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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 8 Nov 2006

Vol. 627 No. 1

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 11, inclusive, answered orally.

Litter Pollution.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

12 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the responsibilities of local authorities to keep public places free from litter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36507/06]

Under the Litter Pollution Acts 1997 to 2003, primary responsibility for developing and implementing responses to litter lies with local authorities. Local authorities are required, so far as is practicable, to ensure that public roads in their functional areas are kept free of litter. They are also required to take all practicable measures for the prevention, control and disposal of litter in their functional areas. Each local authority determines its level of expenditure on individual local services, including anti-litter and clean-up operations.

Since enactment of the 1997 Litter Pollution Act, local authority performance on enforcement of the litter laws has improved significantly, with more litter wardens employed and substantial increases in the number of prosecutions taken and on-the-spot fines issued. The number of litter wardens employed over this period almost trebled to 406 in 2005, and the number of prosecutions increased more than sixfold from 330 to almost 2,200. The number of on-the-spot fines levied increased about eightfold to some 26,600 over the same period.

Under the National Litter Pollution Monitoring System (NLPMS), local authorities carry out surveys to determine the extent and composition of litter pollution in their areas. The data obtained provides a picture of national pollution levels and measures progress in tackling litter pollution. The data is processed and audited by an independent firm. In recent years the trends indicated by the monitoring system are generally positive. The emerging pattern is of a gradual but steady improvement in regard to the extent of litter pollution countrywide. Litter-free areas are increasing and littered areas including litter blackspots are decreasing. Full details of the survey data are available on the website www.litter.ie.

Question No. 13 answered with QuestionNo. 10.

Wildlife Protection.

Joe Callanan

Question:

14 Mr. Callanan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the dates under the Wildlife Act 1976 when the cutting of hedges is prohibited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36436/06]

The Wildlife Acts provide generally that it is an offence for a person to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy any vegetation growing in any hedge or ditch during the period from 1 March to 31 August subject to certain exemptions for example, where an issue of public safety is involved.

The purpose of these provisions is to protect bird life during the nesting season, to prevent forest fires, and to protect vegetation and wildlife habitats during the months of growth and reproduction.

Local Authority Funding.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

15 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the way he will fund local government when there will be a requirement by 2010 for additional resources of €1 billion to €2 billion compared to 2004; if existing levels of service provision are to be maintained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36609/06]

The Review of Local Government Financing by Indecon Economic Consultants estimated, on the basis of different methods of projecting expenditure, that by 2010 local authority expenditure will increase by €1 billion to €2 billion in nominal terms over 2004 levels. Funding this expenditure would be met by a combination of the buoyancy in the existing funding system, some additional funding and the achievement of efficiencies over the period.

As regards the existing funding system, there is significant natural buoyancy in the current revenue sources of local authorities. For example, at local level, the valuation base is growing rapidly as a result of our continued economic growth; in 2006, this valuation base increased by some 10% over 2005. In addition revenue from motor taxation — which is paid directly into the Local Government Fund — continues to increase without any increases in the rates of this taxation; in 2006, motor tax revenues are running at 10% above 2005 levels.

I was in a position to announce record levels of General-Purpose Grants to local authorities from the Fund amounting to some €875m for 2006. Taking account of global valuations, this was an increase of some 8% on the 2005 allocation or2½ times the 1997 level. I will shortly be announcing the general-purpose grant allocations to local authorities for 2007 and I am confident that the levels of funding that will be made available will be adequate to meet ongoing local authority needs.

To supplement the existing income sources, a number of initiatives are being pursued. Measures to combat motor tax evasion are being continued and stepped up. I am also considering ways of bringing planning fees, which are fixed by Regulations, into line with the economic cost of dealing with planning applications.

Additional revenues will be complemented by a range of efficiency initiatives. In partnership with local authorities:

I am developing a standard costing system for the sector to deliver enhanced management information, particularly in relation to unit costs,

I intend to enhance arrangements for local audit committees in line with best practice, and

I will pursue the scope for greater sharing of services between authorities.

I will also continue to ensure that the Value for Money Unit in my Department undertakes in-depth analyses of local authority activities and identifies "best practice". The availability of good information is a key to good decision-making and I have published key financial data on my Department's website.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Denis Naughten

Question:

16 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the grant aid available for group sewerage schemes will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36438/06]

Under the Rural Water Programme a grant of up to 75% of costs or €2031 per house which ever is lesser, is available from local authorities for the provision of private sewage collection and disposal facilities through group sewerage schemes.

The National Rural Water Monitoring Committee, are currently undertaking a pilot programme to test a range of new, small-scale wastewater collection and treatment systems under Irish conditions. This programme will evaluate new approaches to meeting the wastewater collection and treatment needs of rural villages and to examine the potential role for group sewerage schemes in extending the collection systems to households outside the catchment of new or existing sewerage schemes. The pilot programme will also test a low cost, low maintenance system to collect, treat and dispose of effluent from existing septic tanks.

Construction of the pilot projects is currently in progress and monitoring of the performance of the new infrastructure by the National Rural Water Monitoring Committee will commence immediately after commissioning takes place. I have asked the Committee to report on results as they become available.

I will review the potential role for group sewerage schemes and the level of any assistance that might be appropriate in the light of the outcome of these pilot projects.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

17 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will confirm a report (details supplied) that he is proposing a new tax on SUVs and big engine cars, related to the amount of carbon dioxide and other emissions these vehicles produce; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36509/06]

Emissions from the transport sector in 2004 totalled 12.58 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, equivalent to 18% of total national emissions in 2004. Road transport accounted for 96% of transport emissions.

Different treatment already exists for private motor vehicles on the basis of engine size through differentiated vehicle registration and motor tax rates. In addition, 50% relief on vehicle registration tax is currently available for both hybrid-electric and flexible fuel vehicles.

While engine size is related to both fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, the size of a vehicle's engine is not an accurate proxy for the CO2 emissions from that vehicle and certain technologies provide a greater CO2 efficiency for a given engine size. I am therefore currently examining the potential to more closely align motor taxation with the rated CO2 emissions for given vehicle types. It is not yet possible to identify the specific changes which might result from this approach. Any changes to the current system of vehicle registration tax are a matter for the Minister for Finance.

Rental Accommodation.

David Stanton

Question:

18 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount of money transferred to his Department’s Vote from the Department of Social and Family Affairs for the operation of the rental accommodation scheme each year; the amount his Department expects to receive in future years; the amount of this allocation which has been spent to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36723/06]

The Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) is a collaborative project between the Department, the Department of Social and Family Affairs, local authorities and the Health Service Executive Community Welfare Division. In order to finance the funding of the transfer of households in the SWA rent supplement scheme with long-term housing needs to RAS, €19 million was provided to this Department's Vote in 2005, and again in 2006, from the Vote of the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

The level of funding transferred to the Department in future years will depend on progress in implementing the scheme. Specific details in relation to funding RAS in 2007, including commitments under Towards 2016, will be published as part of the Revised Estimates for the Public Service early in 2007. The total amount spent to date on the RAS initiative is of the order of €4.122 million.

Housing Management Companies.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

19 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will move to regulate property management companies and their agents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36627/06]

The Law Reform Commission is currently examining legal aspects generally regarding the management of multi-unit structures and a consultation paper is expected to be finalised shortly. Following the consultation period, a final report will be prepared and its recommendations will be considered by the Departments concerned, including the need for any new measures to be taken in this area.

The regulation of managing agents will be among the functions of the new Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA). The authority will licence, regulate and deal with complaints relating to managing agents, which are commercial firms engaged by management companies to carry out day-to-day management and maintenance. The Authority will also have a public information function in relation to property management. Legislation to provide for the establishment of the PSRA and other matters relating to property services is being developed by Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Apartment complex management companies are generally constituted under the Companies Acts and are required to comply with the provisions of company law. It is understood that proposals are being developed by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment for a Company Law Reform and Consolidation Bill which, it is expected, will include certain provisions relating to management companies.

Obligations of property owners in relation to management companies are the subject of private contracts and buyers should obtain adequate legal advice and information when signing contracts. A recent report and booklet published by the National Consumer Agency provides useful consumer information on property management arrangements.

Waste Disposal.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

20 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to introduce a national waiver scheme for waste charges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36500/06]

Waste management services have traditionally been provided at a local level, with individual arrangements being locally determined and tailored to local circumstances. The present legal framework, as determined by the Oireachtas, reflects this. In accordance with section 52 of the Protection of the Environment Act 2003, the determination of waste management charges, and any associated waiver scheme, is a matter for the relevant local authority, where it acts as the service provider. Similarly, where a private operator provides the collection service, it is a matter for that operator to determine charges. However, my Department has asked local authorities to engage with commercial waste collectors to agree on arrangements to assist lower income households by offering alternatives to periodic lump-sum payments.

In August this year, I published a consultation paper on options for future regulation of the waste sector. Submissions were invited on whether there is a need for a regulator for the sector, if so on what model of regulator might be most appropriate and on what powers any such regulator should be given. Among the possible powers discussed in the paper is the power to impose a public service obligation so that services can be provided where they would not otherwise be economically feasible. Following consideration of the submissions received, which is currently underway, I intend to finalise further policy proposals.

Recycling Policy.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

21 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the members of the market development group which was established to identify market opportunities for recycled products; the number of meetings of the group which have been held; when it is intended to publish the group’s market development programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36491/06]

Dan Neville

Question:

78 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action he will take to boost the market for recyclables; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36635/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21 and 78 together.

One of the main barriers to an improved and sustainable recycling performance is the lack of stable and economically attractive markets and outlets for recyclable materials and products manufactured from recycled products. The need for the establishment of a Market Development Group, which would oversee the development of a Market Development Programme, was outlined in the Delivering Change policy statement and the Agreed Programme for Government.

The Market Development Group, established in July 2004, has met on six occasions. The work of the Group is currently focusing on three priority waste streams: paper, plastic and compost. Among the key issues to be addressed are promoting stable demand for recovered materials, supporting the achievement of economies of scale in the production of products made from recycled materials and the need for more recycling infrastructure in Ireland to reduce reliance on overseas markets.

The National Market Development Programme, which the Group is developing, will identify new applications and markets for recyclable material and secondary recycled products. The Group has been asked to identify barriers to the use and marketing of recyclable material and to develop strategies to address these. The Market Development Programme is being finalised at present for publication early in 2007.

The membership of the Group is shown in the table.

Market Development Group

Ms Margaret Daly, Chairperson

Managing Director, Biofine Europe

Mr. Fred McDarby

Enterprise Ireland

Mr. Pat Macken

Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DEHLG)

Mr. Brendan O’Neill

DEHLG

Mr. Margo Monaghan

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE)

Mr. Donal Buckley

Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC)

Mr. David Manning

IBEC

Mr. Patrick Hayes

National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI)

Dr. John Ryan

Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME)

Mr. Tadhg Coakley

Clean Technology Centre, CTC

Dr. Gerry Byrne

Environmental Protection Association, EPA

Mr. Philip O’Neill

County and City Managers Association (CCMA)

Mr. Erik O’Donovan

Irish Waste Management Association (IWMA)

Mr. Fiacra Quinn

Small Firms Association (SFA)

Mr. Ray Gordon

Communications Consultant

Mr. Robert Rowan

Environmental Consultant

Nuclear Plants.

Michael Noonan

Question:

22 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of the Government’s campaign to close Sellafield; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36633/06]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

84 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has devised another strategy for pursuing the MOX case as previously promised in Dáil Éireann. [36449/06]

Jack Wall

Question:

126 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the present position in relation to legal cases been taken against the UK nuclear industry by the Government of Ireland. [36451/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 22, 84 and 126 together.

I refer to the reply to Question No. 56 of 13 June 2006 regarding the European Court of Justice Judgment of May 2006.

Ireland's international legal team, led by the Attorney General, continues to examine this complex judgment with a view to adapting Ireland's strategy in relation to Sellafield. The Irish authorities have also written to the European Commission on 18 October to seek a high level meeting with the Commission which would clarify the elements of the dispute falling within and outside the ECJ's jurisdiction. A response from the Commission is currently awaited.

On the diplomatic front, I will be meeting Mr. Alistair Darling MP, UK Secretary of State at the Department of Trade and Industry in London on 9 January next to voice the continuing concerns of the Irish Government in relation to the operation of the Sellafield Plant. Similarly, I also hope to meet Mr. David Miliband, UK Secretary of State at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs while I am in London.

This Government will continue to pursue all legal, political and diplomatic options to secure the safe and orderly closure of the Sellafield facility. I consider that the current legal and ongoing diplomatic initiatives by the Irish Government in relation to Sellafield have resulted in increasing recognition by the UK Government and its Departments and Agencies of the depth of Ireland's concerns about Sellafield and of the priority accorded to the issue of Sellafield by the Irish Government.

Register of Electors.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

23 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of the register of electors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36620/06]

Martin Ferris

Question:

63 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount spent on the current campaign to update the electoral register and to encourage unregistered voters to register; and if he is satisfied with progress to date. [36671/06]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

69 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has received information from local authorities regarding the review of the electoral register; if such information suggests that there will be a reduction in the number of persons registered to vote; if the local authorities have identified difficulties with the registration process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36512/06]

Gay Mitchell

Question:

94 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the percentage accuracy he believes can be achieved in terms of the electoral register prior to the next general election; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36621/06]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

116 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he will take to minimise the removal, from the electoral register for 2007, of persons who are normally entitled to vote; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36513/06]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

117 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures taken by his Department to correct the electoral register; and the amount these measures will cost. [36686/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

353 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on changing the title of the register of electors to the voters register, in line with most other states in view of the fact that the title currently used is unclear to many people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37031/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 23, 63, 69, 94, 116, 117 and 353 together.

In law, the preparation of the Register of Electors is a matter for each local registration authority. It is their duty to ensure, as far as possible and with the cooperation of the public, the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the Register. Local authorities must publish the draft Register on or before 1 November each year and they must publish the final Register on 1 February.

In April 2006, I announced a package of measures to assist local authorities in their work on preparing the 2007/8 Register, which included the use of Census enumerators or other temporary personnel to support local authorities in preparing the next Register. The CSO contacted Census enumerators seeking expressions of interest in the work; lists of enumerators expressing such an interest in each city and county council area were made available to local authorities. This cleared the way for recruitment and deployment, as appropriate, by local authorities of additional temporary staff for the registration campaign.

In addition, my Department worked with a group of local authority managers and senior officials to put in place an enhanced programme for improving the next Register. Detailed procedures for the carrying out of registration fieldwork were finalised and issued to local authorities in early July. The procedures included provision for ensuring that each household was visited and provided with forms and information at least twice, if necessary. In the event that this process did not satisfactorily register the household, written notification would then be given cautioning of the danger of being omitted from the Register. A person not on the draft register may apply (before 25 November) for inclusion on the final register to be published on 1 February 2007, or may apply for inclusion on the supplement to the register which closes on the fifteenth day before the next polling day.

New supplies of the electoral registration (RFA) forms were distributed to all local authorities in June (significantly earlier than in previous years).

I also committed to providing additional ring-fenced financial resources to support local authorities' own spending in respect of the register campaign and advised authorities that a contribution of some €6 million can be made available in this regard. An initial allocation of some €3 million, based on the number of households in each local authority area, was made available in July to local authorities for registration work.

As regards publicity and awareness, a two-stage approach has been developed, involving information notices followed by an intensive media campaign. Information notices were published in the national press on 19–21 August, urging co-operation with local register campaigns. In addition, a national publicity and awareness campaign involving TV, radio, press and outdoor advertising commenced on 11 September and will run until 25 November (the closing date for submitting corrections to the Draft Register).

An online register search facility is now available through local authority websites and a central website www.checktheregister.ie is also now available, containing direct links to each local authority’s eReg enquiry screen, to facilitate people in checking that they are on the Draft Register.

New arrangements for the deletion of names of deceased persons from the Register are now in place: the new system allows for the efficient and timely deletion of the names of deceased persons from the Register using the Death Event Publication Service which has been developed by Reach in association with the General Register Office.

New guidance for local authorities on Preparing and Maintaining the Register of Electors was made available to authorities in electronic format on 31 May. Printed copies of the guidance were subsequently sent to all local authorities, returning officers and relevant Government Departments. In the final version of the guidance, the importance of local authorities cross-checking the Register with other databases available to them is stressed.

It is internationally acknowledged that electoral registration presents particular difficulties and challenges for electoral authorities. I am satisfied that local authorities have carried out the most extensive registration campaign in decades for the Draft Register 2007/8. My Department is currently compiling summary data from local authorities in this regard. While the complete data are awaited, initial indications are that there has been extensive activity with both significant additions to, and deletions from, the Register.

I have no proposals to change the title of the Register at this stage.

Election Management System.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

24 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the members of the Cabinet committee on electronic voting; the number of meetings of the committee which have been held to date; the date of the last meeting of the committee; when the committee intends to report to the Government; if it has appointed a peer review group for electronic voting; the members of such group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36484/06]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

31 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will outline the progress to date in implementing the recommendations of the Commission on Electronic Voting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36602/06]

John Perry

Question:

34 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason the Commission on Electronic Voting was not asked to continue the testing it identified as essential to hardware and software for the electronic voting machines before it was dissolved in September 2006; if the commission expressed views on who should do this further testing before its dissolution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36647/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

52 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the next election or referendum at which it is intended to use the Nedap Power vote electronic voting system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36485/06]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

62 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has undertaken a capital appraisal of the proposal to centralise the storage of electronic voting machines; the result of such appraisal; if he will publish same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36640/06]

Pat Breen

Question:

104 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the views the Department of Defence submitted to him in relation to the central storage of electronic voting machines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36604/06]

Pat Breen

Question:

122 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the person carrying out further work on the hardware and software for electronic voting, in view of the fact that the Commission on Electronic Voting has been wound up; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36603/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

359 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the cost to date of the e-voting technology including the cost of promoting its use, storage and research, with a breakdown of costings in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37053/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

360 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the various tests carried out here and in the Netherlands on the e-voting systems proposed by his Department; if he intends to continue to store and promote such technology and for what purpose; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37054/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 24, 31, 34, 52, 62, 104, 122, 359 and 360 together.

The Commission on Electronic Voting concluded in its Second Report on the Secrecy, Accuracy and Testing of the Chosen Electronic Voting System, which was published on 4 July 2006, that it can recommend the voting and counting equipment for use at elections in Ireland, subject to further work it has recommended. The Commission made it clear that many of its recommendations involve only relatively minor modifications or additions to the system.

While the software of the voting machine was considered by the Commission to be of adequate quality requiring only minor modifications and further analysis to confirm its reliability, it was unable to recommend the election management software. In the context of its comparison of the electronic and manual voting systems, the Commission concluded that, subject to its recommendations being implemented, the chosen system has the potential to deliver greater accuracy than the paper system and can provide similarly high levels of secrecy.

In response to the report, the Government has established a Cabinet Committee on Electronic Voting, which I chair, to consider the report in detail; report to the Government on the full implications of the Commission recommendations; consider the composition of a peer review group — drawn from international electoral reform bodies and the IT industry — to supervise any software redesign work; report to the Government on confidence building measures; and identify any other improvements that might be built into the system.

The Cabinet Committee, which also includes the Tánaiste and the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, met on 31 July 2006. Its work is underway and it will meet again in the near future. The issue of a peer review group will be considered by the Committee at the appropriate stage of its deliberations. The Committee will report to Government when its work is completed.

The timing of the further use of the system is dependent on the ongoing work of the Cabinet Committee, the associated decisions arising in this regard, and the dates at which future polls may be held.

Section 22 of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2004 provides that the Commission shall stand dissolved on the expiration of 2 months from the presentation by the Commission of the last of its reports; this expiration period concluded 4 September 2006.

On the question of further testing, recommendations 18 to 21 of the Second Report refer to the need for testing of the system by a body duly qualified and accredited following any modifications that may be decided upon. These and all other recommendations of the Commission will be taken into account in the work of the Cabinet Committee. I am aware of the testing of the system to date here and elsewhere, and fully accept the need for appropriate further testing of the system prior to use.

The Government decision to proceed with the movement of the electronic voting equipment to centralised premises was made taking into account a range of factors, including costs of current and centralised arrangements and the likely benefits to be realised. In this regard, the Commission in its Second Report concluded that, as the current arrangements under which voting equipment is stored at 25 locations are likely to give rise to continuing variations in the implementation of security and related control measures, together with replication of similar costs of implementation of these measures which are not insignificant across individual centres, enhanced and more uniform security and greater economy of security costs could be achieved through the rationalisation of storage on a regional or centralised basis.

In taking forward the decision to centralise storage of the electronic voting machines, the Department of Defence advised my Department of the availability of a hangar at Gormanston Aerodrome, Co. Meath, which can accommodate the majority of the electronic voting machines.

The total cost incurred to date in the development and roll-out of the electronic voting and counting system is €51.3 million (including €2.6 million in respect of awareness and education initiatives and €0.73 million for work by consultants on assessment/testing of the system). In addition, information provided by returning officers to my Department indicates that the annual storage costs for the electronic voting machines and ancillary equipment is currently some €705,000.

Question No. 25 answered with QuestionNo. 11.

Planning Issues.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

26 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, regarding the relevant provisions of the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006 which will enable local authorities to refuse planning permissions to developers with a poor history of development, he will establish a central database containing information on such developers to ensure that all local authorities have access to a comprehensive list of persons to whom they may refuse permission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36442/06]

Section 9 of the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006 amends section 35 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 to enable the planning authority to refuse permission to a developer who has been in substantial non-compliance with a previous planning permission. The applicant will have to apply to the High Court if he or she wishes to have the decision overturned. This reverses the previous position, whereby a planning authority wishing to refuse permission in such a case was required to first obtain the authorisation of the High Court. It is intended to assist any planning authority in dealing a developer who has persistently failed to comply with the requirements of that authority.

Each planning authority has primary responsibility for dealing with applications for permission and planning enforcement within its own area. The section therefore does not enable a planning authority to rely on information supplied by others, or from a centrally maintained list, when deciding whether to grant or refuse permission in any particular case.

Abolition of Dual Mandate.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

27 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied that the commitments given to the Houses of the Oireachtas during the passage of legislation effecting the abolition of the dual mandate are being met and honoured in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36571/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

364 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the undertaking given to the Houses of the Oireachtas during the passage of legalisation abolishing the dual mandate, that Oireachtas Members would have continued and ready access to the local authorities is being honoured in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37059/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 27 and 364 together.

The Local Government Act 2001 (Section 237A) Regulations 2003, provide, inter alia, for the supply of specified documentation to Oireachtas members by the local authority such as local authority budget, draft development plan etc. In addition, equivalent systems, procedures and timeframes to those used in relation to correspondence from local authority members apply also in respect of Oireachtas members. Managers are required to meet at least annually with local Oireachtas members and thus provide an opportunity for an update on developments and for any difficulties encountered to be raised and addressed. As indicated in earlier replies to Questions on this topic, I am concerned that local authorities should at all times facilitate parliamentary representatives, in both the spirit and the letter of the Regulations, in carrying out their work on behalf of local communities.

I am, at present, considering issuing supplementary guidance to local authorities in the matter, in the light of practical experience with the operation of the arrangements to date.

Planning Issues.

Paul McGrath

Question:

28 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the present situation in relation to the significant appeals delay in An Bord Pleanála; the reason for such delays; the action being taken to expedite the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36605/06]

An Bord Pleanála have experienced sustained high volumes of case intake of the last few years, with cumulative increases of 24% between 2004 and 2005 over the 2003 intake. Based on the rate of intake at end October, it is anticipated that the Board will come close to taking in a record level of appeals in 2006, for the second year in succession.

By end October the Board had received over 5,000 cases and disposed of 4,773, an increase of 5% on 2005 and 12% on 2004 in the number of cases disposed. The percentage of cases resolved within the statutory period was 53%, while the average time taken to dispose of cases was 18.1 weeks (which compares favourably to the previous peak of case intake in 2001 when the average time taken to make decisions was 25 weeks).

In recognition of the increased demands on the Board, and to assist in the delivery of the provisions of the Strategic Infrastructure Act 2006, an additional 24 permanent staff has been sanctioned, which would bring the total complement to 160.5.

Housing Grants.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

29 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has completed his review of the disabled persons grant; and when it will be published. [36678/06]

The review of the Disabled Persons Grant scheme, which incorporates the conditions governing the Essential Repairs Grant scheme and the Special Housing Aid for the Elderly scheme has been finalised within my Department.

I am very much aware of the importance of the efficient operation of the Disabled Persons and Essential Repairs Grant schemes in assisting with the provision of appropriate accommodation for disabled and elderly persons in the community. The focusing of the schemes on real needs, both financial and accommodation-related and its operation in an efficient manner is critical in ensuring that it achieves its aim.

My Department is currently preparing proposals for the future operation of the schemes, in conjunction with other public agencies concerned, and I expect to be in a position to announce these shortly.

Litter Pollution.

Dan Neville

Question:

30 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of fines issued for litter offences in 2005 and to date in 2006; the average fine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36636/06]

Statistics on local authority enforcement action, including the number of litter fines issued, are submitted by local authorities to my Department every six months; these figures are also available in the Oireachtas Library.

Based on information received from local authorities, the number of litter fines issued for the first six months of 2006 — the most recent information available — is 14,162. There were 26,614 litter fines issued in the twelve months ending 31 December 2005. The on-the-spot-fine for offences under the Litter Pollution Acts 1997 to 2003 was set at €125 from 1 January 2002.

Question No. 31 answered with QuestionNo. 24.

Fire Service.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

32 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the procedures followed to investigate serious fires in the State; if the results of such investigations are made public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36693/06]

The primary role of the local authority fire service in the event of a fire is to rescue people, save property and extinguish the fire. Fire brigades routinely prepare internal operational reports on fire incidents attended and these reports may include opinions as to the possible causes of the fires. However, fire authorities do not carry out formal investigations into the causes of fires.

The Garda Síochána carry out investigations to assist the Coroner's Office in all cases where fatalities occur from fire. The Garda Síochána also investigate fires where a crime is suspected. Investigations may also be carried out by the Health and Safety Authority and, in certain circumstances, such as the Whiddy Island and Stardust fires, tribunals of inquiry have been established to investigate the fires. While the findings of tribunals would normally be made public, whether the outcomes of other investigations would be made public will depend on the individual circumstances of each case.

Election Management System.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

33 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, with regard to section 23 of the Local Government Act 2001, and in view of recent Central Statistics Office statistics, it will be necessary to redraw local electoral area boundaries and examine the number of councillors in each local authority before the 2009 local elections. [36659/06]

The current local electoral areas and the number of members of each county council assigned to each such area derive from the Electoral Area Boundary Committee Reports of 1998. The 2004 local elections took place on the basis of the existing local electoral areas. The next local elections are due to take place in 2009. Consideration can be given to reviewing local electoral areas in light of the final 2006 Census results when they become available and other relevant factors. There are no proposals at this time to alter the number of councillors in each local authority.

Question No. 34 answered with QuestionNo. 24.

Waste Management.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

35 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps his Department will take to reduce over-packaging of goods; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36637/06]

Article 9 of European Parliament and Council Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste provides that packaging may not be placed on the market within the European Union unless it satisfies the provisions of the Directive. Annex II of the Directive explicitly provides that packaging shall be designed, produced and placed on the market in such a way as to permit its reuse or recovery, including recycling and composting.

Under article 18 of the Directive, Member States are prohibited from impeding the placing on the market of packaging which satisfies these essential requirements. The essential requirements of packaging are transposed into national law under the combined provisions of article 24 and the Third Schedule of the Waste Management (Packaging) Regulations 2003, as amended, which provides that a person may not supply packaging or packaged products to the Irish market unless the packaging concerned complies with essential requirements as to its nature and composition.

The regulations impose obligations in relation to the recycling of backdoor waste on all producers participating in the placing of packaging on the Irish market. In addition, major producers i.e. those who have an annual turnover in excess of €1 million and who place more than 25 tonnes of packaging on the Irish market, have additional responsibilities with regard to the recovery of packaging waste from their customers. Major producers are required to take steps individually to recover their packaging waste (i.e. self-compliance) or alternatively to contribute to, and participate in, compliance schemes set up to recover packaging waste.

Repak Limited was established by Irish industry in 1997 to promote, co-ordinate and finance the collection and recovery of packaging waste with a view to achieving Ireland's packaging waste recovery and recycling targets under the Directive and is the only such approved compliance scheme in Ireland. Repak membership income is used to subsidise the collection of packaging waste from both the household and commercial sectors.

While Repak's primary role is to support the recycling of packaging waste, the fee structure applicable to its members — which is related to the type and amount of packaging placed on the market — reflects the polluter pays principle and directly incentivises the minimisation and reuse of packaging by producers. In addition, article 4(5) of the regulations expressly provides that account shall not be taken of packaging destined for reuse for the purpose of determining whether or not a producer is a major producer — this similarly provides a direct incentive for producers to introduce systems to promote the reuse of packaging.

Ireland has enjoyed considerable success in recent years in meeting targets for the recovery and recycling of this significant waste stream. Data from the Environmental Protection Agency shows that the 25% target for 2001 set under Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste was achieved and also that, with 56% recovery of packaging waste in 2004, Ireland has exceeded the 2005 recovery target of 50% set under the Directive.

The National Strategy Group on Packaging Waste Recycling, established in 2004, is currently developing a six-year strategy to achieve new higher targets for recovering and recycling packaging waste. I have made it clear that prevention and minimisation measures will be a central element of that strategy. The strategy will be published early next year.

Planning Issues.

Ivor Callely

Question:

36 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures in place and under consideration to help improve the quality of life for people residing in the greater Dublin area, particularly the northside; the progress made for more integrated approach to planning, housing supply and development, transport, health and social services and other such key infrastructure provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36440/06]

Séamus Pattison

Question:

44 Mr. Pattison asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will review planning legislation and guidelines to ensure that adequate facilities and infrastructure are always included in residential development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36520/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 36 and 44 together.

Establishing sustainable communities with a good quality of life is a key objective for my Department, and is being pursued through a range of policies and measures, which complement other Departments' and agencies' programmes.

The Planning and Development Act 2000 which sets the legislative framework for the planning system requires that a development plan set out an overall strategy for the proper planning and sustainable development of an area. Section 10(2)(d) of the Act specifies that the development plan shall include objectives zoning of land provision of infrastructure and for the integration of planning with the social, community and cultural requirements of the area and its population. Under the provisions of Section 11(3)(c), planning authorities are required to be pro-active in consulting service and infrastructure providers, including education, to ascertain their long-term plans and needs for the provision of services in the area.

To assist planning authorities in formulating and implementing such plans, my Department is finalising Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Development Plans, following an extensive public consultation process. These guidelines emphasise the importance within such plans of creating a clear strategic framework for the proper planning and sustainable development of the relevant area.

In addition, Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Residential Density which were published in 1999 and are now in the process of being reviewed and updated, set out the basis on which locations appropriate for higher residential densities may be identified, the range of varying densities appropriate to different locations and the controls and safeguards to be addressed in promoting such development. The new guidelines are being expanded to take account of changing population and settlement patterns and the extensive experience built up since the introduction of the 1999 guidelines in the design, assessment and development of higher density proposals.

Furthermore, the policy document, Housing Policy Framework: Building Sustainable Communities, was approved by the Government and published in December 2005. This sets out an agenda for an integrated package of housing policy initiatives, including supporting higher densities and compact urban settlement through quality design in the creation of new homes, new urban spaces and new neighbourhoods.

My Department has and will continue to consult and co-operate with other relevant Departments and planning authorities to ensure that the planning process facilitates the strategic provision of key supporting facilities and services that support sustainable communities.

I am satisfied that the existing planning legislation, particularly in relation to development plans and local area plans, and supporting guidance sufficiently underpin this policy approach.

Local Authority Housing.

Phil Hogan

Question:

37 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will ensure that all councils will review details of the rural cottage tenant purchase scheme to ensure no overcharging occurred as happened in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36599/06]

Tenant purchase schemes are administered by local authorities as part of their overall housing management functions, having regard to the relevant legislation, regulations and the schemes adopted by individual local authorities. My Department has no function in relation to the administration of schemes at local level.

Circular 7/2005 of 28 November 2005 requested local authorities to review their tenant purchase schemes to ensure that the requirements of the Housing (Sale of Houses) Regulations 1995 in regard to the sale of rural cottages are being fully applied.

My Department will continue to remind local authorities of their responsibilities on various issues relating to tenant purchase schemes as considered necessary.

EU Directives.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

38 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to a complaint made to the EU Commission regarding the transposition of the WEEE Directive 2002.96/EC into Irish Law; if he has received communication from the Commission regarding the complaint; the content of such communication; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36508/06]

My Department has not been notified by the EU Commission in connection with any complaints that may have been submitted to the Commission regarding the transposition of EU Directive 2002/96/EC on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) into Irish Law.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

39 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied that only 600 voluntary housing units were completed in the first half of 2006, even though the Government committed to reaching an annual total of 4000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36623/06]

At end June 2006, 601 units of voluntary housing accommodation were completed with a further 2131 in progress. This compares with 548 units completed with a further 2016 in progress for the same period in 2005.

The voluntary and co-operative housing sector has an important contribution to make in the provision of social housing. By working in close partnership with local authorities, it plays a significant role in supplementing the efforts of local authorities in providing social housing in areas where particular housing needs have been identified. It is supported by my Department through two separate funding schemes, the Capital Assistance Scheme and the Capital Loan and Subsidy Scheme.

The Government are fully committed to developing and expanding the voluntary and co-operative housing sector by supplying the necessary financial resources and support to enable it to become an important and significant provider and force in the housing area. To this end, provision of funding for the schemes has been increased significantly from €56 million in 1999 to €243 million in 2006.

The main strategy for delivery of the Governments social and affordable housing programme is through the local authority 5-year Action Plans for social and affordable housing. The Action Plans, now at their midway stage are currently being reviewed. The reviews are focussing on examining how targets have been met in the first two years of the plan and on incorporating any adjustments required for the remaining years of the plan, in light of outcomes including expected 2006 outputs, and the results of the recent Housing Needs Assessment.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Joe Callanan

Question:

40 Mr. Callanan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of the Kiltormer sewerage scheme (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36437/06]

The Kiltormer Sewerage Scheme has been ranked as twenty second priority by Galway County Council in the list of sewerage schemes submitted by the Council in response to my Department's request to local authorities earlier this year to undertake fresh assessments of the needs for capital works in their areas and to prioritise their proposals on the basis of the assessments.

The priorities adopted by local councillors in their assessments will be taken into account in the framing of the next phase of my Department's Water Services Investment Programme.

Local Authority Housing.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

41 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will introduce a pilot scheme for tenant purchase by tenants of voluntary and co-operative housing bodies; the details of such a scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36506/06]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

337 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if tenant purchase can take place in relation to cooperative housing schemes; if so, the guidance that has been given to local authorities on the matter; when such a scheme is expected to be introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36816/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 41 and 337 together.

There is no provision at present in the voluntary housing schemes for the purchase of individual houses by tenants. However, it was provided under Housing Policy Framework — Building Sustainable Communities that consideration would be given in consultation with the voluntary and co-operative sector, to pilot a tenant purchase scheme for some new voluntary homes under the scheme. The timing and modalities of such a scheme, including any legislative element, will be developed in the coming months.

Question No. 42 answered with QuestionNo. 9.

Joan Burton

Question:

43 Ms Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the housing authorities where the rental accommodation scheme is operating; the number of tenants who are in RAS accommodation; the number of such tenants who have been transferred to RAS from either local authority or voluntary or co-operative housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36497/06]

Damien English

Question:

67 Mr. English asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount his Department allocated to the rental accommodation scheme for 2005 and 2006; the amount spent in 2005 and to date in 2006; the problems associated with the scheme on a county basis; if he will make changes to the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36645/06]

David Stanton

Question:

72 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of households transferred or allocated local authority housing to date under the rental accommodation scheme; if he is satisfied that the targets originally set for the scheme in 2004 are being met; the cost incurred in operation of the scheme to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36722/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 43, 67 and 72 together.

The Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) is designed to cater for the accommodation needs of persons in receipt of rent supplement who have a long-term housing need. It is a collaborative project between my Department, local authorities, the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the Health Service Executive.

RAS operates in all housing authority areas. In some cases the County Council is managing the scheme for the County at large. Nearly all housing authorities are now mobilised and most have begun to transfer cases.

Good progress has been made in implementing RAS. To date over 12,000 cases [nearly 40% of the target group of recipients on rent supplement for more than 18 months] have been reviewed by local authorities for transfer to RAS, some 2,000 cases have actually been transferred to RAS accommodation (approx 25% to private rented sector accommodation and 75% within voluntary & co-operative sector) and an additional 1,500 rent supplement households have also been allocated local authority housing.

The amount spent to date on the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) is of the order of €4.122 million. The breakdown is €164,836 in 2004, €723,280 in 2005, mainly on administrative and start up costs, and €3,234,000 to date in 2006. This funding is in addition to, and separate from, the ongoing capital funding provided to local authorities for the construction of new social housing units and the support of the voluntary and co-operative housing sector.

The RAS initiative is a major new direction for housing authorities and is being carefully monitored. Recent reports from the local authority based Programme Managers on their respective counties have indicated that the transfer of households from rent supplement to RAS is accelerating as authorities are overcoming difficulties they were encountering during initial stages. These problems mainly related to issues such as the unwillingness of some landlords to join RAS, poor quality of some private rented accommodation, tenancies not being registered with the PRTB, households living in overcrowded accommodation conditions and shortages of supply of particular types of accommodation in some areas.

I am satisfied at this early stage that RAS is meeting the objectives set for it by Government in July 2004. It has progressed from piloting to full local authority mobilisation and while the rate of transfer of households from rent supplement to the RAS had been slower than originally expected I am satisfied that good progress is being made on speeding up the transfer of cases and expect to see an acceleration of the rate of transfers to RAS of greater numbers of eligible households. In the future RAS will take a pivotal role in providing local authorities with solutions to a range of accommodation demands and will provide fresh options for local authorities to extend the range of social housing supports.

Question No. 44 answered with QuestionNo. 36.

Nuclear Safety.

Jack Wall

Question:

45 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the distribution of his Department’s leaflet Safeguarding Ireland from Nuclear Accidents to all households in the State. [36450/06]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 160 of 4 October 2006. The position is unchanged.

National Disability Strategy.

Tom Hayes

Question:

46 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a comprehensive statement on meeting the disability requirements of his Department, local authorities and State agencies for which his Department is responsible; the moneys allocated for each year since 2000 and the money spent in each financial year to date in 2006; the problems which may have arisen and with which agency or body; the strategy to resolve these; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36649/06]

As required under the Disability Act 2005, my Department's sectoral plan was approved by the Houses of the Oireachtas on 18 October 2006. The plan, covering my Department, its partner bodies and local authorities, sets out national objectives and guidelines for access to public buildings, services, amenities, and information, as well as to heritage sites and other facilities. The plan provides for a range of positive measures, including improvements to Part M of the Building Regulations, the introduction of a new Disability Access Certificate and the development of a Housing Strategy for people with disabilities. The implementation of these measures will promote and pro-actively encourage equal opportunities for persons with disabilities to participate in the economic, social and cultural life of the community.

There are many major spending programmes and schemes funded by my Department, for example in the areas of housing, non-national roads, libraries and urban and village renewal, which are used to provide facilities for and services for people with disabilities as well as for other groups in the community. Such spending can not be readily disaggregated.

I have provided €18 million in 2006 to help my Department, local authorities and bodies under the aegis of my Department to implement the National Disability Strategy. This forms part of a cross-Departmental multi-annual funding programme, introduced in mid-2005, which will continue until 2009. The information requested in respect of the National Disability Strategy funding is set out in the tabular statement. My Department is working closely with its partner bodies and local authorities to optimise the gains made from this expenditure and to deal with issues as they arise.

The tabular statement also gives details of the combined capital allocation for disabled persons and essential repairs grants notified to local authorities in each year from 2000 to 2006 and the combined expenditure on those schemes and on works of adaptation to local authority rented dwellings for a disabled member of the household from 2000 to 2005. Data in relation to 2006 expenditure will be published in the Annual Housing Statistic Bulletin early in 2007. Expenditure on the grant schemes is funded by the two-thirds recoupment available from my Department together with the one-third contribution from the resources of the local authority.

The review of the Disabled Persons Grant scheme, which incorporates the conditions governing the Essential Repairs Grant scheme and the Special Housing Aid for the Elderly Scheme, was recently finalised within my Department. Proposals for the future operation of the schemes are now being prepared by my Department, in consultation with other public agencies concerned, and I expect to be in a position to announce these shortly.

Year

Disabled Person’s and Essential Repairs Grant Schemes Allocation

Disabled Person’s and Essential Repairs Grant Schemes Expenditure

National Disability Strategy Allocation

National Disability Strategy Expenditure

2000

42,180,699

32,809,299

n/a

n/a

2001

58,357,162

50,713,544

n/a

n/a

2002

74,868,000

68,697,556

n/a

n/a

2003

58,001,000

63,783,942

n/a

n/a

2004

73,105,132

55,399,536

n/a

n/a

2005

74,500,000

64,643,589

15,000,000

10,568,049*

2006

65,050,000

n/a

18,005,000

2,620,681

*3 million capital funding was carried over from 2005 to the 2006 allocation.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

47 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the further steps to be taken specifically in the coming months to help Ireland meet its Kyoto obligations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36618/06]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

53 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the comments by the European Commission that Ireland will be 16% off its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol by 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36616/06]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

85 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he intends to publish a revised climate change strategy; if he will confirm recent reports that Ireland will exceed its Kyoto target by 16 percentage points; his plans to address this overshoot; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36504/06]

Richard Bruton

Question:

89 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether the European Environment Agency which published projections showing that Ireland is one of seven EU member states which are not on track to meet their Kyoto targets for curbing CO2 emissions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36617/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 47, 53, 85 and 89 together.

I refer to the reply to Question Nos. 4 and 5 on today's Order Paper.

Housing Policy.

Joe Costello

Question:

48 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the MakeRoom campaign which was recently launched by the four housing non-governmental organisations; his views on the objectives of the campaign; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36498/06]

Simon Coveney

Question:

49 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when homelessness will be eliminated in this State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36611/06]

Bernard Allen

Question:

60 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his response to the MakeRoom campaign to end homelessness by 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36607/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

103 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures he will implement to meet Government targets of eradicating homelessness by 2010. [36674/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 48, 49, 60 and 103 together.

I have noted the recent launch of the MakeRoom campaign by Focus Ireland, the Simon Communities of Ireland, the Society of St Vincent de Paul and Threshold. The stated aim of the MakeRoom campaign is to end homelessness by 2010 and in this context indicates this to mean "nobody will sleep rough; nobody will stay in emergency accommodation for longer than is absolutely necessary and nobody will become homeless because of a lack of appropriate services".

The social partnership agreement Towards 2016 contains a commitment to the elimination of the long-term occupancy of emergency homeless accommodation by 2010. This is well aligned with the goals of the MakeRoom campaign. It should also be noted that the Homeless Agency, which is the partnership body which coordinates homeless services in Dublin, has already defined as its overarching goal the elimination of long-term homelessness and the need to sleep rough in Dublin by 2010.

The Independent Review of Implementation of Homeless Strategies, published earlier this year, examined the implementation of the Government's Integrated and Preventative Homeless Strategies and concluded that they should be amalgamated and updated. The Government have accepted the broad thrust of the recommendations of the Review and work is underway on the preparation of a revised and updated Strategy on Homelessness. As part of this process, a National Homeless Consultative Committee, including representatives from homeless service providers, will be established to provide input into the development of the revised homeless strategy and ongoing government policy on addressing homelessness.

Very significant resources are being made available to address the issue of homelessness at national level in a comprehensive and co-ordinated manner. Since 2000, the Government through my Department and the Department of Health & Children, have provided almost €450 million in capital and current funding nationally for the provision of accommodation and care related services for homeless persons.

There is now a wide range of accommodation and services across the country — from emergency hostels, transitional accommodation programmes to outreach and resettlement services and long term supported accommodation. A key task is to assist homeless persons who can live independently into mainstream long-term accommodation as soon as possible. This will involve the refocusing of efforts on the provision of accommodation in the social, voluntary and private rented housing sectors. The Rental Accommodation Scheme has significant potential in this area. This increased supply, together with appropriate outreach and resettlement support is essential in assisting people out of homelessness altogether.

Waste Disposal.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

50 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount of all wastes, construction and demolition waste and municipal or household waste going to landfill for each year since 1998 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36490/06]

Since 1995 national waste statistics in respect of all waste streams have been published at three-yearly intervals by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the most recent National Waste Report being in respect of 2004. Between 2001 and 2004, two interim database reports were published to provide data on municipal waste specifically (i.e. household and commercial waste) for the years 2002 and 2003 respectively. It is my understanding that since the publication of the National Waste Report 2004, a full report will now be published every second year with an interim report (due shortly in respect of 2005) in the intervening year.

The table sets out the position in relation to the amount of the wastes specified in the Question that have been landfilled in each of the respective years since 1998 for which data is available.

1998

2001

2002

2003

2004

Municipal Waste

1,685,766

1,992,050

1,901,864

1,832,625

1,818,536

Household Waste

1,125,698

1,254,857

1,294,061

1,231,109

1,214,908

Construction & Demolition (C&D) Waste*

1,533,386

1,250,297

N/A

N/A

N/A

* These figures relate to the amounts of C&D waste disposed of to landfill.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Willie Penrose

Question:

51 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount of moneys given by developers to local authorities in lieu of the provision of housing units under Part V of the Planning and Development Acts since 2001 to date in 2006; his plans for the use of these moneys; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36492/06]

Mary Upton

Question:

77 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the moneys collected to date by each local authority under Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000; the acreage of land received by each local authority under Part V of the Act; the amount of funding spent by each local authority in the provision of social and affordable housing; the amount of the land received which has been used by each local authority to build social and affordable housing; the number of houses built by each local authority under Part V to date; and the number of houses built in each local authority area since the enactment of the Planning and Development Act 2000. [36517/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 51 and 77 together.

Information to end June 2006 on activity, including under Part V, in each local authority area is on my Department's website at www.environ.ie. Information is also published in my Department’s Housing Statistics Bulletins, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas Library. Total house completions on a county/city council basis up to end September 2006 are also available on my Department’s website.

The legislation provides that any Part V monies accumulated by a planning authority should be lodged to a separate account, which should only be used by the authority as capital for its functions under Part V or as capital by a housing authority for its functions in relation to the provision of housing under the Housing Acts 1966 to 2002.

Question No. 52 answered with QuestionNo. 24.
Question No. 53 answered with QuestionNo. 47.

Building Regulations.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

54 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to terminate the use of nine inch hollow blocks in residential construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36487/06]

The Building Regulations lay down performance-based standards, and do not either mandate or prohibit the use of specific construction products or systems. Various competing products or systems demonstrating compliance with the regulations may lawfully be used; and the choice is left to the designers, builders and the market.

The broadly based Building Regulations Advisory Body (BRAB) commissioned an independent report by the Energy Research Group UCD to examine the impact of proposed higher thermal performance standards under Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Energy) of the Building Regulations on commonly used forms of house building — single leaf (hollow concrete block), twin leaf (solid concrete block), and timber frame.

The Energy Research Group Report was published in November 2000 and concluded that 9" hollow blocks could be insulated to comply with the proposed higher thermal insulation standards. Following a public consultation process, the relevant amending Part L Regulations were made in 2002.

The Part L energy performance standards for the construction and reconstruction of buildings have been progressively increased since they were first introduced in 1992 — in 1998, in 2003 (dwellings) and 2006 (non-domestic buildings). The next revision of the Part L standards for dwellings will take place no later than 2008.

Local Authority Services.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

55 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he expects the next report on the 42 national service indicators for local authorities; his plans to review those indicators; the arrangements that will be made to involve consumers of local authority services in the review of the indicators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36511/06]

The next report on local authority service indicators, which will be in respect of 2006, is due to be published by the Local Government Management Services Board (LGMSB) in July 2007. The first two such reports were published in mid 2005 and 2006 respectively, and copies are available in the Oireachtas library.

I have asked the Local Government Customer Services Group, which drew up the current set of indicators, to carry out a review. The group is representative of my Department, local authorities (at both elected member and official levels) the LGMSB, the Local Government Computer Services Board and the Institute of Public Administration. Extensive consultations are being carried out as part of the review, including with local authorities, the Irish Business and Employers Confederation and Chambers Ireland. Local authorities have also been asked to take account of their customers' perspectives, when providing input to the review. In addition the Independent Assessment panel, which I established to quality assure the service indicators, is being consulted. I am satisfied that the Customer Services Group is consulting widely on the review and I am looking forward to receiving their recommendations in due course. It is envisaged that amendments to the indicators arising from the review will apply from 2008 on.

Election Management System.

Liz McManus

Question:

56 Ms McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the date on which he sought the Attorney General’s advice regarding the implications of the preliminary 2006 census figures for the revision of Dáil Éireann constituencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36489/06]

Liz McManus

Question:

101 Ms McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the correspondence he has received relating to constituency boundaries, arising from the publication of the preliminary 2006 census figures; if he has enquired from the Central Statistics Office as to when the final census figures will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36488/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 56 and 101 together.

Following the publication by the Central Statistics Office of the Preliminary Report on Census 2006, I sought the advice of the Attorney General on 21 July 2006 in relation to census results and constituency boundaries. The Attorney subsequently advised that constituencies can only be revised on the basis of the final Census figures. My Department also received a limited amount of other correspondence associated with this process and more generally on the issue concerned.

The publication of the final Census 2006 figures is a matter for the Central Statistics Office.

Recycling Policy.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

57 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to increase the number of recycling bring centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36628/06]

The determination of waste management infrastructure requirements is a matter for local authorities in the context of the regional waste management plans for which they have statutory responsibility under the Waste Management Acts. My Department operates a capital grants scheme in support of certain recycling infrastructure and it is a matter for the local authorities concerned to seek such funding in respect of particular facilities in response to the periodic call for such proposals.

Local Authority Housing.

Enda Kenny

Question:

58 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will introduce a new tenant purchase scheme for local authority tenants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36642/06]

My Department is currently preparing proposals for the legislation required to give effect to the commitment in the Housing Policy Framework: Building Sustainable Communities to introduce a new tenant purchase scheme that will allow for the sale of local authority apartments to tenants under certain conditions. We are working to progress this draft legislation as quickly as possible.

Local Authority Staff.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

59 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of the review of the code of ethics of local authority employees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36625/06]

The Code of Conduct for Local Authority Employees was published in June 2004 under Part 15 of the Local Government Act 2001. Arising from a review of the Code and following consultations with the Standards in Public Office Commission, the Minister for Finance and staff interests, I recently amended Section 10 of the Code.

Under the amendment, local authority employees must inform the appropriate authority before taking up employment outside the sector where the possibility of a conflict of interest may exist. Employees below Director of Services must inform the relevant County or City Manager. Employees at or above Director of Services level will be required to inform the proposed Outside Appointments Board for the Local Government Sector before taking up such employment.

Also, employees to whom Part 15 (Ethical Framework) of the Local Government Act 2001 applies, or applied at any time during the six month period prior to their retirement or resignation, must obtain the consent of the relevant County or City Manager, or the Outside Appointments Board for the Local Government Sector as appropriate if, within twelve months of resignation or retirement, they intend to accept an offer of employment or consultancy engagement the nature and terms of which could lead to a conflict of interest.

I intend to appoint the Outside Appointments Board for the Local Government Sector shortly. The Board will comprise the Secretary General of my Department, a former County or City Manager and three other members who are not serving or former public servants one of whom will act as Chairperson.

The amendment made to Section 10 brings the local authority Code of Conduct into line with the provisions that currently apply to civil servants in regard to external employment.

Question No. 60 answered with QuestionNo. 48.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

61 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he plans on continuing the use of the rental accommodation scheme as a long-term option to house people who should be housed in social housing units. [36673/06]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 317 of 4 October 2006. The position is unchanged.

Question No. 62 answered with QuestionNo. 24.
Question No. 63 answered with QuestionNo. 23.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

64 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of his Department’s decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36624/06]

Under the Government's decentralisation programme all Dublin based operations of my Department are being decentralised, with the exception of Met Éireann, ENFO, the Private Rented Tenancies Board and a small co-ordination section which it is proposed to retain in Dublin to assist with the Department's Dáil and other business. The programme involves the relocation of my Department's operations to four locations in the South East: Wexford, Waterford, New Ross and Kilkenny.

Implementation plans, setting out the issues to be addressed in implementing the Decentralisation Programme for this Department, have been submitted to the Decentralisation Implementation Group. These plans are also published on my Department's website at www.environ.ie

At this stage a total of 226 staff, in respect of 661 posts to be decentralised and which are fillable through the CAF, have confirmed their availability to decentralise to the South East. 120 of these are now serving in my Department and the process of agreeing arrangements for the early transfer of the others to the Department has commenced.

As outlined in the most recent Progress Report (September 2006) from the Decentralisation Implementation Group, the indicative timescales for the completion of the Departments offices in Wexford, Kilkenny, New Ross and Waterford are Quarter 3 2008, End 2008, Quarter 4 2009 and Quarter 3 2010 respectively. The Office of Public Works are currently assessing tenders for the construction of the Department's Headquarters in Wexford.

Nuclear Safety.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

65 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on his recent meeting with the UK Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Mr. Alistair Darling, with specific reference to the Irish State’s concerns regarding the outcome of the UK energy review. [36448/06]

In my reply to Questions Nos. 194 and 217 of 4 October 2006, I said I would shortly be meeting the UK Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Mr. Alistair Darling regarding the Irish Government's concerns about the outcome of the UK Energy Review. This meeting is due to take place on 9 January 2007.

As I also stated in my reply to those two Questions, Ireland's concerns about any proposals by the UK to develop new nuclear capacity and the impact of UK nuclear policy decisions on the continued operation of the Sellafield reprocessing facility have been consistently made known to the UK administration at Prime Minister, Ministerial and official level and by way of input to the consultation process undertaken by the UK as part of its Energy Review.

EU Directives.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

66 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the parts of the Aarhus Convention Agreement and its associated EU Directives 2003/4/EC and 2003/35/EC which have been ratified or transposed into Irish law to date; if he will set out for each part of the Aarhus Convention Agreement and its associated EU Directives 2003/4/EC and 2003/35/EC which have been ratified or transposed into Irish law, the date on which this occurred; the legislative instrument used to do same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36515/06]

Ireland signed the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters on 25 June 1998. Progress towards ratification of the Convention is closely aligned with work at EU level. To date, the European Union has adopted two Directives as part of the ratification process for the Convention. These deal with public access to environmental information (2003/4/EC) and public participation in certain environmental decision-making procedures (2003/35/EC). Ratification of the Convention will take place after these Directives have been transposed into Irish Law.

Work is continuing in my Department with regard to the transposition of these two Directives and will be completed as soon as possible. When the above work on transposition is completed, the instrument of ratification of the Aarhus Convention will be laid before the Dáil in accordance with the requirements of the Constitution.

Question No. 67 answered with QuestionNo. 43.

Local Government Act 2001.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

68 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the sections of the Local Government Act 2001 that have not been enacted; and the reasons for failing to enact those sections. [36690/06]

The Local Government Act 2001 modernises the legislative framework for local government, supports community involvement with local authorities in a more participative local democracy and underpins generally the programme of local government renewal. The Act is being brought into operation on a phased basis and 213 of its 247 sections have so far been commenced. The following table identifies the remaining 34 sections.

I am currently considering the steps necessary to commence the remaining provisions, a number of which are enabling provisions which will replace legislation currently in force.

Provisions of the Local Government Act 2001 not commenced

Sections

Provision

22

Alteration of number of members of local authority

23

Local electoral areas

55 – 62

Local authority boundary alteration

89 – 95

Local Government Commission

185 – 187

Establishment of new town councils, etc.

188 – 196

Changing of names of areas and display of names of streets, etc.

212 – 214

Public local inquiries

223

Electoral divisions

230

Joint burial boards

Question No. 69 answered with QuestionNo. 23.

Environmental Policy.

Tom Hayes

Question:

70 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number and details of all cases where environmental infringement proceedings are being taken by the EU Commission against Ireland; the various stages of the legal process to date; the cost to the State of each case to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36650/06]

The European Commission is currently in correspondence with my Department in respect of 35 cases relating to possible infringements of EU environmental legislation for which my Department is responsible. This compares to 53 such cases at the end of October 2005. This considerable improvement illustrates the positive outcomes from my intensive efforts to resolve issues in dialogue with the Commission and stakeholders. The cases, which relate to a number of Directives, are at various stages of proceedings as set out in the table.

My Department has not had to deal with any costs arising from cases as referred to in the Question. The Office of the Attorney General and the Chief State Solicitor's Office provide the legal service to the State in the conduct of European Court of Justice litigation. Legal fees arising are therefore a matter for those offices.

Directive Number and General Reference

Article 226 Letter of Formal Notice

Article 226 Reasoned Opinion

Being Referred to the European Court of Justice

Before the European Court of Justice for a hearing or awaiting judgment

European Court of Justice Decision to be Implemented

Article 228 Letter of Formal Notice

Article 228 Reasoned Opinion

2004/ 26/EC on emission of gaseous and particulate pollutants from internal combustion engines to be installed in non-road mobile machinery

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

2002/88/EC relating to measures against the emission of gaseous and particulate pollutants from internal combustion engines to be installed in non-road mobile machinery

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

2004/42/CE on the limitation of emissions of volatile organic compounds due to the use of organic solvents in certain paints and varnishes and vehicle refinishing products

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

2002/49/EC on the assessment and management of environmental noise

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

2005/33/EC amending Directive 1999/32/EC as regards the sulphur content of marine fuels

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

85/337/EEC on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment

3

0

1

3

0

0

0

2000/35/EEC on public participation in certain plans and programmes relating to the environment

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

2003/4/EC on public access to environmental information

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

92/43/EEC on habitats

0

1

0

1

0

0

1

79/409/EEC on wild birds

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

75/442/EEC the waste directive

4

2

1

0

1

0

0

75/439/EEC on the disposal of waste oils

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

91/271/EEC on urban waste water treatment

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

91/676/EEC on nitrates

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

76/464/EEC on dangerous substances in water

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

80/778/EEC on the quality of drinking water for human consumption

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

80/68/EC on groundwater

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

Local Authority Services.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

71 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department will request all local authorities to produce comprehensive lists of all parks and green spaces that are held on long-term leases and dates when these leases end, and draw up a plan for the way such situations should be dealt with by local authorities in view of recent incidents in Darthmouth Square, Dublin and Mallow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36694/06]

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 202 to 206 of 26 October 2006.

Section 67 and Schedule 13 of the Local Government Act, 2001 empower local authorities to take such measures, engage in such activities or do such things as they consider necessary to promote the interests of the local community. This includes general recreational and leisure activities such as the provision of parks, gardens and open spaces whether by the leasing of land or otherwise. I have no proposals to issue directions to local authorities regarding the discharge of their discretionary functions.

Question No. 72 answered with QuestionNo. 43.

Recycling Policy.

Dan Boyle

Question:

73 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the communications and meetings his Department have had recently with representatives of the newspaper industry in relation to the establishment of a producer responsibility recycling scheme (details supplied). [36687/06]

A Joint Industry Taskforce, comprising the Regional Newspapers Association of Ireland (RNAI), Irish Retail Newsagents Association (IRNA), Newspread and Eason Wholesale Ltd, and co-ordinated by National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI) was established and has been engaged in negotiations with my Department. The aim of these discussions with the stakeholders, which are continuing, is to develop a producer responsibility initiative for the recovery and recycling of newspapers and magazines.

John Deasy

Question:

74 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether a 50% household recycling rate can be achieved here; when such a target could be met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36629/06]

Recycling is a significant element of the Government's overall integrated policy framework on waste management — which is based on the internationally recognised waste hierarchy — prioritising waste prevention, minimisation, reuse, recycling, energy recovery and the environmentally sound disposal of residual waste which cannot be recycled or recovered.

This significant emphasis on recycling is reflected in the 1998 policy statement Changing our Ways which provided a national policy framework for the adoption and implementation by local authorities of strategic waste management plans under which specific national objectives and targets would be achieved. Specifically, Changing our Ways set ambitious recycling targets to be achieved over a fifteen year timescale — i.e. by 2013 — including a recycling target of 35% of municipal waste recycling and a diversion of 50% of household waste from landfill.

National waste statistics are collated and published by the EPA. In its National Waste Database Report for 1998, the EPA estimated that 166,684 tonnes (9%) of municipal (household and commercial) waste was recovered for recycling in that year. In its corresponding 2004 Report, the EPA estimated that the recovery rate of municipal waste had increased to 918,995 tonnes(33.6%). Similarly, the EPA 2004 Report states that 295,134 tonnes (19.5%) of household waste were recycled in 2004 compared with 37,518 tonnes (3.2%) in 1998.

The dramatic increases in recycling rates for household waste have been driven by successful Government policies including:

the provision of segregated collections for dry recyclables to over 540,000 households by 2003;

the continued expansion of the numbers of bring facilities. The number of bring banks grew from 837 in 1998 to 1,929 by 2004 while the number of civic amenity sites grew from 30 to 69 over the same period;

the roll out of pay-by-use by public and private sector waste operators in recent years; and

raising awareness through campaigns such as the Race Against Waste.

In order to provide further impetus in this area, a range of further measures have also been, or are in the process of being, undertaken:

successful producer responsibility initiatives are in place to support the achievement of recycling targets for certain waste materials e.g the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) scheme introduced in August 2005 has lead to a five-fold increase in recycling of this waste stream while the European Union set 2005 target of 50% recovery rate for packaging waste was exceeded in 2003 and reached 56.4% in 2004;

the National Strategy on Biodegradable Waste was published in April 2006. In 2004, almost three quarters of municipal (household and commercial) waste sent to landfill was biodegradable. The Strategy sets out measures aimed at the separate collection, recovery and recycling of biodegradable waste with a view to achieving the progressive diversion of biodegradable municipal waste from landfill by 2016 to 35% of the amount of biodegradable municipal waste generated in the baseline year of 1995; and

the Market Development Group was established in 2004 to oversee the development of a Market Development Programme which will identify new applications and markets for recyclable material and secondary recycled products. The Group has been asked to identify barriers to the use and marketing of recyclable material and to develop strategies to address these. The Market Development Programme is being finalised at present for publication later this year.

I am confident on the basis of the measures outlined above, and the enthusiasm that exists among the general public for recycling, that the target set out in Changing Our Ways in 1998 of 35% recyclers of municipal waste and 50% diversion of household waste from landfill by 2013 will be achieved.

Local Authority Staff.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

75 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of the recently released Census 2006 Preliminary Report, a review of staffing levels within local authorities has taken place; if not, when such a review will take place; when staffing levels in local authorities were last reviewed; if local authority areas that have experienced significant population increases will be provided with additional resources by his Department to take on extra staff to serve their increased populations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36443/06]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

344 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of the increases in population in local authority areas as shown in the 2006 preliminary census figures, he has held consultations with the Department of Finance with a view to getting the public service embargo on local authority staff recruitment lifted, with particular reference to counties in the greater Dublin area, where expanding populations are demanding improved services which can only be delivered upon by the employment of additional staff. [36873/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 75 and 344 together.

Government policy on the control and regulation of numbers in the public sector, including local authorities, was announced in the Minister for Finance's Budget statement of 7 December 2005. I am continuing to keep the overall employment position in the sector under regular review, having regard to the need to deliver quality front line services and achieve value for money within the parameters of Government policy on public service employment generally. As regards a review of staffing levels in any local authority, it is a matter for the City or County Manager concerned to make such staffing and organisational arrangements as may be necessary for the purposes of carrying out the functions of the local authorities for which he or she is responsible.

Sustainable Development Strategy.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

76 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to publish a national sustainable development strategy; the matters such a strategy will address; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36510/06]

The Ten Year Framework Social Partnership Agreement, Towards 2016, includes a commitment to publishing a renewed National Sustainable Development Strategy by mid 2007.

Ireland's first sustainable development strategy, Sustainable Development — A Strategy for Ireland was published in 1997. A review of the Strategy, Making Ireland's Development Sustainable, was published in 2002, ahead of the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg.

The renewed EU Sustainable Development Strategy was adopted by the European Council at their meeting in June, 2006.

Ireland's renewed Supportable Development Strategy will take account of the revised EU Strategy and our specific circumstances including:

the publication of the Lisbon Agenda-National Reform Programme 2005;

the Ten Year Framework Social Partnership Agreement 2006-2015, Towards 2016, and

the National Development Plan 2007-2013 now being finalised.

My Department will lead in coordinating the preparation of this renewed strategy which will draw the range of relevant policies into a coherent framework, review progress and set directions for future action.

To oversee and guide this task I am setting up a High-Level Inter-Departmental Steering Group. Comhar, the National Council for Sustainable Development will also be supporting the process. Options for broader consultation, which will facilitate effective contributions by all stakeholders, are being examined.

Question No. 77 answered with QuestionNo. 51.
Question No. 78 answered with QuestionNo. 21.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

79 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the report by Sir Nicholas Stern on behalf of the UK Government on the issue of climate change and its simple and apocalyptic message, that climate change is fundamentally altering the planet; that the risks of inaction are high and time is running out; and the Government’s response to same. [36689/06]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

125 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the report published in October 2006 by Sir Nicholas Stern; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36619/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 125 together.

I welcome the publication of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. The report offers a comprehensive review of the economic implications of climate change. Together with the substantial body of scientific evidence which is available through the UN system in relation to climate change, the Governments of the world now have a comprehensive analysis of the issue, and very clear advice that it makes both environmental and economic sense to act now.

The Stern report makes it clear that climate change is a global problem which must be addressed by effective multilateral action. From the outset of the international response to climate change through the United Nations, the EU has been very positive and proactive in promoting a concerted global response to climate change. Ireland has supported and continues to support that position.

Waste Management.

John Deasy

Question:

80 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the revenue generated by the plastic bag levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36630/06]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

110 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to increase the plastic bag levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36631/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 and 110 together.

Income to date from the plastic bag levy amounts to €64,988,365. The 15c levy on plastic bags, as provided for in the Waste Management (Environmental Levy) (Plastic Bag) Regulations 2001, has led to a dramatic reduction in use of plastic bags with a consequent positive environmental benefit. Plastic shopping bags accounted for 5% of litter arisings prior to the introduction of the levy, but for just 0.22% of litter arisings in 2004.

There has been an upward trend in receipts remitted by the Revenue Commissioners since the levy was introduced, but this must be interpreted with caution. Firstly, these figures are not a precise measure of the number of bags supplied in a given period — each year's figure will also include levies recovered in respect of earlier periods on account of retailers filing late returns and the recoupment of levies due following Revenue audit findings. Secondly, the increase in income is also likely to be due in part to increased enforcement by local authorities and audit activity by the Revenue Commissioners. Enforcement efforts have been stepped up and a special network of local authority officers has been established to monitor and co-ordinate the enforcement drive.

I have previously indicated that I am anxious to ensure that the levy's positive effect on our environment is maintained. To that end, I have decided that the levy will be increased to 22c shortly — this is the maximum level that can be set under the existing legislative provisions. While I would like to increase the levy sooner, I must give both the Revenue Commissioners and retailers time to adjust their systems. The proposed change represents a substantial 47% increase on the original levy and I am confident that it will have the desired effect in discouraging use of plastic shopping bags. I will monitor the implementation of the new levy carefully; if it becomes apparent that further increases are required I will bring forward the necessary legislative changes to the Waste Management Act.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Seán Ryan

Question:

81 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures in place to ensure that in land swap arrangements in relation to affordable housing provisions represent value for the State in terms of the volume and quality of affordable houses provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36519/06]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 151 of 4 October 2006. The position is unchanged.

Seán Ryan

Question:

82 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will set down national guidelines to local authorities in respect of the application of Part V of the Planning and Development Act, 2000, and the other legislative provisions for social and affordable housing in view of the fact that delivery of the required and expected volumes of social and affordable housing has not happened. [36518/06]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 150 of 4 October 2006. The position is unchanged.

Departmental Expenditure.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

83 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make available all reference material on procurement guidelines and practices including the consolidated guidelines used by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36610/06]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 135 of 4 October 2006.

I am arranging for the following documents to be made available in the Oireachtas Library:

My Department's consolidated guidelines on procurement;

a list of reference material on procurement that has been published on my Department's Intranet, together with the Internet weblinks to the original source material.

Question No. 84 answered with QuestionNo. 22.
Question No. 85 answered with QuestionNo. 47.

Road Network.

Michael Ring

Question:

86 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his Department’s estimate of the money needed per annum to upgrade non-national roads and pavement restoration to acceptable and safe standards; the amount he provided in the Estimates for this purpose in 2006; the shortfall; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36644/06]

The improvement and maintenance of non-national roads is a matter for local authorities to be funded from their own resources supplemented by State Grants provided by my Department.

The results of a Pavement Condition Study on non-national roads, which was carried out by consultants and completed in 2005, have shown that there has been a very large growth in traffic volumes, including numbers of heavy goods vehicles, on our roads over the last 10 years and that the combination of growth in traffic volumes and damaging power has dramatically increased the structural loading on the non-national roads network. The study concludes that the economic boom, since the first study was carried out in 1996, has fundamentally changed the loading regime on the non-national roads network, with much higher and more frequent loading by heavier vehicles now being the norm.

The rate of occurrence of potholes and road disintegration has effectively halved since 1996 as a result of the €1.5 billion investment in Restoration Improvement and Maintenance works over the 1997 to 2004 period. However, the instance of other defects, such as rutting and edge cracking, has increased since 1996 as a result of growth in traffic on the network — particularly that of heavier and wider commercial vehicles.

The Study identified the level of pavement restoration needs in all county council areas. Based on these findings, my Department estimated that a sum of approximately €2 billion, at 2005 prices, would be required to address the needs identified. In order to ensure that pavement restoration needs in all counties are addressed within a 10-15 year period, I have increased the grants available for Restoration Improvement works to €205.3 million in 2006, which is an increase of over €31 million, or almost 18%, on the 2005 allocation. This very substantial increase means that significant progress can be made in allocating funds to address the deficiencies identified by the Pavement Condition Study. I have also allocated grants totalling €75 million for Restoration Maintenance works this year. This represents an increase of €15 million, or 25%, on the 2005 allocation.

In addition to the pavement restoration programme, my Department also provides grants to local authorities for works on non-national roads under a number of other grant categories. An estimate of the total funding requirements for improvements to, and construction of new, non-national roads is not available in my Department. Grants are allocated on an annual basis and in determining the annual non-national road grant allocations, the overall objective is to resource each local authority appropriately in relation to their ongoing and special needs. The process is guided by a range of criteria, including road pavement conditions, traffic volumes, length of road network, population and eligibility in relation to specific projects such as EU Co-Financed Specific Improvements Schemes.

In 2006, the total grant allocation by my Department for non-national roads is almost €558 million — an increase of 13% or €62.5 million on the record 2005 allocation.

Environmental Policy.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

87 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on the recent work of his Department with the Six Counties Department of Environment on environmental issues; if the possibility of creating a single all-Ireland environmental protection agency was discussed; and his views on such a development. [36661/06]

Dan Boyle

Question:

121 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps his Department has taken to ensure cooperation with environmental agencies in Northern Ireland could be enhanced, in view of environmental NGO and OECD recommendations that, where possible, environmental issues should be dealt with by cross-Border mechanisms. [36688/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 87 and 121 together.

I am well aware of the importance of cross-border co-operation on environmental matters. On 2 October 2006 I met with my Northern Ireland counterpart Minister David Cairns to discuss issues of common interest, in particular biodiversity, waste management and spatial planning. We acknowledged the significant on-going North/South co-operation between our Departments and agencies and looked forward to building on this co-operation in the period ahead for the mutual benefit of communities North and South.

My Department together with the Department of the Environment Northern Ireland and the relevant agencies concerned is taking forward a number of initiatives involving enhanced co-operation and joint action on an all-island and cross-border basis in a range of areas including waste management, water quality management, natural heritage, information and awareness, environmental research, spatial planning, regional development, fire services and emergency planning. Some of the more notable of these include:

Co-ordinated implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive;

Joint implementation of the environmental protection and management measure of the EU Interreg IIIA North/South Programme 2000-2006 which is providing support for 18 cross-border projects, costing some €20m;

The expansion of waste recycling on an all-island basis by the North/South Market Development Steering Group. Phase 1 of a jointly funded North-South study on the feasibility of establishing a paper mill on the island of Ireland was published in August 2006. Business sector interest in the proposal is currently being assessed;

Activities aimed at tackling illegal movements of waste;

The management of shared biodiversity resources, and specifically the development of a common approach to both threatened species and invasive alien species;

A collaborative framework for joint action in implementing the cross-border aspects of the National Spatial Strategy and the Regional Development Strategy for Northern Ireland;

A North West Gateway initiative to provide a co-ordinated, cross-border approach to the development of the North West region.

The focus of our work together has been on achieving the best environmental outcomes from our co-operative efforts. Our discussions did not encompass the question of an all-Ireland Environmental Protection Agency.

Traveller Accommodation.

John Perry

Question:

88 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a statement on the progress to date in the provision of Traveller accommodation; the number of families at present on unauthorised sites by county; if present plans by each county council will address such accommodation needs; the expected time frame for such; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36648/06]

During the course of the first local authority Traveller accommodation programmes adopted in accordance with the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998 and covering the period from 2000 to 2004, there was a significant improvement in the accommodation position of Travellers. During that time an additional 828 families were accommodated in standard local authority accommodation. In the same period, 398 new units of permanent Traveller specific accommodation were provided and a further 322 units of permanent Traveller specific accommodation were refurbished to modern standards.

This progress has continued under the second programmes covering the period 2005 to 2008. At the end of 2005 there were 589 families on unauthorised sites, as shown in the November 2005 Annual Count of Traveller families. This represents a reduction of over 50% in the number of families on unauthorised sites, down from a figure of 1,207 at the inception of the programmes. The Table provides details of the number of Traveller families on unauthorised sites in each local authority area.

Number of families on unauthorised sites 2005

Local Authority:

No. of families:

Carlow

5

Cavan

1

Clare

6

Cork City

7

Cork County

33

Donegal

1

Dublin City

72

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown

12

Fingal

43

Galway City

0

Galway County

45

Kerry

6

Kildare

20

Kilkenny

13

Laois

6

Leitrim

0

Limerick City

1

Limerick County

43

Longford

5

Louth

3

Mayo

28

Meath

0

Monaghan

8

Offaly

23

Roscommon

5

Sligo

20

South Dublin

15

North Tipperary

28

South Tipperary

18

Waterford City

8

Waterford County

7

Westmeath

0

Wexford

72

Wicklow

35

Total

589

My Department is currently in the process of gathering information from each local authority on the number of families on unauthorised sites in 2006.

Under the Traveller accommodation plans for the period 2005 to 2008, each local authority was required when adopting their programme, to specify targets for the level of accommodation to be provided during the course of the programmes. On the basis of these targets being realised, it is envisaged that the accommodation needs of Travellers as determined at the start of the programmes, including those on unauthorised sites, will be met during the course of these programmes.

Question No. 89 answered with QuestionNo. 47.

Architectural Heritage.

Denis Naughten

Question:

90 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 1533 of 27 September 2006, his plans to review the funding for architectural protection grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36439/06]

Following a review of my Department's Built Heritage Capital Programme for 2006, I announced on 29 September that I had re-allocated identified savings within that programme to add to the provision of certain individual projects as follows:

Heritage Council €1,650,000

Waterford City Walls €260,000;

Local Authority Conservation Grants Schemes €1,067,000.

The additional €1,650,000 for The Heritage Council is being be directed towards the conservation of valuable heritage properties throughout the country with particular emphasis on smaller projects.

In the case of Waterford City Walls, I provided an additional €260,000 to Waterford City Council to assist them meet their financial commitments with regard to restoring the medieval city walls. This brings my Department's cumulative contribution to this project to €2 million.

I responded favourably to requests for additional funding from many Local Authorities for their Conservation Grants Schemes by allocating a further €1,067,000 to enable them to grant-aid the conservation of structures of architectural significance in the Record of Protected Structures (RPS) which the Local Authority lists under the Planning and Development Act 2000. The distribution of this funding is as follows:

City/County Council

Additional Funding

Cavan

60,000

Cork City Council

87,000

Cork County Council

130,000

Galway

125,000

Laois

20,000

Leitrim

40,000

Limerick County Council

110,000

Offaly

50,000

Roscommon

82,000

Sligo

23,000

Tipperary North

10,000

Waterford City Council

50,000

Waterford County Council

80,000

Wexford

200,000

Total

1,067,000

Funding for the Built Heritage Capital Programme for 2007 and subsequent years is under consideration as part of the Estimates and NDP process respectively.

Local Authority Housing.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

91 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of local authority housing schemes currently awaiting approval in his Department; the number of housing units represented by these schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36494/06]

There are some fourteen local authority housing schemes which are under examination in my Department either at pre-tender stage or awaiting tender approval involving a total of over 500 dwellings. It is the case that in some instances further information is awaited from the local authority concerned before a final decision is made on a proposal. It is my Department's intention to convey decisions to local authorities on these schemes as soon as possible.

Local Government Policy.

Bernard Allen

Question:

92 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the Chamber of Commerce submission on local government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36608/06]

I have noted the contents of the report referred to in the Question. With regard to local government funding in general, I consider that the present system of funding local government, put in place by this Government, has served us particularly well, and has placed local government in a much better financial position than in the past.

This year I announced record levels of general purpose grants to local authorities from the Local Government Fund amounting to some €875m. Taking account of global valuations, this was an increase of some 8% on the 2005 allocation or2½ times the 1997 level. I will shortly be announcing the general purpose grant allocations to local authorities for 2007 and I am confident that the levels of funding that will be made available will again be adequate to meet ongoing local authority needs. I specifically requested that in order to support competitiveness in the economy and to protect the interests of communities, local authorities should to the greatest extent possible ensure that they exercise restraint in setting any increases in commercial rates and local charges for 2006. I am pleased that local authorities responded positively to this request. I will again ask them, in the context of the adoption of their 2007 budgets, to keep increases in rates and local charges to the minimum required.

With regard to development contributions, I am glad to note that Chambers Ireland are fully supportive of development contributions, stating that they allow for local authorities to charge all developers of property, both business and residential, for the provision of associated infrastructure including roads, amenities, etc. The Report primarily points to a variation in the charges levied for commercial and industrial development throughout the different local authorities.

The adoption of development contribution schemes is a matter for the elected members of each local authority following a full public consultation, an approach that was relatively recently endorsed by the Oireachtas in the context of the Planning and Development Act 2000. The Act provides that the basis for determining the contributions must be stated in the scheme, based on the actual estimated cost of the infrastructure provided or to be provided by or on behalf of the local authority. Since that cost will differ among local authorities, depending on local need for infrastructure investment and rates of development, it is inevitable that there will be variation in the development contribution schemes. However, my Department advised planning authorities, in circular letter PD 4/2003, that they should be mindful of the policies adopted by other authorities in their immediate area so as to avoid a major divergence in the level of contributions charged. Planning authorities were also advised in this Circular that while it is expected that developers should make an appropriate contribution towards the costs of public infrastructure and facilities, care should be taken to avoid development contributions that are excessively high.

My Department has established an Interdepartmental Committee, including representation from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, to look at issues raised by different interests in relation to development contributions schemes. This Committee is considering whether revised guidance should issue to planning authorities before they review their schemes next.

Proposed Legislation.

John Gormley

Question:

93 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to modernise the legislation regarding noise pollution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36691/06]

I refer to the replies to Questions No. 106 of 13 June 2006 and No. 225 of 4 October 2006, which set out the range of legislation on noise pollution already in place.

Given these extensive controls on noise pollution from various sources, it is not proposed to introduce further legislation in this area.

Question No. 94 answered with QuestionNo. 23.

Urban Renewal Schemes.

Seán Crowe

Question:

95 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on implementing an estate renewal scheme in view of the growing community crisis gripping suburbs in Limerick and other areas which would involve a cocktail of funding, strategic interventions in health, housing, education and enterprise and which would not be a solely property led tax relief scheme, but a mix of incentives for development and other real investment in communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31186/06]

Seán Crowe

Question:

113 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the goal of ensuring all neighbourhoods and estates are healthy safe communities, where people have the opportunity to live, learn and work with dignity; his further views on whether in Limerick and other council areas there is a clear pressing need for renewal and investment in suburban estates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31187/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 95 and 113 together.

Last December, the Government launched the Housing Policy Framework: Building Sustainable Communities. An important component of this policy framework is the commitment to improve the quality of social housing and particularly, run-down local authority estates by accelerating the rejuvenation of social housing stock. Almost €1 billion has been spent on regeneration and remedial works for local authority housing estates since 1997, and work is proceeding in many of the estates in Limerick.

The Government fully recognises that, problems in disadvantaged areas will usually require a multi-faceted response. Structures are in place to facilitate this through the RAPID programme, for example and through City/County Development Boards and the associated Social Inclusion Measures Working Groups which are in place in many counties.

In addition, the Government have recently appointed Mr. John Fitzgerald, former Dublin City Manager, to lead an initiative to address social exclusion, crime and disorder issues in Moyross in Limerick. Mr. Fitzgerald will work with existing agencies and community groups, to identify immediate actions which could be taken to improve the situation in Moyross. He has also been asked to bring forward suggestions about the regeneration of Moyross and other disadvantaged areas of Limerick in the context of the wider strategic development of the Limerick/ Shannon Gateway. Mr Fitzgerald will be reporting back regularly to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion on the progress being made.

Local Government Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

96 Mr. English asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount by which local government expenditure has increased for each year since 1999 to date in 2006; the factors involved in contributing to this growth in expenditure under benchmarking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36646/06]

The table sets out the increases in local authority current expenditure since 1999. The data for 1999 to 2005 are based on outturn figures and the data for 2006 on budget data provided by local authorities.

The increased expenditure by local authorities in the period is in response to the needs of an expanding population, growth in economic activity associated social and quality of life expectations, and high environmental standards. Indecon Economic Consultants in their Review of Local Government Financing (March 2006) identified that pay rates in the local authority sector increased by 44.7% between 1996 and 2002 compared to manufacturing pay rates which increased by 54% over the same period. The cost of benchmarking payments arose each year from 2003. It is estimated that the cumulative cost of benchmarking payments represents approximately 2.45% of total current expenditure between 2003 and 2006.

Year

Local Authority Current Expenditure

% Increase Year on Year

€ Billion

%

1999

2.15

10.82

2000

2.40

11.63

2001

2.81

17.08

2002

3.14

11.74

2003

3.23

2.87

2004

3.55

9.91

2005

3.77

6.20

2006 (Estimate)

4.10

8.75

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Enda Kenny

Question:

97 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the expected costs at present to the State for purchasing carbon allowances or credits per annum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36641/06]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 175 of 4 October 2006. The position is unchanged.

Wildlife Protection.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

98 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the expected level of fines that Ireland faces for not complying with an obligation to provide a list of the State’s most endangered species and natural habitats to the European Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36614/06]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

102 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department had contact with the European Commission since Ireland was issued with a final written warning over its non-conformity with the habitats directive; the action his Department has taken to meet the directive requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36685/06]

Simon Coveney

Question:

106 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason his Department has failed to abide by a European Commission requirement to complete an overdue list of its most endangered species and natural habitats; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36612/06]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

323 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department had contact with the European Commission since Ireland was issued with a final written warning over its non-conformity with the habitats directive; the action his Department has taken to meet the directive requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36914/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98, 102, 106 and 323 together.

On 18 October, the European Commission issued a Reasoned Opinion requiring Ireland to complete the task of publishing Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and transmit the final list of SACs to the Commission. It is accepted by both sides that while substantial progress has already been made in this regard, the process must urgently be brought to finality.

On 24 October my Department met with the European Commission to discuss Ireland's actions in response to the Reasoned Opinion. These will include measures to improve the efficiency and finality of the SAC appeals process, with a view to guaranteeing the definitive designation of SACs.

My Department will continue to work closely with the Commission to secure a satisfactory resolution of this case.

Building Regulations.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

99 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to publicise the fact that buildings energy ratings will be required on new dwellings commencing on or after 1 January 2007; the number of new dwellings it is estimated will be exempt from BER under the transitional arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36486/06]

The definitive Action Plan for the Implementation of the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (2002/91/EC) in Ireland was published on I August 2006. Section 6 of the Plan set out proposals for a comprehensive consultation, promotion and information campaign to inform the general public and business industry. I understand that Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) has held and participated in more than 90 information sharing seminars on the implementation of this Directive with interested parties throughout the country. These seminars have been attended by more than 8000 participants, including 2,800 builders who attended the Home Bond Right on Site lecture series. SEI has also been maintaining an active information website (www.sei.ie/epbd), as well as issuing regular newsletters to an extensive mailing list.

I will be making European Communities (Energy Performance of Buildings) Regulations early next month providing for the implementation of the Building Energy Rating (BER) of new dwellings commencing on of after 1 January 2007. SEI will then initiate an information and publicity campaign focusing on the format and meaning of the BER label for a new dwelling; and the circumstances in which it will be required.

It is currently envisaged that the operative date of 1 January 2007 will be subject to the transitional exemption of new dwellings for which planning permission had been applied for on or before 30 June 2006, provided substantial work is completed by 30 June 2008. Transitional provisions are a common feature of major changes to the building code, so as not to disrupt the start of work on new buildings at an advanced stage of planning or design. The transitional exemption of new dwellings from BER has been reduced from 3 years, as proposed in the draft Action Plan to implement the EPBD, to 2 years.

While my Department is not in a position to give an accurate forecast of the number of new dwellings which could potentially benefit from the transitional BER exemption, the maximum number would be around 110,000 units.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

100 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will enact section 59 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 to subject all local authority sewage treatment works to full EPA licensing regime. [36695/06]

My Department is currently in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency, the European Commission and other relevant Government Departments on a draft of regulations under section 59 of the European Protection Act 1992. The proposed regulations are to provide for the licensing of urban waste water discharges from treatment plants and to give further effect to provisions of the EU Dangerous Substances Directive (76/464/EEC) and the EU Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC).

Question No. 101 answered with QuestionNo. 56.
Question No. 102 answered with QuestionNo. 98.
Question No. 103 answered with QuestionNo. 48.
Question No. 104 answered with QuestionNo. 24.

Planning Issues.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

105 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason delivery under Part V of the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2002 has been so low; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36626/06]

I do not accept that delivery under Part V of the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2006 is low. Part V applies only to applications for planning permission for multiple housing developments on land zoned for residential use, or a mixture of residential and other uses. Accordingly, not all housing developments are subject to Part V. It does not apply to planning permissions granted prior to the introduction of Part V, or to developments of less than four units, or to developments on residentially zoned land that does not exceed 0.1 hectares, or to developments on land that is not zoned residential.

Part V is gathering momentum and will undoubtedly play an increasing role in the delivery of social and affordable housing in the future. It is envisaged that over 8,000 social and affordable units will be delivered under Part V in the next 3 years alone.

Question No. 106 answered with QuestionNo. 98.

Library Projects.

Paul McGrath

Question:

107 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of new libraries built since 1997; the number of positions vacant and unfilled; the length of time these positions are vacant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36606/06]

The development of the public library service is, in the first instance, a matter for each library authority. Under the Public Library Capital Programme, my Department has grant aided new libraries up to 75% of the capital costs, with expenditure in excess of the grant aid a matter for the relevant local authority. According to information supplied to my Department by local authorities 49 new libraries were provided by them since 1997.

The information requested on the number of positions vacant and unfilled is not available in my Department. Under Section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, it is a matter for the manager of each local authority to make such staffing and organisational arrangements as may be necessary for the purposes of carrying out the functions of the local authorities for which he/she is responsible.

Waste Disposal.

Michael Noonan

Question:

108 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action he will take on foot of the report from the Environmental Protection Agency which shows one in ten householders admit to backyard burning; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36634/06]

Under the Air Pollution Act 1987, the occupier of any premises, other than a private dwelling, is required to use the best practicable means to limit and, if possible, to prevent emissions, including smoke emissions, from such premises. In addition, the occupier of any premises is prohibited from causing or permitting an emission in such a quantity or manner as to be a nuisance. The Act provides local authorities with powers to prevent or limit air pollution and penalties include fines and/or imprisonment upon conviction.

The Waste Management Act 1996, as amended, places a general duty of care on the holder of waste not to hold, transport, recover or dispose of waste in a manner that causes or is likely to cause environmental pollution. Local authorities have specific powers under the Act to require measures to be taken to prevent or limit environmental pollution caused by the holding or disposal of waste, and mitigate or remedy the effects on the environment of any such activity.

Notwithstanding successful prosecutions taken using the legislation as it stands, I am exploring the possibility of strengthening the current legislation by way of a new set of waste regulations aimed at more specifically outlawing the unacceptable practice of backyard burning. In order to bring the issues involved to a wider public audience, under the Race Against Waste Awareness Campaign an information leaflet entitled Backyard Burning has been published, which highlights the effects of uncontrolled low temperature backyard burning of waste.

Local Authority Funding.

Joe Costello

Question:

109 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he intends to notify local authorities of the rate support grant and the proceeds of motor taxation which will be allocated to each local authority for 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36499/06]

Local Government Fund general purpose grants, which are financed from the proceeds of motor tax and an Exchequer contribution, will be notified to local authorities within the next month.

Question No. 110 answered with QuestionNo. 80.

Environmental Policy.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

111 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the cases against Ireland, relating to environmental matters, which were commenced by the EU Commission in the European Court since 1997 to date in 2006; the stage to which each such case proceeded; the amount of legal costs incurred by the State in defending the cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36501/06]

From January 1997 to date twenty-five environmental infringement proceedings, in areas for which my Department has responsibility, have been brought to the European Court of Justice. Eleven of these cases have since been closed, the requirements of the judgement having been met. One of these had proceeded to Letter of Formal Notice and one to Reasoned Opinion under Article 228 of the Treaty before being closed.

Of the fourteen cases still open:

Five have yet to be heard by the Court.

The judgement of the Court is awaited in three cases which have been heard and on which the opinion of the Advocate General has issued.

The court has delivered its judgement in six cases and my Department is working closely with the Commission and other stakeholders to meet the requirements of these judgements; the Commission has issued a Letter of Formal Notice under Article 228 of the Treaty in respect of three of these cases and the Commission has issued a Reasoned Opinion under Article 228 of the Treaty in two of these cases.

The Office of the Attorney General and the Chief State Solicitor's Office provide the legal service to the State in the conduct of European Court of Justice litigation. Legal fees arising are therefore a matter for those offices.

Local Authority Housing.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

112 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the fact that according to his Department’s statistics, many local authorities do not inspect housing units used in the rental accommodation scheme as they do not have the funds to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36676/06]

Local authorities undertake inspections of private rental accommodation for a number of purposes including the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS).

Under RAS local authorities are providing good quality accommodation for recipients of rent supplement assessed as having long term housing need. In assessing potential RAS properties, local authority costs are allowed as a charge against the administrative costs of the scheme.

Increased funding is also being provided to local authorities from the proceeds of tenancy registration fees for enforcement of the regulations relating to private rented accommodation, including inspections. €1.6m was allocated in 2005 for this purpose and it is intended that funding will be increased further to around €2m per annum for 2006 and 2007. Interim payments for 2006 totalling some €1m have already been made through the PRTB.

It is a matter for individual authorities to determine how best to deploy their resources for the inspection of private rented accommodation and for which there is adequate funding available from a variety of sources.

Question No. 113 answered with QuestionNo. 95.

Election Management System.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

114 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will make regulations increasing the spending limits for the 2007 general election; the amount to which spending limits will be increased; the persons he intends to consult regarding this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36514/06]

Section 32 of the Electoral Act 1997, as amended, specifies the maximum amounts of expenditure which may be incurred on behalf of a candidate at a Dáil election. The amounts are €25,394.76 in a 3 seat constituency; €31,743.45 in a 4 seat constituency; and €38,092.14 in a 5 seat constituency. Section 3 of the Act provides that these amounts may be varied, by order of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, having regard to changes in the Consumer Price Index. Any such order must be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

No decision regarding an amending order has been made at this stage. I will consider any views that may be put forward in the matter.

Housing Management Companies.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

115 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has considered the report of the National Consumer Agency on management fees and service charges levied on owners of property in multi-unit dwellings; if he will implement those recommendations which relate to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36505/06]

Two recommendations in the recent National Consumer Agency Report are stated to be for action by my Department.

Recommendation 25 refers to the completion of developments in accordance with the terms of the planning permissions and makes reference to section 35 of the Planning and Development Act 2000. Planning authorities already have substantial enforcement powers and duties under the planning legislation. Further, the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006, which was enacted on 16 July 2006 effectively reversed the burden of proof in Section 35 of the Planning and Development 2000 Act which provided that planning authorities may refuse to grant planning permission, subject to the consent of the High Court, to any developer who has seriously failed to comply with a previous planning permission. From now on the planning authority will be empowered to refuse permission in such a case and the developer will have to go to the High Court if he wishes to apply to have this decision overturned.

Recommendation 12 is that the contract between the developer and the management company to convey the title of the buildings and common areas to the management company should include a contractual obligation on the developer to attend to the management company's snag list, prepared by an independent architect/surveyor and that this should be implemented by means of an amendment to planning legislation. Having examined this recommendation I do not consider that planning legislation is the appropriate vehicle for implementing it.

Questions Nos. 116 and 117 answered with Question No. 23.

Water Quality.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

118 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his proposals for the provision and storage of an adequate drinking water supply throughout the country in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36570/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

365 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans for the provision of medium to short term drinking water supply throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37060/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118 and 365 together.

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 326, 335 and 337 of 4 October 2006.

Question No. 119 answered with QuestionNo. 10.

Building Regulations.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

120 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to amend building regulations to improve accessibility for people with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36632/06]

I initiated a public consultation process in December 2005 on a review of the existing Part M (Access for People with Disabilities) of the Building Regulations and the related Technical Guidance Document (TGD) M. I asked interested parties to identify any deficiencies in the existing Part M/TGD M regime; and to suggest how they should be remedied.

An excellent response has been received — more than 40 detailed submissions by the end of the consultation period on 30 March 2006. The submissions have been summarised by my Department and are now the subject of examination by a Sub-Group of the Building Regulations Advisory Body (BRAB).

I expect to receive a draft amended Part M/TGD M proposals from BRAB, early in 2007, and to publish draft regulations shortly thereafter.

Question No. 121 answered with QuestionNo. 87.
Question No. 122 answered with QuestionNo. 24.

Proposed Legislation.

John Gormley

Question:

123 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to update the Acquisition of Lands (Allotments) Act 1926; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36692/06]

The Acquisition of Lands (Allotments) Act 1926 was repealed by the Local Government Act 1994.

Section 67 of the Local Government Act 2001 provides that a local authority may take such measures, engage in such activities or do such things as it considers necessary or desirable to promote the interests of the local community in relation to a range of specified matters, including allotments, fairs and markets, and related amenities, facilities and services.

Housing Policy.

Willie Penrose

Question:

124 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the basis for his statement on 6 October 2006 that house building will continue to perform strongly for the foreseeable future; the number of house and apartment completions to date in 2006; his estimates for the completions in 2006 and 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36493/06]

There were 66,470 dwellings completed in the first 9 months of 2006, of which 14,200 were apartments. This represented an increase in completions of 22% on the same period last year. Estimates prepared for this Department by DKM Economic Consultants, suggest that housing output will be about 90,000 units in both 2006 and 2007. Their estimate is for an easing of housing supply to 75,000 in 2008, which is still a considerable output by any standards.

House building should continue to perform strongly for the foreseeable future in light of the positive trends in some of the leading indicators, with new house registrations up 14% in the first 9 months, and construction sector employment continuing to grow strongly, by some 8% in the past year. In addition under Towards 2016, the Government have made considerable commitments to significant additional investment to increase the output of social and affordable housing.

Question No. 125 answered with QuestionNo. 79.
Question No. 126 answered with QuestionNo. 22.

Gambling Casinos.

Joan Burton

Question:

127 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he or his Ministers of State have received representations in favour of casinos and casino gambling here; the number of representations that have been received; if any of the promoters of changes in the law to facilitate casino gambling have been met personally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36736/06]

Joan Burton

Question:

129 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the representations he has received in favour of casinos and casino gambling here; the number of representations he has received; the organisations and persons he has received them from; the form the representations have taken; if he has met with promoters of casinos and casino gambling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36758/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 and 129 together.

As the Deputy is already aware, in August this year the Government agreed to my proposals for the establishment of an Inter-Departmental Committee (the Casino Regulation Committee), on which my Department is represented, to report on the possibilities for a legislative basis for the strict regulation of casino-style operations within the State. The Casino Regulation Committee is due to report to Government shortly.

The Deputy should be aware that my Department has taken a decision not to have individual meetings with promoters of change in the law outside of the Committee framework pending the completion of that Committee's report.

The Committee issued a public call for submissions and has met many of the parties who made submissions. As part of its functions on that Committee my Department was represented at those meetings. Outside of this framework in that time, I have received representations from eight parties promoting changes in the law and one against such change. My response to all such representations is that having established a Committee to consider these complex issues, I do not propose to comment on future policy in advance of receiving and considering the report of the Casino Regulation Committee.

It is a fact that some organisations and individuals may not want their names appearing in the public domain and bearing in mind the requirements under the Freedom of Information legislation to protect third party information, I do not propose to provide details of the individuals or organisation who made written representations to me at this time.

Garda Deployment.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

128 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans in place to allocate more staff to Rathcoole Garda station, particularly community gardaí; his plans to extend the opening hours of the station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36757/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,762 on Friday, 8 September, 2006, following the attestation of 249 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,060 (or 19%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The induction of 280 new Garda recruits to the Garda College on 6 November, 2006 has resulted in a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,137. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that Rathcoole Garda Station forms part of the Dublin Metropolitan Region West Division. The personnel strength of the Dublin Metropolitan Region West Division as at 31 December, 1997 was 513 (all ranks). The personnel strength of the Dublin Metropolitan Region as at 7 November, 2006 was 692 (all ranks). This represents an increase of 179 (or 34%) in the number of personnel allocated since that date.

The Garda authorities state that the personnel strength of Rathcoole Garda Station as at 31 December, 1997 was 11. The personnel strength of Rathcoole Garda Station as at 7 November, 2006 was 23 (all ranks). This represents an increase of 12 (or 109%) in the number of personnel allocated since that date.

Local Garda management reports that there is currently one Community Garda attached to Rathcoole Garda Station. Local Garda management are satisfied that the policing requirements of the Rathcoole Sub-District are adequately met by the existing available resources attached to Rathcoole Garda Station.

Local Garda management also reports that there are no plans to extend the opening times of Rathcoole Garda Station. The station is currently open from 10 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm daily. The extension of the opening hours would necessitate the employment of additional personnel on indoor administrative duties who may be more effectively employed on outdoor policing duties.

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

Question No. 129 answered with QuestionNo. 127.

Citizenship Applications.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

130 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position with regard to allowing families of Irish born babies remain and work here; the number of families of Irish born children that have been deported since the change in law; if the Government made arrangements with Irish embassies abroad to ensure that Irish citizens who have been deported by the Government are kept in contact with and facilitated in every way possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36796/06]

In January, 2005 I announced a scheme whereby the non-national parents of children born in Ireland before 1 January 2005 could apply for leave to remain in the State based on their parentage of those children. This so-called IBC/05 Scheme and its terms and conditions were widely advertised and its closing date was 31 March, 2005. Generally, leave to remain was granted for a two year period initially, effective from the date of issue of the letter granting leave to remain. The permission allows the applicant to work without the need of a work permit and to engage in business without seeking the permission of the Minister. That scheme followed from the Citizenship Referendum in 2004 and the passing by the Oireachtas of the Immigration and Citizenship Act, 2004, the effect of which is that children born to non-nationals from 1 January, 2005 no longer enjoy an automatic right to citizenship.

In relation to the Deputy's question about the deportation of families of Irish born children, since the change in law, the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 2004, which was commenced by me with effect from 1 January 2005 provides at Section 4. 6A (1)2 — "A person born in the island of Ireland shall not be entitled to be an Irish citizen unless a parent of that person has, during the period of 4 years immediately preceding the person's birth, been resident in the island of Ireland for a period of not less than 3 years or periods the aggregate of which is not less than 3 years ".

It should be made clear that Irish citizen children cannot be deported and statistics are not maintained as to the number of Irish born children who accompany their parents who are the subject of deportation orders to their country of origin.

The Deputy should note also that children are not sent back with their parents to the parents' country of origin where no right of residency for those children exists in that country. For example, any child of Nigerian parents (i.e. the largest nationality group of asylum-seekers) is a Nigerian national by virtue of its parentage regardless of where he/she is born and is consequently entitled to reside with his/her parents in their country of origin following deportation. Given that such children will have an entitlement to citizenship in the State of their parent(s) it is not my intention to monitor the welfare of such children following their return to that country and the question of Ireland's consular services being available to such persons would arise in only the most exceptional of circumstances.

Visa Applications.

Billy Kelleher

Question:

131 Mr. Kelleher asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is possible for a Bulgarian national to enter Ireland on 1 January 2007 with a valid passport only, if that person only wishes to visit the country; the length of time they will be able to stay here without working; the documentation a Bulgarian national would need to live here indefinitely if supported by an Irish person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36798/06]

Nationals of Bulgaria, as and from 1 January, 2007, will have the same rights as other EU citizens except that, arising from the Government's recent decision, nationals of Bulgaria (and Romania) may not take up employment in the State except in accordance with an Employment Permit or where they are otherwise exempt. They may enter Ireland on production of their passport and/or national identity card. Visa requirements will no longer apply and they may reside here for up to three months. Thereafter, they must be: in employment; self-employed; enrolled on a course or study or vocational training and have private medical insurance; or self sufficient and have private medical insurance.

As and from 1 January, 2007 the main immigration law which will apply to Bulgarian and Romanian nationals is the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 226 of 2006). Those Regulations, which I signed on 28 April 2006, transposed into Irish law the European Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.

While the Regulations do not specifically require the registration of EU citizens with the immigration authorities in the State, EU citizens can apply to my Department for a Permanent Residence Certificate if certain conditions are met as set out in the Regulations. In that context, a national of Bulgaria residing in the State and not economically active but supported by an Irish person and who claimed self-sufficiency on that basis would be expected to provide my Department with details of the relationship with the person on whom they depend and documentary evidence that they had sufficient financial resources to maintain themselves without recourse to State benefits.

Garda Investigations.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

132 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 197 of 18 October 2006, if it is the case that a criminal inquiry in addition to a disciplinary inquiry is under way in relation to the circumstances of the Garda handling of the death of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36830/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that a full disciplinary inquiry in conjunction with a criminal investigation is currently under way by a Chief Superintendent from outside the Division. As this inquiry is ongoing, the Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment any further on the matter at this time.

Residency Permits.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

133 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason that no provision has been made in either the Immigration and Residence Bill or the Criminal Law (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill for residency permits for victims of human trafficking in view of the fact that the threat of deportation is widely recognised as being a key impediment to trafficking victims coming forward; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36831/06]

The Scheme of the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill, which I published recently, makes provision for a new and integrated framework for the effective management of migration to the State. An integral part of that framework will be the ability to make and publish statements of the Government's immigration policy in relation to any aspect of immigration including, where necessary, victims of human trafficking. In the context of the proposed legislation, it will be possible for a suitable immigration policy statement to address all of the issues concerning the treatment of victims of human trafficking in an appropriate manner.

The Criminal Law (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill provides only for criminal law issues. Issues relating to deportation and residency matters are relevant to the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill.

Road Traffic Offences.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

134 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is in a position to supply the information requested in Parliamentary Question No. 81 of 12 October 2006. [36832/06]

In view of the nature of the question and in order to supply the details requested by the Deputy it is necessary for the Garda authorities to make enquires in each Garda Division. I will be in contact with the Deputy when the information is to hand.

National Drugs Strategy.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

135 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the findings of a campaign evaluation (details supplied) published on 1 November 2006 including the recommendation that the campaign be rolled out across the State; and if his Department will fund this expansion. [36840/06]

I understand that with monies provided by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs through the Government's Local Drug Task Force initiative fund, the Blanchardstown Local Drug Task Force has this year been running a pilot drug supply reduction campaign in the Dublin 15 area entitled "Dial to stop drug dealing".

This campaign has involved the Task Force, with the support of An Garda Síochána, working in conjunction with UK marketing company Public Communications Centre Limited, in the marketing and operation of a non-Garda confidential phone line to help gather information on drug dealing in the Dublin 15 area.

I further understand that the evaluation report of the project which was recently launched is concerned with the operation of the campaign during its initial six week period and that the report's findings are drawn from i) the daily reports from the call centre, ii) a report from An Garda Síochána on the operation of the initiative and iii) a public survey of a sample of 250 people in the local area.

I understand that the Blanchardstown Local Drug Task Force recently made a presentation to the National Drugs Strategy Team, (NDST) on the operation of the campaign and that the findings of the evaluation report are currently being examined by the NDST.

Garda Deployment.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

136 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a reply to Parliamentary Question No. 68 of 26 October 2006 will be made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36844/06]

As the Deputy is aware the information to respond was not available at the time. However, I have now been informed by the Garda authorities that the expenditure to 1 November 2006, excluding basic salaries, of providing a Garda presence at Ballinaboy Shell Refinery is €740,755. However, not all the expense claims for that period have been lodged and processed.

I have also been informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda presence in the area in question is to enable An Garda Síochána to perform in an impartial manner its functions, which include preserving peace and public order. In addition, as the Deputy will be aware, this is an on-going operation and it is, therefore, not possible to provide a definitive total cost at this juncture.

Visa Applications.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

137 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will give permission to a person (details supplied) in County Louth to apply directly for a student visa from Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36849/06]

The person concerned attended at their local Immigration Office in late 2004 when they were advised to return with evidence of payment for a college course and evidence of finances.

I understand from the Immigration Division of my Department that the person referred to by the Deputy failed to return with the documentation requested. It is the case that as she did not produce the requested documentation, she is therefore residing illegally in the State. The person concerned has continued to remain illegally in the State and the Immigration Division of my Department is dealing with this matter under Section 3 (4) of the Immigration Act 1999.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

138 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36853/06]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 9 September, 2003, and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and on appeal by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, she was informed by letter dated 30 September, 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; leaving the State before an order is made or consenting to the making of a deportation order. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned.

The person's case file, including all representations submitted, will be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996, (Prohibition of Refoulement) as amended. I expect the file to be passed to me for decision in due course.

Garda Deployment.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

139 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 435 of 27 September 2006, his views on whether there is inequality in the distribution of gardaí to divisions here; if he will raise this issue directly with the Garda Commissioner with a view to reallocating additional gardaí to where they are required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36862/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,762 on Friday, 8 September, 2006, following the attestation of 249 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,060 (or 19%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The induction of 280 new Garda recruits to the Garda College on 6 November, 2006 has resulted in a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,137. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms.

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

Visa Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

140 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if permission will be given to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare to do an apprenticeship. [36919/06]

I wish to refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 367 of 27th September 2006.

Garda Training.

John Deasy

Question:

141 Mr. Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of the group of Garda reservists selected to commence training in Templemore on 30 September 2006; the number who registered for that training; the number that commenced training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36933/06]

Forty people were invited to commence training for the Garda Reserve in the Garda College at Templemore on 30 September 2006. Of that forty, three were unavailable, for personal reasons, to commence on that date. The remaining 37 trainees commenced phase one training in Templemore on 30 September 2006. They are currently in phase two of their training and are expected to complete their training in December.

Youth Diversion Projects.

Michael Lowry

Question:

142 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the criteria for establishment of a Garda youth diversion project in a community; the number of projects operating nationally and those projects in County Tipperary; his views on expanding the number of projects in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36934/06]

Garda Youth Diversion Projects are a community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiative which seek to divert young persons from becoming involved or further involved in anti-social and/or criminal behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development, promote civic responsibility and improve long-term employability prospects. By doing so, the projects also contribute to improving the quality of life within communities and enhancing Garda/community relations. The projects are funded by my Department and are administered by the Community Relations Section of An Garda Síochána.

I secured additional funding of €1.2 million for the projects in 2006, bringing the total amount of funding for the projects to €6.6 million for the year. It is my intention to expand the scheme to 100 projects nationwide before the end of 2007. The first phase of this expansion programme is currently being implemented with the establishment of 10 new projects recently, bringing the total number of projects currently established to 74. I hope to be soon in a position to announce the establishment of a further 10 projects.

The Garda Commissioner considers applications in accordance with the Garda Youth Diversion Project Guidelines drawn up in 2003 and brings forward proposals for the establishment of projects based on local need. Factors which are taken into consideration include increases in juvenile crime and the number of cases dealt with by the Juvenile Diversion Programme.

There is currently one Garda Youth Diversion Project in Tipperary, the CYD Project which is located in Clonmel. This project has been allocated €81,300 in funding for 2006.

Illegal Fireworks.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

143 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the value of fireworks, confirmed or estimated, that have been illegally imported into this country for each of the years 2002 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36935/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that under Operation Tombola, the annual Garda operation aimed at combatting the illegal sale and use of fireworks, there have been 64 seizures of fireworks up to end October 2006 with an estimated value of €113,511.

The following table details the approximate value of unlicensed fireworks seized since 2002.

Year

Estimated Value

2006

113,511

2005

454,760

2004

408,890

2003

57,430

2002

67,375

Garda Deployment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

144 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí in each division, county, region and nationality for each month in each of the years 2002 to date in 2006. [36936/06]

The detailed information sought by the Deputy is not readily available and could only be obtained by the application of a disproportionate amount of staff time and resources.

Garda Website.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

145 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the length of time the local pages section of the Garda website has been under development; and when it is expected it will be available. [36937/06]

I have been informed by the Garda Authorities that the Garda Website is currently being redeveloped. While the content of the local pages was suspended approximately two months ago, all other sections of the website are fully operational. It is expected that a new look Garda website will be fully operational within a six month time frame.

Citizenship Applications.

Pat Breen

Question:

146 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application for a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36938/06]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department on 10 June 2005.

I understand that processing of the application of the person in question has commenced and that the case file will be forwarded to me for a decision in due course. I will inform the Deputy and the person concerned when I have reached a decision on this application.

Pat Breen

Question:

147 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 231 of 3 October 2006, if a decision has been made on an application for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36939/06]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department on 27 April, 2004. I understand a submission has recently been made to my Office in this case and I will inform the Deputy and the person concerned when I have reached a decision.

Pat Breen

Question:

148 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 251 of 27 September 2006, if a decision has been reached on an application for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36940/06]

I refer the Deputy to my response to Parliamentary Question No 251 on 27 September, 2006. Applications for certificates of naturalisation from the persons referred to in the Deputy's question were received in the Citizenship Section of my Department on 16 June 2005. I understand that the processing of both applications has commenced and that the case files will be forwarded to me for a decision in due course. I will inform the Deputy and the persons concerned when I have reached a decision on the applications.

Pat Breen

Question:

149 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 250 of 27 September 2006, if a decision has been made on an application for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36941/06]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 250 of Wednesday, 27th September, 2006 and the written reply to that Question. The position is unchanged.

Garda Operations.

Enda Kenny

Question:

150 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress being made by Operation Steel; the number of Garda personnel involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37035/06]

As the Deputy is aware, an additional 55 members were allocated to the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation in November 2005 to augment the Organised Crime Unit. I am informed by the Garda Authorities that Operation "Steel" was put in place following the addition of these members to monitor and target those individuals and groups involved and associated with armed crime and to address the problem of criminal gang activity. I am further informed that as a result of this ongoing policing operation, there have been a number of serious crimes detected resulting in significant numbers of firearms and quantities of drugs and money being seized. A number of persons are currently before the Courts arising from this initiative. This and other targeted policing operations are reviewed by senior Garda management on an ongoing basis to ensure their effectiveness.

Residency Permits.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

151 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the options available to non-EEA nationals wishing to live and work here where they are the parents of an Irish born child, born prior to January 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37036/06]

There have been two separate schemes where a non EEA national could claim residency in the State on the sole basis of being the parent of an Irish born child. The first scheme ceased on 19 February 2003 and the most recent scheme was the revised arrangements which were introduced on 12 January 2005 for parents of Irish children born before 1 January 2005 and is commonly referred to as the IBC/05 scheme. The IBC/05 scheme ceased taking applications for residency on 31 March 2005. There is now no separate procedure for considering a new application for residency based solely on being the parent of an Irish child born before 1 January 2005.

Garda Strength.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

152 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the outcome of the pilot programme to expand the Garda dog unit to Cork and Limerick; when it is proposed to expand the unit nationwide; and the implications of such an expansion in terms of the number of additional gardaí and dogs. [37037/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Dog Unit consists of 26 Garda dogs and is staffed by 2 Sergeants and 14 Gardaí. There are currently two dogs being trained in Tactical Support and a further dog in blood detection. It is proposed to expand the Garda Dog Unit nationwide, on a Regional basis and to this end a pilot, in the Southern division (based in Cork and Limerick) has just been completed and is being evaluated.

Following the evaluation of the recent pilot in the Southern Region a decision on the further Regionalisation of the Unit will be made. The Regionalisation plan, if fully implemented, will result in an increase in the number of Garda dog handlers to 29 and the number of dogs to approximately 50.

Garda Deployment.

Dermot Fitzpatrick

Question:

153 Dr. Fitzpatrick asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the complement of Garda officers serving from the Cabra, Mountjoy, Store Street, Fitzgibbon Street and the Bridewell Garda stations during each of the years 2003 to 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37038/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,762 on Friday, 8 September, 2006, following the attestation of 249 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,060 (or 19%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The induction of 280 new Garda recruits to the Garda College on 6 November, 2006 has resulted in a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,137. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have been further informed that Cabra Garda Station forms part of the "K" District of the D.M.R. West Division. The personnel strength (all ranks) of the "K" District as at 31 December, 1997 and 8 November, 2006 was 247 and 316, respectively, representing an increase of 69 (or 27.9%) in the number of Garda personnel allocated to the "K" District during that period. The personnel strength (all ranks) of the Garda stations in the "K" District as at 31 December, 1997, 31 December, 2003-2005, inclusively, and as at 8 November, 2006 was as set out in the table.

31/12/97

31/12/03

31/12/04

31/12/05

08/11/06

District K

Cabra*

82

65

63

69

69

Finglas

76

68

74

76

84

Blanchardstown

89

142

152

167

163

Total

247

275

289

312

316

*The District "K" Headquarters in Dublin Metropolitan Region West moved from Cabra Garda Station to Blanchardstown Garda Station during the period in question.

Cabra Garda Station forms part of the Dublin Metropolitan Region West Division. The personnel strength (all ranks) of the D.M.R. West Division as at 31 December, 1997 and 8 November, 2006 was 513 and 692, respectively, representing an increase of 179 (or 34.8%) in the number of Garda personnel allocated to the Division during that period. The Garda authorities have also informed me that Mountjoy Garda Station and Fitzgibbon Street Garda Station form the "U" District in the D.M.R. North Central Division. The personnel strength (all ranks) of the "U" District as at 31 December, 1997 and 8 November, 2006 was 198 and 202, respectively. The personnel strength (all ranks) of the Garda stations in the "U" District as at 31 December, 1997, 31 December, 2003-2005, inclusively, and as at 8 November, 2006 was as set out in the table.

31/12/97

31/12/03

31/12/04

31/12/05

08/11/06

District U

Mountjoy

78

85

91

90

88

Fitzgibbon Street

120

119

119

119

114

Total

198

204

210

209

202

The Garda authorities also state that Store Street Garda Station and the Bridewell Garda Station form Districts "C" and "D" in the D.M.R. North Central Division, respectively. The personnel strength (all ranks) of Store Street Garda Station as at 31 December, 1997 and 8 November, 2006 was 231 and 270, respectively, representing an increase of 39 (or 16.8%) in the number of personnel allocated to the Station during that period. The personnel strength (all ranks) of Bridewell Garda Station as at 31 December, 1997 and 8 November, 2006 was 156 and 164, respectively, representing an increase of 8 (or 5.12%) in the number of personnel allocated since that date. The personnel strength (all ranks) of Store Street and Bridewell Garda stations as at 31 December, 1997, 31 December, 2003-2005, inclusively, and as at 8 November, 2006 was as set out in the table.

31/12/97

31/12/03

31/12/04

31/12/05

08/11/06

District C

Store Street

231

261

269

271

270

District D

Bridewell

156

163

166

162

164

Mountjoy, Store Street, Bridewell and Fitzgibbon Street Garda stations forms part of the Dublin Metropolitan North Central Division. The personnel strength (all ranks) of the D.M.R. North Central Division as at 31 December, 1997 and 8 November, 2006 was 585 and 642, respectively, representing an increase of 57 (or 9.7%) in the number of Garda personnel allocated to the D.M.R. North Central Division during that period.

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

Deportation Orders.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

154 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people who have been deported to date following deportation orders made by him pursuant to section 3(1) of the Immigration Act 1999 in respect of non-nationals who under section 3(2)(a) had served terms of imprisonment imposed on them by a court in the State; the years such deportation took place; and the nationality of those involved. [37039/06]

I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question Number 129 of 3rd October, 2006. In respect of non-nationals who had served terms of imprisonment, the table shows the position regarding deportations of those persons; 150 persons have been deported between 2001 and 17th May 2006.

Year

Total

2001

21

2002

21

2003

36

2004

23

2005

30

2006 (01/01/06-17/05/06)

19

Total

150

To protect the identity of the persons involved Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service does not release statistical breakdown of nationalities in instances where the figures are less than 10. However the following is a breakdown by continent and nationality where available.

Area

Total

Accession States — EU

16

Africa

66 (including 46 South Africans & 14 Nigerians)

America

8

Asia

21 (including 14 Chinese)

Non-EU Europe

39 (including 14 Romanians)

Total

150

The statistics are being updated and I will write to the Deputy when the new figures become available.

Garda Deployment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

155 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí in the Cork west division on 1 November 1997 and the number on 1 November 2006. [37040/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,762 on Friday, 8 September, 2006, following the attestation of 249 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,060 (or 19%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The induction of 280 new Garda recruits to the Garda College on 6 November, 2006 has resulted in a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,137. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of the Cork West Division as at 31 December, 1997 was 223 (all ranks). The personnel strength of the Cork West Division as at 6 November, 2006 was 258 (all ranks). This represents an increase of 35 (or 15.6%) in the number of personnel allocated since that date.

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

Garda Investigations.

Tony Gregory

Question:

156 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action the gardaí at Cabra Garda station are taking on foot of complaints that children as young as ten years of age are accessing pornographic sites on computers with Internet access in a centre (details supplied) in Dublin 7; if the gardaí have spoken to the proprietor of the premises concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37070/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that local Garda management is not aware of any specific complaint in respect of the premises referred to. I am further informed that management of the premises in question has a policy that no person under the age of 16 years of age can access the Internet there and the proprietor has advised gardaí that the policy is enforced by the manager of the premises and the security staff. Members of the local Community Policing Unit in the area also monitor the premises to ensure the policy is enforced. The Garda Síochána will investigate any complaint received.

Garda Stations.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

157 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the provision of a new Garda station at Castleisland, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36799/06]

It is expected that a sketch scheme for the new Garda Area Headquarters at Castleisland will be ready by the end of the year for the approval of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Authorities. On approval of the sketch scheme a Part 9 planning process will be initiated in early 2007.

Flood Relief.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

158 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the progress to date in the discussions between his Department and Kildare County Council in regard to remedial measures to alleviate flooding at Mill Lane, Leixlip, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37049/06]

OPW met with officials from Kildare County Council on Thursday 5th of October and carried out a site inspection of the Rye and Silleachain Rivers in the Leixlip area. The various flood relief proposals as set out in the Localised Flood Study report were discussed. It is now considered that measures to prevent flooding in Dun Carraig can be designed without the need for the full Rye Catchment Study which would take some time to complete.

The flooding mechanisms involved at Mill Lane are extremely complex and require more detailed consideration. A further meeting with Kildare County Council officials and their Engineering Consultants has been arranged to try to establish whether an early solution is possible for this area.

Tax Yield.

Ivor Callely

Question:

159 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Finance the level of stamp duty from house sales generated each year over the past ten years; if he has received submissions for his consideration to reduce stamp duty rates or widen the bands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36774/06]

The figures of total stamp duty yield from residential property over the past ten years are shown in the table.

Year

Residential Property

€m

1996

149

1997

194

1998

213

1999

263

2000

282

2001

265

2002

349

2003

528

2004

752

2005

945

It should be noted that 2001 was the first year that the stamp duty yield on property was broken down into residential and non-residential property, and so previous years' yields are all estimates which may be less accurate than the figure for 2001.

I have received, as is customary, a number of pre-Budget submissions. These include proposals for change to Stamp Duty. As the Deputy will appreciate, it is not customary to comment on tax changes in advance of the Budget.

Budget Submissions.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

160 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance his views on the budget 2007 submission by an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36787/06]

I have received a pre-Budget submission from the organisation concerned. Its contents will be considered in the context of the forthcoming Budget and Finance Bill. As Deputies are aware it would not be appropriate for me to comment in advance of the Budget on possible Budget decisions.

Communications Masts.

Seán Haughey

Question:

161 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Finance when the Office of Public Works will receive reports from its consultants in relation to emissions of non-ionising radiation from two Garda masts (details supplied); when these reports will be made available to this Deputy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36788/06]

The reports referred to were issued to the Deputy on 31st October 2006.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

162 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the position in relation to the promised review by the Revenue Commissioners in relation to stamp duty avoidance by developers and others through the use of licensing arrangements or the sale of property through the sale of shares in a company; the number of transactions in excess of €1 million that have occurred in each of the past three years; the location of the properties and land; the values of properties in bands of €1 million and upwards; if the Revenue Commissioners have calculated the amount of stamp duty avoided as a consequence of such arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36818/06]

Stamp Duty is a charge on documents, which are mostly legal documents, used in the transfer of property. Where a property is purchased, stamp duty is charged on the conveyance or transfer effecting change of legal ownership of the property concerned. If there is no conveyance, there is no stamp duty. A builder or developer can, therefore, obtain a licence from a vendor to build on land owned by the vendor without incurring a stamp duty charge at that stage of the venture. Once the buildings, whether commercial or residential, are completed, the conveyances or transfers of such properties to purchasers are chargeable to stamp duty in the normal manner unless specific exemptions are available to such purchasers, for example first time buyers.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that their review of the use of such measures by developers, builders etc. is ongoing and they will advise me of the outcome of the review as soon as it is completed. As advised on in a previous reply on 27 September, it should be noted however that, as the documentation in relation to such arrangements does not have to be stamped, the information necessary to establish the extent of these practices is not readily available to Revenue. Revenue are progressing the review in a broader context as part of their project on the construction sector in 2006.

Flood Relief.

Michael Ring

Question:

163 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance when a drain at a tributary (details supplied) in County Mayo will be cleaned. [36819/06]

The channel in question is to be maintained as part of our 2007 Work Programme, subject to agreement with local land owners regarding access and availability of resources.

Dan Neville

Question:

164 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Finance when the Office of Public Works will deal with serious erosion of the embankment at Courtbrown, Askeaton, County Limerick particularly on the lands of a person (details supplied). [36820/06]

I am advised that the Commissioners of Public Works have no responsibility for the embankment concerned.

Garda Stations.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

165 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if the tender documents are ready for the new Leixlip Garda station; and when tenders will be invited for the project. [36860/06]

The tender documents are in the final stage of preparation and it is expected to issue them in November.

Site Acquisitions.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

166 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if there has been progress in concluding the contract for the purchase of a site for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare. [36866/06]

I refer to my response to ceist a 550 of 27th September 2006. The position remains unchanged.

Flood Relief.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

167 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance when the catchment flood risk assessment and management study for the Rye River will commence. [36871/06]

I would refer the Deputy to my reply of the 19th of October in relation to the catchment flood risk assessment and management study for the Rye River.

A further meeting with Kildare County Council officials and their Engineering Consultants has been arranged in relation to this matter.

Tony Gregory

Question:

168 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 287 of 1 November 2006, when the location (details supplied) was last inspected by the Office of Public Works; and if they will at least carry out a further inspection in view of the residents’ concerns. [36923/06]

During the severe flooding from the River Tolka in November 2002 a protecting wall at the rear of houses on Tolka Road failed and three houses were in danger of subsidence. The Office of Public Works built a new protecting wall and also placed rock material along the right bank in order to prevent further scour of the wall. The area was inspected by OPW engineers within the last two weeks who are satisfied that any build-up of silt is of a minor nature and does not present a flooding threat to the houses on Tolka Road.

However, OPW and Dublin City Council will ensure that any maintenance which is required will be undertaken.

Tax Code.

Denis Naughten

Question:

169 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the number of farmers who have availed of the tax relief on farm swap consolidation since its inception; his plans to review the conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36924/06]

In Budget 2005, I announced a special stamp duty relief relating to an exchange of farm land between two farmers for the purposes of consolidating each farmer's holding. The relief is contained in section 121 of the Finance Act 2005 which provides that no stamp duty will be charged on an exchange of such lands where the lands are of equal value. In a case where the lands exchanged are not of equal value, stamp duty will only be charged on the amount of the difference in the value of the lands concerned.

The scheme was introduced on 1 July 2005 for a period of 2 years. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that from 1 July 2005 to 31 December 2005 there were two cases of farm consolidation relief. In 2006, from 1 January to 31 September there were 12 cases.

At the Partnership talks earlier this year it was agreed to look at the possibility of extending this relief to cases where only one farmer is consolidating his/her farm holdings. However, as was stated at the time, such a measure will probably need EU Commission approval, which may be difficult to achieve.

Budget Submissions.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

170 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance his views on the Barnardos’ Children’s Budget 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36957/06]

I have received a pre-Budget submission from Barnardos. Its contents will be considered in the context of the forthcoming Budget and Finance Bill. As Deputies are aware it would not be appropriate for me to comment in advance of the Budget on possible Budget decisions.

Tax Code.

Billy Timmins

Question:

171 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the advice given to him by the expert tax advice group since September 2004 on the issue of changes to residential stamp duty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37033/06]

The Tax Strategy Group is an interdepartmental committee chaired by the Department of Finance, with membership comprising senior officials and advisors from the Departments of Finance, Taoiseach, Enterprise Trade and Employment, Social Community and Family Affairs, Justice Equality and Law Reform and the Revenue Commissioners. Papers on various options for the Budget and for the medium and longer term are prepared for the Tax Strategy Group. Its terms of reference are as follows:

To examine and develop proposals for measures in the areas of taxation, PRSI and levies, for Budget and Finance Bill within agreed Government parameters for the overall Budget position and in the context of the framework of a medium term and longer term strategy set out in the Government's programme, and

To examine the strategic approach for a general social welfare package and to assess the interaction of income tax/PRSI/levies proposals with social welfare proposals including child income support, and in particular the impact of this interaction on the labour market and income distribution.

The papers are published on my Department's website each year, after the annual Budget and Finance Bill cycle. These papers can be accessed at: http://www.finance.gov.ie/ViewDoc.asp? DocId=-1&CatID=18&m=p.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the papers in relation to Budget 2007 will not be published until next year.

Billy Timmins

Question:

172 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the advice given to him by the expert tax advice group since September 2004 on the issue of changes to the tax rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37034/06]

The Tax Strategy Group is an interdepartmental committee chaired by the Department of Finance, with membership comprising senior officials and advisors from the Departments of Finance, Taoiseach, Enterprise Trade and Employment, Social Community and Family Affairs, Justice Equality and Law Reform and the Revenue Commissioners. Papers on various options for the Budget and for the medium and longer term are prepared for the Tax Strategy Group. Its terms of reference are as follows:

To examine and develop proposals for measures in the areas of taxation, PRSI and levies, for Budget and Finance Bill within agreed Government parameters for the overall Budget position and in the context of the framework of a medium term and longer term strategy set out in the Government's programme, and

To examine the strategic approach for a general social welfare package and to assess the interaction of income tax/PRSI/levies proposals with social welfare proposals including child income support, and in particular the impact of this interaction on the labour market and income distribution.

The papers are published on my Department's website each year, after the annual Budget and Finance Bill cycle. These papers can be accessed at: http://www.finance.gov.ie/ViewDoc.asp? DocId=-1&CatID=18&m=p.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the papers in relation to Budget 2007 will not be published until next year.

Voluntary Sector Funding.

Marian Harkin

Question:

173 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the fact that in excess of 10,500 calls to Women’s Aid helpline went unanswered in 2005, she will make an immediate commitment to give the additional €100,000 in funding already promised by the Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36838/06]

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

Medical Cards.

John Gormley

Question:

174 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost of full medical care eligibility for the over 70s; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36754/06]

I take it the question refers to the cost of providing medical cards to all persons aged 70 and over, which was introduced in 2001. Therefore, the 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.

John Gormley

Question:

175 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost for extending the full medical card eligibility to those aged between 18 and 70; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36755/06]

I take it the question refers to provision of a medical card to all persons aged between 18 and 69, as people aged 70 and over are statutorily entitled to a medical card. I have asked my Department to make arrangements to provide the Deputy with information on the estimated cost of extending medical card eligibility to this population cohort. The nature of the request will require particular information to be sourced by the Department from the Health Service Executive. On receipt of this information, the cost estimate will be prepared and issued to the Deputy.

John Gormley

Question:

176 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children when the costings for extending full medical card eligibility to under sixes will be available; if she will make these costings available to this Deputy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36756/06]

As indicated in my reply to question number 120 of 1st November 2006 it was necessary for my Department to seek particular information from the Health Service Executive (HSE) to allow the estimated cost of providing a medical card to all children aged under six to be prepared. My Department has sought the information in question from the HSE and on receipt of this the cost estimate will be prepared and issued to the Deputy.

Vaccination Programme.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

177 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in introducing a vaccine damage compensation scheme for 16 children who were brain damaged following receipt of a three-in-one vaccine injection (details supplied). [36789/06]

In November 1977 the Minister for Health established the Expert Medical Group on Whooping Cough Vaccination to examine persons who, it was claimed, had been permanently damaged by whooping cough vaccination, to review the medical information available in relation to them and to indicate whether, in its opinion, the damage was attributable to the vaccination.

Of the 93 cases presented to the Expert Group, the Group found that there was a reasonable probability that the vaccine was responsible for damage in 16 of these cases. Where there was a reasonable doubt in any case, the Group gave the benefit of that doubt to that person. In 1982, an offer of an ex-gratia payment of £10,000 was made in 14 cases with a further 2 offers in 1984. There was no acceptance of liability on the part of the State or any public authority. Award of the ex-gratia payment was on condition that the persons concerned waived any further liability against the State or any public authority. The Expert Group reviewed all the cases that came before it and is no longer sitting.

I take it the question refers to the introduction of a no-fault compensation scheme as recommended by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children in its report on Childhood Immunisation. The feasibility of introducing a Vaccine Damage Compensation Scheme is being considered by my Department at present and that examination will be concluded shortly.

Infectious Diseases.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

178 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients who have been tested for MRSA in the public hospital system in the past 12 months; the number of those who tested positive for the presence of MRSA; and the number of those patients who were formally told that they had MRSA. [36790/06]

Infection prevention and control in health institutions is a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE), as part of its overall responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE to address the issue raised in the question and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

179 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that diabetics have an increased risk of eye disease; and her plans to begin a programme of screening for diabetic eye disease. [36791/06]

In recent reports Diabetes: Prevention and Model for Patient Care and the Diabetes Federation of Ireland publication Diabetes: Securing the future the issue of a structured retinopathy screening programme has been identified as a priority for Irish patients.

The HSE is responding to the Diabetes policy Diabetes: Prevention and Model for Patient Care published by the Department of Health and Children in 2006 and its specific recommendations. The key issue in screening for diabetic retinopathy is to identify those people with sight threatening retinopathy who may require preventative treatment. There are two main approaches to screening for diabetic retinopathy

Opthalmoscopy and biomicroscopy

Retinal photography and subsequent grading

Screening is usually provided in stationary centres and/or mobile units. In Ireland there is a mobile community unit providing services in the North West. This programme uses digital imaging as the preferred method of screening. Preliminary results are coming back and the HSE are reviewing these at the moment.

At present in the North East region a pilot retinal screening programme for type two diabetics enrolled in the Diabetes Watch scheme is in progress but this currently only covers approximately 1000 diabetics. This service is a mobile service and involves digital retinal photography. It is nurse run and led by a community ophthalmologist with specialist training in retinal disease management. It is linked directly into treatment of detected diabetes in the public hospital system.

An Expert Advisory Group is to be established shortly within the HSE in order to prioritise Diabetes care. This group will act as advisors to the CEO and the HSE and will determine the appropriate strategy and monitor the effectiveness of its implementation through the HSE. One of the priorities identified by the HSE is the roll out of a retinopathy screening programme.

Health Service Staff.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

180 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children if staff working in the public health service have been prosecuted or fined due to breaches of duty of care as outlined under sections 30 (1), (2) and (3) of the Health Act 1947. [36792/06]

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

Health Services.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

181 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange for a person (details supplied) in County Cork to be called to commence orthodontic treatment; and if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this person has been on the waiting list for treatment since 2003. [36793/06]

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

Child Care Services.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

182 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in the provision of child care services under the National Development Plan 2000 to 2006; the funding allocated for such provision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36794/06]

The Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme (EOCP) 2000-2006 is funded as part of the two Regional Operational Programmes under the National Development Plan, and is split between two measures: the Childcare Facilities measure (which receives co-funding from the European Regional Development Fund) and the Childcare Measure (which receives co-funding from the European Social Fund and is divided into the Support for Staffing Grants and Quality Improvement sub-measures).

The EOCP aims to increase the availability and quality of childcare to support parents in employment, education and training. The total funding of €499.3 million available under the Programme is now committed.

The following table sets out the amount spent to the end of June 2006 under the Measures.

Measures

Outturn to June 2006

€m

Childcare Facilities

117.717

Childcare (incl. Support for Staffing Grants and Quality Improvement)

190.789

It is expected that the funding committed under the Programme will, when fully drawn down, lead to the creation of some 41,000 new childcare places, of which 31,750 were already in place by end June 2006. The Programme is also supporting 24,600 existing childcare places.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

183 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress to date of the new child care strategy announced in budget 2006; the investment made in the strategy to date; the investment planned over the remainder of the strategy; the outcomes of such investment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36795/06]

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

The NCIP is a key element of the National Childcare Strategy 2006-2010 and is effective from 1 January 2006. Unlike the existing EOCP, the NCIP is entirely Exchequer funded. The decision by the Government to create a major new 5 year investment programme immediately, rather than wait until the EOCP expired, is evidence of the Government's commitment to the provision of quality childcare.

The NCIP aims to provide a proactive response to the development of quality childcare supports and services, which are grounded in an understanding of local needs. The Programme has a budget of €575 million for the 5 year period 2006-2010, with a target to create 50,000 additional childcare places and with a greater focus on pre-school places for 3 to 4 year olds and school age childcare. The 50,000 new places will include 5,000 after school places and 10,000 pre-school education places aimed at 3 to 4 year olds.

The City and County Childcare Committees (CCCs) now play a key role in the implementation of the NCIP 2006-2010, to enable greater flexibility and responsiveness to local needs. As a result, additional funding has been allocated for the implementation of their 2006 Supplementary Action Plans and the recruitment of additional staff to take account of the CCC's expanded role under the NCIP.

€13.8 million has been allocated under the NCIP to end September 2006. The funding allocated is expected to lead to the creation of over 6,600 new childcare places and to support or enhance over 1,660 existing places.

Water Fluoridation.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

184 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the potential health risks to formula fed infants from their exposure to fluoride due to its incorporation into the public water system; if her attention has been drawn to studies which suggest that formula fed infants are exposed to up to 250 times the daily recommended intake of fluoride due to their exposure to the public water supply; the studies that have been undertaken by her Department to discover the effects of such exposure; the measures she will take to combat this health risk; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36821/06]

Research has been carried out by the Oral Health Services Research Centre in Cork on contract for my Department. The results of this research are available on the Department's website —www.dohc.ie in presentation format. The research found that a newborn baby weighing 3 kg would have to drink 15 litres of water fluoridated at 1 part per million to ingest the level of fluoride associated with any ill effects.

The research findings also showed that fluoridated water is safe for use in baby food; fluoride intake is well within the safe level; that the mean acute exposure of infants to fluoride in areas served by fluoridated water supplies was estimated to be between 0.11 and 0.14 mg/kg weight per day and that these predicted intakes were well below the intake of fluoride associated with acute toxic effects (5mg fluoride (F(-)/kg body weight).

Health Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

185 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children if additional home help hours will be made available to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; the other options that can be made available for this person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36822/06]

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.

Pat Breen

Question:

186 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with a bed in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36823/06]

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

Medical Cards.

Dan Neville

Question:

187 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will be granted to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [36824/06]

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

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Dan Neville

Question:

188 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when work will be completed to a house under special housing aid for the elderly for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [36825/06]

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

Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

189 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the outcome of a diagnostic assessment of autistic disorder for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [36826/06]

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.

Dan Neville

Question:

190 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made in relation to an application for a medical card for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [36827/06]

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

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Dan Neville

Question:

191 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when work will be completed for a person (details supplied) under the special housing aid for the elderly. [36828/06]

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

Dan Neville

Question:

192 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when work will be completed to a house under special housing aid for the elderly for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [36829/06]

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

Health Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

193 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children when a reply to Parliamentary Question No 236 of 18 October 2006 will be made available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36843/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive (HSE) under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department referred your question to the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive on 18 October 2006 to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy. The HSE has informed me that a reply will issue to the Deputy in the next few days.

Mental Health Services.

James Breen

Question:

194 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of young people currently in adult units of the mental health services. [36846/06]

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.

James Breen

Question:

195 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to introduce specialist services and treatment facilities for 16 to 18 year olds with mental illness to bring Ireland into line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36847/06]

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.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

196 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for an operation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36848/06]

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:

197 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be taken off the waiting list for orthodontic services and will receive treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36852/06]

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.

Michael Noonan

Question:

198 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Health and Children when the project for the restructuring and rebuilding of the psychiatric unit known as 5B at the Mid-West Regional Hospital will proceed; when planning permission was obtained; the amount of money allocated to the project; when the project will go to tender; when she envisages the unit will be completed and commissioned; and if she will make a statement of the circumstances which gave rise to the decision to proceed with the project in the first instance. [36856/06]

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.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

199 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in issuing a response to Parliamentary Question No. 799 of 27 September 2006. [36880/06]

My Department has been advised by the Health Service Executive that a reply recently issued to the Deputy in this matter.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

200 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in issuing a response to Parliamentary Question No. 241 of 8 November 2005. [36881/06]

BreastCheck has informed my Department that a response has issued to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

201 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of medical cards issued in County Kildare to persons over 65; and the number issued to persons over 70 years of age. [36882/06]

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.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

202 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 92 of 6 July 2006, there has been further progress in relation to the acquisition of the site. [36883/06]

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. 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.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

203 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that not one additional hour from the 1.75 million additional home help hours created here in 2006 was allocated to the County Kildare home help service; and will she launch an inquiry in relation to this fact. [36884/06]

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 requested a response from the Executive in relation to the question raised by the Deputy, and the Department will respond to the Deputy with a full answer as soon as possible.

Michael Ring

Question:

204 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate the reason a clinic service (details supplied) in County Mayo has been discontinued; the locations where those patients will go for their treatment; the reason for this service being discontinued; if the decision will be reviewed and the service restored to this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36925/06]

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.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

205 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to build a new ambulance base in Monaghan town; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36926/06]

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.

Proposed Legislation.

Liam Twomey

Question:

206 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Bill was de-prioritised in the Government legislative programme between 24 April and 27 September 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36927/06]

The Health Bill is a significant part of the Health Reform Programme and there is no question of this Bill being de-prioritised. The Bill is included in Section C of the Government's Legislative Programme for Autumn 2006 for technical reasons. However, having carried out a public consultation process on the draft Heads and General Scheme of the Bill, I will now be submitting proposals to Government for its approval shortly.

My Department has been working very closely with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and work is at an advanced stage on the draft provisions. As I told the House last week in response to a Parliamentary Question from Deputy Timmons, I intend to publish the Bill before the end of the year.

Health Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

207 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Louth will be offered physiotherapy services as a matter or urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36928/06]

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.

Pat Breen

Question:

208 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when an application for enhanced subvention will be processed for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36929/06]

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 Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

209 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with physiotherapy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36930/06]

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.

Child Care Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

210 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of privately run child care facilities closed nationally and in north Tipperary as a result of failure to comply with child care regulations in 2005 and 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36931/06]

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

Dan Neville

Question:

211 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the grant aid paid to a facility (details supplied) in County Limerick for each of the past three years; and the reason this grant is being reduced. [36932/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP) and the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), which are being implemented by the Office of the Minister for Children. To date, the Group in question has been awarded a total of €8,349 in capital grant assistance under the EOCP and has also been awarded a total of €215,865, up to 31 December 2007, towards the staffing costs of the project. I understand that the Group has submitted a request for additional staffing funding for the breakfast club element of their school age project. This application is currently undergoing a thorough assessment by Pobal, which is engaged to carry out detailed assessments of all EOCP applications.

When the assessment is complete, the application will be considered by the Programme Appraisal Committee before a decision on funding is made by the Secretary General of this Department. The Group will be informed of the Secretary General's decision in due course.

Hospital Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

212 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount the Government is paying the British Government as part of the agreement to allow cancer patients from Donegal to access cancer care at Belfast Hospital; and the scheme under which the Government is accessing this funding. [36958/06]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

213 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the details of the recently commenced agreement to allow cancer patients from Donegal to access cancer care at Belfast Hospital. [36959/06]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

215 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has discussed the matter of a satellite radiotherapy unit, to be based in Letterkenny General Hospital and servicing cancer patients in the greater north west cross-Border region, with the British Government; and if she will provide a report on progress achieved in this matter. [36961/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 212, 213 and 215 together.

The Government is committed to making the full range of cancer services available and accessible to cancer patients throughout Ireland. Government policy is to achieve best outcomes for patients based on all aspects of cancer care, surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy delivered by multi-disciplinary teams based around major centres. The Government decided in July 2005 that the best option for improving geographic access for patients in the North West to radiation oncology services is to (i) facilitate access to Belfast City Hospital (BCH) and (ii) to progress consideration of a joint venture for the provision of oncology services in the medium term to patients in the North West from a satellite centre in the North West linked to BCH.

Last Autumn, I agreed with the then Minister for Health for Northern Ireland that the radiation oncology centre at BCH would provide treatment for patients from Donegal. A Project Board was established under the aegis of Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT) to deliver on this commitment. It included representatives from BCH, Altnagelvin, Letterkenny, the HSE and both Departments. At the last meeting of the British Irish Inter Governmental Council on 24 October 2006, it was announced that agreement has been reached for the referral of about 50 radiation oncology patients annually from Donegal to BCH. It has also been agreed that the number will be increased if there is sufficient demand from patients in Donegal. Patient pathways have been developed and the HSE and BCH have agreed the basis for costing the service provided by BCH. The costs will be proportional to the number of Donegal patients treated by BCH, taking into account the full cost of BCH's service to all patients treated, both local and from Donegal. The first referral clinic is scheduled to take place today.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

214 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the way the National Cancer Forum’s recommendation that there should be a population of 400,000 to service a satellite radiotherapy unit compares with European guidelines on this matter. [36960/06]

The National Cancer Forum did not make any such recommendation. It did make a recommendation however that the National Radiation Oncology Plan agreed by Government last year should be implemented.

Question No. 215 answered with QuestionNo. 212.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

216 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 was taken by ambulance to Beaumont Hospital instead of the Mater Hospital where their file was on 19 October 2006. [36962/06]

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.

Fisheries Protection.

John Deasy

Question:

217 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the compensation scheme that he proposes for drift net salmon fishermen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36740/06]

The Deputy is aware that the Government adopted the key recommendations of the report by the Independent Group established to examine the implications of fully aligning the management of the wild salmon fishery with the scientific advice in 2007 and beyond. The central recommendation of this report is the creation of a hardship fund for those affected by the compulsory cessation of indiscriminate mixed stock fishing at sea. The Government's primary motivation in adopting the report is that of conservation of the wild salmon species, which has long been regarded as one of Ireland's most prized fish. It is vital to afford every protection to the remaining salmon stocks and to clearly prioritise conservation over catch. The current imperative must be to maintain stocks above conservation limits or at the very least halt the observed decline.

The Government realise that these proposals will entail hardship for commercial fishermen and vulnerable coastal communities. To offset this they have established a hardship fund for those affected. This fund, worth over €25 million, will be available to:

All those subject to a compulsory closure of their current commercial fishery, namely the holders of drift-net licences and some draft net licence holders.

On a voluntary basis, to all those engaged in draft-net, loop-net, bag-net, snap-net, and head-weir fishing

The level of payments will be determined as follows:

Payments should be based on the average verifiable (tag return) catch for each licence holder for the past 5 years (2001-2005).

Payments should be based on the average net income per sal mon in the commercial drift and draft-net fishery for the past 5 years (2001-2005). This is estimated to be €23 per salmon.

Each individual licence holder should receive 6 times their average catch multiplied by the average net income per salmon.

In all cases a payment equal to 6 times the current licence fee in respect of each licence surrendered will be made. For example, in the case of drift-net fishermen, this equals a payment of €2,022. In the case of draft-net fishermen participating in the voluntary scheme the payment will be €1,140.

In every case, those who avail of the hardship fund:

Will no longer be eligible to apply for a commercial salmon licence.

Must verifiably decommission their net(s) or fixed fishing engines to the satisfaction of the competent authority.

Must comply with any other reasonable conditions required to manage the fishery.

The hardship fund will be managed on an administrative basis by BIM and the Regional Fisheries Boards over a three-year period.

The Government has also put in place an additional €5 million fund that will be available for a community support scheme. This support scheme will be designed to aid the development of those communities where the impact of the cessation of drift netting will be hardest felt and provide alternative employment and economic opportunities for those affected.

John Deasy

Question:

218 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of people who have been issued with drift net licences in each county in each year since 2002. [36741/06]

John Deasy

Question:

219 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the average number of salmon caught by each holder of a drift net licence in each county in each year since 2002. [36742/06]

John Deasy

Question:

220 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the estimated average income derived from fishing for salmon by each holder of a drift net licence in each county in each year since 2002. [36743/06]

John Deasy

Question:

221 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of salmon caught by those with drift net licences in each year since 2002. [36744/06]

John Deasy

Question:

222 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the estimated number of salmon caught by those with rod licences in each year since 2002. [36745/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 218 to 222, inclusive, together.

Under the Fisheries Acts primary responsibility for the allocation of salmon fishing licences is an operational matter for the relevant Regional Fisheries Boards. In 2002 a total of 883 drift-net licences were issued. In each of the years 2003 to 2005 (the latest year for which figures are available), 877, 848 and 877 licences issued respectively.

The table sets out the number of fish caught with drift nets and by rod and line during the period 2002 to 2005 (the latest year for which figures are available).

Year

Catch by Drift Nets

Catch by rod

2002

179,177

35,024

2003

141,222

31,809

2004

120,303

30,807

2005

101,231

28,738

The detailed breakdown of information requested by the deputy about the catch by geographical location (fisheries district) is available in the Wild Salmon and Sea Trout Tagging Scheme Fisheries Statistics Report published annually by the Central Fisheries Board and available on their website.

As the Deputy is aware, I appointed an Independent Group to examine the implications of alignment of management of the wild salmon fishery with the scientific advice for r the commercial salmon fishing sector in 2007 and beyond. The Independent group, in their report published recently, calculated the average net income per salmon in the commercial drift and draft net fishery for the past five years (2001 to 2005) and estimated this to be €23 per salmon. The income derived from fishing by each licence holder is dependent on the catch over the period.

John Deasy

Question:

223 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the estimates his Department has of the number of wild salmon being killed annually in Irish coastal waters, estuaries and rivers as a result of infestation by sea lice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36746/06]

In the past 15 years the overall marine survival of wild salmon has declined. I am advised that survival of salmon at sea is influenced by many factors including changes in the marine environment itself, predation by marine mammals, seabirds and fish, parasites and diseases, competition for food, by-catch in non-directed other fisheries. It is not possible to completely disaggregate the proportion of the mortality associated with each specific mortality factor.

I understand, however, that in the early 1990's when increased sea trout mortality was associated with greatly increased sea lice levels on the fish no equivalent problem was recorded from salmon. Recent Norwegian studies have indicated that treatment of migrating salmon smolts prior to release may improve survival, however, similar Irish studies are not complete. Research work undertaken by the Central Fisheries Board over the 2003-2006 period, as part of an EU programme, has shown that there has been differential return of treated and untreated hatchery salmon smolts returning to the coast as grilse using the in-feed treatment ‘Slice' against sea lice infestation. This data suggests that sea lice inferred a mortality factor on out-migrating hatchery salmon smolts but it is difficult to extrapolate from the results of this experiment the numbers of wild salmon smolts being killed by sea lice infestation.

John Deasy

Question:

224 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the proportion of people with drift net salmon licences his Department estimates would take up a voluntary compensation scheme to buy out their licences; the proportion of the annual wild salmon catch that would be affected by such a take-up of a voluntary scheme; the basis of such estimates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36747/06]

The Deputy is aware that the Government adopted the key recommendations of the report by the Independent Group established to examine the implications of fully aligning the management of the wild salmon fishery with the scientific advice in 2007 and beyond. The central recommendation of this report is the creation of a hardship fund for those affected by the compulsory cessation of indiscriminate mixed stock fishing at sea.

The Government recognise that these proposals will entail hardship for commercial fishermen and vulnerable coastal communities. To offset this they have established a hardship fund for those affected. It is not compulsory to apply for this scheme. The Independent Group estimated that if all drift net fishermen currently engaged in the mixed stock fishery and approximately 50% of draft net and other salmon fishermen were to cease fishing and apply for payment from the fund this would cost in the region of €25m. I expect the National Salmon Commission to bring forward shortly their recommendations for management of the wild salmon fishery in 2007 based on the advice of its Standing Scientific Committee and the National Fishery Managers Executive. This will identify, in compliance with the Habitats Directive, the extent of the exploitable surplus of fish for 2007.

Telecommunications Services.

Michael Lowry

Question:

225 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the progress to date rolling out the group broadband scheme in north Tipperary; if additional measures are planned to expedite broadband roll-out by various technological media; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36915/06]

The service provider approved for grant aid under the group broadband scheme for the provision of broadband in the North Tipperary area has informed my Department that customers have been connected in this area. Despite Government investment in broadband deployment in the regions through the regional broadband programme, there are still some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband connectivity. Options to address the gaps in broadband coverage are currently being considered. Any such options would be technology neutral.

Post Office Network.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

226 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of post offices that have been closed in Cork south west in each of the years 1999 to 2005 and to date in 2006; the names of each of these post offices; the number of post offices that have been downgraded in the same period; the names of each of these post offices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37028/06]

The matter of post office closures and conversions is, in the first instance, an operational matter for the Board and management of An Post and one in which I have no function. I would refer the Deputy to the table. I have been informed by An Post that their records do not subdivide to lower than county level. Therefore the list details the number and locations of post offices converted or closed throughout County Cork in the years 1999 to 2005 and to date in 2006.

Sub Office Closures

Date of Closure

Sub Office Conversions

Date of Conversion

Lisbealad

14/07/1999

Kilmacsimon Quay

31/10/2002

Ballyvourney

04/02/2000

Johnstown Cork

31/10/2002

Glenlough

29/02/2000

Belvelly

07/11/2002

Cahermore

31/07/2000

Ballymore Cobh

07/11/2002

Courtmacsherry

15/09/2000

Myrtleville

07/11/2002

Dromagh

30/09/2000

Ballincurrig

20/11/2002

Trafrask

10/10/2000

Dunderrow

28/11/2002

Mount Uniacke

02/12/2000

Meelin

06/02/2003

Derinacarah

31/12/2000

Mountpleasant

05/03/2003

Shanlaragh

31/12/2000

Templemartin

05/03/2003

Western Road T.S.O.

03/01/2001

Kilmurry

12/03/2003

Coolea (Cúil Aodha)

31/03/2001

Whitechurch

28/04/2003

Glantane

12/04/2001

Castletownshend

15/05/2003

Washington St T.S.O.

30/06/2001

Butlerstown

28/05/2003

Ballinascarthy

31/07/2001

Dromahane

16/06/2003

Tullylease

31/07/2001

Toames

30/06/2003

Mogeely

11/08/2001

Kilbrin (Castlecor)

10/07/2003

Berrings

31/08/2001

Killavullen

11/09/2003

Taur

10/10/2001

Aherla

15/09/2003

Ballygarvan

08/11/2001

Ballylickey

30/10/2003

Ringaskiddy

23/11/2001

Rathcoole Mallow

01/11/2003

Lissacreasig

13/03/2002

Churchtown Mallow

06/11/2003

Poulanargid

31/05/2002

Caheragh

28/11/2003

Currabeha

12/07/2002

Araglin

12/01/2004

Farnanes

09/05/2003

Carriganimmy

26/01/2004

Knockraha

21/05/2003

Whitegate Cork

12/02/2004

Burnfort

30/09/2003

Newtownshandrum

01/06/2004

Keimaneigh

17/10/2003

Adrigole

27/09/2004

Kilcorney

30/10/2004

Baltimore

23/12/2004

Dennehys Cross T.S.O.

29/01/2005

Freemount

01/02/2006

Church Cross

01/02/2006

Reenascreena

01/03/2006

Kildinan

22/04/2006

Curraglass

23/08/2006

Carrigrohane

02/06/2006

Sherkin Island

31/08/2006

Work Permits.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

227 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when he will introduce a green card system to deal with applications from outside the EU; and if such a system will facilitate existing work permit holders to remain here when their current permits expire. [36797/06]

The Employment Permits Act 2006, which was signed by the President in June 2006, provides the legal basis for the introduction of new economic migration arrangements for the labour market participation of workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). These arrangements, which will come into effect early in 2007, will comprise:

a Green Card for designated occupations where there are skills shortages;

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

the grant and issue of the work permit or Green Card to the employee — on application by either employer or employee;

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

Current Work permit holders may, on renewal, apply either for a new work permit or, if eligible, for a green card permit if their employment is in the designated occupations.

Industrial Disputes.

M. J. Nolan

Question:

228 Mr. Nolan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will encourage a company (details supplied) in County Carlow to implement the terms as recommended by the Labour Court for a redundancy package for its employees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36920/06]

On the 26th of April 2006, the Labour Court made a recommendation regarding the redundancy terms for Irish Sugar workers at the Mallow plant. The recommendation provided that redundancy should be 5 weeks' pay per year of service, where a week's pay would be defined as actual finishing salary, excluding overtime, plus statutory redundancy entitlement, plus a bonus payment for an orderly wind-down.

The Court issued two clarifications in May, but these failed to achieve a resolution to the dispute.

The Labour Court invited the parties to return to the Court with a view to resolving the dispute. However, the company rejected the Court's invitation. I very much regret the decision taken by the company in this regard.

The Labour Court issued a third clarification of its Recommendation on the 17th of October 2006. The company has indicated that it is not prepared to alter its offer. Similarly, the trade unions have not changed their position and are not prepared to accept the company's existing offer.

My colleague, Minister Micheál Martin, has met with representatives of both the trade unions and the company and urged them to resolve their differences and to avail of the dispute settling machinery of the State, as necessary. I have also met with union representatives to discuss this matter. The National Implementation Body has also worked with the parties concerned to seek to identify an agreed procedure to resolve the issue in dispute.

Ireland's system of industrial relations is, essentially, voluntary in nature and responsibility for the resolution of industrial disputes is a matter for the parties involved. The system of industrial relations in Ireland is designed to help and support parties in their efforts to resolve their differences, rather than imposing a solution on the parties to an industrial dispute.

Where the Labour Court operates as an industrial relations tribunal in trade disputes, its recommendations are not enforceable. In such cases, the Court hears both sides and then issues a recommendation setting out its opinion on the dispute and the terms on which it considers the dispute should be settled. While these recommendations are not binding on the parties concerned, the parties are expected to give serious consideration to the Court's recommendation. As the Labour Court is a Court of last resort in the industrial relations process, it is expected that the parties come to the process in good faith and, consequently, are prepared to accept the outcome of the process, namely, the Labour Court recommendation.

Social Welfare Code.

James Breen

Question:

229 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will request that farm income will be allowed to be disregarded on the same basis as PAYE farmers income, which has a disregard of €100 per week in assessing eligibility for State non-contributory pensions; if he will stop discrimination against farmers in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36806/06]

Budget 2006 contained a number of important measures designed to target resources at particular groups of older people, including farmers. In considering these measures I was anxious to target resources at those who are at the greatest risk of poverty, to encourage saving, and to simplify the system of income support for older people who do not receive contributory pensions.

One of the key measures that I was pleased to announce on Budget day, was the establishment of a single standardised pension scheme with a greatly enhanced means testing regime. In September, the State Pension (Non-Contributory) replaced the old age pension and, for recipients aged 66 and over, blind pension, widow/er's pension, one parent family payment, deserted wife's allowance and prisoner's wife's allowance.

All the schemes in question featured a common means disregard of €7.60 per week, which was not increased since the 1970s. The means disregard for the new non-contributory pension is now €20 per week, an increase of €12.40 per week. Over 30,000 pensioners who were in receipt of a reduced rate of payment gained from this change with increases of up to €12.50 per week in the personal rate of payment and increases in the qualified adult rate, where applicable, of up to €8.30 per week. I should point out that these increases were in addition to the increase of €16 per week in the rate of old age non-contributory pension which took effect from January 2006. Furthermore, the new State Pension (Non-Contributory) also features an innovative disregard of €100 per week in respect of earnings from employment. These measures benefit all those farmers who were in receipt of an old age (non-contributory) pension, as well as entitling some to a means tested pension for the first time.

Consequent on the increase in the means disregard to €20 per week, a single person, with no other means, is now able to have up to €35,000 in capital and still qualify for a pension at the maximum rate. This figure is doubled in the case of a pensioner couple.

By any standards, the levels of increases and revised means test arrangements announced in Budget 2006 are exceptional. The modernisation of these arrangements through the introduction of the new state pension is also a further demonstration of our commitment to all those who are elderly including farmers.

Further improvements will fall to be considered in the context of the forthcoming Budget.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

230 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the cost involved in means testing for eligibility for the non-contributory State pension. [36762/06]

My Department administers a wide range of means-tested social assistance schemes provided for in Part III of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 2005.

The assessment of means is carried out by local social welfare inspectors and in certain circumstances by other staff of the Department where referral to an inspector is not warranted.

My Department currently employs 372 social welfare inspectors throughout the country. They undertake a range of duties including the assessment of means for all social assistance payments, including the State pension, PRSI compliance inspection, control activity and in some cases, specialist control work.

In the circumstances it is not possible to estimate the costs involved in the assessment of means for the non-contributory State pension.

Richard Bruton

Question:

231 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the cost of doubling the €51 maximum of income over the contributory pension rate which is used to decide eligibility for the fuel scheme; and if he will consider such a measure in the forthcoming budget in view of the increase in the cost of heating fuels. [36800/06]

The aim of the national fuel scheme is to assist householders on long-term social welfare or health service executive payments with meeting the cost of their heating needs during the winter season. Fuel allowances are paid for 29 weeks from end-September to mid-April. The allowance represents a contribution towards a person's normal heating expenses. It is estimated that some 274,000 people (151,000 with basic fuel allowance and 123,000 with smokeless fuel supplement) will benefit in 2006 at an estimated annual cost €125.1m.

Eligibility to the fuel allowance scheme is subject to means and other conditions. People in receipt of contributory pensions which are not means tested, may have a combined household income of up to €51 per week or savings/investments of up to €46,000 or, over and above the maximum rate of state pension (contributory) and still qualify for fuel allowance. This income limit was increased to €51 per week with effect from 1 June 2005. The fuel allowance income limits increase each season in line with the increases in the rate of the state pension (contributory).

The cost to the exchequer from raising the qualifying threshold as outlined in the Deputy's question would depend on the extra numbers who would apply and qualify for the fuel allowance as a result of the measure. An accurate quantification of these numbers is not readily available but it is estimated that it could cost approximately €4 million. Any such proposal will be fully considered in the context of other priorities and of the resources available for social welfare improvements generally.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

232 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, in view of the evidence that the extent of the rent support falls far short of that needed by applicants in certain parts of the country, he will review the cap on rent support; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the current cap is leading to homelessness among individuals and families that cannot obtain private rental accommodation at a price within the specified limits; if his attention has further been drawn to the extent of topping up that is occurring resulting in families getting into debt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36963/06]

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

Rent supplements are subject to a limit on the amount of rent that an applicant for rent supplement may incur. Setting maximum rent limits higher than are justified by the open market would have a distorting effect on the rental market, leading to a more general rise in rent levels. This in turn would worsen the affordability of rental accommodation unnecessarily, with particular negative impact for those tenants on lower incomes.

Notwithstanding these limits, under existing arrangements the Health Service Executive may, in certain circumstances, exceed the rent levels as an exceptional measure, for example:

where there are special housing needs related to exceptional circumstances for example, disabled persons in specially-adapted accommodation or homeless persons,

where the tenant will be in a position to re-assume responsibility for his/her rent within a short period,

where the person concerned is entitled to an income disregard AND has sufficient income to meet his or her basic needs after paying rent, taking into account the appropriate rate of rent supplement that is otherwise payable in the case.

This discretionary power ensures that individuals with particular needs can be accommodated within the scheme and specifically protects against homelessness.

In November 2002, when the Central Statistics Office Privately Owned Rent Index first showed evidence of continued reductions in rent levels, regulations were introduced to set the maximum amount of rent in respect of which a rent supplement is payable. These limits remained in place to the end of December 2003. Further Regulations introduced in December 2003 and prescribed the limits to be used between January 2004 and June 2005. The current rent limits cover the period July 2005 to 31st December 2006.

Despite recent increases in rent levels the Central Statistics Office Privately Owned Rent Index shows that rent levels for September 2006 were in line with those which applied in November 2002.

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

My Department are currently reviewing levels of rent limits in order to develop proposals regarding what limits should apply from January 2007 onwards. The review is taking account of prevailing rent levels in the private rental sector generally, together with detailed input from the Health Service Executive on the market situation within each of its operational areas.

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

The introduction of rent limits by regulation has had a positive impact on the rental market in general by limiting unjustified increases in rent tenants.

It is not necessary for tenants to make up shortfalls in rents, given that the limits are reasonable, they have been reviewed regularly and there is provision for exceptions to be made where necessary.

Road Network.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

233 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport the amount received by the State from NTR for its share of the M50 West Link tolls during 2004 and 2005; the percentage of this revenue that was subsequently re-allocated to the Department of Transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37032/06]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

251 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport the way he will use the State’s share of the West Link NTR tolls received throughout 2004, 2005 and 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37044/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 and 251 together.

My Department received €8,044 million in 2004 and €15,093 million in 2005 as the State's share of toll revenue on the Westlink Bridge, under the terms of the agreement between NRA and NTR.

The funds remitted to my Department as a result of NRA's agreement with National Toll Roads are dealt with as Appropriations-in-Aid accruing to the Exchequer. This means that there is no net increase in funding available to my Department over and above the expenditure approved by the Oireachtas under the annual estimates process.

My Department will have expended €1.23 billion, €1.414 billion and €1.507 billion respectively on roads projects in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Road Safety.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

234 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport his plans in relation to allowing motorcyclists use bus lanes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36765/06]

The Road Safety Authority has proposed that the issue of allowing motorcyclists access to bus lanes be examined.

The matter is presently under consideration by my Department and other relevant agencies.

Public Transport.

Seán Crowe

Question:

235 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport the amount the State has funded Dublin Bus per year since 1997 to date in 2006. [36766/06]

Seán Crowe

Question:

236 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport the number of extra buses provided for Dublin Bus per year since 1997 to date in 2006. [36767/06]

Seán Crowe

Question:

237 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport the number of extra buses provided for Bus Éireann per year since 1997 to date in 2006. [36768/06]

Seán Crowe

Question:

238 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport the number of additional buses promised to Dublin Bus under the current national development plan; and if the Government will deliver on this. [36834/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 235 to 238, inclusive, together.

The annual Exchequer subvention paid to Dublin Bus in respect of public service obligations each year since 1997 is as shown in the table.

Year

Subvention paid to Dublin Bus

€000

1997

8,888

1998

11,294

1999

16,818

2000

41,189

2001

54,316

2002

56,063

2003

53,867

2004

61,810

2005

64,900

2006

69,845 (estimate)

In addition, the company has been supported over the period by the Exchequer through the provision of almost €123m in capital funds for the purchase of new buses.

The number of additional and replacement buses brought into service by Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus since 1997 are set out in the table.

Year

Bus Éireann

Dublin Bus

Replacement

Additional

Replacement

Additional

1997

70

72

1998

30

78

1999

103

142

73

2000

89

59

132

93

2001

94

3

56

2002

10

53

2003

68

90

2004

65

3

36

2005

30

50

20

2006

100

*

*Of the 100 additional buses ordered by Dublin Bus, 30 have now been delivered and are due to come into service in December. The remainder of the buses will be in service in 2007.

The capacity of the fleet of Dublin Bus has been further increased by the purchase of larger capacity buses in recent years.

The National Development Plan (NDP) provided for the purchase of 275 additional buses and 500 replacement buses for the Dublin Region over the period 2000-2006. As set out in the table above, Dublin Bus, as the main provider of bus services in the Dublin Region, has introduced a total of 113 additional buses, and 100 additional buses are being purchased this year. 517 replacement buses have been purchased over the period since 2000.

Road Safety.

John Perry

Question:

239 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Transport the progress made on the introduction of the random roadside drug driving test to detect cannabis and amphetamines in drivers immediately in view of the recent scheme in Australia that found five times as many motorists tested positive for drugs than for excessive alcohol, as it revealed that one in 46 motorists tested positive for illegal drugs, compared to one in 250 for excessive alcohol; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36835/06]

The random drug driving testing scheme referred to by the Deputy is limited in application. It is based on saliva and the test is carried out at the roadside for the presence of methamphetamine and cannabis only. While this is an important step forward, there is no feasible basis yet in Europe for the introduction of a scheme of preliminary roadside testing for drugs. Testing devices are still in the prototype stages. At a meeting of the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg in July 2006, representatives from all over Europe addressed the issue of random drug testing of drivers at the roadside in the light of the most up to date developments throughout this region. The Medical Bureau of Road Safety and An Garda Síochána participated in that seminar, which concluded that there is currently no device considered to be reliable enough in order to be recommended for roadside saliva screening of drivers for drugs. Even in countries were there is a significant detection of driving under the influence of drugs (Norway being a prime example), no random roadside drug testing is yet in place. The Medical Bureau is keeping abreast of developments in this area.

National Car Test.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

240 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Transport his views on awarding persons with specially adapted vehicles the same national car test concessions as elderly persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36857/06]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) the Road Safety Authority has responsibility for vehicle testing including the National Car Test.

Rail Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

241 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport when he intends to sign the railway order for the Kildare route project; the reason for the delay in signing same since his announcement of his intention to grant the railway order on 13 August 2006; if the railway order has been referred to the Department of the Environment Heritage and Local Government for its consent; and the estimated timetable for the completion of the project in full. [36858/06]

As I previously informed the Deputy in my reply to Question No. 1127 of 27 September 2006, I announced my decision to grant the Railway Order for the Kildare Rail Project on 13 August last, in line with the recommendations of the Inspector to the Public Inquiry into the project. The drafting of the Order is currently being finalised between my Department and the Office of the Attorney General. When the Order has been prepared it will be submitted to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in relation to his consent for the provisions of the Order affecting roads. I will sign the Order immediately thereafter. In the meantime, I understand Iarnród Éireann has commenced enabling works and is proceeding with detailed design and procurement, with a view to the completion of the project in 2009.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

242 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport if Iarnród Éireann has advised him of the outcome of its examination of the provision of a Sunday service on the Kildare Arrow line serving Sallins and Hazelhatch. [36859/06]

The scheduling and timetabling of trains is a day-to-day operational matter for Iarnród Eireann and not one in which I have any role.

Public Transport.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

243 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport if he has received proposals for park and ride facilities under Transport 21; and the details of same. [36874/06]

As I have made clear in the past, funding is being made available under Transport 21 for the development of park and ride facilities, which are an important component in persuading people to transfer from private cars to public transport. All new station developments on the Iarnród Éireann commuter networks are designed to include car-park facilities. This is the case, for example, in respect of new stations on the Kildare line being developed as part of the Kildare Route Project and in Cork as part of the Cork Commuter Services Project.

Iarnród Éireann have also been extending car parking facilities at all locations where the company has land available. Parking extensions are currently under way at Mallow, Ennis, and Leixlip Louisa Bridge. My Department is currently funding, as part of Transport 21, a study by Iarnród Éireann into the prioritisation of car-park initiatives across the rail network, with a view to developing a strategic, programmed approach to the future provision of car park facilities. This study will inform the development of car parking facilities under Transport 21. There are currently four Park and Ride sites along the existing Luas network at Red Cow, Sandyford, Stillorgan and Ballally. The RPA propose to open a new park and ride facility adjacent to the Luas Tallaght stop within the next two years with a similar mode of transfer and an anticipated capacity of 450 spaces.

Metro North, the preferred route for which was announced last month, will have two park and ride sites providing parking for over 2,000 cars. One will be located at Lissenhall, north of Swords, and a second at Metro Park, between the Airport and the M50. The Luas extension from Sandyford to Cherrywood, for which I granted a Railway Order during the summer, will have a park and ride site at Carrickmines providing 300 spaces. I also expect that there will be a significant park and ride located at the junction of the N11 and the Luas extension from Cherrywood to the Bray area. The potential routes for this extension are the subject of an ongoing public consultation process by the RPA. I understand that there will also be substantial additional park and ride facilities at key locations along the route of Metro West where it meets national primary routes such as the N2, N3 and N4.

I am also making funding available to the local authorities under Transport 21 for bus park and ride. To date this year, I have received no applications from local authorities for the development of park and ride facilities but I understand that several authorities are considering possible sites.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

244 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport if Dublin Bus have advised him of the areas where the additional 100 buses are to be deployed; and if so, the locations of same. [36878/06]

The deployment of their fleet of buses is a day-to-day operational matter for Dublin Bus and not one in which I have any role.

Road Network.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

245 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport if he is in negotiations with bodies regarding the M50 toll bridge. [36879/06]

At the outset, I should explain that the statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll bye-laws and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads is vested in the NRA under Part V of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000). As the Deputy is aware, the NRA is now in the process of procuring a barrier free toll system which will become operational with one tolling point in 2008. The installation of barrier free tolling is a crucial element of the M50 upgrade which is underway at present. NTR will be compensated in accordance with the existing West-Link Agreement. The exact details of the arrangements, including compensation, remain to be finalised between NRA and NTR and as these discussions are ongoing at present, I would not wish to pre-empt their outcome.

Light Rail Projects.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

246 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if he has received a figure for the estimated cost of the Luas projects proposed under Transport 21; the way this project will be funded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36944/06]

Transport 21 provides for the development of seven Luas projects over its 10 year timeframe and includes an appropriate budget provision for their implementation. The projects will be funded through a combination of direct Exchequer funding to the RPA, Public Private Partnerships, development levies and developer contributions. I have continually stated publicly that I am not in a position to release details of the costs for Transport 21 projects because the details are commercially sensitive from the point of view of protecting public funds and getting best value for money. Consideration will be given to the release of information regarding the costings of the proposed Luas projects after the signing of the contracts for the projects.

State Airports.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

247 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport if his Department will contribute to a €53 million economic plan developed by the Mid-West Regional Authority for Shannon Airport and the mid-west or if EU rules on Government supports prevent the Government from contributing financially to such a plan. [36952/06]

As I stated in my reply to Parliamentary Question 520 of 24 October 2006, none of the State airports, including Shannon Airport, receive any Exchequer funding. Any proposed exchequer grant to airports would have to comply with EU rules on State Aid.

The funding of future developments at each of the three airports will be a matter for commercial consideration by the new independent airport authorities when Shannon and Cork Airports become fully independent in accordance with the framework provided in the State Airports Act 2004.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

248 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport if he will intervene to have a business plan for Shannon Airport put in place in view of the little progress being made between unions and management in relation to the survival plan where talks are going on for more than 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36954/06]