 or on the basis of premia paid in 2002 as appropriate.

The EU regulations also provided for the setting up of a National Reserve. In Ireland, the Reserve was created by reducing each farmer's individual Single Payment by an amount of some 1.82%. The purpose of the National Reserve is to try to minimise the impact on farmers who, for a variety of reasons, may find themselves disadvantaged in the transition to the new decoupled support regime as a result of changes in their businesses during or since the reference period. In particular the intention is to provide enhanced or new entitlements for certain farmers who made investments in production capacity or purchased or leased land on a long-term basis or who converted from dairying to a sector for which a direct payment would have been payable during the reference period. Such farmers, at the time when they took these decisions, had a legitimate expectation that the coupled regime of direct payments would continue into the future.

In addition each Member State may decide to include certain non-mandatory categories in the reserve. In Ireland's case, following consultations with the Single Payment Advisory Committee comprising representatives of the farming organisations, Teagasc and officials from my Department, new entrants to farming after 31 December 2002 (category D) were included as a non-mandatory category in the 2005 National Reserve. However, no provision was made in the 2005 National Reserve for new entrants who were farming rented or leased land. Such farmers had the option of leasing in the entitlements established for the farmer from whom the land was leased/rented.

Where the land in question was being leased for a nominal amount from a farmer who retired or died before 16 May 2005 and the land was leased to a third party during the reference period, then an applicant may qualify under category A of the National Reserve. Similarly, where the lease commenced before 19 October 2003 the applicant may qualify under category B(1). Where the land being farmed has been inherited then any entitlements established for the farmer from whom the land was inherited can be transferred to the new entrant.

Ireland has the option of including a category for new entrants to farming in the 2006 National Reserve. I have not yet made decisions with regard to the categories to be included in the 2006 National Reserve and the question of whether new entrants to farming using leased land should be included will be considered in that context following consultation with the Single Payment Advisory Committee. The major factor to be considered in this regard is the availability of funds for the National Reserve in 2006 and subsequent years. It should be understood that the National Reserve is a scarce resource, created by reducing the entitlements of existing farmers, and will only be replenished by a claw-back on sales of entitlements and the relinquishing of any entitlements that remain unused.

Food Safety Standards.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

112 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will ensure that food imports into Ireland can be stood up as having the same high standards of traceability, hormone use limitations, country of origin labelling and so on particularly following forthcoming World Trade Organisation agreement. [24630/06]

As a member of the EU and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ireland is in a position to avail of opportunities for trade that are essential for the development of our open economy. Membership of these organizations also brings reciprocal trade obligations. All imports must come from third countries or areas of third countries that have been approved by the EU authorities for export to the EU.

In the current WTO discussions in the Council, I have pressed strongly the non-trade aspect of market access, which I regard as a crucial element in the overall negotiations. I have taken every opportunity to remind the Commission of the importance of equivalence in standards, particularly in relation to all exporting countries. These are standards the European Community has worked hard to establish in order to guarantee the safety of food for consumers and ensure the welfare of producers, their resources and the environment. I am concerned that the Commission takes all the necessary steps in terms of existing monitoring, control and certification mechanisms to ensure as level a playing field as between the standard of EU produced livestock products as those imported into the EU.

I fully support the policy that animal products imported into the EU from Third Countries meet standards at least equivalent to those required for production in, and trade between, EU Member States.

In this context I have been in direct contact with the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Mr Markos Kyprianou concerning the sanitary rules applying to the import of livestock products, especially beef, into the European Union.

The Commissioner has assured me that the Commission will not hesitate to take the appropriate protection measures if a product, imported from a third country or produced in the domestic market represents a risk for the health of EC consumers, livestock or plants. He has pointed to the adoption of safeguard measures in relation to imports, for example in the matter of dealing with the risk to the EU of the spread of high pathogenic avian influenza, in the finding of residues of unauthorised substances in poultry meat and in the quick and proportionate protective measures applied to imports of beef as a result of the recent outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) demonstrate the Commission's primary objective of maintaining the high sanitary status of the Community and respecting the EU's commitment under the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS agreement).

I have more recently brought the attention of the Commissioner to the findings of an Irish delegation of farmers and journalists who visited the meat producing regions in Brazil and my Department is seeking assurances from the Commission that the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) will undertake further missions to Brazil to evaluate the implementation of action plans submitted by the Brazilian authorities following FVO missions carried out last year. At a recent meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health where the matter was again raised by Ireland, the Commission indicated to Ireland that a FVO mission is being planned to take place some time before the end of the summer.

In the meantime additional health certification requirements have been introduced for imported beef from Brazil under Commission Decision 2006/259/EC requiring guarantees concerning animal contacts, vaccination programmes and surveillance. These certification provisions took effect from 31 March 2006 and they are checked by the EU approved Border Inspection Posts through which all 3rd country imports must first be submitted.

Farm Waste Management.

Jack Wall

Question:

113 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of applications that have been made to her Department for the farm waste management scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24612/06]

I take it that the Deputy is referring to the revised Farm Waste Management Scheme introduced last March.

A total of 4,378 applications under that Scheme have been received in the Department up to the end of last week.

Animal Diseases.

Simon Coveney

Question:

114 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the funding provided by her Department for the control of varroa in bees; the funding available to beekeepers to control the mite in question; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23616/06]

Funding for research into the control of Varroa in honey bees has been the main element of my Department's apiculture programme.

From 2002 to 2005, a total of €195,996 was provided to Teagasc towards the development of integrated biological control methods under Irish conditions. Expenditure of a further €150,000 has been approved for 2006 and 2007 for this research programme. The programme, which was drawn up in close collaboration with the Federation of Irish Beekeepers Associations, is aimed at devising an integrated management strategy involving the use of chemical and biotechnical methods and the deployment of Varroa resistant bees. The programme is 50% co-funded by the EU. No funding is provided to individual beekeepers.

My Department has also given financial support towards updating the Teagasc booklet entitled 'The Varroa Mite in honeybees'. This publication provides useful reference material for beekeepers on Varroa detection, monitoring, control and treatment.

Damien English

Question:

115 Mr. English asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps which are being taken to protect this country from foot and mouth disease in view of the prevalence of foot and mouth disease in Brazil, and the inadequate tagging and traceability in that country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23598/06]

As a member of the EU and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ireland is in a position to avail of opportunities for trade that are essential for the development of our open economy. Membership of these organizations also brings reciprocal trade obligations. All imports into the EU must come from third countries or areas of third countries that have been approved by the EU authorities for export to the EU.

I fully support the policy that animal products imported into the EU from Third Countries meet standards at least equivalent to those required for production in, and trade between, EU Member States. In this context I have been in direct contact with the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Mr Markos Kyprianou, concerning the sanitary rules applying to the import of livestock products, especially beef, into the European Union.

The Commissioner has assured me that the Commission will not hesitate to take the appropriate protection measures if a product, imported from a third country or produced in the domestic market represents a risk for the health of EC consumers, livestock or plants. He has pointed to the adoption of safeguard measures in relation to imports, for example in the matter of dealing with the risk to the EU of the spread of high pathogenic avian influenza, in the finding of residues of unauthorised substances in poultry meat and in the quick and proportionate protective measures applied to imports of beef as a result of the recent outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) demonstrate the Commission's primary objective of maintaining the high sanitary status of the Community and respecting the EU's commitment under the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS agreement).

A EU Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) inspection to evaluate animal health and public health control systems, traceability and certification procedures in place in Brazil was carried out in September of last year. In December the FVO completed a second mission that year to evaluate the control of residues and contaminants in live animals and animal products, including controls on veterinary medical products in that country. The FVO recently published its findings following a period of consultation with the Brazilian competent authorities. These reports, as well as all previous FVO reports on inspection of third countries' controls for export, may be accessed from the EU Commission's website.

The reports comment on the structure, organisation and tasks of the Brazilian Competent Authorities and have listed a number of recommendations to the authorities to address deficiencies, some of which are of long standing, recorded in the course of the FVO audits. The Commission has confirmed to my Department that the action plans in question have now been received and that they are being assessed by the FVO. The FVO will report on its assessments to the European Commission and, where action is considered necessary to ensure the safety of food and the protection of consumers and animals in the EU, that appropriate proposals would be formulated and submitted to the Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal Health on which My Department is represented.

I have more recently brought to the attention of the Commission the findings of an Irish delegation of farmers and journalists who visited the meat producing regions in Brazil and my Department is seeking assurances from the Commission that the FVO will undertake further missions to Brazil to evaluate the implementation of its action plan. At a recent meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health where the matter was again raised by Ireland, the Commission indicated to Ireland that a FVO mission is being planned to take place some time before the end of the summer.

In the meantime additional health certification requirements have been introduced for imported beef from Brazil under Commission Decision 2006/259/EC requiring additional guarantees concerning animal contacts, vaccination programmes and surveillance. These certification provisions took effect from 31 March 2006 and are checked by the EU approved Border Inspection Posts through which all 3rd country imports must first be submitted.

I should add that in the current WTO discussions in the Council, I have always pressed very strongly the non-trade aspect of market access, which I regard as a crucial element in the overall negotiations. I have taken every opportunity to remind the Commission once again of the importance of equivalence in standards, particularly in relation to all exporting countries, including Brazil.

Energy Crops Scheme.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

116 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the bond for 2005 growers of oilseed rape crop grown for bio-fuels will be repaid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24624/06]

Chapter 8 of Commission Regulation (EC) No 1973/2004 provides for the payment of aid to applicants under the Scheme of Aid for Energy Crops, before the raw material is processed. The aid, which is payable in addition to the Single Payment entitlements due to the applicant, is granted in respect of areas where the production of the raw material is covered by a contract between the farmer and a processor.

Where payment in advance is made to farmers, however, an appropriate security must be lodged by the processor, as guarantee that the Scheme requirements regarding processing of the crops will be complied with, after payment of the aid. This system of advance payments, secured by bonds, is common to very many EU schemes and is vital in releasing payments to scheme participants at the earliest possible date.

My Department releases the relevant securities to processors immediately on receipt of confirmation that the necessary processing of the raw materials has been completed. The verification process in respect of 2005 production is currently under way, with returns awaited from the processors concerned.

Animal Diseases.

Michael Noonan

Question:

117 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she is satisfied regarding the measures currently in place to protect this country against an outbreak of avian flu; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23606/06]

The decline of the avian influenza epidemic in wild birds, which has affected a total of 13 Member States since last February, has continued this month, with no cases in wild birds being notified throughout the European Union to the 21st June. In May there were 17 cases, compared with 200 cases in February, 362 cases in March and 162 cases in April, giving a total of 741 notifications since February.

The position throughout Europe is one of relative stability, though there were concerns in early June, following an outbreak in Hungary on a free range goose farm in the south of the country. To the 21st June, a total of 15 confirmed and suspicious cases have been notified. Very stringent measures have been taken by the Hungarian authorities, with more than 500,000 poultry killed and destroyed. This brings the total number of outbreaks to date in poultry flocks in the EU to five.

Romania has now reported 127 confirmed outbreaks in 19 counties since the disease re-appeared in mid-May. A total of almost 1 million poultry have been killed and destroyed in that country with the number of outbreaks dropping significantly in the last two weeks. Control measures and additional biosecurity measures remain in place and EU safeguard decisions have been taken with regard to imports of poultry and poultry products.

I have, since last September, put in place a comprehensive range of contingency measures aimed at minimising the risk of the virus being introduced to Ireland and ensuring that the Department is equipped, in the event of an outbreak, to ensure its very early identification and speedy eradication. A particular focus in terms of minimising the risk posed to our poultry flocks is to encourage very high levels of biosecurity on poultry farms and the Department has written to over 8,000 poultry farmers enclosing an Information Booklet for Registered Poultry Flockowners. The main objective is to avoid contact between wild birds and domestic poultry, their litter and feed. Further advice issued to all poultry flockowners advising them of the need to ensure that all water sourced from surface supplies used for poultry is treated to inactivate any viruses. This is a key message from my Department, which we have repeated given the potential for the virus to be spread by water to which wild birds may have had access.

In February, I appointed an Expert Advisory Group, comprised of veterinary, scientific, medical and ornithological experts to advise me in relation to animal health control measures. That Group has now met on three occasions and has consistently concluded that the control measures currently in place are appropriate, given the current level of risk posed by avian 'flu. The day-to-day disease management responsibility and planning with regard to avian 'flu rests within my Department.

Contingency planning is continuing and contact is being maintained with various State and non State agencies, whose assistance may be required in the event of a case/outbreak. My Department intends to meet as many of those agencies as possible next month to brief them on recent developments and to discuss further the particular roles they may be asked to play.

Due to the potential public health aspect associated with avian 'flu, my Department has engaged the services of an Occupational Health Specialist and I am also availing of the assistance of the School of Public Health in UCD who have just finalised occupational health protocols for those involved in disease control activities. The document, which is available to all of those agencies who may be involved in disease control activities in support of my Department and which has been posted on my Department's website, identifies the staff potentially exposed to the virus, indicates the circumstances where potential exposure to the virus is higher or lower and the appropriate risk reduction methods to be employed.

In the event of an outbreak in either wild birds or domestic poultry, the immediate measures to be put into place are provided for in EU legislation and have already been put into effect in those Member States affected by the disease. My Department has circulated all registered poultry flockowners setting out the measures to be implemented in the event of avian 'flu in wild birds or an outbreak in poultry and the implications of those measures for those located in the areas. This will be updated as further modifications to EU legislation take place in the light of the recent experiences of the various Member States with this disease.

I have recently relaxed controls to facilitate pigeon racing from a limited area in France. Pigeon racing is already allowed between the United Kingdom and Ireland. Specific conditions are attached to licences issued either to import birds to transit through the State or to export birds to France to be released to race back. Should the risk assessment on which these decisions were made change at any point, to suggest an increased threat, I will not hesitate to reverse these decisions.

I am satisfied, given the range of measures in place that our contingency arrangements are currently proportionate to the current risk. They are being kept under constant review and may be modified accordingly.

Finally, because of the obvious mutual concerns shared by authorities on both sides of the border, there has been and continues to be close ongoing contact between my Department and DARD in Belfast and DEFRA in Britain.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

118 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when she expects to receive the final report of the World Trade Organisation Disputes Panel on the claims by the US, Canada, and others that the de facto moratorium on the approval of new genetically modified products within the EU constituted an economic barrier to trade; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24587/06]

The WTO panel has recently issued its Final Report to the parties to the dispute (the EU, Argentina, Canada and the US). According to WTO rules, the Final Panel Report remains confidential until it has been translated into all the official languages of the WTO and has been publicly circulated. The Report does not become binding until it has been endorsed by WTO Membership at a meeting of the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) — generally held within sixty days unless an appeal is lodged.

The EU will decide on the next steps at the WTO level on the basis of a careful analysis of the final report.

Question No. 119 answered with QuestionNo. 65.
Question No. 120 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

Fruit and Vegetable Sector.

John Carty

Question:

121 Mr. Carty asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the assistance available to the seed potato sector; and her plans for the sector. [24472/06]

In August 2005 I announced a new scheme of investment aid for the development of the seed potato sector under the National Development Plan. The scheme aims to speed up improvements in the marketing infrastructure and to improve efficiency and productivity of the seed potato sector. Grant assistance to seed potato producers towards the capital costs of equipment and facilities for the production, storage and marketing of seed potatoes is being provided.

The second phase of this scheme was announced recently under which €1.5m is available in 2006. To date 16 applications have been received and these are currently being processed by my Department.

Dairy Industry.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

122 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the action she intends to take to further promote alternative markets abroad in view of the fact that Ireland is 300 per cent self-sufficient in dairying and beef; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24611/06]

As regards dairy products, I am very pleased to report that this sector has enjoyed a number of successful years on international and EU markets and exports of dairy products and ingredients accounted for €2 billion of total agri-food exports in 2005. Over 80% of Irish Dairy Production is exported to world markets across a broad range of products including butter, milk powders, cheese, infant formula, food ingredients and functional foods.

I have worked hard to assist in the development of new and existing markets for Irish dairy products through ensuring that all the market aid mechanisms available are deployed in an effective manner so as to enable the dairy sector consolidate and grow its share of international markets. I acknowledge and welcome the investment by Irish dairy processors in R&D which will continue the drive towards greater levels of innovation and diversity in product mix and will help maintain our competitiveness in the face of challenges ahead.

The dairy market outlook for 2006 foresees the international dairy market facing renewed pressure as increased output levels from New Zealand, Australia, the US and Argentina impact on the market. Despite this increased competition, world prices are expected to remain relatively stable and global demand for dairy products is also set to rise. I am satisfied that Ireland is well positioned to take full advantage of such international trading opportunities, however it must be remembered that energy prices and the value of the US dollar/Euro exchange rates continue to be important factors in determining the competitiveness of Irish and EU traders on the global markets.

The future development of the dairy sector is a priority for me and I will provide whatever assistance I can to encourage the sector to improve its position and to develop new markets in the increasingly competitive international markets in which it operates.

I am also committed to broadening access for Irish beef on all export markets. My Department works closely with An Bord Bia and the Department of Foreign Affairs to further this aim.

We produce about 520,000 tonnes of beef annually, over 90% of which is exported. More than half of those exports go to the UK with about 40% landing in the high value Continental EU markets. This excellent result has been achieved largely by effective marketing and promotion by the industry and Bord Bia and the delivery of a high quality, competitively priced product. The outlook for Irish beef exports is also positive with the decreasing production trend throughout Continental Europe. The EU is predicted to have a beef supply deficit of 350,000 tonnes in 2006 with this shortfall offering an opportunity for Irish beef producers to further consolidate their position in this market. While there has been a significant reduction in reliance on third country markets in recent years, these destinations will continue to be important alternative outlets for Irish beef and I will continue our efforts to ensure that as many as possible of these Third Countries are open to our exports.

My Department has responded to developments on the UAE market and the prospects for reopening that market are good. Approaches have also been made in recent months to a number of countries which have potential export opportunities including Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Kuwait, Israel, Japan, China and South Africa. I am hopeful that there will be progress in a number of these markets in the future.

Poultry Industry.

Jimmy Devins

Question:

123 Dr. Devins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans for the poultry sector in view of difficulties resulting from the outbreak of avian influenza in other European countries. [24479/06]

In April the Council of Agriculture Ministers adopted Regulation 679/2006 which provides a legal basis for exceptional market support measures for the poultry sector where there are serious market disturbances directly attributed to a loss in consumer confidence arising from the avian influenza situation.

I submitted a proposal to the Commission requesting co-funding and approval for a range of measures to assist those in the industry who suffered financial losses arising from the recent disturbances in the poultry market. These proposed measures included schemes of payment to breeders who had to destroy hatching eggs and reduce their breeding stock capacity, to growers and processors who had to reduce throughputs and to operators who had to carry unusually high stock levels of poultry meat due to a virtual collapse in our export markets.

A Commission regulation was adopted at the Poultry Management Committee on 21 June last which includes several of the measures in my proposal. Some of the details of this regulation will need to be amended at a meeting of the same Committee which is due to consider the matter again on 5 July.

So far, the Commission has refused to approve any measures in relation to accumulated stocks of poultry meat. I along with a number of other Member States raised this issue at Council last week and I will continue to press for some assistance under this heading.

Dairy Industry.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

124 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the action she is taking to implement the Prospectus Report on Dairy Farming; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24622/06]

A strategic study of the Irish Dairy Industry, now known as the Prospectus Report, was commissioned by my Department in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland and the dairy industry itself and published in 2003. The Report made very clear recommendations on the response required from the dairy industry to meet international competitive challenges as well as the change in emphasis from market support to direct income support. The focus has to be firmly on increased efficiency and competitiveness at all levels of the industry.

The commissioning and carrying out of this study was and could only be, an initial step. Response at individual company level to the issues raised by Prospectus is a matter for decision by the companies themselves. My Department met with Enterprise Ireland, the dairy processors and their representatives with a view to identifying the best way of achieving the objectives set out in the report. I will continue to encourage the Irish dairy industry to implement the recommendations and I will examine all opportunities which would increase the efficiency, competitiveness and market focus of the Irish dairy industry.

EU Directives.

Joe Costello

Question:

125 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if her attention has been drawn to changes in her Department’s method of dealing with the implementation of EU agriculture related Directives, in view of the European Court of Justice’s judgment in March 2004 that Ireland was in breach of its EU law obligations in respect of the transposition of the Nitrates Directive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24591/06]

My Department keeps under regular review the implementation of Directives for which it has primary responsibility. The implementation of the Nitrates Directive is a matter in the first instance for the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Liam Twomey

Question:

126 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her Department’s plans to evaluate the economic implications of the use of genetically modified organisms; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23633/06]

I wish to inform the Deputy that Teagasc has an ongoing programme of research that investigates the potential risks and benefits associated with the growing of GM crops in Ireland including, inter alia, the economic implications. Preliminary research completed by them to date does indicate that the cultivation of certain crops with certain modifications may provide a financial incentive to the Irish farmer.

In order to establish greater clarity in the matter I requested Teagasc to carry out an evaluation of the possible national economic implications for the Agri-Food industry from the use of GMOs in crop and livestock production. Teagasc have completed their study which was based on two scenarios:

(i) The economic implications of only allowing the importation into Ireland of certified GM-free soyabean and maize livestock feed ingredients;

and

(ii) The economic implications of GM-free crop cultivation in Ireland.

In the first scenario the study showed that substantial additional costs would be placed on the livestock sector, particularly on specialist dairy and beef farmers, if they were to use only certified GM free soya and maize in feeding stuffs. In the second scenario the study examined five hypothetical GM crops which could be grown here — herbicide tolerant sugar beet, Septoria resistant winter wheat, Fusarium resistant winter wheat, Rhyncosporium resistant spring barley and blight resistant potatoes. This study showed that increased profits could be generated for growers of these crops compared to their conventional equivalent. However, the study showed that there is a significant cost in relation to Identity Preservation for conventional growers in a coexistence arrangement.

Farm Incomes.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

127 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the next report of the Steering Group on Farm Household Incomes will be ready; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24603/06]

I have no plans to call together a further Steering Group on Farm Household Incomes. The recent introduction of the EU survey of Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) conducted by the Central Statistics Office has assisted greatly in the collection of information on farm household income.

It should be noted that Chapter 2 of the Department's Annual Review and Outlook 2005/2006 contains comprehensive information on farm income and farm household income from different sources such as the Central Statistics Office, Teagasc's National Farm Survey, and EUROSTAT.

Beef Imports.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

128 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she has satisfied herself in relation to Brazilian in beef imports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23630/06]

As a member of the EU and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ireland is in a position to avail of opportunities for trade that are essential for the development of our open economy. Membership of these organizations also brings reciprocal trade obligations. All imports into the EU must come from third countries or areas of third countries that have been approved by the EU authorities for export to the EU. In the current WTO discussions in the Council, I have always pressed very strongly the non-trade aspect of market access, which I regard as a crucial element in the overall negotiations. I have taken every opportunity to remind the Commission once again of the importance of equivalence in standards, particularly in relation to all exporting countries, including Brazil.

I fully support the policy that animal products imported into the EU from Third Countries meet standards at least equivalent to those required for production in, and trade between, EU Member States. In this context I have been in direct contact with the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Mr Markos Kyprianou, concerning the sanitary rules applying to the import of livestock products, especially beef, into the European Union.

The Commissioner has assured me that the Commission will not hesitate to take the appropriate protection measures if a product, imported from a third country or produced in the domestic market represents a risk for the health of EC consumers, livestock or plants. He has pointed to the adoption of safeguard measures in relation to imports, for example in the matter of dealing with the risk to the EU of the spread of high pathogenic avian influenza, in the finding of residues of unauthorised substances in poultry meat and in the quick and proportionate protective measures applied to imports of beef as a result of the recent outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) as demonstrating the Commission's primary objective of maintaining the high sanitary status of the Community and respecting the EU's commitment under the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS agreement).

A EU Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) inspection to evaluate animal health and public health control systems, traceability and certification procedures in place in Brazil was carried out in September of last year. In December the FVO completed a second mission that year to evaluate the control of residues and contaminants in live animals and animal products, including controls on veterinary medical products in that country. The FVO recently published its findings following a period of consultation with the Brazilian competent authorities. These reports, as well as all previous FVO reports on inspection of third countries' controls for export, may be accessed from the EU Commission's website.

These reports comment on the structure, organisation and tasks of the Brazilian Competent Authorities and have listed a number of recommendations to the authorities to address deficiencies, some of which are of long standing, recorded in the course of its audits. The Commission has confirmed to my Department that the action plans in question have now been received and that they are being assessed by the FVO. The FVO will report on its assessments to the European Commission and, where action is considered necessary to ensure the safety of food and the protection of consumers and animals in the EU, that appropriate proposals would be formulated and submitted to the Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal Health on which My Department is represented.

I have more recently brought to the attention of the Department the findings of an Irish Delegation of farmers and journalists who visited the meat producing regions in Brazil and my Department is seeking assurances from the Commission that the FVO will undertake further missions to Brazil to evaluate the implementation of its action plan. At a recent meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health where the matter was again raised by Ireland, the Commission indicated to Ireland that a FVO mission is being planned to take place some time before the end of the summer.

In the meantime additional health certification requirements have been introduced for imported beef from Brazil under Commission Decision 2006/259/EC requiring guarantees concerning animal contacts, vaccination programmes and surveillance. These certification provisions took effect from 31 March 2006 and they are checked by the EU approved Border Inspection Posts through which all 3rd country imports must first be submitted.

Farm Inspections.

Jim Glennon

Question:

129 Mr. Glennon asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans for inspections under the cross compliance requirements of the single farm payments scheme in 2006; and the way in which this compares with the level of inspections in 2005 and 2004. [24478/06]

The rate of on-farm inspections for cross-compliance in Ireland in 2005 was 1% of farmers for each Statutory Management Requirement (SMR) other than identification and registration of bovine animals where 5% of producers were inspected as this level is prescribed under the relevant Regulations. The inspection visits are integrated with ground (eligibility) inspections with a view to ensuring, as far as possible, that only one visit is made to each farm. In this context inspections under the Disadvantaged Areas Compensatory Allowance scheme are also integrated with the eligibility and cross-compliance inspections under the Single Payment Scheme. This resulted in a total of just over 10,000 inspections in 2005.

My Department initiated discussions with the European Commission earlier this year with a view to ensuring that only the minimum number of inspections would be carried out in 2006 and subsequent years. The result of those discussions was that for 2006, Ireland can select the population of farmers to be checked for cross-compliance from within the 5% population to be selected for on-farm ground (eligibility) inspections. When carrying out inspections in respect of the 1% of applicants under SMRs other than identification and registration of animals, my Department is obliged to check for compliance for all of the SMRs pertaining to the applicant. My Department must also ensure that at least 5% of producers are inspected under the SMRs governing identification and registration of bovine animals. As a result of these changes, the number of farmers to be inspected under Cross-Compliance will reduce by some 2,000 from just over 10,000 in 2005 to just over 8,000 in 2006. This compares with some 18,500 inspections carried out under the old coupled regime in 2004.

Departmental Agencies.

Richard Bruton

Question:

130 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of meetings of the Food Agency Co-operation Council in 2004 and 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23638/06]

The Food Agency Co-operation Council was established in 2000 under the aegis of my Department to promote the fullest practical co-operation between the State Agencies involved in the food industry, in the interests of the optimum development of the industry. The Council met on 20 occasions between 2000 and 2003. During 2004 and 2005 priority was given instead to meetings of the food development agencies directly concerned with the food programme components of the National Development Plan 2000-2006. Two such meetings took place in 2004, one in 2005 and one in 2006 to assess progress on the Plan in preparation for meetings of the NDP Monitoring Committees.

The Council has produced a number of publications, which were well received by the industry. In 2001 it was instrumental in the drawing up of a Human Resource Development programme for the food processing industry and produced "Market Trends — Implications for Suppliers and State Agency Initiatives". A "National Food Incident Management Plan" was launched in 2002 and a "Market Led New Product Development Guide" was drawn up by the Council and launched in April 2003 to provide guidance to food and drink companies on best practice in this area. The Guide has since been promulgated to County Enterprise Boards. The Council has played a significant role in increasing co-operation between the state agencies in the food area and a number of "Memorandums of Understanding" have been agreed between agencies.

In the light of a more market orientated CAP, the 2015 Agri-Vision Report and the Enterprise Strategy Report my Department has examined future co-operation arrangements between agencies for the most effective development of the agri-food industry. Arising from this, I have included in the Plan of Action to implement the 2015 Agri-Vision Report, the establishment of a high level group of CEOs of food agencies, which will subsume and develop the Council's role, and a Food Industry Committee. Both will be chaired at Ministerial level and will ensure a consolidated approach towards the development of the food sector as a whole and identify and address issues impeding the development of the sector.

Food Imports.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

131 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the breakdown of all the products surrendered by being put in the amnesty bins at airports here for surrender of animal product that has been inadvertently carried into Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24595/06]

The personal import into the EU for one's own consumption of meat, meat products or milk products by passengers coming from third countries has, since January 2003, been prohibited under Community law. Officers of my Department are deployed to carry out passenger interviews and bag searches on a random basis at ports and airports where travellers from third countries arrive. The interception of illegal imports from passengers whose journeys commenced within the EU is also being carried out.

The following table provides a breakdown of the animal products surrendered by passengers during 2005 and 2006 to date.

2005

Product

Amount Kgs

Meat/Meat Product

4,998

Milk/Milk Product

178.5

Total

5,156.5

2006 (To 31/5/2006)

Product

Amount Kgs

Meat/Meat Product

4,195.5

Milk/Milk Product

125

Total

4,310.5

Agrifood Sector.

John Curran

Question:

132 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her key priorities for the development of the agri-food sector. [24474/06]

My key priorities for the agri-food sector are to increase its competitiveness, strengthen its emphasis on innovation and research and improve its consumer focus. The actions to achieve these priorities are set out in the Agri-Vision 2015 Action Plan which I launched recently.

This Plan is based on a well-founded belief that the Irish agri-food sector, including our farmers, and our food and drink manufacturers, can compete with the best in the world when that objective is pursued with sufficient focus, determination and skill. The Plan sets our a new vision for the future of the sector in the light of new changes impacting on it such as the change to a decoupled payments regime, a more liberalised trade policy, changes in lifestyle, the clear emergence of technology and R&D as significant market drivers and major changes in the structures of farming and retailing.

This Plan sets out our positive vision for the future of the sector. It underlines the fact that delivering safe, high-quality, nutritious food, produced in a sustainable manner, to well-informed consumers in high-value markets is the optimum road for the future of the Irish agri-food sector. There are over 160 actions that are being or will be taken to fulfil this vision and the process of implementing these actions is now underway.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Tom Hayes

Question:

133 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her position on the release of genetically modified crops; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23642/06]

The ‘Report of the Interdepartmental Group on Modern Biotechnology' published by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in October 2000 established the Irish Government's positive but precautionary position on biotechnology. This position was based on the potential that biotechnology offers in the fields of medicine, health, agriculture, etc., while at the same time recognising that caution must be exercised to ensure that food safety and the environment are protected.

EU Directive 2001/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms lays down a binding, community-wide, framework for regulating the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms into the environment, including for the purposes of field trials and cultivation. Taking into account the precautionary principle, it seeks to ensure that high levels of protection are afforded to the environment and human health and requires, inter alia, the carrying out of a comprehensive environmental risk assessment, as part of the notification process, and post release monitoring. Any environmental risk to plants in the vicinity of the cultivation of genetically modified crops is considered in the foregoing context.

While responsibility for decisions on proposals for field trials rests with the EPA, responsibility for the establishment of measures to ensure the effective and efficient coexistence of authorised GM crops alongside non GM crops rests with my Department.

Food Labelling.

Liz McManus

Question:

134 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will provide this Deputy with a copy of her Department’s submission to the EU consultative document on Labelling, Competitiveness, Consumer Information and Better Regulation in the EU; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24593/06]

The Directorate General for Health & Consumer Protection asked Member States to submit any observations it has on food labelling as part of its overall examination of the current food labelling legislation. The document outlining Ireland's concerns was submitted to DG Sanco by the Department of Health & Children which has overall responsibility for general food labelling legislation.

Horticulture Industry.

John Carty

Question:

135 Mr. Carty asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the progress in expanding the horticulture sector here. [24471/06]

The farm-gate production value of the horticulture sector continues to expand and is now estimated at €300 million.

The key issue which has impacted on the development of the horticulture industry as a whole in recent years is the increased concentration at retail level with the consequent significant change in the supply chain. My Department, recognising the marketing advantages and challenges of consolidation and scale, has contributed to the development of the industry, particularly through its grant aid schemes under the National Development Plan. These schemes have been a catalyst for investment and growth and have assisted producers to upgrade or develop new production facilities and have also enabled commercial enterprises to improve marketing and processing facilities.

The scheme to assist capital investment on farms under the National Development Plan aims to promote the specialisation and diversification of on-farm activities, improvement in the quality of products and to facilitate environmentally friendly practices and improved working conditions on farms. Since 2001 nearly €13m in grant aid has been paid to horticultural producers throughout the country to support investments to the value of €38m. In 2006 a further €6.5m grant package will fund projects to the investment value of €18.5m in respect of 163 applications recently approved by my Department. All areas of horticulture are eligible for the scheme.

Demand in the consumer and food service sectors is buoyant, both for fresh and prepared chilled produce and convenient value-added products. The retail value of prepared horticultural produce was estimated to be €59.8m in 2004, representing a two-fold increase on 2001 and there are real investment opportunities and challenges for development of this sector.

Under my Department's Capital Investment Scheme for the Marketing and Processing of Agricultural Products a total of €10.5m has been awarded in the horticultural sector under the NDP to date. €7m was awarded in respect of 15 projects in the Fruit and Vegetable sector earlier this year.

In addition, horticulture producers benefit from EU aid under the Producer Organisation scheme. €5.6m was paid to 10 recognised Producer Organisations in 2005. The development of Producer Organisations under EU Regulations has made a very important contribution to the development of the sector as it enables producers to benefit from their combined strength in the production and marketing of their product.

Farm Consolidation.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

136 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the action she is taking to ensure a greater level of farm consolidation is encouraged; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24621/06]

Developing scale and efficiency is an important component to having a commercial full-time farming sector. The Government has a number of incentives in place that encourage greater levels of land mobility and farm consolidation. These include:

An Early Retirement Scheme pension of up to €13,515 for a period of up to 10 years on farms transferred by gift, sale or lease.

An installation aid grant of €9,520 for young trained farmers.

Capital Gains Tax — Retirement Relief for farmers over 55 years.

A rental income tax exemption of up to €15,000 for farmers over 40 years who lease out land for a period of 7 years or more.

A rental income tax exemption of up to €10,000 for farmers over 40 years who lease out land for a period of 5 to 7 years.

A 90% Agricultural Relief from Capital Acquisitions Tax.

The provision of full Stamp Duty relief for young trained farmers.

A specific measure to deal with the issue of farm consolidation was introduced in Budget 2005 to deal with situations where farmers wish to swap land to reduce the fragmentation of their holdings. In these cases there is Stamp Duty relief available for land swapped for the purpose of farm consolidation.

Such incentives help to improve land mobility through early farm transfer, encouraging leasing and land swaps. These, in turn, help improve the availability of land to farmers who wish to enter farming, allow them to increase the size of their holdings and to improve efficiency through the reduction of farm fragmentation.

Animal Remedies Regulations.

Billy Timmins

Question:

137 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she is taking to provide a countrywide and weekend veterinary service for the issue of prescriptions for animal remedies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23632/06]

The Deputy will be aware that veterinary practices are primarily commercial entities and their locations are driven by commercial realities. However, in so far as State involvement is concerned, I can point to a number of recent measures which will alleviate difficulties which may arise in certain parts of the country. Under the new Veterinary Practice Act 2005, effective from 1 January 2006, there is a provision which for the first time enables the Veterinary Council to recognize qualifications from applicants in Third Countries generally. This, taken with the enlargement of the EU, will make for improved availability of practitioners to meet shortfalls that may arise on the supply side. Furthermore, the Animal Remedies Regulations 2005, which I signed into law on the 17 November 2005, contain a number of measures which facilitate veterinary practitioners and their farmer clients to avoid difficulties in this area. These include changes to the prescribing rules in terms of the ending of the requirement to clinically examine an animal prior to writing a prescription and the extended validity period of prescriptions. The Regulations also include a provision, which in a genuine emergency situation and subject to appropriate safeguards, allows a pharmacist to supply a prescription medicine in advance of receiving a written prescription. Finally, I understand that Údarás na Gaeltachta provides funding to subsidise veterinary practices in remote areas in consultation with the local farming community.

Forestry Industry.

Donie Cassidy

Question:

138 Mr. Cassidy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the value of the forestry sector to the economy; and the number of jobs involved in the sector. [24468/06]

The forestry sector provides a high value input to the national economy, and makes a significant contribution to the economic well being of rural communities.

Recent economic data reveals that forestry's contribution to the economy is 0.3% of GDP. While it is difficult to provide economic values for the non-timber benefits of Irish forests, the 2004 Bacon Review estimated an annual value in the region of €88.4 million for the recreation, carbon-storage and biodiversity benefits.

Some 16,000 private plantations have been established, the vast majority of these by farmers. In 2005, a total of €57.8 million in forestry premiums was paid out to forest owners. In addition, it is estimated that forestry generates employment for a further 16,000 people, directly and indirectly.

Live Exports.

Peter Power

Question:

139 Mr. P. Power asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on live cattle exports and cattle slaughterings in meat plants here to date in 2006 compared with the same period in 2005. [24470/06]

Live exports continue to be an important outlet for our cattle, providing an essential element of competition with the beef trade. Following a near 40% increase in such exports in 2005, the strong upward trend has continued in 2006. The live trade to the EU remains strong with 138,000 head exported to date in 2006 against 89,000 for the same period last year, an increase of about 55%. Within that, the calf trade is exceptionally good at 87,000 head, which is up 80% on last year probably mostly reflecting the difficulties in the poultry sector in the earlier part of the year. As forecast, live exports to third countries have declined significantly this year, this trade being now almost non-existent due largely to the removal of export refunds last December on live cattle exports other than for breeding. Consequently the live trade will, in the future, be centralised in the closer EU market, which due to its declining livestock production has a demand for such cattle.

Total cattle slaughterings for 2006 to date amounts to over 750,000 head. This represents an increase of over 91,000 on the same period in 2005, a rise of 14%. This figure signifies a return to the levels last seen in 2003. The kill for the year as a whole is, however, expected to level out at approximately 5% up on last year.

National Genotyping Programme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

140 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans to review the National Genotyping Programme; her views on extending the provisions of the scheme, including the payment of compensation, to rams that were genotyped prior to 1 September 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23597/06]

The enhancements introduced under the National Genotyping Programme in 2005 only applied to sheep genotyped between 1 September 2005 and 18 November 2005. The enhancements included the payment of a flat rate of compensation in respect of any ram which, when tested, was found to be in one of the categories which are susceptible or highly susceptible to scrapie, provided that such rams were slaughtered on or before 30 November 2005. I have consistently emphasised that compensation payments would be made only in respect of animals genotyped during the qualifying period and, consequently, the issue of making compensation payments in respect of rams genotyped prior to September 2005 does not arise.

On 15 March 2006, I announced further measures worth up to €1.5 million to encourage greater participation in the National Genotyping Programme (NGP). The initiative involves the payment by the Department of a contribution towards laboratory testing costs (€12 per test for male and female animals genotyped) and the payment of compensation for rams tested on or after 1 January 2006 and found to be susceptible or most susceptible to scrapie. Rams qualifying for compensation must be removed for slaughter on or before 1 September 2006 and the total amount of compensation payable to any one claimant in 2006 is capped at €1,200.

Question No. 141 answered with QuestionNo. 74.
Question No. 142 answered with QuestionNo. 92.
Question No. 143 answered with QuestionNo. 109.
Question No. 144 answered with QuestionNo. 65.

Farm Waste Management.

Pat Breen

Question:

145 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps which she is taking to ensure that farm building grants cover the increasing cost of construction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23601/06]

The Standard Costings used for the revised Farm Waste Management Scheme are currently under review.

Revised costings will be introduced following completion of that review.

Question No. 146 answered with QuestionNo. 64.

Michael Ring

Question:

147 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the grant aid which will be made available to small farmers to manage rainwater under the nitrates action plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23644/06]

With regard to rainwater, the technical specifications for farm buildings operated by my Department for the purposes of the revised Farm Waste Management Scheme require the installation of adequate arrangements for the separation of clean and dirty water as part of the conditions of any new investment.

In addition, I have added the installation of guttering on existing buildings as a further new eligible item in the terms of the revised Scheme.

Milk Quota.

Dan Neville

Question:

148 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans for the allocation of milk quota; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23621/06]

In March I announced my intention to move to a more open market system for transferring milk quotas, which will come into effect on 1st April 2007. It must be borne in mind that over the last five years on average less than 4% of the total milk quota changed hands each year under the existing restructuring scheme.

My Department and I are progressing with the ongoing consultation process on the detailed arrangements to give effect to my decision. This has comprised meetings with the relevant farm organisations and with representatives of the milk-processing sector and individual co-ops. The issue of future milk quota policy has also been discussed with the participating farm organisations at the partnership negotiations. Furthermore, there has been contact with colleagues in other countries with experience of operating more open market systems.

We are now continuing with a comprehensive analysis of the issues raised and the options for dealing with them, with a view to designing an appropriate transfer mechanism. Further consultations will take place before finalising the new system, and the operational details will be announced in good time to allow for all parties concerned to make appropriate plans before the start of the 2007/2008 milk quota year.

Question No. 149 answered with QuestionNo. 107.

Sheepmeat Industry.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

150 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a strategy implementation group will be appointed on foot of the recent Sheep Industry Development Strategy Report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24598/06]

The Deputy will be aware that I welcomed the recent publication of this report which sets out positive recommendations for the future development of the sheep sector. It is now very important that all the stakeholders work together to ensure that the required decisions and actions are taken to guarantee the future viability of the sector.

I am now in the process of setting up an agreed implementation structure in association with the main stakeholders involved and expect to be in a position to make an announcement on it in the near future.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Tom Hayes

Question:

151 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans to implement the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Agriculture and Food’s Report on the ERS; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23639/06]

The report of the Joint Committee covered a range of issues and I responded to it in detail. As I explained in my response, a number of the Committee's recommendations are precluded by the EU Regulations under which the current Scheme and its predecessor are operated. I saw some merit in certain other aspects of the Committee's report, specifically those relating to income limits and the maximum age of transferees in the current Scheme. However, this Scheme will close to new applications in December and the practical effect of any such changes would now be very small.

The Committee paid particular attention to two issues. One was the implications of decoupling for retired farmers who had leased out quota as well as land to transferees during the single payment reference period. I believe we have secured the best deal that we could for people in this situation, in spite of the fact that the Commission were unsympathetic at the outset. In family cases, where a farm reverted to the retired farmer at the end of a lease without any entitlements, a family member taking it over will have access to the National Reserve. Retired farmers in the current Scheme who farmed during the reference period can activate entitlements and lease them to their transferees; and at the end of the lease they can either sell the entitlements with or without land or lease the entitlements with land.

The other issue the Joint Committee focused on was the levels of payment under the two Schemes. The European Commission has repeatedly ruled out the idea of indexation in the current Scheme and has pointed out that the rate in the earlier Scheme was set at the maximum amount for co-funding that the Regulation allowed.

Tourism Statistics.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

152 Mr. Kehoe asked the Taoiseach the number of Irish residents who have gone on skiing holidays for the past ten years; and a breakdown of the figures per year. [24763/06]

The CSO does not compile any statistics on the number of Irish residents travelling abroad on skiing holidays. The tourism statistics published by the CSO provide a breakdown distinguishing holidays, business trips, visiting friends or relatives and other reasons for travel. The statistics do not give any further details on the types of foreign holiday taken by Irish residents.

Farm Statistics.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

153 Mr. Durkan asked the Taoiseach the number of full-time farmers in 1996; the number currently engaged in full-time farming; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24979/06]

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

Number of active farms from 1995 to 2003 (the latest data available)

Year

Farmwork is sole occupation of farm owner

Farmwork is not sole occupation of farm owner

Total

No. of Farms (’000)

1995

101.2

51.8

153.0

1997

98.3

49.3

147.6

2000*

78.7

62.6

141.3

2003

77.9

57.2

135.1

*June 2000 Census of Agriculture figure.

Legal Proceedings.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

154 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach the number of extant legal proceedings to which the Attorney General is a party or a notice party in which the constitutional validity or consistency of an enactment has been challenged, indicating the enactments involved and the present stage of those proceedings; the number of those cases in which a Minister of the Government is not also a party, indicating the arrangements in place for consultation with an appropriate Minister on the defence of such proceedings; the number of cases in which the Director of Public Prosecutions or another public authority is also a party, indicating if there are arrangements for joint carriage of the defence of those cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23711/06]

Following is the information requested by the Deputy.

1. The Number of Extant Cases

There are in the order of 664 cases extant where challenges have been made to the constitutionality of acts of the Oireachtas or to Statutory Instruments. This figure includes 85 cases pending where the Road Traffic Act legislation, providing for the use of intoxiliser equipment, is being challenged as being repugnant to the Constitution. It also includes 317 cases involving constitutional challenges to the imposition of nursing home charges. There is also 1 case involving Article 35.4 of the Constitution.

In addition there are ten test cases extant arising from the operation of the Irish Born Child 2005 scheme in cases where applicants were refused leave to remain for various reasons. There are in excess of 80 other such cases in the background and where proceedings have already issued. Challenges are based on constitutional arguments as to right of the family and of the child.

There are approximately 70 to 80 cases challenging the Immigration Act, 1999 (Deportation) Regulations 2002 SI 103 of 2002. Several of these cases have been pleaded in terms that challenge the constitutionality of the regulations.

2. Enactments Involved and Current Stage of Proceedings

Court proceedings have issued and are at different stages of the litigation process to challenge several areas of statutory law including provisions of:

Pharmacy Act, 1962,

Public Health (Tobacco) Acts, 2002 and 2004,

Processed Animal Products Regulations, 2000, · Medical Practitioners Act, 1978, (Part III),

Mental Treatment Acts,

Health Acts, (Equalisation),

Health (Flouridation of Water Supplies) Act, 1960,

Gas Act, 1976,

Refugee Act, 1996,

Immigration Act, 2003,

Immigration Act, 1999,

Deportation Regulations,

Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act, 2000,

Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1965, as amended,

Companies Act, 1963, (S.390),

Bankruptcy Act, 1988 (S.85),

Defence Act, 1954 (and Regulations)

Garda Síochána Discipline Regulations, 1989,

Rules for the Government of Prisons, 1947, (R.63).

Coroners Act, 1962, (S.26(2)),

Civil Legal Aid Act, 1995,

Civil Liability Act, 1961, as amended,

Courts (Establishment and Constitution) Act, 1961 (S.1 & 2(b)), as amended,

Statute of Limitations, 1957,

Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts, 1920-2002,

Rules of Superior Courts (O.22, r.1 — libel and slander),

Equal Status Act, 2000,

Civil Registration Act, 2004 & Regulations (Births, Deaths & Marriages),

Family Law (Divorce) Act, 1996,

Sexual Offences Act, 2001,

Offences Against the State Act, 1939,

Vagrancy (Ireland) Act, 1847,

Sex Offenders Act, 2001 (Ss 7(2), 8(3), 10 & 11),

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1935 (S. 2),

Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994,

Criminal Justice Act 1997 & Prison Rules,

Criminal Justice Act, 1993,

Criminal Justice Act, 1990,

Criminal Justice Act, 1999,

European Arrest Warrant Act, 2003,

Offences Against the Persons Act, 1861,

Prosecution of Offenders Act, 1974, (S.3),

Road Traffic Act, 1994 (S. 41),

Road Traffic Act, 1961, (S. 65),

Proceeds of Crime Act, 1996,

Finance Act, 1992,

Finance Act, 1997,

Finance Act, 2001 (S. 127 (2)) & related provisions,

Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997,

Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act, 1967, as amended,

Social Welfare Acts,

Deceased Wife's Sisters Marriage Act, 1907, as amended,

Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act, 2001,

Electoral Act, 1992, as amended,

Fishery Harbour Centres legislation,

Fishery Harbour Centre (Management, Control, Operation and Development) Bye Laws,

Housing Act, 1966-2004 (Provision of Accommodation),

Housing Act, 1966, S.62.

Housing Act, 1966, (Compulsory Purchase),

Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1992

Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2002,

Derelict Sites Act, 1990,

Planning and Development Act, 2000, Part XIV (Compulsory Purchase),

National Monuments Act, 1930,

Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992.

3. Cases where Minister is not a Party

In all cases, the parties include ‘Ireland and the Attorney General' — the inclusion of the Attorney General as a party is a legal requirement where the constitutionality of legislation is challenged in proceedings taken against the State. In 92 extant cases, Ministers of Government are not named as parties in the action.

4. Arrangements in place for consultation with Minister

In cases where the Minister is a party to the proceedings, instruction on the case is sought from the Department and the Department is kept informed on developments in the case and attend pre hearing consultations. Similarly in the case where a Department may not be a named party but where they have a responsibility for the subject matter of the litigation, it is notified of the proceedings.

Procedures in this respect have been strengthened. New notification procedures have been introduced by the Attorney General to be followed in cases of constitutional challenge and these include arrangements for notification of all pleadings and submissions to the Secretary General of the Department concerned and provide for regular reviews with Departments in constitutional cases. The procedures provide for regular meetings between the Office of the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Department of Justice to review and assess the effect, if any, on the general enforcement of the criminal law of any constitutional challenge.

Under the new procedures, a Memorandum of Information for the Government is to be brought quarterly to Government through the Taoiseach so as to give regular updates on constitutional actions.

5. DPP or other Public Body

There are approximately 130 instances where other public agencies are parties to these extant actions, e.g, Garda Commissioner, Revenue Commissioners, the refugee agencies, Tribunals, local authorities, prison governors, Health Service Executive, Environmental Protection Agency, An Bord Pleanála and the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Director of Public Prosecutions is a party to the action in 22 cases. The State's legal service does not act for all public agencies in all these cases — such as is the case for several of the agencies mentioned. However, where the State defends a challenge to the constitutionality, it does so on behalf of Ireland and the Attorney General.

6. Arrangements in place for joint carriage of defence

In cases involving the Director of Public Prosecutions where there is a constitutional challenge the AGO/CSSO work in close co-operation with the Office of the DPP. Generally, counsel are shared between the two offices and court documentation and steps taken in the case are approved by both the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

There is high degree of cooperation in refugee/asylum law cases where the AGO/CSSO act for the agencies involved with a full input from the agencies in defending the cases.

Departmental Reports.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

155 Ms C. Murphy asked the Taoiseach the number of reports commissioned by his Department by year since 2002; the number that were conducted internally; the number that were carried out by consultants; what those reports were; the amount they cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24353/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is given in the following schedule:

Title of Report

Year Report was commissioned

Internal Reports

Reports carried out by Consultants

Cost of Report

Consultation document ‘Towards Better Regulation’

2002

Yes — with some input from Consultant

€31,665 of which €6,692 was in respect of consultant’s input

Report on submissions received arising from public consultation on ‘Towards Better Regulation’

2002

Yes — with some input from Consultant

€11,790 of which €4,000 was in respect of consultant’s input

Report on ‘Evaluation of Customer Action Plans’

2002

Yes

€33,528 of which €30,473 was in respect of consultant’s input

‘Communicating Change and Modernisation in the Civil Service’

2002

Yes

€30,166

Irish Civil Service — Customer Satisfaction Survey 2003

2003

Yes

€36,000

‘Customer Charters — Guidelines for preparation’

2003

Yes — with some input from Consultant

€39,003 of which €4,840 was in respect of consultant’s input

An Inquiry into certain matters in relation to procurement as requested by the Taoiseach, Mr. Bertie Ahern, T.D.

2004

Yes

No

Nil

The Contribution of Better Regulation to Social Progress — A Report for Irish EU Presidency Conference

2004

Yes

€18,876

‘Quantifiying the impacts of Regulation’ — A report for the Irish EU Presidency Conference

2004

Yes

€5,250

‘Our Commitments to our Colleagues — Internal Customer Service in the Civil Service’

2004

Yes

€11,060

Examination of the Brick and Block Laying Sector of the Construction Industry

2004

No

Yes

This work is not yet completed the costs are therefore not yet available.

‘Redress for Civil Service Customers — International Approaches’

2004

Yes

€81,943 of which €76,894 was in respect of consultant’s input

Title of Report

Year Report was commissioned

Internal Reports

Reports carried out by Consultants

Cost of Report

Three Progress Reports produced on the Implementation of the Affordable Housing Initiative

2004 & 2005

No

Yes

€3,675

Report to the National Implementation Body Re: Cost and Implications of Proposed Amendments made by the Communications Workers’ Union on 3 August 2005

2005

No

Yes

€61,172

Report on the introduction of Regulatory Impact Analysis

2005

Yes

€29,890

Report and Database of Regulatory Bodies in Ireland

2005 (due for completion by end Summer 2006)

Yes

€13,310 (to date)

Review of PMDS Evaluation results for Technical and Professional Staff

2005

Yes

€15,125

*Lisbon Agenda National Reform Programme Ireland

2005

Yes

No

€13,885

Irish Civil Service (General Public) Customer Satisfaction Survey 2006

2005

Yes

€32,973

Research Project on the Special Initiatives under Sustaining Progress

2005

No

Yes

€37,207.50

Report on Affordable Housing

2005

No

Yes

€9,680

Survey of Business attitudes to Regulation

May 2006 (due for completion Autumn 2006)

Yes

€90,000 allocated

Irish Civil Service (Business) Customer Satisfaction Survey 2006

2006

Yes

€17,848

*The Cross Departmental Team to the Cabinet Committee on Housing, Infrastructure and PPPs has since its establishment in 1999 prepared an Annual Progress report. These reports are prepared internally at marginal cost and take approximately one month to prepare. They are laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas and the latest five are available on the Department of the Taoiseach website.

Irish Language.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

156 Mr. Durkan asked the Taoiseach the number of people who indicated that they had an ability to speak Irish or who use Irish on a daily basis in the last ten censuses of population. [24698/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following table. Irish speakers aged 3 years and over, 1926-2002

Year

1926

540,802

1936

666,601

1946

588,725

1961

716,420

1971

789,429

1981

1,018,413

1986

1,042,701

1991

1,095,830

1996

1,430,205

2002

1,570,894

A new question on ability to speak the Irish language and frequency of speaking Irish was introduced in the 1996 Census of Population. The new version of the question marked a major departure from the version used in previous censuses and the results for earlier years are therefore not directly comparable. The version used in those years asked respondents to write "Irish only", "Irish and English", "Read but cannot speak Irish" or to leave blank as appropriate. The version introduced in 1996 was retained unchanged for 2002.

In respect of the most recent Census of Population, which was carried out in April 2006, a further distinction was introduced between those who speak Irish daily within the education system and those who speak it daily outside the education system.

Equal Opportunities Employment.

Ivor Callely

Question:

157 Mr. Callely asked the Taoiseach the targeted percentage of employment of people with a disability by his Department; if the 3 per cent target can be surpassed or is his Department restricted to this percentage; the percentage of people with a disability employed in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24816/06]

The Disability Act 2005 gives legal status to a previous positive action measure which set a 3% target for the employment of people with disabilities in the public service. Whereas the Act sets the 3% target as a minimum employment percentage, it does not restrict Departments or public bodies from surpassing that target. The percentage of persons with disabilities currently employed in my Department is 3.66%.

My Department also follows the guidelines set out in the Code of Practice for the Employment of People with Disabilities in the Civil Service.

Foreign Adoptions.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

158 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of the Irish Vietnamese adoption application of persons (details supplied) in County Monaghan and other prospective adoptive parents who have paid considerable sums of money to a person who has been instructed by the Irish Adoption Board to desist from adoption facilitation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24560/06]

The Adoption Board is enquiring into certain anonymous allegations made against the named individual. Immediately on receiving the allegations the Adoption Board raised the matter with the Ministry of Justice in Vietnam.

The Adoption Board has also:

(i) asked the Gardai to check the veracity of the allegations; and

(ii) written to the registered Adoption Mediation Agency concerned (Helping Hands) advising it that the named individual should abstain from any involvement in Vietnamese adoptions until this investigation has been completed.

It is not considered that these enquiries will affect the status of the Vietnamese adoption applications made by the persons referred to and other prospective adoptive parents.

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

159 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when an application by a committee (details supplied) in County Galway for capital grant funding will be approved; if his attention has been drawn to the need in this immediate area for such a service; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that the Kinvara proposal has been designed to cater for 78 children, aged three months to twelve years and incorporates the existing community playgroup which has been operating successfully since 1979; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24757/06]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

173 Mr. McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to an application for a capital grant for a facility (details supplied) in County Galway; when the application will be approved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24391/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 173 together.

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

With regard to the application for capital grant assistance under the EOCP referred to by the Deputy, I understand from enquiries I have made that this application for funding is currently in the appraisal process. Each application undergoes a thorough assessment by Pobal, formally known as ADM Ltd., to ensure that it meets the criteria of the Programme. All applications are processed as speedily as possible.

Following this assessment, the application will be considered by the Programme Appraisal Committee and a recommendation made to the Secretary General of the Department of Health and Children, before a decision is made regarding funding.

The Group in question will be informed of the decision in due course.

Health Services.

Ivor Callely

Question:

160 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the difficulties created in the educational system due to long delays for speech and language therapy for children who have been referred for appointment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24794/06]

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.

Ivor Callely

Question:

161 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the issue of secondary supports for pupils with special needs such as speech and language, social work therapy and so on has been brought to her attention; the issues which are of concern; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24795/06]

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

Hospitals Building Programme.

Willie Penrose

Question:

162 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of planned hospital developments that have been requested by her Department to be put on hold pending a completion by her Department of a value for money analysis; the process involved; if she will confirm if phase 2B of Longford Westmeath General Hospital, Mullingar is subject to this cost benefit evaluation; if same will delay its anticipated completion date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24862/06]

Willie Penrose

Question:

250 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department has instructed that the planned second stage of phase 2B development at Longford-Westmeath Hospital, Mullingar, be put on hold, while same is subject to the Department of Finance’s value for money assessment; if so, the reason such an important infrastructural development which has been planned for up to 20 years, should now be subject to a process where the result is self evident; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24871/06]

Willie Penrose

Question:

251 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the impact plan that is being put in place by her Department for the completion of phase 2B of Longford-Westmeath Hospital at Mullingar; the estimated cost of same; the completion date for same; and if she will assure the people of Longford and Westmeath that the completion of this overdue health facility will no longer be subject to excuses or delays; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24872/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 162, 250 and 251 together.

In accordance with Department of Finance requirements, no capital project in the Health Sector costing more than €30 million can proceed without a detailed cost benefit analysis being completed. Capital projects at the following locations are affected by this requirement — Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital , Drogheda, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dún Laoghaire and Phase 2B Stage 2 of the Longford/Westmeath Hospital at Mullingar.

In relation to Longford/Westmeath Hospital, it should be noted that the completion of Stage 1 of Phase 2B of the development is not affected. This involves the fitting out of ward accommodation in a shelled-out area that was constructed in the 1990s and will provide a net increase of 45 beds. This project went to tender on 23 June last and the target date for completion is mid-2007.

As regards the questions raised in relation to Stage 2 of Phase 2B, my Department is requesting the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Willie Penrose

Question:

163 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in relation to a number of planned hospital developments, she will indicate that her Department’s sanction for these capital projects is contingent upon revenue implications in respect thereof being met from the Health Service Executive’s own resources; the way in which the HSE will identify such savings or reductions being made in respect of each individual project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24863/06]

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 considering new capital proposals or progressing those in the health capital programme.

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

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

164 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has satisfied herself that there is no risk of contamination from the importation of genetically modified foods or food products; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24991/06]

In response to consumer concerns, the European Union's new regulatory framework for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) entered into force in 2004. Ireland, in common with other Member States and as required by EU rules, applies EU legislation on GM foods, produced within the EU or imported. Under EU rules, only authorised GM foods, or foods containing ingredients thereof, can be placed on the market. The safety of GM products is independently assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on a case by case basis and GM food is required to be clearly labelled, thus ensuring greater consumer confidence and choice.

In the production of food, feed and seed, it is almost impossible to achieve products that are 100% GM free. Minute traces of GMOs can arise in conventional food and feed during cultivation, harvest, transport and processing. Accordingly, to ensure legal certainty, thresholds have been established above which conventional foods must be labelled as consisting of or containing or being produced from a GMO. The labelling requirement is not for food safety reasons, rather a consumer choice measure and does not apply to foods with GM content in a proportion no higher than 0.9% of the food ingredients considered individually or food consisting of a single ingredient, provided that this presence is adventitious or technically unavoidable: previously, the level had been 1%. The new threshold applies to all GMOs authorised under the current Regulations and also applies to those authorised under the Novel Foods Regulation.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) is the competent authority in Ireland for the enforcement of EU legislation regarding genetically modified (GM) foods: the FSAI carries out checks of the marketplace for compliance with the GM legislation.

Food Labelling.

Denis Naughten

Question:

165 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when there will be a comprehensive labelling scheme within the catering trade; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24581/06]

Regulations recently signed by the Tánaiste entitled Health (Country of Origin of Beef) Regulations 2006 (S.I. no. 307 of 2006) provide that with effect from 3 July next, catering establishments will be required to indicate on their menus or in another appropriate form, the country of origin of beef which is served. The making of these regulations was facilitated by existing traceability of beef arrangements under the European Communities (Labelling of Beef and Beef Products) Regulations 2000 (S.I. no. 435 of 2000).

While enabling legislation passed by the Oireachtas in March of this year also facilitates the extension of country of origin labelling to all meats, due to different systems of traceability and some import/export complexities, it is not as straightforward as it is for beef. There are no plans at present to extend the country of origin of beef requirements to other meats but the matter will be kept under review.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

166 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if respite care services will be provided in the north east area for children with autism living in County Louth (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24339/06]

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

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

167 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason five hours home help per week has been reduced to three hours in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will re-examine the case and expedite a response. [24340/06]

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.

Benchmarking Awards.

Liz McManus

Question:

168 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to the recommendation made by the Labour Court on 1 March 2005 that salaries of staff working in the National Learning Network be brought in line with those paid to professionals in similar employment but who come under benchmarking agreement, the reason they have not received a pay award; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24357/06]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the matter she refers to is receiving urgent attention and that satisfactory interim arrangements have been made pending the conclusion of investigations.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

169 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be approved in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of their medical circumstances and the support given to their application by their general practitioner and consultant; and if she will expedite the matter. [24359/06]

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

Hospital Services.

John Perry

Question:

170 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene with St James’s Hospital and have a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim admitted for treatment. [24375/06]

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.

Long-Term Illness Scheme.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

171 Mr. McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway suffering from multiple sclerosis was not approved under the free medicines for prescribed long term illnesses scheme, in view of the fact that the Health Service Executive documentation specifically states that the scheme applies to persons suffering from multiple sclerosis; if this application will be recognised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24387/06]

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

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

172 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive will reassess a person (details supplied) in County Mayo so that they can be approved orthodontic treatment, in view of the fact that three independent dentists have indicated that the person needs orthodontic work carried out. [24390/06]

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

Question No. 173 answered with QuestionNo. 159.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

174 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the construction of the BreastCheck facility in Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24399/06]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

176 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when BreastCheck will be available to patients from the Waterford constituency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24401/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 174 and 176 together. I have met with representatives of BreastCheck and they are fully aware of my wish to have a quality assured programme rolled out to the remaining regions in the country as quickly as possible. For this to happen, essential elements of the roll out must be in place including adequate staffing, effective training and quality assurance programmes. I have made available additional revenue funding of €2.3m available to BreastCheck to meet the additional costs of roll out. I have also approved an additional 69 posts.

BreastCheck recently interviewed for Clinical Directors for the Southern and Western regions and appointments have been made and both will take up their positions later this year. Both are currently undergoing additional training in relation to their role as Clinical Director. This month BreastCheck will begin recruiting Consultant Radiologists, Consultant Surgeons and Consultant Histopathologists for both centres. BreastCheck are also recruiting radiographers. While the recruitment of radiographers is difficult at present as there is a shortage internationally of trained personnel, BreastCheck is confident that it will be in a position to employ sufficient radiographers at both sites.

BreastCheck also requires considerable capital investment in the construction of two new clinical units and in the provision of five additional mobile units and state of the art digital equipment. I have made available an additional €21m capital funding to BreastCheck for this purpose. BreastCheck is in the process of shortlisting applicants to construct the new clinical units at the South Infirmary/Victoria Hospital, Cork and University College Hospital Galway. BreastCheck is confident that the target date of next year for the commencement of roll out to the Southern and Western regions will be met.

Hospital Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

175 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of patients referred for radiotherapy to Cork University Hospital from the Waterford constituency since the appointment of the radiation oncologist from Cork with outreach to Waterford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24400/06]

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 respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the matter raised.

Question No. 176 answered with QuestionNo. 174.

Cancer Strategy.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

177 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to provide funding for the major capital development arising from the implementation of the National Cancer Strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24402/06]

The Deputy will be aware that I recently 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.

The capital funding requirement arising from the implementation of the National Cancer Strategy is primarily a matter for the Health Service Executive in the context of determining its priorities under the Health Capital Investment Framework 2006-2010. The Framework has earmarked an unprecedented capital funding provision of approximately €3.36 billion up to the year 2010.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

178 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the capital funding which has been provided to the Health Service Executive south for development at Waterford Regional Hospital for the period 2006 to 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24403/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for expenditure under the health capital programme.

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

Brian O'Shea

Question:

179 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposal to provide capital funding for the provision of specialist palliative care in Waterford in line with the €17.5 million which has been provided for the new specialist palliative care hospice at St. Patrick’s Marymount, Cork City; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24405/06]

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 considering new capital proposals or progressing those in the health capital programme.

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

Cancer Treatment Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

180 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a decision has been made regarding the cancer services transport proposal for the Health Service Executive south east which has been under consideration (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24406/06]

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 respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the matter raised.

Cancer Incidence.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

181 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the incidents of death through breast cancer and colon cancer for each of the years from 2000 to 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24407/06]

Statistics in relation to cancer incidences are collated by the National Cancer Registry. My Department has asked the Director of the Registry to examine this matter and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

182 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made on a home care package for persons (details supplied) in County Mayo; the further reason a previous question in this regard was not replied to by the Health Service Executive; and when the persons will be notified of a decision in this case. [24418/06]

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. The Department has again requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Michael Lowry

Question:

183 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she expects the Health Service Executive to receive the report of the high level working group established to develop a standardised high quality home help service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24419/06]

The high level working group was established by the Health Service Executive with representatives from IMPACT and SIPTU with a view to establishing a standardised high quality home help service which will benefit both clientele and staff. The group has commenced a process based on the partnership model and its terms of reference are set out below for the Deputy's information.

A plan of work has been agreed by the parties in order to give effect to the agreed terms of reference. The high level group met on Wednesday 7 June 2006, to review progress and establish a number of subgroups to further progress tasks associated with the terms of reference. The overall aim is to establish a blueprint for the delivery of home help services going forward. It is anticipated that the bulk of the issues can be addressed within an overall six-month timeframe.

The terms of reference of the group are: To review existing models/structures of home help services to address issues pertaining to the standardisation of services to include inter alia:

1. The demands being placed on the services through the implementation of the home help agreement.

2. Outstanding issues pertaining to the implementation of the home help agreement.

3. Clarification on the nature of the service to be provided by home helps.

4. Explicit and agreed criteria for the assessment of need.

5. Standard criteria for entitlement.

6. Contractual service agreements with the voluntary organisations.

7. National guideline provisions for level of service provisions and the assessment of needs.

8. Recognition of the home help service as a service in its own right.

9. The role and status of home help organisers within this service.

10. The terms and conditions of home help organisers and other support staff employed by voluntary organisations.

Care of the Elderly.

Michael Lowry

Question:

184 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress made to date by the Health Service Executive mid-west in extending the HSE pilot project of establishing teams of personnel to help elderly people to remain at home after becoming ill; the areas where this pilot scheme operates at present; the cost of the pilot scheme; the funding provided for its expansion; the expected duration before the scheme is available nationally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24420/06]

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.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

185 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action she will take to reverse the crisis faced by the State’s Sexual Assault Treatment Units, as described in the new report Sexual Assault Treatment Services A National Review; if, in particular, she will ensure that funding is made available for these units, only one of which is currently funded by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24429/06]

The Deputy may wish to note that all existing Sexual Assault Treatment Units are funded by the HSE. Most are funded through the hospital in which they are based. My Department does not directly fund or co-ordinate health and personal social services to victims of abuse. Monies are made available each year, formerly through the health boards, and now through the Health Services Executive, for the provision of services to women victims of violence. In recent years there has been a substantial increase in funding so that now over €12 million is provided annually for the provision of such services. The distribution of this funding is now a matter for the Health Services Executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

186 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action she is taking to provide full time education for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny who has not attended school for two and a half years; if she will arrange for them to be seen by the appropriate consultants at Waterford Hospital in view of the proximity of the hospital to their home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24436/06]

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

Health Service Allowances.

John McGuinness

Question:

187 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 206 of 23 May 2006 if she will request the Health Service Executive to issue a comprehensive response and to engage with the persons concerned to resolve the urgent issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24437/06]

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

Hospital Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

188 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to ensure the proper resourcing and future of the sexual assault unit at Waterford Regional Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24445/06]

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

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

189 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount of funding which was allocated within the western region of the Health Service Executive towards the homecare package; the amount which was allocated to County Mayo; the number of people in County Mayo who have been approved the homecare package; the reason it takes so long to implement the homecare package scheme in Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24446/06]

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

Health Service Property.

Liam Twomey

Question:

190 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the annual rent paid by the Health Service Executive for the building in Naas which houses its headquarters; the square footage of space rented by the HSE in the building; the number of HSE full-time staff working on a daily basis in the building; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24453/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the exercise by the Health Service Executive of its functions under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the information sought.

Liam Twomey

Question:

191 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the annual rent paid by the Health Service Executive to rent a building on Parkgate Street, Dublin 8; the square footage of the space rented by the HSE; the number of HSE full-time staff working on a daily basis in the building; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24454/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the exercise by the Health Service Executive of its functions under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the information sought.

Liam Twomey

Question:

192 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the services that are being provided by the Health Service Executive from the building it rents on Parkgate Street, Dublin 8; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24455/06]

Section 6 of the Health Act, 2004 states that the Health Service Executive is a corporate body. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

193 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a bed will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo in a hospital in Galway. [24456/06]

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 respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the matter raised.

Health Services.

Martin Ferris

Question:

194 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kerry has been waiting four and a half years for orthodontic treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24460/06]

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

Martin Ferris

Question:

195 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be called for orthodontic treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24461/06]

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

Martin Ferris

Question:

196 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the average waiting time for people seeking orthodontic treatment in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24462/06]

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 Visits.

Martin Ferris

Question:

197 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she intends to visit Kerry General Hospital on her next visit to County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24463/06]

The Deputy will wish to note that I have made several visits to hospitals around the country following my appointment as Minister for Health and Children. I have not yet been in a position to visit Kerry General Hospital. It is my intention to continue to visit various facilities around the country, including Kerry General Hospital, as my schedule allows.

Health Services.

Martin Ferris

Question:

198 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when revenue funding will be made available for the proposed community nursing unit in Tralee; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24464/06]

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

Health Service Allowances.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

199 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Health Service Executive has allowed the domiciliary care allowance application form to go out of print while it is being updated; if she will ensure that a downloadable copy is available on a website; the way in which she otherwise intends to resolve the shortage; when the new forms will be available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24491/06]

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.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

200 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will assist in arranging a mammogram appointment for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [24502/06]

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

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

201 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the home help hours for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo have been reduced. [24522/06]

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

Michael Ring

Question:

202 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a homecare package application for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo was first received by the Health Service Executive western area; when it will be dealt with; when a decision will be made in this case; and the help which will be given to this person in view of the obvious need in this case. [24523/06]

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

Nursing Home Subventions.

Michael Ring

Question:

203 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the enhanced subvention payment is not being extended to new applicants in County Mayo at present; if this is Government policy; the further reason this decision is being implemented by the Health Service Executive western area in view of the fact that the highest number of elderly people reside in this area; if she will provide additional funding to the HSE western area specifically for the restoration of the enhanced subvention payment; the number of new applicants who have been refused this payment to date; the number of existing applicants who have been denied an increase in their enhanced subvention payment to date; the number of people in the county of Mayo who have availed of the enhanced subvention payment from 1 January 2006 to date; and the annual cost of this payment in Mayo. [24524/06]

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

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

In relation to the issue of funding and the number of applicants for subvention in the Western Area 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.

Michael Ring

Question:

204 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of beds which are located in a facility (details supplied) in County Mayo, including details of the bed type; the number of these beds which are currently occupied and the occupancy rate for each of the past ten years; the position in relation to the works that have to be carried out at that facility; the length of time these works are going on; when the Health Service Executive expects to open up the wards that were closed down over the past number of years; the number of wards in this facility which are currently closed and the date of their closure; the works which have taken place since then; her plans to increase the bed numbers in this facility; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24525/06]

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

Hospitals Building Programme.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

205 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to the fact that a decision has been taken to amalgamate the three children’s hospitals and to locate the single hospital in the north inner city, the future plans for paediatric services outside this hospital, in particular, accident and emergency services for young people; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24535/06]

The Report of the Task Group that was established by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to advise on the optimum location for the new national paediatric hospital was presented to the Board of the HSE on 1st June. The Report and its recommendations were endorsed by the Board. At its meeting on 8th June, the Government strongly endorsed the recommendations of the Board of the HSE, in line with the recommendation of the Report of the Task Group, that the new paediatric hospital be developed as an independent hospital on a site to be made available by the Mater Misericordiae Hospital.

It is now a matter for the HSE to move forward with the development of the new national tertiary paediatric hospital and associated urgent care centres, and to explore any philanthropic proposals in relation to its development.

The governance arrangements that will arise in the context of the amalgamation of the three children's hospitals will also be pursued, in particular the measures needed to ensure that the new children's hospital is multi-denominational and pluralist in character.

Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

206 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of hours speech therapy that children in special language units receive on a weekly basis. [24572/06]

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

Nursing Home Charges.

Liam Aylward

Question:

207 Mr. Aylward asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress to date on the long-term stay charges repayment scheme; and when it is expected repayments will issue under this scheme. [24646/06]

Billy Timmins

Question:

241 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to long-stay patients entitled to a refund with regard to repayments to residence of public funded long stay care homes; if this payment will be made as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24842/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 207 and 241 together.

The Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006 was signed by the President on 23 June 2006. This Act 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.

General Practitioner Co-operatives.

Joe Higgins

Question:

208 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Service Executive is attempting to impose an outside of hours general practitioner service on the people of west Kerry, in view of the fact the local population demands cover by local doctors who are known to them and who are prepared to provide the service. [24647/06]

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 Contracts.

John Gormley

Question:

209 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the information she has received from the Health Service Executive on its investigation into awarding of contracts in its Dublin north east division; if her attention has been drawn to the scope of the investigation, the personnel responsible for conducting it, and when the investigation will be complete; if her Department will be conducting its own investigation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24648/06]

The Health Service Executive's Internal Audit Unit is currently conducting an investigation into the awarding of contracts in the Dublin North East Region.

Section 25 of the Health Act 2004 requires employees of the Health Service Executive to maintain proper standards of integrity, conduct and concern for the public interest in performing functions under that or any other enactment as employees of the Executive. Section 25 also obliges the Executive to issue codes of conduct for employees other than employees to whom a code of conduct under section 10 (3) of the Standards in Public Office 2001 applies. A code of conduct issued by the Executive for employees must indicate the standards of integrity and conduct to be maintained by them in performing their functions. A person to whom such a code of conduct relates is required to have regard to and be guided by the code in performing his or her functions.

Under the HSE's procurement policy, which was published this year it is stated that it is HSE policy to maintain its high reputation for ethical behaviour and fair dealing in the context of its business. The HSE code of conduct and behaviour for staff applies in the context of all HSE procurement.

As the issue raised by the Deputy is a matter for the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004, my Department has asked the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to respond directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Seán Crowe

Question:

210 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the lack of resources at a clinic (details supplied) in Dublin 7 which is closing on 3 July 2006. [24649/06]

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.

Finian McGrath

Question:

211 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [24650/06]

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

Hospital Staff.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

212 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the situation regarding the offering of places on FETAC healthcare support course level five in Tallaght for all hospital staff; if this includes all staff including cleaners and porters; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24651/06]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

213 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the representations she has made to St. Loman’s Hospital, Lucan Road to ensure that all staff can avail of FETAC level five training in healthcare support as understood to be part of a benchmarking pay agreement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24652/06]

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

The Deputy's questions relates to training, education and development of support staff in the health services which is comprehended by the SKILL Project (Securing Knowledge Intra Lifelong Learning). The SKILL training fund originated as part of the parallel benchmarking agreement for support staff titled "Recognising & Respecting the Role". Under the SKILL Project €60m is being provided over a four year period, 2004 — 2008 for training of support staff. All grades of support staff have equal access to the training programmes, which are FETAC accredited e.g. porters, catering, household etc. The SKILL Project Team have identified the numbers and grades of staff who will undergo the FETAC programmes in 2006. The numbers undertaking the programme are representative of the sector as a whole and of the various grades of support staff.

The allocation of places in particular institutions is a human resource management issue within the Health Service Executive. As these are matters for the Executive under the Health Act 2004, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have them investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Benchmarking Awards.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

214 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason benchmarking payments were withheld from staff at St. Loman’s Hospital, Lucan Road; the conditions pertaining to their eventual payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24653/06]

My Department issued sanction for the final phase of the benchmarking increases and the 1.5% Sustaining Progress with effect from 1 June, 2005 to the interim Health Service Executive on the 3 June, 2005. The sanction did not include any requirement to withhold benchmarking increases to staff of St. Loman's Hospital, Lucan Road and neither my Department nor the Health Service Executive Employers Agency are aware of any situation at local level which resulted in the withholding of the payments.

Health Service Staff.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

215 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason funding was made available to SIPTU in 2001 for the provision of training courses such as FETAC level five; the reason such training has not been provided to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24654/06]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the funding of the health care assistant programme, which was introduced in 2001 on a pilot basis. SIPTU represents the staff concerned.

The Report of the Commission on Nursing (1998) recommended that there be an examination of opportunities for the increased use of care assistants and other non-nursing staff.

The Report of the Working Group — Effective Utilisation of the Professional Skills of Nurses and Midwives (DoHC, 2001) made 15 recommendations in relation to health care assistants, including that an NCVA Level 2 (now FETAC level 5) qualification be the preparation required for employment as a health care assistant.

A pilot training programme for Health Care Assistants commenced in 14 pilot sites in autumn 2001. The training course was evaluated by the Review Group on Health Service Care Staff and rolled out on a nationwide basis from autumn 2003. The numbers trained to 2005 are 1,721 and a further 1,000 places will be offered in 2006/2007.

Departmental Correspondence.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

216 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she will be in a position to respond to correspondence submitted on 22 March 2006 (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24684/06]

Unfortunately, there is no record of my Department having received the Deputy's letter of the 22nd March. My Department has been in contact with the Deputy since the issue was brought to its attention this week. The matter is being investigated by my Department and a reply will issue as soon as possible.

Ambulance Service.

David Stanton

Question:

217 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount paid out in each of the Health Service Executive areas in respect of the hire of private ambulance services for each year since 2002; the number of times ambulances were hired privately; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24685/06]

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

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

218 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to numerous representations to a range of sections of the Health Service Executive and to Parliamentary Question No. 87 of 23 June 2005 the steps which are being taken to address the backlog in audiology services in County Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24702/06]

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.

Denis Naughten

Question:

219 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) will be able to obtain audiology services in County Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24703/06]

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.

Denis Naughten

Question:

220 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) will be able to obtain audiology services in County Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24704/06]

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.

Denis Naughten

Question:

221 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) will be able to obtain audiology services in County Roscommon. [24705/06]

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.

Denis Naughten

Question:

222 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) will be able to obtain audiology services in County Roscommon. [24706/06]

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.

Denis Naughten

Question:

223 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) will be able to obtain audiology services in County Roscommon. [24707/06]

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.

Denis Naughten

Question:

224 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) will be able to obtain audiology services in County Roscommon. [24708/06]

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.

Denis Naughten

Question:

225 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) will be able to obtain audiology services in County Roscommon. [24709/06]

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.

Damien English

Question:

226 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person who has cancer will automatically get a medical card on application or if they have to be means tested; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24731/06]

At present, medical cards are granted primarily on the basis of means and individual circumstances. Under the Health Act, 2004 determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. Persons aged seventy years and over are automatically entitled to a medical card, irrespective of means. The HSE has discretion, in cases of exceptional need, to provide assistance to individuals where undue hardship would otherwise be caused.

I have no plans to provide for the granting of medical cards to any particular group as a whole. However, my Department is currently reviewing all legislation relating to eligibility for health and personal social services with a view to making the system as fair and transparent as possible.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Liz McManus

Question:

227 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there were any hospital consultants and if there were any hospital consultants from Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin on the membership of the review group that recommended the location of the new children’s hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24739/06]

A joint HSE/Department of Health and Children Task Group was established in February 2006 to advise on the optimum location of the new national children's hospital. The Task Group also included representation from the Office of Public Works. The membership of the joint Task Group was as follows: Health Service Executive Mr John O'Brien, Temporary National Director, National Hospitals Office (Chairman to April 2006) Ms Laverne McGuinness, National Director of Shared Services (Chairman from April 2006) Mr Tommie Martin, National Director, Office of the CEO Dr Fenton Howell, Population Health Directorate Mr Joe Molloy, Director of Technical Services and Capital Projects, HSE West Ms Fionnuala Duffy, National Hospitals Office Ms Ruth Langan, Office of the CEO Department of Health and Children Mr Paul Barron, Assistant Secretary Dr Philip Crowley, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Mr Paul deFreine, Deputy Chief Architectural Adviser Mr Denis O'Sullivan, Principal Officer Office of Public Works Mr David Byers, Commissioner. There were no hospital consultants on the Task Group. However, the Task Group engaged in an extensive consultation process which included meetings with the Dublin paediatric hospitals. These meetings were attended by consultants from each of the three hospitals. Advice was also sought from clinicians in other countries.

I am satisfied that the Group undertook a comprehensive examination of the issues involved in making its recommendation on the optimum location for the new paediatric hospital. As the Deputy will be aware, its recommendation have been accepted by the Board of the HSE and has been endorsed by the Government.

Health Service Inquiries.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

228 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will carry out an inquiry into all issues in relation to the death of person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24743/06]

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

Hospital Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

229 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the paediatric services which are available at St. Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown; her plans to upgrade or extend their services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24751/06]

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

Nursing Home Subventions.

John McGuinness

Question:

230 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 123 of 18 May 2006 regarding the rates of nursing home subvention approved by her Department and the response issued by the Health Service Executive to the question, the reason her Department has not increased the rate from 2001; if the issue will be examined by her Department with a view to approving an increase in the rate being operated by the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24752/06]

The Nursing Home (Subvention) Regulations, 1993 are administered by the Health Service Executive. There are currently three rates of subvention payable, i.e. €114.30, €152.40 and €190.50 for the three levels of dependency which are medium, high and maximum. There are no plans to increase the subvention rates at present.

When the Scheme was first launched in September 1993, €5 million was made available for the administration of the Scheme. In 1994, the first full year of the Scheme, this was increased to €15 million. This year, additional funding of €20 million was made available, bringing the full budget to €160 million.

Health Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

231 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be called for orthodontic assessment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24759/06]

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

Ambulance Service.

James Breen

Question:

232 Mr. J. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a 24 hour 7 day ambulance service is still not available in the Scariff area in County Clare in view of the fact that it is included in the Ambulance Service Development Plan 2005/2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24776/06]

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

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

233 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for an MRI scan in view of the fact that they have been waiting since March 2006. [24777/06]

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

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

234 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will receive an appointment for orthodontic treatment in Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24781/06]

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.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

235 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of first responder schemes in County Offaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24799/06]

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.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

236 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of first responder schemes in County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24800/06]

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.

Mental Health Services.

Ivor Callely

Question:

237 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her Department's policy with regard to the acceptable waiting time for the provision of referred services to children for psychiatry, psychology, social work and speech and language; the waiting time following referral for first appointment; the waiting time for appropriate therapy to commence; if there are delays in any of these disciplines; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24801/06]

As the Deputy may be aware, the future direction and delivery of all aspects of our mental health services, including child and adolescent psychiatry were considered in the context of the work of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy. The Government published the Group's report entitled "A Vision for Change" in January, 2006.

The Report provides a framework that outlines a set of values that will guide both Government and service providers in developing a modern, high quality mental health service in the next7-10 years.

Under the Health Act 2004 the management and delivery of health and personal social services, including waiting times for the disciplines referred to by the Deputy, are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Mental Illness Incidence.

Ivor Callely

Question:

238 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the percentage of people who suffer with a mental illness; the breakdown for the Dublin region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24802/06]

According to the World Health Report 2001, Mental Health: New Understanding, New Hope, a significant number of people are affected by mental health problems at any one time. It estimates that about one in four individuals will have a mental health problem at some point in their lives. The WHO in its 2003 Report, Shaping the future, has calculated the global burden of disease and found that mental disorders rank second in the global burden of disease, following infectious diseases. Information regarding the number of people in the Dublin area with a mental illness is not available to my Department.

Mental Health Services.

Ivor Callely

Question:

239 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the level of support and services in place for people who suffer with a mental illness; if she is satisfied that there are adequate supports and services in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24803/06]

The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, "A Vision for Change" was launched on the 24th January, 2006. This policy envisions an active, flexible and community-based mental health service where the need for hospital admission will be greatly reduced. The Government has accepted the Expert Group's report as the basis for the future development of the mental health services. In this connection, an additional €25 million was made available this year to the Health Service Executive for the further development of our mental health services, bringing the total revenue spend to in excess of €800 million in 2006.

The report recommends that multidisciplinary community mental health teams shall provide a single point of access for primary care for advice, routine and crisis referral to all mental health services both community and hospital based. Currently, 95% of mental health illnesses are treated at primary care level. This is the appropriate route to access interventions that do not require specialist mental health services. Many of the new primary health care teams include or have access to psychological services. The HSE Mental Health Services has, in conjunction with the Irish College of General Practice, introduced a training course for GPs which aims to improve detection, assessment, management and follow-up of common mental health problems in general practice.

The Health Service Executive, which has primary responsibility for implementing the recommendations of "A Vision for Change" is in the process of establishing a National Implementation Group to ensure that the recommendations are realised in a timely and coordinated manner. I have recently appointed an Independent Monitoring Group, as recommended in the Report, to oversee the implementation of "A Vision for Change".

Equal Opportunities Employment.

Ivor Callely

Question:

240 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the targeted percentage of employment of people with a disability by her Department; if the 3 per cent target will be surpassed or is her Department restricted to this percentage; the percentage of people with a disability employed in her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24817/06]

Currently 2.3% of the total staff numbers serving in my Department are recorded as having a disability. The figure is lower than the target of 3% due to a combination of circumstances.

The Public Appointments Service (PAS) undertakes the recruitment of staff to posts in my Department following approval from the Department of Finance. As the Deputy is aware, my Department is currently undergoing major restructuring and has no suitable posts to be filled at this time.

I understand that the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is currently in discussions with the PAS concerning future competitions for persons with disabilities and that there are a number of issues to be taken into consideration. Irrespective of any quotas, my Department is, and always has been, willing to provide placements for persons with disabilities.

My Department is participating in the Willing Able Mentoring (WAM) Project during this summer. The WAM project, which is administered by the Association of Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD), aims to provide graduates with disabilities temporary placements with public and private sector employers.

Question No. 241 answered with QuestionNo. 207.

Mental Health Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

242 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether an out of hours, community based on-call service for people suffering from mental health problems is essential, in view of the fact that sufferers may need care outside of office hours and should have 24 hour emergency care available in the same way as people suffering from physical illnesses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24860/06]

The report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, "A Vision for Change" was launched on the 24th January 2006. This policy envisions an active, flexible and community-based mental health service where the need for hospital admission will be greatly reduced. The Government has accepted the Expert Group's report as the basis for the future development of the mental health services.

The report recommends that local multidisciplinary community mental health teams should provide a single point of access for primary care for advice, routine and crisis referral to all mental health services (community and hospital based). It recommends that research should be undertaken to establish how many services currently have effective community mental health teams and to identify the factors that facilitate and impede effective team functioning and the resources required to support the effective functioning of community mental health teams. The report sets out a requirement for the service providers to clarify procedures for a 24 hour access to Mental Health Services.

At present 95% of mental health conditions are being treated at primary care level. General practitioners act as one of the gateways to psychiatric care. This is the appropriate route to access interventions that do not require specialist mental health services. A study by the HSE and the Irish College of General Practice outlined a range of supports (educational and specific skilled counsellors) to enhance primary care mental health provision, which is endorsed by "A Vision for Change". Many of the new primary health care teams include or have access to psychological services.

The Health Service Executive, which has primary responsibility for implementing the recommendations of "A Vision for Change" is in the process of establishing a National Implementation Group to ensure that the recommendations are realised in a timely and coordinated manner. I have recently appointed an Independent Monitoring Group, as recommended in the Report, to oversee the implementation of "A Vision for Change".

Hospital Services.

John Dennehy

Question:

243 Mr. Dennehy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has satisfied herself with the provision of dialysis facilities in the Munster region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24864/06]

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.

Counselling Services.

John Dennehy

Question:

244 Mr. Dennehy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has satisfied herself that adequate bereavement counselling services are available for children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24865/06]

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.

However, I have been informed by the Health Service Executive that the psychology departments within the Health Service Executive provide bereavement counselling to any children or teenagers referred following a significant death. They also provide support to parents who are concerned about bereaved children. As the Deputy may be aware, there are also many other organisations which take referrals of this nature and that are funded by the Health Service Executive.

Hospital Services.

John Dennehy

Question:

245 Mr. Dennehy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the concerns regarding the funding of sexual assaults treatment units in Cork and in other centres; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24866/06]

I was pleased to launch earlier this week the report 'Sexual Assault Treatment Services — A National Review'. The Deputy should be aware that my Department does not directly fund or co-ordinate health and personal social services to victims of abuse. Monies are made available each year, formerly through the health boards, and now through the Health Services Executive, for the provision of services to women victims of violence. In recent years there has been a substantial increase in funding so that now over €12 million is provided annually for the provision of such services. The distribution of this funding is now a matter for the Health Services Executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Vaccination Programme.

John Dennehy

Question:

246 Mr. Dennehy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has satisfied herself with the operation of the MMR vaccination scheme; her proposals to increase the take up of the vaccine; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24867/06]

The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella and, in accordance with the recommendations of the Immunisation Advisory Committee of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, can be administered to children between 12 — 15 months of age. A vaccine uptake rate of 95% is required in order to protect children from the diseases concerned and to stop the spread of the diseases in the community. Measles, in particular, is a highly infectious and serious disease; approximately 1 in 15 children who contract measles suffer serious complications.

In Ireland, uptake of the first dose of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine (MMR1) is calculated on a quarterly basis among children of 24 months of age. In Quarter 4 of 2005 the national uptake rate for this vaccine was 88%. This represents an increase of 5% in the national uptake rate when compared with the same quarter in 2004. The national uptake rates have risen from 77% at 24 months in Q1 of 2003 to 88% at 24 months in Q4 of 2005. Although MMR1 uptake rates have been improving over the past two years, they are still 7% lower than the national target rate of 95%.

I am concerned about the unsatisfactory MMR immunisation uptake rates because of the risk of unimmunised children contracting the potentially serious diseases concerned. The outbreak of measles in 2000, which resulted in approximately 2,000 cases and 3 deaths, is evidence of the consequences of insufficient immunisation uptake. However, I am encouraged by the fact that the immunisation uptake rates are steadily improving.

A Measles Eradication Committee has been convened by my Department to develop a national five year action plan for the elimination of measles and rubella in line with the World Health Organisation Strategic Plan for 2010. The work of this Committee is ongoing. I also understand that the HSE is currently formulating specific initiatives that will be employed to target areas of low uptake.

I would like to take this opportunity to urge all parents to have their children immunised against the diseases covered by the childhood immunisation programme in order to ensure that both their children and the population generally have maximum protection against the diseases concerned.

Mental Health Services.

John Dennehy

Question:

247 Mr. Dennehy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to improve the child psychiatric assessment services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24868/06]

As the Deputy may be aware, the future direction and delivery of all aspects of our mental health services, including child and adolescent psychiatry, were considered in the context of the work of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy. The report of the Expert Group, entitled "A Vision for Change", was launched in January 2006. It has been accepted by the Government as the basis for the future development of Mental Health Services.

The report sets out how positive mental health in children can be promoted generally in our society, and how specialist mental health services can be delivered efficiently to children who need them. Child and adolescent psychiatric services are in place in each Health Service Executive area, with 39 community health teams offering a wide range of therapeutic approaches.

"A Vision for Change" acknowledges gaps in the current provision of child and adolescent services and makes several recommendations for the further improvement of these services. Recommendations include early intervention and health promotion programmes, primary and community care services, specialist mental health services for the treatment of complex disorders and the provision of additional multidisciplinary Community Mental Health Teams.

The development of child and adolescent psychiatric services has been a priority for my Department in recent years. The number of approved child and adolescent consultant psychiatrist posts has been increased from 45 in 2000 to 70 in 2006.

Garda Vetting Services.

John Dennehy

Question:

248 Mr. Dennehy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has satisfied herself that sufficient safeguards are in place to ensure adequate vetting of staff in private nursing homes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24869/06]

The vetting of staff for private nursing homes is currently a matter for the owner of the home concerned.

A Working Group has been established, chaired by the Department, to develop standards for long-term residential care settings, both public and private. It is intended to circulate these draft standards to interested parties for consultation in the near future.

Diabetes Incidence.

John Dennehy

Question:

249 Mr. Dennehy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on reports that large numbers of people may suffer from undetected diabetes; if she will initiate a campaign to raise public awareness on the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24870/06]

The National Diabetes Working Group chaired by this Department's Chief Medical Officer submitted its Report in 2005. Diabetes has been acknowledged as a priority area for 2006 and the Health Service Executive is currently progressing implementation of the recommendations contained in Report.

Responsibility for public awareness campaigns in the area of health promotion now falls within the remit of the Health Service Executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the proposal to have a public awareness campaign on Diabetes.

Questions Nos. 250 and 251 answered with Question No. 162.

Child Care Services.

Mildred Fox

Question:

252 Ms Fox asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that developmental checks are unavailable in north Wicklow for young children; and if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that Parliamentary Question No. 195 of 7 June 2006 has not been responded to by the Health Service Executive. [24873/06]

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 again requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Drug Treatment Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

253 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps being taken to deliver alternative medical and non-treatment types of programmes that would allow greater flexibility and choice in addressing the emergence of cocaine and polydrug use on a wide scale; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25016/06]

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

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

254 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children in relation to drug treatment and rehabilitation programmes in prison, the steps which will be taken to ensure continuity of service upon release or during temporary release. [25017/06]

The arrangements made within prisons for people upon release or during temporary release from prison is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform in the first instance.

The management and delivery of drug treatment and rehabilitation programmes are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

255 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the drug treatment and rehabilitation programmes available for teenagers under the age of 18; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25019/06]

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

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

256 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps which have been taken to ensure that all drug-related services, including residential services, have access to appropriate childcare facilities or services. [25020/06]

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

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

257 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of illegal substance abusers who are availing of various treatments funded by the Health Service Executive; if she will list same; her plans to expand the range of treatment options for recovering drug misusers, in particular options for counselling and therapeutic services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25021/06]

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

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

258 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to develop residential rehabilitation or detox facilities which do not require clients to be drug-free on admission as another aspect of addressing the varied needs of addicts desiring to address their addictions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25022/06]

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

Hospital Services.

John Perry

Question:

259 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene on behalf of a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim and have them called for their treatment in Beaumont Hospital. [25046/06]

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

John Perry

Question:

260 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene on behalf of a person (details supplied) and have them called immediately for their operation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25047/06]

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.

Suicide Incidence.

John Perry

Question:

261 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the recent recommendation that the Government should invest an additional €60 million on measures to reduce the level of suicide; the plans the Government has to adopt a target of reducing the rate of suicide by 20 percent by 2016; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25050/06]

Reach Out — a National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention, 2005-2014 which was launched by An Tánaiste and Minister for Health in September, 2005 builds on the work of the National Task Force on Suicide (1998) and takes account of the efforts and initiatives developed by the former health boards in recent years. The approach to the Strategy is a straightforward one. Four levels of action comprise the main body of the strategy. These are categorised as: general population approach; target approach; responding to suicide; and information and research.

At each level, Action Areas have been identified (26 in total) and specific points of action have been identified to be implemented in three phases over the coming years (an average of 3 to 4 actions per area).

"Reach Out" recommends a combined public health and high risk approach. This approach to suicide prevention is also that advocated by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and is in keeping with the European Action Plan for Mental Health which was signed and endorsed on behalf of ministers of health of the 52 member states of the European Region of the World Health Organisation at the Ministerial Conference on Mental Health in Helsinki, Finland in January 2005.

I assume the Deputy is referring to the recent media coverage regarding the work of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children's Sub-Committee on the High Level of Suicide in Irish Society. I understand that the report has yet to be published and am therefore not in a position to respond in detail at this time.

I can confirm however that much consideration was given to the setting of an overall target for the reduction of our national suicide rate as an outcome measure of this strategy. At this stage, it has been decided that a specific target will not be set for the following two reasons: the priority is to establish the accuracy of suicide mortality in Ireland; and due to the range and inter-play of factors that influence the suicide rate, a direct cause and effect relationship between prevention programmes and a change in the overall population rates is virtually impossible to establish.

Nevertheless, there are undoubted advantages to setting targets for an overall reduction, not least the fact that it focuses the attention of those working at all levels of suicide prevention. An overall target for the reduction of suicide rates will be set by the Government, on the advice of the Minister for Health and Children, when the Minister is satisfied that suicide rates have been accurately determined.

Medical Cards.

John Perry

Question:

262 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the directive she has issued to the Health Service Executive to include coverage for alternative medicine under the medical card scheme; if negotiations have taken place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25051/06]

In consideration of inclusion of medicinal products in the General Medical Services Scheme, the product must be an allopathic medicinal product which is the subject of a current product authorisation granted by the Irish Medicines Board or an authorisation granted or renewed by the European Commission. Among other criteria, the product must be such that it is ordinarily supplied to the public only on foot of a medical prescription. I am not aware of any negotiations with my Department. There are currently no plans to include coverage for alternative medicine under the medical card scheme.

Decentralisation Programme.

Jack Wall

Question:

263 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the purchase of a site for the transfer of his Department to Newbridge as part of the decentralisation programme; if a site has been chosen; if the price of the site has changed since purchase negotiations started; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24514/06]

The Office of Public Works has identified a suitable site in Newbridge to accommodate the Department of Defence Headquarters and negotiations to acquire the site from Kildare County Council are at an advanced stage.

A number of issues need to be resolved before the acquisition is finalised, mainly the relocation of playing pitches and the provision of a footbridge over the railway to provide safe pedestrian access to the station and the town. OPW has, following consultation with Kildare County Council, commissioned a consultant engineer to prepare an outline plan for relocation of playing pitches in order to free up the site chosen for the Department of Defence. We expect that Kildare Council will shortly seek Planning Permission for the new playing pitches. On the question of safe pedestrian, access, CIE has agreed to cooperate fully with the construction of a new footbridge over the rail line, and planning for this will be progressed in consultation with Kildare County Council and CIE.

Notwithstanding the fact that agreement on the purchase price for the site has not yet been finalised, the County Manager of Kildare Council has given his approval in principal to OPW's seeking tenders for the construction of the offices. While no absolute or definite guarantees can be given, OPW are hopeful, subject to all the outstanding planning, legal, technical and negotiation issues being resolved over the coming months, that the site can be acquired in time to allow construction to commence next year.

Flood Relief.

Michael Ring

Question:

264 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works, in conjunction with the local authority and the Fisheries Board, will draw up a plan to try and resolve a serious flooding problem for persons (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if the OPW has contacted the persons in regard to this situation. [24388/06]

The position relating to this matter is being examined on foot of a recent representation from the Deputy on behalf of the persons concerned. A response will issue to the Deputy as early as possible.

Services for People with Disabilities.

John Deasy

Question:

265 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to invite submissions from disability groups in relation to the 2004 inter-Departmental review of the 1994 disabled drivers/disabled passengers tax concessions scheme; if he has estimated the cost of proposed recommendations of the review group; when he proposes to introduce changes to the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24430/06]

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

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

In respect of the long-term recommendations, including the qualifying disability criteria, I should say that given the scale and scope of the scheme, further changes can only be made after careful consideration. For this reason, the Government decided that the Minister for Finance would consider the recommendations contained in the Report of the Interdepartmental Review Group in the context of the annual budgetary process having regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme. There are around 9,500 claimants under the scheme and the cost to the Exchequer was over €56m last year.

The best way of addressing the transport needs of people with disabilities of whatever kind, and the effectiveness, suitability or otherwise of the Disabled Drivers Scheme in that regard will be considered and progressed in consultation with the other Departments who have responsibility in this area. A car tax concession scheme can obviously only play a partial role in dealing with this serious issue, and examination of the scheme is taking place in that context. Any changes to this scheme will be considered in the context of the overall development of policy in this area.

As regards consultation with disability groups, the Review Group received over 260 written submissions from individuals and organisations representing persons with disabilities and heard 21 oral submissions from some of these individuals and organisations. The submissions were taken into account in the preparation of the Report and its recommendations.

Garda Stations.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

266 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the renovation and refurbishment of Oughterard Garda Station in County Galway, a project towards which moneys had been allocated following public calls for the provision of such funds, but which were not subsequently spent; if the moneys promised for this project remain available; the status regarding the renovation of this building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24450/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works operate the Garda accommodation programme from a prioritised list provided by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Authority. Monies are set aside based on planned works arising from this list.

The Commissioners of Public Works have not received any requests from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform or the Garda Authorities to carry out renovation/refurbishment works to Oughterard Garda Station, Co. Galway.

National Development Plan.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

267 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Finance the breakdown under each operational programme and for each year, for the Border Midland Western and south east regions, of funding allocated and expended as sourced from the EU and the Exchequer and private sources separately in relation to the National Development Plan (details supplied). [24489/06]

The Deputy will have received the information requested which was provided to her by my Department on 23rd June 2006 in response to Parliamentary Question number 255 of 23rd May 2006. The information is in the form of a series of tabular statements and a copy has been made available for the information of the House.

Tax Code.

Billy Timmins

Question:

268 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow is in receipt of the homecaring spouse credit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24490/06]

The Revenue Commissioners have informed me that the person concerned is in receipt of the home carer tax credit for the current year and has been for the last number of years. This credit is in the sum of €770 per annum and is shown on the person's tax credit certificate.

Decentralisation Programme.

Jack Wall

Question:

269 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the purchase of a site for the transfer of his Department to Athy as part of the decentralisation programme; if a site has been chosen; if the price of the site has changed since purchase negotiations started; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24515/06]

The latest Decentralisation Implementation Group Report of June 2005 specifies an indicative timeframe of mid 2009 for a building for Athy. Following An Bord Pleanala's decision not to allow the proposed Inner Relief Street in Athy, several suitable sites had to be ruled out. OPW is currently carrying out further evaluations on several sites in Athy, including some new proposals. Temporary accommodation for an advance party of decentralising Revenue Staff is also currently being evaluated by OPW in Athy and has been put to Revenue for consideration.

Jack Wall

Question:

270 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the purchase of a site for the transfer of his Department to Kildare as part of the decentralisation programme; if a site has been chosen; if the price of the site changed since purchase negotiations started; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24516/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works are in discussions with Kildare County Council, in relation to the provision of a suitable site in Kildare Town to accommodate a decentralisation office. When a suitable site has been identified terms will be negotiated.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

271 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if the stamping of deeds by the Revenue Commissioners can be dealt with in the Dublin office until such time as the Galway office is sufficiently staffed and trained to deal with the volume of business in the western area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24566/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the delay in stamping deeds in the Galway Stamps Office is being addressed. In May additional staff were assigned and further staff are due to be assigned when the recruitment process for them is completed. As a result of the measures already taken the level of arrears has dropped by twenty five percent. Once the additional staff are in position and trained it is expected that the Customer Service standards will be fully met. The Galway Office will continue to give priority to urgent cases, and customers should continue to forward deeds to Galway in the normal manner as the Dublin Stamp Office is working to full capacity.

Tax Code.

Ivor Callely

Question:

272 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to make provisions for a first time buyer and a non-first time buyer who are joining together to buy a house for €300,000 in view of the fact that as the total price is less than €317,500 no relief is available to the first time buyer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24655/06]

Ivor Callely

Question:

273 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to make provisions for the situation of two first time buyers buying a house for €320,000 as even though both of them are paying only €160,000 for their share of the house they are not exempt from stamp duty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24656/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 272 and 273 together.

Reduced rates of stamp duty on second-hand residential property for first-time buyers were introduced in the Finance Act (No. 2) 2000 in order to assist first-time buyers entering the housing market. The reduced rates apply where the purchaser or purchasers declare that they have not purchased property before and where they will occupy the property for at least five years. Where a property is purchased jointly each purchaser must satisfy the conditions in order to qualify for the reduced rates applicable to first-time buyers.

As regards the situation where two first-time buyers purchase a house valued at €320,000, the position is that the value of the property exceeds the €317,500 exemption limit for first-time buyers and therefore stamp duty is charged on the conveyance at 3%. The stamp duty thresholds applicable to first-time buyers apply on the basis of the full market value of the entire property and not the value of the interest in the property acquired by each first-time buyer.

Any proposals concerning the rates, structure and impact of stamp duty are a matter for the Budget and will be considered in this context. It should be mentioned, however, that I have acted already in a number of respects, to lessen the burden of stamp duty on first-time buyers. As the Deputy may be aware, new houses, which are purchased for occupation as a principal place of residence, are generally exempt from stamp duty already.

Departmental Guidelines.

Enda Kenny

Question:

274 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if all commercial semi-State bodies are subject to his Department’s Guidelines for the Appraisal of Capital Expenditure Projects which affects all capital projects valued at over €30 million; if not, the bodies which are exempt from these guidelines; the reason thereof; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24730/06]

The Guidelines for the Appraisal and Management of Capital Expenditure Proposals in the Public Sector, as amended by my Department's Value for Money Circular Letter of 26 January 2006, apply, as appropriate, to all semi-State bodies which are expected to ensure that best practice is applied in assessing the commercial viability of all major projects. The guidelines state that the Board of each State Company must satisfy itself annually that the company is in full compliance with the guidelines.

Tax Code.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

275 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance if he has given further consideration to the area of VAT refunds on conferences held in hotels here as is a practice in many other countries; and his views on whether this would allow Ireland to play on a level playing field; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24734/06]

As the Deputy will be aware from recent replies to similar questions on this issue, I want to make sure any such relief can work and does not open up the VAT system to other very costly demands. The examination of the matter is ongoing and I will consider it in the context of next year's Budget.

Court Accommodation.

John McGuinness

Question:

276 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance his intentions in relation to the courthouse and site at Urlingford, County Kilkenny; if part of the lands will be offered for sale; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24769/06]

The courthouse and site at Urlingford are not in the ownership of the Office of Public Works. It is my understanding that they are in the ownership of the Local Authority and the building is now used as a library. The Office of Public Works has no responsibility in this matter.

Tax Code.

Pat Carey

Question:

277 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance if stamp duty can be waived in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath who has to purchase a new home to accommodate a child who has muscular dystrophy as their existing home cannot be modified without incurring prohibitive costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24770/06]

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

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

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

State Property.

Billy Timmins

Question:

278 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 145 of 21 June 2006, the reason the information with respect to the other bids is deemed to be commercially sensitive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24772/06]

The information is deemed to be commercially sensitive as it could impact on prices achieved in future sales.

Architectural Heritage.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

279 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works has received a request from Mitchelstown Heritage to clean the Fanahan Sculpture at Mitchelstown Garda Station; and if the necessary arrangements are being made to carry out the work. [24798/06]

The Office of Public Works has received a request from Mitchelstown Heritage Society to clean the Fanahan sculpture at Mitchelstown Garda Station.

The cleaning project will be undertaken in consultation with the sculptor, Cliodhna Cussen.

Equal Opportunities Employment.

Ivor Callely

Question:

280 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Finance the targeted percentage of employment of people with a disability by his Department; if the 3 per cent target will be surpassed or is his Department restricted to this percentage; the percentage of people with a disability employed in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24818/06]

The Department of Finance, in common with all other civil service Departments and Offices, fully implements the Government's policy on the employment of people with a disability.

The Deputy may wish to note that, as part of a review of policy on the employment of people with a disability in the civil service, my Department commissioned independent research in relation to the operation of the 3% employment target. A survey carried out as part of this research which was published as "Employment and Career Progression of people with a disability in the Irish Civil Service," shows that 7% of Civil Service staff have a disability compared with the 2% to 3% generally reported in the annual surveys. The consultants therefore concluded that the arrangements in relation to reporting disabilities needed to be addressed.

In the light of the consultants' recommendations, the Government approved proposals to improve the operation of the existing policy. These included [a] the development, in conjunction with the staff unions, of a new code of practice for all Departments to support staff with a disability and [b] ensuring that the civil service continues to provide employment opportunities which might not otherwise exist for people with a disability.

A number of significant initiatives have been taken recently. The Department of Finance has recruited a Disability Advisory Officer to develop guidelines in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer for the monitoring, reporting and recording arrangements for staff with a disability in the Civil Service. My Department is working with the National Disability Authority to explore potential new approaches to supporting staff with disabilities, including the possible use of a survey based on voluntary self-disclosure, both for new staff on appointment and for existing staff. A Disability Liaison Officers network involving all Departments has also been set up to share information and advice. It is also important that the Civil Service continues to offer employment opportunities to people with disabilities. In light of the research and the independent consultants' recommendations in relation to recruitment, discussions are taking place with the Public Appointments Service about putting in place a programme of targeted recruitment for the Civil Service. It is expected that the programme will begin in the autumn.

It is estimated that the percentage of staff in the Department of Finance with a disability currently stands at 2.85 % based on reporting arrangements which as outlined above are under review.

Garda Stations.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

281 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the provision of a new Garda station at Tralee, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24861/06]

In recent weeks, an advertisement appeared in the press seeking a suitable site in Tralee for a new Garda Station. Any responses received will be evaluated by the Commissioners of Public Works.

Public Procurement Contracts.

Richard Bruton

Question:

282 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the areas of the proposed new public procurement contracts in dispute with bodies representing contractors; and if he will list in the case of each disputed item the reason he believes private contractors are in a better position to manage the risk concerned than the public sector; the core reason the State would choose to contract out the risk. [25014/06]

The Government's policy objectives in relation to construction procurement reform is to seek to achieve greater cost certainty, better value for money and more cost effective delivery of public works projects. My Department, with the assistance of the Government Contracts Committee for Construction (GCCC), specialist legal drafters and external technical expertise, has developed a suite of Standard Forms of Construction Contract to give effect to the core Government's objectives in this area. The well established principle in relation to risk transfer is that risk should reside with those best able to manage and control it. This is the guiding principle throughout the new suite of contracts and is the basis upon which they have been prepared. In finalising the public sector contract conditions, I am now satisfied that this principle is being applied in a fair, reasonable and balanced way.

My officials have had extensive and constructive consultations with the construction industry over the last year on the content of the contracts. During this process, there has been very significant movement on the part of the State to help meet the industry's concerns without compromising the core policy of having fixed price lump sum contracts with appropriate risk transfer, tendered on a competitive basis as the norm for future capital works projects. Following a very useful exchange of views with representatives of the construction industry earlier this month, I am aware that there are a small number of outstanding concerns for the industry. Some of these go to the very core of fixed price lump sum contracts, including the length of the fixed period and the extent of, and scope for, risk apportionment under a number of headings and types. Others relate to the more effective operation of the contracts themselves and the sanctions available for non-compliance. It would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the details at this time. However, let me say that I have listened carefully to the industry's comments and views and I am currently reflecting on the points made with a view to finalising the contracts very shortly.

It is important that we move the process on now and prepare for the next phase of implementation, which is a comprehensive training programme for public sector practitioners, to ensure that the new arrangements are used appropriately across the public sector as soon as possible.

Statutory Regulations.

Paul McGrath

Question:

283 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the regulations which have been enacted by his Minister of State at his Department since his appointment; the statutory instruments under which he is carrying out his functions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25042/06]

No statutory regulations have been made by Mr. Tom Parlon TD, Minister of State at the Department of Finance. Mr. Parlon was appointed by the Government as Minister of State with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works and his activities at that Office arise from that appointment.

National Development Plan.

John Perry

Question:

284 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance if, with regard to the €75 billion which is due to be spent on infrastructure between 2007 and 2013 under the New National Development Plan, Counties Sligo and Leitrim will be targeted to bring growth to the region; the amount of funding that will be ringfenced for Counties Sligo and Leitrim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25049/06]

The preparation of the next NDP (2007-2013) is proceeding at present. The NDP will be a high level strategic document which will set out a clear framework for investment priorities over the period to 2013. It will encompass 7 year indicative allocations at national level rather than the current two region level. Allocations will not be set out at county level. A key objective of the NDP will be the promotion of balanced regional development in line with the National Spatial Strategy.

The NDP will also give priority to North/South co-operation. Such co-operation should be of particular benefit to Border counties.

Biofuels Sector.

Jack Wall

Question:

285 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if any party expressed an interest in setting up and developing an ethanol business in south Kildare, in view of the recent problems experienced by the tillage farmers of that region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24747/06]

A number of initiatives are in place to support the development of a biofuels sector in Ireland. The 2005 pilot mineral oil tax relief scheme for biofuels has resulted in eight projects being awarded excise relief and will result in 16 million litres of biofuels being placed on the Irish transport market by next year.

Building on the success of this scheme and following extensive discussions with industry and relevant Government Departments and agencies, I agreed with the Minister for Finance a further targeted package of excise relief valued at €205m, which was announced in the last Budget. The new excise relief programme, which is subject to State-aid approval, will be rolled out from this year to 2010 and will enable us to reach a target of 2% market penetration of biofuels by 2008. When fully operational the relief is expected to support the use and production of some 163 million litres of biofuels each year. I am also providing funding towards the capital cost of developing biofuels processing facilities, which will critically underpin the excise relief package.

Officials in my Department have met with several prospective biofuels developers, from a number of areas across the country. While I am not aware of any specific proposal for an ethanol facility in the south Kildare region, any emerging bioethanol, biodiesel or pure plant oil projects could potentially impact on tillage farmers across Ireland, including farmers in South Kildare.

Telecommunications Services.

Willie Penrose

Question:

286 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when announcements regarding the third round of the group broadband scheme will be made; if his attention has been drawn to the importance of this scheme to smaller communities and in particular in the context of employment generation possibilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24330/06]

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

The most recent call for proposals has now closed and I expect to launch further schemes of this nature shortly.

Michael Lowry

Question:

287 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the progress that has been made in relation to the provision of broadband access; when broadband access will be made available at locations (details supplied); if there are plans to bring broadband to other areas in Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24411/06]

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

My Department administers a Group Broadband Scheme which is aimed at grant aiding broadband service providers when establishing services in rural areas with populations below 1,500. Under the second phase of this scheme several broadband projects have been approved for the Tipperary area among which the towns of Newport, Borrisokane and Ballina are included.

The most recent call for proposals has now closed and I expect to launch further schemes of this nature shortly.

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

Paddy McHugh

Question:

288 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the process available to rural communities to avail of broadband; the procedures to be followed and the funding available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24431/06]

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

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

The most recent call for proposals has now closed and I expect to launch further schemes of this nature shortly.

Post Office Network.

Mary Upton

Question:

289 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to provide grant aid to ensure that post offices that serve local communities are viable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24440/06]

While the development and continued viability of the post office network is, in the first instance, a matter for the board and management of An Post, this Government and the Board of An Post are committed to the objective of ensuring the continuation of a viable and sustainable nationwide post office network as set out in the Programme for Government. The challenge for all stakeholders in An Post is to generate sufficient profitable business to maintain the network at its current size.

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

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

Telecommunications Services.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

290 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if it is anticipated that a town (details supplied) in County Galway will be included in the next roll-out of the MANs programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24497/06]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

291 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if a broadband service will be provided to a town (details supplied) in County Galway; the timeframe for the delivery of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24498/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 290 and 291 together.

In planning the second phase of the Metropolitan Area Network (MANs) programme, a review of the availability of DSL broadband in the regions showed over 90 towns with a population of 1,500 and above that were not being offered a broadband option by the private sector, and these towns were targeted for the provision of MANs under Phase Two of the programme.

The Census of 2002 on which the population figures were based, shows that at the last census Headford had a population of 703. For smaller towns and communities such as Headford financial assistance is available under my Department's Group Broadband Scheme, which enables local community groups in smaller towns and rural areas to come together on a cooperative basis with the service providers and obtain broadband for their area using the most suitable technology. I expect to launch further schemes of this nature shortly.

Coastal Erosion.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

292 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will approve funding to carry out coastal erosion protection works at a location (details supplied) in County Cork. [24499/06]

Responsibility for coast protection rests with the property owner whether it be a local authority or a private individual. In July 2002 the Department requested all coastal local authorities to submit proposals, in order of priority, for consideration in the context of the 2003-2006 National Coast Protection Programmes. Cork County Council did not submit an application for funding works at Ring Strand, Ballymacoda, Co Cork. Any funding application which Cork County Council wish to submit will be considered in the context of the amount of Exchequer funding available for coast protection works going forward and overall national priorities.

Telecommunications Services.

Bernard Allen

Question:

293 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he had contact with Eircom regarding the inadequacies of sub-exchanges to provide a broadband service nationwide; the location of all the sub-exchanges that are unable to provide a broadband service; and the action he proposes to take in relation to the problem. [24531/06]

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

DSL availability and line failure rates are a matter for Eircom and I have no function in the matter.

Bernard Allen

Question:

294 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if Eircom have been in contact with him regarding Government financial support for the upgrading of a sub-exchange in the Glanmire area due to the fact that hundreds of homes can not receive a broadband service in the Glanmire area because of the inadequacy of a sub-exchange service in that area; and if a decision on the request will be made shortly in order to eliminate this deficiency in the area. [24537/06]

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

DSL availability and line failure rates are a matter for Eircom and I have no function in the matter.

Foreshore Protection.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

295 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will confirm that enforcement proceedings will be issued with a view to enforcing the terms of the Foreshore Acts and the protection of the foreshore arising from the blocking of public access along the foreshore and the putting in place of hazards to navigation at Walton Court, Oysterhaven, County Cork. [24741/06]

The Department is currently awaiting definitive legal advice in relation to this matter. The Deputy will be aware, however, that the Department is determined to protect the foreshore in accordance with the provisions of the Foreshore Acts and acting in accordance with legal advice.

Telecommunications Services.

Paul McGrath

Question:

296 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when the third round of the group broadband scheme will be announced; the operational timescale to have regional broadband rolled-out to rural communities (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24750/06]

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

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

The most recent call for proposals has now closed and I expect to launch further schemes of this nature shortly.

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

Equal Opportunities Employment.

Ivor Callely

Question:

297 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the targeted percentage of employment of people with a disability by his Department; if the 3 per cent target be surpassed or is his Department restricted to this percentage; the percentage of people with a disability employed in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24819/06]

The percentage target for employment of people with disabilities in the Civil Service is the responsibility of the Minister for Finance and is currently set a 3%.

The percentage of staff in my department with a disability exceeds this target and currently stands at 4.75%. As part of my Department's ‘Achieving Potential Through Equality and Diversity Action Plan 2004-2006' our goal is to maintain and enhance existing compliance with the Government's employment target of 3% for staff with disability, including temporary recruitment.

Telecommunications Services.

John Dennehy

Question:

298 Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he is satisfied with on-going progress in relation to provision of broadband facilities throughout the country, and in particular provision of local loop unbundling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24846/06]

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

Promotion and regulation of Local Loop unbundling is the responsibility of ComReg under the Communications Regulation Act of 2002 and the transposed EU regulatory framework for Electronic Communications Networks and Services. ComReg is independent in the exercise of its functions.

A principal reason for the slow rollout of broadband services generally has been the lack of investment by the private sector in the necessary infrastructure to deliver b