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 21, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 22 to 52, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 53 to 54, inclusive, answered orally.
Question Nos. 55 withdrawn.
Questions Nos. 56 to 61, inclusive, answered orally.

Performance Management.

Michael Noonan

Question:

62 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Finance if any Department failed the end of 2005 deadline for the development of performance indicators set out in his Department’s recent report on a new system of business planning and performance measurement; and if all Departments have now done so. [39176/06]

As I indicated in my reply to PQ 33214/06 of 18th October last, I presume that the Deputy is referring to my Department's Report of the Pilot Project on Resource Allocation, Business Planning and Performance Measurement of August, 2005. The conclusions and recommendations of this report informed Government thinking on reform of the Estimates and Budget process signalled in Budget 2005 and announced in Budget 2006. The report's recommendations, including those in relation to the development of performance indicators, were subsumed by the Government's reforms announced by me in Budget 2006.

As part of the reforms Ministers are required to present an annual output statement in tandem with their Estimates commencing in 2007 to assist the Select Committees with their consideration of the Estimates. The annual output statements for 2007 will set out performance output targets by programme area linked to the high level goals in Departments' strategy statements and, for 2008 onwards, will set out actual outturns against the previous year's output targets and new targets for the year under consideration. I understand from all Departments that their preparations for production of the first annual output statement are advancing to ensure that the 2007 deadline will be met.

Travel Insurance.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

63 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is no code of practice to protect consumers in the sale of travel insurance; and if he will ask IFSRA to consider fully this gap. [39145/06]

Under the EU Insurance Mediation Directive, travel agents who sell insurance only as part of a holiday package are specifically exempt from financial regulation. These agents are therefore not authorised and regulated as financial services providers by the Financial Regulator and do not come within the scope of the Consumer Protection Codes recently introduced by the Financial Regulator. The Financial Regulator does however, publish information and advice on travel insurance for the benefit of consumers.

The Package Holidays and Travel Trade Act covers the holiday package but not the travel insurance that may be sold with it. The Financial Services Ombudsman has powers to deal with complaints which concern the conduct of the underwriting insurance company, in relation to claims about the actual policies themselves, but not the sales process of travel agents.

Any travel agent selling travel insurance that is not part of a package holiday, must be registered with the Financial Regulator as an insurance intermediary. I understand that such insurance is widely available, whether through travel agents or other providers and I would urge consumers to examine carefully the benefits of this option.

As Minister for Finance, I have therefore no statutory function in regulating the activities of travel agents selling insurance as part of a package holiday. However, I am informed that the Financial Regulator has written to the Department of Transport regarding the recommendation by the Financial Services Ombudsman in his Annual Report 2005, that a code of practice be adopted to cover how travel insurance is sold by travel agents along with package holidays. My Department understands that the Department of Transport plans to respond shortly to the Financial Regulator in this matter.

Tax Code.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

64 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the work of the RCT monitoring group; the number of audits that have been carried out to date in 2006 on construction companies; the number of site visits conducted by the Revenue Commissioners Office in 2006; the yield from these audits; the percentage of tax due from these audits that is to be collected; the number of contractors that have been re-classified as employees as a result of these audits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39225/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Relevant Contract Tax (RCT) Steering Group has made significant progress to date in 2006. As I have previously advised the House, the Revenue Commissioners have made a commitment to assigning 25% of its audit and compliance resources to the construction sector in 2006. In addition to this they launched a national construction project to be monitored by a central steering committee. Moreover substantial progress was made in relation to legislative changes, IT upgrades and administrative improvements.

As regards Legislative Changes, the steering group proposed a number of legislative changes that I introduced in the Finance Act 2006. These affect

applicants for C2 certificates,

principal contractors making payments gross to certified subcontractors, and,

subcontractors claiming repayment of RCT deducted by the principal contractor.

The scope of RCT insofar as it extends to all relevant contracts carried out in the State was also clarified. These legislative measures were aimed at tightening controls and discouraging fraud.

The Revenue Commissioners continue to increase its use of Information Technology to identify areas of risk in the construction sector. This is feeding into the audit, site visit and assurance check programmes e.g. information now captured on the Revenue Commissioners' systems is giving a good real time overview of RCT operations at principal or subcontractor level. This greatly enhances the ability to identify, target and focus in on areas/cases that may pose a risk.

Finally, as regards the administrative changes the Revenue Commissioners have introduced a number of administrative changes some of which are as follows:

A full time national C2 monitoring group has been established for the construction industry.

A Central Unit to Deal with Non Resident Contractors has been established

More site visits are being carried out.

Specific attention is being placed on ensuring the correct classification of all workers on the site as either self-employed sub contractors or employees

Revenue is monitoring all new C2 holders within 6 months of getting the C2 certificate.

Suitable cases are being identified for investigation with a view to prosecution

Materials now displayed in a number of different languages to reflect the changing composition of the workforce involved in construction

Revenue has engaged in an extensive information and educational programme with the industry and their advisors.

To turn to the Deputy's specific questions on the outcomes of construction activity in the year to date:

In relation to audits, there were 3,083 audits carried out on construction companies in the period to 31/10/2006. This in fact represented 29% of the total number of audits carried out by Revenue in that period.

In relation to Site Visits & Assurance Checks, there were 1,457 Site Visits carried out in the same period. In addition, 35,062 assurance checks were carried out.

The yield from these activities to 31/10/2006 is €126.6 million. As these figures relate to audits finalised and settled there is no further tax due in these cases.

In relation to reclassification of contractors, up to 31/10/2006,

411 subcontractors were reclassified as employees.

511 employees were identified who were not registered with the Revenue Commissioners;

490 self-employed subcontractors were identified as not being registered with the Revenue Commissioners

a total of 1,003 hidden economy cases.

1,974 additional taxes were registered. (These are cases that were not registered with the Revenue Commissioners for all the required taxes.) All this testifies to an intense and vigilant watch on the RCT sector, for good reasons.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

65 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if he will terminate tax breaks for the construction of private hospitals. [39113/06]

The scheme of capital allowances for the construction of private hospitals was reviewed by Indecon Economic Consultants as part of the overall review of property tax incentives in 2005. Indecon consulted widely in the course of their review, including consultations with the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive. Their report was published on 6 February 2006 and is available on the Department of Finance's website. The review recommended that this scheme should continue as there was a need for on-going investment in private hospitals. The consultants observed that the construction of private hospitals could free beds in public hospitals used by private patients. It should also be noted that the consultants observed that the Government's plan for private hospitals in the grounds of public hospitals is designed to be a cost effective way of expanding supply and if properly managed will increase supply and competition.

The summary of the main findings from Indecon's analysis is as follows:

There has been an overall increase in planning applications and approvals for private hospitals since 2000 but most have not proceeded to date.

Most of the extra investment in the sector would either not have been undertaken, or would have taken longer to come on-line in the absence of the tax incentive scheme.

While it is too early to provide detailed estimates of the impact of the scheme on the supply and on the costs of hospital beds, Indecon believes the scheme has the potential to address supply shortages in the sector and to reduce costs.

In all of the circumstances, I have no plans at this time to terminate the scheme of capital allowances for the construction of private hospitals. Private health care is a long established feature of the system of health care provision in Ireland and acts as a strong complement to the publicly funded system. Private health care provision spans from general practitioner services through private beds in public hospitals and private hospitals to private nursing homes. The Government is committed to exploring fully the scope for the private sector to provide additional capacity in the health system. The key objective is to provide the required extra capacity, whether this is in the public or private sector. A number of Government policies-initiatives support the co-existence of public and private health care such as: the designation of private and semi-private beds in public hospitals; income tax relief on private health insurance premiums; income tax relief on medical-dental expenses; the National Treatment Purchase Fund sources capacity in private hospitals for public patients; and the policy direction of the Minister for Health and Children to the Health Service Executive to promote the co-location of private hospitals on public sites thereby freeing up beds for public patients.

Tax Evasion.

Jack Wall

Question:

66 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance his views on the section of the Comptroller and Auditor Generals report that states that only two custodial sentences were imposed in 2005 on tax evaders; the number of court prosecutions initiated as a result of tax evasion in respect of each year since 1997 to date in 2006; the number of cases in which convictions were secured; the number of cases in which prison sentences were imposed; the sentence in each case; if he has satisfied himself with the level of court cases taken having regard to the high level of evasion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39226/06]

I take it that the Deputy is referring to the subject of Revenue prosecutions activity, which is dealt with at Chapter 2.5 of the Comptroller and Auditor General's Report for 2005. I am sure he will appreciate that I cannot comment on individual sentences imposed by the courts for tax evasion. Sentencing is a matter for the judiciary and I can only emphasise this point. The courts clearly take account of matters such as individual circumstances and monetary penalties already paid when deciding the level of severity of sentences imposed in any single case.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the following information is the up to date position on court prosecutions initiated for tax evasion since 1997.

In 1997, there was one prosecution and one conviction. A fine of €635 was imposed with no custodial sentence.

In 1998, there were six cases and eight convictions; fines totalling €42,854 were imposed. There were two custodial sentences, one of six months suspended and one of two years suspended.

In 1999, there were two cases and one conviction. In one case a fine of €19,046 was imposed with no custodial sentence. In the other the defendant was acquitted.

In 2000, there were three cases and three convictions. Fines totalling €952 were imposed. There were two custodial sentences, one of two years, reduced to 18 months on appeal, and another of 12 months suspended.

In 2001, there were four cases and four convictions. Fines totalling €14,284 were imposed. There were four custodial sentences, one of 12 months, two of six months suspended and another of three months.

In 2002, there were three cases and three convictions. Fines totalling €5,540 were imposed and there was one custodial sentence of six months.

In 2003, there were six cases and seven convictions. Fines totalling €29,365 were imposed and there was one custodial sentence of two years suspended.

In 2004, there was one case and one conviction. A fine of €5,000 was imposed and 180 hours community service was imposed in lieu of a three months custodial sentence.

In 2005, there were ten cases resulting in thirteen convictions. While the question from the Deputy only refers to two custodial sentences, there were in fact three, one of six months suspended on each of four counts to run concurrently and two of three months each. In another case a fine was imposed and if this was not paid within three months a two year prison sentence would have been imposed. In a further two cases 240 hours and 120 hours of community service were imposed in lieu of custodial sentences of six months and three months respectively. Fines totalling €199,287 were imposed. In another two cases guilty pleas were entered and sentencing was adjourned to 2006, when fines totalling €5,170 were imposed.

In 2006 so far, there have been three cases concluded resulting in three convictions. One case received a six-month suspended sentence and a fine of €3,200. In the other two cases fines totalling €35,481 were imposed. In addition to these three convictions, another 15 cases are currently before the Courts, the DPP has given directions to prosecute in another 9 and is considering a further 13 cases that have been referred to him. There is a bench warrant outstanding in one case and there are another 47 cases actively under investigation for potential prosecution. In all then, there are 85 cases of serious evasion currently being tackled on a criminal investigation footing by Revenue.

The Revenue Commissioners have a clearly stated policy of prosecuting cases of serious tax evasion. This function is tasked to their Investigations and Prosecutions Division. Following the restructuring of Revenue in 2003, all investigation activity was consolidated in this Division with a remit to co-ordinate all Revenue prosecution work and, in particular, to increase the number of criminal investigations for serious tax offences and ultimately to increase the number of prosecutions. The number of investigators was also increased for this purpose.

I believe the level of prosecution activity outlined above demonstrates that the decision to concentrate Revenue's prosecution resources in one area was the right one.

Tax Code.

Liz McManus

Question:

67 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Finance his views on the statement by the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners that only one in five tax payers have claimed tax relief to date in 2006 and that taxpayers could be losing as much as €100 million due to them in tax relief; if the Government has proposals to address same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39221/06]

It is presumed that the Deputy is referring to the statements made by the Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners (Mr. Frank Daly) to the Committee of Public Accounts when he appeared before it on November 9th 2006.

As the record of the PAC clearly indicates, Mr Daly made no reference to one in five taxpayers claiming tax relief to date in 2006. In response to questions from the Chairman of the PAC on the amount of money that may be owed to taxpayers and a suggestion that, in the case of PAYE taxpayers, large amounts are not owed in individual cases, Mr. Daly gave the following information to the committee. He said that Revenue had made a total of 485,000 repayments up to the end of October, 2006 involving an amount of €353 million. He said that this was the factual situation in relation to what was claimed and repaid and that it was difficult to speculate about what more might be reclaimable. Mr. Daly said he was reluctant to put a figure on what had not been claimed but repeated the figure of €353 million claimed to the end of October, 2006 and gave the comparable figures for 2004 and 2003 which were €325 million and €295 million respectively. Mr. Daly suggested that to say that there is almost the same amount unclaimed as has been repaid would be overstating it but perhaps there is a further €100M unclaimed.

The figures quoted by the Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners clearly show that taxpayers are becoming more aware of their entitlements and, as a consequence, the number of repayment claims and the amounts being repaid are increasing year on year.

During August, September and October this year Revenue ran a high profile campaign to encourage taxpayers to claim the reliefs to which they are entitled. This campaign involved advertisements on radio, bus shelters, the DART and the Luas. Also there is a continuing campaign of placing leaflets and claim forms in clinics, doctors' surgeries and pharmacies to encourage take-up of the relief available for medical expenses. There has been a positive outcome to this campaign which is shown in a significant increase in the number of people contacting Revenue and claiming entitlements particularly in relation trade union subscriptions, bin charges and age, rent, home carers and dependent relative credits. There are preliminary indications that claims for some of these reliefs have more than doubled following the Revenue campaign. It is expected that the campaign will also lead to an increase in the number of claims in relation to health expenses at the end of this year and early in the New Year when the majority of these claims are normally made.

The Tax Credit Certificate sent to each PAYE taxpayer at the beginning of the tax year is accompanied by a detailed leaflet setting out a wide range of information in relation to:

Main personal tax credits available for the year in question with comparative figures for the preceding year

Tax rates and tax bands for the year in question

Exemption limits for single, widowed and married persons

How to claim an adjustment to the Tax Credit Certificate.

Revenue's website provides easy-to-access customer service information on the full range of reliefs available to taxpayers together with a range of claim forms for download and completion. The homepage on the website also contains a "What's New" section where Revenue alerts customers to timely items of interest.

The website also has detailed information to direct customers to the appropriate contact point should they wish to phone, call, write, email or fax.

In addition, in May 2006 Revenue introduced a full Internet service for PAYE customers, which allows them access their Revenue records over the Internet, review their liability and to claim or amend their tax credit details. A leaflet giving details of how to access this new "Self-Service" option was sent to every PAYE taxpayer in the country.

Capital Expenditure.

Joan Burton

Question:

68 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recent report by the ESRI and in particular the warnings from the ESRI that the Government should restrict capital spending over coming years to avoid overheating the construction sector and ensure maximum value for taxpayers money; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39218/06]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

113 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance his view of the priorities set out in the ESRI’s evaluation of the fourth National Development Plan for investment; and the limits that should be set upon such investment. [39076/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

120 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recently published ESRI report on the ex-ante priorities for the National Development Plan 2007 to 2013 and in particular the fact that the report recommends that the tax system should be used specifically to reduce private sector demand for output from the building sector allowing the public sector to buy the necessary infrastructure at reasonable cost. [39120/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 68, 113 and 120 together.

Following the precedent set in the preparation of previous National Development Plans, an ex-ante evaluation of investment priorities for the next NDP (2007-2013) was commissioned by my Department from the ESRI. The ESRI published its report on 24th October last.

As I stated in my comments at the time of the publication of the ESRI Report, I welcome the ESRI's conclusion that continuing substantial investment in our infrastructure is fully justified. I also welcome the ESRI assessment that previous National Development Plans have made an essential contribution to the transformation of the Irish economy and society over the last 15 years and that the current NDP has greatly enhanced the economic and social infrastructure of the State with major benefits to economic development throughout all regions.

The prioritisation given by the ESRI to investment in infrastructure accords with that of the Government. I have noted the concerns expressed by the ESRI on the level of such investment. The Government's programme in that regard over the period to 2013 will have to await the publication of the NDP on January next. I would, however, reiterate the view I expressed on the occasion of publication of the Report. In my view, we must use the window of opportunity we have over the short to medium term to deal with the serious infrastructure deficits we still face before other factors such as Health and Pensions arising from the aging population impact more strongly on resources over the longer term. I therefore believe that we should work to eliminate the infrastructure deficit as quickly as possible in order to improve quality of life and enhance competitiveness across the economy.

The Deputies can equally be assured that this Government, in deciding on the appropriate level of capital investment and in implementing its capital programme, will not endanger its record of prudent management of the economy and of the public finances.

I have noted the ESRI's comments in relation to taxation. As the Deputy will appreciate, taxation changes are a matter for the Budget.

Overall, Government consideration of the new Plan will be informed by the ESRI study and by the priorities identified in the widespread consultation process which the Government has undertaken, notably with the Social Partners and Regional Interests.

Tax Code.

Liam Twomey

Question:

69 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied with the equity of tax relief provisions for pensions. [39150/06]

The State encourages individuals to supplement the social welfare pension arrangements with private pension arrangements by offering tax relief on private pension provision. The tax relief arrangements for private pension provision are long-standing and have helped a significant proportion of the workforce to provide for supplementary pensions thus reducing the pressure on the Exchequer to fund pension needs.

Tax relief is provided at an individual's marginal income tax rate on amounts contributed to pension schemes (subject to limits) and on the amount of profits and gains generated by the investments held by the pension schemes. Pension benefits payable on retirement are taxable subject to an entitlement to take a tax-free lump-sum cash benefit.

Over half of all people in employment are covered by voluntary private pensions and, while this proportion has not changed hugely in recent years, the absolute numbers covered have been increasing. The National Pension Policy Initiative target is for a coverage rate of 70% for people in employment aged between 30 and 65. The coverage rate is currently below this level. In the 2006 Budget and Finance Act, I introduced some changes which were designed to encourage older people and those on lower incomes to commence or improve their voluntary pension arrangements. These changes involve:

A Pension Incentive Tax Credit to encourage SSIA holders on lower incomes to put some or all of the proceeds of their accounts on maturity into a pension product. For each €3 invested in a pension product, the Exchequer will contribute €1 (to a max of €2,500) together with a proportion of the exit tax deducted from the SSIA on maturity.

An increase in the rate of age-based tax relief for pensions contributions to all pension products for contributors aged 55 years or over (i.e. from 30% to 35% of net relevant earnings/ remuneration for those aged 55 or over but under 60; and from 30% to 40% of net relevant earnings/remuneration for those aged 60 or over).

At the same time, I introduced other changes the purpose of which was to limit the cost to the Exchequer of tax relief provided to higher income earners. These changes are:

A cap on the value of a pension fund allowable for tax purposes of €5 million (or, if higher, the value of the fund on 7 December 2005).

A cap on the maximum value of the tax-free lump sum of €1.25 million which is 25% of the new maximum pension fund amount of €5 million.

In the same Budget I introduced, for the first time ever, a general restriction on the use by high earners of special tax reliefs of one type or another and I delivered what in real terms was described by the ESRI as a "highly progressive" Budget. Tax equity, both in relation to pensions and more generally, was therefore a major feature of my last Budget.

Capital Expenditure.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

70 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the capital underspend for each of the Departments to date; the percentage of this underspend that will carry forward to 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39232/06]

As part of the improved arrangements for managing capital programmes under the rolling multi-annual annual capital envelopes, Departments and Offices may carry over unspent Exchequer capital of up to 10% of their voted overall capital allocation to the following year, thereby ensuring that such amounts are available for spending on capital priorities in the following year.

As published in the Abridged Estimates Volume (AEV) on 17th November last, Government Departments and Offices are at this stage forecasting a capital carryover of €182 million from 2006 into 2007. This amounts to 2.7% of the overall gross capital provision for 2006 of €6.8 billion.

The indicative capital carryover by Departments/ Offices and the percentage that it represents of their gross voted capital provision for 2006 is as follows:

Carryover

€m

%

Transport

50.0

2.7

OPW

30.9

10.0

Environment

25.0

1.3

Arts, Sport & Tourism

20.8

10.0

Agriculture

20.3

9.5

CMNR

15.3

9.8

E T & E

13.5

3.0

Justice Group

1.8

1.4

Health and Children

2.0

10.0

The indicative capital subheads where it is intended to apply the capital carryover in 2007 are set out in the AEV under each of the Votes concerned.

The final definitive amount of carryover will be set out in the 2006 Appropriation Act subject to confirmation in a Statutory Instrument which I will make before 31st March next year.

Tax Code.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

71 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance if he will introduce a tax on second properties in order to reduce demand from persons purchasing second and subsequent homes for investment which is pushing house prices up for first time buyers. [39121/06]

There would clearly be various risks associated with the Deputy's suggestion; any changes that affect the housing sector must be approached with caution as even minor amendments may significantly alter the dynamics of the housing market.

Pension Provisions.

Billy Timmins

Question:

72 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance if he sees merit in modifying the requirement in approved pension schemes of taking out an annuity in view of the poor value in such annuities. [39137/06]

The position is that prior to the passing of the Finance Act, 1999, any person going on pension under a defined contribution scheme or a retirement annuity contract was required to purchase an annuity with any remaining pension fund moneys, following the drawdown of the appropriate tax-free lump sum.

The Finance Act, 1999 introduced changes which gave a significant degree of flexibility and personal choice to certain categories of individual in relation to the drawing down of benefits from their pension plans. These choices include the options to purchase an annuity, receive the balance of the fund in cash (subject to tax, as appropriate) or to invest in an Approved Retirement Fund (ARF) or Approved Minimum Retirement Fund (AMRF), depending on the circumstances. Proprietary directors, self-employed individuals and certain employees/directors in non-pensionable employment represent the categories of individual who can exercise these options in relation to their pension plans.

While these flexible options for drawing down pension benefits are not available to members of employers' defined contribution schemes (who are outside of the categories of individual described above) in respect of benefits derived from standard contributions to the schemes, the flexible options do apply as regards any Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVCs) made by such members either to their main schemes or to separate AVC schemes. The flexible options also apply to Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) introduced in the Finance Act, 2002 to create an alternative pension product which is flexible, portable and user-friendly.

The question of making changes, as suggested by the Deputy, to the existing arrangements for the broad membership of approved occupational pension schemes, generally, is a complex matter and needs to be considered as part of the wider issue of pension and retirement provision in Ireland. In this regard, the Government is committed to the publication next year of a Green Paper on Pensions Policy. The Green Paper, into which my Department (among others) will have an input, will outline the major policy choices and challenges facing us in the pensions area and important issues such as those raised in the question are best left for consideration in that context.

Revenue Commissioners.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

73 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the criticism of the Revenue Commissioners by the Institute of Taxation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39155/06]

I have read the recent newspaper report about the survey. I have also recently met with the Irish Institute of Taxation in the context of the pre-budget submission process where this issue was also raised.

Customer surveys can be useful in providing feedback on service delivery. In fact, I am advised that Revenue will shortly publish a survey which it conducted of 2000 SMEs, and from which indications are generally very positive as regards Revenue's service to businesses and preliminary results of my own Department's survey of several hundred firms on the operation of the BES scheme also indicate a positive view of Revenue's operations in that regard. I have also noted a recent comment by the Small Firms Association to the effect that they regard Revenue as being among the most proactive of Government agencies when it comes to empathising with the needs of small business. Therefore one needs to seek a balance in reporting on such matters.

I am advised by Revenue that they continuously examine ideas to further improve service to all their customers, including tax practitioners. Earlier this year, senior staff from Revenue conducted a series of interviews with the major tax practitioner bodies to seek their views on service issues. Ideas on further improving service to tax practitioners will be advanced through the Tax Administration Liaison Committee, which is made up of Revenue and representatives of the main Accountancy Bodies, the Law Society and the Irish Taxation Institute.

Revenue continues to work closely with all tax practitioner bodies and clearly Revenue sees tax practitioners as very important to the smooth running of the self-assessment tax system. In recent days, for example, record numbers of tax returns and record amounts of tax have been filed and paid electronically using Revenue's online service (ROS), which has been a tremendous success. Most of these returns are filed by tax practitioners on behalf of their clients and I understand that several practitioner representatives have commented very positively on this aspect of Revenue service.

Tax Code.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

74 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance if he will introduce measures to end the ability of high income persons to declare themselves non-resident for tax purposes. [39116/06]

The question of whether an individual is resident or not-resident in the State for tax purposes is a question of fact, based on the tax legislation.

The Residence Rules were last updated by in the 1994 Finance Act following a comprehensive review of the matter by the Revenue Commissioners and my Department. A person is regarded as resident in Ireland for tax purposes in a particular tax year if he/she spends:

183 days in the State in that year, or

280 days in aggregate in that tax year and the preceding tax year — this aggregation rule does not apply if they are in the country for less than 30 days in the tax year being looked at.

The ‘183 day' rule that contributes to determining residence in Ireland is also a key rule in other countries including Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal and Sweden.

I asked the Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners last year to monitor the application of the current residency rules. The Revenue Commissioners subsequently reported to me that, of the cases examined, there was no reason to conclude that the individuals concerned failed to comply with the statutory rules governing non-residence.

Dan Boyle

Question:

75 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Finance the 117 individuals given permission to seek tax relief on pensions with a lifetime cost of over five million euro, prior to the passage of the most recent Finance Bill; the highest amount of tax relief given to any one individual of this group; and the average amount of tax relief given to this group of individuals. [39074/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that 116 individuals applied for Personal Fund Thresholds under the provisions of Section 787O Taxes Consolidation Act (TCA), 1997. However, as the Deputy will appreciate the individuals concerned will not be identified for reasons of confidentiality.

I am further informed that to date, seventy- six certificates confirming the amount of personal fund thresholds have been issued. The remaining forty applications for certificates are at various stages of enquiry by Revenue.

In relation to personal fund thresholds for which certificates have been issued to date

The value of the highest fund is €20,792,709.

The average value of the funds certified is €7,988,409.

The Revenue Commissioners have also informed me that the reference to a figure of 117 individuals applying for Personal Fund Thresholds in my reply to a recent Parliamentary Question from the Deputy was the result of a clerical error in Revenue. The figure should have read 116 individuals.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

76 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the amount of tax foregone under initiatives to promote commercial research and development activity in 2006 to date; and the categories under which such relief has been granted. [39082/06]

There are a number of schemes of relief from taxation which seek to assist and encourage research and development activity. These include:

The deduction for capital or revenue expenditure incurred on scientific research;

Capital expenditure on patents can be written off in equal annual instalments over the shorter of 17 years and the life of the asset;

Capital expenditure on the acquisition of rights to computer software and the provision of software can be written off over 8 years at the rate of 12.5% per annum;

The deduction in the year of acquisition of capital expenditure on industrial know- how purchased from an unrelated party, unless the know-how is acquired together with the trade to which it relates;

An exemption from stamp duty on the sale, transfer or other disposition of intellectual property. Intellectual property includes any patent, trademark, copyright, registered design, design right, invention, domain name, supplementary protection certificate or plant breeders rights;

A tax exemption is available, subject to certain conditions, in respect of income arising from a qualifying patent; and

A tax credit of 20% of incremental expenditure incurred by a company on research and development can be offset against its corporation tax liability.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a basis for providing estimates of tax forgone is available only in respect of the tax exemption for income arising from patent royalties and the tax credit available to companies for investment in research and development.

Figures collated to date from income tax returns filed for the income tax year 2004 and from company tax returns filed for accounting periods ending in the year 2004, the latest year available, indicate that some €333 million of tax exempt income arising from patent royalties was returned in 841 individual and corporate claims. This figure would correspond to a maximum Exchequer cost in terms of tax forgone of the order of €62 million.

The most recent year for which complete information is available on the tax credit for research and development is for the accounting year ended 2004. On that basis it is estimated that the total cost to the Exchequer of the tax credit is €70.5 million in respect of 73 claims made against corporation tax liability for that year.

I am also informed by the Revenue Commissioners that claims for the other tax incentives listed are aggregated with other claims in tax returns or in supporting business accounts and could not be distinguished from other reliefs claimed for the purposes of estimating tax forgone. Accordingly, specific information on costs for these items is not available.

Tax Yield.

Bernard Allen

Question:

77 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Finance his views on the heavy reliance of the Exchequer on revenue from the housing sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39130/06]

Activity in the housing sector impacts primarily on VAT, Stamp duty and Capital gains tax. Housing market activity also impacts on Income tax and PRSI receipts and Corporation tax from construction sector company profits.

While revenues from housing market activity such as Stamp duty and Capital gains tax have made an increasing contribution to the Exchequer in recent years, we are not overly reliant on receipts from these sources. For example, taken together the Stamp duty and Capital Gains tax tax-heads were forecast to contribute just 11 per cent of total targeted tax revenues in 2006. In contrast the 4 main tax-heads — VAT, Income tax, Corporation tax and Excise were forecast to account for just over 87 per cent of tax receipts this year.

Care has been taken not to plan the public finances around an assumption that receipts from Stamp duty and Capital gains tax will continue to grow in future years as they have in the recent past. This is a prudent and sensible approach to take.

House Prices.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

78 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if he has assessed the affordability of house purchase for young families in view of the 40% increase in the cost of mortgages in the past twelve months and its implications for Government policy. [39151/06]

The Central Bank's recently published Financial Stability Report noted that increases in both house prices and interest rates are contributing to reduced house price affordability. While the Report also shows that estimated mortgage repayments as a percentage of disposable income have varied over the past sixteen years, the current mortgage repayment level on a national basis is less than 35 per cent, which was the level during the early 1990s.

The Deputy should note that Irish house buyers benefit from a range of supporting factors, including healthy income growth, low income tax rates and relatively low levels of interest rates by historical standards. Affordability is also supported by the strength of the economy, record employment levels and relatively high savings rates. Recent indicators point to continued moderation in house price inflation in line with increased housing supply and higher ECB interest rates. The consensus among commentators is for this trend to continue, resulting in a gradual cooling and soft landing for property prices in Ireland. The Central Bank's report shares the view that this is the most likely outcome.

The Government's housing policy also tackles issues of affordability through supply side actions. Maintaining the pace of housing supply, in line with our future demographics requirements, is a primary objective of Government policy and has a critical role to play in securing balance in the marketplace and supporting affordability, particularly for first-time buyers. The Department of the Environment's Housing Policy Framework outlines Government plans to reform the social and affordable housing sectors and to support the expansion of home ownership. We are working towards building sustainable communities through a capital investment programme of EUR4 billion over the next three years. Budget 2006 further supported these initiatives through the expansion of social housing options and the full implementation of the private sector's Rental Accommodation Scheme.

Tax Code.

John Dennehy

Question:

79 Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for Finance the number of earners exempt from income tax; the number paying at the basic rate; the number paying at the higher rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39042/06]

John Ellis

Question:

106 Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Finance the number of earners exempt from income tax; the number paying at the basic rate; the number paying at the higher rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39258/06]

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

152 Mr. Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Finance the number of earners exempt from income tax; the number paying at the basic rate; the number paying at the higher rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39043/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79, 106 and 152 together.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the most up-to-date estimates of the information requested by the Deputies are as follows:

Numbers of income earners on income tax record

Year

Exempt

Paying at 20% or less

Paying at greater than 20%

Total

2006

776,100

937,700

446,700

2,160,500

35.9%

43.4%

20.7%

These figures allow for the fact that many income earners pay no tax at all; many pay tax at a standard rate but pay a much lower average rate because of the application of credits; and for many taxpayers who are, strictly speaking, liable for tax at the higher rate on part of their income, the amount of their liability at the higher rate is fully offset by their tax credits. In fact, tax credits fully offset the 42% liability in the case of all but about 20% of all income earners. Effectively, therefore, many of the ‘top rate' taxpayers actually pay at an average rate of 20% or less.

Decentralisation Programme.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

80 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Finance the latest information available from the central applications facility in respect of applications from civil servants and other public servants currently located in Dublin who wish to transfer to new locations outside of Dublin under the Government’s decentralisation programme; the way this compares with the Government target of 10,300; if agreement has been reached with all public service unions regarding promotional opportunities for persons who chose to move and those who opt to remain where they are; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39244/06]

Jack Wall

Question:

81 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the number of civil servants and other public servants who had been decentralised from Dublin to other locations by the original deadline for the completion of the plan of December 2006; if, in view of the poor response to the scheme to date, he has plans to review the scale or scope of the proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39245/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

150 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the number of personnel relocated to date under the Government’s decentralisation programme; his further proposals in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39123/06]

Ivor Callely

Question:

162 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Finance the progress or otherwise in implementing the decentralisation programme; the issues that have been brought to his attention where difficulties or concerns have arisen for staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38955/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

221 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the number of civil servants deployed to the various locations throughout the country arising from the Governments previous budgetary announcements on decentralisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39557/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80, 81, 150, 162 and 221 together.

I have no plans to review the scale or scope of the decentralisation programme. A progress report by the Decentralisation Implementation Group (DIG) was presented to Government in early October and published on 4th October last. The Group reported that implementation of the Decentralisation Programme is progressing satisfactorily.

Over ten thousand, six hundred civil and public servants have applied to relocate under the Programme. The Central Applications Facility remains open and continues to receive applications. Some 53% of applicants are currently based in Dublin.

All Departments and Offices have produced implementation plans setting out the detailed arrangements they are putting in place to plan for relocation while also ensuring business continuity and effective delivery of services to customers. The plans are comprehensive and their preparation involved detailed reviews of business processes as well as the logistics of the move. Departments and Offices are taking a prudent approach in relation to assessing the risks involved and the adoption of appropriate measures to manage business risk.

Discussions have concluded on a number of human resource and industrial relations matters and are being progressed on other issues. To date decentralising organisations have established a presence in 12 new locations.

Over the next 18 months decentralising Departments and Offices will have a presence in a total of 29 new locations around the country. Over the next 5 months alone, it is anticipated that the number of decentralised staff in their new locations will have grown to over 1,000 in approximately 20 towns around the country. The precise numbers moving by end year will depend on the timeframes for completion of fit out and installation of necessary ICT (information communications technology) and telecommunication cabling and equipment.

At end October 2006, over 2,300 staff have been assigned to decentralising posts. These are currently in place or are being trained in advance of decentralisation to a new location, as soon as accommodation becomes available. Overall approximately 60% of assignees to date are officers who were originally based in Dublin.

A facility is being operated through the Public Appointments Service to allow staff remaining in Dublin to express preferences in relation to the organisations to which they would like to transfer. This will be an ongoing process throughout the transition phase of the Programme. Progress in this priority area is currently being reviewed in co-operation with Departments and the relevant unions, to ensure that they are operating efficiently.

The property programme is well advanced. Property acquisition negotiations have been completed or significantly advanced in 36 locations.

The OPW conducts a review of the property timeframes for permanent accommodation on an ongoing basis. Based on its experience to date in relation to timeframes for property selection and acquisition, brief and design issues, tendering periods, planning issues and contractual arrangements, it has provided an updated schedule of the likely availability of accommodation.

This schedule allows for the planned movement of up to 6,800 staff in the next three years in line with the target set out in June 2005. The delivery time for some locations will be later than originally projected, however, leading to a greater concentration of moves in 2009 rather than in 2008. Matters outside the control of the OPW, which could give rise to delay, will continue to be monitored and mitigating action taken where possible.

There are of course elements of the programme which continue to present challenges. These include the position of professional and technical personnel who wish to remain in Dublin, the State agency sector and ICT areas.

Having already met with a number of Secretaries General, the Decentralisation Implementation Group is currently meeting with some of the Chief Executives of State Agencies to discuss their Implementation Plans, the planning framework in place, to assess progress to date and to hear about the challenges arising and steps proposed by the agencies to address them.

Across the public service, recruitment and promotion practices generally are being managed in a way which facilitates the achievement of the Decentralisation Programme in an efficient manner. Agreement has been reached with the Civil Service unions representing general service staff that all interdepartmental promotions will be made on the basis of the appointee agreeing to move to a post in a decentralising unit, Department or Office. In addition, any appointments from open competitions are being made on the same basis. Where an organisation is moving in full, all internal promotions will include a decentralisation condition in the 52 week period prior to the move. Where an organisation is moving in part, 50% of all internal promotions will include a decentralisation condition in the 52 week period prior to the move taking place. These arrangements allow for a proportion of all promotions arising in Civil Service general service posts in the normal course to have a decentralisation condition.

Discussions are ongoing with the unions representing professional and technical staff in the Civil Service on this issue.

The position in relation to the State Agencies is of course more complex. The Government has always said that this is a voluntary Programme. Any staff member wishing to remain in Dublin will be accommodated with a public service job in Dublin. I am aware of the need to balance the business needs of the organisation in furthering its relocation objective with the needs of staff remaining in Dublin. The DIG in its recent report has highlighted the need to make progress on the question of transferability between State Agencies and between agencies and Civil Service. It is my strong view that these issues can only be resolved through dialogue and negotiations with the unions representing the State Agency sector.

In relation to ICT issues, a protocol has been prepared by my Department to address the filling of ICT posts and a sub-group of General Council has been established to move the process forward. The Centre for Management and Organisational Development (CMOD) has already concluded a pilot programme of ICT certified training and is currently developing tender proposals to source trainers to provide such certified training for new entrants to the ICT area. These initiatives will assist in ensuring a pipeline of skilled ICT staff in the Civil Service.

The issue of managed data centre services was also addressed by the DIG. The OPW is being asked to convene a working group to determine (i) the feasibility of procuring private sector versus State owned accommodation for data centres, including a cost benefit analysis of the options, and (ii) the logistics, costs, financing and staffing implications of State managed/operated data centres. It is expected that this work will be completed by Spring of 2007.

Tax Code.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

82 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance the tax incentives, promoted as green tax incentives introduced by the Government since 1997; and the tax foregone in each category of incentive in 2006 to date. [39075/06]

Ireland continues to use the tax system to provide a stimulus to encourage activities that can assist policies promoting sustainable energy and tackling climate change. Details of the relevant tax incentives introduced since 1997 are as follows:

Benefit-In-Kind exemption on employer provided public transport tickets to encourage commuters who travel to and from work by car to switch to public transport thereby easing traffic congestion at peak times;

Tax relief on corporate equity investments in certain renewable energy generation projects which are eligible for tax relief in the form of deduction from a company's profits;

Section 50 of the Finance Act 2004 provided for the introduction of a limited scheme of relief from excise tax for biofuels. The purpose of the provision was to allow qualified and conditional relief from excise of biofuel used in approved pilot projects;

Section 81 of the Finance Act 2006 provided for a large scale scheme of excise relief intended to cover annual production of 163 million litres of biofuel over 5 years;

VRT Relief for hybrid electric vehicles was introduced in January 2001, the purpose of the scheme — which provides for a 50% reduction in the VRT charge — is to encourage the purchase of vehicles that use a combination of an internal combustion engine and an electric motor to derive motive power; and

As a complementary measure, the Finance Act 2006 provides for a new 50% VRT relief to promote new flexible fuel vehicles (cars designed to operate on biofuels) for an initial period of 2 years.

As regards benefit-in-kind exemption on employer provided public transport tickets, I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that as taxpayers are not required to provide details of this benefit in their tax returns there is no basis on which an estimate of the cost to the Exchequer of this tax exemption can be provided.

The corporation tax forgone in respect of corporate investment in certain renewable energy generation projects is estimated at close on €8.5 million since inception to end 2005, the latest year for which figures are available. These are broken down as to €1 million for accounting year 1998/99, €3.6 million for 1999/00, €0.7 million for 2000/01, €1.3 million for 2001, €1.0 million for 2002, €0.1 million for 2003 and €0.8 million for 2005.

In relation to the limited scheme of relief from excise tax for biofuels introduced by section 50 of the Finance Act 2004 the amount of excise forgone was €422,000 in 2005 and €911,000 to date in 2006. There is as yet no basis for estimating the cost of the scheme introduced by section 81 of the Finance Act, 2006.

Figures of VRT relief for hybrid electric and flexible fuel vehicles are as set out in the following table.

Year

Hybrid electric vehicles

Flexible Fuel Vehicles

Numbers

Cost of VRT relief

Numbers

Cost of VRT relief

2001

20

56,361

Nil

Nil

2002

11

36,980

Nil

Nil

2003

9

33,975

Nil

Nil

2004

246

978,931

Nil

Nil

2005

324

1,648,728

Nil

Nil

2006 to date

634

4,962,268

73

228,312

Total

1,244

7,717,243

73

228,312

Liz McManus

Question:

83 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Finance further to the statement of the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners at the Public Accounts Committee that he believed consumers have a legal right to a share of the refund that has been granted to opticians for VAT paid on dispensing services, the procedures in place to ensure that consumers can claim their share of the VAT refund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39222/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, historically, they had treated the supply of corrective spectacles and contact lenses by an optician as a single supply chargeable at the standard rate of VAT (currently 21%). Opticians had, in general, accounted for VAT on the full price for the supply of spectacles and contact lenses. Opticians have always been exempt from VAT in respect of the professional fees received from eye testing, which has always been treated as a separate supply.

The Appeal Commissioner decided, in a test case, that the supply by an optician of spectacles and contact lenses constituted two separate supplies for VAT as follows:

(i) A taxable supply of goods; and

(ii) An exempt supply of dispensing services.

The decision in question followed similar decisions in the UK courts. The Revenue Commissioners have accepted the decision. The principle that there are in fact two separate supplies involved is beyond dispute.

As a result, many opticians now find themselves in a position to claim a refund from Revenue of a portion of the VAT accounted for by them on their supplies of corrective spectacles and contact lenses. VAT is a consumption tax collected and accounted for by businesses. Refunds of VAT are made to the persons chargeable to, and accountable for, the tax. There are no provisions in EU VAT law, which could enable repayment of VAT to be made by Revenue to the ultimate consumer, in this instance, the customers of the opticians. Therefore, the question of refunds to the opticians' customers is a matter for the optician and customer concerned. It was in that context that the Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners, in his recent appearance before the Public Accounts Committee, encouraged opticians' customers to check out the possibility of refunds with their optician.

Business Expansion Schemes.

Phil Hogan

Question:

84 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the suggestion from Chambers Ireland to raise the ceiling of business expansion schemes pertaining to SMEs from the current €1 million to €10 million to assist start ups and foster the development of wealth creating enterprises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37941/06]

A review of the Business Expansion Scheme by my Department in conjunction with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Revenue Commissioners is currently being finalised.

Any decisions on the scheme's remit will be taken in the light of the objectives of assisting risk investments, the cost of the scheme, the benefits gained and the equity of the reliefs involved. Any proposals in this regard are a matter for the forthcoming Budget. I would refer the Deputy to the longstanding practice of Ministers for Finance not to comment on what may or may not be contained in upcoming Budgets. I do not intend to depart from that approach.

Tax Code.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

85 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Finance his views on extending the taxation benefit for long term leasing of land to farmer’s sons, daughters or other relatives; his views on whether at a time when young farmers need to expand if they are to remain viable that the only way possible to get the extra land is through long term lease; his further views on whether a relative is at serious disadvantage over a stranger; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38959/06]

Under Section 664 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997, there is an exemption from income tax on leasing of land in respect of the first €12,000 of annual leasing income where the leasing is for a period of not less than 5 years and in respect of €15,000 where the leasing is for a period of not less than 7 years. The exemptions are available to lessors of agricultural land aged 40 years or over or to those who are permanently incapacitated by mental or physical infirmity from carrying on farming. In Budget 2006 I announced an increase in the annual exemption limits from €7,500 to €12,000 for leases between 5 and 7 years duration and from €10,000 to €15,000 for leases of 7 or more years duration. In addition, in order to provide for situations where land is leased along with entitlement to EU Single Farm Payments, I also announced that rental income arising from such entitlements would qualify for the relief with effect from 1 January 2005. These improvements were provided for in section 12 of the Finance Act 2006.

These tax exemptions apply only in respect of leases to qualifying lessees. In this context, "qualifying lessee" specifically excludes from the scope of the relief any leases made between closely connected relatives. A person is connected with an individual if that person is the individual's husband or wife, or is a relative, or the husband or wife of a relative of the individual or of the individual's husband or wife. A relative in this context is defined as meaning brother, sister, ancestor or lineal descendant.

This restriction covering leasing to closely connected relatives is a standard anti-avoidance measure and such measures are common throughout the tax code. It should also be noted that there are already very generous stamp duty and capital acquisitions tax reliefs available in the case of permanent transfers of land between family members, such as by gift or sale. Naturally, I am not going to comment on specific Budget measures, but a number of changes affecting the farming sector have already been signalled in the context of "Towards 2016".

National Development Plan.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

86 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Finance the latest returns he has received in respect of progress in the expenditure profile and the profile in delivery of planned outputs from the various sub-programmes within the National Development Plan 2000 to 2006; and if he will publish a review of the performance of that plan. [39133/06]

John Dennehy

Question:

127 Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for Finance the progress that has been made under the current National Development Plan 2000-2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39041/06]

John Ellis

Question:

137 Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Finance the progress made under the National Development Plan 2000 to 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39257/06]

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

148 Mr. Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Finance the progress that has been made under the current National Development Plan 2000-2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39044/06]

John McGuinness

Question:

216 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance the progress made under the current National Development Plan; the lessons to be learned for future development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39350/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86, 127, 137, 148 and 216 together.

The National Development Plan/Community Support Framework (NDP/ CSF) 2000-2006 was an integrated investment plan and strategy for economic and social development for Ireland. The objectives are to ensure that Ireland maintained its international competitiveness and that our economic success would be shared more equally at regional level and throughout our society. The Plan was developed following an extensive consultation process that included the Social Partners and regional interests and, therefore, reflected the broad consensus on the future development needs of the country. The size and ambition of the Plan signalled an unparalleled commitment of €57 billion of Public, Private and EU funds over the programme period, which under EU Rules continues to 2008. It has involved significant investment in infrastructure — such as roads, public transport, water and waste services — in health services, social housing, education, industry and rural development. The Plan is delivered through seven Operational Programmes. These Operational Programmes are the Economic and Social Infrastructure Operational Programme, the Productive Sector Operational Programme, the Employment and Human Resources Operational Programme, the Border, Midlands and West (BMW) Regional Operational Programme, the Southern and Eastern (S&E) Regional Operational Programme, the PEACE II Operational Programme; and the Technical Assistance Operational Programme.

Based on the most recent expenditure information available, €48bn had been spent by the end of June 2006. This is a healthy implementation rate in view of the slow start up in some areas at the beginning of the programme and the relatively disappointing response in certain demand led schemes due mainly to the impact of the slowdown in economic activity in 2000-02, the outbreak of foot and mouth disease, a lower than anticipated take up of financial opportunities by the private sector. The information also indicates that while the overall outturn is expected to be close to the original forecast by the end of the programming period, there will be broadly offsetting variances as compared to the original forecasts at individual Operational Programme level. However, the final Exchequer and EU commitment is expected to be ahead of the original forecast and, on current expectations, this will largely cover a lower than expected take-up from the private sector.

Progress reports to the end of June 2006 for the Operational Programmes will be reviewed by the NDP/CSF Monitoring Committee, which my Department chairs, when it meets next month. However, initial indications show that physical progress on the infrastructure and the employment and human resource programmes are on target and good progress is evident in the regional programmes. While financial performance in the Productive Sector programme remains behind target, physical progress is closer to targets.

The mid-term evaluation of the NDP/CSF 2000-2006, carried out by the ESRI, stated that the "NDP has made significant progress towards its objectives of continuing sustainable national economic and employment growth and of consolidating and improving Ireland's economic competitiveness" and "will have a sustainable positive effect on competitiveness and the productive capacity of the economy in the long-term". The report said that the level of GNP will be around 3% higher in the long run which represents a real rate of return on NDP investment of around 14%.

Furthermore, in its ex-ante evaluation of investment priorities for the next NDP 2007-2013, the ESRI states that, "The current NDP has greatly enhanced the economic and social infrastructure of the State with major benefits to economic development throughout all regions".

Lessons have been learned and taken on board. To improve the planning and execution of infrastructure projects, my Department has introduced a number of initiatives. These include the strengthening of cost estimation and control systems and advancement of procurement policy and practice with the objective of completing projects on time and within budget. The latest Value for Money measures and the Government's proposals for Estimates and Budget Reform build on initiatives in recent years such as the multi-annual budgets for capital programmes, the revised Guidelines for the Appraisal and Management of Capital Expenditure Proposals of February 2005 and construction procurement reform. These are part of a concerted effort to improve public expenditure management and to maximise value for money from public expenditure.

The preparation of a new NDP for 2007-2013 will build on the achievements already taking place under the current Plan and is being finalised. This will include a concise review of the achievements under the NDP 2000-2006.

Financial Services Regulation.

Simon Coveney

Question:

87 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Finance his plans to amend the Credit Union Act and regulations which have hampered their development. [39136/06]

The Credit Union Act, 1997 provides the legal framework for the regulation of credit unions. The Act was designed to provide the credit union movement with a regulatory structure that reflects and promotes the particular ethos and philosophy of the credit union movement, its strong tradition of volunteer service and the core objective of providing opportunities for saving and lending for members of credit unions.

The approach to regulation embodied in the Credit Union, 1997 Act has served the credit union movement well by providing clarity and certainty to individual credit unions, their Directors and members. It has helped support the continued stability of the credit union movement and safeguard the members' savings during a period of rapid growth.

As Minister for Finance, my role is to ensure that the legal framework for credit unions continues to be appropriate for the effective operation and supervision of credit unions. In recent months, I have introduced a regulation to increase the amount of money that members can deposit with a credit union. Furthermore, following extensive consultations with the representative bodies of credit unions and drawing on the advice of the Credit Union Advisory Committee — the statutory expert advisory body on credit union matters — the Registrar of Credit Unions recently issued guidelines on a revised investment framework for prudent and responsible investment by credit unions.

Other developments include the establishment of a review group chaired by my Department to examine the limits on longer-term lending in Section 35 of the Credit Union Act, and the agreement by the Financial Regulator to examine proposals for reform of the Savings Protection Scheme for credit unions.

As the Deputy may be aware the case for modernising the regulatory framework for credit unions has been raised by both the Registrar of Credit Unions and the representative bodies for credit unions. It is important that there is a clear shared understanding on how a new regulatory framework would operate, before moving to develop specific proposals. In this context, I wrote to the Chair of the Financial Regulator earlier this year recommending that the Financial Regulator engages with the credit union movement, in the first instance, to identify common ground in relation to a set of principles that could guide the development of an updated regulatory framework for credit unions. The Chair of the Financial Regulator has indicated the Authority's willingness to move forward on this basis.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

88 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that as interest rates rise, the financial institutions are not taking the opportunity to increase their margins. [39167/06]

I have no statutory function in setting the interest rates offered by credit institutions — they are based on commercial criteria in the light of market conditions. Since 1992, the Irish banking market has been open to competition from credit institutions authorised in any EU/EEA Member State. Hence, new entrants to the market from abroad are competing with domestic banks for business in, for example, the market for personal deposits.

The September 2005 Competition Authority report on banking focused on two markets — personal current accounts and SME lending. It suggested measures aimed at promoting more active competition, but found no evidence of deliberate anti-competitive actions by banks. The Authority recommended action to make switching of accounts easier, and this is now in place.

The Financial Integration Monitor, published by the European Commission to assess major trends in the pan-European market, indicates that the cross border competition inherent in the single market has contributed to convergence in interest rates, which is particularly evident in relation to the highly competitive mortgage market in Ireland.

My function as the Minister for Finance is to provide an appropriate and robust legislative framework for regulation of the financial services sector. I am satisfied that, since the establishment of the Financial Regulator and the Financial Services Ombudsman, with a particular focus on the consumer, we have such a framework in place.

The Financial Regulator has drawn attention to the need for consumers to choose the right type of loan for their needs. The Consumer Credit Act, 1995, obliges credit providers to include specific information on the cost of all credit agreements. Furthermore, the Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Code requires that financial service providers, in all their dealings with customers, act fairly and honestly in the best interests of customers and make full disclosure of all relevant material information, including all charges.

Tax Code.

Martin Ferris

Question:

89 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if he will replace the system of vehicle registration tax with a system of car taxation based on pollution levels. [39115/06]

VRT is a very important source of revenue for the Exchequer providing €1.15 billion or 2.9% of total net tax receipts for 2005. It is a valuable source of funds given this Government's strategy of reducing other taxes such as income tax and increasing the level of funding for vital public services such as health and education. Consequently, any changes to the current system would require very careful consideration.

The European Commission published a proposal for a directive in relation to car taxes in July 2005 which supports the gradual abolition of registration taxes which it believes is impacting adversely on the functioning of the internal market. However, the aim of the proposal is that such registration taxes would be replaced by higher circulation taxes (such as Ireland's Motor Tax) which would have a CO2 element or possibly increased excise taxes on fuel. VRT would be required to have a CO2 basis in the period up to its abolition. Since discussions at Council level commenced in October 2005, we have pointed out that we regard VRT as a national tax that falls within the national competence, a position shared by several other Member States. The mix of taxes, their levels and rates are a matter for EU Member States based on legitimate choices. As regards the balance of taxation, as I indicated earlier, Ireland has prioritised tax reductions on income earned by employees, in preference to other tax areas, and this policy has helped create record employment levels.

However, we accept that the Commission in its proposal is attempting to design a structure which ideally would go someway towards incentivising behaviour that reduces carbon emissions. On the domestic front, we will be reviewing policy options that may have the capacity to reduce emissions from cars but on a fiscal-neutral basis, which is in keeping with the spirit of the Commission's proposal.

Financial Services Regulation.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

90 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance the most recent figures on private sector debt; and his views on the implications of this debt level for the economy. [39239/06]

The most recent figures available for the growth in total private-sector credit (PSC) show it grew by 28.1 percent in September, which represents a slight easing in the rate of credit growth over the past number of months. Adjusted mortgage credit growth was 26.9 per cent in September. House mortgage finance comprises the bulk of lending to households and represents approximately 83 per cent of the outstanding stock of personal debt.

In terms of the economic implications, the relatively high level of private sector indebtedness must be seen in the context of a sharp decline in public sector indebtedness in recent years. Moreover, a large part of the increase in private sector indebtedness reflects the accumulation of housing assets on the part of households.

However, as I have pointed out before, both borrowers and lenders need to be aware that interest rates are currently low and will inevitably rise. Moreover, a shock to the economy which affected employment and earnings growth could affect the ability of borrowers to service their debt. As Ireland is a small and very open economy, and hence vulnerable to changes in the global environment, this highlights the need to retain and indeed improve our international cost competitiveness. It also illustrates the need for fiscal prudence, in order to provide room for manoeuvre in the event of a shock transpiring.

As far as looking after the interests of the individual borrower and the individual investor is concerned, the function of Government is to provide an appropriate legislative framework for regulation of the financial services sector — one that is both comprehensive and robust. As the Deputy will be aware, within the implementation of the overall legislative framework, private sector credit growth and debt levels are, in the first instance, a matter for the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland. This follows from its role as part of the European System of Central Banks and its functions, as the Financial Regulator, in relation to the prudential supervision of financial institutions and the protection of the customers of those firms. In this regard, I fully support the vigilance of the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator on the issue of personal credit and mortgage debt and in reminding both borrowers and lenders of the need for responsible behaviour.

Tax Code.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

91 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance the basis on which forecasts of capital tax are made by his Department; and the assumptions in respect of the number of taxable transactions and the trend in house prices that underpinned the 2006 estimate. [39177/06]

The assumptions underpinning the 2006 capital taxes forecasts were based on economic growth estimates in the Stability Programme Update which was published on Budget day, December 2005. These estimates included GNP, projected changes in the consumer price index and developments in the construction sector.

The methodology for forecasting capital taxes in 2006 firstly required my Department to estimate the outturns for the base year, in this case 2005. These projected outturns were then adjusted to take account of known once-off factors, both negative and positive, likely to impact on the yield in 2006. An example is the discontinuance in 2006 of the bank levy, the receipts from which came in under stamp duties. The figures were then refined to take account of the impact of Budget measures. These various steps gave the base upon which the 2006 forecasts were built.

The base was then inflated for projected economic developments in 2006. In the case of capital gains tax and capital acquisitions tax, estimated growth was driven by the forecast change in nominal GNP and in the CPI, respectively. For stamp duties, since the bulk of the yield is from transactions in residential and commercial property, the forecast for 2006 was largely based on estimated volume and price growth in the residential and commercial property sectors.

The capital gains tax estimate represented an increase of 3.8 per cent and the capital acquisitions tax estimate an increase of 4.4 per cent on their respective 2005 outturns. The stamp duty estimate represented a decrease of 1.5 per cent on the 2005 outturn but this largely reflected the non-renewal of the bank levy.

The estimates for all three taxes assumed a lower rate of growth in revenues from these sources this year than the significant increases experienced in 2005. In the event the property market in 2006 proved far more robust than many commentators predicted around the time of last years Budget.

Tax Yield.

Joe Costello

Question:

92 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Finance the receipts on an annual basis from DIRT tax for each year from 1997 to date in 2006; the number of people or accounts it levied on in each of those years; the arrangements in force in respect of refunds where DIRT is levied on taxpayers with unused personal tax allowances and credits; if there are special allowances in place in respect of people over 65; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39251/06]

The following table sets out the net yield from DIRT collected from 1997 to 2006:

Year

€m

1997

187.6

1998

238.7

1999

161.2

2000

386.0*

2001

228.0

2002

206.5

2003

153.3

2004

143.6

2005

167.1

2006

254.0

2006

(to end October)

* The figure quoted for 2000 includes €215.7 million which was a result of the DIRT look-back audits.

The amount of DIRT due to be paid each year is dependent on the amount of monies on deposit and the rates of interest applying to such deposits rather than on the number of accounts involved. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the statutory return of DIRT filed by the financial institutions requires details only of the relevant amount of interest paid in the year and the appropriate tax in relation to the payment of that interest. Such DIRT returns are subject to audit by the Revenue Commissioners.

A refund of deposit interest retention tax is provided for in very limited circumstances only, viz. an individual who is not liable or fully liable to income tax and is over 65 years of age at some time during the tax year or is permanently incapacitated by reason of mental /physical infirmity from maintaining himself or herself. (Bodies qualifying for ‘charitable' status and companies are also entitled to refund of DIRT). The taxpayer must advise Revenue that he or she meets the legislative requirements and the amount of the retention tax suffered.

With deposit interest rates being very low in recent years, the quantum of the interest earned and tax retained would be very small in many cases and may be considered uneconomic to reclaim.

The Revenue Commissioners issued 11,620 copies of the relevant form (Form 54D) for 2005 to those who claimed refunds in previous years. The Forms for 2006 will issue in early 2007.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

93 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance his views on the Exchequer returns of the first 10 months of 2006. [39233/06]

As the Deputy is aware, the Exchequer Returns to end-October were published on my Department's website on 2nd November.

The Exchequer Returns to end-October showed a deficit of €346 million, compared with a deficit of €1,291 million for the same period last year and a Budget Day forecast of an Exchequer Deficit of €2,927 million for 2006 as a whole.

Tax receipts to end-October, at €33,085 million were up 12.5 per cent on the same period last year and were €2,002 million or 6.4 per cent ahead of profile. The best performers were Stamp Duty (€836m above), CGT (€368m above), VAT (€239m above) and Corporation Tax (€214m above). All other tax heads were also above profile.

Overall issues for net voted expenditure for October 2006 were up €2,900 million or 10.6 per cent as compared to October 2005. Net voted expenditure at end-October was €1,127 million or 3.6 per cent below the published profiles, with capital €574 million below and current €553 million below.

The figures to end-October confirm that the public finances are in a sound position, thanks to the policies pursued by this Government. My upcoming Budget will be drafted within a framework of continuing the prudent policies that have served us so well over the past decade.

Fiscal Policy.

Pat Breen

Question:

94 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance if he has assessed the implication of the Central Bank’s Financial Stability Report for Government policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39132/06]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

119 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance his views on the Central Bank’s stability report 2006 published on 8 November 2006. [39112/06]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

132 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the concerns raised by the Central Bank in its Stability Report 2006, published in November 2006. [39117/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94, 119 and 132 together.

I welcome the publication by the Central Bank of its Financial Stability Report 2006 which reflects the Bank's mandate to contribute to the stability of the financial system in Ireland. I note the Report's main conclusion that Ireland's financial system continues to be in a good state of health. The Bank's central expectation, based on an assessment of the risks facing borrowers, the financial position of the banking sector as well as the results of recent stress testing of the system, is that the current shock-absorption capacity of the banking system leaves it well placed to withstand possible pressures.

The Bank's Report identifies vulnerabilities facing the financial system, including those arising from credit growth and house price inflation. As the Deputy will be aware, within the implementation of the overall legislative framework, private sector credit growth and debt levels are, in the first instance, a matter for the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland. While the strong increase in borrowing is a sign of a healthy economy and a positive economic outlook on the part of borrowers, I fully support the vigilance of the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator on the issue of personal credit and mortgage debt and in reminding both borrowers and lenders of the need for responsible behaviour. Recent indicators point to continued moderation in house price inflation in line with increased housing supply and higher ECB interest rates. The consensus among commentators is for this trend to continue, resulting in a gradual cooling and soft landing for property prices in Ireland. The Central Bank's report shares the view that this is the most likely outcome.

The Government, for its part, will continue to contribute to economic and financial stability by pursuing a prudent fiscal policy.

In terms of the general economic implications of the rise in house prices and the associated increase in indebtedness in recent years highlighted in the Report, both borrowers and lenders need to be aware that interest rates are currently still low by historic standards. The Central Bank has highlighted the need for borrowers and lenders to factor into their financial decision-making the prospective impact of potential changes in the future economic and financial environment, including the impact of higher interest rates.

Moreover, the Report makes the point that a shock to the economy which affected employment and earnings growth could affect the ability of borrowers to service their debt. As Ireland is a small and very open economy, and hence vulnerable to changes in the global environment, this highlights the need to retain and indeed improve our international cost competitiveness. It also illustrates the need for responsible budgetary policy in order to provide room for manoeuvre in the event of any sharp slowdown in economic growth.

As far as safeguarding the interests of the individual borrower is concerned, the role of Government is to provide an appropriate legislative framework for the regulation of the financial sector — one that is both comprehensive and robust. With the establishment of the Financial Regulator and the Financial Services Ombudsman, such a framework is now in place. Under the Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Codes, mortgage lending institutions are obliged to act in their customers' best interests. The Financial Regulator has launched a number of specific initiatives to inform consumers in making the best choice of mortgage product for their needs. There are also specific legal obligations under the Consumer Credit Act regarding the information that must be provided to borrowers about their housing loans. The Financial Regulator earlier in the year introduced a technical prudential measure requiring financial institutions to put more capital aside for certain categories of loans. This reinforces the message consistently conveyed to lending institutions by the Financial Regulator that mortgage lending policies and practices should be prudent and responsible.

My overall view is that the Report, with its main conclusion and its assessment of risks, makes a valuable contribution to the assessment and maintenance of financial stability in our economy.

Tax Code.

John Perry

Question:

95 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance the property based tax reliefs for which no termination date has been set; and if he has requested any reviews of these or other reliefs by the Revenue Commissioners in the context of the forthcoming Budget and Finance Bill. [39182/06]

In Budget 2006, following a major review of existing tax reliefs involving both internal reviews and the employment of outside consultants I announced the termination, subject to certain transitional provisions, of the following reliefs; the urban renewal, town renewal and rural renewal schemes, and the special reliefs for hotels, holiday cottages, student accommodation, multi-storey car parks, third-level educational buildings, sports injuries clinics, developments associated with park and ride facilities and the general rental refurbishment scheme.

In line with the recommendations of the consultants, I retained the tax reliefs available for private hospitals, convalescent homes, registered nursing homes and childcare facilities. Finance Act 2006 introduced a new scheme for mental health centres but this has not yet been commenced.

In addition to the special property-based tax schemes covered by last year's reviews, Section 268 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides for capital allowances for a range of buildings or structures. These are normal business related capital allowances rather than special incentive schemes.

The operation and impact of tax reliefs are monitored and/or subject to review on an ongoing basis as part of the normal work of my Department and the Revenue Commissioners. For example, the Revenue Commissioners have been carrying out a review of the operation of VAT on property and my Department, in conjunction with the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is examining the operation of the BES and Seed Capital schemes, which terminate this year unless renewed. I have also, for example, asked for an examination of the research and development tax credit, based on information to date of its operation. I will also expect to have the results of further examinations available to me in the coming months in relation to aspects of the operation of certain other reliefs.

However, given the recent completion of a major review of existing tax relief schemes I have not, at this stage, requested the Revenue Commissioners to carry out any further review on a similar scale of property-based schemes in the context of the forthcoming Budget and Finance Bill.

Export Performance.

Shane McEntee

Question:

96 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Finance his views on the medium-term implication of Ireland’s export performance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39162/06]

Provisional data for the first half of 2006 show that the volume of exports of goods and services increased by almost 6% on an annual basis in that period. This compares with an annual increase of 3.9% for 2005 as a whole.

In the medium term, the outlook for Irish export performance remains broadly positive. Our existing strong export base, particularly in pharmaceuticals, food, medical devices, software and financial services, allied with our pro-business environment and skilled workforce, are factors which provide good grounds to expect a continued solid export performance from the Irish economy over the medium term. However, it is important that we remain focused on improving our competitiveness, which has been declining in recent years.

To ensure that our export sector remains strong, the Government is adhering to prudent fiscal and expenditure policies as well as investing in infrastructure, education and skills development. We are undertaking reform of the public sector and are improving the delivery and efficiency of public services.

Revenue Commissioners.

Mary Upton

Question:

97 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Finance if there are proposals to provide additional staff and resources to the Revenue Commissioners Office in view of the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor Generals report that the number of audits completed fell from 16,321 in 2004 to 14,214 in 2005, with a consequent drop in the audit yield; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39223/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the apparent drop in audit numbers referred to by the Deputy in fact arose from a re-categorisation of audits in 2005 and that when the re-categorisation is taken into account, the number of audits conducted under the Revenue Audit Code of Practice actually increased marginally in 2005 compared with 2004.

Audit Categories were re-defined during 2005 with a view to making it clearer that the appropriate intervention depends on whether the risk is perceived to relate to one or more tax or duty headings or to relate to specific issues or transactions (as opposed to tax or duty headings). In particular, some items which would have been classified as verification audits in 2004 were re-classified as Assurance Checks in 2005. Therefore, in order to make direct comparisons between 2004 and 2005, some 2500 VAT refund verification checks in 2005, now categorised as Assurance Checks, need to be taken into account. When this is done, the number of audits conducted under the Revenue Audit Code of Practice marginally increased in 2005 compared with 2004.

In total there were 98,981 Assurance Checks in 2005 with a yield of €50.41m, which means that the overall outcome from Revenue's Audit and Assurance activity in 2005 was ahead of 2004 both in numbers and in yield.

Assurance checks are interventions by Revenue officers that, although not now categorised as audits under the Code of Practice, may involve tests, verification checks, desk examinations, visits to premises, searches, site visits, and telephone contacts for supporting documentation. Many of these interventions have traditionally been called verification audits. All such interventions are initiated with the intention of assuring Revenue, without recourse to resource-intensive audit or enforcement activity, that the customer is broadly compliant for the taxes and duties that are the subject of the intervention.

Revenue's main focus in this area will continue to be on selecting cases for intervention on the basis of various risk indicators and other information available. This is the type of targeted intervention that gets best results and that is most likely to change the behaviour of the taxpayer into the future. The targeted approach is now greatly enhanced by the new computerised Risk Evaluation Analysis and Profiling System (REAP) recently developed by Revenue. This system, which categorises taxpayers in accordance with defined risk criteria, has been successfully piloted over the last two years and has been introduced nationwide during 2006. It allows for the screening of all tax returns against sectoral and business norms and provides a selection basis for checks or audits. This effectively means that 100% of self-assessed taxpayers will be risk assessed at least once a year.

Revenue constantly monitor the resources available to them for audit and other responsibilities. They advise me, however, that their developing audit and compliance focus is not so much on the traditional quantitative measures of activity but on identifying and tackling the riskiest cases and minimising contacts with compliant taxpayers. This enables their audit and other resources to be deployed to best effect, as is evidenced by the continuing success of the Commissioners in dealing in a very determined way with tax evasion.

Tax Code.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

98 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Finance his views on restoring the rollover tax to farmers and property owners who are being forced to sell property under CPO for the greater good of their neighbours and the nation; his further views on whether it is fair that somebody should be forced to sell property and then be taxed on the forced sale; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38960/06]

Capital Gains Tax (CGT) is a tax on a capital gain arising on the disposal of assets. A 20% rate of CGT applies on the gains arising on the disposal of assets. In Budget 2003, it was announced that no rollover relief would be allowed for any purpose on gains arising from disposals on or after 4 December 2002. Rollover relief applied when CGT rates were much higher. In effect, it was a deferral of the tax to be paid, where the proceeds of the disposal were re-invested into replacement assets. The taxation of these gains would take place following the eventual disposal of the new assets without their replacement. The abolition of this relief is in accordance with the overall taxation policy of widening the tax base in order to keep direct tax rates low.

Such reliefs made sense when CGT rates were 40% and above. As you may be aware, the rate was halved from 40% to 20% in Budget 1998. Taxing capital gains when they are realised is logical, and this change brings CGT into line with other areas.

Where compensation is received for land that is compulsorily acquired, any gains arising from the amount paid for the acquisition of the land are chargeable to tax. In other words, if there is a sum paid by a public authority for the compulsory acquisition of land, then irrespective of its components (for example disturbance, injurious affection etc.), that total sum will be the amount to be assessed for tax. The CGT due on a disposal of land under a CPO is calculated in the same way as any other disposal of land. The consideration for the disposal will be the sum received for the land.

However, in the last two Budgets various measures were introduced to assist the farming community. I announced in the 2005 Budget a new stamp duty relief which applies solely to farmland being exchanged between two farmers for the purposes of consolidating each farmer's holding. Guidelines in relation to this relief are available from the Department of Agriculture and Food. Budget 2006 extended the Young Trained Farmer Stamp Duty Relief for a further three years. I also provided for tax relief on the EU Single Farm Payment Entitlement under CGT Retirement Relief and CAT Agricultural Relief. In addition, I exempted all transfers of the Single Payment from stamp duty.

Garda Stations.

Liam Twomey

Question:

99 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Finance when construction of the new Garda Station for County Wexford is due to start; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36328/06]

It is expected that tenders for the construction of a new Garda Station in Wexford Town will be invited in late 2007. Construction will commence in early 2008.

Financial Services Regulation.

Willie Penrose

Question:

100 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the recently published Three Year Strategy document from the Financial Regulator. [39230/06]

I welcome the publication of the Financial Regulator's Strategic Plan for the next three years, 2007-2009. The Strategic Plan is a detailed and comprehensive statement of the Financial Regulator's objectives. It is set within an explicit performance framework identifying clearly the Financial Regulator's High Level Goals, together with specific actions and indicators of progress. The Strategic Plan will direct the Financial Regulator's work and is a roadmap for Irish financial services regulation until 2009.

The Strategic Plan explains the Financial Regulator's regulatory approach and objective of promoting the best interests of consumers and fostering sound dynamic financial institutions in Ireland. The Plan set outs the Financial Regulator's principles-based approach to regulation and states the principles that the Financial Regulator expects financial service providers to comply with. It also clarifies the Financial Regulator's risk-based approach to supervision and in particular its approach to supervising the international wholesale sector is spelt out.

The Financial Regulator's Strategic Plan is an important manifestation of its open and transparent approach to financial regulation. The Strategic Plan ensures a close alignment of the broad policy objectives with the day-to-day work of the organisation. It provides a clear and objective basis for scrutinising the performance of the Financial Regulator. The plan therefore should enable a constructive engagement between the Financial Regulator, the financial services industry and consumer interests sharply focused on the concrete tasks that the Financial Regulator is now committed to undertake.

The Deputy should note that the Strategic Plan has been developed in consultation with both the Industry and Consumer Consultative Panels and reflects the Financial Regulator's open and constructive dialogue with them.

Tax Code.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

101 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the percentage of taxpayers currently paying tax at the top rate of 42%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39227/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the most up-to-date estimates of the information requested by the Deputy are as follows:

Numbers of income earners on income tax record

Year

Exempt

Paying at 20% or less

Paying at greater than 20%

Total

2006

776,100

937,700

446,700

2,160,500

35.9%

43.4%

20.7%

These figures allow for the fact that many income earners pay no tax at all; many pay tax at a standard rate but pay a much lower average rate because of the application of credits. And for many taxpayers who are, strictly speaking, liable for tax at the higher rate on part of their income, the amount of their liability at the higher rate is fully offset by their tax credits. In fact, tax credits fully offset the 42% liability in the case of all but about 20% of all income earners. Effectively, therefore, many of the ‘top rate' taxpayers actually pay at an average rate of 20% or less.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

102 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance his plans to revise the rate and thresholds in respect of stamp duty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39124/06]

As the Deputy is aware, I do not comment on possible tax changes ahead of the budget.

Tom Hayes

Question:

103 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Finance if he has studied proposals for tax reform to ease the operation of charities; and his views on proposals for VAT compensation, threshold for donation relief and duty relief on banking cards. [39148/06]

As with all tax reliefs, the scheme of tax relief for donations is constantly kept under review and any proposals submitted are examined carefully by my Department.

On the subject of VAT compensation, the position is that charities and non-profit groups engaged in non-commercial activity are exempt from VAT under the EU Sixth VAT Directive, with which Irish VAT law must comply. This means they do not charge VAT on the services they provide and cannot recover VAT incurred on goods and services that they purchase. Essentially only VAT registered businesses which charge VAT are able to recover VAT.

I understand that the Irish Charities Tax Reform Group (ICTRG) accepts that charities cannot be granted VAT refunds through the tax system. However, they are seeking the introduction of a grant or subsidy in lieu of the VAT charities pay on their business inputs and estimate that this would cost the Exchequer €18 million per annum.

The Revenue Commissioners have advised that there are currently 7,000 charities registered with them. It is therefore likely that the introduction of a scheme along the lines proposed by the ICTRG would cost the Exchequer significantly more than the €18 million they have estimated. The introduction of a grant in lieu of VAT paid by registered charities would undoubtedly lead to other exempt bodies such as schools, hospitals and sporting organisations, many of which are already registered as charities, seeking to benefit from such a system. These are in most cases already receiving considerable Exchequer funding.

Finally, even if funds were available to introduce such a grant scheme, relieving charities registered with the Revenue Commissioners of the VAT paid on inputs as opposed to grant-aiding their activities using other criteria is not considered the most appropriate use of Exchequer funds.

On the issue of the threshold for donations relief, amending the scheme to increase the tax relief available could significantly increase the current cost of the scheme to the Exchequer. The relief is already very generous. There is no upper limit on the amount which can be donated generally and relief is granted at the donor's marginal rate of income tax. Donations can be cumulative, so that a donation of just €5 per week over the course of a year would qualify, for example. The donations scheme was one of the tax reliefs examined as part of last year's overall review of tax reliefs and exemptions. The review concluded that the €250 minimum threshold is serving its purpose and should be retained at its current level, subject to ongoing review. I agree with this conclusion.

With regard to duty relief on banking cards, I assume the Deputy is referring to the proposal to introduce a donation scheme in relation to the stamp duty paid on such cards. I have no plans to introduce a scheme along the lines proposed. In line with normal practice, stamp duty revenues are applied by the Exchequer for the common good, as determined by the Oireachtas. Earmarking particular taxes reduces the discretion of Government and the Oireachtas in determining the priority areas in which public money should be spent.

National Development Plan.

Dan Neville

Question:

104 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Finance the schedule of presentation of programmes under the National Development Plan. [39173/06]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

126 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance the plans in place by his Department within the new National Development Plan to rectify the €3.5 billion underspend in the Border Midland Western region under the current National Development Plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38961/06]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

160 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance his plans for road improvement investment under the new National Development Plan in view of the €500 million underspend on roads in the BMW region under the current National Development Plan and taking into account the current state of the roads in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38962/06]

Denis Naughten

Question:

163 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance his plans for funding under the next National Development Plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38958/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 104, 126, 160 and 163 together.

The National Development Plan 2007-2013, to be published in January next, will be a high level strategic document which will provide the framework for investment over the next seven years. The Plan will in particular seek to address the investment necessary to maintain national competitiveness and promote regional development within a sustainable economic and budgetary framework. Whilst the precise details of the Plan will have to await its publication it will focus on investment priorities and programmes in public, economic and social infrastructure including roads, public transport, environmental services, energy, housing, education, health, childcare and R&D. The Plan will also address investment in human capital, social inclusion and in enterprise development including agriculture, tourism and marine. The Plan will also address a number of horizontal themes including Regional Development, Environmental Sustainability, The Rural Economy, All-Island Co-operation and the promotion of Social Inclusion.

The Plan will set out indicative seven year allocations on a national basis in the key programme areas. The allocation of these indicative amounts at project level will generally be a matter for individual Ministers, Departments and implementing agencies as appropriate over the period of the Plan. Project level allocation will of course have to be consistent with the strategic goals of the NDP including maintaining national competitiveness, regional development, promotion of social inclusion and environmental sustainability.

The House will be aware of the general state of play in relation to expenditure under the current Plan in the BMW Region from previous debates and questions on the issue. The figures reported at the recent Monitoring Committee meetings indicate that some €11.1 billion or 82% of forecast Exchequer and EU expenditure had been incurred by the end of June 2006. This is a healthy implementation rate in view of the slow start up in some areas at the very beginning, the relatively disappointing response in certain demand led schemes and the fact that Exchequer spending in relation to Structural Fund Measures for the 2000-2006 period will in fact continue up to 2008 in accordance with EU Regulations. Based on the most recent information available to me from Monitoring Committee reports including their assessments of continuing spend under the current NDP, I expect that by the end of the programme period, the original forecasts for Exchequer and EU spending in the BMW region will have been realised in full.

An important objective of the new NDP will be the promotion of balanced regional development in line with the National Spatial Strategy (the NSS). The details of the strategy for regional development will have to await publication of the Plan. I am, nonetheless, confident that the level of ambition in the overall NDP investment envelope combined with a commitment to utilise this investment to implement the NSS will lead to a better balance in economic development.

Decentralisation Programme.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

105 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the number of civil servants and other public servant who applied for relocation under the Government’s decentralisation programme and who subsequently withdrew their applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39248/06]

The Public Appointments Service estimates that approximately 540 applications have been withdrawn from the Central Applications Facility (CAF) to date. Because of the nature of the programme and the timescales involved, individual circumstances are open to change and therefore application status can fluctuate as the programme is rolled out. The picture will become clearer over the coming period as staff are assigned to decentralising organisations.

There are currently 10,670 applications on the CAF. The CAF remains open and applications continue to be received on an ongoing basis from individuals wishing to decentralise under the programme.

Question No. 106 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

Tax Code.

Dan Boyle

Question:

107 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Finance if the vehicle registration tax relief for flexible fuel vehicles and the excise relief for biofuels measures announced in Budget 2006 have been introduced; the number who have applied for each of the measures; the number of approvals granted in each instance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39073/06]

As the Deputy is aware, in Budget 2006 I approved a new relief scheme which provides for the remission or repayment of 50% VRT payable or paid on the registration of certain new flexible fuel vehicles that derive vehicle propulsion by means of an engine manufactured in such manner that enables motive power to be sourced from a combination of bioethanol and petrol (E85). The purpose of this scheme is to encourage the development of new technology that is used in the manufacture of vehicles that have flexible fuel capabilities which produce lower pollutant emissions than conventional vehicles fuelled exclusively by petrol/diesel. To date 73 flexible fuel vehicles have been registered in 2006.

The Deputy is also aware that in Finance Act 2006 I provided for a major new 5 year scheme of Excise Relief for Biofuels. The scheme will provide for excise relief on up to 163 million litres of biofuels per annum and cost over €200m over 5 years.

The Scheme was advertised by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in late July 2006. Over 100 applications for excise relief were received and I am informed that the assessment panel has forwarded its recommendations to my colleague, Mr. Noel Dempsey TD, Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. It is expected that approval will be sought from me, shortly, in respect of the granting of excise relief to the projects selected by the assessment panel.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

108 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on progress being made regarding the feasibility of the proposal backed by a number of banks, for consumers to be permitted to direct the €40 stamp duty on credit cards towards registered charities and sports organisations. [39083/06]

I have already indicated on a number of occasions that I have no plans to introduce a scheme along the lines proposed.

In line with normal practice, stamp duty revenues are applied by the Exchequer for the common good, as determined by the Oireachtas. Earmarking particular taxes reduces the discretion of Government and the Oireachtas in determining the priority areas in which public money should be spent.

Joan Burton

Question:

109 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the cost in tax foregone of the research and development tax credit; the cost for 2004; the estimated cost for 2005; the estimated cost for 2006; the analysis of the take up of the credit as between Irish indigenous companies and foreign owned businesses; if he has completed a review of the area; and his proposals to improve the levels of research and development particularly by Irish indigenous industry. [39217/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the most recent year for which complete information on the cost to the Exchequer of the tax credit in relation to research and development is the accounting year ended 2004. This is the year in which the tax credit was first introduced. Some 73 claims were made for a total credit of €70.5 million against the corporation tax liability of the companies concerned for 2004. Insofar as it is discernible from the information available, the Revenue Commissioners indicate that, of the numbers of claims made in respect of 2004, about 75% came from Irish indigenous companies and 25% from foreign-owned companies. Data is not yet available to enable accurate estimates of the cost of the tax credit scheme for 2005 and 2006 to be compiled.

I have received a number of proposals in pre-Budget submissions from various sources suggesting changes to the existing R&D tax credit scheme. Officials of my Department, in conjunction with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Revenue Commissioners have consulted with relevant interested parties on this issue, including representatives of Irish indigenous industry, and have been carrying out a preliminary review of the current scheme which has only been in operation for a relatively short period of time. I will take account of that review in the context of my preparations for the forthcoming Budget.

Financial Services Regulation.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

110 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance when the new common framework for testing the fitness of directors and senior managers of financial services published by the Financial Regulator, will come into effect; his views on whether existing directors and managers will not be subject to this test; if there are immediate plans to extend this framework to moneylending and mortgage intermediaries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39234/06]

My Department has been advised by the Financial Regulator that the new common framework for testing the fitness and probity of directors and senior managers of financial services firms will apply from 1 January 2007. Previously, the Financial Regulator assessed the fitness and probity of directors and managers against broadly similar standards but with different sectoral processes. Existing directors or managers will not have to complete the new Individual Questionnaire since they have already been subject to the previous sector-specific tests, but will be subject to the test for any new positions.

The Financial Regulator has also advised that moneylenders and mortgage intermediaries are already subject to regular fitness and probity tests as part of their authorisation procedure and because the existing test takes account of the specificities of the sector they work in it is not planned to extend the new common framework to them.

Directors and managers of financial service firms have an important role to play in ensuring that their firms treat their customers fairly and are run in compliance with applicable financial services legislation. The new common fit and proper requirements help prove that this role is discharged by persons who are competent and of good standing.

Decentralisation Programme.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

111 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance the anticipated costs, in terms of acquiring, and equipping premises and other related costs at the latest date for which figures are available, of the original decentralisation programme announced in Budget 2004 and the slimmed down version announced in December 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39246/06]

The Government is committed to the full implementation of the Decentralisation Programme announced in Budget 2004, involving some 10.300 civil and public service jobs in more that 56 locations across some 60 Government Departments/Office and Agencies.

My Office is in the process of procuring appropriate properties in the designed locations for the departments and agencies involved, with much progress having been made to date. Property acquisition negotiations are completed or are significantly advanced at 35 locations.

The prevailing property market conditions in each geographical area have a significant bearing on the cost of acquiring sites. As the acquisition process is still in progress, it is not possible at this stage to provide a precise estimate of the cost of the site acquisition programme. However, and for working purposes only, an indicative figure of €75 to €100 million (excluding VAT) is being used by the OPW.

Although property solutions will include leasing and fitting-out of existing buildings, it is anticipated that, in the majority of cases, the accommodation facilities will be provided by the construction of new office buildings and cost estimation can be approached on that basis. However, in advance of actual market testing of any procurement methodology, it is possible, at this time, only to assign the most general measurements of cost to such a large-scale, diverse and complex programme.

It is estimated that approximately 210,000sq. m of office space will be required to accommodate the total numbers included in the programme. OPW cost norms (April 2005) in respect of offices would indicate an average build-cost to fit-out standard, in the range of €1,800 to €2,200 per square metre for suburban / rural locations and €2,500 and €3,000 per square metre in city / town centre locations. Such figures exclude VAT, professional fees and inflation.

In addition, the cost of equipping the accommodation to standard office equipment levels should be estimated at c.€4,000 per person. This would exclude the cost of Information and Communication Technology and specialised equipment requirements.

Such general measurements of cost do not include specialised facility and equipment requirements and other variables which would arise from the spread of possible procurement methodologies. In addition general cost indicators of this type show a snapshot in time.

It is self-evident that a firmer scale of costs for the decentralisation programme will only emerge on foot of actual cost proposals being received from the market. It will be some months yet before sufficient date can be extracted from a suitable range of tender competitions to provide a basis on which more robust estimates of the overall cost of the programme can be made. However, on the basis of experience to date, there is no reason to adjust the original estimates for the overall programme.

Tax Yield.

John Gormley

Question:

112 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a detailed breakdown of the way stamp duty receipts have been made up in 2006 to date. [39079/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the breakdown of Stamp duty receipts, on a Revenue Net Receipts basis, in the nine months to end-September 2006 is as follows:

€m

% of Total

Land & Property

2,131

81.03

Of which Residential Property

947

6.0

Stocks & Shares

295

11.2

Companies Capital Duty

6

0.2

Cheques, Bills of Exchange etc

116

4.4

Insurance & Miscellaneous

82

3.1

Total

2,630

100.0*

*Figures may not add due to rounding.

These figures are not yet finalised and are subject to change.

The yield from land and property transactions owes much to the continued strong performance of the property market.

While Finance Bill 2006 provided for the abolition of companies capital duty for transactions effected on or after 7 December 2005, €6m arrears of companies capital duty has been paid this year in the nine months to end-September.

Question No. 113 answered with QuestionNo. 68.

Pension Provisions.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

114 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance his views on the options for pension reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39171/06]

As I stated in my reply to question no. 33171/06 on 18 October last, the Government's position on pension reform is reflected in the statement issued in August by my colleague the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when the Report of the Pensions Board on Supplementary Pensions — "Special Savings for Retirement" — was published. This statement recognised the many challenges in relation to pension coverage, while also making it clear that no pension system is worthwhile unless it is sustainable. It also highlighted the need for any examination of pensions policy to recognise the following facts:

that the number of persons aged 65 is projected to double from a current level of some 464,000, to nearly one million by 2030;

the public cost of providing for those in this age group will rise from 13% of GNP to over 17%, apart from other pressures or enhancements to social welfare or public services;

there are over 4 workers contributing to the support of every pensioner at present; this will fall to 2.7 in 20 years time and to less than 1.5 workers per pensioner in 50 years time;

that people are living longer, healthier lives and this, in itself, must inevitably mean a longer working life is possible and that a higher pension age overall may in time become the norm.

The Government is committed to publishing a Green Paper on Pensions Policy outlining the major policy choices and challenges in this area. Work on the Green Paper, which will take account of the views of the social partners, is being progressed by my colleague the Minister for Social and Family Affairs. The Government is also committed to responding to the consultations arising from the Green Paper within 12 months of the ratification of Towards 2016 by developing a comprehensive framework for addressing the pensions agenda over the long term.

The financial and economic sustainability of our pensions system is extremely important in the context of any future decisions the Government may take in this area. Changing demographic trends over the coming years will present a number of significant interrelated challenges which can only be addressed if the economy remains competitive and improves its long-term growth potential. It will be vital that policy development in this area is underpinned by a comprehensive assessment of the impact on competitiveness and macro-economic performance so that the right mix of policies can be developed for the long-term.

Fiscal Policy.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

115 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the latest developments in the European Commission in relation to corporation tax harmonisation and recent comments by EU Commissioner Laszlo Kovacs in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39235/06]

A technical working group chaired by the Commission is continuing its work on the feasibility of introducing a common consolidated tax base in the EU. Ireland, like all other member States, is participating in that work without prejudice to our national position of opposition to the introduction of any common rules.

Commissioner Kovacs has made it clear on a number of occasions that while the Commission favours the introduction of common rules for assessing taxable profits of groups within the EU, the harmonisation of tax rates is not part of the agenda.

I would remind the Deputy that we are opposed to any moves towards direct tax harmonisation and our views and those of other member states that have a similar position are widely known.

Tax Code.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

116 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Finance the expected distribution of income earners for income tax payments for 2005 and 2006 broken down in number and percentage terms into the categories of exempt, marginal relief, standard rate and higher rate; the estimate of the number of people with an income in excess of €100,000 and in excess of €1million that will have a zero rate of income tax or a less than 5% rate of income tax for 2005 and 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39228/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested by the Deputy in relation to the distribution of income earners is set out in the following table:

Numbers of income earners on income tax record

Year

Exempt

Paying at 20% or less

Paying at greater than 20%

Total

2005

732,400

895,600*

458,100

2,086,100

35.1%

42.9%

22.0%

2006

776,100

937,700**

446,700

2,160,500

35.9%

43.4%

20.7%

*Including 19,100 income earners (0.9%) paying at the marginal relief rate of tax.

**Including 18,800 income earners (0.9%) paying at the marginal relief rate of tax.

The above figures allow for the fact that many income earners pay no tax at all; many pay tax at a standard rate but pay a much lower average rate because of the application of credits. And for many taxpayers who are, strictly speaking, liable for tax at the higher rate on part of their income, the amount of their liability at the higher rate is fully offset by their tax credits. In fact, tax credits fully offset the 42% liability in the case of all but about 20% of all income earners. Effectively, therefore, many of the ‘top rate' taxpayers actually pay at an average rate of 20% or less.

Note: Figures in the above table are rounded to the nearest hundred and any apparent discrepancies in totals are due to this. In addition, the figures are provisional and subject to revision.

The figures are estimates from the Revenue tax forecasting model using actual data for the year 2003 adjusted as necessary for income growth for the years in question.

The most recent basic data on incomes available from which the information requested by the Deputy in relation to effective tax rates could be derived is in respect of the income tax year 2003. If the effective rate of income tax for each income earner in 2003 is calculated as the percentage of total tax liability to total income, the number of income earners with no net liability for income tax or a net liability for income tax of less than 5% rate is estimated as follows:

Income Range

No Net Liability

Net Liability of less than 5%

Over 100,000

186

873

Over 1 million

4

32

These figures take account of Deposit Interest Retention Tax paid.

To arrive at the figure for total income the gross income is reduced by various relevant deductions and allowances such as capital allowances, losses, allowable expenses and retirement annuities.

It might be noted that for 2003, the tax liability of those earning over 100,000 (gross income) represents 30.3% of the total income tax liability for 2003. In addition, the effective rate for those earning over 100,000 in 2003 is 32.5%. This compares with an effective rate for those earning 100,000 or less in 2003 of 13.2% and an effective rate for all income earners in 2003 of 16.1%.

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

The information on incomes is based on income returns on Revenue records at the time the data were compiled for analytical purposes, representing about 96 per cent of all returns expected.

National Debt.

Pat Carey

Question:

117 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance the level of the national debt as a share of national income in 2006; the way this compares to 1997; the share of income tax revenues required to service the debt today compared to 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39070/06]

The figures for the National Debt and debt service payments on the National Debt are taken from the Annual Reports of the National Treasury Management Agency.

In 1997, the National Debt was equivalent to 65.4% of GNP and the cost of servicing the debt in that year was equivalent to 46.3% of income tax revenues. The Deputy will of course be aware that the burden of debt for the Irish taxpayer has fallen very considerably as a result of this Government's prudent fiscal policies. The latest full-year figures available, for 2005, show that the ratio of debt to GNP has fallen by over half since 1997 to 28.1% and that the percentage share of income tax revenues required to service the debt has fallen even more substantially to 12.8%.

Tax Code.

John Deasy

Question:

118 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to an arrangement whereby stamp duty on a property transaction can be substantially avoided by using a company sale as an alternative vehicle for the transaction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39139/06]

Under the stamp duty code, liability to duty mainly arises where there is a conveyance or transfer of the legal title to certain property. It is the instrument of conveyance that is liable to stamp duty and it requires having a "stamp" impressed thereon. The rates of stamp duty that are applicable to various instruments are set out in Schedule 1 to Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999. Historically, different rates of ad valorem stamp duty have applied to instruments transferring real property and those transferring stocks/ marketable securities (viz. mainly shares). The rate of duty on the transfers of shares has remained at 1% since 1951, while the rate of duty on the transfer of real property has varied over the intervening years. The current rates for transfer of non-residential property are as follows:

Aggregate Consideration

Rate of Duty

Up to €10,000

Exempt

€10,001 to €20,000

1%

€20,001 to €30,000

2%

€30,001 to €40,000

3%

€40,001 to €70,000

4%

€70,001 to €80,000

5%

€80,001 to €100,000

6%

€100,001 to €120,000

7%

€120,001 to€150,000

8%

Over €150,000

9%

Non-Residential Property is basically any property other than residential property, stocks or marketable securities or policies of insurance. It includes (but is not limited to) sites, offices, factories, other business premises, shops, public houses, land and goodwill attaching to a business.

If an instrument transfers the shares of a company, then the stamp duty rate is 1% of the value of the shares. This is the case whether all or part of the value of the shares derives from real property held by the company e.g. commercial buildings, offices, factories, lands etc. The purchaser of the shares will be a shareholder in a company that now owns the real property. General corporate law regards a company as having a personality distinct from its shareholder.

Question No. 119 answered with QuestionNo. 94.
Question No. 120 answered with QuestionNo. 68.

Decentralisation Programme.

Michael Ring

Question:

121 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance the number of the proposed decentralisation moves announced in December 2003, in respect of which no property solutions have yet been identified. [39184/06]

The Decentralisation Programme envisages the relocation of some 10,600 civil and public servants to more that 50 locations outside of Dublin. By any standards, this represents a major undertaking, involving property procurement, legal, construction, H.R. and operational issues.

The Office of Public Works has direct responsibility for the property aspects relating to most of these locations. In the case of a small number of locations e.g. Birr (FÁS), Mitchelstown (Bus Éireann), Shannon (Enterprise Ireland) and Wexford (N.B.A.), the responsibility for the acquisition of property solutions rests with the relevant agencies.

Since the announcement of the programme, the Office of Public Works has been engaged in an extensive exercise with the aim of sourcing a range of property solutions covering all of its locations. The solutions include development sites, purchase or lease of existing buildings as well as purchase or lease of proposed buildings with planning permission.

To date, property acquisition negotiations have been completed or significantly advanced by the Office of Public Works in 35 locations in respect of permanent accommodation solutions. The solutions to date include a combination of O.P.W. owned sites, local authority owned sites and privately owned sites. In a number of cases, it has been decided to lease or purchase buildings. In parallel with the acquisition of permanent accommodation solutions, the Office of Public Works has been involved in sourcing temporary solutions in some 20 locations in order to accommodate advance parties. These temporary solutions will allow the early movement of staff to their desired locations and will also facilitate them regarding their domestic family arrangements.

In a number of locations various proposals are still being evaluated and firm, preferred solutions have yet to be identified. These locations include Dundalk, Kildare, Monaghan, Arklow, Portarlington, Ballinasloe, Mallow, Carrick-on-Shannon (Central Fisheries Board) and Macroom.

The Decentralisation Implementations Group on its recent report expressed its satisfaction on progress to date in terms of property acquisition. The Group noted that significant progress has been made as is evidenced by the fact that approximately 500 staff are currently in new locations and that over 2,100 staff have already been reassigned to decentralising posts.

Taking into account the permanent and temporary solutions already sourced, the expectation is that there will be accommodation for approximately 2,000 staff in 29 locations by the end of 2007. Furthermore, it is expected that upwards of 6,800 staff will be accommodated in decentralised locations by the end of 2009. The progress achieved to date on the property front confirms that the Decentralisation Programme is well advanced and on course to achieve the Government's objective.

Tax Code.

Damien English

Question:

122 Mr. English asked the Minister for Finance if he has instructed the Revenue Commissioners to conduct an estimate of under claiming of tax reliefs by taxpayers; and the latest estimate which he has of the extent of the problem. [39144/06]

I have not instructed the Revenue Commissioners to conduct an estimate of underclaiming of tax reliefs by taxpayers. Revenue advise me that in the current year to the end of October, they have made a total of 485,000 repayments involving an amount of €353 million. This is the factual situation in relation to what has been claimed and it is difficult to speculate about what more might be claimable.

I am satisfied that Revenue are very proactive in ensuring that taxpayers are fully informed of their entitlements. During August, September and October this year, Revenue ran an intense high profile campaign to encourage taxpayers to claim the reliefs to which they are entitled. This campaign involved advertisements on bus shelters, the DART and the Luas and there is a continuing campaign of placing leaflets and claim forms in clinics, doctors' surgeries and pharmacies. There has been a positive outcome to this campaign which is shown in a significant increase in the number of people contacting Revenue and claiming entitlements particularly in relation to trade union subscriptions, bin charges and age, rent, home carers and dependent relative credits. It is expected that the campaign will also lead to an increase in the number of claims in relation to health expenses at the end of this year and early in the New Year when the majority of these claims are normally made.

Richard Bruton

Question:

123 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the escalation of stamp duty costs on young families; and his views on measures to relieve this. [39127/06]

I take it that the Deputy's question relates to stamp duty on residential property.

The rate of stamp duty on residential property is dependent on the status of the buyer (first time buyer or owner occupier) and whether the property is new or second hand. Stamp duty is chargeable on the purchase of residential properties greater than €127,000. There are exemptions available for first time buyers and owner occupiers. First time buyers can purchase second hand properties up to €317,500 without a liability to stamp duty. In addition, there are reduced rates on properties up to €635,000. All owner occupiers (including first time buyers) can purchase a new home between 38sq. m and 125sq. m., where a Floor Area Compliance Certificate has been obtained, without a liability to stamp duty. Where a new house is over 125sq. m., stamp duty is charged on either the value of the site or 25% of the value of the property, whichever is the greater. As stamp duty arises on the conveyance or transfer of the legal title in a house, there is a direct relationship between the price of the house and the stamp duty payable. It is therefore logical that the greater the house prices, the higher the stamp duty liability.

Tax Yield.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

124 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance if the Revenue Commissioners Office have set an increased target level of random audits following from their findings that 30% of targeted businesses had a liability; his views on the implications of this high percentage for the self assessment system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39224/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the objectives of their random audit programme are to measure and track compliance with tax legislation, validate Revenue's risk analysis approach and ensure that all taxpayers run the risk of being audited.

Revenue further advise me that of 379 random audit cases finalised from their 2005 programme, 277 cases or 73% have had no liability and over 80% yielded either nothing or less than €2000 in additional yield. It is instructive to compare the outcome to date of the 2005 random programme with that of the targeted programme. The average yield from all Random audits completed to date as part of the 2005 programme at €3,437 is less than 10% of the average yield from all targeted audits at €36,933. Revenue advise me that a random audit programme will continue to be a feature of the overall Revenue audit programme in future years. However at this time they have no plans to increase the numbers of random audits beyond approximately 400 per annum. Internationally a sample of this size is regarded as an acceptable sample for the size of the population being measured and sufficient to validate Revenue's risk approach and to ensure that all taxpayers run the risk of being selected for audit. It is also clear from comparisons of random and targeted audits that there is an opportunity cost associated with random work which Revenue must take into account.

While the random audit programme is important therefore, its significance should not be overplayed and it would almost certainly be premature and unsafe to draw conclusions on foot of the results from one year's random programme. Revenue are not prepared to do this. The main focus of Revenue will continue to be on selecting cases for audit based on the presence of various risk indicators and other information available. This is the type of targeted audit that gets best results and that is most likely to change the behaviour of the taxpayer into the future. The targeted approach is now greatly enhanced by the new computerised Risk Evaluation Analysis and Profiling System (REAP) recently developed by Revenue. This system, which categorises taxpayers in accordance with defined risk criteria, has been successfully piloted over the last two years and has been introduced nationwide during 2006. The system allows for the screening of all tax returns against sectoral and business norms and provides a selection basis for check or audits. This effectively means that 100% of self-assessed taxpayers will be risk assessed at least once a year. This approach allows valuable audit resources to be assigned to tackling those cases featuring in the higher end of risk ranking and analysis of the 2005 random results to date shows that there is strong evidence to suggest that this risk-based approach is the correct one.

Aer Lingus.

David Stanton

Question:

125 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance the proceeds received to date by the Exchequer from the sale of shares in Aer Lingus; and if these funds are to be placed under management by the NTMA. [39201/06]

To date the Exchequer has received €240,902,257.20 from the sale of shares in Aer Lingus. These funds have been lodged to the Exchequer and will be classified as in the Finance Accounts as Capital Receipts.

Question No. 126 answered with QuestionNo. 104.
Question No. 127 answered with QuestionNo. 86.

Tax Code.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

128 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance if, further to the appearance of the Irish Charities Reform Action Group at the Finance Committee, there are proposals to alter the tax status of charities here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39241/06]

The position is that charities and non-profit groups engaged in non-commercial activity are exempt from VAT under the EU Sixth VAT Directive, with which Irish VAT law must comply. This means they do not charge VAT on the services they provide and cannot recover VAT incurred on goods and services that they purchase. Essentially only VAT registered businesses which charge VAT are able to recover VAT.

The Irish Charities Tax Reform Group (ICTRG) appears to accepts that charities can not be granted VAT refunds through the tax system. However, they are still seeking the introduction of a grant or subsidy in lieu of the VAT charities pay on their business inputs and estimate that this would cost €18 million per annum.

In this regard, the 140 bodies represented by the ICTRG already acknowledge that they receive €8.6 million in funding either directly or indirectly from the Exchequer. However, there are currently 7,000 charities registered with the Revenue Commissioners. It is therefore likely that the introduction of a scheme along the lines proposed by the ICTRG would cost the Exchequer significantly more than the €18 million they have estimated. The ICTRG will argue that they represent the largest charities but that is not the case as many educational and sporting organisations are also registered with the Revenue Commissioners as charitable or not-for-profit organisations. Therefore, the introduction of grant in lieu of VAT paid by registered charities would undoubtedly lead to other exempt bodies such as schools, hospitals and sporting, many of which are already registered as charities, seeking to benefit from such a system of refunds. These exempt bodies are already receiving considerable Exchequer funding.

Charities are exempt from Income Tax, DIRT, Stamp duty, Capital taxes and donations to charities are tax relieved. These are of substantial benefit to charities already.

Financial Services Regulation.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

129 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance his views on calls from the Credit Union Development Association for a State savings protection scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39231/06]

There is no State savings guarantee for savers with Irish credit institutions generally. There is, however, a deposit protection scheme funded by credit institutions (other than credit unions) which are authorised by the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland. The Deputy should note that a key principle underlying the operation of the deposit protection scheme is that the full cost of financing the scheme must be borne by the participating credit institutions.

The level of contribution required from each credit institution is 0.2% of deposits held at all branches of the credit institution in the EEA, including deposits on current accounts and share accounts with a building society (but excluding certain other specified deposits). Contributions are maintained in a Deposit Protection Account at the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland. The European Communities (Deposit Guarantee Schemes) Regulations, 1995 set out the terms and conditions governing deposit protection in Ireland.

In the case of credit unions the Irish League of Credit Unions operates a separate Savings Protection Scheme (SPS). The SPS aims to protect individual savings of members by making sure that the credit unions are financially and administratively sound and by providing remedial help to any participating credit union which shows signs of weakness in these areas. Savings of individual credit union members are also protected. The operation of the credit union SPS is consistent with the specific regulatory approach adopted for credit unions under the Credit Union Act, 1997 which is differentiated from that applying to mainstream commercial financial institutions on account of the unique ethos and philosophy of the credit union movement. In this context, the 32 county all-island basis of the current SPS is valuable and one that is important to maintain. In May 2006 the Financial Regulator agreed to examine proposals for the reform of the existing SPS for credit unions.

Tax Yield.

Martin Ferris

Question:

130 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Finance his views on the dependence of the Government on revenue generated from taxes related to construction and consumption. [39114/06]

The main consumption related taxes are VAT and Excise duty. Taken together these two tax-heads were forecast to account for €18.6 billion or 45 per cent of total tax revenues in 2006, a very significant proportion of total tax revenues. Construction impacts on a number of tax-heads, most notably capital taxes such as Stamp duty and Capital gains tax but also VAT and to a lesser extent Income tax, PRSI receipts and Corporation tax.

While revenues from construction related taxes such as Stamp duty and Capital gains tax have made an increasing contribution to the Exchequer in recent years, we are not overly reliant on receipts from these sources. For example, taken together the Stamp duty and Capital Gains tax tax-heads were forecast to contribute just 11 per cent of total targeted tax revenues in 2006. In contrast the 4 main tax-heads — VAT, Income tax, Corporation tax and Excise were forecast to account for just over 87 per cent of tax receipts this year.

Care has been taken not to plan the public finances around an assumption that receipts from Stamp duty and Capital gains tax will continue to grow in future years as they have in the recent past. This is a prudent and sensible approach to take.

Construction Industry.

Joe Costello

Question:

131 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to reports that there has been a sharp increase in the number of construction companies making bad debt claims from their trade credit insurance policies and that the ratio of claims to premiums paid has exceeded the 50% ratio at the leading underwriter of trade credit insurance for the construction industry; if the Government is concerned at the implications this sudden increase in bad debt in the construction sector has for the health of the economy here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39219/06]

I am aware of the reports referred to by the Deputy. My Department is not however, aware of this measure as a leading indicator of activity in the construction sector. The Deputy should note that according to the Pre-Budget Outlook published by my Department last month real GNP is projected to increase by 5% in 2007 underpinned by a continued strong performance of the construction sector with the overall level of new housing output in 2007 projected to be broadly in line with 2006.

Question No. 132 answered with QuestionNo. 94.

Traffic Management.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

133 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recent report published by the Office of Public Works in conjunction with consultants (details supplied) in relation to traffic management in the Phoenix Park. [39249/06]

The recent study commissioned from the independent firm of consultants, Faber Maunsell, following extensive consultation with interested groups, centres on traffic management in the Phoenix Park. Since the publication of the report my Office has been arranging a series of presentations with residents groups, local authorities, public representatives and other interested parties. The feedback from this process will be taken into account when decisions are made in relation to the implementation of these measures, subject to availability of the necessary resources.

Financial Services Regulation.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

134 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance if the Financial Regulator has conducted a study into the penalty charges charged to consumers here by credit card companies; if there are proposals to regulate and limit these charges as has been enforced by the Office of Fair Trading in the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39242/06]

Credit card companies that fall within the definition of ‘credit institutions' for the purposes of the Consumer Credit Act, 1995, must notify the Financial Regulator of any proposal to introduce or increase charges for services as defined in Section 149 of the Act. This encompasses any penalty or surcharge interest imposed in respect of arrears on a credit agreement or a loan, including penalty fees charged to consumers by credit card companies as referred to in the Deputy's question. In considering each charging proposal, the Financial Regulator assesses it against the criteria set down in the Act and either approves the charge at the notified level, approves it at a lower level or rejects the proposal. The criteria set out in the Act are: the promotion of fair competition; the statement of commercial justification; a credit institution passing any costs on to its customers; and the effect on customers of any proposal to impose or change any charge in relation to the provision of such service.

The Financial Regulator continually monitors developments in the industry, both domestically and internationally, with regard to the provision of financial services. The Financial Regulator publishes a Credit Card Cost Survey, which is available on its website or from its offices in College Green, that gives details of the Late Payment Fees, Over Credit Limit Fees and Unpaid Items Fees imposed by credit card providers. In addition, the Financial Regulator's new Consumer Protection Code requires all institutions governed by this Code to make full disclosure of all material information, including all charges.

Tax Yield.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

135 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the expected rise in income tax receipts in 2007 as a result of termination of SSIA accounts; and if these moneys are being allocated to particular purposes. [39179/06]

My Department currently expects that there will be a gain to income tax in 2007 of approximately €600 million over 2006 arising from the discontinuance of the tax credit contribution to SSIAs and also the exit tax yield from maturing SSIAs.

It should be noted that in 2007 the gain arising from the ending of the SSIA scheme will be broadly offset by the cash-flow loss from the ending of the transitional arrangements for the movement of the payment date for corporation tax from a prior to a current year basis which was introduced in Budget 2002.

Enda Kenny

Question:

136 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the absolute value of the increase and the percentage increase in total tax raised since 2002; and if he has satisfied himself with the tax policies underpinning this trend. [39153/06]

In 2002, Exchequer tax receipts amounted to €29,294 million. Receipts in 2006 in the October Pre-Budget Outlook were estimated at €43,850 million. This translates into an absolute increase of just over €14.5 billion or a percentage increase of 49.7 per cent since 2002.

A large part of the increases in taxes in recent years came from the Revenue Commissioner's special investigations and also the continued strength of the property market over the period. However, the main reason we are receiving more in tax is the significant growth in the economy over the period. The tax and economic policies being pursued by this Government have put more money into the pockets of taxpayers and they are spending and investing that extra money as they see fit. This extra spending and investment yields extra taxes. I am more than satisfied with the policies that have facilitated this increased economic activity.

Question No. 137 answered with QuestionNo. 86.

Tax Code.

Denis Naughten

Question:

138 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance his views on zero rating VAT on road safety products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38957/06]

The position is that the VAT rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. Under the Sixth VAT Directive Member States may retain the zero rates on goods and services, which have been in place since 1 January 1991, but cannot extend the zero rate to other goods and services.

It is therefore not possible under EU law to apply a zero VAT rate to the provision of road safety products.

Tax Collection.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

139 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Finance the amount paid to date to the Revenue Commissioners Office in respect of settlements made in connection with its investigation into the use of life assurance policies for tax evasion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39254/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they are conducting their investigation into the use by taxpayers of life assurance investment products for the purposes of tax evasion in two stages. In the first stage of these enquiries taxpayers who invested undisclosed and undeclared funds in life assurance investment products were given an opportunity to make a voluntary disclosure. About 5,000 taxpayers made payments of around €400 million in the course of the disclosure scheme.

The second stage of this investigation relates to the identification and pursuit of taxpayers who should have availed of the voluntary disclosure scheme but who opted not to. This stage commenced on 23 May 2005, the closing date for taxpayers to advise Revenue that they intended to make voluntary disclosures in the first stage of the enquiries. New powers were provided in the Finance Act 2005 to authorise Revenue officers to examine the records that relate to a class or classes of life assurance policies and policyholders in the course of conducting sampling exercises. Revenue has completed its on-site sampling work in all of the relevant Life Assurance companies.

The information gathered in this process and from the voluntary disclosures has been used to ground applications to the High Court for orders directing Life Assurance companies to provide information to Revenue that will facilitate the identification of the taxpayers who ought to be included in the follow-up enquiry programme. To date 11 High Court orders have been applied for and made. It is envisaged that the information that is sought in these orders will be delivered to Revenue by the end of November of this year. It is expected that the follow-up enquiry programme will commence in the first half of 2007.

Ethics in Public Office.

Paul McGrath

Question:

140 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the circumstances in which a gift to a serving Minister will be deemed to be a conflict of interest under the purposed new amendment to rules governing Ethics in Public Offices. [39165/06]

The Deputy will be aware that office holders and members of the Dáil and Seanad may accept a significant gift in only limited circumstances.

The Taoiseach and Tánaiste issued statements last month indicating that the Ethics legislation will be amended to require an office holder or member, before accepting a significant gift or loan, to seek the opinion of the Standards in Public Office Commission that acceptance of the gift or loan would not be likely to compromise the discharge of his or her public duties, and to abide by the Commission's opinion.

The details of the proposal are being worked on at present and the Government will bring forward legislation when this process has been completed.

Freedom of Information.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

141 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the public bodies and agencies exempted from the full remit of the Freedom of Information legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39252/06]

There are currently over 500 public bodies subject to Freedom of Information. In general, when bodies are being brought within the remit of FOI, extension is in respect of all records held by these bodies in respect of all of their functions. In a certain limited number of cases full extension on this basis may not be appropriate having regard to particular functions or particular records held by the bodies in question. The bodies I mention are subject to FOI on a partial basis only.

Bodies to whom the FOI Act applies in respect of certain records only in accordance with Section 46 of the FOI Act: the Courts, a Tribunal to which the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921 is applied, a Service Tribunal within the meaning of section 161 of the Defence Act 1954, Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, Office of the Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecutions Office of the Information Commissioner, Office of the Ombudsman, Comptroller and Auditor General, Presidents Establishment, Health and Safety Authority, Ombudsman for Children and Pensions Ombudsman.

Bodies to whom FOI has been extended in respect of certain functions only: National Standards Authority of Ireland, Labour Relations Commission, RTE — Radio Telefís Éireann, RTE Commercial Enterprises Limited, RTE Music Limited, Seirbhísí Theilifís Na Gaeilge Teoranta, DTT Network Company, TG4, Brothers of Charity, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Lota, Glanmire, Co. Cork; Brothers of Charity, Kilcornan House, Clarinbridge, Co. Galway; Brothers of Charity, Mid-West Region, Bawnmore, Limerick; Brothers of Charity, Lanesboro Street, Roscommon; Brothers of Charity, Belmont Park, Waterford; Camphill Communities of Ireland, Ballytobin, Callan, Co. Kilkenny; Cheeverstown House Limited (providing a service for people with a mental handicap), Templeogue, Dublin 6W; COPE Foundation, Bonnington, Montenotte, Cork; Daughters of Charity, Navan Road, Dublin 7; Galway County Association for Mental Handicapped Children, The Halls, Quay Street, Galway; Hospitaller Order of St John of God, Hospitaller House, Stillorgan, Co. Dublin; Irish Sisters of Charity, St. Patrick's, Kells Road, Kilkenny; KARE, Co. Kildare Association of Parents & Friends of Handicapped People, Lower Eyre Street, Newbridge, Co. Kildare; Peamount Hospital, Newcastle, Co. Dublin; Rosminian Services, St. Patrick's, Upton, Innishannon, Co. Cork; Sisters of the Bon Sauveur, Residential & Day Care for Persons with a Mental Handicap, Carriglea, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford; Sisters of Charity of Jesus & Mary, Moore Abbey, Monasterevin, Co. Kildare; Sisters of La Sagesse, Cregg House, Sligo; Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary, St Anne's Service, Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary; Sisters of Charity of Jesus & Mary, St. Mary's, Delvin, Co. Westmeath; Stewarts Hospital Services Limited, Palmerstown, Dublin 20; Sunbeam House Services, SHS, Cedar Estate, Killarney Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow; St Mary of the Angels, Residential Special Home & Training Centre for Children, Beaufort, Co. Kerry; St. Michael's House, Ballymun Road, Ballymun, Dublin 9; Western Care Association, Incorporating the Mayo Association of Parents & Friends of Mentally Handicapped Children, Pool Road, Castlebar, Co. Mayo.

Arrangements are under way for the extension of FOI on a partial basis to a further group of public bodies including the Labour Court, Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, and Vocational Education Committees.

Mortgage Credit.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

142 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Finance his position on an EU wide mortgage credit market. [39078/06]

I welcome the work of the Mortgage Expert Group which is investigating opportunities to integrate the EU mortgage market. Because of the scale of this market, at €4.7 trillion, and the expectation that the sector is set for significant growth, the removal of barriers which cause fragmentation should lead to improved competition, efficiency and consumer choice, and of course cheaper mortgages. I acknowledge, however, that there are important obstacles to be overcome, particularly in relation to the differences in the laws of Member States and lack of knowledge of other markets on the part of both the lender and the borrower. This has led to low levels of confidence in conducting cross border mortgage business. I would agree with the view expressed by Commissioner McCreevy last week that any change in this area will be incremental. It is also true that, because of the size of the EU market, quite small percentage increases in cross border mortgage lending could amount to a significant increase in mortgage business in national terms. Furthermore, given the variety of practices in the Member States, a principles based approach to harmonising mortgage credit across the EU may be appropriate, so that existing efficient and competitive individual markets within the EU are not disadvantaged as a result of the integration proposal.

The complexity of the mortgage integration issue has been recognised by the Commission in the manner in which it is engaging with the process, through consultation and dialogue, and the publication of its Green Paper. In addition, the findings of the Funding Expert Group set up by the Commission addresses an area where competitive and economic success may be achieved, (i.e. in the secondary mortgage market through the use of pan-European funding). The standardisation of the mortgage deed, forced sales procedures, valuation and taxation systems are among the many other issues which remain to be addressed. In addition, I share the view that non-legislative options for the integration of the mortgage credit market should be thoroughly examined prior to any regulatory intervention. Legislative intervention to prescribe rules should be used only as a final option to address proven market failure. The Commission's White Paper, due to be issued in the coming months, will outline the next steps and will recommend areas to which the mortgage integration proposal should be directed, and I look forward to its publication.

Taxation Policy.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

143 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Finance if the objectives for tax policy set out in the 2002 Programme for Government remain the priorities for the last Budget within which they can be delivered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39164/06]

The Government's approach to tax policy is set out in the Agreed Programme for Government and in recent Budgets and Finance Bills. Furthermore, under the Partnership Agreement, Towards 2016, the Government is committed to a taxation policy designed to maintain and strengthen the competitive position of the economy, foster improvements in productive capacity, economic and social development, and equity, while maintaining a sound fiscal stance. Decisions on tax changes will be taken in the context of the Government budgetary processes. In accordance with longstanding practice it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the details of the forthcoming Budget.

Decentralisation Programme.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

144 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the leases taken out by the Office of Public Works, by Government Departments or by State agencies since the announcement of the Government’s decentralisation programme in December 2003; the length of each lease; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39243/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following tabular statement. This information related to leases entered into by the Office of Public Works on behalf of Government Departments since 1st December, 2003.

Lease ‘Take-on' from 01/12/2003 to date (83 Lease Records)

County

Location

Lease Code

Commence

Expiry

Building Name

Department

% Share

Carlow

Carlow

LSE1209

07/02/2006

06/01/2016

Carlow Education Office

Department Education

100

Cavan

Cavan

LSE1139

01/12/2004

30/11/2024

Cavan Education Office Elm House

Education

100

LSE1242

01/06/2006

30/06/2010

Cavan Education Office Elm House

Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources

100

LSE1251

01/08/2006

31/07/2010

Cavan Education Office Elm House

Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources

100

Cork

Clonakilty

LSE1232

01/07/2006

01/07/2008

Clonakilty Temp Decent Office CMR

Dept. of C.M.R.

100

Cork

LSE1037

15/12/2003

14/12/2013

Cork Environment Office

Dept. of Environment

100

LSE1051

01/05/2004

25/12/2006

Cork Marine Office

Comm Marine & Natural Resources

100

LSE1052

01/05/2004

25/12/2006

Cork Marine Office

Comm Marine & Natural Resources

100

LSE1062

03/05/2004

02/04/2014

Cork Marine Office

Comm Marine & Natural Resources

100

LSE1077

01/04/2005

31/03/2025

Cork Probation &Welfare Service Cove Street

Probation & Welfare Service

100

LSE1137

06/05/2005

05/02/2015

Cork C&E Centre Park House

Revenue

100

LSE1210

01/01/2006

31/12/2014

Cork Government Office Irish Life Bldg

Passport Office

100

Mallow

LSE0504

01/03/2004

28/02/2009

Mallow Government Offices

Coillte

66.9

01/03/2004

28/02/2009

Mallow Government Offices

Ent Trade & Employ

24

01/03/2004

28/02/2009

Mallow Government Offices

Revenue Commissioners

9.1

Donegal

Ballyshannon

LSE1146

01/01/2005

30/09/2014

Ballyshannon Maritime Office

Comm Marine & Nat Resourcs

100

LSE1165

26/09/2005

25/12/2006

Ballyshannon Maritime Office

Comm Marine & Nat Resources

100

Letterkenny

LSE1076

01/02/2005

31/01/2025

Letterkenny Prob/Wel Main St

Probation & Welfare Servi

100

Dublin

Balbriggan

LSE1035

24/01/2004

23/12/2023

Balbriggan Passport Office

Passport Office

100

Dublin 01

LSE1140

04/04/2005

04/04/2025

Great Strand St Millennium House

Ombudsman For Children

100

Dublin 02

LSE1147

20/06/2005

19/05/2015

Nassau St Social Srv Insp Unit

Dept Health & Children

100

LSE1169

06/07/2005

24/03/2015

Harcourt Street 71 Pinewood House

Justice Equality & Law Reform

100

LSE1170

06/07/2005

24/03/2015

Harcourt St 72-74 Pinebrook House

Justice Equality & Law Reform

100

Dublin 04

LSE1227

01/07/2006

31/01/2008

Shelbourne Rd UCD Facualty Bldg

Justice Eq & Law Reform

100

Dublin 07

LSE1180

14/11/2005

14/08/2010

Blackhall Plce Smithwick Tribu

Justice Equality & Law Reform

100

County

Location

Lease Code

Commence

Expiry

Building Name

Department

% Share

LSE1207

01/01/2006

30/09/2007

Distillery Building

Defence

100

Dublin 08

LSE1073

25/03/2005

31/03/2025

Garden Lane Prob/Welfare Office

Probation & Welfare Servi

100

LSE1228

10/04/2006

09/04/2008

Le Pole House

Dept. of Finance

100

Dublin 15

LSE1156

25/08/2005

24/07/2015

Damastown IMMA Warehouse

Irish Museum of Modern Art

100

Dublin 24

LSE1047

30/04/2004

29/04/2024

Tallaght Piab

Piab

100

LSE1053

01/03/2004

31/08/2007

Tallaght Dtc

Dept Transport

100

LSE1058

01/04/2004

30/12/2022

Tallaght Education Office

Newb

21.2

01/04/2004

30/12/2022

Tallaght Education Office

NCSE

10.8

01/04/2004

30/12/2022

Tallaght Education Office

Dept Education

68

Dublin

Dublin Airport

LSE1050

01/06/2004

31/05/2008

Dublin Airport Pier B

Garda Siochana

100

Swords

LSE1144

13/06/2005

15/09/2025

Swords Business Campus Unit 5/6d

Central Statistics Office

100

LSE1174

28/09/2005

27/09/2025

Swords Business Campus Unit 5/6a

Central Fisheries Board

100

LSE1175

28/09/2005

27/09/2025

Swords Business Campus Unit 5/6c

Central Fisheries Board

100

Galway

Furbo

LSE1045

01/04/2004

31/03/2007

Furbo Páirc Gnó Craga

Comm, Rural & Gael Affairs

100

Galway

LSE1167

01/07/2005

31/12/2020

Galway Gov Office Hynes Building

Social & Family Affairs

100

LSE1222

01/10/2005

31/08/2015

Galway Liosbaun Garda Unit 1b

Garda Síochána

100

LSE1239

21/02/2006

20/02/2026

Galway Revenue Fairgreen

Revenue Commissioners

100

Loughrea

LSE1212

01/01/2006

25/12/2007

Loughrea Swlo

Social & Family Affairs

100

LSE1243

08/02/2006

07/11/2015

Galway Millenium House

Dept Environment

100

Maam

LSE1059

01/07/2004

30/06/2009

Maam Gs Temporary

Garda Síochána

100

Spiddal

LSE1134

02/09/2004

01/06/2014

Baile An tSagairt Craga Office

Comm Rural & Gael. Affairs

100

Kerry

Killarney

LSE1234

01/07/2006

30/06/2008

Fossa Temp Ast Decentral Office

Arts, Sport And Tourism

100

Kildare

Naas

LSE1022

01/01/2004

31/01/2024

Naas Gov Office

Education Neps

50

01/01/2004

31/01/2024

Naas Gov Office

Ed Regional Office

40

01/01/2004

31/01/2024

Naas Gov Office

Nat Ed Welfare Board

5

01/01/2004

31/01/2024

Naas Gov Office

Social & Family Affairs

5

LSE1211

05/09/2005

04/09/2025

Willow House Millennium Pk, Block 6

I A A S A

100

County

Location

Lease Code

Commence

Expiry

Building Name

Department

% Share

Laois

Portlaoise

LSE1136

25/04/2005

24/01/2010

Portlaoise Agric Office Eircom

Dept Agriculture

100

LSE1214

20/01/2006

19/01/2011

Portlaoise Grattan Business Cent

Dept. of Agriculture

100

LSE1230

12/07/2006

11/04/2011

Portlaoise Environment Office

Dept Environment

100

LSE1237

01/08/2006

30/06/2016

Portlaoise Education Office

Dept Education

100

Leitrim

Drumshambo

LSE1249

13/10/2006

12/10/2008

Drumshambo Market Square

Dept. Of Agric & Food

100

Limerick

Limerick

LSE1069

01/07/2004

30/06/2024

Limerick Probation and Welfare Service

Probation Welfare Service

100

LSE1070

01/07/2004

30/06/2024

Limerick Prob/Welfare Service

Prob/Welfare Service

100

LSE1150

01/05/2005

30/04/2025

Limerick Gov Off Houston Hall

Dept Agriculture

98

01/05/2005

30/04/2025

Limerick Gov Office Houston Hall

Central Statistics Office

2

LSE1220

05/04/2006

04/04/2008

Limerick Rev Office Estuary House

Revenue Commissioners

100

Louth

Drogheda

LSE1173

23/09/2005

22/08/2015

Drogheda Swo Singleton House

Social & Family Affairs

100

Dromad

LSE1184

01/12/2005

30/11/2006

Dromad GS Temporary

Garda Siochana

100

Dundalk

LSE1206

01/01/2005

30/09/2007

Dundalk Education Office

Education & Science

100

LSE1244

01/04/2006

29/02/2016

Dundalk Revenue Warehouse

Revenue Warehouse

100

Mayo

Achill Island

LSE1046

01/05/2004

31/01/2014

Achill Gaeltacht Affairs Office

Commrural & Gael. Affairs

100

Castlebar

LSE1063

19/08/2004

18/05/2014

Castlebar Probation and Welfare Service

Probation & Welfare Service

100

Claremorris

LSE1241

02/10/2006

01/10/2008

Claremorris Temp. GS

Garda Síochána

42.5

Meath

Navan

LSE1066

15/09/2004

25/12/2007

Navan Neps Office

Nat Ed Psychology Service

100

LSE1072

01/12/2004

31/08/2009

Navan Wildlife Office

Dept. of Environment

100

LSE1162

28/09/2005

27/09/2026

Navan Government Office Athlumney

Department Agriculture

61.1

28/09/2005

27/09/2026

Navan Government Office Athlumney

Dept Transport

2.64

28/09/2005

27/09/2026

Navan Gov Office Athlumney

Probation & Welfare Service

8.84

28/09/2005

27/09/2026

Navan Government Office Athlumney

Revenue Commissioners

5.05

28/09/2005

27/09/2026

Navan Government Office Athlumney

Dept Education

14.95

28/09/2005

27/09/2026

Navan Government Office Athlumney

Neps

5.75

28/09/2005

27/09/2026

Navan Government Office Athlumney

Dept Environment

1.67

Trim

LSE1048

01/04/2004

31/03/2024

Trim Ncse

National Council for Spec. Educ.

100

Monaghan

Castleblayney

LSE1219

25/04/2006

24/01/2011

Castleblaney Credit Union House

Dept. Education

100

County

Location

Lease Code

Commence

Expiry

Building Name

Department

% Share

Offaly

Tullamore

LSE1141

12/05/2005

11/02/2015

Tullamore Government Warehouse

Oireachtas

33.33

12/05/2005

11/02/2015

Tullamore Government Warehouse

Unallocated Space

33.34

12/05/2005

11/02/2015

Tullamore Government Warehouse

Comm. Rural & Gael. Affairs

33.33

LSE1154

01/12/2004

31/07/2014

Tullamore Probation and Welfare Service

Probation & Welfare Service

100

LSE1236

01/07/2006

30/06/2906

Tullamore Decentralised Office

Dept. of Finance

100

Roscommon

Boyle

LSE1157

01/09/2005

31/05/2015

Boyle Education Office

Dept Education & Science

100

Sligo

Sligo

LSE1181

01/10/2005

30/09/2006

Sligo Temp. OPW Office

Office of Public Works

100

LSE1215

17/02/2006

14/08/2010

Sligo Scfa Office

Social & Family Affairs

100

LSE1224

01/04/2006

29/02/2016

Marino House

Office Of Public Works

100

Sligo

Tubbercurry

LSE1225

01/06/2006

31/05/2008

Tubbercurry Temp Crga Office

Comm Rural & Gael. Affairs

100

Tipperary

Roscrea

LSE1061

01/09/2004

31/08/2024

Roscrea Civil Defence Office

Dept Defence

100

LSE1071

01/09/2004

31/08/2024

Roscrea Civil Defence Office

Dept Defence

100

Thurles

LSE1185

01/09/2005

31/08/2007

Tipperary Technology Park Unit F2

Justice Equality & Law Reform

100

LSE1186

01/09/2005

30/11/2011

Tipp Technology Park Unit A6

Justice Equality & Law Reform

100

Tipperary

LSE1178

01/09/2005

31/08/2007

Tipperary Justice Office

Private Security Authority

100

Westmeath

Athlone

LSE1075

17/10/2004

16/10/2007

Athlone Prob/Wel The Cresent

Probation & Welfare Service

100

Wexford

Enniscorthy

LSE1138

01/04/2005

28/02/2015

Enniscorthy SWO Portsmouth House

Social & Family Affairs

100

Johnstown Castle

LSE1166

01/01/2005

31/12/2005

Johnstown Castle Teagasc Office

Environment & Local Govt

100

Wicklow

Baltinglass

LSE1240

14/07/2006

13/07/2016

Baltinglass Daf Office

Dept Agriculture

100

Inter-Agency Procurement Group.

Ivor Callely

Question:

145 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Finance the procedures that have been put in place arising from the work of the inter-agency procurement group in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38956/06]

An inter-agency procurement group, chaired by my Department, was established in late 2004 and began working in 2005 to determine how best to procure digital radio for the Irish public service, and most particularly the emergency and security services. The group spent the first part of 2005 considering a range of options, including the possibility of the public service building a digital radio network itself, or owning a digital radio network and getting a third-party company to operate and maintain it, or procuring digital radio as a service from a third-party with the expertise to build, operate and maintain it. The Group was particularly mindful of the complexities involved in a national provision of digital radio and the need to address a range of matters including security, national operation, high quality coverage, interoperability between public bodies, integration with existing environments, reasonable roll-out times, and affordability. Following extensive analysis of these options, the Group decided that the best value for money approach was to procure the provision of digital radio services from a third-party rather than a State-owned or managed infrastructure or a system based on any particular technology. The Group also decided that it should do this procurement on a public service wide basis because the aggregation of demand and requirements would provide far greater market influence than if individual public bodies were to seek to do this on their own.

The Group spent the second part of 2005 building its specification of requirements. The first phase of the procurement procedure was conducted between January and April 2006 from which five candidates were shortlisted and provided with the full tender documentation. Responses were received from four of these candidates and are being evaluated at present. The Group is availing of assistance from the National Development Finance Agency in the evaluation of the financial aspects of the bids. The Group has decided that, once the tender evaluation is completed, the preferred bidder will be required to undergo a "service performance evaluation" to ensure the appropriateness, performance and robustness of its proposal, before a contract can be awarded. It is estimated that such a performance evaluation could take approximately six months to complete.

Taxation Policy.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

146 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the Government’s view on the potential for taxation to play a role in promoting energy efficiency and emission reductions. [39169/06]

Taxation, as I have previously stated, can play a part in attaining environment objectives which include promoting energy efficiency and reducing emissions. In this regard, the current National Climate Change Strategy does envisage initiatives in the tax area with one such example being tax reliefs for "green initiatives". Essentially this approach uses the tax system to provide incentives for certain behaviour. Such incentives include capital allowances for corporate investment in renewable energy projects which have been available since 1998, and the significant new Biofuels excise relief scheme which I provided for in Finance Act 2006. This latter Scheme will provide for excise relief on up to 163 million litres of biofuels per annum; cost over €200m over 5 years; result in carbon dioxide savings of over 250,000 tonnes per annum; meet a target of 2% transport fuel market penetration by biofuels by 2008; help reduce our dependency on conventional fossil fuels, and stimulate activity in the agricultural sector. As a complementary measure, I provided in Finance Act 2006 for a new 50% VRT relief to promote new flexible fuel vehicles (cars designed to operate on biofuels) for an initial period of 2 years, and also extended the existing VRT relief for hybrid cars by a further year to the end of 2007.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

147 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance the amount received to date by the Revenue Commissioners’ Office in respect of deductions of tax at maturity on maturing SSIA accounts; the total anticipated take by the Exchequer when all SSIAs have matured; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39220/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the tax arising on maturing SSIA accounts, in respect of accounts maturing in May, June, July, August and September 2006, was €99.3m.

My Department currently expects that the total exit tax accruing to the Exchequer from the maturing of all SSIAs will be approximately €400 million over the period 2006-2007. However, the exact value of the exit tax to be received is subject to a number of uncertainties. These include the possibility of accounts closing before maturity, participants varying their monthly contributions, the actual investment returns arising and the level of take-up of the Pension Incentive Tax Credit allowing the certain transfer of SSIA funds into pension products. This incentive gives qualifying account holders a 1 for 3 bonus on their subscriptions to a pension product, subject to a maximum of €2,500 and also a proportionate credit on the exit tax payable on the accrued investment return.

Question No. 148 answered with QuestionNo. 86.

Decentralisation Programme.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

149 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Finance if an estimate has been undertaken of the number of civil or public servants, who do not wish to relocate, who will be surplus to requirements as a result of their jobs being transferred to other locations under the Government’s decentralisation programme; the jobs that will be provided for these personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39247/06]

Because of the nature of the programme it is not possible at this stage to estimate the number of public servants who do not wish to relocate as individual circumstances are open to change and therefore figures can fluctuate. The picture will become clearer over the coming period as staff are assigned to decentralising organisations.

The primary mechanism for placing civil servants who are in posts which are due to decentralise but wish to remain in Dublin is by way of bilateral transfer. As staff, in organisations who are remaining in Dublin, who have applied to decentralise continue to be transferred into decentralising organisations, the posts they vacate become available to those wishing to remain in Dublin.

In addition, the Public Appointments Service has commenced the operation of a system which will match Dublin based posts with people wishing to remain in Dublin. Any decentralising organisation which anticipates that it will have staff wishing to remain in Dublin who cannot be placed within the organisation will engage with the Public Appointments Service in the placement of these individuals. The precise operation of these arrangements is currently being discussed with the civil service unions to improve their overall effectiveness. The aim is to achieve a close alignment between the assignment of staff to Dublin posts and the readiness of Departments to release staff at particular grade levels.

Negotiations are ongoing with the unions representing professional & technical staff in the Civil Service on this issue.

The position in relation to the State Agencies is of course more complex. The Government has always said that this is a voluntary Programme. Any staff member wishing to remain in Dublin will be accommodated with a public service job in Dublin. It remains my view that suitable arrangements meeting the needs of these staff of can be arrived at through dialogue and negotiations.

Question No. 150 answered with QuestionNo. 80.

Tax Code.

Seán Ryan

Question:

151 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the rate of income tax paid by persons earning in excess of €100,000 per annum and upwards in bands of €20,000 per annum from the year 2000 to date in 2006, distinguishing between single persons and couples, between PAYE taxpayers and persons who are self employed and including taxpayers paying 0% and taxpayers paying tax at 20% and below; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39229/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the most recent basic data on incomes available from which information of the type requested by the Deputy could be derived are in respect of the income tax year 2003.

The information requested is set out in the following tables for the income tax years 2000/01, 2001 "short" year, 2002 and 2003. However, because of the Revenue Commissioners' obligation to observe confidentiality in relation to the taxation affairs of individual taxpayers and small groups of taxpayers, the breakdown by income bands requested by the Deputy is not provided in relation to incomes exceeding €1 million due to the small numbers of income earners with incomes in excess of that level.

The Deputy will be aware that this material is dated in that major changes I made in my Budgets to the structure and extent of tax reliefs will increase the average tax rate for those on higher incomes using such reliefs. Caution should be used in basing policy pronouncements on these data.

INCOME TAX 2000/2001

Numbers of mainly self-employed income earners with incomes exceeding €100,000

Range of Gross Income*

No net liability for income tax

Liable for tax at the standard rate (22%)

Liable for tax at the higher rate (44%)

Overall

Single*

Married

Total

Single*

Married

Total

Single*

Married

Total

Total

100,000 120,000

14

29

43

2

52

54

496

2,098

2,594

2,691

120,000 140,000

6

28

34

1

34

35

303

1,421

1,724

1,793

140,000 160,000

4

14

18

2

13

15

223

1,108

1,331

1,364

160,000 180,000

9

21

30

1

13

14

125

718

843

887

180,000 200,000

1

4

5

2

11

13

112

573

685

703

200,000 220,000

1

11

12

0

6

6

73

470

543

561

220,000 240,000

1

5

6

0

1

1

68

392

460

467

240,000 260,000

1

3

4

1

4

5

53

306

359

368

260,000 280,000

1

2

3

1

3

4

56

235

291

298

280,000 300,000

1

1

2

0

4

4

32

238

270

276

300,000 320,000

0

0

0

1

2

3

27

194

221

224

320,000 340,000

1

2

3

0

0

0

26

158

184

187

340,000 360,000

1

2

3

0

1

1

19

135

154

158

360,000 380,000

0

0

0

0

1

1

16

109

125

126

380,000 400,000

0

3

3

0

1

1

14

124

138

142

400,000 420,000

0

3

3

0

0

0

11

82

93

96

420,000 440,000

1

4

5

0

1

1

10

84

94

100

440,000 460,000

1

1

2

0

0

0

12

69

81

83

460,000 480,000

2

1

3

0

1

1

7

62

69

73

480,000 500,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

10

46

56

56

500,000 520,000

0

3

3

0

0

0

8

45

53

56

520,000 540,000

0

2

2

0

0

0

9

31

40

42

540,000 560,000

0

3

3

0

1

1

5

30

35

39

560,000 580,000

2

2

4

0

0

0

5

34

39

43

580,000 600,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

6

19

25

25

600,000 620,000

0

0

0

0

1

1

2

25

27

28

620,000 640,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

2

23

25

26

640,000 660,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

22

24

24

660,000 680,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

5

26

31

31

680,000 700,000

2

2

4

0

0

0

1

9

10

14

700,000 720,000

0

2

2

0

1

1

1

21

22

25

720,000 740,000

0

0

0

0

2

2

1

12

13

15

740,000 760,000

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

10

10

11

760,000 780,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

15

18

18

780,000 800,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

8

8

8

800,000 820,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

11

11

11

820,000 840,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

12

14

14

840,000 860,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

7

8

8

860,000 880,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

6

7

7

880,000 900,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

15

15

15

900,000 920,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

8

10

10

920,000 940,000

0

0

0

0

1

1

3

11

14

15

940,000 960,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

9

12

12

960,000 980,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

8

10

10

980,000 1,000,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

6

7

7

Over 1,000,000

0

8

8

0

0

0

34

163

197

205

49

157

206

11

155

166

1,792

9,208

11,000

11,372

*"Single" includes widowed persons.

INCOME TAX 2000/2001

Numbers of all income earners with incomes exceeding €100,000

Range of Gross Income*

No net liability for income tax

Liable for tax at the standard rate (22%)

Liable for tax at the higher rate (44%)

Overall

Single*

Married

Total

Single*

Married

Total

Single*

Married

Total

Total

100,000 120,000

15

43

58

3

68

71

1,501

8,383

9,884

10,013

120,000 140,000

7

33

40

1

42

43

840

4,664

5,504

5,587

140,000 160,000

5

20

25

3

21

24

508

3,007

3,515

3,564

160,000 180,000

9

25

34

2

15

17

301

1,999

2,300

2,351

180,000 200,000

1

8

9

3

15

18

223

1,454

1,677

1,704

200,000 220,000

1

13

14

0

7

7

177

1,075

1,252

1,273

220,000 240,000

2

7

9

0

3

3

143

869

1,012

1,024

240,000 260,000

2

6

8

2

7

9

104

680

784

801

260,000 280,000

1

5

6

1

3

4

102

531

633

643

280,000 300,000

1

1

2

0

4

4

66

471

537

543

300,000 320,000

1

0

1

1

2

3

56

381

437

441

320,000 340,000

1

4

5

0

0

0

54

303

357

362

340,000 360,000

1

2

3

0

2

2

40

249

289

294

360,000 380,000

0

0

0

0

2

2

30

223

253

255

380,000 400,000

0

3

3

0

1

1

29

229

258

262

400,000 420,000

0

3

3

0

0

0

23

146

169

172

420,000 440,000

1

5

6

0

1

1

19

131

150

157

440,000 460,000

1

1

2

0

0

0

22

120

142

144

460,000 480,000

2

1

3

0

1

1

15

109

124

128

480,000 500,000

0

3

3

0

0

0

19

88

107

110

500,000 520,000

0

4

4

0

0

0

15

90

105

109

520,000 540,000

0

3

3

0

1

1

14

65

79

83

540,000 560,000

1

4

5

0

1

1

9

69

78

84

560,000 580,000

2

2

4

1

0

1

12

61

73

78

580,000 600,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

11

48

59

59

600,000 620,000

0

0

0

0

2

2

5

54

59

61

620,000 640,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

7

47

54

55

640,000 660,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

5

42

47

47

660,000 680,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

7

43

50

50

680,000 700,000

2

2

4

0

0

0

2

29

31

35

700,000 720,000

0

2

2

0

1

1

3

37

40

43

720,000 740,000

0

2

2

0

2

2

4

30

34

38

740,000 760,000

0

0

0

1

1

2

5

23

28

30

760,000 780,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

8

32

40

40

780,000 800,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

23

25

25

800,000 820,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

27

28

28

820,000 840,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

5

24

29

30

840,000 860,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

16

17

17

860,000 880,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

13

14

14

880,000 900,000

0

0

0

1

0

1

2

22

24

25

900,000 920,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

12

15

15

920,000 940,000

0

0

0

0

1

1

3

17

20

21

940,000 960,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

13

17

17

960,000 980,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

11

15

15

980,000 1,000,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

14

16

16

Over 1,000,000

0

10

10

1

0

1

64

329

393

404

56

214

270

20

203

223

4,471

26,303

30,774

31,267

*"Single" includes widowed persons

INCOME TAX "short year" 2001

Numbers of mainly self-employed income earners with incomes exceeding €100,000

Range of Gross Income*

No net liability for income tax

Liable for tax at the standard rate (20%)

Liable for tax at the higher rate (42%)

Overall

Single*

Married

Total

Single*

Married

Total

Single*

Married

Total

Total

100,000 120,000

12

26

38

3

26

29

348

1707

2055

2,122

120,000 140,000

9

22

31

3

17

20

235

1141

1376

1,427

140,000 160,000

6

13

19

2

15

17

168

877

1045

1,081

160,000 180,000

3

10

13

1

12

13

110

590

700

726

180,000 200,000

2

11

13

1

3

4

81

501

582

599

200,000 220,000

0

5

5

2

2

4

71

378

449

458

220,000 240,000

2

5

7

1

4

5

41

318

359

371

240,000 260,000

3

5

8

0

2

2

36

245

281

291

260,000 280,000

0

4

4

0

1

1

28

227

255

260

280,000 300,000

1

5

6

0

0

0

31

183

214

220

300,000 320,000

0

6

6

1

2

3

28

157

185

194

320,000 340,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

15

134

149

149

340,000 360,000

1

3

4

1

1

2

16

107

123

129

360,000 380,000

0

1

1

0

1

1

21

108

129

131

380,000 400,000

0

2

2

0

0

0

24

103

127

129

400,000 420,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

11

72

83

83

420,000 440,000

0

2

2

0

0

0

15

79

94

96

440,000 460,000

1

1

2

0

0

0

9

74

83

85

460,000 480,000

0

1

1

0

1

1

5

48

53

55

480,000 500,000

0

1

1

0

1

1

5

37

42

44

500,000 520,000

0

2

2

0

1

1

4

45

49

52

520,000 540,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

8

39

47

48

540,000 560,000

0

4

4

0

0

0

5

25

30

34

560,000 580,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

4

27

31

32

580,000 600,000

2

2

4

0

1

1

2

25

27

32

600,000 620,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

5

29

34

35

620,000 640,000

0

1

1

0

2

2

4

19

23

26

640,000 660,000

0

2

2

0

0

0

3

20

23

25

660,000 680,000

1

0

1

0

0

0

2

8

10

11

680,000 700,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

6

22

28

28

700,000 720,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

11

15

15

720,000 740,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

2

11

13

14

740,000 760,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

4

7

7

760,000 780,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

12

13

13

780,000 800,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

1

5

6

7

800,000 820,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

8

8

8

820,000 840,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

1

9

10

11

840,000 860,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

10

10

10

860,000 880,000

0

1

1

0

1

1

2

12

14

16

880,000 900,000

0

0

0

0

1

1

1

7

8

9

900,000 920,000

0

2

2

0

0

0

2

4

6

8

920,000 940,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

6

7

7

940,000 960,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

4

4

960,000 980,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

2

2

980,000 1,000,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

8

8

8

Over 1,000,000

2

7

9

0

0

0

18

101

119

128

45

150

195

15

94

109

1,378

7,558

8,936

9,240

*"Single" includes widowed persons

INCOME TAX "short year" 2001

Numbers of all income earners with incomes exceeding €100,000

Range of Gross Income*

No net liability for income tax

Liable for tax at the standard rate (20%)

Liable for tax at the higher rate (42%)

Overall

Single*

Married

Total

Single*

Married

Total

Single*

Married

Total

Total

100,000 120,000

15

38

53

7

32

39

866

5122

5988

6,080

120,000 140,000

10

24

34

3

23

26

497

3055

3552

3,612

140,000 160,000

6

14

20

3

21

24

310

1970

2280

2,324

160,000 180,000

4

14

18

1

16

17

208

1307

1515

1,550

180,000 200,000

2

15

17

1

5

6

159

1015

1174

1,197

200,000 220,000

0

6

6

2

6

8

123

736

859

873

220,000 240,000

2

5

7

1

4

5

68

596

664

676

240,000 260,000

3

6

9

0

3

3

66

433

499

511

260,000 280,000

0

5

5

0

2

2

53

369

422

429

280,000 300,000

2

6

8

0

1

1

45

294

339

348

300,000 320,000

0

7

7

1

3

4

38

249

287

298

320,000 340,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

26

206

232

232

340,000 360,000

1

3

4

2

1

3

23

157

180

187

360,000 380,000

0

1

1

0

2

2

28

163

191

194

380,000 400,000

0

3

3

0

0

0

29

147

176

179

400,000 420,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

19

104

123

124

420,000 440,000

1

2

3

0

0

0

21

106

127

130

440,000 460,000

1

2

3

0

0

0

11

103

114

117

460,000 480,000

0

1

1

0

1

1

11

62

73

75

480,000 500,000

0

1

1

0

1

1

7

60

67

69

500,000 520,000

0

2

2

0

2

2

6

60

66

70

520,000 540,000

0

2

2

0

0

0

9

54

63

65

540,000 560,000

1

5

6

0

0

0

7

36

43

49

560,000 580,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

10

40

50

51

580,000 600,000

2

3

5

0

1

1

5

38

43

49

600,000 620,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

5

37

42

43

620,000 640,000

0

1

1

0

2

2

4

26

30

33

640,000 660,000

0

2

2

0

0

0

3

28

31

33

660,000 680,000

1

0

1

0

0

0

3

15

18

19

680,000 700,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

7

27

34

34

700,000 720,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

14

18

18

720,000 740,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

3

20

23

24

740,000 760,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

8

11

11

760,000 780,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

16

18

18

780,000 800,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

2

12

14

15

800,000 820,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

18

19

19

820,000 840,000

0

2

2

0

0

0

1

12

13

15

840,000 860,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

11

11

11

860,000 880,000

0

2

2

0

1

1

2

15

17

20

880,000 900,000

0

0

0

0

1

1

1

8

9

10

900,000 920,000

0

2

2

0

0

0

2

7

9

11

920,000 940,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

12

13

13

940,000 960,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

7

7

7

960,000 980,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

8

10

10

980,000 1,000,000

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

11

11

12

Over 1,000,000

2

9

11

0

0

0

34

158

192

203

54

188

242

21

128

149

2,725

16,952

19,677

20,068

*"Single" includes widowed persons

INCOME TAX 2002

Numbers of mainly self-employed income earners with incomes exceeding €100,000

Range of Gross Income*

No net liability for income tax

Liable for tax at the standard rate (20%)

Liable for tax at the higher rate (42%)

Overall

Single*

Married

Total

Single*

Married

Total

Single*

Married

Total

Total

100,000 120,000

9

30

39

11

110

121

652

2,493

3,145

3,305

120,000 140,000

4

26

30

4

68

72

390

1,615

2,005

2,107

140,000 160,000

7

12

19

2

33

35

260

1,153

1,413

1,467

160,000 180,000

2

6

8

2

31

33

183

987

1,170

1,211

180,000 200,000

6

7

13

5

18

23

136

779

915

951

200,000 220,000

1

9

10

0

15

15

129

616

745

770

220,000 240,000

1

9

10

1

15

16

106

468

574

600

240,000 260,000

1

0

1

1

1

2

68

405

473

476

260,000 280,000

1

5

6

3

10

13

64

338

402

421

280,000 300,000

2

3

5

0

2

2

54

284

338

345

300,000 320,000

2

2

4

0

4

4

41

277

318

326

320,000 340,000

0

3

3

0

4

4

43

218

261

268

340,000 360,000

1

1

2

1

4

5

39

199

238

245

360,000 380,000

0

1

1

0

3

3

25

159

184

188

380,000 400,000

0

2

2

1

2

3

20

134

154

159

400,000 420,000

1

6

7

0

2

2

32

140

172

181

420,000 440,000

0

0

0

0

2

2

16

109

125

127

440,000 460,000

1

2

3

0

1

1

19

114

133

137

460,000 480,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

18

96

114

115

480,000 500,000

0

0

0

1

1

2

9

73

82

84

500,000 520,000

0

1

1

0

2

2

17

77

94

97

520,000 540,000

0

0

0

0

2

2

15

51

66

68

540,000 560,000

0

0

0

0

1

1

7

59

66

67

560,000 580,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

6

51

57

57

580,000 600,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

49

51

51

600,000 620,000

0

0

0

0

1

1

9

39

48

49

620,000 640,000

0

2

2

0

1

1

13

34

47

50

640,000 660,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

5

35

40

41

660,000 680,000

0

2

2

0

1

1

3

35

38

41

680,000 700,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

7

31

38

38

700,000 720,000

0

0

0

0

1

1

5

33

38

39

720,000 740,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

7

35

42

42

740,000 760,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

3

24

27

28

760,000 780,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

20

20

20

780,000 800,000

0

0

0

1

2

3

1

23

24

27

800,000 820,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

1

13

14

15

820,000 840,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

3

10

13

14

840,000 860,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

18

22

22

860,000 880,000

0

1

1

0

1

1

1

10

11

13

880,000 900,000

0

0

0

0

1

1

1

8

9

10

900,000 920,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

8

9

9

920,000 940,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

9

10

10

940,000 960,000

0

0

0

0

1

1

1

9

10

11

960,000 980,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

4

5

5

980,000 1,000,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

6

7

7

Over 1,000,000

1

2

3

1

4

5

31

183

214

222

40

137

177

34

344

378

2,450

11,531

13,981

14,536

*"Single" includes widowed persons

INCOME TAX 2002

Numbers of all income earners with incomes exceeding €100,000

Range of Gross Income*

No net liability for income tax

Liable for tax at the standard rate (20%)

Liable for tax at the higher rate (42%)

Overall

Single*

Married

Total

Single*

Married

Total

Single*

Married

Total

Total

100,000 120,000

11

36

47

14

154

168

2,112

13,289

15,401

15,616

120,000 140,000

4

35

39

6

90

96

1,127

6,728

7,855

7,990

140,000 160,000

7

19

26

3

49

52

686

4,026

4,712

4,790

160,000 180,000

2

8

10

2

41

43

472

2,765

3,237

3,290

180,000 200,000

6

10

16

5

27

32

327

2,023

2,350

2,398

200,000 220,000

1

11

12

1

18

19

265

1,493

1,758

1,789

220,000 240,000

1

12

13

1

16

17

191

1,084

1,275

1,305

240,000 260,000

1

0

1

1

2

3

136

922

1,058

1,062

260,000 280,000

1

6

7

3

14

17

113

709

822

846

280,000 300,000

2

3

5

0

2

2

97

579

676

683

300,000 320,000

2

4

6

0

5

5

70

499

569

580

320,000 340,000

0

3

3

0

5

5

68

399

467

475

340,000 360,000

1

1

2

1

4

5

55

367

422

429

360,000 380,000

0

2

2

0

3

3

43

276

319

324

380,000 400,000

0

2

2

1

2

3

33

234

267

272

400,000 420,000

1

6

7

0

2

2

48

221

269

278

420,000 440,000

0

0

0

0

3

3

26

187

213

216

440,000 460,000

1

2

3

0

1

1

31

170

201

205

460,000 480,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

23

152

175

176

480,000 500,000

0

0

0

1

1

2

18

122

140

142

500,000 520,000

0

1

1

0

3

3

20

128

148

152

520,000 540,000

0

0

0

0

2

2

21

99

120

122

540,000 560,000

0

0

0

0

1

1

10

93

103

104

560,000 580,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

9

90

99

99

580,000 600,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

5

68

73

73

600,000 620,000

0

0

0

0

1

1

11

61

72

73

620,000 640,000

0

3

3

0

1

1

15

65

80

84

640,000 660,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

9

63

72

73

660,000 680,000

0

2

2

0

1

1

6

51

57

60

680,000 700,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

8

60

68

68

700,000 720,000

0

0

0

0

1

1

7

51

58

59

720,000 740,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

10

49

59

59

740,000 760,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

5

41

46

47

760,000 780,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

29

31

31

780,000 800,000

0

0

0

1

2

3

3

30

33

36

800,000 820,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

1

19

20

21

820,000 840,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

3

22

25

26

840,000 860,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

26

30

30

860,000 880,000

0

1

1

0

1

1

2

22

24

26

880,000 900,000

0

0

0

0

2

2

2

16

18

20

900,000 920,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

18

20

20

920,000 940,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

5

14

19

19

940,000 960,000

0

0

0

0

1

1

1

11

12

13

960,000 980,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

10

13

13

980,000 1,000,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

14

15

15

Over 1,000,000

1

4

5

1

5

6

67

359

426

437

42

176

218

41

460

501

6,173

37,754

43,927

44,646

*"Single" includes widowed persons

INCOME TAX 2003

Numbers of mainly PAYE income earners with incomes exceeding €100,000 (including proprietary directors on the PAYE record)

Range of Gross Income*

No net liability for income tax

Liable for tax at the standard rate (20%)

Liable for tax at the higher rate (42%)

Overall

Single*

Married

Total

Single*

Married

Total

Single*

Married

Total

Total

100,000 120,000

1

0

1

1

23

24

1,861

14,030

15891

15,916

120,000 140,000

0

1

1

0

11

11

868

6,300

7168

7,180

140,000 160,000

0

0

0

1

6

7

499

3,523

4022

4,029

160,000 180,000

0

0

0

0

6

6

342

2,226

2568

2,574

180,000 200,000

0

0

0

0

3

3

240

1,448

1688

1,691

200,000 220,000

0

0

0

0

1

1

179

1,082

1261

1,262

220,000 240,000

0

0

0

0

3

3

103

817

920

923

240,000 260,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

92

564

656

656

260,000 280,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

48

440

488

488

280,000 300,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

49

349

398

398

300,000 320,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

46

281

327

327

320,000 340,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

29

224

253

253

340,000 360,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

20

166

186

186

360,000 380,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

17

128

145

145

380,000 400,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

13

118

131

131

400,000 420,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

22

106

128

128

420,000 440,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

13

88

101

101

440,000 460,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

5

83

88

88

460,000 480,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

9

55

64

64

480,000 500,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

14

62

76

76

500,000 520,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

59

63

63

520,000 540,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

42

46

46

540,000 560,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

10

41

51

51

560,000 580,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

33

35

35

580,000 600,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

38

41

41

600,000 620,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

29

33

33

620,000 640,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

26

30

30

640,000 660,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

6

19

25

25

660,000 680,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

18

18

18

680,000 700,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

12

14

14

700,000 720,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

16

17

17

720,000 740,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

19

22

22

740,000 760,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

16

20

20

760,000 780,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

16

16

16

780,000 800,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

19

20

20

800,000 820,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

11

12

12

820,000 840,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

16

16

16

840,000 860,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

10

11

11

860,000 880,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

6

7

7

880,000 900,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

4

5

5

900,000 920,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

10

11

11

920,000 940,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

5

6

6

940,000 960,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

3

6

6

960,000 980,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

4

4

980,000 1,000,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

3

3

Over 1,000,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

41

237

278

278

1

1

2

2

53

55

4,567

32,802

37,369

37,426

*"Single" includes widowed persons

INCOME TAX 2003

Numbers of mainly self-employed income earners with incomes exceeding €100,000

Range of Gross Income*

No net liability for income tax

Liable for tax at the standard rate (20%)

Liable for tax at the higher rate (42%)

Overall

Single*

Married

Total

Single*

Married

Total

Single*

Married

Total

Total

100,000 120,000

16

30

46

11

111

122

775

2,852

3627

3,795

120,000 140,000

9

23

32

10

35

45

495

1,865

2360

2,437

140,000 160,000

4

12

16

3

28

31

300

1,353

1653

1,700

160,000 180,000

1

17

18

2

12

14

248

1,026

1274

1,306

180,000 200,000

3

6

9

1

13

14

178

814

992

1,015

200,000 220,000

1

7

8

2

7

9

156

621

777

794

220,000 240,000

1

5

6

1

4

5

109

508

617

628

240,000 260,000

1

4

5

2

7

9

75

446

521

535

260,000 280,000

0

1

1

1

2

3

76

409

485

489

280,000 300,000

0

1

1

0

5

5

96

316

412

418

300,000 320,000

0

5

5

1

3

4

72

312

384

393

320,000 340,000

0

2

2

0

4

4

51

231

282

288

340,000 360,000

0

1

1

2

3

5

37

219

256

262

360,000 380,000

0

2

2

0

1

1

38

188

226

229

380,000 400,000

1

2

3

0

2

2

32

171

203

208

400,000 420,000

1

7

8

0

0

0

39

143

182

190

420,000 440,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

18

132

150

151

440,000 460,000

0

0

0

0

3

3

23

127

150

153

460,000 480,000

1

0

1

0

0

0

13

99

112

113

480,000 500,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

18

77

95

95

500,000 520,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

21

105

126

126

520,000 540,000

0

0

0

0

1

1

11

70

81

82

540,000 560,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

8

78

86

86

560,000 580,000

1

1

2

0

0

0

17

74

91

93

580,000 600,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

10

41

51

52

600,000 620,000

1

0

1

0

0

0

9

49

58

59

620,000 640,000

0

0

0

0

2

2

1

50

51

53

640,000 660,000

0

3

3

0

0

0

5

45

50

53

660,000 680,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

12

53

65

66

680,000 700,000

1

1

2

0

0

0

2

31

33

35

700,000 720,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

37

39

39

720,000 740,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

7

17

24

24

740,000 760,000

0

2

2

0

0

0

3

28

31

33

760,000 780,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

20

23

23

780,000 800,000

1

1

2

0

0

0

1

26

27

29

800,000 820,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

16

16

16

820,000 840,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

5

18

23

23

840,000 860,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

16

17

17

860,000 880,000

0

0

0

0

1

1

4

16

20

21

880,000 900,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

8

9

9

900,000 920,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

12

15

15

920,000 940,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

17

18

18

940,000 960,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

1

14

15

16

960,000 980,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

7

7

7

980,000 1,000,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

10

11

11

Over 1,000,000

1

3

4

2

3

5

34

179

213

222

44

140

184

38

247

285

3,012

12,946

15,958

16,427

*"Single" includes widowed persons

INCOME TAX 2003

Numbers of all income earners with incomes exceeding €100,000

Range of Gross Income*

No net liability for income tax

Liable for tax at the standard rate (20%)

Liable for tax at the higher rate (42%)

Overall

Single*

Married

Total

Single*

Married

Total

Single*

Married

Total

Total

100,000 120,000

17

30

47

12

134

146

2,636

16,882

19,518

19,711

120,000 140,000

9

24

33

10

46

56

1,363

8,165

9,528

9,617

140,000 160,000

4

12

16

4

34

38

799

4,876

5,675

5,729

160,000 180,000

1

17

18

2

18

20

590

3,252

3,842

3,880

180,000 200,000

3

6

9

1

16

17

418

2,262

2,680

2,706

200,000 220,000

1

7

8

2

8

10

335

1,703

2,038

2,056

220,000 240,000

1

5

6

1

7

8

212

1,325

1,537

1,551

240,000 260,000

1

4

5

2

7

9

167

1,010

1,177

1,191

260,000 280,000

0

1

1

1

2

3

124

849

973

977

280,000 300,000

0

1

1

0

5

5

145

665

810

816

300,000 320,000

0

5

5

1

3

4

118

593

711

720

320,000 340,000

0

2

2

0

4

4

80

455

535

541

340,000 360,000

0

1

1

2

3

5

57

385

442

448

360,000 380,000

0

2

2

0

1

1

55

316

371

374

380,000 400,000

1

2

3

0

2

2

45

289

334

339

400,000 420,000

1

7

8

0

0

0

61

249

310

318

420,000 440,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

31

220

251

252

440,000 460,000

0

0

0

0

3

3

28

210

238

241

460,000 480,000

1

0

1

0

0

0

22

154

176

177

480,000 500,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

32

139

171

171

500,000 520,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

25

164

189

189

520,000 540,000

0

0

0

0

1

1

15

112

127

128

540,000 560,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

18

119

137

137

560,000 580,000

1

1

2

0

0

0

19

107

126

128

580,000 600,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

13

79

92

93

600,000 620,000

1

0

1

0

0

0

13

78

91

92

620,000 640,000

0

0

0

0

2

2

5

76

81

83

640,000 660,000

0

3

3

0

0

0

11

64

75

78

660,000 680,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

12

71

83

84

680,000 700,000

1

1

2

0

0

0

4

43

47

49

700,000 720,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

53

56

56

720,000 740,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

10

36

46

46

740,000 760,000

0

2

2

0

0

0

7

44

51

53

760,000 780,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

36

39

39

780,000 800,000

1

1

2

0

0

0

2

45

47

49

800,000 820,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

27

28

28

820,000 840,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

5

34

39

39

840,000 860,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

26

28

28

860,000 880,000

0

0

0

0

1

1

5

22

27

28

880,000 900,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

12

14

14

900,000 920,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

22

26

26

920,000 940,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

22

24

24

940,000 960,000

0

1

1

0

0

0

4

17

21

22

960,000 980,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

-

11

11

11

980,000 1,000,000

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

13

14

14

Over 1,000,000

1

3

4

2

3

5

75

416

491

500

45

141

186

40

300

340

7,579

45,748

53,327

53,853

*Notes to Tables

The 2001 short income tax year was a short transitional tax "year" running from 6 April to 31 December 2001 which preceded the first full calendar tax year 1 January 2002 to 31 December 2002. It should be noted that as PAYE taxpayers were charged to tax on their earnings in the period from 6 April to 31 December 2001 and self-employed taxpayers were assessed to tax for the short "year" on 74% of the profits earned in a 12 month accounting period, the income figures will not be directly comparable with those of earlier or later years.

A married couple who has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit. Married couples and individuals with income chargeable to tax under both Schedule E and Schedule D have been classified in the attached tables by reference to the Schedule under which the larger amount of income is taxable.

The designation of a tax rate to an income earner in the tables is based on identifying the top tax rate applying to the taxable income of each earner. To arrive at the figure for taxable income, the gross income is reduced by various relevant deductions and allowances such as capital allowances, losses, allowable expenses and retirement annuities. In some cases, these will reduce the taxable income to nil.

Caution is required in comparing between years because data for 2002 and 2003 take account of DIRT paid by taxpayers, whereas the figures for 2000/2001 and the short tax "year" 2001 do not do so. To identify and associate the DIRT paid figures at taxpayer level for the two earlier years could not be achieved without conducting a protracted examination of the Revenue Commissioner's records and amending supporting computer software.

The information on incomes is based on income returns on Revenue records at the time the data were compiled for analytical purposes, representing about 95 per cent of all returns expected.

Question No. 152 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

153 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the Danish Government making provision for the repayment of VAT paid on expenditure of charitable bodies; and the way such a provision sits with the position of the Irish Government that such a measure cannot be undertaken due to European Union regulations. [39081/06]

The position is that charities and non-profit groups engaged in non-commercial activity are exempt from VAT under the EU Sixth VAT Directive, with which Irish VAT law must comply. This means they do not charge VAT on the services they provide and cannot recover VAT incurred on goods and services that they purchase. Essentially only VAT registered businesses which charge VAT are able to recover VAT.

The Irish Charities Tax Reform Group (ICTRG) appears to accepts that charities can not be granted VAT refunds through the tax system. However, they are still seeking the introduction of a grant or subsidy in lieu of the VAT charities pay on their business inputs and estimate that this would cost €18 million per annum. In this regard, I am aware that the Danish equivalent to the ICTRG has made proposals to the Danish Finance Ministry. I understand, however, that as yet no scheme has been introduced.

I would add that the 140 bodies represented by the ICTRG already acknowledge that they receive €8.6 million in funding either directly or indirectly from the Exchequer. However, there are currently 7,000 charities registered with the Revenue Commissioners. It is therefore likely that the introduction of a scheme along the lines proposed by the ICTRG would cost the Exchequer significantly more than the €18 million they have estimated. The ICTRG will argue that they represent the largest charities but that is not the case as many educational and sporting organisations are also registered with the Revenue Commissioners as charitable or not-for-profit organisations. Therefore, the introduction of grant in lieu of VAT paid by registered charities would undoubtedly lead to other exempt bodies such as schools, hospitals and sporting, many of which are already registered as charities, seeking to benefit from such a system of refunds. These exempt bodies are already receiving considerable Exchequer funding.

Charities are exempt from Income Tax, DIRT, Stamp duty, Capital taxes and donations to charities are tax relieved. These are of substantial benefit to charities already.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

154 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance his views on the implications for the Exchequer of the expected ruling of the European Court of Justice on the duty levied on goods bought in other EU states and delivered directly to the home owner and that consumers should only pay the duty levied in the country of origin; the estimated cost to the Exchequer of this ruling in loss of excise duties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39237/06]

The court has not yet made its ruling in the case and therefore it is best at this stage to await the ruling and examine it fully before commenting any further.

Willie Penrose

Question:

155 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the recent study from the Combat Poverty Agency which shows that the increasing levels of indirect taxation is having a disproportionate effect on those on lower incomes; the efforts he is making to ensure that those on low incomes receive sufficient supports to deflect the impact of these indirect taxes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37599/06]

I reject entirely the assertion that the indirect tax system has a disproportionate effect on those on lower incomes. A simple look at the facts will show that the conclusions in the report are misdirected.

Firstly, there is no VAT on the main low income items such as food, oral medicines, childrens' shoes and clothing.

Secondly, most excise revenue (60%) comes from excises on petrol, diesel and cars. These are not items that low income groups spend most on. As for the remaining 40% of excise revenue, this comes from duties on tobacco and alcohol where there are solid health grounds for using the tax system to discourage consumption.

Thirdly, there are special reliefs in the VAT and Excise system for medical and other equipment for the disabled. There is no VAT on public transport and diesel used in buses and trains is subject to reduced rates of excise. Most public services are not liable to VAT.

Furthermore it is simply wrong to claim that we are relying more on indirect taxation now than in the past as the following table will show.

1964/5

1975

1985

1995

2005

%

%

%

%

%

VAT1

7

19

25

26

31

Customs & Excise

53

36

25

21

14

Income Tax

26

36

38

36

29

Corp. Tax

5

3

4

10

14

Cap. Taxes

4

3

3

4

13

Other2

5

3

5

4

1 Turnover Tax in 1965

2 Includes Road tax (from 1964/5), Agricultural levies (from 1975), Income/Youth employment levy (1985), Employment and Training Levy (1995)

Investor Compensation Scheme.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

156 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the ICCL compensation scheme for clients of a company (details supplied); the percentage of clients who have received compensation to date; if reports that about half of the firm’s clients will receive no compensation are correct; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39236/06]

The total number of claims received by the Investor Compensation Company Limited (ICCL) by clients of this firm was 2,626. Of these, 2,099 clients have received compensation, which represents 80% of the firm's clients. Claims for compensation were rejected in 273 cases, i.e. 10% of the overall total. A further 254 claims remain to be finalised. The reports that about half of the firm's clients will not receive any compensation are therefore not correct.

The remaining 254 claims which are still being examined are those cases where the Administrator has encountered difficulties in certifying claims as being valid. My Department has been advised by the ICCL that many of these outstanding claims are expected to be completed by February 2007 or so, but that it is likely that there will still be an amount, probably less than 100, of cases still being examined thereafter.

Tax Code.

Seán Crowe

Question:

157 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Finance if he will initiate a comprehensive review of the items to which VAT is applicable to ascertain the scope for introducing new anti-regressive and pro-energy and efficiency measures. [39119/06]

I do not agree with the view that the VAT system is inherently regressive. In fact, every effort is made, as far as EU law will permit, to reduce the incidence of VAT on low incomes.

The position is that VAT rates are applied in accordance with the rules and rating structures provided for under the Sixth VAT Directive. It is EU law, agreed by all Member States, that defines the scope for applying a rate to a good or service. In this regard, Ireland, apart from the farmers' flat rate VAT addition, operates three rates of VAT.

1. Zero-rate which generally applies to most food, children's clothes and shoes, and oral medicines. While it is possible to retain the zero rating for goods and services that were in place on 1 January 1991, no new zero VAT rates can be introduced.

2. Reduced rate of 13.5 per cent which applies, for example, to hot food, cinemas and certain live animals and plants. Member States may have up to two reduced VAT rates of not less than 5 per cent for a specified number of goods or services which are set out in Annex H of the EU Sixth VAT Directive.

3. Furthermore, Member States have the option of maintaining, at a reduced rate of not less than 12 per cent, any items not listed in Annex H, provided they carried that reduced rate on 1 January 1991. These items are considered to be ‘parked' and Ireland's parked rate equates to our reduced rate of 13.5%. Domestic fuels and labour intensive services are examples of parked items.

4. Standard rate of 21 per cent for goods or services which are not zero rated or reduced rated. Examples would include: cars, electrical equipment, motor fuels and CD/DVDs. Under the Sixth VAT Directive Member States may set the standard VAT rate not lower than 15% — there is political agreement that the standard rate of VAT applying in each Member State does not exceed 25%.

Certain services provided by charities and the financial services sector are VAT exempt. Operators in these sectors do not charge VAT on the services they provide and cannot claim VAT on the goods and services they purchase. In general, Government Departments and local authorities are also exempt. This means that most public services are not liable to VAT.

The question of using the VAT system to bring about pro-energy-efficiency measures can only be addressed in line with EU law. Supplies of fuel and energy used for heat or light are subject to the parked VAT rate of 13.5% under Article 28 (2e) of the Sixth VAT Directive.

It is not possible to reduce to any real extent the VAT rate applicable to fuel and energy used for heat or light (e.g. wood pellets). The reduction would only be from 13.5% to 12% with little or no impact on the price of fuel.

In relation to the supply only of the equipment required for energy generation, which would include geothermal and solar energy systems, this is liable to VAT at 21 per cent. However, where the systems are supplied and installed as a single contract, the total charge may be liable to VAT at 13.5 per cent subject to the ‘two-thirds rule'. If the VAT-exclusive cost of the goods to the supplier exceeds two-thirds of the total VAT-exclusive charge to the customer in respect of the supply and installation of the goods, then the entire contract is treated as the supply of goods liable to VAT at 21 per cent. However, it is likely that the latter would only apply in a small minority of cases.

It should be noted that where the VAT content of fuel or equipment purchases is a business input, these are treated as a deductible credit for business.

In regard to undertaking a review of the scope for introducing new anti-regressive and pro-energy-efficiency measures, I don't believe that a special review is necessary. Such considerations are continually kept in mind in the context of developing taxation policy, in so far as this is possible under EU law and especially in the annual budgetary process.

Financial Services Regulation.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

158 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance if there has been progress or an outcome to the regulatory inspection arising out of the in-depth investigation carried out (details supplied); if his attention has been drawn to the imminent resignation of a number of long-serving directors and officers of this credit union in the absence of the publication of a report on these matters and action on the basis of the report’s findings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39084/06]

Regulatory inspections are the responsibility of the Registrar of Credit Unions under the Credit Union Act, 1997.

My Department has been advised that arising out of governance difficulties in the credit union in question and the failure of the board to resolve these difficulties through an arbitration process initiated by the Registrar, authorised officers from an outside specialist firm were appointed under the relevant provisions of the Credit Union Act 1997. The report of the authorised officers was received by the Registrar in August and the matters contained therein are under continuing review by him.

Any decision relating to publication or to actions arising from this report is a matter for the Registrar of Credit Unions, who is statutorily independent in performing his regulatory functions. It would not, therefore, be appropriate for me, in my role as Minister for Finance, to comment on such matters.

Tax Code.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

159 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that it is not possible to avoid the stamp duty depending on the way the sale of commercial property is structured; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39077/06]

Under the stamp duty code, liability to duty mainly arises where there is a conveyance or transfer of the legal title to certain property. It is the instrument of conveyance that is liable to stamp duty and it requires having a "stamp" impressed thereon.

The rates of stamp duty that are applicable to various instruments are set out in Schedule 1 to Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999. Historically, different rates of ad valorem stamp duty have applied to instruments transferring real property and those transferring stocks/ marketable securities (mainly shares). The rate of duty on the transfers of shares has remained at 1% since 1951, while the rate of duty on the transfer of real property has varied over the intervening years. The current rates for transfer of non-residential property are as follows:

Aggregate Consideration

Rate of Duty

Up to €10,000

Exempt

€10,001 to €20,000

1%

€20,001 to €30,000

2%

€30,001 to €40,000

3%

€40,001 to €70,000

4%

€70,001 to €80,000

5%

€80,001 to €100,000

6%

€100,001 to €120,000

7%

€120,001 to€150,000

8%

Over €150,000

9%

Non-residential property is basically any property other than residential property, stocks or marketable securities or policies of insurance. It includes (but is not limited to) sites, offices, factories, other business premises, shops, public houses, land and goodwill attaching to a business.

If an instrument transfers the shares of a company, then the stamp duty rate is 1% of the value of the shares. This is the case whether all or part of the value of the shares derives from real property held by the company e.g. commercial buildings, offices, factories, lands etc. The purchaser of the shares will be a shareholder in a company that now owns the real property. General corporate law regards a company as having a personality distinct from its shareholder.

Question No. 160 answered with QuestionNo. 104.

Tax Collection.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

161 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the outcome of the recent review of customs services at Weston Aerodrome; if an increased customs presence will be put in place at the same facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39255/06]

I outlined to the House on 18 October 2006, in response to a previous question, that the Revenue Commissioners are conducting a review of licensed aerodromes and it is being dealt with as a priority matter. I also stated at that time that the review was likely to take approximately six weeks to complete. I have now been informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the review is on target and that it should be completed within Revenue around the end of November. In the circumstances, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the controls in place at licensed aerodromes pending the completion of this review.

Question No. 162 answered with QuestionNo. 80.
Question No. 163 answered with QuestionNo. 104.

Tax Code.

Pat Carey

Question:

164 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance the way in which income tax policies since 1997 have benefited the least well off in society here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39069/06]

The position is that since 1997, the income tax policies pursued by this Government have resulted in more low-paid earners being outside the tax net than ever before. There are now over 776,000 income earners (about 36% of all earners) who are completely out of the tax net compared with about 380,000 (about 25% of all earners) ten years ago. In 1997 there was not even a statutory minimum wage in existence but this Government put one in place in April 2000. We also replaced tax allowances with tax credits which are fairer to those on low pay because the credits have the same value to all taxpayers.

As the Deputies will be aware, the position today is that the minimum wage in its annualised form is entirely free of tax. This is due to the fact that we have substantially increased the aggregate value of the employee and basic personal tax credits. In addition, in Budget 2006 the PRSI weekly threshold was raised to €300. It is now the case, therefore, that a person on the minimum wage keeps 100 per cent of what he or she earns. I understand that, of those countries in the European Union which have a minimum wage, Ireland is the only country where this is the case.

Besides the increases in the value of the tax credits, we have reduced the standard and higher rates of tax by six percentage points each and widened the standard rate bands considerably. Taken together, the positive changes to credits, rates and bands have meant that since 1997 average tax rates have fallen for all categories of taxpayer, including those on lower incomes. The position now is that four fifths of income earners pay no more than one fifth of their income in income tax.

The Deputy may wish to note that taking account of tax, PRSI and the health levy, the average tax rate for a married one-earner couple with two children on 67% of the average industrial wage in Ireland is now 2.8% as compared with 7.8% in 1997.

The average tax rate for a married one-earner couple with two children on the average industrial wage is now 7.7% as compared with 20.3% in 1997.

Furthermore, the single employee on the average industrial wage has also gained considerably. In 2006, such a person will have seen their take-home pay rise by over €12,300 since 1997 but their tax bill actually cut by almost €500 as compared with 1997; not only has take-home pay risen substantially, the actual amount of tax paid has fallen.

Besides the tax changes, we have increased the health levy threshold so as to ensure that lower earners are not subject to it. In fact, since 1994, the health levy threshold has increased by almost a quarter. It now stands at €440 per week and €22,880 per annum in 2006.

In line with the commitment in the current Government Programme, we have prioritised available resources towards elderly persons as well as those on low pay. In the last five years, the age exemption limits, under which those aged 65 or over are exempt from tax up to specified limits, have increased by over 57% whereas inflation for the same period is expected to increase by about 17%. Indeed, these limits have almost trebled since this Government came into office in 1997. For 2006, the limits stand at €17,000 for the single person and €34,000 where at least one spouse in a married couple is aged 65 or over.

The tax, PRSI and levies changes which this Government has introduced since 1997 have resulted in a position where, in international terms, for the single worker on average earnings, Ireland has the lowest tax wedge in the EU. This has been the case in each of the six years 2000 to 2005. We also have one of the lowest tax wedges in the entire OECD.

For a married one-earner couple with two children on average earnings, Ireland has the lowest tax wedge in the entire OECD. In addition, when cash transfers from the State are taken into account, such couples face a negative burden in Ireland because they receive more in the cash transfers than they pay out in tax and social security contributions. Ireland is the only OECD country where this is the case.

Finally, may I point out that in its commentary on the Budgets of the last three years, the ESRI expressed the view that these were progressive in nature, favouring those on lower incomes to a greater extent than those higher up the income range.

Departmental Expenditure.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

165 Mr. Cuffe asked the Taoiseach the quantity, cost and suppliers of energy used by his Department in the last year for which figures are available; if an audit has been carried out on his Department’s energy use; and the details of same. [39429/06]

Electricity and gas supplies to Government Buildings/Leinster House are metered through the Houses of the Oireachtas. The actual quantity of energy consumed by my Department is unavailable as the supply is not separately metered.

My Department is charged a fixed rate of 27.46% of the total ESB charge for Government Buildings/Leinster House. For the period November 2004 to October 2005, the charge was €125,142.30.

My Department is charged a fixed rate of 7.51% of the total Dublin Gas charges for Government Buildings/Leinster House. For the period November 2004 to October 2005, the charge was €36,907.18.

While having regard to business demands, my Department does try to promote the efficient use of resources and the conservation of energy.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

166 Mr. Cuffe asked the Taoiseach the quantity, cost and suppliers of water, both tap and bottled, acquired by his Department for its own use in the last year for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39459/06]

In 2005, the cost of the supply of water to the Department was €13,088.26, as follows:

Department of the Taoiseach Supply of Water 2005

Supplier

Quantity

Cost

Description

All Water Systems

Not metered

5,998.32

The supply, fitting and maintenance of 18 water coolers throughout the Department

De Braam Mineral Water Ltd

Approx. 700 (250 ml) bottles

313.27

Supply of bottled water for conferences, functions, seminars and official meetings held in the Department

Nash Mineral Water

Approx. 2000 (250 ml) bottles

891.04

Supply of bottled water for conferences, functions, seminars and official meetings held in the Department

Dublin City Council

Not metered

5,885.63

Water and fire mains charges for the Department of the Taoiseach

Total

13,088.26

Cabinet Sub-Committees.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

167 Mr. Kehoe asked the Taoiseach the number of sub-committees in the Cabinet; the responsibilities of each committee and the members of each committee; [39678/06]

The details requested are set out in the following Table.

Committee

Membership*

Health Strategy

Minister for Finance Minister for Health & Children (and other Ministers from time to time, as determined by the particular business of the Committee)

Social Inclusion and Children

Minister for Finance Minister for Health and Children Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Minister for Social and Family Affairs Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Minister for Education and Science Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Minister for Children Minister of State with special responsibility for (i) Drugs Strategy and Community Affairs, (ii) Housing and Urban Renewal; Minister of State with special responsibility for Equality Issues (including Disability Issues); and Minister of State with special responsibility for Labour Affairs (including Training).

European Affairs

Minister for Finance Minister for Communications, Marine & Natural Resources Minister for Foreign Affairs Minister for Enterprise Trade & Employment Minister for Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs (as required) Minister for Agriculture and Food Minister for Defence Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government Minister of State for European Affairs Minister of State at the Department of Finance Attorney General

Housing Infrastructure and PPPs

Minister for Finance Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Minister for Transport Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Minister for Education and Science Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing and Urban Renewal Government Chief Whip Attorney General

Information Society

Minister for Finance Minister for Health and Children Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Minister for Social and Family Affairs Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Minister for Education and Science Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Government Chief Whip

Science, Technology & Innovation

Minister for Finance Minister for Health and Children Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Minister for Agriculture and Food Minister for Education and Science Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government

Electronic Voting

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government

Decentralisation

Minister for Finance Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government

Aer Lingus

Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism Minister for Transport Minister for Finance

*The Taoiseach and Tánaiste can be members of all Cabinet Committees.

Maternity Leave.

Richard Bruton

Question:

168 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has considered maternity leave rights that are available in other European countries; his views on the contrast between the regime here and the more progressive regimes in terms of length of leave, flexibility of leave and employer rights to refuse the leave; and his plans to improve Irish law. [39309/06]

The Government recognises the need to provide support to working parents after the birth or adoption of a child, and has already made a number of significant improvements to our legislation to ensure this.

The latest National Agreement — Towards 2016 — includes a commitment to continue to enhance maternity leave entitlements, in line with the measures announced in Budget 2006, aimed at helping children and their families to experience the qualities of family life, particularly in the important first year of life of the child. This will involve extending the period of paid maternity leave to 6 months by March 2007 and the unpaid maternity leave entitlement to 16 weeks. Together with the existing 14 weeks parental leave, parents' entitlement to paid and unpaid leave will be increased to a total period of 56 weeks (or 70 weeks if the father's parental leave entitlement is also included). The level of provision of maternity/paternity leave will be reviewed again before end 2008.

Comparisons between the Member States are difficult in that one needs to see maternity rights in the context of the overall package of parenting entitlements available in Member States. In some countries, there is a fine line between maternity and parental leave, and that part of the leave classified as parental leave may in fact be maternity leave.

Garda Equipment.

Ivor Callely

Question:

169 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procurement arrangements that are in place for the purchase of An Garda Síochána motor cycle uniforms or outfits; the suppliers of such uniforms or outfits; the cost of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39321/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that following a tender competition, which was advertised in the E.U. Journal, a 3 year contract for the supply of motor bike equipment, to include the provision of helmets, leather suits, rain suits, boots, gloves and polo shirts was awarded on the 20th February 2006.

The company awarded this contract is ‘A.T. Uniform' and the estimated cost over the term of the contract is €1,351,930.00.

I am further informed that the cost of issuing a full motorcycle kit is €2,947.65 including VAT.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

170 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of incidents of money laundering detected here and throughout Europe in the past five years; if sufficient expertise, technology and co-operation has been achieved to deter this activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39564/06]

The information conveyed to me by the Garda Authorities relates solely to this jurisdiction and I am informed that seventeen individuals have been prosecuted in the past five years for money-laundering offences. In addition, a number of ‘money-laundering' schemes have been uncovered during Garda investigations into serious and organised criminal groupings.

The Money Laundering Investigation Unit (MLIU) at the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation has primary responsibility for the investigation of money laundering offences in this jurisdiction, while the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) is charged with depriving criminals and their networks of assets derived from criminal activity. A dedicated unit has been established within the Garda National Drugs Unit to investigate the financial aspects of drug-trafficking, as there is a clear nexus between drug-trafficking and money laundering.

As money laundering is a transnational crime which does not respect any borders, international co-operation is a key strategy to combat this type of crime. An Garda Síochána utilises Europol and Interpol and works in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies in Europe and elsewhere to target those suspected of involvement in this type of criminal activity.

To further the exchange of intelligence on those believed to be involved in this type of crime, twelve Memoranda of Understanding have been signed between various international Financial Intelligence Units and the Money Laundering Unit at the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation to facilitate co-operation at an international level in relation to the investigation of money-laundering offences.

I understand that local Garda management is satisfied that adequate resources, both in relation to technology and personnel, are currently available to An Garda Síochána to investigate this type of criminality.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

171 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent of credit card fraud at present; if measures have been taken throughout the banking and finance sectors to prevent such fraud; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39566/06]

I have been informed by the Garda Authorities that approximately €13 million in respect of payment cards was lost to the financial institutions in 2005. Of this, €4 million related to Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). Up to 2002, this type of fraud had been increasing by approximately thirty per cent annually but there have been slight decreases since then. It is anticipated that the total loss to the industry will be in the region of €14.5 million for 2006. In relation to ATM fraud specifically, there has been a dramatic decrease in 2006 with a drop of sixty five per cent on the previous year. I understand that this substantial decrease is in part attributable to the arrest and conviction of a number of criminal gangs which had been operating in this jurisdiction.

With regard to specific measures taken by the banking and finance sector to counteract payment card fraud, action has been taken by the Irish Payments Services Organisation (IPSO), the umbrella body for the Irish payments industry, to tackle this problem. These actions include co-ordinating the Irish implementation of the Chip and Pin migration programme as part of a Europe-wide anti-fraud initiative. The Deputy might like to note that it will no longer be possible to by-pass chip and pin from March 2007. IPSO actively promotes awareness of the problem through media appearances, educational initiatives and other channels.

In addition to this, the Credit Card Forum (CFF), consisting of the senior fraud staff from each of the banks and financial institutions meets on a regular basis under the auspices of IPSO Card Services. One of this group's prime responsibilities is to control the cost of plastic card crime by facilitating major anti-fraud initiatives and preparing for possible future crime trends that may affect the card industry. This work is carried out with co-operation from national and international card schemes, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and retail and consumer groups.

While every attempt is made to make the public aware of credit card fraud through the use of advertising campaigns, one ongoing aspect of the process of providing information is a very useful website run under the auspices of IPSO Card Services. The www.safecard.ie website provides advice and information to cardholders and retailers who are looking to reduce or prevent card fraud in their places of business. An Garda Síochána continues to monitor trends to ensure that law enforcement activities are in place to tackle crimes of this type.

Data Protection.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

172 Mr. Cuffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to allow householders to opt out of the delivery of unsolicited or unaddressed direct mail by An Post or other bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39607/06]

The position is that sections 2(7) and 2(8) of the Data Protection Act 1988 (as amended by section 3 of the Data Protection (Amendment) Act 2003) contain provisions directly related to direct marketing. Section 2(7) provides that where personal data are kept for the purpose of direct marketing, any individual may request the data controller (the person who controls the content and use of that data) in writing not to process personal data relating to him or her for that purpose or to cease such processing. The data controller must comply with such a request within 40 days and notify the individual in writing accordingly.

Under section 2(8), where a data controller anticipates that personal data (including personal data that is required by law to be made available to the public) kept by him or her will be processed for the purposes of direct marketing, the data controller is required to inform the individuals to whom the data relate that they may object in writing to the data controller, and free of any charge, to such processing.

These provisions are intended to raise awareness of the right, and give individuals the opportunity, to opt out of receiving direct marketing if they so wish. In line with these provisions, the Irish Direct Marketing Association (IDMA) operates a Mailing Preference Service which enables individuals who do not wish to receive direct mail from IDMA members to register their details with IDMA.

Garda Stations.

Denis Naughten

Question:

173 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the Office of Public Works refurbishment plan for Kilconnell Garda Station in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39636/06]

Denis Naughten

Question:

174 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the Office of Public Works refurbishment plan for Athleague Garda Station in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39638/06]

Denis Naughten

Question:

175 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the Office of Public Works refurbishment plan for Ballyforan Garda Station in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39639/06]

Denis Naughten

Question:

176 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the Office of Public Works refurbishment plan for Cootehall Garda Station in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39640/06]

Denis Naughten

Question:

177 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the Office of Public Works plan to build a standard Garda Station in Drumshanbo, County Leitrim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39641/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 173 to 177, inclusive, together.

As outlined in my replies to Parliamentary Question No.'s 205 and 208 of 14th November, there are plans under the Garda Building Programme to build smaller standard stations at Kilconnell, Athleague, Ballyforan, Cootehall and Drumshambo stations.

Projects are progressed under the various Garda Building Programmes on the basis of agreed priorities. This is achieved by consensus and with the cooperation and commitment of all concerned — the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Garda authorities and Representative Associations and the Office of Public Works from whose Vote the capital works for Garda properties are funded. Progress in each case is dependent on a number of factors including the priorities as determined by Garda Headquarters taking into account the merits of the case made by local Garda Management and associated reports supplied by the Office of Public Works. In some instances, the commencement of a project may first be dependent on the successful acquisition of a suitable site for the proposed development. Accordingly, it is not possible to say at this point in time, when works will commence at these locations.

Sexual Offences.

Dan Neville

Question:

178 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons who are on the Sex Offenders Register. [39278/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that 988 persons were subject to the notification requirements of Part 2 of the Sex Offenders Act, 2001, as of 20 November, 2006.

Public Inquiries.

Finian McGrath

Question:

179 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the new Stardust evidence; and if he will give the families the maximum support. [39279/06]

Examination of the submission made by the Stardust Victim's Committee calling for a new public inquiry is at an advanced stage. It is expected that a detailed response will issue within the next three weeks. I can also inform the Deputy that my Department has advised the Committee that it will initiate and oversee a process intended to lead to the identification of the five unidentified victims. The timescale for this project, the full costs of which will be borne by the Department, should be available very soon and will of course be shared with the next of kin.

Criminal Assets Bureau.

Joe Costello

Question:

180 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of money that has been seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau in each year since it’s establishment in 1996; the amount of money seized and still frozen; the amount of money seized and released; the use to which the money has been put; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39280/06]

I have been informed by An Garda Síochána that details of the activities of the Criminal Assets Bureau are contained in the Annual Reports of the Criminal Assets Bureau since its establishment in 1996. These reports are quite comprehensive and include details of the number of cases commenced, money frozen under the Proceeds of Crime Acts and details of money collected by the Bureau under the provisions of Revenue and Social Welfare legislation. Copies of the Annual Reports are available from the Oireachtas library.

Since its statutory inception in October 1996 and up to 31 December 2005, the Bureau has obtained interim and "final" restraint orders to the value of over €58 million and €25 million respectively. In the same period, taxes and interest demanded was almost €87 million, with almost €89 million collected. Regarding social welfare payments, savings amounted to almost €2 million and recovery of overpayments amounted to almost €1 million. The following tables provide details of the amounts of money seized for the years in question under orders made under sections 2, 3, 4 and 4a of the Proceeds of Crime legislation 1996 to 2005.

The first applications for "Disposal Orders" under Section 4 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 at the end of the statutory seven year period from the making of the first Section 3 Orders in 1997 came before the Courts in 2004. In 2004 the first two Section 4 applications were concluded and two sums totalling over €275,000 were sent to the Minister of Finance for the benefit of the Central Fund, following directions made in that regard by the High Court.

Disposal Orders under Section 4 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 and Section 4A of the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act 2005 realised €2.02 million in 2005. It should be noted that some of the figures quoted under Section 2 and 3 of the Proceeds of Crime Acts relate to real property, the value of which may have increased significantly since the making of the freezing order. All funds collected by the Criminal Assets Bureau are forwarded either directly, or through the Revenue Commissioners / Department of Social and Family Affairs, to the Central Exchequer Fund under the remit of the Department of Finance and are allocated accordingly as approved by Dáil Éireann through the normal Estimates process.

Table 1: Details of orders secured by CAB 1996 to date under the Proceeds of Crime legislation 1996/2005

Orders obtained under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996

Year

Value of Section 2 Interim Orders

Year

Value of Section 3 Interlocutory Orders

Value of Section 4 & 4a Disposal Orders

1996

€2,667,719

1996

€2,600,424

1997

€2,964,432

1997

€1,899,756

1998

€2,136,391

1998

€1,385,808

1999

€1,904,607

1999

€1,033,134

2000

€1,064,721

2000

€2,083,913

Stg £52,230

Stg Nil

2001

€2,377,781

2001

€1,705,196

Stg £491,114

Stg £279,636

US$Nil

US$224,926

2002

€3,709,086

2002

€2,504,669

Stg £17,802,004

Stg £1,993,094

US$5,558,377

US$5,247,821

2003

€3,045,842

2003

€71,699

Stg £12,150

Stg £557,070

USNil

USNil

2004

€1,027,152

2004

€1,688,651

€275,875.43

Stg £6,115

Stg £375

2005

€5,860,355

2005

€1,200,526

€2,002,738.41

Stg £26,760

US$314,620

US$130,000

Total by Currency

€26,760,791

Total by Currency

€16,175,984

€2,278,613.84

Stg £18,363,613

Stg £2,856,934

US$5,872,997

US5,377,821

Overall Total

€58 m approx.

Overall Total

€25 m approx.

Table 2: Details of monies secured by CAB through Revenue Actions

Year Ending

Taxes Assessed

Taxes and Interest Demanded

Taxes Collected

1996

4,002,079

4,372,975

Nil

1997

7,946,235

6,616,207

251,700

1998

8,309,226

13,706,312

789,459

1999

9,971,706

17,083,072

2,998,207

2000

12,625,172

6,168,662

8,595,134

2001

18,638,050

8,344,701

23,561,666

2002

9,954,554

12,830,763

10,003,816

2003

7,405,114

7,198,272

9,991,022

2004

5,519,474

5,497,449

16,408,649

2005

14,078,812

4,888,818

16,376,599

Total

98,452,891

86,718,833

88,983,719

Table 3: Social Welfare Savings/Recoveries made by CAB

Year

Overpayments Assessed

Savings

Sums Recovered

1996

42,199

Nil

1997

235,878

296,634

1998

356,889

281,214

1999

416,163

341,527

2000

Nil

137,146

2001

317,404

192,803

166,279.82

2002

350,347

155,481

51,909.36

2003

518,885

109,654

199,702.77

2004

262,049

222,921

273,073.61

2005

338,296

216,054

293,948

Total

2,838,110

1,953,434

984,913.56

Drug Seizures.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

181 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is possible to determine and if he will report on the amount and estimated value of heroin seized in the north county Dublin area in each of the past five years up to 2005; and the number of such seizures. [39281/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

182 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is possible to determine and if he will report on the number of arrests arising from seizures of heroin in the north County Dublin area in each of the past five years up to 2005; the number of such seizures; and the number of successful prosecutions arising from those arrests. [39282/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

183 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is possible to determine and if he will report on the amount and estimated value of cocaine seized in the north County Dublin area in each of the past five years up to 2005; and the number of such seizures. [39283/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

184 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is possible to determine and if he will report on the number of arrests arising from seizures of cocaine in the north County Dublin area in each of the past five years up to 2005; the number of such seizures; and the number of successful prosecutions arising from those arrests. [39284/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 181 to 184, inclusive, together.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the number and estimated value of seizures of heroin and cocaine in the Dublin Metropolitan Region, North Division, which includes the Garda Districts of Santry, Coolock and Raheny for the years 2001 to 2005 are as shown in Tables 1 and 2. I am further informed by the Garda authorities that the number of proceedings commenced and convictions recorded for drug offences in the Garda Division of DMR North for the years 2001-2005 is as follows:

Year 2001 — 413 proceedings commenced, 241 convictions

Year 2002 — 595 proceedings commenced, 250 convictions

Year 2003 — 608 proceedings commenced, 236 convictions

Year 2004 — 609 proceedings commenced, 195 convictions

Year 2005 — 1,171 proceedings commenced, 288 convictions.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that information relating to the number of arrests made for a specific type of drug is not readily available and it would require a disproportionate expenditure of Garda time and resources to research each case manually to provide such data.

Table 1: Estimated value of heroin seizures Garda Division of DMR North

Year

Quantity

No. of cases

Estimated Street value

grms

2005

472.56

70

94,512

2004

566.81

35

113,362

2003

10,063.71

51

2,012,742

2002

2,644.65

52

528,930

2001

406.94

83

81,388

Table 2: Estimated value of cocaine seizures Garda Division of DMR North

Year

Quantity

No. of cases

Estimated Street value

grms

2005

22,698.51

128

1,588,895

2004

32,864.24

85

2,300,496

2003

19,387.33

86

1,357,113

2002

11,251.12

58

787,578

2001

974.43

32

68,210

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

185 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is possible to determine and if he will report on the amount and estimated value of heroin seized in the Swords area in each of the past five years up to 2005; and the number of such seizures. [39285/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

186 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is possible to determine and if he will report on the number of arrests arising from seizures of heroin in the Swords area in each of the past five years up to 2005; the number of such seizures; and the number of successful prosecutions arising from those arrests. [39286/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

187 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is possible to determine and if he will report on the amount and estimated value of cocaine seized in the Swords area in each of the past five years up to 2005; and the number of such seizures. [39287/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

188 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is possible to determine and if he will report on the number of arrests arising from seizures of cocaine in the Swords area in each of the past five years up to 2005; the number of such seizures; and the number of successful prosecutions arising from those arrests. [39288/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 185 to 188, inclusive, together.

I have been informed by An Garda Síochána that table 1 below shows the number and estimated value of seizures of heroin in the Garda District of Coolock, which includes Coolock, Malahide and Swords Garda stations, for the years 2001 to 2005. I am further informed by the Garda authorities that the number of proceedings commenced and convictions recorded for drug offences in the Garda District of Coolock for the years 2001-2005 is as follows. The Swords area is contained in the Coolock Garda District.

Year 2001 — 174 proceedings commenced, 103 convictions

Year 2002 — 236 proceedings commenced, 90 convictions

Year 2003 — 258 proceedings commenced, 116 convictions

Year 2004 — 278 proceedings commenced, 98 convictions

Year 2005 — 655 proceedings commenced, 163 convictions.

The statistics provided include drug offences such as possession, supply, importation and cultivation. Information relating to the number of arrests made for a specific type of drug is not readily available.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that it would require a disproportionate expenditure of Garda time and resources to research each case manually in an attempt to identify the drug type involved in the drug offence recorded or arrest made. Data in relation to the number of cocaine seizures in the Swords area over the period in question is not readily available within the timeframe for answering Parliamentary Questions. I will revert to you when this information is to hand.

Table 1: Heroin seizures Garda Coolock District 2001-2005

Year

Quantity

No. of cases

Estimated Street value

grms

2005

375.8

37

75,160

2004

88.51

24

17,702

2003

4,815.41

18

964,082

2002

120.21

18

24,042

2001

239.52

36

47,902

Crime Levels.

Joe Costello

Question:

189 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of drug offences which came before the courts in 2005; the number of cases in which the mandatory minimum sentence could have been imposed; the number of cases in which it was actually imposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39289/06]

I assume the information sought by the Deputy refers to cases before the Courts under section 15A of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. According to figures made available to me from the Courts Service, during 2005 80 persons were convicted under section 15A of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 as inserted by section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1999. Of these 10 (or 12.5%) received a sentence of 10 years or more as provided by section 27 of the 1977 Act.

Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1999 inserted a new section 15A into the 1977 Act. It provides for an offence related to the possession of drugs with a value of €13,000 or more for the purpose of sale or supply. Section 5 (amending section 27 of the 1977 Act) provides for a maximum penalty of life imprisonment as well as for a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment for the offence under section 15A.

According to section 5, a court should not apply the mandatory minimum sentence where it is satisfied there are exceptional and specific circumstances which would make it unjust in all the circumstances to impose the minimum sentence of 10 years. Factors to which the court may have regard include whether the person pleaded guilty, the stage at which such an intention was indicated and the circumstances surrounding the indication and whether the person materially assisted the investigation of the offence.

In order to ensure that due regard is paid to the wishes of the Oireachtas that serious drug offences are severely punished, I have sought to strengthen these mandatory minimum provisions by way of the Criminal Justice Act 2006. Section 84 of the 2006 Act (which further amended section 27 of the 1977 Act) requires the court to take account of any previous convictions and also, whether the public interest in preventing drug trafficking is served by imposing a lesser sentence.

In addition, the 2006 Act provides that the 10 year minimum sentence must be imposed where the person has a previous conviction for an offence under either section 15A or the new offence under section 15B (inserted by section 82 of the 2006 Act) of importation of drugs with a value of €13,000 or more. I believe these amendments reflect the sentiments of the Oireachtas and are justified by the public interest in ensuring the strongest possible response to drug crime. The relevant provisions of the 2006 Act were commenced with effect from 1 August. It is too early at this stage to come to any conclusions as to their impact on sentencing for drug trafficking offences.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Joe Costello

Question:

190 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if any of the Gardaí who were criticised in the Morris Reports from the Morris Tribunal and who resigned or retired have since been employed in any capacity by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39290/06]

The issue to which the Deputy refers is still being checked and I will inform the Deputy of the results as soon as possible.

Court Procedures.

Joe Costello

Question:

191 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the in-camera rule; the number of family law cases which have been heard since the new legislation was passed; the number that have been reported; the number of stenographers and reporters who have been appointed to cover the family court cases since the legislation was passed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39291/06]

Section 40 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 provides for a relaxation of the in camera rule while continuing to respect the confidential nature of family law cases. The section also provides that nothing in a relevant enactment shall operate to prohibit the preparation of a report of proceedings in family law cases or the publication of the decision of the court in those proceedings. The report may be prepared by a barrister at law or a solicitor or a person falling within a class of persons specified in regulations made by the Minister. The section goes on to state that the identity of the parties to the case or any child to which the proceedings relate must not be disclosed. The attendance of any person to report on a case must be in accordance with rules of court.

On 1 July 2005, I made the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 (Section 40(3)) Regulations 2005 which specify the following classes of persons entitled to apply to attend family law proceedings for the purpose of publishing reports on the cases:

(a) family mediators who are accredited to the Mediators Institute Ireland, nominated by the Family Support Agency, and approved by the Minister,

(b) persons engaged in family law research who are nominated by a body specified in the Schedule to these Regulations and approved by the Minister,

(c) persons engaged by the Courts Service to prepare court reports of proceedings under relevant enactments.

To date, I have approved one family mediator and several other persons engaged in family law research on the nomination of bodies specified in the Regulations and, in view of enquiries made to my Department, I expect to receive further nominations shortly. In addition the Courts Service has recently engaged a Family Court Recorder on a one year pilot basis. Appointment of stenographers is a matter for the Courts Service and the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 made no provision in this respect.

Information on the operation of the Courts is contained in the Annual Reports of the Courts Service which are available in the Oireachtas Library. The Service may also provide other information on request.

Irish Prison Service.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

192 Mr. Cuffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide a list of the medical treatments that will not be provided by the Prison Service under Section 37 of the Prisons Bill 2006, for which prisoners will be required to pay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39314/06]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

196 Mr. Cuffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if prisoners will be required to pay for telephone calls to solicitors or other legal representatives under the terms of Section 37(a) of the Prisons Bill 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39354/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 192 and 196 together.

Section 37 of the Prisons Bill 2006 allows the Minister to provide for charges to be made to prisoners for goods or services that are not generally available to prisoners or are not available on an unlimited basis. This would include telephone calls, access to electronic devices, private medical treatment or escorts provided outside the prison for matters not related to their imprisonment. This section will provide a statutory basis for provisions in the Draft Prison Rules (a copy of which is available on my Department's website at www.justice.ie) which allow a Prison Governor to charge for the provision of certain services over and above the standard provision to all prisoners, such as use of the videolink, telephone calls and access to materials relating to current affairs (e.g. newspapers, magazines etc.).

Access to many of these services are currently provided without charge and it is not intended to begin charging for all of these services. For example no charge is currently made for the making of a certain amount of phone calls. Prisoners are currently entitled to a daily phone call including calls to their legal advisor, and this will continue to be the position. Prisoners are provided with access to Healthcare services on an equivalent basis to citizens in the general community who are covered by the GMS (Medical Card) service. Section 37 of the Prisons Bill 2006 allows for the Prison Rules to provide, where it is deemed necessary (on the basis of non-convicted status) to facilitate a prisoner with access to elective health care outside the public system, that the prisoner will be responsible for the costs associated with facilitating such provision. Provision of necessary healthcare to all prisoners on an equivalent basis to that provided under the public health system will continue to be funded by the State.

In addition to the escorts costs that would arise in the facilitation of access to elective healthcare outside the public system, prisoners are charged for escorts outside of their place of detention in relation to civil proceedings against third parties. It is not proposed to charge for escorts where the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform or an individual governor is listed as a defendant or co-defendant in such proceedings. It is also not proposed to charge prisoners for appointments relating to any matters before the Residential Institutions Redress Board.

Prison Staff.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

193 Mr. Cuffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will introduce privatised prison escorts, as provided for under Part 2 of the Prisons Bill 2006; if so, the evidence that has emerged in favour of such a plan since 2002 when his Department’s expert committee concluded that privatisation of prisoner escorts was not a viable option; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39315/06]

While Part II of the Prisons Bill 2006 provides for an option to outsource prisoner escorts should it become necessary at some future date, I have no plans in the current circumstances to pursue that course. The Deputy will be aware that agreement was reached with the Prison Officers' Association last year on a comprehensive Proposal for Organisational Change in the Irish Prison Service. A key element of that Agreement involved the establishment of an in-house Prison Service Escort Corps. In the intervening period, the Prison Service Escort Corps has been successfully established and is now operating very well and the efficiencies anticipated from its introduction are being realised.

Irish Prison Service.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

194 Mr. Cuffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the purpose and terms of reference of the delegation of Irish Prison Service officials that visited prisons in Spain earlier in 2006; the officials who comprised the delegation; if a report or other document was prepared based upon the delegation’s visit; the countries to which similar delegations have taken place in 2006 or are planned for 2006 and 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39316/06]

As part of the Project Management Structure for the Thornton Hall Development a sub committee of the Project Board was established to consider design issues. As part of the design process a delegation from the committee looked at prison systems in other countries. The terms of reference for this delegation was to inform the Thornton Hall Design committee of developments in penology, security and technological advances in other jurisdictions. The visits were highly informative in the context of the development of the design concept for the new prison development at Thornton Hall.

In this context, a number of Prison Service personnel visited SIEP, the Spanish agency with responsibilities for their prison building programme. The visit also included a visit to a recently built prison. The members of the delegation were; Director of Prison Operations, Director of Regimes, Head of Estate Management, Prison Governor, Mountjoy Prison,Governor of Works, Building Services Division, Representative from Jacobs Engineering, Technical Adviser. Similar delegations visited prison institutions in the UK, Norway, Denmark and USA. A detailed technical report was prepared in respect of each prison visit and further visits outside the jurisdiction will be considered from time to time as appropriate.

Visa Applications.

John McGuinness

Question:

195 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application to remain in the State by a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; the timeframe for a decision in their case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39342/06]

The person in question made an application for family reunification under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996 on behalf of his wife in February 2006. I expect that a decision will be reached in this matter in the early part of 2007.

Question No. 196 answered with QuestionNo. 192.

Radon Gas Levels.

Liam Twomey

Question:

197 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in view of the fact that there was excessive radon levels in a third of schools here, his Department has plans or carried out tests for excessive radon levels in buildings under the control of or used by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39378/06]

I can inform the Deputy that my Department is at an advanced point in a programme of works to relocate and enhance its Head Office accommodation in Dublin. It is intended, with the assistance of the Office of the Public Works, to take and follow best practice advice regarding radon testing of that and its other accommodation.

Departmental Expenditure.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

198 Mr. Cuffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the quantity, cost and suppliers of energy used by his Department in the last year for which figures are available; if an audit has been carried out on his Department’s energy use; the details of same. [39427/06]

I can inform the Deputy that the figure paid for energy costs for the year ending December, 2005 by my Department was €118,734.72. Data in relation to the quantity of energy supplied is not readily available. The suppliers of energy to my Department are the ESB, An Bord Gáis and Energia.

I wish to further inform the Deputy that my Department is at an advanced point in a programme of works to relocate and enhance its Head Office accommodation in Dublin. It is intended, with the assistance of the Office of Public Works, to carry out an audit of this accommodation's energy use, in line with best practice. As things stands, the Department applies standard and common-sense advice in the area of energy efficiency.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

199 Mr. Cuffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the quantity, cost and suppliers of water, both tap and bottled, acquired by his Department for its own use in the last year for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39457/06]

I can inform the Deputy that expenditure on water supplies, which includes bottle and filtered/chilled tap water, by my Department for the year ending December, 2005 was €16,860.24. Data in relation to the quantity of water supplied is not readily available. The suppliers of water to my Department during the period in question were Tipperary Water and Glenpatrick Spring Water.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

200 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied that all of the circumstances indicating a life threatening situation in the event of a return to their homeland in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 2 are groundless, in view of the fact that their application for refugee status has been refused and having particular regard to international opinion regarding the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39570/06]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 240 of Thursday, 25th May, 2006; 440 of Wednesday, 27th September, 2006; and 93 of Thursday 9th November, 2006, and the written replies to those Questions. The position is unchanged.

Garda Strength.

Enda Kenny

Question:

201 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the strength of the Garda force in the Mayo division by rank and location; the number of vacancies that exist; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39642/06]

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 13,000 on Thursday, 16 November, 2006, following the attestation of 299 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,298 (or 21.5%) 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 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 informed by the Garda authorities that the Gardaí serving in the Mayo Division, by rank and location as at 20 November, 2006 was as set out in the table hereunder:

Station

C/Supt.

Supt.

Insp.

Sgt.

Garda

Total 20/11/06

Castlebar

1

1

1

11

51

65

Ballyvary

1

1

Ballyglass

1

1

Balla

1

1

2

Partry

1

1

2

Tourmakeady

1

1

Garda Information Services

1

2

0

3

Ballina

1

1

6

33

41

Killala

1

1

2

Ballycastle

1

1

Bonniconlon

1

1

Crossmolina

1

2

3

Lahardane

1

1

Enniscrone

1

1

2

Easkey

1

2

3

Belmullet

1

3

18

22

Blacksod

1

1

Bellacorick

1

1

Bangor Erris

1

2

3

Ballycroy

1

1

Glenamoy

1

1

Claremorris

1

3

18

22

Kilmaine

1

1

Ballindine

1

1

Knock

3

3

Ballinrobe

2

7

9

Cong

1

1

Shrule

1

1

Swinford

1

2

23

26

Kiltimagh

2

1

3

Charlestown

1

3

4

Kilkelly

2

2

Ballyhaunis

2

7

9

Foxford

1

1

2

Westport

1

3

22

26

Newport

2

2

Achill Sound

3

3

Mulranny

1

1

Louisburgh

1

1

2

Keel

1

1

Total

1

6

3

46

221

277

The personnel strength of the Mayo Division as at 31 December, 2005 was 259 (all ranks). The personnel strength of the Mayo Division as at 20 November, 2006 was 277 (all ranks). This represents an increase of 18 (or 6.9%) in the number of personnel allocated since that date. Garda management state that every effort is made to fill vacancies that have arisen as a result of promotions/retirements during each allocation of newly promoted/attested Garda personnel.

I should add that 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 Equipment.

Enda Kenny

Question:

202 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of mountain bikes available to Gardaí in the Mayo division; the locations of same; the extra bikes to be allocated to this division in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39643/06]

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 13,000 on Thursday, 16 November, 2006, following the attestation of 299 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,298 (or 21.5%) 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 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 there are currently two mountain bikes allocated to the Castlebar District of the Mayo Garda Division. Two members have been equipped and trained in the use of these bikes. I am also informed that training has been arranged for a further three members, and that additional mountain bikes and equipment will be available for allocation before the end of 2006 with further bikes and equipment due to be delivered in 2007.

Garda Training.

Enda Kenny

Question:

203 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made towards achieving equality in the Gardaí for members who can conduct their business through Irish but who do not receive a Gaeltacht allowance in the Cork and Kerry, Mayo, An Rinn and Rathcairn Gaeltacht areas due to a political decision; and when he expects to rectify this discriminatory practice.. [39644/06]

The arrangements for the payment of Gaeltacht allowances are among the issues being examined at present by an Interdepartmental Group on the use and promotion of the Irish language in An Garda Síochána. This Group was established following the Government decision of 7 September, 2005 which approved changes in the eligibility criteria for entry to An Garda Síochána, including the requirements relating to the Irish language. The group consists of senior representatives of An Garda Síochána, my Department and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. I expect to receive the report of the Interdepartmental Group shortly, and I will carefully examine whatever recommendations are made.

Road Safety.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

204 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that speed limits on the outskirts in towns and villages situated mostly on secondary roads in County Galway are constantly being broken mainly by young drivers who appear to have little regard for the safety of other road users; the extra financial resources he will make available to An Garda Síochána to ensure that as far as possible such behaviour is minimised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39671/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that all members of An Garda Síochána are tasked with enforcing road traffic legislation, and the Divisional Traffic Corps in Galway supplement local mobile units in this task.

I am also informed that a system which focuses on collision prone zones was piloted in Galway West Division and has proved successful in encouraging a compliance culture by all road-users, curbing speeding not only by young drivers but by the general motoring population. This system has also helped in identifying areas where fatal and serious injury traffic collisions occur frequently, and this has allowed local Garda management to assign additional Garda patrols to enforce road traffic legislation and speed limits with a particular focus on these identified areas.

I am further informed that a number of road traffic initiatives and operations have also been put in place. Mandatory alcohol testing checkpoints introduced following the enactment of the Road Traffic Act 2006 are being operated by Gardaí, and extra Gardaí are conducting additional checkpoints, particularly at those times which have been identified as most dangerous for road-users. So called boy racers, the use of mobile phones while driving and heavy goods vehicles are being targeted at these checkpoints. In addition, the Garda campaign against drink driving and speeding on the roads will be intensified in the run-up to Christmas and the New Year period.

At the national level, developments since the introduction of mandatory alcohol testing in July have been encouraging. The number of road deaths in August was 17 — the lowest number for any month since November 1999. This trend continued in September, when the number of deaths was 23, compared with 31 in the same month in 2005, and in October, when the number of deaths was 32, compared with 44 in the same month in 2005. Up to and including 17 November, there were 324 deaths in 2006, 21 less than for the same period last year.

The current strength of the Garda Traffic Corps stands at 745, with an additional 60 members to be allocated during the remainder of 2006. The Corps is well on target to achieve its planned strength of 805 members at the end of 2006. Further allocations to the Traffic Corps will continue until the planned strength of 1,200 is achieved.

Departmental Expenditure.

Jack Wall

Question:

205 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position of a project (details supplied) in County Kildare; the timescale in regard to the project; the funding involved in the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39672/06]

I can inform the Deputy that my Department has provided funding to the project, in question, since November, 1993. A grant of €180,000 was provided to the project in the current year.

I can also inform the Deputy that the contracts for purchase of a site from Kildare County Council are executed, having been signed by a senior official of my Department in June, 2006. However, I am advised by my legal representatives that the purchase of the site is not yet complete as the Deed of Transfer and other closing documentation are still awaited from Solicitors acting on behalf of Kildare County Council. I can assure the Deputy that every effort is being made by my legal representatives to finalise this purchase.

As advised in replies to previous Parliamentary Questions Nos. 258 and 314 dated 29 March and 13 June, 2006 respectively, tabled by the Deputy planning permission has been obtained for the proposed construction of premises on that site for use by the project in question.

Drug Seizures.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

206 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when this Deputy will receive a full reply to Parliamentary Question No. 283 of 24 October 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39673/06]

I have written to the Deputy today providing the detailed information sought in Parliamentary Question No. 283 of 24 October 2006.

Garda Stations.

Denis Naughten

Question:

207 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the status of the Office of Public Works refurbishment plan for Boyle Garda Station in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39630/06]

Denis Naughten

Question:

233 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the status of the Office of Public Works refurbishment plan for Roscommon Garda Station in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39632/06]

Denis Naughten

Question:

234 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the status of the Office of Public Works refurbishment plan for Strokestown Garda Station in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39633/06]

Denis Naughten

Question:

235 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the status of the Office of Public Works refurbishment plan for Clonark Garda Station in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39634/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 207, 233 to 235, inclusive, together.

The Commissioners of Public Works carry out refurbishment projects at the behest of the Garda Authorities and the Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform. The Office of Public Works are currently working through a list of projects that have been prioritised by the Garda Authorities and the Department of Justice. Refurbishment works to these stations will proceed in accordance with their ratings on the priority list. However, with regard to Strokestown Garda station, the Office of Public Works propose to undertake some minor works to the building in 2007. These works are to include the provision of universal access features such as accessibility ramp, disabled persons toilets etc.; installation of new windows; and electrical re-wiring.

Decentralisation Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

208 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the reason civil servants who have been offered positions under decentralisation are not being released by their Departments to take up their new assignments; the steps he is taking to resolve this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39269/06]

Discussions have concluded with the civil service unions on a number of human resource and industrial relations matters, including staff transfer protocols, and in the main these are working well. To date decentralising organisations have established a presence in 12 new locations and at the end of October 2006, over 2,300 staff have been assigned to decentralising posts. These are currently in place or are being trained in advance of decentralisation to a new location, as soon as accommodation becomes available.

In a limited number of cases the release of staff by Departments and Offices can be slower than is provided for under the staff transfer protocols. The release of staff is managed between the two Departments involved in the transfer and the release date is agreed so as to avoid disruption to the business operation of the Department from which the officer is departing.

My Department monitors the situation on an ongoing basis and will continue to act in consultation with Departments and the staff unions to resolve cases where delays have arisen.

Tax Code.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

209 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the amount and maximum percentage of excise relief available to biofuel processors and suppliers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39299/06]

Section 50 of the Finance Act 2004 provided for the introduction of a limited scheme of relief from excise tax for biofuels. Under the Scheme, full 100% excise relief was granted to successful applicants to the scheme from August 2005 for a total of 16 million litres of fuel at a cost of €3m per annum over 2 years.

The number of applications made for relief from excise duty under the pilot scheme clearly indicated the strong interest in developing a biofuels industry in Ireland and consequently I made a provision in the Finance Act 2006 for a significantly expanded 5 year scheme of Mineral Oil Tax relief. The scope of the relief extends to projects which are not just of a pilot nature. The scheme will provide for excise relief on up to 163 million litres of biofuels per annum and cost over €200m over 5 years.

The Scheme was advertised by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in late July 2006. Over 100 applications were received and the assessment panel has forwarded its recommendations to my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. It is expected that approval will be sought from me, shortly. The intention, as with the pilot scheme, will be that participants in the Scheme will receive full 100% excise relief. Full relief is regarded as necessary to make biofuels competitive from a price perspective.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Ivor Callely

Question:

210 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Finance the statutory tribunals and their brief that have been put in place over the past 20 years; the costs and outlay to date for each tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39322/06]

In so far as my Department is concerned, no statutory Tribunals have been initiated over the past 20 years. My Department does not have the detailed information sought by the Deputy on the briefs of the various Tribunals over the past 20 years across the relevant Departments. My Department does, however, monitor spending by the State on Tribunals, Inquiries and Commissions of Investigation. The costs met to end October 2006 in respect of the Tribunals, Inquiries and Commissions of Investigations identified in the tables below are as follows:

1. Completed Inquiries:

To date, three Tribunals have been fully completed since 1990. These are the Beef Tribunal, the McCracken Tribunal and the Finlay Inquiry. The costs of the Lindsay and Dunne inquiries are essentially completed since 2005. The approximate total costs are as follows:

Tribunal

Total Costs

€m

Beef Tribunal

27.2

McCracken Tribunal

6.6

Finlay Tribunal

4.7

Lindsay Tribunal

46.7

Dunne Inquiry

11.5

Total

96.7

2. Inquiries for which costs are continuing to be met:

Established

Tribunals/ Inquiries/ Commissions of Investigation

Total Costs

€m

September 1997

Moriarty

27.2

November 1997

Mahon

59.4

May 1999

Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse

34.4

January 2000

Barron

3.5

March 2002

Morris

28.6

April 2002

Barr

10.5

May 2005

Madden (Organ Retention)

0.5

April 2003

Ferns Diocese

2.1

April 2004

Lourdes Hospital

3.0

April 2005

Dublin Monaghan Bombings

1.9

May 2005

Breen & Buchanan

1.7

February 2006

Dean Lyons

1.0

March 2006

Dublin Archdiocese child abuse

0.8

Totals

174.6

Public Private Partnerships.

Ivor Callely

Question:

211 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Finance the progress with procurement of PPP projects; the areas that have been identified as most suitable for PPP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39323/06]

The PPP approach has the potential to offer value for money and timely delivery of infrastructure when applied to projects of the right scale, risk and operational profile. There has been good progress on PPPs overall since the first group of pilot projects were announced in 1999 notwithstanding the challenges involved in adopting this relatively complex form of procurement. The process is demanding up front: it involves identification of whole life costs of delivering the asset involved and the negotiation of a contract which typically will be of 25 to 30 years duration. Under current guidelines issued by the Minister for Finance, the advice of the National Development Finance Agency must be sought for major projects and grouped projects with a capital cost in excess of the limit set by the Department of Finance (set at €20 million initially and under review as of July 2006). After a decision has been taken to procure a project as a PPP, the lead time involved in reaching construction stage is typically 18 to 24 months. Overall delivery times have been impressive to date. Also, projects procured by means of PPP can be subject to the factors that can cause delays on other capital projects, such as planning and legal challenges.

A review of the PPP process was undertaken by my Department in 2005, in consultation with a range of stakeholders. At that stage, deal flow was established in the roads and environment areas but had been slower in the area of PPP projects funded by unitary payments from Departments'/Agencies' Votes. The need for skills and capacity to manage the procurement process in this area was identified. The Government therefore decided to establish a Centre of Expertise for PPP procurement in the National Development Finance Agency to undertake the procurement of PPP projects on behalf of Departments/Agencies in the Central Government area. The Centre of Expertise is to undertake the procurement after the setting of project budgets, output specifications and other service requirements — initially concentrating on projects brought forward by the justice, education and health areas. There are now PPP projects at various stages of procurement in the area of PPPs funded by unitary payments from Votes.

A list of projects of over €20m which have reached the stage of the appointment of client advisers, as advised by members of the Interdepartmental Group on PPPs, is available on my Department's PPP website at: www.ppp.gov.ie.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Ivor Callely

Question:

212 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Finance if the Revenue Commissioners have identified potential abuses of SSIA’s where there may be breaches of the declaration of the participation on commencement of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39324/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the SSIA scheme commenced in May 2001 and in excess of 1 million SSIA's were opened by the closing date of 30th April 2002. The scheme itself is administered by the financial institutions under the guidance of the Revenue Commissioners.

Comprehensive guidelines, setting out the manner in which the scheme must be administered, were drawn up by Revenue, in consultation with the financial institutions at the commencement of the scheme. This is supported by compliance visits undertaken by Revenue each year to the financial institutions to ensure the terms of the guidelines are being fully implemented. Ongoing guidance is being provided by means of SSIA Updates. Apart from that the financial institutions are obliged to report to Revenue any case where it is suspected that the rules of the scheme are being breached.

On commencement of the scheme, each account holder was obliged to sign a declaration confirming their eligibility to participate in the scheme and that they would abide by the terms of the scheme for its duration. These terms include:

That the account holder was over 18 years of age and resident in the State.

They s/he would operate only one SSIA.

Subscriptions could only be made from the individual's own or spouse's resources.

Subscriptions must not be funded by borrowings or deferral of existing repayments.

That at least the minimum subscriptions be made in the first 12 months and that the maximum subscriptions levels be complied with for the duration of the scheme.

Funds in an SSIA must not be used as security for a loan.

In addition, before an SSIA can be matured, the account holder has to sign a further declaration confirming compliance with the rules of the scheme, including those relating to residency, for its duration.

Apart from cases reported by the financial institutions to Revenue in accordance with the requirement to do so, Revenue has extensive control systems in place to monitor the scheme and identify any potential abuses. Where an apparent breach of the rules is identified, Revenue fully investigates each case and takes appropriate action. I am advised by Revenue that, considering the number of accounts in operation, the number of actual abuses is very small and have been appropriately dealt with.

Ivor Callely

Question:

213 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Finance the number of SSIA’s that were opened under the scheme; the number that have matured or due to mature; the number that were cancelled or failed to mature; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39325/06]

The SSIA scheme opened on 1 May 2001 and entry to the scheme closed on 30 April 2002. A total of 1,170,208 SSIAs were opened during this period. 86,569 SSIAs were ceased in the period 30 April 2002 to 31 December 2005. These SSIAs were ceased either by the individual themselves or by Revenue for breaches of SSIA rules. The vast majority of SSIAs were ceased by individuals that no longer wished to partake in the scheme.

The number of SSIAs that are scheduled to mature in the period May 2006 to April 2007 is 1,083,639. The total number of SSIAs that have matured to date is 285,584, which is approximately 26.4% of all SSIAs scheduled to mature.

The maturing of SSIAs commenced on 31 May 2006 and the vast majority of SSIA holders are returning the SSIA maturity declaration on time. The compliance level is in excess of 99.5%. While it is not possible at this stage to quantify definitively the number of SSIAs that have failed to mature (as distinct from accounts that have been ceased by the account holders), information from the financial institutions that manage the scheme is that the numbers involved are extremely low.

Tax Code.

Michael Ring

Question:

214 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will get the date for completion extended for their Section 23 relief in view of the circumstances in this particular case. [39348/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the general position in relation to such projects under the rural renewal and other schemes is that qualifying expenditure may be incurred for tax relief purposes up to 31 December 2006 where a valid application for full planning permission in respect of the project was submitted to the relevant local authority by 31 December 2004. However, the Finance Act 2006 extended the deadline for tax relief purposes to 31 July 2008 where work to the value of at least 15% of the actual construction or refurbishment costs is carried out by 31 December 2006. The Finance Act 2006 also provided for a gradual reduction in the amount of expenditure qualifying for tax relief after 31 December 2006. Thus, while expenditure incurred during 2006 can qualify for full relief without restriction, only 75% of expenditure incurred in 2007 and 50% of expenditure incurred in the period 1 January 2008 to 31 July 2008 can qualify for tax relief.

If the person referred to by the Deputy carries out work to the value of not less than 15% of the actual construction costs of the development in question by 31 December 2006, he can avail of the extended 31 July 2008 qualifying period for the purposes of section 23 relief, subject to the restriction mentioned in respect of expenditure incurred after 2006. It should be noted that this "15%" test is based solely on the value of construction work actually carried out on a particular building or development. It takes no account of the cost of acquiring the site or of any costs associated with its acquisition. The value of work and costs associated with site preparation such as site clearance, laying foundations, power supply, drainage, sanitation and water supply can, however, be taken into account. If, on this basis, the value of the work carried out by 31 December 2006 by the person referred to by the Deputy amounts to at least 15% of the overall construction costs of the development, the person may avail of the extended deadline of 31 July 2008 for section 23 relief purposes. However, if the value of work carried out by 31 December 2006 is less that the 15% requirement, then relief will only be available in respect of whatever qualifying construction expenditure is incurred before that date. There is no provision for entitlement to relief beyond 31 December 2006 where the 15% requirements have not been met.

I am also informed by the Revenue Commissioners that their publication, Tax Briefing, issue 65 November 2006, contains an article that provides guidance on the operation of the "15%" test. Tax Briefing is available on the Revenue website, www.revenue.ie, under “Publications”.

John McGuinness

Question:

215 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance the percentage of earners paying tax at the 42% rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39349/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the most up-to-date estimates of the information requested by the Deputy are as follows:

Numbers of income earners on income tax record

Year

Exempt

Paying at 20% or less

Paying at greater than 20%

Total

2006

776,100

937,700

446,700

2,160,500

35.9%

43.4%

20.7%

These figures allow for the fact that many income earners pay no tax at all; many pay tax at a standard rate but pay a much lower average rate because of the application of credits. And for many taxpayers who are, strictly speaking, liable for tax at the higher rate on part of their income, the amount of their liability at the higher rate is fully offset by their tax credits. In fact, tax credits fully offset the 42% liability in the case of all but about 20% of all income earners. Effectively, therefore, many of the "top rate" taxpayers actually pay at an average rate of 20% or less.

Question No. 216 answered with QuestionNo. 86.

Radon Gas Levels.

Liam Twomey

Question:

217 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the fact that there was excessive radon levels in a third of schools here, his Department has plans or carried out tests for excessive radon levels in buildings under the control of or used by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39385/06]

In 2004, my Department in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland undertook a programme for checking for the presence of Radon Gas in all buildings occupied by members of staff. The results from the testing programme found that in all cases Radon levels in the buildings surveyed were well within the safety limit as laid down by the Radiological Protection Act, 1991.

Testing for Radon Gas will be undertaken in my Department's recently occupied offices in the Central Business Park, Clonminch, Tullamore Co. Offaly, I understand, however, that the area in which the offices are located is rated in the lowest risk category as regards radon gas emissions.

Departmental Expenditure.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

218 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance the quantity, cost and suppliers of energy used by his Department in the last year for which figures are available; if an audit has been carried out on his Department’s energy use; the details of same. [39424/06]

The cost of energy used by my Department in 2005 was €306,017.75. The suppliers of energy were Texaco Ireland, Energia, Bord Gáis and the ESB. The quantities of energy used are not readily identifiable.

An audit has not been carried out on my Department's energy use. However, I understand that the Office of Public Works has invested in an energy monitoring and targeting system which is being rolled out to all of its larger buildings. This system will facilitate the carrying out of an energy audit which will be used to identify savings. A pilot scheme, to put an energy conservation programme in place, is currently under way in a number of selected buildings.

Decentralisation Programme.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

219 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance the use, locations and costs to date of lands acquired or contracted to acquire, buildings purchased, built or leased, acquired or contracted to purchase, build or lease under the decentralisation programme; the savings arising from the disposal of lands, buildings or property that is surplus to requirements under the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39439/06]

Overall, the programme of site identification and acquisition is progressing satisfactorily. To date, property acquisition negotiations have been completed or significantly advanced in 35 locations.

In the case of 5 locations, Athlone, the Curragh, Navan, Furbo and Sligo, OPW owned sites have been identified and will be used to accommodate decentralised offices.

In the case of another 6 locations, Carlow, Longford, Newcastle West, Killarney, Trim and Thurles, sites have been acquired from the relevant local authorities. Privately owned sites have been purchased in Buncrana, Clonakilty, Dungarvan, Knock and Cavan. In the case of Tullamore, the OPW has completed the purchase of an office block, which was handed over in the first week of July 2006. Contracts have been signed by OPW in respect of 4 locations, Tipperary (site), Carrick on Shannon (leased building), Loughrea (leased building) and Limerick (leased building).

Contracts for sale have been received in a further 10 locations including Donegal, Roscommon, Portlaoise, Thomastown, Edenderry, Listowel and Carrickmacross (building purchase), Kilrush (leased building), Waterford and Wexford.

Terms have been agreed and contracts are awaited in a further 4 locations including Clifden, Claremorris, Enniscorthy and Youghal.

Since the announcement of the Programme the Office of Public Works has committed itself to expenditure of over €59m to date on the acquisition of sites and buildings. It is estimated that the overall site acquisition process will cost in the region of €75m to €100m.

The total proceeds to date from property disposals under the Transformation of State Assets Programme is €362m.

Departmental Expenditure.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

220 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance the quantity, cost and suppliers of water, both tap and bottled, acquired by his Department for its own use in the last year for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39454/06]

The total cost of water acquired by my Department in 2005 amounted to €23,728.87. This amount includes payments to Dublin City Council, All Water Systems and Tipperary Natural Mineral Water. The cost of the water supplied consists of bottled and tap water, servicing of mains fed drinking fonts and the supply of disposable drinking cups. The quantity of bottled water used was 3,838 litres. As much of the mains water is supplied to buildings which my Department shares with other Departments, it is not possible to identify the quantity used by my Department.

Question No. 221 answered with QuestionNo. 80.

Price Inflation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

222 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent and the steps taken to address inflation arising from items not included in the CPI. [39558/06]

The Director General of the Central Statistics Office (CSO) has sole responsibility for and is independent in deciding the statistical methodology and professional standards to be used in compiling the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The CPI is designed to measure the change in the average level of the prices paid by consumers for goods and services. It measures in index form the monthly changes in the cost of purchasing a representative basket of consumer goods and services.

Maintaining a moderate rate of inflation remains a key priority of economic policy because of its importance in restoring competitiveness.

Tax Yield.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

223 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extra revenue expected by way of VAT returns arising from recent gas and electricity price increases in a full year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39559/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the information to be furnished on VAT returns does not require the yield from particular sectors of trade to be identified. It is, therefore, not possible to identify what portion of the net VAT received relates to sales of electricity or gas to domestic households.

However, based on statistical data derived from non-Revenue sources, the estimated additional revenue that could accrue to the Exchequer in a full year in terms of VAT arising from the recent increase in gas prices, if maintained, is €28 million, and the corresponding increase in the case of electricity is €34 million. This would include VAT from unregistered and exempt businesses as well as domestic consumers.

It should be noted that the VAT content of purchases of gas and electricity are deductible credits for business in the Irish VAT system.

It should also be noted that in response to these energy price increases, the Government has taken steps to improve the social welfare Household Benefits Package scheme by increasing the amount of electricity or gas entitlements covered under the scheme. This will benefit over 340,000 social welfare recipients and cost almost €50 million per annum.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

224 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the expected revenue accruing from VAT on gas and electricity at the end of 2006 as compared with year ending 31 December 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39560/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the information to be furnished on VAT returns does not require the yield from particular sectors of trade to be identified. It is, therefore, not possible to identify what portion of the net VAT received relates to sales of electricity or gas to domestic households.

However, based on statistical data derived from non-Revenue sources, the expected revenue accruing from VAT on gas and electricity at the end of 2006 as compared with year ending 31 December 1997 is as set out in the following table:

Year

Electricity

Gas

€m

€m

1997

69

17

2006

176

84

The aforementioned figures would include VAT from unregistered and exempt businesses as well as domestic consumers.

It should also be noted that the VAT content of purchases of gas and electricity is a deductible credit for business in the Irish VAT system.

The increase in the estimated amount of VAT received from gas and electricity arises in part from increases in fuel prices but also from the very strong growth in the economy over the period in question. Fuel prices, including those of gas and electricity, are driven by a number of factors including the price of oil on international markets, exchange rates, production costs and refining costs. The rise in oil prices over recent periods reflected additional factors such as geopolitical uncertainty, supply disruptions and strong economic growth in countries such as China.

Tax Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

225 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the taxation per litre of petrol or diesel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39561/06]

The Excise duty on a litre of petrol and diesel is 44.3 cent and 36.8 cent respectively. Petrol and auto diesel are subject to the standard VAT rate which in Ireland is 21%.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

226 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he will offer further tax incentives to the producers of alternative fuels, such as bio-diesel, ethanol or other such fuels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39562/06]

While the promotion of biofuels and other renewable energy is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, I am pleased to inform the Deputy that in Finance Act 2006 I provided for significant tax measures to promote biofuels in Ireland. The scheme of excise relief for biofuels will:

provide for excise relief on up to 163 million litres of biofuels per annum;

cost over €200m over 5 years;

when fully operational, result in CO2 savings of over 250,000 tonnes per annum;

meet a target of 2% transport fuel market penetration by biofuels by 2008;

help reduce our dependency on conventional fossil fuels, and

stimulate activity in the agricultural sector.

The level of excise relief available is that which had been proposed by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in advance of last year's Budget and is regarded as a figure which is sufficient to match Ireland's output potential in relation to renewable energy crops for motor fuels over the period of the scheme. Consequently, any extension in the level of relief that was announced last year is not envisaged at this stage.

As regards other fiscal supports for the Biofuels industry, I would point out that also in Budget 2006, I introduced a 50% VRT relief for flexible fuel vehicles. These are defined as cars or small vans produced so as to be capable of using a blend of ethanol and petrol containing a minimum of 85% ethanol. This should encourage the purchase of vehicles that have been manufactured with flexible fuel capabilities which will result in lower pollutant emissions than conventional vehicles fuelled exclusively by petrol/diesel.

Disabled Drivers.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

227 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when it is expected to implement the recommendations of the inter-Departmental group dealing with the Disabled Drivers Disabled Passengers Tax Concession Regulations 1994; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39563/06]

A special Interdepartmental Review Group reviewed the operation of the Disabled Drivers Scheme. The terms of reference of the Group were to examine the operation of the existing scheme, including the difficulties experienced by the various groups and individuals involved with it, and to consider the feasibility of alternative schemes, with a view to assisting the Minister for Finance in determining the future direction of the scheme.

The Group's Report, published on my Department's website in July 2004, sets out in detail the genesis and development of the scheme. It examines the current benefits, the qualifying medical criteria, the Exchequer costs, relationship with other schemes and similar schemes in other countries. The Report also makes a number of recommendations, both immediate and long-term, referring respectively to the operation of the appeals process and options for the future development of the scheme.

In respect of the long-term recommendations, including the qualifying disability criteria, given the scale and scope of the scheme, further changes can only be made after careful consideration. For this reason, the Government decided that the Minister for Finance would consider the recommendations contained in the Report of the Interdepartmental Review Group in the context of the annual budgetary process having regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme. This consideration is undertaken on a regular basis.

Financial Services Regulation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

228 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that adequate steps have been taken through the banking and financial services sectors, here and throughout Europe, to prevent money laundering; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39565/06]

Anti-Money Laundering procedures in Ireland and throughout the European Economic Area are governed by the 1st and 2nd Money Laundering Directives. Those Directives were recently updated by the 3rd Money Laundering Directive which is required to be transposed into National Law by December 2007. The main purpose of the 3rd Money Laundering Directive is to implement the most recent revisions of the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on prevention of money laundering, the main international anti money laundering organisation. The FATF recommendations constitute the international standard for anti-money laundering procedures.

The procedures for the prevention of money laundering in the financial system primarily involve the requirement on financial institutions (and other designated bodies) to identify their customers, to have adequate anti-money laundering procedures in place, including staff training, to keep records and to report suspicions of money laundering and terrorist financing offences to the Garda Síochána and to the Revenue Commissioners. These procedures arise under the Money Laundering Provisions of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994.

The Financial Regulator requires all institutions which it supervises to comply with the anti-money laundering legislation and relevant sectoral guidance notes, and to have in place the necessary procedures and controls to ensure such compliance. The adequacy of such systems is reviewed by the Financial Regulator in the course of its ongoing supervision of institutions and requirements for improvement are advised to institutions as necessary. Furthermore, in accordance with its legal obligation under Section 57(2) of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, the Financial Regulator is obliged to make reports to the Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners where in the course of its supervision it suspects that an institution has breached the relevant money laundering provisions of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994.

The Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners regularly receive reports from financial institutions and other designated bodies where they suspect that a money laundering offence is being or has been committed. All such reports are investigated and progressed as appropriate by the relevant authorities.

The Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF), the international standard setting body in this area recently published a report on Ireland's systems to combat money laundering and terrorist funding. Ireland is one of twelve countries evaluated to date in the FATF Third Round of Mutual Evaluations. Its overall ratings are comparable to those obtained by the other countries evaluated.

Ireland opted to be evaluated early in the 3rd Round of Mutual Evaluations because this would be of considerable assistance in planning the transposition of the 3rd EU Money Laundering Directive into Irish Law. Many of the FATF recommendations on which Ireland is currently assessed as either partially compliant or non-compliant will be addressed in the transposition into Irish Law of the 3rd EU Money Laundering Directive. These include additional measures in relation to customer due diligence, beneficial ownership, measures relating to the identification of foreign politically exposed persons, the strengthening of the sanctions for breaches of money laundering rules and the regulation of non-financial entities.

On publication of the FATF report in March this year my colleague the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform and I jointly undertook to examine the Report's recommendations thoroughly and gave a commitment to further strengthen Ireland's anti-money laundering mechanisms. The process of reviewing and updating the Irish legal framework to meet both our domestic needs and international obligations is already under way and it is expected that draft legislation will be put before the Oireachtas by the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in early 2007. The issues of money laundering and criminality generally are, of course, also regularly discussed at the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council of the EU.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

229 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has identified the inflationary tendencies which might lead to the lack of competitiveness in the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39567/06]

Enhancing national competitiveness is a key priority for this Government. The Government is keenly aware of the importance of Ireland's exporting sectors to investment and jobs — and in turn of the importance of competitiveness for these sectors. Competitiveness is influenced by many factors not just inflation. Exchange rates, moderate wage inflation, sustainable public spending growth, capital spending on infrastructure as well as inflation are all major determinants of competitiveness.

Inflation, as measured by annual changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was 3.9 per cent in October. However, a better measure of underlying inflation is the EU comparable measure of inflation, the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP). The HICP differs from the CPI in terms of coverage. The most notable difference relates to the exclusion of mortgage interest repayments from the HICP. Annual HICP inflation in Ireland was 2.2 per cent in October.

A large proportion of the rise in the annual inflation rate during the year has been due to external factors such as higher oil prices and recent rises in interest rates by the ECB. Given that the increase in our inflation rate is largely determined by external factors over which we have no control, we can seek to ensure that our domestic cost base does not add to it. Annual services sector inflation is currently running at 7.8 per cent and this is a cause for concern. This highlights the need for more competition in the economy as well as pay and profit restraint in all sectors in order to keep our cost base down.

The Government is taking positive actions in areas that it can influence to contain inflation by implementing responsible fiscal policies. For example, we have not increased excise duties for the last two years, and we are promoting greater price competition by removing the Groceries Order. We have also agreed a reasonable wage deal in order to maintain and improve our international competitiveness. In addition we are investing in public infrastructure which will enhance our ability to produce more goods and services and keep inflation down in the process.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

230 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied regarding the continued competitiveness of the economy with particular reference to inward investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39568/06]

The Government's economic and budgetary strategy is based on pursuing economic growth and full employment as the basis of continued prosperity and enhanced living standards for all. In this regard maintaining and improving Ireland's competitive position is imperative in order to ensure Ireland continues to grow strongly and remains an attractive location for inward foreign direct investment.

According to IDA Ireland, 2005 was another positive year with regard to new investment projects coming to Ireland. New business projects, involving a total investment over the coming years of more than €760 million, were announced with 46 of these locating outside Dublin. 50 R&D projects were supported involving a total investment in excess of €275 million, a record in number and value and an 85% increase over 2004. Close to 40% of all new jobs in IDA-backed projects now pay in excess of €37,000 per annum. Total employment in IDA supported companies has increased to 132,728. The number of new jobs created during the year was 12,623. This was offset by job losses of 9,211 giving a net gain of 3,412, the highest gain since the year 2000.

We have no control over some of the factors influencing competitiveness, such as the exchange rate. However, we must always seek to ensure that our domestic cost base does not undermine competitiveness. In this context, it is important to maintain low inflation, pursue sensible incomes policy and keep public spending growth at sustainable levels in the medium term. This will allow us to keep the burden of taxation low in order to protect competitiveness and maximise our economic potential. In terms of wage costs, the Government remains focused, through the partnership process, on securing a responsible approach to earnings growth in the economy.

I am confident that Ireland remains well placed to maintain our position as an attractive location for overseas investors. The taxation system has been reformed. Our workforce is highly skilled. Infrastructural development has been prioritised. These key policy orientations equip Ireland with the skills, infrastructure, facilities and overall operating environment that will allow us to compete effectively for projects at the upper end of the high skill/high wage spectrum, which is where our competitive advantage now lies.

Credit Union Regulation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

231 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has received correspondence from the Credit Union Development Association; his views on establishing a task force of key stakeholders with the objective of determining the legislative, regulatory and consumer protection framework required to assure the future of credit unions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39569/06]

I am aware of the report referred to by the Deputy and welcome all contributions to the debate regarding the future development of the credit union movement. The Deputy should note, however, that many of the recommendations contained in the report are addressed to the credit union movement itself. My specific role as Minister for Finance is to ensure that the legal framework for credit unions continues to be appropriate for the effective operation and supervision of credit unions.

As the Deputy may be aware the case for modernising the regulatory framework for credit unions has been raised by both the Registrar of Credit Unions and the representative bodies for credit unions, including the body referred to by the Deputy. It is important that there is a clear shared understanding on how a new regulatory framework would operate, before moving to develop particular proposals. In this context, I wrote to the Chair of the Financial Regulator earlier this year recommending that the Financial Regulator engages with the credit union movement, in the first instance, to identify common ground in relation to a set of principles that could guide the development of an updated regulatory framework for credit unions. The Chair of the Financial Regulator has indicated the Authority's willingness to move forward on this basis. The proposals in the report referred to by the Deputy represent an important input into the process, insofar as they relate to the modernisation of the regulation of credit unions.

As far as the appropriate consumer protection framework for credit unions is concerned, the Financial Regulator has included an initiative in its recently published three-year Strategic Plan to consult credit unions on an appropriate consumer protection framework for its members, in respect of their core business, with the objective of commencing the consultation process in 2007.

The question of establishing the structure referred to in the Deputy's question does not therefore arise at this time.

Garda Stations.

Denis Naughten

Question:

232 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the status of the Office of Public Works refurbishment plan for Ballinasloe Garda Station in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39631/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works carried out a major refurbishment of Ballinasloe Garda station in 2003. Since this time the Office of Public Works have acquired additional accommodation to allow for the expansion of the station.

I am advised by the Commissioners of Public Works that the Garda Authorities and the Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform have included Ballinasloe Garda station on the 2007 Garda Minor Capital Works Programme where it is proposed to fit-out the additional accommodation mentioned above.

Questions Nos. 233 to 235, inclusive, answered with Question No. 207.

Denis Naughten

Question:

236 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the status of the Office of Public Works refurbishment plan for Elphin Garda Station in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39635/06]

It is now proposed to build a new Garda station at Elphin, Co. Roscommon.

A Sketch Scheme for the new station will be sent to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Authorities for approval in early 2007. A Part 9 planning process will be initiated on receipt of approval. It is expected that work on the new Garda station will commence towards the end of 2007.

Denis Naughten

Question:

237 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the status of the Office of Public Works refurbishment plan for Ballintubber Garda Station in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39637/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works have no plans to carry out refurbishment works to Ballintubber Garda station.

Currently, the Commissioners are preparing to advertise early in the new year, for a suitable site for a new Garda station in Ballintubber, in accordance with the priority accorded it by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Following the acquisition of a new site, the Commissioners will dispose of the property on the open market, should it be surplus to State requirements.

Tax Code.

David Stanton

Question:

238 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance the estimated average value of tax and PRSI concessions on contributions to approved pension schemes including occupational schemes, AVCs, PRSAs and self-employed and director arrangements to PAYE payers who contributed to such schemes and similarly for non-PAYE taxpayers who contributed to such schemes in the most recent year for which data is available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39646/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the latest relevant figures available are in respect of the income tax year 2003.

Figures in respect of employee contributions to occupational pension schemes, that is schemes set up by the employer, represent estimates in aggregate form provided on a tentative basis. Subject to these limitations, and using data on the numbers of employee contributors obtained from the Pensions Board, the approximate average value to each employee contributor of tax concessions in respect of the total combined estimates of contributions by employees and employers is estimated at €1,637.

The average value of income tax concessions for contributions to Retirement Annuity Contracts (RACs) which are available to the self-employed and to employees not in occupational pension schemes and to Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) is estimated at €2,411 and €2,500, respectively.

Estimates of PRSI costs in relation to pension contributions have not been compiled and are not available.

Pension Provisions.

David Stanton

Question:

239 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance the estimated amount including AVCs and PRSAs paid by Irish taxpayers into pension plans and schemes approved by the Revenue Commissioners Office in each of the last most recent three years for which data is available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39647/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that figures of contributions to "Retirement Annuity Contracts" (RACs), which are available to the self-employed and to employees not in occupational pension schemes, and to PRSAs, for the tax years 2001, 2002 and 2003 (the latest available) are as follows:

Pension contributions relating to RACs and PRSAs

Amount of deduction

2001

2002

2003

€m

€m

€m

RACs

488

671

698

PRSA*

Not Available

Not Available

15

* Figure for PRSAs reflect the relative early stage of the scheme which was introduced in 2002.

The figures in respect of employee and employer contributions to occupational pension schemes represent estimates in aggregate form provided on a tentative basis.

Subject to these limitations, and using some data obtained from The Pensions Board, the approximate overall employee contributions are estimated as follows:

Employee Pension Contributions

2001

2002

2003

€m

€m

€m

Estimated contributions

1,323

1,943

2,072

As regards employer contributions to employee occupational pension funds, using the estimated level of employee contributions as a basis and making certain assumptions as to the total amount of employer contributions, approximate overall contributions from tax liable and non-liable employers are estimated as follows:

Employer Contributions 2001/2002/2003

€m

€m

€m

Estimated contributions

3,969

5,827

6,216

It should be noted, in relation to 2001, that as this was the "short" tax year on foot of the move to the calendar-based tax year, the 2001 figures will not be directly comparable with those of later years.

These figures are very tentative and efforts are being made to improve information on the cost of tax relief for pensions.

Care of the Elderly.

Liam Twomey

Question:

240 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children if people who care for the elderly should be entitled to at least two weeks respite care from the State in view of the fact that they are doing the work of the State; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39390/06]

Respite care is provided at a number of locations around the country. One of the purposes of respite care is to give carers a break, to allow them time for themselves, to have a holiday or to spend time with other family members. The person being cared for may be admitted to a Health Service Executive (public) nursing home for respite care and this is organised through the public health nurse or the G.P.

An annual Respite Care Grant of €1,200 is paid by the Department of Social and Family Affairs in June to all carers in receipt of Carer's Allowance, Carer's Benefit, Constant Attendance Allowance or Prescribed Relative's Allowance. Since June 2005 the grant was extended to all carers who are providing full-time care to an older person or a person with a disability regardless of the carers' means.

Health Service Statistics.

Liz McManus

Question:

241 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the population in each of the eight Health Service Executive regional areas in the last Census and in the most recent preliminary figures of the 2006 Census in view of the stated increases in expenditure in the Health Estimates 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39659/06]

Population data for the each of the four Health Service Executive (HSE) regions are provided in the following table.

Population of Each of the Health Service Executive Regions for Census Years 2002 and 2006

HSE Region

2002

2006*

Dublin/Mid-Leinster#

1,139,870

1,215,711

Dublin/North-East#

831,899

927,525

Southern

1,003,972

1,080,999

Western

941,462

1,010,690

Ireland

3,917,203

4,234,925

# A small number of Community Care Areas do not coincide with Electoral Division boundaries and for these regions estimated apportionment has been applied.

* Preliminary data

Source: Central Statistics Office

Child Care Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

242 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of privately owned child care facilities currently in place in County Mayo; the number of children they cater to; and the number of such facilities that have closed down in County Mayo in each of the past five years. [39270/06]

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.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Liam Twomey

Question:

243 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason CPAP equipment is not available to patients here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39271/06]

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

Care of the Elderly.

Finian McGrath

Question:

244 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 is being denied a public nursing home place; and if she will get them a place immediately as they have been on the waiting list for months. [39272/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Finian McGrath

Question:

245 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will fund and support the Meals on Wheels service in Marino, Dublin 3; and if she will put in place a full-time coordinator and an office in order to run the service. [39273/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

246 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Offaly has not gained admission to Dún Laoghaire Rehabilitation Hospital despite the fact of assessment on 26 September 2006 by a staff member of the hospital; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this person has now been discharged from the general hospital and awaiting a placement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39274/06]

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

Olwyn Enright

Question:

247 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm the number of places available for patients at Dún Laoghaire Rehabilitation Hospital; the procedure adopted for admission; the specific number on the waiting list for the Laois and Offaly areas; the waiting period for admission to the hospital for various categories of injuries; her plans to provide more places; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39275/06]

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 Centres.

Michael Ring

Question:

248 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the situation regarding a property (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if there are plans to sell this property; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39276/06]

As the Health Service Executive has operational and funding responsibility for health centres, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. 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.

Children in Care.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

249 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given as a matter of urgency to a person (details supplied) in County Louth in view of the serious situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39277/06]

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 as a matter of urgency and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy as soon as possible. My officials have also made contact with the HSE services in the area concerned to ask them to look into the case as soon as possible.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

250 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will improve the chiropody services in the Marino area, Dublin 3; and the reasons for medical card holders not receiving this service locally. [39297/06]

Whereas there is no statutory obligation on the Health Service Executive (HSE) to provide chiropody services to GMS patients; in practice, arrangements are already in place to provide these services. Before the establishment of the HSE the nature of the arrangements for chiropody and the level of service provided was a matter for individual health boards and so a degree of variation in practice developed over time. Priority is usually given to certain groups of people, including people who are medical card holders aged 65 years and over. In several regions the service is provided by private chiropodists by arrangement with the HSE.

My Department is currently preparing legislation to clarify and update existing legislation on eligibility for health and personal social services. The Bill will define specific health and personal services more clearly; define who should be eligible for what services; set out clear criteria for eligibility; establish when and in what circumstances charges may be made and provide for an appeals framework.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for these services, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Michael Noonan

Question:

251 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been brought to the fact that 35 out of 55 students who qualified as basic grade physiotherapists at UCD in 2005 are as yet not employed in the health services; her plans to ensure that physiotherapy services are expanded in order that the skills of these qualified persons will be put to good use; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39310/06]

I was recently made aware that an issue has arisen around the availability of employment opportunities for recently qualified physiotherapists and I have asked the HSE to give the matter its urgent attention.

Let me say at the outset that it is a matter for the Health Service Executive, as part of the management of its employment ceiling, to determine the appropriate staffing mix required to deliver its service plan priorities.

It is important to note that there is not an over supply of physiotherapists in Ireland. The Bacon Report ("Current and Future Supply and Demand Conditions in the Labour Market for Certain Professional Therapists") March 2001 recommended an increase in physiotherapy training places, following which additional training places were provided. There continues to be a growing demand for physiotherapy services and this is likely to continue as was highlighted in the Healthcare Skills Monitoring Report (FÁS, August 2005) and as evidenced by the number of development posts planned for the physiotherapy profession in the coming years.

At present, there is a significant demand for senior physiotherapists but, less opportunities for newly qualified graduates. I am advised that the HSE has recently advertised 81 Primary Care physiotherapy posts and there will be a further 62 development posts in physiotherapy, in areas such as services for persons with disability and older person's services. The majority of these posts, which should be filled in the coming months, are at senior level, but their filling should provide employment opportunities for recent graduates through backfill. As the development posts are taken up by seniors, or more qualified basic grades currently in the system, a gap will be left for the recent physiotherapy graduates.

My Department and the HSE are taking steps, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, to find a satisfactory and sustainable resolution to this issue that will lead to greater employment opportunities for newly qualified graduates.

Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

252 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when orthodontic treatment will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [39311/06]

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

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

253 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist in arranging an early appointment for a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if this person will be referred to a consultant under the National Treatment Purchase Fund scheme. [39312/06]

The management of patient waiting lists is a matter for the National Hospitals Office of the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the individual hospitals concerned.

However, in general, patients waiting more than three months on a surgical waiting list may qualify for treatment under the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF). The NTPF deals with representations from Deputies on behalf of their constituents on an on-going basis. Accordingly, the Deputy might consider contacting the Chief Executive of the Fund directly in relation to this case.

In view of the overall responsibility of the HSE, I have asked my Department to request the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

254 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the proposals for moving the Mater Child Guidance Service to a more suitable building where its services could be more effectively developed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39313/06]

Increased investment in mental health services has accelerated the move from institutionally provided services to community-based services and has provided for increases in the number of Consultant Psychiatrists in the public health service. The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, entitled ‘A Vision for Change', was launched on 24 January 2006. This provides a framework for action to develop a modern, high quality mental health service over the next 7 to 10 years. In 2006, a sum of €26.2 million has been allocated for the further development of our mental health services in line with ‘A Vision for Change'. This includes funding of €1.2 million to the National Office for Suicide Prevention for suicide prevention initiatives and research in accordance with "Reach Out", the National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

255 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if an increased grant for 2006 relative to the service agreement between the Health Service Executive and a centre (details supplied) in County Carlow will be approved and awarded as soon as possible; the status of the planned extension to this centre; if officials will meet with the centre representatives to progress the project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39336/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

256 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the decision not to renew a medical card for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if she will expedite a response; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39337/06]

Medical cards are made available to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services. In 2005 the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

Since the beginning of 2005 substantial changes have been made to the way in which people's eligibility for a medical card is assessed and these apply equally to the assessment process for a GP visit card. The income guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29% and in addition allowance is now made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, child care and travel to work costs. In June 2006 I agreed with the Health Service Executive a further adjustment to the assessment guidelines for GP visit cards and these are now 50% higher than those in respect of medical cards.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for these benefits, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

John McGuinness

Question:

257 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the decision to refuse a full medical card in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if she will expedite a decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39338/06]

Medical cards are made available to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services. In 2005 the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

Since the beginning of 2005 substantial changes have been made to the way in which people's eligibility for a medical card is assessed and these apply equally to the assessment process for a GP visit card. The income guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29% and in addition allowance is now made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, child care and travel to work costs. In June 2006 I agreed with the Health Service Executive a further adjustment to the assessment guidelines for GP visit cards and these are now 50% higher than those in respect of medical cards.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for these benefits, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

258 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the case being made by the action committee to retain St. Luke’s Hospital at Rathgar, Dublin; if she has issued a response to their concerns; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39339/06]

I have received representations concerning the transfer of radiation oncology services from St. Luke's Hospital, Rathgar to St. James's Hospital, Dublin. The decision to transfer this resource was taken by the Government in the context of its consideration of the National Plan for Radiation Oncology Services. The decision is based on expert advice and is designed to ensure that radiation oncology, one element of cancer care, is integrated with all other aspects of care, including surgery and medical oncology. This is in line with best international practice. I am convinced that this model will provide better patient centred treatment with improved quality of service and outcome for patients. The Board of St. Luke's Hospital and its Executive Management Team are fully committed to supporting the Government's decision in relation to the development of radiation oncology. A transfer on similar lines took place earlier this year in Northern Ireland when radiation oncology services transferred to Belfast City Hospital, a major academic teaching hospital.

In progressing the transfer, I will build on the expertise and ethos of St. Luke's. I have ensured that experts at St. Luke's are centrally involved in the planning and delivery of the National Plan. The plan consists of large centres in Dublin (at Beaumont and St. James's Hospitals), Cork and Galway and two integrated satellite centres at Waterford Regional Hospital and Limerick Regional Hospital. Medical and scientific experts from the hospital are involved in developing the output specifications for the delivery of new radiation oncology services nationally. The Chief Executive at St. Luke's will lead the management team of the new facility at St. James's. I also appointed the Chairman of St. Luke's to chair a National Radiation Oncology Oversight Group to advise me on progress on the implementation of the plan.

The tender has recently been awarded for two additional and two replacement linear accelerators at St. Luke's to provide much needed interim capacity pending the roll out of the national plan. I expect these services to commence late next year. I also recently announced the approval of two radiation oncology facilities at Beaumont and St. James's Hospitals, comprising of two linear accelerators and associated treatment planning at each site, to be delivered in early 2009. These are key elements of the delivery of the National Plan.

The expertise and professional commitment of the staff at St. Luke's Hospital will continue to be an essential element in the development of cancer care.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

259 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to a previous parliamentary question regarding a person (details supplied), the reason the Health Service Executive or old health board did not interview, as part of the investigation, the person who made the initial formal complaint against the doctor; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39340/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has again requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

John McGuinness

Question:

260 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive south east assessed persons (details supplied) who are on the autism spectrum prior to their entry to a school in County Kildare; if appropriate heath services including ongoing psychological interventions are being provided through the school; the type of contact being maintained with the school by the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39341/06]

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.

Care of the Elderly.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

261 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo who lives alone in their own home is unable to receive home help at weekends; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39351/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Liz McManus

Question:

262 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people waiting for procedures, listed by speciality in each acute hospital; the number in each case waiting over six months and over 12 months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39353/06]

Responsibility for the collation and publication of waiting list information falls within the remit of the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).

The NTPF maintains public hospital waiting lists and waiting times nationally on a database, the Patient Treatment Register. My Department has, therefore, asked the Chief Executive of the NTPF to reply to the Deputy directly in relation to the information requested.

Departmental Correspondence.

Liam Twomey

Question:

263 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children if she received a letter, as was received by this Deputy, dated 10 October 2006 from a person (details supplied) regarding the abduction of persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39356/06]

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 Office has received various correspondence from this individual and has been in regular contact with HSE in this regard. All the correspondence has been forwarded to the HSE who has been requested to investigate the matter.

Health Service Staff.

Liam Twomey

Question:

264 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) is still the administrator of St Mary’s Hospital, Phoenix Park; and if not, the reason for same; the title the person has; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39357/06]

Liam Twomey

Question:

265 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a person (details supplied) is working in the office of a local health manager; the reason this is so; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39358/06]

Liam Twomey

Question:

266 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Service Executive has employed a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39359/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 264 to 266, inclusive, together.

Over 120,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the number of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the health care needs of the population into the future.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matters raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

.

Clinical Indemnity Scheme.

Liam Twomey

Question:

267 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of EMT’s, paramedics and advanced paramedics registered with the clinical indemnity scheme. [39360/06]

As the Clinical Indemnity Scheme (CIS) has been established on the principle of "enterprise liability", individual clinical practitioners are not required to register with the scheme. Their work in the public health service is covered by the scheme by virtue of the fact that personal injury claims against the agencies which employ them are covered by the CIS. For this reason the State Claims Agency, which operates the CIS, does not collect the information sought by the Deputy.

Organ Donation.

Liam Twomey

Question:

268 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the review requested by her Department in 2005, that the Health Service Executive undertake a review and analysis, of the factors that impact on organ procurement and the retrieval rate in hospitals nationwide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39369/06]

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

Hospital Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

269 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department has any plans to introduce a screening protocol of infants, post delivery, which aims to identify infants who carry perinatal risk factors for the later development of autism; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39371/06]

Autism is a common developmental disorder but can be difficult to diagnose in young children. Autism is a spectrum of disorders characterised by deficits in social skills, communication and behaviour. Developmental surveillance is ongoing from infancy through school age or at any age if concerns are raised. A number of developmental screening tools are available to this end. Children failing routine developmental surveillance procedures are referred to medical staff for more detailed examination.

There is insufficient evidence to support this type of screening on a population level, however, screening requirements for autism and other conditions will be kept under review by my Department.

Health Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

270 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people who have applied for drug addiction treatment in the Health Service Executive south region from 2000 to 2005 inclusive, the cost of such treatment in that period; the locations where such treatment takes place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39372/06]

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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Liam Twomey

Question:

271 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there are over 2,600 patients on the routine waiting list for dermatology outpatients and that patients in the south east experience delays; if she will take the matter up immediately with the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39373/06]

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. 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.

Liam Twomey

Question:

272 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 604 of 27 September 2006, if the Irish Osteoporosis Society will receive funding in the future to continue it’s good work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39374/06]

The Irish Osteoporosis Society (IOS) received funding from the Health Service Executive of €130,000 in 2005. The IOS sought further funding of €128,000 during 2006. Following a series of meetings and checking of documentation, the HSE provided this amount to the IOS on the 22nd of September 2006.

The Health Service Executive has informed my Department that the IOS have not formally applied for further funding but have indicated they wish to. Representatives from the Population Health Directorate are scheduled to meet with the IOS on the 28th November to discuss funding.

Vaccination Programme.

Liam Twomey

Question:

273 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children if the vaccine for the prevention of the human papilloma virus will be available to private patients; if it will be available on the medical card if patients request it; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39375/06]

The first vaccine for the prevention of human papilloma virus (HPV) has recently been licensed for use in Ireland and may be prescribed. A decision about the availability of the vaccine to both public and private patients as part of a public vaccination programme is under consideration by my Department.

The major public health benefit claimed for HPV vaccine is the prevention of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer screening programmes have similar objectives. We, like other jurisdictions, are undertaking an examination of the potential role of HPV vaccination, its possible inclusion in public vaccination programmes, and the relative contribution of both HPV vaccination and cervical screening programmes in the prevention and control of cervical cancer. Issues to be examined include the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of the vaccine for different age groups, for differing levels of screening provision and uptake, and the implications for the national screening programme.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee has been requested by the Department of Health and Children to advise on the potential public health benefit and appropriate use of HPV vaccine in the vaccination programme. In the light of that advice, the soon to be established National Cancer Screening Service will be asked to address as a matter of urgency the roll-out of the cervical screening programme and advise on an integrated approach between the two approaches that reflects evidenced-based priorities.

It is not intended to make the HPV vaccine available on the medical card. While this product is licensed for use in Ireland and may be prescribed, preventive vaccines which are part of public vaccination programmes are routinely acquired by the HSE, and supplied for clinical administration on its behalf, through an established procurement process. Effective vaccination programmes require education programmes, significant planning, clinical and administrative support, monitoring and evaluation and are not suitable to be carried out through the community drug schemes. Therefore, as direct dispensing to patients through a contracted community pharmacy would not be an appropriate channel for distribution for a preventative vaccine, this product was refused approval for inclusion in the common list of reimbursable products under the GMS and community drugs schemes.

Radon Gas Levels.

Liam Twomey

Question:

274 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the fact that there was excessive radon levels in a third of schools here, her Department has plans or carried out tests for excessive radon levels in buildings under the control of her Department or used by the Health Service Executive or her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39376/06]

Testing for Radon levels was carried out at the General Register Office, Roscommon in 2005. The results were analysed by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland and all the measurements were below the national reference level. To date no further tests have been carried out in any other building under the control of my Department. The situation is however kept under continuous review.

The Deputy's question also refers to buildings used by the Health Service Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Compensation Scheme.

Liam Twomey

Question:

275 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a vaccine damage compensation scheme has not been introduced by her Department in view of the fact that there was a commitment that this issue would receive priority in her Department’s 2006 business plan and that matters relating to this compensation scheme go back as far as November 1997; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39391/06]

The issue of the feasibility of introducing a no-fault a compensation scheme for those damaged by vaccination is being considered by my Department. A steering group with specific terms of reference is now being established and it will be asked to furnish its report as a matter of urgency.

Health Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

276 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that there is over €40 million of unpaid debts to the Health Service Executive which are more than six months old; if she will give a breakdown for the €23 million overdue for more than one year and the €19 million owed from 6 to 12 months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39392/06]

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.

Adoption Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

277 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children the current policy in relation to adopted children receiving knowledge of their full birth family history, including medical history; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39393/06]

Current legislation severely restricts the type and amount of information that can be released from an adoption file. However, any medical or "non-identifying information" (i.e. information that does not specifically identify a third party or would allow that third party to be identified) that is contained in an adoption file will be released to the child's adoptive parents if requested.

If a need arises for specific medical information that is not contained in the file, the relevant adoption agency will also attempt to locate and make contact with members of the child's natural family in order to obtain such information. It should be noted that adopted adults can obtain their own medical and non-identifying information or request that the relevant adoption agency makes efforts to locate and make contact with members of the natural family in order to obtain personal or medical information.

It is also open to adopted adults to join the Adoption Boards National Adoption Contact Preference Register which facilitates contact and exchange of information between adopted adults and their natural families. Adopted adults may also apply to the Adoption Board for the release of their "original" birth certificate.

Child Protection Systems.

Liam Twomey

Question:

278 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children if the in-depth study of the powers of the Health Service Executive promised to be undertaken following the publication of the Ferns Report has been completed; if she will publish the outcome of that review; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39394/06]

As I have indicated to the House previously the Government attaches a very high priority to the Report of the Ferns Inquiry and to following up on the Report's recommendations in the context of ensuring that effective child protection and welfare systems are in place to protect children. Before the publication of the Ferns Report I sought the advice of the Attorney General on the Report including the issue of the Health Service Executive's powers in relation to third party abuse raised in the Report and the advice was that the Executive had general powers under the Child Care Act 1991 in relation to third party abuse.

In line with the recommendations, however, it was considered that the Department of Health and Children in conjunction with the Attorney General's Office should undertake an in depth study of the HSE's powers in relation to third party abuse and this would be followed by legislative proposals as required. Following further detailed discussions between the Office of the Minister for Children and the Attorney General's Office on the question of conducting the in depth examination of these issues the Office of the Minister for Children and the Health Service Executive are examining in detail the various issues involved. I expect that this process will be concluded in the near future and that the advice of the Attorney General's Office will be sought on the outcome of these deliberations as necessary and that subject to Government approval I will then publish legislative proposals as required following this.

Child Abuse.

Liam Twomey

Question:

279 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children if the review of the Catholic Church’s guidelines on child sexual abuse which was commissioned by her Department has been completed; when it is proposed to publish it; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39395/06]

I commissioned a review of "Our Children, Our Church" the Catholic Church Guidelines on Child Protection in April of this year. The review was to assess the compliance of the "Our Children, Our Church" with the National Guidelines on Child Protection, "Children First". The report of the review has recently been forwarded to my Office and its recommendations and conclusions are currently being considered.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Liam Twomey

Question:

280 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 62 of 1 June 2006 her definition of undue delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39396/06]

The issue of ‘undue delay' in respect of meeting the need for medical inpatient treatment was raised before the European Court of Justice in the Watts Case (a UK resident who sought reimbursement for hospital treatment received abroad). The Court in this case left the issue of ‘undue delay' to be determined by the UK Court.

My main objective and that of the Government continues to be the provision of hospital services in the shortest possible timeframe. The public hospital system continues to improve its record in respect of both waiting times and numbers waiting for treatment. In addition, the National Treatment Purchase Fund continues to cater for those patients waiting in excess of three months. The Fund has been provided with €10 million in additional funding in 2007 to facilitate extra referrals in this context.

Ambulance Service.

Liam Twomey

Question:

281 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children the hours of operation of the current Hems service in relation to the service level agreement between the Air Corps and the Health Service Executive with regards to air ambulance operations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39397/06]

Liam Twomey

Question:

282 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children the person who is the medical director in relation to the service level agreement between the Air Corps and the Health Service Executive with regards to air ambulance operations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39401/06]

Liam Twomey

Question:

283 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children the staffing configuration of the aircraft, pilots and doctors in relation to the service level agreement between the Air Corps and the Health Service Executive with regards to air ambulance operations; who supplies the team; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39402/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 281 to 283, inclusive, together.

Inter-hospital air ambulance transport services are currently provided by the Air Corps on a request and availability basis. The Air Corps provides the service subject to the availability of suitable aircraft and flying crews. The provision of the service also depends on prevailing weather conditions.

A Service Level Agreement is in place between the Department of Defence, the Department of Health and Children, the Health Service Executive, the Defence Forces and the Air Corps for the provision of air ambulance services.

The agreement sets out the range services to be provided by the Air Corps, specifically:

Inter-hospital Transfer for spinal and serious injury and illness

Air Transport of Neonates requiring immediate medical intervention in Ireland

Air Transport of patients requiring emergency organ transplant in the UK

Air Transport of Organ Harvest Teams within Ireland

Air Transport of patients from offshore islands to mainland hospitals where the Coast Guard service is not available.

A Steering Group comprising representation from each of the signatories to the Service Level Agreement has been established. The Group is monitoring the operation of the agreement and will amend, if necessary, the provisions of the agreement to take account of service developments, including the new fleet replacement programme currently being put in place by the Air Corps.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to investigate the other issues raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Assisted Human Reproduction.

Liam Twomey

Question:

284 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has undertaken to review the safety of IVF in view of the delay in legislation in relation to same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39403/06]

The Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction (CAHR) was established in March 2000. Its terms of reference were:

‘To prepare a report on the possible approaches to the regulation of all aspects of assisted human reproduction and the social, ethical and legal factors to be taken into account in determining public policy in this area.'

The Commission conducted an intensive and analytical examination of Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR) issues, and its conclusions derive from this wide research. In its report published in May 2005, the Commission noted that in the case of all of the AHR specialist clinics in Ireland, the director was a consultant obstetrician/ gynaecologist on the register of Medical Practitioners of the Medical Council. The Medical Council's Guide to Ethical Conduct and Behaviour, to which all registered medical practitioners are subject, provides inter alia that doctors are obliged to preserve life and to promote health.

In addition, the European Communities (Quality and Safety of Human Tissues and Cells) Regulations (Statutory Instrument No. 158 of 2006) came into law on 7 April, 2006. The Regulations apply to tissues establishments that are involved in the donation, procurement, testing, processing, preservation, storage and distribution of human tissues and cells intended for human applications. The aim of the Regulations is to ensure a high level of protection of human health.

The Regulations include criteria for assessing the status of prospective donors, inspection and control measures, traceability of donations and qualifications and training for persons working in tissue establishments.

Fertility clinics are tissue establishments under the Regulations. They must be inspected and authorised by the Irish Medicines Board, which is the competent authority under the Regulations, to ensure that they meet quality and safety standards.

In addition to the foregoing, I have instructed my Department to begin preparing for specific legislation in the area of AHR. The recent High Court judgment will be examined by my Department as part of this process, along with both the report of the CAHR and the report, when complete, of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children.

Health Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

285 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will look into the case of a person (details supplied); the Health Service Executive’s position on the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39409/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Forum on Fluoridation.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

286 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will reinstate the Forum on Fluoridation website (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39413/06]

The Forum on Fluoridation website has been reactivated for information purposes. The address of the website is www.fluoridationforum.ie. The Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health (Expert Body) was set up on the recommendation of the Forum. Its website address is www.fluoridesandhealth.ie. This website provides ongoing information on the work and progress of the Expert Body, including information on fluorides and health, and fluoridation in general. It also provides a link to the 2002 report of the Forum on Fluoridation.

Departmental Expenditure.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

287 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the quantity, cost and suppliers of energy used by her Department in the last year for which figures are available; if an audit has been carried out on her Department’s energy use; the details of same. [39426/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out below. The details refer to the period from January 2006 to October 2006.

Department's Headquarters

Quantity

Cost

Supplier

Electricity

1,173,354KWh

144,895

ESB/Energia

Gas

836,985KWh

32,280

An Bord Gáis

Heating Oil

6,000 litres

3,260

Texaco Ireland

General Register Office, Roscommon

Quantity

Cost

Supplier

Electricity

723,654KWh

70,516

ESB

Heating Oil

33,644 litres

19,880

Midland Oil Co. Ltd.

No audit on energy use has been carried out.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

288 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the quantity, cost and suppliers of water, both tap and bottled, acquired by her Department for its own use in the last year for which figures are available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39456/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out below.

Department's Headquarters

Quantity

Cost

Supplier

Tap Water

5,579CUm

€7,971

Dublin City Council (1st May 2005 to 30th April 2006)

Bottled Water

31,311litres

14,135

Glenpatrick Watercoolers Ltd. (January to October 2006)

General Register Office, Roscommon

Quantity

Cost

Supplier

Bottled Water

2,812 litres

1,554

Duncarrig Spring Water (January to October 2006)

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

289 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for an x-ray; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39657/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services has been assigned to the Health Service Executive. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. 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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

290 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children the way the disability structural funds are being spent in the electoral areas in Mayo in 2005 and 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39658/06]

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

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

291 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position of residential and emergency facilities available to women and men who have suffered personal abuse, injury, sexual assault, rape and so on from persons known or unknown to the person; the security of such facilities; the content of such facilities; if each facility is for a specific area or if there is an accepted crossover between Health Service Executive areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39660/06]

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.

Jack Wall

Question:

292 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of home care packages and hours provided in the Kildare and west Wicklow area of the Health Service Executive since the inception of the scheme; the average cost of the package; the cost of the overall packages; the turnaround time in regard to the payment of the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39661/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Care of the Elderly.

Jack Wall

Question:

293 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the considerations given by her Department with the Health Service Executive for the provision of independent living units on lands within the ownership of the Health Service Executive; the areas under consideration; the reports commissioned by her Department as to the value of such units; the consultations with the various local authorities in regard to the implementation of such projects; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39662/06]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Jack Wall

Question:

294 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans, in view of the scarcity due to over demand of respite placements in the Kildare and west Wicklow region, in agreement with the Health Service Executive, to extend the facilities at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Athy and Baltinglass District Hospital to provide such placements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39663/06]

A total of €9 million over 2006 and 2007 has been provided to the Health Service Executive to allow for an additional 1,32