Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 16, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 17 to 85, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 86 to 92, inclusive, answered orally.

Tax Code.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

93 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance the amount of interest relief granted in relation to interest relief on investment properties let for residential purposes; the breakdown of the numbers of such mortgages and properties; the average amount of investment relief per property; the highest and the lowest and the number of such properties in each county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10237/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that interest relief is available to an individual or company borrowing money where that money is employed in the purchase, improvement or repair of a property which is let for residential purposes. The relief cannot be claimed until the property is let. The interest paid is treated as an expense deductible from the rental income arising from the property. Where the amount of interest paid in respect of a property exceeds the rental income received from the property, giving rise to a net rental loss for the property for a particular year, that loss can be set against any other Irish rental income which the person may have in that year. Any remaining loss can be carried forward and set against Irish rental income arising in subsequent years until such time as it is used up. It cannot be set against foreign rental income or against other income such as income from a trade or profession.

I am also informed by the Revenue Commissioners that figures on loan interest in respect of borrowings employed for the purchase, improvement or repair of rented residential properties are not separately identified in tax statistics and it is not, therefore, possible to provide the information requested by the Deputy either in relation to the overall amount of relief granted or the other breakdowns sought.

Proposed Legislation.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

94 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance if recent announced measures extending the capacity of credit unions are the extent to which he will allow reforms of this sector; and his plans to introduce amending legislation. [10163/07]

The legal framework governing the regulation of credit unions is provided by the Credit Union Act, 1997. The Act has served credit unions well providing stability and legal certainty during a period of substantial development and growth in the assets of the movement. As a result of this development and changes in the financial environment generally, the need for some modernisation of the legislative and regulatory framework for credit unions has became evident over time.

The recent announcement of my intention to legislate for increased lending limits for credit union loans referred to in the Deputy's question is one of several initiatives that I have taken to update and modernise the regulatory framework for credit unions. On 9 March last, I introduced Regulations enabling Credit Unions to provide Personal Retirement Savings Accounts to their members. This is an important measure both developing the role of credit unions and also supporting the important public policy objective of increasing personal pension coverage.

In February, I published the report of the Review Group on longer-term lending limits in credit unions which recommended that the limits on longer-term lending under Section 35 of the Credit Union Act, 1997 should be increased. This addresses an issue which has been identified by the credit union movement as a significant obstacle to meeting their members' borrowing needs.

Last year my Department drawing on the advice of the Credit Union Advisory Committee — the expert statutory advisory body on credit union matters — assisted the Financial Regulator and the representative bodies for credit unions in agreeing revised investment guidelines for credit unions which were issued by the Registrar of Credit Unions in October 2006. These guidelines will help support prudent and responsible investment behaviour by credit unions. In addition, in August 2006, I introduced Regulations to increase the maximum level of shares and deposits that can be saved in a credit union. This change introduced with the approval of the Financial Regulator was required to update the limits included in the 1997 Act to take account of growth in the economy over the preceding decade and help maintain the attractiveness of credit unions for members' savings.

I have highlighted the importance of the reform of savings protection arrangements for credit unions to the modernisation and change process for credit unions. In this context, a detailed set of proposals to reform the existing Savings Protection Scheme (SPS) for credit unions was submitted to me by the Irish League of Credit Unions in January 2006 and furnished by my Department to the Financial Regulator in March 2006. The Financial Regulator is currently examining the specific changes which may be needed in the proposals which could allow the reformed SPS to be approved with a view to finalising this matter shortly.

As far as the broader modernisation of the legislative framework for credit unions is concerned, my Department has also asked the Registrar and Credit Unions to agree a set of principles with the representative bodies for credit unions that can help guide the development of the regulatory approach for credit unions to support the long-term sustainability of the credit union movement in Ireland. All of these issues have been advanced on the basis of consultation and dialogue with the representative bodies for credit unions and the Financial Regulator. The progress achieved demonstrates my commitment to the success and the long-term development of credit unions in Ireland.

Economic Competitiveness.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

95 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance if his Department has carried out an analysis of the implications of the recent interest rate rises and of further expected interest rate increases on small business here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10220/07]

On Budget Day, my Department projected economic growth of 5.3% in both GDP and GNP terms for this year. Interest rates remain relatively low in historical terms, and the recent increase has not altered the economic outlook. The effect of further rate increases on the economy generally and on small businesses in particular depends on several factors, including developments in our major trading partners and oil price changes etc. Page E.18 of the Stability Programme Update in Budget 2007 discusses these issues in further detail.

Tax Code.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

96 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance his views on the increasing number of high net worth individuals avoiding capital acquisitions tax on multi-million euro house transfers as a consequence of section 86 of the Consolidated Capital Acquisitions Act 2003; if an audit of such transactions has been conducted by the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10231/07]

Section 86 of the Capital Acquisitions Tax Consolidation Act 2003, subject to conditions, grants exemption from Capital Acquisitions Tax in respect of a house comprised in a gift or an inheritance. One of the conditions is that the donee or successor must occupy the house for the period of 3 years ending with the date of the gift or inheritance. Where that house has replaced other property, the beneficiary must have resided either in that house and the other property for periods which together amounted to at least 3 years in the 4-year period prior to the date of the gift or inheritance. Another condition is that the donee or successor, if under the age of 55, must continue to occupy the house as his or her only or main residence for a further period of 6 years. However, there is provision to allow for a replacement house in that period and for situations where the individual concerned is not in occupation of the house because of work obligations abroad.

Amendments to this section are being made in the current Finance Bill which is due before the Seanad next week. These amendments are as a result of Revenue's experience in administering and auditing claims under this section, including taking issues before the Appeal Commissioners.

Firstly, relief will not be available where a donee lives in the principal private residence of the donor where that residence is gifted unless the donor is compelled by reason of old age or infirmity to depend on the services of the donee. This is to counter the argument that where a child is gifted a house by a parent having up until then lived in the parental home, that the 3 year period of occupancy of the gifted house is satisfied. The second change will require that the gifted house, and any house that it replaced, be owned by the donor during the 3-year period even if they were not his or her principal private residence. This is to counter a claim for relief where an individual sells his principal private residence to his parents for full value and then it is gifted back by the parent. It also counters the use of family trusts in gifting houses to children.

National Development Plan.

Damien English

Question:

97 Mr. English 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. [10211/07]

The National Development Plan/Community Support Framework (NDP/ CSF) 2000-2006 is an integrated investment plan and strategy for economic and social development for Ireland. It involved significant investment in infrastructure — such as roads, public transport, water and waste services, health services, social housing, education, industry and rural development.

The NDP/CSF 2000-2006 is implemented through seven Operational Programmes. Performance indicators at programme and priority level are included in the Operational Programme documents and at measure (and sub-measure) level in the programme complement documents. Investment under the plan can continue until 2008 in accordance with EU Rules. The NDP/CSF Monitoring Committee set up by my Department to monitor progress in implementation of the Plan, examines physical and financial progress at programme and priority level with reference to these indicators. The Committee's most recent progress reports (December 2006) indicate that physical implementation is progressing well with some priorities exceeding their end programme targets already.

The data reported indicates that some €54 billion has been spent on the NDP/CSF 2000-2006 to the end December 2006. This represents 95% of original profile for the life of the Plan. The Exchequer & EU contribution to the plan for the same period amounts to almost €46 billion which represents 104% of original profiled Exchequer and EU expenditure for the lifetime of the Plan. The final Exchequer and EU expenditure is expected to cover a lower than expected take-up from the private sector. These figures also indicate that all demands for expenditure are being met.

The ESRI in its ex-ante assessment of investment priorities for NDP 2007-2013 concluded that "The current NDP has greatly enhanced the economic and social infrastructure of the State with major benefits to economic development throughout all regions". My Department has also recently published a progress review entitled NDP/CSF 2000-2006 — Review which highlights some of the key features of the investment under the Plan. This review is available on the NDP website www.ndp.ie.

Tax Yield.

Bernard Allen

Question:

98 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Finance the forecasts for the increase in tax revenue for 2008 and 2009; the projections for employment growth, house price growth and the numbers of second-hand home sales underpinning the forecasts. [10193/07]

The Budget 2007 forecast increases in tax revenues for 2008 and 2009 are 7.3% and 6.9% respectively. Employment is projected to increase by 2.1% and 1.6% in 2008 and 2009 respectively. New house price increases are assumed to be modest in both 2008 and 2009.

There are no reliable macro economic indicators currently available which detail activity in the second-hand housing market, from which the bulk of residential property related Stamp duty receipts are derived. Accordingly, the forecast changes in the volume and price of new house activity are used as a general proxy for the change in the level and value of stamp duty liable transactions for second-hand houses. Added to this is an adjustment for the consequential movement into the higher stamp duty bands brought about by the projected increase in new house prices.

Clearly, such forecasts are susceptible to a far greater margin of error than other economic variables such as forecasts of employment, income and consumption.

National Development Plan.

Denis Naughten

Question:

99 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the steps he will take to ensure a full uptake of the national development plan in the Border Midland Western regions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9549/07]

Chapter 3 of the recently launched National Development Plan 2007-2013 sets out a strong framework for the promotion of regional development with a particular focus on investment in the National Spatial Strategy (NSS) Gateway centres. Five of the nine Gateways — Dundalk, Letterkenny/Derry, Midlands, Galway and Sligo — are in the Border, Midland and Western Region.

The Plan also points out that, in addition to the specific Gateway projects mentioned, "there will be many additional programmes and projects funded under the Plan which will play an important role in the economic and social development of the Gateway Regions, including the Hubs, county towns and rural areas of the Regions". The projects listed are undoubtedly key ones not only for the Gateway centres but also to improve linkages within the regions and between the regions. There is also a Chapter of the Plan dedicated to the Rural Economy and much of the investment aimed at promoting the development of rural areas will help the BMW Region. Finally, it can be expected that the BMW Region will benefit directly from the consolidated and enhanced framework for all-island cooperation set out in the Plan.

The Plan also provides for the establishment of a Gateways Innovation Fund of some €300 million of Exchequer funding for the period 2008-2010. The purpose of this fund is to leverage matching private and other public funding for projects that give added value to Gateway development.

The implementation of NDP programmes and projects is the responsibility of the relevant Government Departments and Agencies. Departments and Agencies will roll out public investment in line with the investment framework set out in the NDP. I am confident that the regional development strategy, in tandem with the supports for the development of the rural economy and the prospect of enhanced all-island cooperation, will help promote the economic development of the BMW Region as well as promoting a better quality of life in the Region.

A key feature of the monitoring template for the Plan will be to measure the impact of investment on regional development. Accordingly the Annual Report on NDP implementation will detail the following, in particular:

Projects and programmes, planned and being implemented, above a specified threshold in each of the 8 Regional Authority areas;

Projected impact of projects and programmes — planned and under way; and

High level socio-economic indicators for each Regional Authority area.

In relation to the NDP/CSF 2000-2006, the figures reported at the NDP/CSF Monitoring Committee meeting in December 2006 indicate that some €11.8 billion of Exchequer and EU expenditure has been incurred by the end of June 2006. The original Exchequer and EU forecast for the BMW Region for the lifetime of the Plan is €14.6 billion. Accordingly, 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 expenditure, I expect that by the end of the programme period, aggregate Exchequer and EU NDP spending in the BMW region will be in the region of €14 billion.

Tax Code.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

100 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Finance if he has examined the trends in the past three months in respect of stamp duty; and if he will indicate the movement in the volume of sales and of prices. [10199/07]

My department examines trends across all major tax heads, including stamp duty, on an ongoing basis. At end February 2007 stamp duties for the year to date were up 22% year on year. They are currently running at 16% ahead of the same time last year (16 March).

It is very difficult to draw conclusions from tax receipts over a period as short as 3 months and to determine if the figures represent a trend that is set to continue. However, evidence for the property market suggests that Stamp Duty receipts, although still strong, will not continue to grow at the rate of recent years. This moderation has been expected for some time. I have pointed out on several occasions in the past we have taken care not to plan the public finances around an assumption that receipts from stamps and Capital Gains Tax will continue to grow in future years as they have in the recent past.

I assume that the second part of the Deputy's question refers to residential property. In this regard, anecdotal evidence suggests that the volume of house sales has eased. Hard data is not yet available but the standard leading indicators (planning permissions etc) suggest an easing in the market. In terms of price developments, the latest data show that the rate of house price inflation has slowed since the middle of last year. Moreover, these data show that on a month-on-month basis, prices have been more or less flat since October.

Willie Penrose

Question:

101 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance the amount of RCT collected in relation to RCT in respect of each of the years, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006; the amount which remains unallocated to the taxpayer who suffered the deduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10226/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the amount of Relevant Contracts Tax [RCT] received in respect of each of the years 2003 to 2006 inclusive is as follows:

RCT

Gross

Repayments

Nett

€m

€m

€m

2003

476.8

423.7

53.2

2004

611.6

562.3

49.3

2005

759.5

660.9

90.6

2006

949.8

856.1

93.8

The Nett figure above is the amount which was unallocated to named taxpayers.

A major programme of work to upgrade the computer systems for RCT to the standard that is available for other business taxes was undertaken in recent years by Revenue so that RCT is now fully integrated within the Revenue Integrated Taxation Systems. Every RCT case is now the subject of active compliance management in the same way as for any other business tax. In that regard, in conjunction with the enhancement of its computer systems Revenue also prioritised its compliance focus on the monthly return and payment required of those registered for RCT. Compliance rates improved very significantly in 2006 — most notably for the biggest cases, where the average rate increased by 7% in the year. Indeed current compliance for the biggest cases was 88% in December last compared with 61% at the start of last year. Across the full customer base, current compliance for RCT increased by 2% in 2006.

In relation to the annual return [RCT 35] filing compliance also increased in 2006. Return filing increased by almost 7% to 88% in 2006. The biggest improvement was for the largest cases where the improvement was 10%. Compliance activity by Revenue is and will continue to increase further in 2007 as Revenue continues it's focus on construction. This will include an earlier start to Revenue's compliance campaign for the RCT35.

Price Inflation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

102 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he will take measures to control inflation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10251/07]

Inflation, as measured by the CPI fell to 4.8 per cent in February from 5.2 per cent in January 2007. On a HICP basis inflation fell to 2.6 per cent in February from 2.9 per cent in January. The rate of CPI inflation has increased in the past year; this is mainly due to ECB interest rate increases which are outside of Government control.

Maintaining a moderate rate of inflation remains a key priority of economic policy because of its importance in restoring competitiveness. The Government is focusing on areas it can control and taking positive actions to contain inflation by implementing responsible fiscal policies. For example, we have not increased excise duties for the last three years, apart from tobacco excise, which was done for sound health policy reasons. We are promoting greater price competition through various measures. We are also investing in public infrastructure, as evidenced by the recently announced National Development Plan, which will enhance our ability to produce more goods and services and, by improving the economy's efficiency, keep inflation down.

In addition, we recognise that services sector inflation is a cause for concern and this highlights the need for more competition in the economy as well as for pay and profit restraint in all sectors in order to keep our cost base down. We must ensure that the wage increases granted under the Social Partnership agreement, Towards 2016, are reflected in productivity gains.

Tax Yield.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

103 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance if, in relation to the Exchequer returns for the first two months of 2007, the income tax, capital gains and excise duty receipts coming in below projections are evidence of a slowdown in the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10221/07]

While income tax, capital gains tax and excise duties were slightly below profile at end-February, total tax receipts were 12.8 per cent ahead of the same period last year and 2.4 per cent ahead of profile. Income tax receipts were up 8.1 per cent compared to the same period in 2006, capital gains tax receipts were up 27.4 per cent and excise duties were up 2.8 per cent. The other main tax-heads — VAT, corporation tax and stamp duty — were also well up on last year and ahead of profile.

This data does not betoken a slowdown but it is always unwise to attempt to draw conclusions about the performance of the economy based on tax receipts at this early stage. The latest available economic estimates for 2006 show that the economy continues to perform well. In Budget 2007 in December, my Department estimated that real GDP growth in 2006 was 5.4 per cent while in GNP terms the growth rate in 2006 was estimated at 5.7 per cent.

Tax Collection.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

104 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance the amount of outstanding uncollected taxes; the proportion of same the Revenue Commissioners expect to recover; if any new measures are planned to assist in the collection of outstanding taxes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10228/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, as the Deputy will appreciate, the amount of arrears of tax and duty is constantly fluctuating. Accordingly for accounting and auditing purposes, and to enable comparisons over time, the debt is calculated and analysed as at 31 March each year. At 31 March 2006 the arrears of tax and duty amounted to €1,085m. The debt for the equivalent time as at 31st March 2005 amounted to €1,217m, representing a reduction of €132m or 11% in the year. I am advised that the tax debt figure as at 31 March 2007 will be analysed and published in due course.

Of the debt of €1,085m as at 31st March 2006, €184m was being actively managed, generally through an agreed instalment arrangement where the taxpayer was given additional time to pay; €435m was under active collection, while €213m was the subject of enforcement action. In summary a total of €832m was under active collection/enforcement or under control. The balance of €253m was under appeal and not therefore available for collection.

As the Deputy will be aware, the collectible debt is a constantly changing figure. Additional debt can arise and can also reduce when taxpayers make returns, activity by Revenue results in debt being collected; new debt can arise when Revenue issue assessments, payments by taxpayers result in debt being reduced — and so on. Revenue estimate that the collectible debt of €832m for 2006 plus any additional debts that subsequently arise for the same period, will be reduced by up to 97% over a five-year period. The remaining balance will be under control, under appeal or at enforcement.

Revenue have stated in their Statement of Strategy 2005-2007, that all debt on record should be less than five years old or the subject of active enforcement or Court proceedings. Revenue have emphasised that the strategies and methodologies adopted to achieve a reduction over a five year period are subject to annual review and evaluation that is carried out within the context of the business planning process. Revenue's Debt management programme is also subject to annual audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General and is reported on in his report.

I would point out that the Revenue debt as a percentage of gross collection is now one of the lowest of any tax administration, standing at less than 2% of gross collection. I am satisfied that the measures being taken by Revenue are highly effective in ensuring the collection of tax debts. Beyond the on-going review and evaluation of collection strategies and methodologies by Revenue I have no plans for new measures in this area.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

105 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the different annual take home pay in 2007 of a married couple with two earners earning a combined income of €65,000 and a married couple with one earner and one full-time stay at home parent with a combined income of €65,000 with comparative figures for each of the years since tax individualisation was introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10212/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is presented in the table. For each year prior to 2007, the gross income on which the take home pay is calculated has been discounted as shown in the table so as to take due account of the impact of wages growth since 2000. The take home pay is calculated by deducting the tax, PRSI and the health levy due from the gross wage.

Annual take home pay of a married two-earner couple and a married one-earner couple with a carer in the home, both couples earning the equivalent of €65,000 in 2007 terms for each year back to 2000.

Year

Gross wage

Take-home pay Married one-earner couple

Take-home pay Married two-earner couple

2000

43,790

33,926

35,088

2001

46,680

37,073

39,208

2002

50,368

39,470

42,513

2003

53,642

41,376

44,863

2004

57,290

43,584

47,759

2005

59,982

45,668

50,355

2006

62,141

47,673

53,188

2007

65,000

50,378

56,123

It should be noted that in the case of the married two-earner couple, an income split of 65%:35% between the two spouses is assumed. A different income split could give rise to different take home pay figures for the married two-earner couple. The difference in take home pay between a married one-earner couple and a married two-earner couple arises due to a number of factors including band structure, differing entitlement to personal credits and the application of conditions which apply in the health levy and PRSI systems.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

106 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Finance the review mechanisms in place to adjust rates of value added tax or remove specified goods and services from the ambit of the tax. [10155/07]

VAT like all taxes is reviewed each year in the context of each Budget and Finance Bill. However, the VAT regime and indeed the rating of all goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. Under the EU VAT Directive, Member States may retain the zero rates on goods and services which were in place on 1 January 1991, but cannot extend the zero rate to new goods and services. However, it is possible to move existing zero rated items to either the reduced rate or the standard rate depending on the item in question. However, once moved, it would not be possible to revert them to the zero rate.

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 III of the EU VAT Directive. The goods and services in Annex III include certain foods, non-oral medicines, supply, construction and alteration of housing provided as part of a social policy, and newspapers and periodicals. Goods and services at the reduced rate may be moved to the standard rate, but only those listed in Annex III may be reverted from the standard rate to the reduced rate.

In addition, Member States have the option of maintaining, at a reduced rate of not less than 12 per cent, any items not listed in Annex III, provided they carried the reduced rate on 1 January 1991. These items are considered to be ‘parked' and Ireland's parked rate is the same as our reduced rate of 13.5%. Domestic fuels, restaurant services and labour intensive services are examples of parked items. Member States must therefore apply the standard VAT rate to those goods and services that are not subject to VAT at the zero rate and which are not listed in Annex III of the Sixth VAT Directive.

Mary Upton

Question:

107 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Finance the excise duty and approximate VAT charge on a litre of home heating oil in the domestic market in February 2007; the amount of excise duty and VAT included in the cost of a typical delivery of 1000 litres of home heating oil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10248/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested as at February 2007 is set out in the table. The information is based on a price of €542.8 for 1,000 litres of Kerosene and €546.6 for 1,000 litres of home heating Diesel (Marked Gas Oil).

Product

Per Litre

Per 1,000 Litres

Price

Excise

VAT

Total Tax

Excise

VAT

Total Tax

(cents)

(cents)

(cents)

(cents)

(€)

(€)

(€)

Kerosene

54.28

0.00

6.46

6.46

0.00

64.56

64.56

Marked Gas Oil

54.66

4.74

6.50

11.24

47.36

65.01

112.37

The reduced VAT rate of 13.5 per cent is applied to home heating oil. In relation to the scope for reducing VAT on supplies heating oil, the position is the VAT rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. The VAT treatment of heating oil is based on the fact that on 1 January 1991 it was taxed at the reduced rate. Under EU law Member States can continue to apply reduced rates in such cases provided the rate is not below 12%. The Deputy may be aware that in Budget 2007, I reduced the excise rate to zero for Kerosene which is the primary home heating oil.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

108 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the tax incentive measures he will introduce to ensure that Ireland meets the new target agreed by EU leaders of increasing biofuels to 10% of all vehicle fuel by 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10245/07]

While the promotion of biofuel 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.

This scheme, which received the necessary EU State Aid approval, commenced in November 2006 and 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;

contribute towards meeting a target of 5.75% transport fuel market penetration by biofuels by 2009;

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 two years, and extended the existing VRT relief for hybrid cars by a further year to end 2007. I am also providing in Finance Bill 2007 for the introduction of a VRT relief of 50% for electric cars — cars which can be propelled by a rechargeable battery — on a pilot one year basis with effect from 1 January, 2007.

In addition I announced in the Budget the commencement of a public consultation process on adjusting VRT to take greater account of CO2 emissions of vehicles. A similar exercise is under way in the area of motor tax. Any changes will have effect from a target date of 1 January 2008.

The overall level of excise relief available for biofuels under the above mentioned Scheme is that which had been proposed by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in advance of Budget 2006. It is regarded as a level which is sufficient to match Ireland's output potential in relation to renewable energy crops for motor fuels over the coming years. These fiscal incentives were designed to kick start the domestic biofuels industry and the evidence suggests that this is happening.

The Deputy might wish to note that there are additional non-fiscal measures that can be used to promote biofuels and reach the targets referred to. To provide further market certainty and encourage projects of scale, the Government recently announced its intention to move to a Biofuels Obligation by 2009, with targets for market penetration for biofuels of 5.75% in 2009 and 10% by 2020.

Decentralisation Programme.

Jack Wall

Question:

109 Mr. Wall 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 now been reached with all public service unions regarding promotional opportunities for those who chose to move and those who opt to remain where they are; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10240/07]

Over ten thousand six hundred civil and public servants have applied to relocate under the Programme. Of these, approximately 5,600 or 53% are currently based in Dublin. The Central Applications Facility remains open and continues to receive applications. Discussions have concluded on a number of human resource and industrial relations matters and are being progressed on other issues. At the end of December 2006, over 2,400 staff had been assigned to decentralising posts. Approximately 800 of these are currently in place, in 17 new locations, while the remainder are being trained in advance of decentralisation to a new location, as soon as accommodation becomes available.

It is envisaged that by the end of 2007 public services will be delivered from 36 of the decentralisation towns with approximately 2,000 staff transferred. The precise numbers moving within that time frame will depend on the availability of property as well as timeframes for completion of fit out and installation of necessary ICT (information communications technology) and telecommunication cabling and equipment.

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. 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 & technical staff in the Civil Service on the range of industrial relations issues arising, including promotion arrangements and placing of staff who wish to remain in Dublin.

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. However, there is a need to balance the business needs of the organisation in furthering its relocation objective with the needs of staff remaining in Dublin. In these circumstances promotions policy must take account of the reality of Decentralisation. It is my strong view that these issues can be resolved through dialogue and negotiations.

Tax Code.

Dan Boyle

Question:

110 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Finance his views on the Danish system of refunding VAT paid by charities. [10148/07]

The position is that charities and non-profit groups engaged in non-commercial activity are exempt from VAT under the EU 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 accept 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 respect of the bodies they represent. However, given that Exchequer funding is made available to very many charitable organisations this is in effect already happening.

The 140 bodies represented by the Irish Charities Tax Reform Group already acknowledge that they receive some €9 million in funding either directly or indirectly from the Exchequer. However, there are approximately 7,000 charities registered with the Revenue Commissioners. It is therefore likely that the introduction of a scheme along the lines proposed by the Irish Charities Tax Reform Group would cost the Exchequer significantly more than the €18 million estimate put forward by the group in respect of the bodies they represent.

I understand that the only EU Member State to introduce a scheme providing partial compensation for a limited number of charities for VAT incurred on input costs is Denmark. To be eligible under the Danish scheme charities must already be approved bodies under the Danish equivalent of our tax relief on donations scheme. My Department understands that some 750 charities in Denmark could benefit as a result. In comparison, over 1,900 organisations have to date been approved under the Irish donations relief scheme. It also understands that under the Danish scheme educational institutions are not eligible for compensation.

It is likely, therefore, the introduction of any grant system in lieu of VAT paid by registered charities in Ireland 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 of refunds. These exempt bodies are already receiving considerable Exchequer funding.

The tax code already treats charities in a favourable manner. The tax code currently provides exemption for charities from Income Tax, Corporation Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Deposit Interest Retention Tax, Capital Acquisitions Tax, Stamp Duty, Probate Tax, Dividend Withholding Tax and the uniform scheme of tax relief for donations. While no overall definitive figures are available on the cost to the Exchequer of charitable tax exemption status, Revenue estimated in 2005 that the cost of the various tax exemptions and tax reliefs, including the tax relief on donations scheme, in place for bodies conferred with charitable status could be as high as €190m annually.

In addition to tax exemptions and reliefs, charities, voluntary and community groups, sporting bodies benefit significantly from grants schemes administered by a number of Government Departments. Finally, even if funds were available for grant-aiding charities and other voluntary groups, I am not sure that the most appropriate use of the funds would be to relieve them of the VAT paid on inputs as opposed to grant-aiding their activities using other criteria.

Proposed Legislation.

Paul McGrath

Question:

111 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 proposed new amendment to rules governing ethics in public office. [10206/07]

The Deputy will be aware that office holders and members of the Dáil and the Seanad may accept a gift in only limited circumstances. The Taoiseach and Tánaiste announced in October that the Ethics legislation would 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 it would not be likely to compromise the recipient in the discharge of his or her official duties, and to abide by the Commission's opinion. A Bill to this effect is currently being drafted.

The key provisions of the Bill will be as follows:

to require office holders, members of the Oireachtas and the Attorney General, if offered a gift or gifts, or a loan or loans of money, worth 2,000 euro or more in any calendar year from a friend for personal reasons, to seek the opinion of the Standards in Public Office Commission as to whether acceptance would be likely to compromise the recipient in the performance of his or her official duties, and to abide by the Commission's opinion;

this requirement will also apply to property lent or services supplied for less than the commercial price by 2,000 euro or more;

to update the monetary thresholds for registerable interests in the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995;

to provide that consulting the Standards Commission will be a confidential process and that the opinion of the Standards Commission will also be confidential. However, all office holders, Oireachtas members and the Attorney General will be required to furnish a statement to the Standards Commission each year that they are in compliance with the new requirement, as part of their annual returns; and

to provide that if an office holder, Oireachtas member or Attorney General fails to seek the opinion of the Standards Commission or fails to abide by its opinion, he or she can be the subject of an investigation by the Standards Commission, on the lines currently provided for in the Ethics legislation, which will result in a report or decision of the Standards Commission on the matter being laid before the Oireachtas.

I wrote last week to the Chairmen of the Select Committees on Members' Interests of the Dáil and the Seanad setting out the key provisions and asking the Committees to give their views on them as soon as possible. The Government intends to introduce the Bill in the current session.

Fiscal Policy.

Damien English

Question:

112 Mr. English 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. [10208/07]

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 are forecast to contribute just under 15 per cent of total targeted tax revenues in 2007 and it is worth noting that a significant proportion of receipts from these tax-heads come from sources other than residential property.

In contrast, the 4 main tax-heads — VAT, Income tax, Corporation tax and Excise duty are forecast to account for 84 per cent of tax receipts this year, even allowing for the lower than usual corporation tax forecast which is due to the cash-flow reduction arising from the ending of the transitional payment arrangements. 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 and it has been endorsed by the IMF and other commentators.

Tax Collection.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

113 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance his estimate of the number of persons non-resident for tax purposes for each of the past three tax years; if the Revenue Commissioners have undertaken additional steps to clarify the number of visits made to the country by such non-residents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10249/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that it is not possible at present to estimate the number of Irish domiciled individuals claiming to be non-resident for tax purposes as such information has not been captured from tax returns in the past. Information which will assist in such estimation was however requested on the 2005 Return of Income. The processing of these returns is currently under way and when completed this should facilitate the compilation of statistics for 2005. It is intended to capture similar information from the 2006 returns which are due by the end of October 2007.

I am further informed by the Revenue Commissioners that inquiries relating to residence are a normal part of their risk-based audit programme. The methods and procedures used to verify claims for non-residency are, as with other procedures, reviewed by Revenue on a regular basis.

Price Inflation.

Jack Wall

Question:

114 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recent increase in the consumer price index; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10222/07]

Inflation, as measured by the CPI fell to 4.8 per cent in February from 5.2 per cent in January 2007. On a HICP basis inflation fell to 2.6 per cent in February from 2.9 per cent in January. The rate of CPI inflation has increased in the past year; this is mainly due to ECB interest rate increases which are outside of Government control. If mortgage interest was removed, CPI inflation would have measured 2.5 per cent in February.

Maintaining a moderate rate of inflation remains a key priority of economic policy because of its importance in restoring competitiveness. The Government is focusing on areas it can control and taking positive actions to contain inflation by implementing responsible fiscal policies. For example, we have not increased excise duties for the last three years, apart from tobacco excise, which was done for sound health policy reasons. We are promoting greater price competition through various measures. We are also investing in public infrastructure, as evidenced by the recently announced National Development Plan, which will enhance our ability to produce more goods and services and, by improving the economy's efficiency, keep inflation down.

In addition, we recognise that services sector inflation is a cause for concern and this highlights the need for more competition in the economy as well as for pay and profit restraint in all sectors in order to keep our cost base down. We must ensure that the wage increases granted under the Social Partnership agreement, Towards 2016, are reflected in productivity gains.

State Airports.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

115 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance if he will review the sniffer dog situation at Ireland West Airport, Knock as there is concern that the cover is not sufficient; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6762/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that Customs control of airports has to be looked at in the context of the Internal Market and the principle of freedom of movement within the European Union. Routine and systematic Customs checks on goods and passengers moving within any part of the EU have been abolished, as have Customs controls on the baggage of intra-Community passengers other than anti-smuggling checks. This is particularly relevant in the case of Knock Airport where passenger traffic is predominantly intra-Community. In this context, Revenue's approach must of necessity be to balance the freedom of movement principle in regard to people and goods with the need to control smuggling and enforce prohibitions and restrictions.

Detection dogs have been used at Knock Airport for a number of years. Attendance is risk based and targeted using analysis and evaluation of general seizure trends, traffic frequency, route and similar risk indicators. These attendances cover the full range of flights times and are kept under constant review in particular to take account of emerging smuggling trends and any traffic increase at the airport. I am assured by the Revenue Commissioners that the level of use of detection dogs at Knock is adequate to address the risks.

Pension Provisions.

Joan Burton

Question:

116 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the number of small, privately administered pension schemes and the number of persons that have applied for exemptions under the new €5 million limit; the value of each of the five largest pension schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10213/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that to date 6,570 small self-administered pension schemes have been approved by Revenue. As already outlined to the Deputy at the Committee Stage of the Finance Bill, 116 applications were received for Personal Fund Thresholds above the €5 million Standard Fund Threshold introduced in the 2006 Budget and Finance Act. The value of the five largest Personal Fund Thresholds ranged from €27m to €54m. This data is based on notifications made to Revenue by the persons concerned.

Consumer Protection.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

117 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. [10207/07]

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 1995 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.

Under the Package Holidays and Travel Trade Act it is the Director of Consumer Affairs who has direct responsibility for enforcing consumer protection provisions dealing with information provided to the consumer before conclusion of a package holiday contract. There is an obligation under section 12(1)(c) of the Act for the travel organiser/retailer to provide the consumer with information on the minimum level of travel insurance cover where such insurance cover is compulsory under the holiday contract. If such insurance is not compulsory under the contract, section 12(4) also provides that the travel organiser will inform the consumer about the optional conclusion of an insurance policy to cover certain risks. Under the Consumer Protection Bill 2007, which was recently published by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, it is proposed to transfer the functions of the Director of Consumer Affairs to the new National Consumer Agency.

Economic Competitiveness.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

118 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance his views on the implications for the Irish economy of the recent quarter point increase in interest rates announced by the European Central Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10217/07]

On Budget Day, my Department projected economic growth of 5.3% in both GDP and GNP terms for this year. Interest rates remain relatively low in historical terms, and the recent increase has not altered the economic outlook.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

119 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the economic implications of rising inflation, in view of the fact that consumer price index inflation measured 5.2% in January 2007 up from 4.9% in December 2006. [10181/07]

Inflation, as measured by the CPI fell to 4.8 per cent in February from 5.2 per cent in January 2007. On a HICP basis inflation fell to 2.6 per cent in February from 2.9 per cent in January. The rate of CPI inflation has increased in the past year; this is mainly due to ECB interest rate increases which are outside of Government control. If mortgage interest was removed, CPI inflation would have measured 2.5 per cent in February.

An increase in the rate of inflation is a cause for concern. If our inflation rate increases by more than that of our competitors it reduces our competitiveness. It 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. It also emphasises that in the long run, in order to remain competitive, wages in Ireland will have to rise in line with productivity. We must ensure that the wage increases granted under the Social Partnership agreement, Towards 2016, are reflected in productivity gains.

Maintaining a moderate rate of inflation remains a key priority of economic policy because of its importance in restoring competitiveness. The Government is focusing on areas it can control and taking positive actions to contain inflation by implementing responsible fiscal policies. For example, we have not increased excise duties for the last three years, apart from tobacco excise, which was done for sound health policy reasons. We are promoting greater price competition through various measures. We are also investing in public infrastructure, as evidenced by the recently announced National Development Plan, which will enhance our ability to produce goods and services more efficiently and therefore keep inflation down.

Tax Code.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

120 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Finance when the stamp duty loophole involving the use of licensing arrangements in respect of land transfer and development land deals, to avoid capital taxation including stamp duty will be closed; the exact date after which new deals will be subject to the new arrangements; the number of house properties and estates and land transfer and development schemes that qualified for the avoidance of capital taxes for each year from the year 2000 to date in 2007; if he will pursue companies or individuals that avoided stamp duty under this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10214/07]

As the Deputy is aware, I introduced legislation into the Finance Bill at Committee Stage to address the arrangements used by some developers that, under current law, do not involve a liability to stamp duty. The legislation provides that stamp duty may be liable on such arrangements as follows:

in the case of a contract, where 25 per cent or more of the contract price has been paid over to the landowner,

in the case of a licence agreement, where 25% or more of the value of the lands concerned has been paid over to the landowner, and

in the case of agreements for lease, where 25% or more of the consideration has been paid over.

At present no set date is provided in the Bill for the introduction of this legislative provision. It will be put into effect by a Commencement Order.

In recent years, anecdotal evidence has surfaced which suggests that some developers have been using these means to avoid liability to stamp duty. Last year, I asked the Revenue Commissioners to review these arrangements and the extent of their use. Arising from that review, Revenue have concluded that the bypassing by developers of a stamp duty liability is relatively common. However, Revenue are unable to provide details of the transactions as requested by the Deputy. As the transactions in question, under current law, do not involve a liability to stamp duty, no such records are available.

When new legislative provisions are introduced closing off a loophole, it is not possible under the law to introduce such changes retrospectively. As such, it can only apply to arrangements made after the provisions are commenced.

Social Finance Foundation.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

121 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance when the social finance fund announced in budget 2006 will start to issue loans to voluntary projects; the person who will be in charge of the fund; the number of staff members it will have; the responsibilities they will have; their salaries; the criteria they will use for assessing loan applications; the penalties that will be imposed on projects that are unable to meet their repayments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10235/07]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

137 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Finance the sources other than financial institutions from which the newly created social finance foundation is hoping to secure funds. [10154/07]

Pat Carey

Question:

296 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance when the social finance fund will be operational; when guidelines for applicants will be available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9753/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 121, 137 and 296 together.

On 8 February 2007 I launched the Social Finance Foundation to implement the Social Finance Initiative announced in Budget 2006. The Foundation has been established on a not-for-profit basis to act as a wholesale supplier of social finance for on-lending by specialist social finance lenders to support social and developmental projects and social enterprise in local communities.

The Foundation is a private company established under Company Law and is governed by its Board of Directors under its Memorandum and Articles of Association. The company has received seed funding of €25 million from the Irish banking sector for distribution to qualifying lending intermediaries. These intermediaries are expected to comprise existing social finance lenders, as well as those that emerge as a result of the establishment of the Foundation.

The Foundation's lending policies and procedures as well as the appointment, role and responsibilities of staff and their terms and conditions of employment are matters for the Board of the Foundation. The board is chaired by Mr. Peter Quinn and information on the other directors of the Foundation is included in the press release issued by my Department which is available on the Department's website at www.finance.gov.ie The Chair indicated at the launch that the Foundation intends to commence its lending activities by mid-year. An invitation for expressions of interest from lending intermediaries is expected to issue shortly.

The €25m funding made available by the banks for the Initiative represents a very substantial increase over the resources currently devoted to social finance lending. I believe this level of seed funding is sufficient to meet initial requirements for the implementation of the Initiative. Looking to the future, as I indicated when I announced the Initiative in Budget 2006, the door is also open for other sectors and indeed private individuals to participate. I see the launch of the Foundation as a catalyst for deeper participation by private finance in the area of local and community development and social enterprise, providing a long-term sustainable funding stream for suitable social finance projects, over and above the significant seed funding contributed by the banks.

Public Service Employment.

Pat Breen

Question:

122 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance if he will indicate the projected increase in public service employment in 2007; and the strategy for the growth in public service numbers underlying budgetary planning for 2008 and 2009. [10192/07]

The Government has over the last number of years, followed a policy under which growth in public service employment has slowed overall. The Government will continue to control and regulate numbers employed in the public service within agreed ceilings. The number employed is kept under constant review given the importance of striking an appropriate balance between the need, on the one hand, to provide resources to improve front-line services and cater for demographic pressures and the need, on the other, to control and regulate overall numbers in the context of providing value for money for the public expenditure involved.

This strategy will govern decisions about employment in public services over the period in question. It is a matter for each Minister and Department to manage their employment levels within this strategy. The table shows the latest figures available for the number of staff serving in the public sector; these are whole-time equivalents at end-December 2006.

Serving End December 2006

Public Service

Civil Service [Non-Industrials]

35,394

Civil Service [Industrials]

1,790

Health Sector

106,272

Education Sector

87,377

Defence

11,375

Gardaí

12,954

Local Authorities

33,633

Non Commercial Semi-States

9,885

Total

298,680

Decentralisation Programme.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

123 Mr. M. Higgins 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. [10242/07]

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 than 56 locations across some 60 Government Departments/Offices and Agencies. My Office is in the process of procuring appropriate properties in the designated 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 37 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.

As the Deputy will know the Decentralisation Implementation Group (DIG) in its report of November 2004 announced the names of the Departments and organisations selected as ‘early movers' and set out a timetable for provision of accommodation. At the same time the Group published a Report on the Procurement and Financial aspects of decentralisation.

In June 2005 the DIG published a further Report updating the timetable announced in November 2004; this timetable was revised in September 2006. The Report includes a timetable for the balance of organisations comprehended by the decentralisation programme, and sets out commencement and completion dates for accommodation ranging from the final quarter of 2005 to end of 2009. I am confident that this programme will be successfully implemented.

In relation to the Public Private Partnership approach recommended by the DIG my Office has been developing a comprehensive risk-adjusted costing of project elements to measure the value-for-money of future PPP bids. Expressions of Interest have been received and evaluated in respect of 3 locations (Portlaoise, Mullingar and Carlow) with very significant interest being shown. I expect that tenders will be invited in the coming weeks.

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 210,000 sq. m of office space will be required to accommodate the total numbers included in the programme. OPW cost norms (April 2005, being updated by April 2007) 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 to €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 could 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 data 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. Nevertheless it can be estimated that, generally-speaking, the cost of providing accommodation in provincial, compared to central Dublin locations should yield considerable cost savings to the State over time in terms of site costs, capital build costs and indeed maintenance costs.

Consumer Credit.

Martin Ferris

Question:

124 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Finance his views on the potential economic implications of record levels of personal indebtedness which have now been reached in this State. [10184/07]

The rise in personal indebtedness must be seen in the context of buoyant economic conditions in recent years, which have been associated with very strong employment growth, increases in wages and reductions in direct taxation. A large part of the increase in personal sector indebtedness also reflects the accumulation of housing assets on the part of households. Moreover, the level of public indebtedness as a percentage of national income has fallen in recent years.

Therefore, provided that the economy and the public finances remain strong, the current level of personal indebtedness should have no significant implications at the macroeconomic level. This highlights the importance of remaining competitive and of adhering to prudent budgetary policies.

As I have pointed out before, both borrowers and lenders need to be aware that interest rates are still low by historical standards. Borrowers need to factor the prospective impact of changes to interest rates into their financial planning. I fully support the vigilance of the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator on the issue of private sector credit and in reminding borrowers and lenders of the need for responsible behaviour. The Government, for its part, will continue to contribute to economic and financial stability by pursuing a prudent fiscal policy.

Decentralisation Programme.

John Carty

Question:

125 Mr. Carty asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the decentralisation of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs’ headquarters to Ireland West Airport, Knock, County Mayo, following the lodgement of a planning objection against the project recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7596/07]

The Office of Public Works (OPW) selected a preferred tenderer for this Decentralisation project in August 2006. An application for planning permission was submitted by the preferred tenderer to Mayo County Council in October 2006. Notification of a decision to grant permission, subject to conditions, was issued by the Council in late November 2006. An appeal was lodged with An Bord Pleanála in early January 2007 and is expected to be decided in May 2007.

On receipt of a satisfactory planning permission, the preferred tenderer will be instructed by the OPW to prepare working drawings, specifications and a Bill of Quantities with a view to a contract being placed and construction work commencing on site. All going well, construction is expected to be completed in mid-2008.

The Knock Decentralised Building:

Involves the provision of office building(s), comprising approximately 4,500 square metres, as a Headquarters for the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, to accommodate approximately 183 staff.

Capital Expenditure.

John Deasy

Question:

126 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Finance the system in place for pinning responsibility on named public officials for the delivery of public investment projects on time and on budget. [10201/07]

My Department's Capital Appraisal Guidelines of February 2005, as amended by Circular Letter of 25 January 2006 on Value for Money, provide for an individual to be appointed as project manager for each capital project. The guidelines specify that a senior official should be appointed as project manager for capital projects above 30 million euro, including at management committee level, where appropriate, but do not specify a particular salary level or grade. It is a matter for each project implementing Department or Agency to determine who should be appointed project manager in each individual case in the light of the foregoing requirements having regard to the scale, complexity and cost of each project.

The role of the project manager is to monitor progress on the project and to report on progress to the project board during project development to ensure that project objectives, performance criteria and key project milestones are achieved on time and within budget as per the project contract. If adverse developments occur, such as potential cost overruns or delays, the project manager's progress reports to the project board should include recommendations to address the situation, including if warranted the option of project termination.

Departmental Expenditure.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

127 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Finance if any Departments have furnished him with proposed performance indicators for measuring the impact of public spending; and if he will arrange to have these presented to the relevant Oireachtas committee for consideration. [10195/07]

Responsibility for sectoral policy and the management of programmes rests with individual Ministers and their Departments. The development of performance indicators is an integral part of the development of sectoral policies and Value for Money and Policy Reviews and evaluations carried out by Departments.

As part of the Government's reforms of the Estimates and Budget process announced by me in Budget 2006, Ministers are required commencing in 2007 to present an annual output statement in tandem with their Estimates 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 and impact indicators linked to the high level goals in Departments' strategy statements. For 2008 onwards, the statements will set out actual outturns against the previous year's output targets and new targets for the year under consideration.

The first such annual output statement was presented to the Select Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs on 7th March by the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. All Ministers are due to present their Annual Output Statements to the relevant Select Committees within the next two weeks. I will be presenting the Finance Group output statement to the Finance and Public Service Committee on Thursday.

Tax Yield.

Ivor Callely

Question:

128 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Finance the revenue generated arising from stamp duty on house sales over the past five years; the consideration that has been given to reduce revenue generated in this area; the works under consideration for revenue generation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10202/07]

The table sets out actual stamp duty receipts in each of the past five years.

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Stamp Duty Receipts, €m

1,167

1,688

2,088

2,725

3,717

Stamps as a % of Total Tax Revenue:

4%

5%

6%

7%

8%

Although exact data for stamp duty on residential property transactions are not available, the table sets out estimated figures for the period. It shows that receipts for residential property are just over a third of total stamp duty receipts.

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Stamp Duty Receipts from Residential Property

€349m

€528m

€752m

€945m

€1,311m

Stamp duty is a significant contributor to the Exchequer, which helps fund public services such as health and education, while keeping the direct tax burden low thereby facilitating continued economic success, which is of benefit to all taxpayers. Policy with regard to all taxes, including stamp duty, is reviewed every year in the context of the annual Budget. In the most recent Budget I abolished stamp duty on mortgage deeds, assisted sporting bodies wishing to purchase land for the purpose of promoting sports and introduced a new stamp duty relief for stock market intermediaries which better reflects modern share dealing practices.

Departmental Expenditure.

Simon Coveney

Question:

129 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Finance the cost of travel and subsistence in his Department in each year since 2004 and to date in 2007; and if the establishment of decentralised offices has reduced the bill. [10198/07]

The table sets the cost of all home and foreign travel and subsistence paid from my Department's Vote in each of the years 2004 to 2006 and 2007 to date. Payments were made from subheads A2 (Travel and Subsistence), F (Gaeleagras) and J1 (Structural Funds Technical Assistance).

2004

2005

2006

2007

€,000

€,000

€,000

€,000

894

876

1,041

140

The establishment of an office of my Department in Tullamore in July 2006 did not reduce the cost of travel and subsistence between 2005 and 2006.

Tax Code.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

130 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the high dependence of the Government on tax receipts from property and consumption means that any contraction or downturn in these sectors is liable to leave the Government in a vulnerable position. [10179/07]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

171 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the high dependence of the Government on revenue generated from taxes related to property and consumption. [10182/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 130 and 171 together.

The main consumption related taxes are VAT and excise duty. Taken together these two tax-heads are forecast to account for almost €21 billion or 43 per cent of total tax revenues in 2007 compared to the 44 per cent and 46 per cent of actual taxes they accounted for in 1997 and 1987 respectively. 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 are forecast to contribute around 15 per cent of total targeted tax revenues in 2007. In contrast, the 4 main tax-heads — VAT, income tax, corporation tax and excise duty are forecast to account for 84 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 and it has been endorsed by the IMF and other commentators.

Economic Competitiveness.

Pat Breen

Question:

131 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance if he has identified economic factors underlying the loss of export market share by Ireland and significant job losses in trading sectors in the past four years. [10191/07]

Exports of goods and services are estimated to have increased, in real terms, by an annual average of 4.1% in the last 4 years. Export growth in recent years has been concentrated in the services sector rather than in traditional manufacturing sectors. Between Q4 2002 and Q4 2006 the numbers employed in manufacturing declined by 13,700, or 4.5%. However, this decline in employment in the manufacturing sector has taken place over a period when total employment increased by 282,500, or 15.8%.

The changes in the composition of exports indicate that some of the decline in manufacturing employment can be seen as part of a process of structural change in the economy. While manufacturing jobs are being lost, many jobs in high value added sectors such as financial services are being created. It is also the case that losses in competitiveness over the last number of years are placing pressure on manufacturing firms. It is for this reason that we must remain focused on restoring and enhancing competitiveness going forward, if Ireland is to continue growing strongly.

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. To ensure that our export sector remains strong, the Government is adhering to prudent fiscal policies as well as investing in infrastructure, education and skills development.

Capital Expenditure.

Richard Bruton

Question:

132 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the projects examined in the past 12 months by the central examination unit of his Department. [10189/07]

The examination of projects is a matter for each spending Department. I established the Central Expenditure Evaluation Unit in my Department in June 2006 with the appointment of a Head of Unit and assignment of appropriately qualified staff. The Unit's initial phase of operations included the development of a work programme and running a recruitment process for appropriately skilled expenditure evaluators. Two evaluators have recently been appointed from this competition. In addition, my Department currently has four participants in the Masters Programme in Policy Analysis delivered by the Institute of Public Administration in association with the Faculty of Commerce, UCD. Upon completion of the programme, they will be assigned as expenditure evaluators to the Central Expenditure Evaluation Unit, two in mid 2007 and two in mid 2008.

The Unit's work programme for the next twelve months will focus on checking compliance with the capital expenditure VFM frameworks, including undertaking its own programme of spot checks of individual capital projects; overseeing roll out by Departments of the programme of reviews under the Value for Money and Policy Review initiative and development and roll out of a scheme of programme evaluation under the new National Development Plan (2007-2013).

Spot checks of capital projects are in the first instance the responsibility of each spending Department, who are required to put a system in place to carry out spot checks of projects to ensure compliance with the VFM framework and to report the findings of their spot checks annually to my Department. The Central Expenditure Evaluation Unit in my Department will review these spot check reports and may also directly undertake its own spot checks of individual capital projects either as part of this review process or on its own initiative.

As part of its work programme for 2007, the Unit will be undertaking its own series of spot checks of individual capital projects. This programme of spot checks has commenced with the examination of a number of projects in the transport sector. Activity in this area will be expanded over the coming months following the recent appointment of new staff members to the Unit.

Tax Yield.

Seán Ryan

Question:

133 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the estimate of the net VAT paid by the building and construction sectors for each of the years 2003 to 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10225/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that estimates of the amounts of internal VAT paid by taxpayers in the building and construction industry in the years 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006, after allowing for repayments and not including VAT on imports, are as follows.

VAT yields from building and construction industry

Year

Net VAT paid

€m

2003

669

2004

780

2005

921

2006

1,091

The sector identifier used on the tax records is based on the 4 digit "NACE code (Rev. 1)" which is an internationally recognised economic activity code system. While the accuracy of the NACE codes on tax records is sufficient to underpin broad sector-based analyses there will undoubtedly be some inaccuracies at individual level which should be borne in mind when considering the above data.

In addition, the figure provided for the estimated gross yield from the construction industry does not include the yield from activities and businesses in other economic sectors which are closely linked to the construction sector. An example of these would be architecture, engineering and real estate activities. VAT is levied on taxable activities (i.e. provision of goods and services) and accordingly the yield from a VAT liable activity such as construction, can be spread over more than one NACE code grouping.

The figures given for the years 2003, 2004 and 2005 are upward revisions of figures provided by the Revenue Commissioners in previous correspondence. The revisions were brought about by the updating of tax records, such as amending NACE codes, having a retrospective effect on historical figures for tax yields.

Proposed Legislation.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

134 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance his views on legislating for the right to a bank account, as has been done in other states, to enable people without a bank account to open an account at a financial institution of their choice. [10185/07]

The banking industry has proposed the development of a universal bank account enabling all citizens to make and receive payments electronically — whether in the form of salary, benefit or welfare. The Deputy may wish to note that there are a number of important issues to be considered in progressing such a proposal such as the fees to be associated, who would have right of access to such an account and also the underlying need for such a product. For example, at the National Payments Conference in December 2006, hosted jointly by the Department of the Taoiseach and the Irish Payments Services Organisation, data was presented which suggested that this is a less widespread issue than has been thought hitherto. More detailed study is therefore necessary in advance of the formulation of any policy initiative in this area.

It must also be remembered that the credit union movement has been a key provider of savings and loans since its inception and has a particular role to play in supporting savings by persons on low incomes.

My responsibility as Minister for Finance is to bring forward proposals for a legislative framework for the regulation of the financial services sector from a prudential, systemic and consumer protection perspective. In general the operational responsibility for implementation of that framework lies with the Financial Regulator. As far as I am aware the legislative and regulatory framework provides no obstacle to access. There are 7,000 or so financial services providers authorised by the Financial Regulator and the range and scope of the services they provide is primarily a commercial decision in which neither the Financial Regulator nor I have any direct function.

As part of its consumer mandate the Financial Regulator has taken a number of specific initiatives to help consumers in the framework of the Financial Regulator's "It's Your Money" campaign. These have involved publishing consumer guides and cost surveys on credit and other financial products, and fact sheets, including a fact sheet entitled "How to Open a Bank or Building Society Account" all of which are intended to assist consumers in making the most appropriate financial decisions. The Financial Regulator has commissioned independent research into this matter with a view to further possible initiatives or policy proposals to address any problems identified. This research includes the report entitled ‘Financial Exclusion in Ireland — An Explanatory Study and Policy Review' which was launched by the Financial Regulator on 11 December 2006. The Financial Regulator has also included in its Consumer Protection Code a requirement that any measures adopted in relation to identification of customers should not deny a person access to financial services solely on the grounds that they do not possess certain specified identification documentation.

Tax Code.

Denis Naughten

Question:

135 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the tax implications for farmers who do not receive their single farm payment in the year of their application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8821/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that for taxation purposes single farm payments can be accounted for on either a receipts basis or an annual basis. In cases where farmers make tax returns on a receipts basis the single farm payment is recognised as a receipt pertaining to the date the cheque issues from the Department of Agriculture and Food and is therefore liable to income tax in the tax year during which the payment issued. Where farmers make returns on an annual basis, the single farm payment is recognised by Revenue as a receipt accrued over the year in respect of which the payment was made.

The Revenue Commissioners accept farmers treating income received in respect of single farm payments on either the receipt basis or the annual basis provided that this treatment is carried out on a consistent basis and that the election for one or other of the methods of making returns was made either from the date of commencement of farming or the year 2005.

Fiscal Policy.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

136 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance the amount of further ECB rate rises being anticipated for 2007. [10162/07]

Interest rate policy is entirely a matter for the Governing Council of the ECB, which is independent in deciding these matters.

Question No. 137 answered with QuestionNo. 121.

Decentralisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

138 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which his Department’s programme for decentralisation has progressed; the associated costs to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10250/07]

The official opening of my Department's new offices in Tullamore took place on the 6th of October, 2006. Currently, my Department has decentralised one hundred and eighteen (118) staff to Tullamore and a further six (6) staff have accepted offers of decentralisation. The new offices in the Central Business Park in Tullamore is a modern, state of the art building comprising three floors, with a total floor area of approximately 3,400 sq metres on a site of 2.8 acres. The Office of Public Works (OPW) paid for the purchase and fit out of the building which cost €11,315,670.39. Other costs associated with the move to Tullamore to end 2006 amount to €491,810.77.

My Department together with the OPW is currently examining possibilities for permanent accommodation in Kildare to accommodate circa 30 ICT posts, which will also be moved under the decentralisation programme. Pending the identification of a suitable permanent accommodation solution, interim accommodation options in County Kildare are being examined, with a view to having an advance move commenced later this year. The cost of the provision of accommodation will be paid by the OPW. To date my Department has not incurred any costs associated with the move to Kildare.

Revenue Commissioners

As part of the decentralisation programme it is intended that Revenue will decentralise 50 staff to Newcastlewest, 50 staff to Kilrush, 50 staff to Listowel, 250 staff to Athy, 100 staff to Navan and 380 staff to Kildare. In the case of Newcastle West — Forty six (46) staff of the Office of the Revenue Commissioners have decentralised to temporary accommodation in Estuary House, Limerick, in preparation for the move to Newcastle West. When the decentralisation move to Newcastle West takes place, a further five (5) officers will move to the location. An accommodation solution is being progressed and it is expected that this will be complete by early 2008, subject to planning issues being resolved.

In the case of Kilrush, fifty four (54) officers have accepted decentralisation offers and the current projection is that building and accommodation works in Kilrush will finish in May 2007 with occupation to follow shortly afterwards. Similar progress is being made in relation to Listowel, forty eight (48) officers have accepted decentralisation offers for Listowel and the current projection is that building and accommodation work will finish in late May 2007 with occupation to follow shortly afterwards.

Fifty four (54) Revenue staff have accepted decentralisation offers for Athy, and a further thirty seven (37) officers have submitted applications through Central Applications Facility. A number of possibilities for permanent accommodation are being examined by the Office of Public Works, and it is hoped to have an advance party move to Athy in advance of a permanent accommodation solution being finalised.

To date, eighty (80) staff have accepted decentralisation offers for Navan, and a further fifty one (51) staff have priority applications for Navan on CAF. A lease for suitable accommodation is being negotiated by the Office of Public Works and the current projection is that Revenue will be in occupation in the third quarter 2007. One hundred and sixteen (116) people have indicated an interest in decentralising to Kildare with Revenue. The Office of Public Works are in the process of identifying a suitable location.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that to-date the Revenue have not incurred costs of any significance associated with the foregoing decentralisation moves.

Office of Public Works

As part of the decentralisation programme it is intended that OPW will decentralise 330 staff to Trim (future OPW HQ); 150 staff to Claremorris and 100 staff to Kanturk. To date three hundred and forty two (342) staff have applied for places in Trim under the CAF process, one hundred and fifty two (152) have applied for places in Claremorris and eighty eight (88) staff applied for places in Kanturk.

OPW has acquired the site in Trim and planning for the new building has been secured and arrangements are being made currently for the Contractor / Developer to move on site shortly. The current target for completion is Q4 2008. It is proposed to manage the move to Claremorris in two phases. The first phase deals with the setting up of an advance office in Claremorris for up to forty (40) staff. In this regard, OPW has identified accommodation suitable for use, subject to fitting out works. Tenders are currently being evaluated for these works and it is expected that work will commence shortly with a view to having the accommodation ready for occupation in the second quarter of 2007. The second phase of this project will be the construction of a permanent office for up to one hundred and fifty (150) staff. The indicative timeframe at this stage for the completion of the construction is early 2009. A site in Kanturk has been identified as suitable for use and its acquisition is being pursued.

Valuation Office and the Public Appointments Service (PAS) to Youghal, Co. Cork.

As part of the overall decentralisation programme, it is intended that 100 staff of the Valuation Office will be decentralised to Youghal, Co. Cork and there have been twenty two (22) applications to-date on the CAF. It is also intended that 100 staff of the Public Appointments Service (PAS) will be decentralised to Youghal, and eighty seven (87) staff have applied on the CAF to decentralise with the PAS.

While neither the Valuation Office or PAS are on the early-movers list, the Office of Public Works (OPW) has identified a suitable site for the decentralised Offices in close proximity to the town centre of Youghal. The OPW has advised that, following negotiation with the vendor, agreement in principle has been reached for the acquisition of the site and completion of construction is envisaged in mid 2009. To date, the Valuation Office has not incurred any costs associated with the move to Youghal while the costs incurred by PAS amount to €4,500 (not including staff costs or spending on CAF).

Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI) to Dungarvan, Co. Waterford.

The OSI will decentralise 200 of its Dublin based Headquarters posts to Dungarvan. OSI has a presence in six regional offices where a further 100 staff are located in: Kilkenny, Cork, Ennis, Tuam, Sligo and Longford. These offices will not be relocating to Dungarvan. Applications to decentralise with OSI have been made by forty nine (49) civil and public servants as well as sixteen (16) existing OSI staff based in Dublin. In addition, fifty four (54) OSI staff have been assigned to Dungarvan as a result of recruitment or promotions under the decentralisation programme since its commencement in December 2003. Arrangements for decentralisation are proceeding in accordance with the OSI implementation plan and a site has been acquired in Dungarvan by the Office of Public Works (OPW). To date the OSI has not incurred any financial costs in relation to the decentralisation move.

A detailed table showing the cost of all property and accommodation being acquired by OPW for decentralisation is being compiled and will be forwarded when available to the Deputy.

Tax Collection.

Liz McManus

Question:

139 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Finance the number of random audits carried out by the Revenue Commissioners in 2006; the way this compares with each year from 2003; the number expected to be undertaken during 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10229/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that 402 cases were selected for random audit as part of their 2006 programme. To date, 167 audits have been concluded. 43 cases yielded €233,721. There were no recoveries from 124 cases (74%). 235 cases are still ongoing.

I am advised that 410 cases were selected for random audit under Revenue's 2005 programme. 60 cases did not proceed to final audit due to the particular circumstances of the taxpayer, e.g. trading had discontinued, the taxpayer was deceased or the case had been very recently audited. 111 cases yielded €1,224,528. There were no recoveries from 231 cases (68%). Eight cases are still ongoing.

I am informed that Revenue's approach to random auditing changed significantly for their 2005 programme. The new approach introduced both better design and delivery of the programme and improved statistical rigour. Accordingly any comparisons with previous years must bear this in mind. The traditional random audit programme was not carried out in 2004 due to the change in Revenue's approach following a review of the programme. However, 25 cases selected under the programme for previous years were completed in 2004.

I am advised that 274 random audits were completed in 2003. 122 cases yielded €3.4m and 152 cases (55%) were nil yielding. However, for this year the selection was not purely random as Revenue Districts narrowed down the initial random selection based on risk criteria.

In relation to 2007, I understand that the random audit programme will commence by the end of March. 400 cases have been randomly selected. Internationally a sample in the order of 400 cases is regarded as an appropriate sample for the size of the population being measured.

Tax Code.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

140 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance the status of attempts by the European Commission to harmonise corporate tax rates in the European Union. [10153/07]

The EU Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union has stated on a number of occasions recently that the European Commission has no plans for the harmonisation of corporate tax rates in the European Union. However, a technical working group, chaired by the EU Commission, is working towards the development of a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB). Ireland, along with a number of other Member States, opposes the idea of creating common rules for the calculation of company profits for both principled and practical reasons. That said we are participating in the meetings of the technical working group strictly on a without prejudice basis.

The Deputy should be aware that a Proposal from the Commission on the CCCTB is not anticipated until 2008 and that no policy decisions have been taken on the project at the level of the Council of Ministers.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

141 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance the tax incentive measures he will introduce to ensure that Ireland meets the new target agreed by EU leaders of increasing renewable energy to 20% of all energy use by 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10246/07]

The Government have already made clear that renewable energy will be a critical and growing component of Irish energy supply to 2020 and beyond. Renewable energy is an integral part of our climate change strategy and sustainability objectives. The additional diversity which renewables bring to Ireland's energy demand will also make a direct contribution to our goal of ensuring secure and reliable energy supplies.

The recently published Government White Paper Delivering a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland outlines a range of measures to incentivise the development and deployment of renewable sources of energy. It sets very ambitious targets for expanding the role of renewable energy, most notably the target of 33% of electricity consumption to come from renewable resources by 2020, a target of 12% renewable heat market penetration by 2020 and a biofuels penetration target of at least 10% for 2020.

While the promotion of renewable energy is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, as I have stated previously the taxation system, in conjunction with other policy measures, can play a part in attaining environmental objectives including the development and deployment of renewable sources of energy. In this regard the taxation measures which are already in place or are being introduced include:

a five year excise relief scheme for biofuels, costing over €200 million, which commenced in November 2006. The scheme provides for excise relief on up to 163 million litres of biofuels per annum;

50 per cent VRT relief for hybrid vehicles, flexible fuel vehicles and electric vehicles;

extending the qualifying period from 31 December 2006 to 31 December 2011 for the scheme of corporate tax relief for corporate equity investments in certain renewable energy generation projects i.e. in solar, wind, hydro or biomass technology categories, and which have been approved by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources;

extending to 31 December 2013 and enhancing the Business Expansion Scheme and the Seed Capital Scheme which can, among manufacturing other areas, be used for investment in companies engaged in renewable energy generation and recycling;

amending the VRT and motor tax systems to take greater account of environmental issues, in particular CO2 emissions.

The Government will examine other tax incentives or disincentives where these can be shown to have a clear cost-benefit in developing renewable sources of energy.

Decentralisation Programme.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

142 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the number of civil servants who have transferred to offices outside Dublin under the decentralisation programme to date; the percentage of these who had a previous transfer within a two year period of the decentralisation transfer; the number of these people who transferred from a non-Dublin office to a Dublin office in the initial transfer; the average time spent in the Dublin office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10232/07]

One Hundred and eighteen (118) staff of my Department have decentralised to Tullamore and a further six (6) have accepted offers of decentralisation. Of those in Tullamore, ninety-four (94) moved to my Department to decentralise to Tullamore. The data available in my Department on the previous careers of these staff do not indicate in all cases the previous locations of staff or whether or not they had an earlier transfer within a two year period of the decentralisation transfer. However, nineteen (19) of these staff came to Dublin for training prior to moving to Tullamore. The total time spent in Dublin was six hundred and seventeen weeks (617), giving an average period of thirty two (32) weeks.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that forty six (46) staff of their office have decentralised to temporary accommodation in Limerick in preparation for the move to Newcastlewest and a further five (5) have accepted offers of decentralisation. Of those in the temporary accommodation in Limerick, eight (8) moved to the Office to decentralise to Newcastlewest, two (2) of whom served in Dublin with other Departments prior to moving to Limerick.

Ten (10) staff have transferred from other Departments to the Revenue Commissioners in preparation for the move to Kilrush, seven (7) of whom are currently in Limerick, one (1) in Ennis and (2) in Dublin. Of the seven (7) serving in Limerick one (1) was based in Dublin prior to their transfer. A further twenty eight (28) staff of the Revenue Commissioners and sixteen (16) staff of other Departments have accepted offers to decentralise to Kilrush.

Seven (7) staff have transferred from other Departments to the Revenue Commissioners, Limerick in preparation for the move to Listowel. Three (3) of whom were Dublin based prior to their transfers. A further twenty four (24) staff of the Revenue Commissioners and seventeen (17) staff of other Departments have accepted offers to decentralise to Listowel. I am also informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the data available on the previous careers of staff who have transferred in does not indicate in all cases the previous locations of staff.

As part of the overall decentralisation programme the Revenue Commissioners also intend to move 100 staff to Navan and 250 staff to Athy. To date, eighty (80) staff have accepted decentralisation offers for Navan, three (3) of whom are currently serving in provincial locations. The OPW are currently negotiating a lease for suitable accommodation and it is expected that Revenue will be in a position to move to Navan in the third quarter of 2007. To date fifty four (54) staff have accepted offers for Athy of whom eight (8) are currently serving in provincial locations. It is intended to send an advance party of approximately 50 staff to Athy in 2007 and the OPW are examining a number of possibilities for permanent accommodation.

With regard to the other agencies under the aegis of my Department, arrangements for decentralisation are proceeding in accordance with their implementation plans which have been prepared and submitted by each of the agencies to the Decentralisation Implementation Group. To-date, no staff have been decentralised by the Public Appointments Service (PAS), Valuation Office (VA), Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI) or the Office of Public Works (OPW). However, it is intended that the OPW will commence the decentralisation of an advance party of up to forty staff to Claremorris later this year.

Tax Code.

Joe Costello

Question:

143 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Finance the number and percentage of income earners who are paying tax at the higher rate and the standard rate for 2006; the anticipated figures for each category for 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10227/07]

The information requested by the Deputy in a format which presents the data in terms of the effective tax rates actually paid by taxpayers is set out in the table. This is the same format as used for the presentation of pre-Budget 2007 and post-Budget 2007 distributions of earners in the 2007 Budget booklet.

Tax Year

Exempt(1)

Paying at 20% or less(2)

Paying at greater than 20%

Total

2006*

776,10035.92%

937,70043.40%

446,70020.68%

2,160,500

2007*#

845,90038.19%

930,60042.02%

438,20019.79%

2,214,700

Notes

(1) Standard rate liability fully covered by tax credits or Age Exemption limits.

(2) Higher rate tax liability fully covered by tax credits and includes those who face a gross liability for tax at the marginal relief rate of taxation.

* Provisional and likely to be revised.

# Assuming the enactment of the changes announced in the 2007 Budget.

Figures in the table are rounded to the nearest hundred and any apparent discrepancies in totals are due to this. The figures are estimates from the Revenue tax forecasting model using actual data for the year 2003 adjusted as necessary for income and employment growth for the years in question. It should be noted that a married couple who has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

Ivor Callely

Question:

144 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Finance if there has been a noticeable increase in the importation of second-hand cars; the three top countries of origin for such imports; the VRT applicable; the revenue that has been generated over the past five years on such VRT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10203/07]

The tables set out the number of second hand cars imported and the VRT revenue generated on such cars over the past five years. The VRT rates applicable to such cars are also provided.

Year

Total Registrations, including instances of transfer of residence

VRT Revenue Yield

2002

13,838

20,789,879

2003

14,628

28,184,180

2004

23,573

53,367,076

2005

41,801

100,591,425

2006 (Prov)

56,327

146,280,480

Category of Vehicle

VRT Rate

A1. — Cars up to 1400 cc

22.50% of chargeable value or €315, whichever is greater.

A2. — Cars 1401 to 1900 cc

25.00% of chargeable value or €315, whichever is greater.

A3. — Cars over 1901 cc

30.00% of chargeable value or €315, whichever is greater.

After declining over a number of years, there has been a strong growth in the import of used cars over recent years. Such cars are now imported primarily from the United Kingdom, followed in 2006 by imports from Japan and Singapore. It should be noted that the same VRT rates structure applies to new cars and to imported used cars.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

145 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance when, in view of the fact that low income families which have no savings can fall into debt particularly easily, he will introduce a savings scheme for low income households, on a pilot basis for two years, in the form suggested by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the money advice and budgeting service and the Combat Poverty Agency. [10180/07]

The proposal is to develop a pilot savings scheme for low-income households, similar to the SSIA scheme which is now in its final months. While the proposal has a number of socially progressive features, I am not convinced that a further SSIA type scheme is the appropriate way forward. Raising the income levels of those affected by more jobs, higher wages or better social welfare support may be more productive. That is what this Government's policies are achieving.

Decentralisation Programme.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

146 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the number of civil and public servants anticipated to have moved under the Government’s decentralisation office relocation programme by 1 June 2007. [10159/07]

A progress report by the Decentralisation Implementation Group (DIG) was submitted to me and published on 4th October last. The Group reported that implementation of the Decentralisation Programme is progressing satisfactorily. To date, over 2,400 staff had been assigned to decentralising posts. Approximately 800 of these are currently in place, in 17 new locations, while the remainder are being trained in advance of decentralisation to a new location, as soon as accommodation becomes available.

It is envisaged that by the end of 2007 public services will be delivered from 36 of the decentralisation towns with approximately 2,000 staff transferred. The precise numbers moving within that time frame and particularly by June 2007, will depend on the availability of property as well as timeframes for completion of fit out and installation of necessary ICT (information communications technology) and telecommunication cabling and equipment.

Pension Provisions.

Liam Twomey

Question:

147 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied with the equity of tax relief provisions for pensions. [10205/07]

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 for their retirement.

Tax relief is provided at an individual's marginal income tax rate on amounts contributed to pension schemes (subject to limits). The amount of profits and gains generated by the investments held by the pension schemes are tax exempt subject to certain ceilings. 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 increased, for example, from over 500,000 in 1995 to close to 1 million in 2004. 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 SSIA 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 that Budget.

Tax Yield.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

148 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Finance the PAYE tax paid over by the 100 largest corporate tax payers in PAYE for each of the years 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10224/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the relevant information available in respect of the PAYE yields in each of the calendar years 2003, 2004 and 2005 of PAYE from the 100 largest payers of Corporation Tax in the calendar year 2005 is as follows:

Year

Amount Paid million

€ million

2003

649.5

2004

703.9

2005

755.7

The corresponding information is not readily available for 2006 and could not be obtained without conducting a detailed examination of the Revenue Commissioners' records.

It should be pointed out that most large corporations in Ireland have a group situation involving several individual companies, each usually associated with specific business functions of the corporation. The figures supplied above do not include payments from any other related company within a corporation. While the Large Cases Division of Revenue use a system of group markers and special indicators to facilitate the linking and identification of individual companies within corporate groupings, this facility is not available to support the compiling of data on tax payments.

Tax Code.

Martin Ferris

Question:

149 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Finance the reasons for his failure to introduce increased restrictions on the use of specified tax reliefs by high income individuals as part of recent finance legislation. [10183/07]

In Budget 2006 I announced the introduction of a limit, with effect from 1 January 2007, on the use of tax reliefs, including certain exemptions, by some high-income individuals. Section 17 of Finance Act 2006 gave effect to this announcement. This measure was designed to address the issue of a small number of individuals with high incomes who, up to now, mainly by means of the cumulative use of various tax incentive reliefs, have been able to reduce their income tax liability to a very low level or to zero. Such individuals are no longer able to do so. This provision will ensure that such individuals who use tax incentive schemes will have an effective rate of income tax for each year of not less than about 20 per cent on the income sheltered by such schemes.

The method used to increase the tax rates at which these high income individuals pay tax effectively addresses the equity concerns raised over the past number of years while, at the same time, ensuring that the intended incentive effects of tax schemes will continue to be delivered.

Broadly, the reliefs restricted are those reliefs that have primarily been used by high income individuals to significantly reduce their tax liability. These are:

the various sectoral and area based property tax incentives,

certain exemptions including artistic income and patent royalties,

the reliefs for donations, and

certain investment incentive reliefs such as the Business Expansion Scheme, film relief and interest relief for investment in companies and partnerships.

The more usual items claimed by taxpayers such as medical expenses, trade union subscriptions, the personal tax credits and exemptions such as that for child benefit are not restricted. In addition, normal business expenses and deductions for capital allowances on plant and machinery, genuine business related trading losses and genuine losses from a rental business have not been restricted.

Finally, I would like to advise the Deputy, that I introduced a number of technical amendments to the restriction in Finance Bill 2007 which will help to ensure that the measure will work as intended. Included in these are provisions to enable the Revenue Commissioners to seek whatever information may be necessary from individuals affected by the restriction, so as to ensure that Revenue are in a position to monitor and assess the impact of the restriction in terms of numbers affected, the additional tax paid and the nature of the reliefs restricted.

Seán Ryan

Question:

150 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the value of the tax relief for each year from 2000 to date in 2007 under capital allowances for the construction of private hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10238/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that for the tax year 2003 and earlier years claims for capital allowances for the construction of private hospitals were aggregated in tax returns with other claims and could not be distinguished from other reliefs claimed. Accordingly, the specific information on costs for 2003 and earlier years are not available.

Information on the scheme of tax relief for private hospitals was for the first time specified and separately included in personal income tax returns for the tax year 2004, the latest year available, and were filed in October, 2005. Based on the information that has been received and collated for the tax year 2004, a total of €4.5 million was included in 37 claims for capital allowances for the construction of private hospitals. This figure would correspond to a maximum Exchequer cost of the order of €1.9 million for these returns in terms of income tax foregone.

I should point out, however, that Revenue were concerned at preliminary indications that in some instances the new, separately categorised data on exempt income and property incentives may not have been correctly entered on the 2004 Income Tax returns. Revenue has engaged with the tax practitioner bodies in order to ensure that this situation is rectified for future years. Corresponding data based on 2005 returns is in the process of being compiled and should be available shortly. Data for the tax year 2006 is not yet available as the income tax returns for that year are not due for filing until October 2007.

Financial Services Regulation.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

151 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance the position of the Irish Government in responding to the call of the German Government for greater international regulation of hedge funds. [10151/07]

Firstly, I might just explain to the Deputy that there is no specific definition of what a hedge fund is. Funds with the characteristics commonly associated with hedge funds generally invest in the same asset classes as other investment funds, namely, in equities, bonds, foreign exchange and so on. The main difference with hedge funds is that they are more flexible in terms of investment options than traditional collective investment schemes and they may use financial leverage, including derivatives, to magnify their investment returns.

In Ireland, hedge funds are authorised by the Financial Regulator. As they are a more risky investment than traditional funds, they are reserved for institutional investors and wealthy individuals. They cannot be sold to retail clients, although such clients might have some exposure through funds of hedge funds and through pension funds.

As the Deputy may be aware, the German Presidency raised the issue as to how greater transparency might be achieved as regards hedge funds' activities and this issue has been discussed in various EU forums. As this is an international matter, the issue was also discussed at the G8. The general consensus is that there is no immediate need to design a set of transparency requirements for hedge funds.

Many hedge funds are legally domiciled in offshore financial centres and, accordingly, the EU cannot subject them to mandatory disclosure requirements. However, many of the investment managers and prime brokers associated with hedge funds are based in EU countries and are subject to authorisation and supervision in those Member States.

Moreover, EU rules on the disclosure of significant stakes in companies are now in place. The Transparency Directive provides for the mandatory reporting of major holdings of voting rights, once 5% of voting rights are acquired. Some Member States apply even lower notification thresholds. Other regulatory safeguards also apply. EU rules on market abuse and insider trading (the Market Abuse Directive) apply fully to EU hedge fund managers.

As regards the risk to financial stability from hedge funds, from a systemic perspective this issue concerns the ability of lending institutions to withstand failure of their hedge fund creditors. Exposures to hedge funds by banks are monitored by EU banking regulators and the ECB. The recently introduced Capital Requirements Directive regulates the buffer of capital that banks and investment firms must hold against banking-book and trading-book exposures to all counterparties, including hedge funds. The European Commission and the ECB are continuing to closely monitor the hedge fund sector. The general view is that there is no obvious regulatory gap that needs to be completed at EU level at this time.

Disabled Drivers.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

152 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the consideration he has given to amending the rules relating to the primary medical certificate in order that the qualification criteria include a wider range of disabilities than is currently the case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6286/07]

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.

Tax Code.

Seán Crowe

Question:

153 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Finance if he will terminate tax breaks for the construction of private hospitals. [10188/07]

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.

Tax Yield.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

154 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the corporation tax paid by the largest 100 corporate tax payers in corporation tax for each of the years 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006, broken down into quintiles (details supplied); the industries involved in respect of each quintile; the total paid by IFSC companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10223/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the relevant information available is in respect of the yields in each of the calendar years 2003, 2004 and 2005 of Corporation Tax from the 100 largest payers of Corporation Tax in the calendar year 2005. The figures in question, together with information on the sectoral breakdown of the companies, are set out in the tables.

Table A: Distribution by quintile and economic sector of the 100 largest Corporation Tax (CT) paying companies in 2005

Sector Quintile

Computer

Energy

Finance

Medical/Pharma

Other

Total

1

6

4

8

2

20

2

1

12

3

4

20

3

2

2

12

2

2

20

4

1

2

6

7

4

20

5

1

14

2

3

20

Total

11

4

48

22

15

100

Table B: Breakdown by quintile and economic sector of Corporation Tax paid in 2005, 2004 and 2003 by the 100 largest CT payers

2005

Sector

Computer

Energy

Finance

Medical/Pharma

Other

Total

Quintile

2005 CT

2005 CT

2005 CT

2005 CT

2005 CT

2005 CT

1

454,768,034

316,925,952

513,493,116

92,795,313

1,377,982,415

2

30,140,532

382,176,614

100,089,863

119,076,478

631,483,488

3

37,465,928

34,757,774

246,278,485

46,884,780

34,282,915

399,669,883

4

10,277,876

25,150,615

79,039,700

85,017,288

46,551,733

246,037,212

5

9,572,279

119,196,396

18,020,233

27,527,422

174,316,331

Total €

542,224,649

59,908,389

1,143,617,148

763,505,280

320,233,862

2,829,489,328

2004

Sector

Computer

Energy

Finance

Medical/Pharma

Other

Total

Quintile

2004 CT

2004 CT

2004 CT

2004 CT

2004 CT

2004 CT

1

425,547,118

239,594,703

687,444,430

92,703,827

1,445,290,078

2

24,512,409

302,484,569

90,354,951

114,423,353

531,775,282

3

45,806,510

28,777,050

132,209,219

16,906,404

66,364,166

290,063,348

4

7,873,650

13,999,646

64,765,842

95,539,085

23,150,695

205,328,917

5

14,299,990

152,923,767

3,047,418

20,623,995

190,895,170

Total €

518,039,676

42,776,696

891,978,099

893,292,288

317,266,035

2,663,352,795

2003

Sector

Computer

Energy

Finance

Medical/Pharma

Other

Total

Quintile

2003 CT

2003 CT

2003 CT

2003 CT

2003 CT

2003 CT

1

379,979,894

77,853,215

994,564,338

84,134,882

1,536,532,329

2

7,298,223

203,619,848

105,020,317

82,632,271

398,570,660

3

17,800,638

19,730,236

98,154,176

15,009,935

150,694,985

4

13,253,658

11,091,216

58,183,298

106,255,644

25,512,560

214,296,376

5

11,071,386

87,839,443

8,363,731

17,059,251

124,333,810

Total €

429,403,799

30,821,452

525,649,979

1,214,204,030

224,348,899

2,424,428,160

The corresponding information is not readily available for 2006.

With regard to the tax yield from IFSC companies, the available information in respect of yield from corporation tax is as set out in the table.

Year

2003

2004

2005

2006

Estimated IFSC tax paid €m

618.4

699.0

823.5

1,118.1

The 10% corporation tax rate was discontinued for some IFSC companies with effect from 1 January 2003 and for the remaining IFSC companies from 1 January 2006. For this reason, it is no longer possible to separately identify the tax paid on IFSC activities from tax paid on other activities of IFSC companies. The inclusion of tax paid on these other activities is reflected in the 2004 and 2005 yield figures to some degree and to a much greater degree in the figures for 2006.

The figures included in Tables A and B of this reply are of the amounts of Corporation Tax paid in 2003, 2004 and 2005 by the top 100 individual companies that paid the most Corporation Tax in 2005 and does not include payments from any other related company within a corporation or company group. Except for Value Added Tax, where group remitting by one specific company applies, each company within a group is only liable for its own tax affairs and is registered separately with Revenue for the taxes to which it is liable.

There were nine economic sectors identified with the top 100 companies namely, Computer, Construction, Energy, Finance, Manufacturing, Medical, Pharmaceutical, Retail & Telecom. However, because of the Revenue Commissioners' obligation to observe confidentiality in relation to the taxation affairs of individual taxpayers and small groups of taxpayers and the possible risk to confidentiality posed by providing a breakdown by sector over quintiles, the number of economic sectors identified in this reply has been aggregated to five namely, Computer, Energy, Finance, Medical/Pharmaceutical & Others.

Economic Competitiveness.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

155 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recent sharp declines in global stock markets; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that over €7 billion was wiped off the value of Irish held shares during the first week of March 2007; if his Department has conducted an evaluation of the implications of stock market volatility for the Irish economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10234/07]

Global stock market movements reflect global developments over which we have no control. While the value of the Irish stock market declined in early March, it remains above the level of this time last year. The outlook for the Irish economy has not changed since Budget Day, and I expect growth of 5.3% this year. My Department will continue to monitor all developments potentially affecting the economy.

Tax Code.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

156 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the practice of three semi-State bodies (details supplied) of using mailbox companies in the Netherlands to reduce their tax bills over the past ten years; if the Revenue Commissioners have investigated this practice; if it is legal under Irish tax law; if the Revenue Commissioners will be conducting an audit of these companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10236/07]

Joan Burton

Question:

282 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the practice of three semi-State bodies (details supplied) using mailbox companies in the Netherlands to reduce their tax bills over the past ten years; if the Revenue Commissioners have investigated this practice; if it is legal under Irish tax law; if the Revenue Commissioners will be conducting an audit of these companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9434/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 156 and 282 together.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, in accordance with their duty of confidentiality to taxpayers, they neither comment on matters pertaining to specific taxpayers, whether individual or companies, nor do they make general comments which would be likely to be treated as referring to identifiable taxpayers. I would draw the Deputy's attention to the points made by the Taoiseach on the general issues involved here in his reply to a question on the Order of Business on 7 March, 2007.

Joe Costello

Question:

157 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Finance the volume of complaints received in relation to errors and problems in the certificates of tax free allowances and tax credits; the length of time it takes for errors in tax certificates to be corrected; if he will report on the volume of queries being dealt with through the on-line system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10247/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they are not in a position to provide information on the volume of complaints in relation to Tax Credit Certificates. If a taxpayer requests an amendment to a Tax Credit Certificate, this is not recorded as a complaint. I am further advised by the Revenue Commissioners that on the 9th February last, they completed the issue of 2,194,174 Tax Credit Certificates (TCCs) to PAYE taxpayers, reflecting the changes announced in the Budget.

A further 398,061 Tax Credit Certificates containing amendments in individual cases, issued in the period 1 January to 14 March 2007. These would be cases where taxpayers advised Revenue of changed circumstances or additional credits due, subsequent to the general issue of Tax Credit Certificates containing the Budget changes. In general, where a PAYE taxpayer requests changes to their tax credits or allowances, an amended Tax Credit Certificate will issue within 20 working days of the request being received. In addition, Revenue identified a small number of certificates that contained errors and these were rectified automatically.

In relation to the on-line self-service facility now available to PAYE taxpayers, I can inform the Deputy that 46,587 transactions were carried out using this facility from 1 January to 11 March this year.

Public Service Contracts.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

158 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the rules in relation to mandatory advertising within the European Union of public contracts or public private contracts; if the same rules apply to subcontracting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8131/07]

Contracting authorities are obliged to advertise contracts valued above thresholds set out in EU Directives in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). The current thresholds are €5,278,000 for works contracts, €137,000 for supplies and service contracts of Government Departments and Offices and €211,000 for supplies and service contracts of most other public bodies. In estimating the value of a contract the totality of the requirement must be included and the value of all lots taken into account when determining if OJEU advertising is necessary. There are exemptions for particularly small lots but these must not exceed 20% of the total value of the contract.

In inviting tenders, contracting authorities may request tenderers to indicate any share of the contract that they intend to subcontract to third parties or any proposed subcontractors. It is not obligatory that such subcontracts be advertised or awarded separately. In building projects there is scope for a contracting authority to separately invite tenders (through an OJEU notice where the total value of the project exceeds the relevant threshold) for carrying out specialist works and services and, on the basis of a separate competitive tendering process, select the successful specialist firm for inclusion in the works requirements for the main contract tender.

House Prices.

Mary Upton

Question:

159 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the fact that another interest rate increase will place Ireland in the high risk category of experiencing a sharp house price reversal; if his Department has conducted an assessment of the implications of a house price reversal for the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10219/07]

I do not accept as a fact that another interest rate increase will place Ireland at high risk of a sharp house price reversal. House price inflation has moderated in recent months. The consensus is that a soft landing remains a more likely outcome for the housing market. My Department monitors all developments which can have an impact on the economy.

Decentralisation Programme.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

160 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance the discussions he has had with other Government Departments or State agencies who are concerned at the reported potential loss of up to 20% of the 1,700 specialists whose positions have been earmarked for decentralisation as a result of the Government’s decentralisation programme; the steps being taken to address these concerns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10241/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, approximately 1,000 of the 7,200 Civil Service posts covered by the Decentralisation Programme or 10% of the overall programme is composed of professional and technical posts. While the take up from the professional and technical staff has been low to date, in the region of 130 professional and technical personnel have already been assigned to posts that are decentralising.

The Decentralisation Implementation Group, which was established in 2003 to drive the decentralisation process forward, has acknowledged in their latest report dated September 2006 that challenging issues remain in relation to the decentralisation of professional and technical grades including the filling of posts in under-subscribed locations, the placing of staff remaining in Dublin and promotions. While these issues also arise in relation to general service grades, addressing them in the context of professional and technical grades is complicated by the challenges associated with transferring between different organisations or streams.

The Group has asked my Department to explore all appropriate avenues, in consultation with the relevant union representatives, to overcome these difficulties and to come to a conclusion on these issues as soon as possible. In that regard, discussions have been ongoing with the staff representatives and proposals have been tabled in relation to options for staff remaining in Dublin and in relation to promotion arrangements for the professional and technical grades. In addition, staff have been assured of the voluntary nature of the programme. Those wishing to remain in Dublin will be absorbed into posts in the civil service or, alternatively, in other public service bodies.

As the Deputy will be aware, in addition to the professional and technical grades, specialist posts within the State Agencies are due to decentralise under the Decentralisation Programme. The Decentralisation Implementation Group noted in its latest Report that while progress has been made by some State agencies, there has been a marked lack of action in some other agencies. The Group is currently meeting with CEOs from a number of State agencies to get an overview of progress to date and to identify the challenges remaining in implementing the Government policy.

The main issues facing the State agencies are those relating to the filling of posts in under-subscribed locations, the placing of staff choosing to remain in Dublin and promotion arrangements. These issues are further complicated by the absence of any tradition of or agreement on inter-changeability between Public Service organisations and between the Public Service and the Civil Service. The Group is of the view that resolution of the outstanding issues is central to the overall implementation process in the State Agencies. The Group has asked my Department to pursue directly with ICTU proposals for getting central discussions under way on the full range of industrial relations issues relating to the decentralisation of State agencies.

An approach based on negotiations and agreement has enabled significant progress to be made in relation to the Civil Service moves and it is the intention to continue with this policy in relation to the professional and technical grades and the State Agency sector.

Financial Services Regulation.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

161 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that financial institutions are not walking some borrowers into over-exposed positions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10200/07]

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

The provision of consumer credit in Ireland is regulated by the Consumer Credit Act, 1995. The Consumer Credit Act, 1995, which is administered by the Financial Regulator, obliges credit providers to include specific information in all credit agreements in relation to such matters as the total cost of credit, the amount of each repayment instalment and the number of instalments. Additionally, in the case of housing loans, the Act specifically obliges mortgage providers to inform borrowers of the effect on their repayment of a 1% increase in interest rates in the first year of their mortgages. The purpose of obliging credit providers to provide this information is to ensure that consumers can make informed choices when making credit decisions in relation to any credit agreement they are entering into and in particular in relation to the effect that servicing a loan will have on the consumer's household budget.

In addition, the Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Code requires that before providing a product or service to a consumer, a regulated entity must gather and record sufficient information from the consumer to enable it to provide a recommendation or a product or service appropriate to that consumer. Under the Code, when a credit institution is changing its interest rates, it must state the effective date of the new rate. It must also update the interest rate details on its information services as soon as the change comes into effect. Credit card limits cannot be increased unless requested by the consumer.

The Financial Regulator has prioritised the provision of information for consumers about the potential risk of excessive debt. Cost surveys have been undertaken by the Financial Regulator and are available to help consumers choose the loan product or credit card that best suits their needs. The Financial Regulator recommends in particular that consumers take on the right type of credit for the right purpose. The Financial Regulator also issues information to help people who have problems with credit card debt. This information is available through its publications, help-line and website.

Fiscal Policy.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

162 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the ethical investment guidelines being adopted in respect of investments and investment vehicles such as the National Pensions Reserve Fund under the remit of his Department; if such investments are in accordance with United Nations guidelines on ethical investments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10243/07]

Under the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000, the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission controls and is responsible for the investment of the National Pensions Reserve Fund. The NPRF joined a group of the world's largest institutional investment funds in signing the UN-sponsored Principles for Responsible Investment when they were launched in April 2006. The aim of the Principles is to integrate consideration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues into investment decision-making and ownership practices and, thereby, to improve long-term returns for investors.

The Principles reflect the fiduciary duty of investors to their stakeholders as their first responsibility and deliberately do not call for screening or avoiding stocks. Instead, they promote a policy of engagement with companies where shareholders regard themselves as long-term owners of companies and raise concerns directly with company management.

The NPRF is taking specific measures to implement the Principles. Actions it is currently taking include the development and implementation of a comprehensive proxy voting policy and development of an engagement capacity with investee companies on ESG issues. The NPRF has decided to contract third-party service providers to deliver these services within NPRF policy guidelines. It expects that the proxy voting and engagement services will be put in place during the second quarter of this year.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Seán Crowe

Question:

163 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recent Combat Poverty Agency study, Financial Exclusion in Ireland — An Exploratory Study and Policy Review, which found that low income families face particular obstacles in accessing and using financial services and which found that this may prevent them from engaging fully in normal social and economic activities. [10187/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

173 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether helping those on low incomes to save is an important measure to help prevent such families falling into debt. [10186/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 163 and 173 together.

The issues surrounding savings and borrowings for people on low incomes are not uniform as they can vary from person to person and over the lifetime of the individual. Persons on low incomes can encounter obstacles in accessing financial services from mainstream financial services providers. The cost and availability of credit for people on low incomes and the barriers they face in accessing mainstream and affordable forms of credit can add to the challenges individuals on low incomes encounter in managing their finances. Building up savings, where possible, can mitigate these difficulties both by reducing the need to borrow and by establishing a relationship with a mainstream credit provider.

The credit union movement has been a key provider of savings and loans since its inception and has a particular role to play in supporting savings by persons on low incomes. There are currently 427 credit unions registered with the Financial Regulator with around 2.5 million members and assets of around EUR13 billion. Since 1995 credit unions have grown significantly with an increase in savings from EUR2 billion to around EUR13 billion.

The banking industry has proposed the development of a universal bank account which would provide basic access to the Irish payments system, enabling citizens to make and receive payments electronically and assisting those on lower incomes to build up savings. However, there are a number of issues to be considered in progressing such a proposal such as the fees to be associated, who would have right of access to such an account and also the actual need for such a product, particularly in the light of the reduction or elimination of bank charges on many standard accounts in recent years and the increased competition in the banking sector.

The Financial Regulator commissioned the Combat Poverty Agency to conduct research on the nature and the extent of financial exclusion in Ireland and the barriers faced by people on low incomes in accessing a wide range of financial services. The report, which I welcomed, and to which the Deputy refers, was entitled ‘Financial Exclusion in Ireland — An Exploratory Study and Policy Review' and was launched by the Financial Regulator on 11 December 2006. The Financial Regulator and my Department, together with other interested parties, are currently considering how the report's findings and recommendations can be addressed.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

164 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the work of the decentralisation implementation group; when it last met with the Minister of State; when it last reported on its work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10239/07]

The Decentralisation Implementation Group submitted its most recent report to me in September 2006. This report was approved by Government and published in early October last. I met with the Chair of the Implementation Group prior to this to receive an update in relation to the progress being made in the implementation of the programme and the issues arising in the implementation of the programme.

The Group is satisfied with the level of planning in each of the Departments, and is confident that the senior civil service are leading the implementation of this programme in a professional and carefully planned manner. 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.

My colleague, the Minister of State, has not met with the Group.

Price Inflation.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

165 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the expected average rate of inflation for 2007; and if his budgetary figures will be re-adjusted as a result. [10161/07]

The Department of Finance's current inflation forecasts were published with Budget 2007 on the 6th December 2006. My Department forecast that CPI inflation will average 4.1 per cent and HICP inflation will average 2.6 per cent this year.

Financial Services Regulation.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

166 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. [10210/07]

The Deputy may wish to note that 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.

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 have helped stimulate increased competition in, for example, the mortgage market and the market for personal deposits. In addition, the Financial Integration Monitor, published by the European Commission to assess major trends in the pan-European financial market, indicates that the cross border competition inherent in the single market has contributed to convergence in interest rates across the euro area.

The Financial Regulator has drawn attention to the need for consumers to choose the right type of financial product for their needs. The Consumer Director in the Financial Regulator has statutory obligations in relation to monitoring and reporting on the extent to which competition exists in the Irish financial services market, as it affects customers. The Consumer Director reports on this area in the Annual Report of the Financial Regulator and it is also reflected in the priorities of the Financial Regulator set out in its Strategic Plan. 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. Also, when a credit institution is changing its interest rates, it must state the effective date of the new rate. It must also update the interest rate details on its information services as soon as the change comes into effect. The Consumer Credit Act, 1995, obliges credit providers to include specific information on the cost of all credit agreements.

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 anti-competitive behaviour by banks. The Authority recommended steps to make switching of accounts easier, and this recommendation has now been implemented both in respect of personal and business accounts among domestic financial institutions.

Official Engagements.

John Gormley

Question:

167 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Finance the way he outlined the global threat of climate change at the recent Irish-American partnership breakfast held in Chicago, USA. [10158/07]

Given the nature of the event my remarks to the Irish American Partnership Breakfast focused in particular on developments in relation to the peace process in Northern Ireland. I did however touch on a number of other policy issues such as the roll out of the new National Development Plan. I highlighted that global warming is a major challenge which requires a global response. I noted that Ireland is seeking to address the issue by taking strong measures such as a commitment that by 2020 a third of Ireland's electricity consumption will come from renewable resources. I also emphasised that we must work together globally on this issue to make a difference.

Tax Code.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

168 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 emissions reductions. [10209/07]

As I have stated previously taxation, in conjunction with other policy measures, can play a part in attaining environment objectives which includes promoting energy efficiency and reducing emissions. 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 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 CO2 savings of over 250,000 tonnes per annum;

contribute towards meeting a target of 5.75% transport fuel market penetration by biofuels by 2009,

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 end 2007. I am also providing in Finance Bill 2007 for the introduction of a VRT relief of 50% for electric cars — cars which can be propelled by a rechargeable battery — on a pilot one year basis with effect from 1 January, 2007.

In addition I announced in the Budget the commencement of a public consultation process on adjusting VRT to take account of CO2 emissions of vehicles. A similar exercise is under way in the area of motor tax. Any changes will have effect from a target date of 1 January 2008.

Consumer Credit.

Liz McManus

Question:

169 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Finance his views on the effect that the relentless pace of interest rate increases over the past 15 months may be having on families with high credit card debt; if there are plans to increase the resources of MABS in view of the difficulties that families are now having in meeting existing debts given the seven successive interest rate rises since December 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10218/07]

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

The Financial Regulator has prioritised the provision of information for consumers about the potential risk of excessive credit card debt. Credit card cost surveys have been undertaken by the Financial Regulator and are available to help consumers choose the credit card that best suits their needs. The Financial Regulator recommends in particular that consumers take on the right type of credit for the right purpose; credit cards are not suitable for long-term debt as the rates are considerably higher than other forms of credit. The Financial Regulator also issues information to help people who have problems with credit card debt. This information is available through its publications, help-line and website.

All credit card providers must comply with the Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Code. This requires financial services providers to ensure that any financial products provided are suitable for the needs of the consumer. When a credit institution is changing its interest rates, it must state the effective date of the new rate. It must also update the interest rate details on its information services as soon as the change comes into effect. Credit card limits cannot be increased unless requested by the consumer.

The Deputy may wish to note that credit card debt represents less than 2% of personal sector credit, and less than 1% of overall private sector credit (PSC). In addition, credit card data refers to debt outstanding on all credit cards at end-month and includes balances that may be paid in full at the payment due date. The increase in the number of credit cards issued and the amount of debt outstanding is in line with a general trend of increased market penetration in the EU and a move towards electronic retail payment methods. The Deputy may further wish to note that, unlike interest rate increases in variable-rate mortgage products, interest rates on credit cards tend to remain relatively stable over longer periods of time.

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS), which falls under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, is a national, free, confidential and independent service for people in debt or in danger of getting into debt. Very substantial additional resources have been provided to MABS to support it in its work of reaching out to people in debt and helping them to regain control of their finances and budgets for the future. From 2006 to 2007, the budget for MABS has increased by30%, from 13.57 million Euro to 17.67 million Euro.

National Development Plan.

Richard Bruton

Question:

170 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he has carried out an assessment of the capacity of the construction industry to deal with added work under the national development plan; and his findings on same. [10190/07]

As part of the preparatory process for the National Development Plan 2007-2013, consideration was given to the capacity of the construction industry. My Department, together with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, which is the lead Department with immediate responsibility for the construction industry, examined this issue.

As Chapter 1 of the Plan indicates, current tender price inflation, employment and tendering patterns suggest that the construction industry is operating well at its present level of activity and that it has the capability to grow without generating significant additional inflationary pressures. Recent trends in tender prices in civil engineering contracts indicate that:

Tender prices for civil engineering projects in the sector have remained competitive;

Despite increased activity and opportunity for construction firms, the number of tenderers for individual projects has remained healthy with no discernible fall-off; and

Foreign firms and partnerships between Irish and foreign firms competing for business is increasingly becoming a feature of large projects with contracts awarded to such consortia in a number of cases including major road, water and waste water projects.

The Government's view is that the construction industry has the capacity to produce the additional output under the NDP. Our open labour market and greater participation from foreign construction firms support this view. In addition, if the level of new housing output begins to ease, this will free up resources for other construction projects, including those under the NDP. Leading indicators of construction activity and developments in the industry generally will, of course, continue to be monitored over the period of the NDP.

Question No. 171 answered with QuestionNo. 130.

Departmental Staff.

John Gormley

Question:

172 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Finance the percentage of staff in his Department who receive expenses for use of private cars, use of public transport or use of bicycles. [10157/07]

The percentage of staff in my Department, who claimed expenses for use of private cars in 2006, was 32% and the percentage of staff who claimed expenses in respect of public transport, including bus, rail, and taxis, was 35%. There were no instances of staff members claiming expenses for the use of bicycles.

Question No. 173 answered with QuestionNo. 163.

Tax Code.

Bernard Allen

Question:

174 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Finance his plans to introduce a subvention scheme for charities in respect of VAT payments along the lines of that operated in Denmark; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10194/07]

The position is that charities and non-profit groups engaged in non-commercial activity are exempt from VAT under the EU 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 accept 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 respect of the bodies they represent. However, given that Exchequer funding is made available to very many charitable organisations this is in effect already happening.

The 140 bodies represented by the Irish Charities Tax Reform Group already acknowledge that they receive some €9 million in funding either directly or indirectly from the Exchequer. However, there are approximately 7,000 charities registered with the Revenue Commissioners. It is therefore likely that the introduction of a scheme along the lines proposed by the Irish Charities Tax Reform Group would cost the Exchequer significantly more than the €18 million estimate put forward by the group in respect of the bodies they represent.

I understand that the only EU Member State to introduce a scheme providing partial compensation for a limited number of charities for VAT incurred on input costs is Denmark. To be eligible under the Danish scheme charities must already be approved bodies under the Danish equivalent of our tax relief on donations scheme. My Department understands that some 750 charities in Denmark could benefit as a result. In comparison, over 1,900 organisations have to date been approved under the Irish donations relief scheme. It also understands that under the Danish scheme educational institutions are not eligible for compensation.

It is likely, therefore, the introduction of any grant system in lieu of VAT paid by registered charities in Ireland 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 of refunds. These exempt bodies are already receiving considerable Exchequer funding.

The tax code already treats charities in a favourable manner. The tax code currently provides exemption for charities from Income Tax, Corporation Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Deposit Interest Retention Tax, Capital Acquisitions Tax, Stamp Duty, Probate Tax, Dividend Withholding Tax and the uniform scheme of tax relief for donations. While no overall definitive figures are available on the cost to the Exchequer of charitable tax exemption status, Revenue estimated in 2005 that the cost of the various tax exemptions and tax reliefs, including the tax relief on donations scheme, in place for bodies conferred with charitable status could be as high as €190m annually.

In addition to tax exemptions and reliefs, charities, voluntary and community groups, sporting bodies benefit significantly from grants schemes administered by a number of Government Departments. Finally, even if funds were available for grant-aiding charities and other voluntary groups, I am not sure that the most appropriate use of the funds would be to relieve them of the VAT paid on inputs as opposed to grant-aiding their activities using other criteria.

Dublin-Monaghan Bombings.

Richard Bruton

Question:

175 Mr. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the next steps which the Government envisages in respect of the MacEntee report on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9457/07]

I received the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings of 1974 from the Sole Member Mr Patrick MacEntee, SC QC on 12 March. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr MacEntee and his team for all their work in the preparation of this Report. By law, I am now required to consider certain legal issues prior to publication.

I have requested legal advice on these matters from the Attorney General. I will also submit the Report to the Cabinet prior to publication. It is my intention to publish the Report as soon as possible.

National Statistics.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

176 Mr. McGinley asked the Taoiseach the accuracy of the 2006 census on a county basis; the breakdown of forms distributed to households; the number returned completed; the number of households that did not return forms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9575/07]

The Central Statistics Office employed a field force comprising 6 Census Liaison Officers, 40 Regional Supervisors, 400 Field Supervisors and 4,400 Enumerators to carry out the census field operation. During the four weeks before Census Day the enumerators entered details in respect of 1.8 million private residences and communal establishments in their enumerator record books. They simultaneously delivered blank census forms to 1.5 million of these dwellings that were expected to be occupied on Census Night — 23 April 2006. Of the remaining 300,000 residences, 270,000 were vacant at the time of the census while in the remaining 30,000 cases the household was either enumerated elsewhere or temporarily absent from the State.

While the census field management reporting system provided ongoing information about forms being delivered and collected during the course of the census field work these were not collated on a county basis because the census field operation was not organised on strict county lines. During the course of the nine week field campaign it is estimated that about 3,500 households with about 6,000 residents may have evaded contact. Operating under strict guidelines, the enumerators were instructed to impute basic demographic information such as age, sex and nationality for the occupants of these households.

The Principal Demographic Results to be published on 29 March will contain a table analysing permanent housing units on a county basis according to whether they were occupied or vacant on census night.

Joe Costello

Question:

177 Mr. Costello asked the Taoiseach the number of non-Irish nationals living in postal areas Dublin 1 and 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9968/07]

The Principal Demographic Results of the 2006 census which is to be published on 29 March will contain information on the number of non-Irish nationals at State and county levels. I have asked the Central Statistics Office to provide the Deputy with the requested information as soon as possible after that date.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

178 Ms Shortall asked the Taoiseach the way in which the number of unemployed people here is counted; if the count includes those who are signing on for credits, those on FÁS courses who retain their jobseekers payment and those who no longer sign on having exhausted all of their credits and who are not eligible for jobseekers allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9416/07]

Labour market estimates are derived from data collected through the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) which forms part of the EU wide (Community) Labour Force Survey. The primary classification used for the labour market status of an individual is the internationally agreed International Labour Office (ILO) labour force classification. The ILO classification distinguishes the following main subgroups:

In Employment: Persons who worked in the week before the survey for one hour or more for payment or profit, including work on the family farm or business and all persons who had a job but were not at work because of illness, holidays etc. in the week.

Unemployed: Persons who, in the week before the survey, were without work and available for work within the next two weeks, and had taken specific steps, in the preceding four weeks, to find work. The specific definition to be applied by all EU member states for the measurement of the unemployed is detailed in Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1897/2000.

Inactive Population (not in labour force): All other persons.

An individual's status from an unemployment perspective is not determined by their activity within the schemes or courses provided by the various Government Departments or other public bodies but rather by their situation vis-à-vis the three criteria outlined in the definition of the unemployed outlined above. For example persons signing on for credits will only be considered as unemployed on an ILO basis if they satisfy the three criteria outlined above.

The Live Register which includes all claimants for jobseekers benefit (excluding systematic short-time workers), jobseekers assistance (excluding smallholders/farm assists and other self-employed persons) and other registrants including applicants for credited Social Welfare contributions but excluding those directly involved in an industrial dispute, treats the three groups outlined in the question as follows:

Those who are signing on for credits would be included in the Live Register figures;

Those on FÁS courses who retain their jobseekers payment are not included in the Live Register figures;

Those who no longer sign on having exhausted all of their benefits (rather than credits) and who are not eligible for jobseekers allowance would sign-on for credits and be included in the Live Register figures.

It should be noted that the Live Register is not designed to measure unemployment.

Ministerial Appointments.

Dan Boyle

Question:

179 Mr. Boyle asked the Taoiseach the number of public appointments he made in the past two months. [9417/07]

I have made no public appointments in the past two months.

Departmental Expenditure.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

180 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Taoiseach the amount his Department paid in 2006 for car mileage expenses; the amount paid to cover rail and bus ticket expenses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9780/07]

The amounts paid by my Department in 2006 for car mileage, rail and bus ticket expenses are as shown in the table.

Expense

Total Amount paid in 2006

Car Mileage Expenses

95,366

Rail Ticket Expenses

11,107

Bus Ticket Expenses

2,119

These amounts include car mileage and rail ticket expenses paid to delegates of the National Forum on Europe, the Taskforce on Active Citizenship and to members of the Ireland Newfoundland Partnership.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

181 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Taoiseach the cost of energy used running his Department in the year 2002; the cost of doing so in 2006; the quantity of energy used in each of these years to which this cost relates; and his plans to reduce this usage as a contribution to meeting concerns regarding climate change. [9829/07]

The total cost of energy supplies to my Department was €106,862.16 in 2002 and €174,316.99 in 2006. 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 has introduced a number of measures following the advice outlined in the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government's Green Government Guide. This involves the purchase of energy efficient equipment such as photocopiers and computer equipment as well as turning off lighting and office equipment when they are not required. My Department is also working closely with the Office of Public Works (OPW) to effectively manage our consumption of energy resources and to raise staff energy awareness.

Departmental Staff.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

182 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he will report on gender balance at each grade in his Department and in agencies that come under the aegis of his Department. [9857/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is outlined in the Tables.

Department of the Taoiseach: Departmental staff at all grades

Grade

No. of Staff

Male

Female

Secretary General

1

1

0

Second Secretary

1

1

0

Assistant Secretary (A/Sec)

4

3

1

Principal Officer (PO)

14

11

3

Assistant Principal (AP)

31

11

20

Higher Executive Officer (HEO)

27

8

19

Administrative Officer (AO)

13

7

6

Executive Officer (EO)

25

4

21

Staff Officer (SO)

10

1

9

Clerical Officer (CO)

42

9

33

Service Officers/Service Attendants

13

13

0

Cleaners

10

0

10

Total

191

69

122

Agencies that come under the aegis of the Department of the Taoiseach

Office of the Attorney General: Office staff at all grades

Grade

No. of Staff

Male

Female

Chief Parliamentary Counsel

1

0

1

First Parliamentary Counsel

1

1

0

Parliamentary Counsel

4

3

1

Assistant Parliamentary Counsel Grade I

3

1

2

Assistant Parliamentary Counsel Grade II

10

3

7

Director General

1

0

1

Deputy Director General

1

1

0

Advisory Counsel Grade I

5

3

2

Advisory Counsel Grade II

15

9

6

Advisory Counsel Grade III

7

4

3

Consultant Drafter

6

6

0

Legal Researchers

1

0

1

Principal Officer (PO)

1

1

0

Information Manager

1

0

1

Assistant Principal (AP)

5

5

0

Systems Librarian

1

0

1

Higher Executive Officer (HEO)

6

4

2

Executive Officer (EO)

8

4

4

Staff Officer (SO)

7

1

6

Clerical Officer Programmer

1

1

0

Clerical Officer (CO)

33

2

31

Total

118

49

69

Moriarty Tribunal: Staff at all grades

Grade

No. of Staff

Male

Female

Registrar (AP with allowance)

1

0

1

Office Manager (AP)

1

1

0

Executive Officer

2

1

1

Legal Secretary (freelance — 3 day week employed via a recruitment agency)

1

0

1

Judge’s Tipstaff

1

1

0

Total:

6

3

3

Law Reform Commission: Staff at all grades

Grade

No. of Staff

Male

Female

Commissioner

5

2

3

Director of Research

1

1

0

Legal Researcher

11

5

6

Secretary/Head of Administration

1

1

0

Executive Officer

1

1

0

Clerical Officer

3

2

1

Legal Information Manager

1

1

0

Cataloguer

1

0

1

Project Manager

1

1

0

Total

25

14

11

All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution: Staff at all grades

Grade

No. of Staff

Male

Female

Secretary

1

1

0

Executive Assistant

1

0

1

Total

2

1

1

Chief State Solicitors Office (CSSO): Staff at all grades

Grade

No. of Staff

Male

Female

Chief State Solicitor

1

1

0

Assistant Chief State Solicitor

5

4

1

Deputy Assistant Chief State Solicitor

12

6

6

Accountant

1

1

0

Law Librarian

1

0

1

Assistant Law Librarian

1

0

1

Assistant Principal Legal Executive

5

3

2

Assistant Principal Officer (Higher)

2

2

0

Principal Legal Executive

1

1

0

Deputy Principal Legal Executive

2

2

0

Principal Solicitor

12

6

6

State Solicitor

71

25

46

State Solicitor (Higher)

8

3

5

Higher Executive Officer (HEO)

6

4

2

Higher Legal Executive

15

5

10

Records Management Officer

1

0

1

Executive Officer (EO)

11

3

8

Legal Executive

18

6

12

Staff Officer (SO)

14

1

13

Clerical Officer (CO)

55

13

42

Services Officer

5

5

0

Cleaner

1

0

1

Total

248

91

157

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP): Staff at all grades

Grade

No. of Staff

Male

Female

Director

1

1

0

Deputy Director

1

1

0

Chief Prosecution Solicitor

1

0

1

Professional Officer Grade 11

4

4

0

Professional Officer Grade 111

9

2

7

Principal Prosecution Solicitor

5

3

2

Head of Administration

1

1

0

Senior Prosecution Solicitor

9

5

4

Principal Legal Executive

1

1

0

Professional Officer Grade 1V

7

6

1

Prosecution Solicitor AP1

5

5

0

Deputy Principal Legal Executive

1

0

1

Assistant Principal Legal Executive

3

3

0

General Service Assistant Principal AP1

3

1

2

General Service Assistant Principal

3

2

1

Prosecution Solicitor

39

10

19

Law Librarian

1

0

1

General Service Higher Executive Officers

9

2

7

Higher Legal Executive

6

3

3

Legal Executive

5

2

3

Executive Officers

14

4

10

Staff Officers

5

0

5

Assistant Librarian

1

1

0

Special Legal Officer

1

1

0

Legal Researchers

2

0

2

Trainee Law Clerk

1

0

1

Clerical Officers Higher

8

2

6

Clerical Officers

45

13

32

Service Officers

6

6

0

Total

187

79

108

Central Statistics Office (CSO): Staff at all grades

Grade

No. of Staff

Male

Female

Director General

1

1

0

Director CSO

3

3

0

Principal Officer (PO)

3

3

0

Senior Statistician

22

19

3

Assistant Principal Officer (AP)

23

15

8

Statistician

91

53

38

Administrative Officer (AO)

1

1

0

Accountant

1

1

0

Higher Executive Officer (HEO)

76

38

38

Executive Officer (EO)

164

79

85

Staff Officer (SO)

34

8

26

Clerical Officer (CO)

399

127

272

Service Officer

8

8

0

Service Attendant

2

2

0

Telephonist

1

1

0

Quarterly National Household Survey Co-ordinator

11

1

10

Quarterly National Household Survey Interview

131

18

113

Senior Implant Operator

3

3

0

Total

974

381

593

National Forum On Europe: Staff at all grades

Grade

No. of Staff

Male

Female

Director

1

0

1

Principal Officer (PO)

1

0

1

Assistant Principal (AP)

1

0

1

Staff Officer (SO)

1

0

1

Clerical Officer (CO)

2

0

2

Contract Staff

4

1

3

Student Placement

1

0

1

Total

11

1

10

Ireland Newfoundland Partnership: Staff at all grades

Grade

No. of Staff

Male

Female

Director

1

0

1

Assistant Director

1

0

1

Receptionist

1

0

1

Total

3

0

3

National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO): Staff at all grades

Grade

No. of Staff

Male

Female

Assistant Secretary (A/Sec)

1

1

0

Assistant Principal Officer (AP)

1

1

0

Clerical Officer (CO)

2

0

2

Total

4

2

2

National Economic and Social Council (NESC): Staff at all grades

Grade

No. of Staff

Male

Female

Assistant Secretary (A/Sec)

1

1

0

Principal Officer (PO)

2

2

0

Assistant Principal Officer (AP)

2

2

0

Executive Officer (EO)

2

0

2

Clerical Officer (CO)

1

0

1

Total

8

5

3

National Economic and Social Forum (NESF): Staff at all grades

Grade

No. of Staff

Male

Female

Chairperson (Senior Psychologist)

1

0

1

Assistant Secretary (A/Sec)

1

1

0

Assistant Principal Officer (AP)

3

1

2

Executive Officer (EO)

1

0

1

Total

6

2

4

National Centre for Partnership and Performance (NCPP): Staff at all grades

Grade

No. of Staff

Male

Female

Chairperson

1

1

0

Director Principal Officer

1

0

1

National Coordinator [Assistant Principal (AP) grade]

3

2

1

Head of Communications [Assistant Principal (AP) grade]

1

1

0

Higher Executive Officer (HEO)

1

0

1

Executive Officer (EO)

1

0

1

Total

8

4

4

Note: Worksharers are counted as one person.

EU Directives.

Bernard Allen

Question:

183 Mr. Allen asked the Taoiseach the number of EU directives awaiting transposition in his Department; the date by which these directives are to be, or were to be, transposed into Irish law; the number of such EU directives which are overdue for transposition; when the overdue directives will be transposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10058/07]

The Department of the Taoiseach has no Directives awaiting transposition. My Department does however have a role in monitoring the transposition of EU Directives. Minister of State Noel Treacy chairs an Interdepartmental Coordinating Committee on European Union Affairs. The Committee keeps under review, and works to ensure coherence on, the full range of issues on the EU's agenda. The Committee has a particular focus on the correct and timely transposition of EU legislation.

Departmental Communications.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

184 Mr. Kehoe asked the Taoiseach the services and facilities available to persons with a hearing disability who wish to phone a Government Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10360/07]

While there are a number of channels available, which can be utilised by people with hearing disabilities to communicate with my Department, such as email, website feedback forms, post and fax, we do not currently have facilities for people with a hearing disability to phone my Department. We have, however, recently received proposals from our telecom suppliers for the installation of induction couplers and other telephone devices for the deaf (TDD) (text phones/Minicoms) which we are considering.

My Department will continue to explore and implement opportunities to improve services to people with disabilities, including through the Department's Disability Monitoring Committee which seeks to ensure that the range of services provided by the Department is accessible to people with disabilities and that staff of the Department engage actively in the process.

Decentralisation Programme.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

185 Ms Shortall asked the Taoiseach the number of civil servants in his Department who have transferred to offices outside Dublin under the decentralisation programme to date; the percentage of these who had a previous transfer within a two year period of the decentralisation transfer; the number of these people who transferred from a non-Dublin office to a Dublin office in the initial transfer; the average time spent in the Dublin office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10535/07]

Since the introduction of the decentralisation programme, 10 former members of staff from my Department have been assigned to decentralised posts. The Deputy will be aware that the Department of Finance is responsible for the overall decentralisation programme. The Deputy will also be aware that there are no proposals to decentralise my Department or any of the bodies under its aegis.

Interdepartmental Committees.

David Stanton

Question:

186 Mr. Stanton asked the Taoiseach the members and functions of the Cabinet committee on social inclusion. [10579/07]

I chair the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion and the membership includes the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Ministers for:

Education and Science;

Enterprise, Trade and Employment;

Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs;

Finance;

the Environment, Heritage and Local Government;

Health and Children;

Social and Family Affairs; and Children.

and the Ministers of State with Special Responsibility for:

Housing and Urban Renewal;

Drugs Strategy and Community Affairs;

Equality Issues (including Disability Issues); and

Labour Affairs (including Training).

It is now well established practice that while it is in order to answer factually on the number of meetings held by a Cabinet Committee and its membership, more wide ranging questions which seek to ascertain the discussions at, decisions, work programme, role, function or progress of a Cabinet Committee are internal to the Cabinet process.

Departmental Properties.

Pat Carey

Question:

187 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, arising from correspondence regarding the unsatisfactory state of upkeep of lands on which a centre (details supplied) in Dublin 11 is located, he will arrange to have the lands involved cleaned up; if these lands could be used by another Government Department or by the local authority for affordable housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9510/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, on 1 March 2007, responsibility for the centre, which is one of four children detention schools, was transferred to the Irish Youth Justice Service in my Department from the Department of Education and Science. There are no plans to dispose or change the use of the land associated with the centre at this time.

I understand that the area of land referred to in the correspondence supplied by the Deputy is being accessed through a damaged boundary wall of an adjacent housing estate. As it is not owned by the centre, the upkeep of the boundary wall, which has been damaged and repaired previously, is the responsibility of a company associated with the housing estate.

Every effort is being made by the centre to ensure that illegally dumped material is cleared from its lands. The centre has been in contact with the local authority seeking assistance and has informed it regarding the steps the centre has undertaken in this regard. The centre has been monitoring the area and has on more than one occasion cleaned up material which was deposited on its lands by persons unknown. The Director and management of the centre has indicated to the Irish Youth Justice Service that they will continue to monitor the situation and would welcome the opportunity to discuss the matter with the residents committee.

Employment Rights.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

188 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on introducing paid paternity leave; the annual cost to the Exchequer of introducing a week’s paid paternity leave; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9530/07]

Public sector employers provide 3 days paid paternity leave for civil servants, teachers, health service workers, Gardaí, prison officers and the Defence Forces, while some private sector employers and semi-state bodies provide a short period of paid paternity leave. There is currently no statutory entitlement to paternity leave.

The question of paid paternity leave was considered by the Working Group on the Review of the Parental Leave Act 1998, which reported in April 2002. The Working Group which comprised the social partners, relevant Government Departments and the Equality Authority, could not reach consensus on this issue. The employers' organisations could not agree to the introduction of a statutory entitlement to paternity leave paid for by employers.

I have no objection, in principle, to the introduction of a statutory entitlement to a short period of paid paternity leave. However, before doing so I think it desirable to secure consensus among the social partners on the issue. In this connection, I would draw the Deputy's attention to the commitment in the Partnership Agreement "Towards 2016" that the level of provision of maternity/paternity leave would be reviewed again before end 2008.

I am not in a position at this stage to estimate the annual cost to the Exchequer of introducing a week's paid paternity leave since the cost would depend on the model involved, for example, whether it would be PRSI based, the take-up and whether it would be at full pay or whether there would be a contribution.

Property Law.

Richard Bruton

Question:

189 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way the legislation banning the creation of new ground leases passed some years ago interacts with the leasehold arrangements used for the sale of apartments; if he is satisfied that the present legal framework adequately protects the interests of the purchasers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9736/07]

The position is that section 2 of the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) (No. 2) Act 1978, which prevents the creation of new leases reserving ground rents on dwellings, does not apply to separate and self-contained dwelling units in developments containing two or more such units. As regards the legal framework applicable to such developments, the position is that the Law Reform Commission published a Consultation Paper on Multi-Unit Developments in December last. A consultation process is currently under way in relation to the draft recommendations set out in the Paper and the Commission intends to publish a Report containing its definitive recommendations later this year.

In recognition of the cross-cutting nature of many of the issues and the broad range of policy areas involved, including the planning and development code, company law, consumer protection law and the development of regulatory structures, the Government has established a high-level, interdepartmental committee to assist in the development of a coherent and comprehensive legislative response to difficulties arising in relation to multi-unit developments and property management companies.

A key task of the committee will be to identify the key legislative and administrative actions to be taken and to determine a timescale for implementation as soon as possible. In particular, the committee will have regard to recommendations for legislative reforms contained in the Law Reform Commission's Report on Multi-Unit Developments which will be published later this year.

Gaming and Lotteries Acts.

Pat Carey

Question:

190 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the role of his Department in supervising and monitoring the operation of foreign lotteries (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9754/07]

In Ireland, the Gaming and Lotteries Acts, 1956-86 cover gaming and lotteries other than the National Lottery, which is covered by the National Lottery Act 1986, with the Betting Act, 1931 governing all matters relating to betting. In general, all forms of gaming are illegal in this jurisdiction except where specifically permitted.

Sections 21, 26 and 34 of the 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act disallow the promotion and purchase in this country of tickets for a foreign lottery. This restriction applies to all lotteries in any country outside of the Irish State. With regard to the supervision and monitoring of the operation of foreign lotteries, I have been informed by An Garda Síochána, that when information is received by them concerning the running of illegal lotteries in this jurisdiction enquiries are conducted by the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation (GBFI) and any evidence found in support of such allegations is passed through the appropriate channels to the relevant authorities where the lottery purports to originate.

In respect of the details supplied by Deputy Carey, information about that lottery has been passed to the Spanish authorities. When the Garda Síochána receive information, usually from an injured party, concerning information relating to a bogus lottery win they are advised by the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation not to provide any personal details, including bank account numbers etc. Unfortunately persons contacted by such fraudsters usually only make contact with An Garda Síochána after money has been sent abroad. However in such cases the Bureau requests that all records relating to the transaction be forwarded to the GBFI. This information is then passed to Interpol for the attention of the country from which the bogus lottery has emanated. Efforts are also made to trace the money sent abroad, however I am informed by the Garda authorities that the details supplied are frequently false.

Court Procedures.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

191 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the background to subject matter and status of negotiations between the Government and the widow of a person (details supplied); if issues relating to the question of the person having acted on superior orders or with the knowledge of their superiors during the course of events that gave rise to the arms trial are involved; if an exoneration of the person has been sought; if such an exoneration has been sought, if it is expected to be granted; if a review of relevant files and other information is taking place for this purpose; if so, if it will be published; if all information relevant to this question is in the public domain; if not, when it is proposed to release such information; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9947/07]

I understand that the Programme Manager of the Department of the Taoiseach met recently with the widow of the person in question in relation to her late husband and matters associated with the Arms Trial. I further understand that notwithstanding a continuing reflection on the person's representations in the case, no official initiative in this case is anticipated.

In this respect, the events in question are a matter of public record. No finding of guilt was ever made in the Courts in relation to the person in question and, accordingly, the question of ‘exoneration' does not appear to arise.

Crime Prevention.

Ivor Callely

Question:

192 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the mechanisms in place to protect children from offensive, age inappropriate or dangerous multimedia activities that are now easily accessible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10296/07]

Ivor Callely

Question:

193 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the consideration given, to put in place a consumer protection bureau that would give parents a mechanism to register complaints against Internet predators and the video game industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10297/07]

Ivor Callely

Question:

194 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the consideration given, to put in place a consumer protection bureau that would give parents a mechanism to register complaints against Internet predators and the video game industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10298/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 192 to 194, inclusive, together.

Protection of children from the inappropriate use of multimedia activities is a very broad and encompassing term, but I take it that the Deputy is referring particularly to the internet, video games and mobile phones. I have no function in the regulation of broadcast media or phones but I can inform him as to the child protection arrangements in place in respect of a number of other media formats. As the Deputy will be aware by its very nature, the internet lends itself to being used for a wide range of criminal activities. This can include illegal pornography, racist or hate materials, financial fraud, intimidation or any other criminal activity carried out via the internet. Combatting such illegal, harmful and predatory use of the internet requires a response at national, EU and wider international levels.

The internet is an international and world-wide phenomenon with no borders and no single organisation controlling it. Measures to combat illegal materials and activities on the internet are, therefore, hampered by a multiplicity of jurisdictions, differing legal systems, and differing societal norms. Furthermore, new developments in communications technologies allowing for internet access by new means are a regular occurrence. These are largely positive developments but also bring particular challenges for those charged with protecting against the downsides of the internet. A combination of responses, and the co-operation of all the stakeholders, at both national and international level — legislators, law enforcement, schools, child protection practitioners, parents and guardians — are essential.

In terms of legislation, in the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 1998, Ireland has one of the most robust pieces of legislation anywhere. Under the Act, the possession, distribution, importation and exportation or sale of all forms of child pornography — films, video or material in written or auditory form including material produced or transmitted via the internet — are offences with penalties of up to 14 years' imprisonment. Mere possession of child pornography can be punishable by imprisonment for up to 5 years. Using a child or allowing a child to be used for the production of child pornography is also punishable by up to 14 years' imprisonment.

The EU Council adopted a Framework Decision on Combating the Sexual Exploitation of Children and Child Pornography on 22 December 2003. While the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 is a particularly robust legislative measure, this Framework Decision requires some relatively minor amendments to our legislation and these are contained in the Criminal Law (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill which is at present being drafted in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. Among the provisions of the Bill is one that prohibits the sale of children, including through a computer system, for the purpose of the sexual or labour exploitation of a child.

In addition, a new offence of meeting a child following sexual grooming, on the internet or otherwise, was included in the recently enacted Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) (Amendment) Act 2007. I am informed by the Garda Authorities that they monitor child pornography on the internet and where evidence is available action is taken in accordance with legislation. Other incidents of child pornography coming to the attention of An Garda Síochána are fully investigated and where there is evidence to support a prosecution criminal proceedings are commenced, as directed by the Law Officers.

I am also informed by the Garda Authorities that staff from the Computer Crime Investigation Unit (CCIU) in the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation participate in numerous fora where crime prevention advice is given to companies and members of the public on the safe use of the internet. The Unit provides support to the many operations by other national and local units in targeting paedophiles and others suspected of downloading child pornography in Ireland. Members of An Garda Síochána attached to the National Bureau of Investigation augment these units as the volume of work requires. Computer forensics are carried out by the members attached to the Domestic and Sexual Assault Unit and also by members attached to the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation utilising up-to-date forensic software. I understand that An Garda Síochána, in conjunction with its EU colleagues, is currently examining new methods of preventing the production and distribution of child pornography on the internet.

On the structural side, the Government established a working Group in 1997 to examine and report on the whole question of the illegal and harmful use of the internet with particular reference to child pornography. The Report of the Working Group on the Illegal and Harmful Use of the Internet was published in July 1998. The main recommendation of the Report was for a system of self-regulation by the Internet Service Provider industry and the components of such a system were to include: an Internet Advisory Board (IAB) — established Feb 2000 — to promote awareness of Internet downside issues, co-ordinate efforts to combat child pornography on the Internet and monitor the progress of self regulation by the Internet Service Provider industry; a Public Hotline for reporting child pornography (established 1999 and funded by the industry); an industry Code of Practice and Ethics setting out the duties and responsibilities of each Internet Service Provider (agreed February 2002 and reviewed in 2004)

The Internet Advisory Board (IAB) as well as overseeing a self-regulatory regime for the Irish Internet Service Providers, encourages best practice procedures, provides advice and facilitates research in Internet-related issues including child safety. My Department provides secretarial and other supports for the Board's work. The IAB in its role of encouraging best practice, procedures and formulating advice on Internet downside issues is currently evaluating electronic technology which can be used to block access to websites on the internet and is preparing a report on the matter.

The Hotline (www.hotline.ie), is funded by the Internet Service Providers' Association of Ireland with support from the EU Safer Internet Action Plan. It accepts and investigates reports from the public in relation to child pornography and other illegal material on the internet and attempts to identify the source. If the material is hosted in Ireland, it will request the relevant Internet Service Provider (ISP) to remove it, in accordance with their Code of Practise and Ethics. Special protocols operate between the Gardaí and the Hotline that maximise co-operation on law enforcement issues so that offences in the area of child pornography can be detected and prosecuted. The Hotline works closely with, and is a founding member of, the international INHOPE Association (www.inhope.org), a network of European hotlines which is expanding to all parts of the world. The INHOPE Association develops procedures and shares information on the best practices for the tracing and tracking of illegal child pornography. International co-operation is a vital part of the fight against pornography on the internet, and Ireland is fully committed to playing its part. The Deputy may be aware that the European Union has taken a strong line on combating child pornography and other illegal and harmful uses of the internet. Since 1999, under the Safer Internet Action Plan, the EU has provided financial and other supports for measures in the member states to combat illegal and harmful uses of the internet, with particular emphasis on protecting children. A new EU action plan — Safer Internet Plus — covering the period 2005 to 2008, and with a budget of €45m, was agreed under the Irish presidency in June 2004 and is now in operation. My Department is represented on the management committee for the programme. In September 2001, the Council of Europe approved the first international Convention on Cybercrime. Ireland signed up to the Convention in June 2002. The main objective of the Convention is to foster international co-operation in protecting society against cybercrime. The Convention deals specifically with the distribution of child pornography on the internet, infringements of copyright, computer related fraud and violations of network security. On 15 September 2006, I announced that Government approval had been obtained for the drafting of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. This Bill is being used to give effect to a number of international instruments including the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime 2001.

With regard to video games, the position is that Ireland is a member of the Pan European Games Information (PEGI) system. Video games are classified by age appropriateness at the following levels; 3+: 7+ 12+; 15+ and 18+. The categorisation is then indicated on product packaging. Under these arrangements, video games are categorised according to a robust and consistent system and subject to independent non-industry verification.

A key component of video game arrangements is that the classification systems are designed to provide useful information as to the content of the product. In particular, the intention is to assist parents in making informed choices concerning the media they acquire for their children or which they permit their children to use.

In so far as films and videos/DVDs are concerned, the position is that these must be classified by the Irish Film Censor for sale, exhibition or rental. The age appropriateness of each work is then displayed in cinema and all video/DVD works must carry the age classification on the packaging and video/DVD. My Department is fully committed to co-operating with and promoting measures both nationally, at EU level and in the wider international fora with regard to child protection.

Public Order Offences.

John Gormley

Question:

195 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the problems in the Ranelagh area being caused by a group of young adults, who smash bottles, leave rubbish on the ground and make it difficult for people to sleep at night; the steps he has taken to ensure this behaviour ceases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9401/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the area referred to is regularly patrolled by uniform and plain clothes Gardaí from the Donnybrook and Terenure Garda Districts with a view to ensuring a concentrated and visible Garda presence in the area. These patrols are backed up by District Detective and Drug Units, Community Policing personnel, the District Mountain Bike Units as well as the Divisional Crime Task Force and Traffic Corps personnel. During weekends there are also dedicated public order patrols specifically targeting public disorder and anti-social behaviour in the Garda Districts referred to and, where appropriate, powers under the Litter Pollution Act are also enforced.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that current policing plans in the area are predicated on the prevention of anti-social and public order offences; the prevention of crime including crimes of violence against persons and property and the maintenance of an environment conducive to the improvement of quality of life of the residents. This strategy will continue to be central to the delivery of a policing service to the area.

Prison Committals.

Dan Neville

Question:

196 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons who were placed in padded cells in 2005 and 2006. [9443/07]

I have honoured my commitment to abolish the use of old style padded cells with the introduction of newly designed and improved cells. Information relating to the instances of placement of prisoners in close supervision and special observation cells are set out in the following table. These figures are composite in nature and include placement in both types of cells. On occasion, it is a matter of practical necessity to put some prisoners in a place of safety within the prison system when they prove difficult to manage in the general prison population or where authorised by a Prison Doctor for medical observation or for the prisoner's own protection if he/she has suicidal tendencies.

Year

2005

2006

Mountjoy Prison

389

203

Dóchas Centre

94

70

Cloverhill Prison

107

203

Wheatfield Prison

135

305

Cork Prison

86

61

Limerick Prison

47

49

Castlerea Prison

39

88

Midlands Prison

1

0

Arbour Hill Prison

7

11

St. Patrick’s Institution

170

270

Portlaoise Prison

0

0

Total

1,075

1,260

Citizenship Applications.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

197 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when persons (details supplied) in County Monaghan will be granted their citizenship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9459/07]

Applications for certificates of naturalisation from the persons referred to in the Deputy's question were received in the Citizenship Section of my Department on 29 June 2006. Applications received in the second half of 2004 are currently being processed and there are approximately 8,500 applications awaiting processing before those of the persons in question. It is likely that the processing of these application will commence in the second half of 2008. I will inform the Deputy and the applicants when I have reached a decision on the applications.

Garda Deployment.

Joe Costello

Question:

198 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of drug units in Dublin and their distribution; the number of gardaí who are working in each unit; if he has proposals to increase the number of gardaí who are combatting drugs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9506/07]

An Garda Síochána invokes a number of broad strategic responses in combating the drugs trade. These include the following: identifying, targeting and dismantling national and international drug trafficking networks which supply and distribute illegal drugs within this state; conducting intelligence driven operations focusing on all aspects of the illicit drugs trade including commodity, logistics, distribution and financing, working with other national and international law enforcement agencies on joint actions designed to reduce the availability of drugs and the proceeds derived from the drugs trade; working in partnership with statutory, community and voluntary groups to reduce both the supply and demand for drugs within society.

Tackling organised crime and drug trafficking is primarily achieved through the use of specialist units and targeted intelligence led operations. National Units, such as the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation all have specific roles in reducing drug supply and the material benefits which accrue from drug trafficking. All of these units operate under the direction of an Assistant Commissioner, National Support Services. The Organised Crime Unit, established in November 2005, in conjunction with the Garda National Drugs Unit and local Gardaí, continue to implement initiatives such as Operations Anvil and Oak which target criminals involved in the trafficking of drugs.

These operations, which are ongoing, continue to dismantle drug trafficking networks and have led to the arrest in recent times of major criminals both based here and abroad who are involved in the drugs trade and significant drug seizures continue to be made as a result of this work.

The record level of resources, both in financial and personnel terms, being made available to An Garda Síochána this year is proof of the Government's commitment and determination to ensure that the Garda authorities will continue to implement targeted, intelligence and high intensity operations against organised crime with a special focus on drugs crime. This commitment is further evidenced by the fact that the allocation for the Garda Vote for 2007 is up by €135.3m to €1.445 billion — an increase of 10% on this year's allocation.

Furthermore we are ensuring that our law enforcement agencies have a strong legislative platform from which to operate in their work tackling those involved in such criminal activity. I am informed by An Garda Síochána that the personnel strength (all ranks) of the District Drugs Units within the Dublin Metropolitan Region as on the 8th March 2007 is as set out hereunder.

Garda Station

Personnel

Store Street

14

Pearse Street

8

Donnybrook

4

Kevin Street

10

Santry

6

Clontarf

4

Coolock

13

Crumlin

6

Tallaght

9

Terenure

7

Dún Laoghaire

5

Bray

5

Dundrum

6

Blanchardstown

9

Clondalkin

12

Ronanstown

7

All Gardaí have responsibility for,inter alia, dealing with drug related issues as and when they arise. The numbers of Garda personnel assigned throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are constantly monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources and that the best possible Garda service is provided to the general public.

Citizenship Applications.

Tom Hayes

Question:

199 Mr. Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [9520/07]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department on 31 October 2006.

Applications received in the second half of 2004 are currently being processed and there are approximately 11,400 applications awaiting processing before that of the person in question. Applications for naturalisation, including those made from persons married to Irish citizens, are generally dealt with in chronological order as this method is deemed to be fairest to all applicants. It is likely that the processing of this application will commence in late 2008.

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

Residency Permits.

Michael Ring

Question:

200 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Mayo in respect of family reunification. [9543/07]

I understand the Immigration Division has recently been in contact with the person concerned regarding his request for a review of his Family Reunification Application in respect of his wife.

The person concerned has been advised to make a new application at his nearest Irish Embassy or Consulate.

Asylum Applications.

John Curran

Question:

201 Mr. Curran asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made regarding an application by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22 to remain here on humanitarian grounds. [9547/07]

The person concerned, a Nigerian national, arrived in the State on 28 April, 2003 and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of the case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner on 12 February, 2004 and on appeal by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal on 22 April, 2004.

Subsequently, in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, the person concerned was informed by letter dated 25 May, 2004 that the Minister was proposing to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was, in accordance with the Act, given the option of making representations, within 15 working days, setting out the reasons why she should not be deported i.e. be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; leaving the State before the deportation order was made; or consenting to the making of the deportation order. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned.

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

Public Order Offences.

Dermot Fitzpatrick

Question:

202 Dr. Fitzpatrick asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will introduce on the spot fines for public order offences; the offences that will be covered by the fines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9560/07]

Section 184 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2006 provides for fixed charge offences in respect of section 4 (intoxication in a public place) and section 5 (disorderly conduct in a public place) of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994.

Work by An Garda Síochána is ongoing to facilitate the implementation of the section. I intend to commence the section in the near future.

Citizenship Applications.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

203 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on the application by a person (details supplied) in County Carlow for citizenship. [9564/07]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in the Citizenship section of my Department on 22 November 2005. The application was examined and it was determined that the person in question did not have the five years reckonable residency required and consequently was not eligible to apply for a certificate of naturalisation at that time. The person in question was informed of this by letter dated 2 December 2005.

Officials in the Citizenship Section of my Department inform me that provided the applicant has kept her permission to remain in the State up to date she is now eligible to lodge a new application.

Road Traffic Offences.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

204 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the full cost of the installation and operation of the proposed national speed camera system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9566/07]

Work is well advanced on the procurement process for the provision and operation of safety cameras by a private service provider. Following a call for expressions of interest, a number of candidates have been awarded pre-qualification status. The next stage is the issue of a Request for Tender to the shortlisted candidates which will take place shortly. The tenders received will be evaluated on an individual basis in accordance with the criteria set down in the Request for Tender.

As the choice of the private service provider is being made through a competitive tendering process and as the cost of the project will depend, inter alia on the proposals received in response to the Request for Tender, I am not in a position to indicate at this time the cost of the project.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

205 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an apology will issue to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9604/07]

The person concerned, although a vital witness at the Morris Tribunal, has a civil action against the State arising from events which did not come within the terms of reference of that Tribunal and thus were not determined upon by that Tribunal. I am therefore constrained in any comment I might wish to make. What I can say however is that in civil action cases arising from the events in Donegal the general practice has been to address the question of an apology in the context of the settlement of the action itself.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

206 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if permission can or will be given to persons (details supplied) in County Cork to transfer to a self catering unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9612/07]

The Reception and Integration Agency is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers through the Government policy of direct provision and dispersal. Through direct provision, asylum seekers are provided with full board accommodation and ancillary services. The accommodation centre at Kinsale Road also facilitates Community Welfare Services, medical supports and VEC training on-site for residents.

In addition to direct provision accommodation, the Agency operates a very limited number of self-catering accommodation centres in certain parts of the country. There are no centres of this type in Cork City. This accommodation is reserved for special needs and extreme medical cases in the main.

As outlined in my answer to a previous Dáil question on this matter on 27 February 2007, the Reception and Integration Agency received a request from the persons referred to in the details supplied for a move to self-catering accommodation dated 18th December, 2006. As the request was made on medical grounds, the Agency referred the details of the request to a Medical Referee for recommendation. The view of the Medical Referee in this case was that there was no clear indication to support a change to self catering accommodation.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

207 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to an application for family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9613/07]

The person in question made an application for Family Reunification under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996 on behalf of her husband in October 2006. The application has recently been approved and the person in question has been informed of same.

Richard Bruton

Question:

208 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the apparent delay in the application by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 for naturalisation even though they appear to meet all the conditions for early approval. [9635/07]

An application for naturalisation from the individual in question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department on 20 February 2006.

Applications for naturalisation, including those from persons married to Irish citizens, are generally dealt with in chronological order as this method is deemed to be fairest to all applicants. Applications received in the second half of 2004 are currently being processed and there are approximately 6,000 applications awaiting processing before that of the person in question. It is likely that processing of the application will commence in the first half of 2008. I will advise the Deputy and the applicant when I have reached a decision in the matter.

Sexual Offences.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

209 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the concerns that have been expressed regarding the inadequacies in the operation of the sex offenders register which is a measure intended to assist in the tracking of convicted paedophiles; his views on whether there is a need for a central database; and if so, the time frame for the provision of same. [9682/07]

The Sex Offenders Act which commenced on 27 September 2001 sets out the obligations on persons convicted of a range of sexual offences against both children and adults. A convicted sex offender must notify his/her name(s), date of birth and current home address to An Garda Síochána within seven days of the conviction for the sexual offence concerned or, where the offender is sentenced to imprisonment, from the date of full release from prison.

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

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

Part 4 of the Sex Offenders Act 2001 provides that it is an offence for convicted sex offenders to apply for, or to accept, work or to offer services, a necessary and regular part of which consists mainly of unsupervised access to, or contact with, children or mentally impaired persons, without informing the employer or organisation of his/her conviction for a qualifying sexual offence. It is an offence to fail to comply with the notification requirements. The penalty is imprisonment for up to 12 months or a fine of €1,900 or both. The courts can also sentence an offender who has been found guilty of an offence under the schedule of offences in the Act to a period of statutory supervision under the Probation Service on their release from prison.

Before an offender is released from prison, the Prison Service must inform him/her that he or she is subject to the notification requirement of the Act. Ten days before the date of release, the Prison Service must inform An Garda Síochána that s/he is being released. An Garda Síochána has in place a system for the monitoring of persons subject to these requirements. The Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit monitor and manage the notification provisions. The information on persons who are subject to the requirements of the Sex Offenders Act, 2001 is maintained on the PULSE computer system.

There are nominated Garda Inspectors in each Garda Division who are notified by the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit when a sex offender, who is subject to the requirements of the Act, is resident in their Division. These inspectors are responsible for the monitoring of such offenders.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that any child protection issues arising are advised to the relevant Health Service authorities, as provided for under the Children First guidelines. The provisions of the Act are kept under constant review by my Department with a view to ensuring the Act is operating in an efficient and effective manner. It is my intention that the Criminal Law (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill, which is currently being drafted, will contain provisions to strengthen the monitoring of registered sex offenders. Among these are raising the penalty for failure to register from 12 months to five years imprisonment, thus making it an arrestable offence, and giving probation officers power to prosecute offenders who fail to comply with the terms of a post release supervision order. Other provisions in the Bill will relate to risk assessment of sex offenders.

Prisoner Releases.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

210 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners from each prison here who prior to their release date and taking into account normal remission, were let out on early release in 2006. [9683/07]

I am advised by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that the information requested by the Deputy is set out in the table below. The vast bulk of the individuals granted temporary release — 70% — had a month or less of their sentence remaining. In fact, 31% were released in the final week of their sentence.

Institution

Number

Arbour Hill Prison

10

Castlerea Prison

96

Cloverhill Prison

46

Cork Prison

470

Limerick Prison

375

Loughan House

314

Midlands Prison

256

Mountjoy Prison

652

Dóchas Centre

183

Portlaoise Prison

24

Shelton Abbey

239

St Patrick’s Institution

154

Training Unit

69

Wheatfield Prison

177

I am advised that on the 16th March, 2007, there were 166 persons on temporary release, a figure that represents about 4.5% of the total prison population. This small number on temporary release is due in large measure to the expansion in our prison accommodation over the last number of years and stands in stark contrast to the unacceptable level of temporary release back in 1996, when on 9 December 1996 we had 552 persons on temporary release, about 20% of the prison population.

The overriding issue in considering any application for temporary release of a prisoner is the safety of the public. In addition, all releases are subject to conditions, which in the vast majority of cases include a requirement to report on a regular basis to his or her Garda Station. Of course, any offender who breaches his or her conditions may be arrested and returned to prison immediately by the Gardaí.

Temporary release arrangements operate similarly to a system of parole, which is a feature of prison systems worldwide. They are an important vehicle for re-integrating an offender into the community in a planned way. The generally accepted view is that the risk to the community would be reduced by planned re-integration of offenders compared with their return to the community on the completion of their full sentence. Each case is examined on its own merits and as already stated the safety of the public is paramount when decisions are made on temporary release applications.

Prisoners are considered for temporary release in various circumstances, for example, release under the direct supervision of the Probation Service; to employment or training programmes; on compassionate release because of ill health or family related circumstances; or for reintegration purposes because they are nearing the end of their sentence.

Sexual Offences.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

211 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason there was a decline and then cessation over the past seven years in the number of prosecutions under section 6 of the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences) Act 1993; if advice or directive of a prosecution or policing nature was issued which had this consequence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9707/07]

The role of the Gardaí is to investigate alleged offences, to gather whatever evidence may be available and to submit a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The question of whether or not a particular person should be prosecuted and for what criminal offence is the responsibility of the DPP. The Director, who is independent in the performance of his functions, makes his decision on the basis of the Garda findings viewed against the background of common and/or statute law. It would, therefore, be inappropriate for me to comment on his decisions.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that no directive has issued in respect of section 6 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences Act) 1993.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

212 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason section 250 of the Children Act 2001 was incorrectly represented in the accompanying explanatory memorandum as proposing a new offence which provided a higher penalty for soliciting or importuning a child for the purpose of prostitution; if confusion as to the nature or purpose of the section led to the subsequent non-prosecution of the offence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9708/07]

Section 6 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 created an offence of soliciting or importuning a person for the commission of an act which would constitute an offence under section 3, 4 or 5 of that Act or section 1 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1935. The maximum penalty on summary conviction was €1270 and/or 12 months imprisonment. Section 7 of the 1993 Act recreated in modern format the offence of soliciting or importuning a person for the purpose of prostitution. The maximum penalty on summary conviction, for a third or subsequent offence, was €635 and/or 4 weeks imprisonment.

The preparation of the child protection provisions of the Children Act 2001 provided an opportunity to increase the maximum penalty for soliciting or importuning a child or mentally impaired person for the purpose of prostitution. Prior to that, the law did not differentiate between soliciting or importuning a child or adult for the purpose of prostitution. The drafting method used was to substitute a new section 6 into the 1993 Act which, in effect, provided within that section a means of prosecuting the soliciting or importuning of a child or mentally impaired person for the purpose of prostitution with a maximum penalty of €1905 and/or 12 months imprisonment. This contrasted to the considerably lower penalty provided under section 7 of the 1993 Act.

I am informed by the Garda Síochána that there is no confusion as to the nature or purpose of section 250 of the Children Act. There have been no convictions under section 6 of the 1993 Act in the years 2001 to 2005 inclusive while there were 34 convictions in 2000. However in the 5 years prior to 2000, the year 1998 was the only year in which there were a significant number of convictions under section 6 with 86 convictions that year. There were no convictions in 1996 and 1997, one conviction in 1995 and 3 convictions in 1999.

The changes made in the Children Act to the criminal laws governing prostitution were not designed as a permanent solution to the offence of child prostitution. Instead, they were meant as a temporary initiative until an opportunity arose for a more in depth examination of the law in this respect. The Criminal Law (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill which is at present being drafted provides a new offence of soliciting or importuning a child, or paying, offering or promising to pay, a child or another person for the purpose of sexually exploiting the child. Sexual exploitation in this context is defined widely to include the prostitution of the child, production of child pornography or any sexual activity which would be an offence under any enactment.

Proposed Legislation.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

213 Mr. Cuffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to repeal or reform the Legal Practitioners (Qualification) Act 1929 in response to the report of the Competition Authority into the legal profession; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9729/07]

The Competition Authority recommended that the existing Irish competency requirement should be abolished and replaced by a voluntary system of high level Irish language training.

The Legal Practitioners (Qualification) Act 1929 provides that no person may be admitted by the Chief Justice to practise as a barrister-at-law in Irish courts unless he or she satisfies the Chief Justice that he or she possesses a competent knowledge of the Irish language. The 1929 Act applied to solicitors until 1954 when new arrangements were introduced in the Solicitors Act 1954. To qualify for admission as a solicitor, the 1954 Act stipulates that the Law Society requires students to undertake two examinations in Irish. The first examination applies to persons seeking to enter apprenticeship and the second applies to persons wishing to be admitted as solicitors. The purpose of the second examination is to ensure that persons who pass it have a competent knowledge of the Irish language.

My Department is currently examining the implementation of the recommendation of the Competition Authority in consultation with the legal professions and other Government Departments.

Departmental Correspondence.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

214 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make public the letter written by the Secretary General of his Department to An Garda Síochána complaining about the publication of an article (details supplied) containing information on the Bermingham report into the Dean Lyons case. [9731/07]

The Secretary General of my Department did not issue a letter "complaining about the publication of an article" relating to the Bermingham report into the Dean Lyons case. A letter dated 14 August 2006 was issued to the Garda Síochána on his behalf stating that there was reason to believe that a person or persons who had received a draft of the report pursuant to section 34 of the Commissions of Investigation Act, 2004 had disclosed material contrary to section 37 of that Act. Section 37 creates a very specific offence and only relates to draft reports. There was reason to believe that the article in question may have been based on a draft disclosed contrary to section 37.

It is open to any individual to make a request under section 7 of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997 for a copy of the letter of 14th August 2006 and such request will be determined in accordance with the various provisions of the Act by a designated official of my Department in the normal way. However I have to say that legal advice is that it would not be appropriate to make public documents pertinent to an ongoing Garda investigation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

215 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he discussed in advance with the Secretary General of his Department the decision by the Secretary General to write a letter to An Garda Síochána complaining about the leak of information to a journalist (details supplied) in respect of the Bermingham report into the Dean Lyons case. [9732/07]

Last August, the Secretary General of my Department contacted me while I was on a family holiday and said that it appeared probable that a draft report of the Birmingham Commission of Investigation had been disclosed by a statutory recipient. He told me that he intended to report the alleged disclosure by the statutory recipient to the Garda Síochána. It was clear to me that it was to be a complaint about a suspected breach of the criminal law by a statutory recipient and not a complaint about the publication of the material or the work of a journalist who was not a statutory recipient.

I was aware that under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 such recipients, being persons named in the draft report, could seek amendments or apply to court to ensure that their constitutional rights were not infringed. I was further aware that they were not empowered to seek to publicise the draft for their own purposes — whether nefarious or otherwise. This applies whether the disclosure covers material relating to themselves or material relating to others who might be impugned and who might be in the process of making their own representations. It was also the case under the legislation that I, as specified Minister, was obliged to publish the final report as soon as possible after I received it and that arrangements were in train within my Department to do so at the end of the month. It should be borne in mind that unauthorised disclosure of a draft report by a statutory recipient constitutes a criminal offence even if such disclosure takes place after the final report has been published. In other words it is a permanent rather than a temporary prohibition.

The Bermingham Report on the Dean Lyons case was the first report prepared under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 which was intended to provide a speedier and more cost effective inquiry mechanism than Tribunals of Inquiry. The Secretary General was greatly concerned that there was a real danger that if the provisions of the Act were to be flouted without sanction, the new mechanism could be fatally undermined on its first outing.

Mr. George Bermingham, who was out of the country at the time, was contacted and confirmed that he had not given any written consent to disclosure of the draft report. The Commission staff had also informed the statutory recipients that it was a criminal offence to make a draft report public. However, under section 43 of the Act of 2004, the Commission had been legally dissolved on the submission of its final Report to the Minister on 28 July 2006 and therefore the Commission itself could not pursue the matter. Nonetheless Mr. Bermingham who had been the sole member of the Commission indicated to the Department that he favoured a criminal investigation.

In these circumstances, the Secretary General of my Department decided to make a formal complaint seeking an investigation by the Garda Síochána into the matter and the purpose of his call was to advise me of his intention to do this. He made it clear to me that his decision was not being submitted to me for any form of approval or consent. He further advised that it would be both unnecessary and inappropriate for me to be involved in any way in this decision. The Secretary General contacted a Deputy Commissioner of An Garda Síochána to make the complaint verbally. This was followed up by a formal letter issued on 14 August 2006 setting out the situation insofar as it was known to the Department.

Departmental Expenditure.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

216 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount his Department paid in 2006 for car mileage expenses; the amount paid to cover rail and bus ticket expenses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9778/07]

I wish to inform the Deputy that my Department paid €1.292m in car mileage/km expenses in 2006, of which €445,000 related to payments made under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme. In addition, €25,000 was paid in respect of rail and bus ticket expenses during the same period.

Land Registry.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

217 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of a transaction by a person (details supplied) in County Limerick in the Land Registry Office. [9795/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, under the provisions of the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006, the Property Registration Authority was established as and from 4 November, 2006. The Property Registration Authority replaces the Registrar of Deeds and Titles as the registering authority in relation to property registration in Ireland and, subject to the above Act, is independent in the performance of its functions.

In order to be of assistance I forwarded the Deputy's query to the Authority for its attention and direct reply. I understand that a reply has already issued. I would also like to refer the Deputy to my letter of 26 May, 2006 to members of the Oireachtas regarding a new service for Deputies and Senators concerning the current status of applications of this type. As outlined in my letter, the service was introduced, inter alia, to provide a speedier and more cost effective alternative to submitting Parliamentary Questions.

Departmental Expenditure.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

218 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the cost of energy used running his Department in the year 2002; the cost of doing so in 2006; the quantity of energy used in each of these years to which this cost relates; and his plans to reduce this usage as a contribution to meeting concerns regarding climate change. [9827/07]

I can inform the Deputy that the cost of energy supplied to my Department's offices in 2002 amounted to €319,405. The cost for the year 2006 was €556,596. Data in relation to the quantity of energy supplied is not readily available, however, the Deputy should note that my Department has moved offices since 2002 and has in fact acquired additional accommodation to meet new service delivery needs, notably in the field of immigration. As such a straightforward comparison of energy use between the two years is not feasible.

I can further inform the Deputy that having recently completed its building moves, my Department intends, with the assistance of the Office of Public Works, to carry out an audit of energy use, in line with best practice. Standard and common-sense energy efficiency measures are currently applied in any event.

Departmental Staff.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

219 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on gender balance at each grade in his Department and in agencies that come under the aegis of his Department. [9855/07]

I presume that the Deputy's question refers to administrative civil servants working in my Department and its Agencies. I have set out, in the table under, this information insofar as it relates to my Department and those Agencies whose staff are staff of the Department. It does not include Bodies which recruit their own staff (Courts Service, Legal Aid Board, Property Registration Authority, Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and the Garda Síochána) and I have requested the information from those Bodies and will provide it to the Deputy when it comes to hand.

Before dealing with my Department's figures, it is worth noting that recruitment of staff to the Civil Service is conducted in the main by the Public Appointments Service, and that staff are recruited in accordance with the equality legislation and assigned to Departments as vacancies occur. Having said that, my Department is acutely aware of the need for greater gender balance and significant progress has been made in recent years. At the key middle management grade of Assistant Principal, there are now almost equal numbers of men and women, significantly exceeding the civil service target for women of 33%. Assistant Principal is a key gateway grade to higher levels in the Civil Service and I am confident that this breakthrough will lead to greater numbers of women progressing to the more senior positions in the coming years.

It is also worth noting that a significant number of the Heads of Agency within my Department's remit are women, viz. the Chief Inspector of the Garda Inspectorate, the National Director of the Irish Youth Justice Service, the Chief Executive of the Private Security Authority, the Refugee Applications Commissioner, the Director of the Equality Tribunal, the Director of the National Disability Authority, the Chief Executive of the Property Registration Authority, the State Pathologist, and the Director of the Forensic Science Laboratory.

I will shortly be publishing the National Women's Strategy which will,inter alia, be addressing the issue of Women in Decision Making. It is my view that notwithstanding the significant progress that has been made in recent years, there is more that all of us can do to ensure that women take their rightful place in key positions across the public and private sectors.

Breakdown of Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform Staff by Grade and Gender

Grade

% Male

% Female

Secretary General

100

Nil

Deputy Secretary and equivalent

66

34

Assistant Secretary and equivalent

83

17

Principal Officer and equivalent

77

23

Assistant Principal and equivalent

51

49

Administrative Officer and equivalent

30

70

Higher Executive Officer

44

56

Executive Officer

38

62

Staff Officer

24

76

Clerical Officer

23

77

Other

66

34

Total

37

63

Gaming and Lotteries Acts.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

220 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 162 of 7 March 2007 means that it is not lawful to purchase a lottery ticket in a European state lottery on the Internet from Ireland using a credit card. [9859/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, it is not the function of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to provide legal advice. The position is as stated in my reply to Parliamentary Question 162 on the 7th March 2007.

Garda Operations.

Tony Gregory

Question:

221 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 142 of 29 November 2006, if the Garda authorities will report on the untaxed and uninsured vehicles at a location (details supplied) in Dublin 9; and if they belong to the garage owner referred to. [9867/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that local Garda management in the area referred to is aware of on-going difficulties being experienced by local residents in relation to untaxed and uninsured vehicles being parked on public roads and is examining how the situation can be improved.

I am also informed that in respect of the two vehicles referred to, following receipt of a complaint to a member of the local Community Policing Unit, members from Mountjoy Garda Station conducted enquiries to establish the ownership of these vehicles both of which are registered to private owners. When interviewed they indicated that they had sold the vehicles to the motor trade but could not recall to whom, due to the passage of time.

I am further informed that on 8 March, 2007 a written request was made by Gardaí to the Abandoned Vehicles Section of the local authority concerned to have the vehicles removed. Further enquiries were conducted with car-dealers and garages in the locality regarding ownership of these vehicles but with negative results. Fixed Penalty Notices were affixed to both vehicles in respect of road traffic violations disclosed. I understand from the Garda authorities that the vehicles are no longer parked in the area referred to.

Residency Permits.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

222 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application for long-term residency by a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9872/07]

The position in relation to granting long term residency is as follows: persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements. The dependants of the aforementioned, who have been legally resident in the State for over five years may also apply for long term residency. This particular long term permission does not exempt the person from employment permit requirements.

Time spent in the State on student conditions cannot be counted towards long term residency. While applications for long term residency are under consideration, the person concerned should ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date. An application for long term residence from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in August 2006. I understand that applications received in June 2006 are currently being dealt with. As soon as a decision is made on the case, the person concerned will be notified.

Garda Stations.

Enda Kenny

Question:

223 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the conditions at Portlaoise divisional headquarters; if a new divisional headquarters will be built on a new site or reconstructed on its existing site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9899/07]

I can confirm for the Deputy that the provision of upgraded facilities at Portlaoise station is a priority and that plans to address the accommodation needs there are well advanced.

Visa Applications.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

224 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 39 of 15 February 2007, he will indicate such knowledge as he has of the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 whose child was born here in early 2007; if he will consider favourably this family’s request to allow the mother of this infant leave to remain, if even for a half-year period in order that the child be cared for by its mother in its country of birth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9914/07]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person referred to by the Deputy has recently been granted permission to remain in the State.

Road Traffic Offences.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

225 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 93 of 22 February 2007, the number of penalty points imposed against such persons as referred to in the response to this question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9915/07]

I have informed the Deputy in reply to Parliamentary Question No. 93 of 22 February 2007 that I have been informed by the Garda authorities that since the introduction of the Fixed Charge Processing System prosecutions have been initiated against 41,753 persons who had been issued with a fixed charge notice for a penalty point offence and had failed to pay the fixed charge.

I am informed that in accordance with the provisions of section 2 of the Road Traffic Act, 2002, the Courts Service must notify the Minister for Transport of all convictions requiring the awarding of penalty points. I have no responsibility to the Dáil in relation to the endorsement of penalty points on driving licence record entries.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

226 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9917/07]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 130 of Thursday, 8th March, 2007, and 149 of Thursday, 14th December, 2006 and the written replies to those Questions. The position is unchanged.

Garda Deployment.

Niall Blaney

Question:

227 Mr. Blaney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the strength of the Garda force employed in County Donegal by location; the increase in Garda numbers in this division between 1997, 2002 and 31 December 2006 and in which Garda stations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9930/07]

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 13,178 following the attestation of 273 new members on Wednesday 14 March, 2007. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) on 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,476 (or over 23%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The combined strength (all ranks), of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training on 14 March, 2007 was 14,258. Furthermore, I should say that on 19 December, 2006, as part of a package of anti-crime measures, the Government approved the continuation of the existing Garda recruitment programme to achieve a total Garda strength of 15,000. The accelerated intake of approximately 1,100 new recruits per annum into the Garda College will continue until this target is met. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.4 billion, an 11% increase on 2006 and a 96% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of the Donegal Division by station on 31 December, 1997, 2002, 2006 and 15 March, 2007 was as set out in the table.

Station

31/12/97

31/12/02

31/12/06

15/03/07

Annagry

1

2

2

2

Ardara

3

3

3

3

Ballintra

3

1

2

2

Ballybofey

20

24

21

21

Ballyshannon

35

31

36

35

Brocach

2

1

1

1

Bunbeag

6

5

7

7

Buncrana

36

34

51

51

Bundoran

14

12

12

12

Burnfoot

21

18

12

12

Burtonport

3

2

1

1

Carndonagh

5

5

5

5

Carrick

2

2

2

2

Carrigans

12

8

5

5

Carrigart

3

3

3

3

Castlefin

18

4

3

3

Churchill

1

1

1

1

Clonmany

2

3

2

2

Clougher

1

1

1

1

Convoy

2

4

3

3

Craosloch

1

1

1

1

Culdaff

1

1

-

1

Doochary

1

1

-

-

Donegal Town

29

34

32

32

Dunfanaghy

2

2

4

4

Dungloe

5

6

9

8

Dunkineely

3

2

1

1

Falcarragh

6

6

6

6

Gleann Cholmcille

1

2

1

0

Glenties

19

21

22

23

Kerrykeel

3

3

2

2

Kilmacrennan

2

2

2

2

Letterkenny

90

92

119

121

Lifford

22

15

15

14

Malin

2

3

3

7

Milford

18

20

24

25

Mountcharles

3

3

2

2

Moville

9

9

9

9

Muff

2

4

4

4

Na Cealla Beaga

6

6

7

7

Newtowncunningham

3

3

2

2

Pettigo

13

4

1

1

Ramelton

3

4

4

4

Raphoe

5

7

4

4

Rathmullen

1

1

1

1

Total

440

416

448

453

The personnel strength of the Donegal Division on 31 December, 1997 and 15 March, 2007 was 440 and 453 (all ranks) respectively. This represents an increase of 13 (or 2.9%) in the number of personnel allocated since that date.

The Deputy should appreciate that, as with any large organisation, on any given day, personnel strengths of individual stations and units may fluctuate due, for example, to promotions, retirements and transfers. Resources are further augmented by a number of Garda National Units such as the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), other specialised units and the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), all of which have had increased resources.

I should add that it is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within Divisions. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends and other operational policing needs. Such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

Garda Transport.

Jim Glennon

Question:

228 Mr. Glennon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of patrol cars available in Malahide, Swords, Balbriggan, Skerries, Lusk, Rush and Garristown stations by location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9931/07]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, that the number of vehicles, both marked and unmarked, attached to stations in Malahide, Swords, Balbriggan, Skerries, Lusk, Rush and Garristown is as follows:

Garda Station

No. and Type of Vehicle

Malahide

4 Cars

Swords

6 Cars 1 Van

Balbriggan

5 Cars 1 Van

Skerries

1 Car

Lusk

1 Car

Rush

1 Car

Garristown

1 Car

I have been further informed that an additional 3 cars have been available to Swords station for the duration of a murder investigation.

Garda Deployment.

Michael Mulcahy

Question:

229 Mr. Mulcahy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the strength of the Garda force and community gardaí employed in Crumlin, Kevin Street and Terenure Garda stations; the increase in Garda numbers in these stations between 1997, 2002 and 31 December 2006 and in which Garda stations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9932/07]

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 13,178 following the attestation of 273 new members on Wednesday 14 March, 2007. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) on 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,476 (or over 23%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The combined strength (all ranks), of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training on 14 March, 2007 was 14,258. Furthermore, I should say that on 19 December, 2006, as part of a package of anti-crime measures, the Government approved the continuation of the existing Garda recruitment programme to achieve a total Garda strength of 15,000. The accelerated intake of approximately 1,100 new recruits per annum into the Garda College will continue until this target is met. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.4 billion, an 11% increase on 2006 and a 96% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of Crumlin, Kevin Street and Terenure Garda Stations on 31 December, 1997, 2002, 2006 and 15 March, 2007 was as set out in the table.

District

31/12/97

31/12/02

31/12/06

15/03/07

Crumlin

82

88

98

101

Kevin Street

124

117

127

128

Terenure

49

84

98

101

The personnel strength of Crumlin Garda Station on 31 December, 1997 and 15 March, 2007 was 82 and 101 (all ranks) respectively. This represents an increase of 19 (or 23.1%) in the number of personnel allocated since that date. The personnel strength of Kevin Street Garda Station on 31 December, 1997 and 15 March, 2007 was 124 and 128 (all ranks) respectively. This represents an increase of 4 (or 3.2%) in the number of personnel allocated since that date. The personnel strength of Terenure Garda Station on 31 December, 1997 and 15 March, 2007 was 49 and 101 (all ranks) respectively. This represents an increase of 52 (or 106.1%) in the number of personnel allocated since that date.

I have also been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of Community Gardaí (all ranks) of Crumlin, Kevin Street and Terenure Garda Stations on 31 December, 2006 was as set out in the table.

District

31/12/06

Crumlin

4

Kevin Street

7

Terenure

6

All Gardaí have responsibility,inter alia, to deal with Community Policing issues as they arise. The Deputy should appreciate that, as with any large organisation, on any given day, personnel strengths of individual stations and units may fluctuate due, for example, to promotions, retirements and transfers.

Resources are further augmented by a number of Garda National Units such as the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), other specialised units and the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), all of which have had increased resources. I should add that it is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within Divisions. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends and other operational policing needs. Such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

Noel O'Flynn

Question:

230 Mr. O’Flynn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the strength of the Garda force employed in Cork by division and location; the increase in Garda numbers in each division between 1997, 2002 and 31 December 2006 and in which Garda stations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9933/07]

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 13,178 following the attestation of 273 new members on Wednesday 14 March, 2007. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) on 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,476 (or over 23%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The combined strength (all ranks), of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training on 14 March, 2007 was 14,258. Furthermore, I should say that on 19 December, 2006, as part of a package of anti-crime measures, the Government approved the continuation of the existing Garda recruitment programme to achieve a total Garda strength of 15,000. The accelerated intake of approximately 1,100 new recruits per annum into the Garda College will continue until this target is met. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.4 billion, an 11% increase on 2006 and a 96% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of Cork by Division and District on 31 December, 1997, 2002, 2006 and 15 March, 2007 was as set out in the table.

Division: Cork City

31/12/97

31/12/02

31/12/06

15/03/07

Anglesea Street

257

286

309

312

Gurranabraher

75

91

93

93

Mayfield

103

110

106

105

Togher

105

125

130

132

Total

540

612

638

642

Division: Cork North

Fermoy

63

71

82

81

Cobh

43

53

55

59

Midleton

56

69

69

71

Mallow

47

54

56

59

Total

209

247

262

270

Division: Cork West

Bandon

72

88

97

100

Bantry

36

41

41

42

Clonakilty

41

42

44

43

Kanturk

37

40

42

42

Macroom

37

35

40

41

Total

223

246

264

268

The personnel strength of the Cork City Division on 31 December, 1997 and 15 March, 2007 was 540 and 642 (all ranks) respectively. This represents an increase of 102 (or 18.8%) in the number of personnel allocated since that date. The personnel strength of the Cork North Division on 31 December, 1997 and 15 March, 2007 was 209 and 270 (all ranks) respectively. This represents an increase of 61 (or 29.1%) in the number of personnel allocated since that date. The personnel strength of the Cork West Division on 31 December, 1997 and 15 March, 2007 was 223 and 268 (all ranks) respectively. This represents an increase of 45 (or 20.1%) in the number of personnel allocated since that date.

The Deputy should appreciate that, as with any large organisation, on any given day, personnel strengths of individual stations and units may fluctuate due, for example, to promotions, retirements and transfers. Resources are further augmented by a number of Garda National Units such as the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), other specialised units and the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), all of which have had increased resources.

I should add that it is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within Divisions. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends and other operational policing needs. Such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

Jim Glennon

Question:

231 Mr. Glennon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the strength of the Garda force and community gardaí employed in the Malahide, Swords, Balbriggan, Skerries, Lusk, Rush and Garristown stations by location; the increase in Garda numbers in this division between 1997, 2002 and 31 December 2006 and in which Garda stations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9934/07]

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 13,178 following the attestation of 273 new members on Wednesday 14 March, 2007. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) on 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,476 (or over 23%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The combined strength (all ranks), of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training on 14 March, 2007 was 14,258. Furthermore, I should say that on 19 December, 2006, as part of a package of anti-crime measures, the Government approved the continuation of the existing Garda recruitment programme to achieve a total Garda strength of 15,000. The accelerated intake of approximately 1,100 new recruits per annum into the Garda College will continue until this target is met. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.4 billion, an 11% increase on 2006 and a 96% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have also been informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of Malahide, Swords, Balbriggan, Skerries, Lusk, Rush and Garristown Garda Stations on 31 December, 1997, 2002, 2006 and 15 March, 2007 was as set out in the table.

Station

31/12/97

31/12/02

31/12/06

15/03/07

Malahide

43

43

45

45

Swords

45

57

68

72

Balbriggan

31

35

32

33

Skerries

8

10

11

11

Lusk

4

4

4

4

Rush

5

4

7

7

Garristown

3

3

3

3

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that there are designated Community Gardaí of Malahide, Swords and Balbriggan, Garda Stations as set out in the table.

Station

31/12/06

Malahide

4

Swords

11

Balbriggan

1

All Gardaí have responsibility, inter alia, to deal with Community Policing issues as they arise. It should also be pointed out that resources are further augmented by a number of Garda National Units such as the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), other specialised units and the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), all of which have had increased resources.

The Deputy should appreciate that, as with any large organisation, on any given day, the personnel strength of individual stations and units may fluctuate due, for example, to promotions, retirements and transfers. I should add that it is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within Divisions. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends and other operational policing needs. Such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

232 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9953/07]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person in question was granted permission to remain in the State on the 11th of August 2005 following a Family Reunification application. I understand that the person's permission to remain expired on the 13th March 2007. The Immigration Division has recently written to the person concerned regarding this matter and it is now open to the person referred to by the Deputy to contact their local Immigration Officer to seek to renew their permission to remain.

Citizenship Applications.

Billy Timmins

Question:

233 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to applications for naturalisation for persons (details supplied); if they will be dealt with as speedily as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9955/07]

Applications for certificates of naturalisation from the persons referred to by the Deputy are currently being dealt with by officials in the Citizenship section of my Department. However, as the Deputy and the applicants are aware, a difficulty arose over the identities used by the persons in question on entering the State. My officials are continuing their efforts to satisfactorily resolve this issue. I will inform both the Deputy and the applicants when the matter has been resolved.

Residency Permits.

Michael Ring

Question:

234 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on the residency application for the spouse of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [9956/07]

An application for residency in the State on the basis of marriage to an Irish national was received from the person in question in February 2007. An acknowledgement of receipt of the application was issued on 1 March 2007.

Applications of this kind, in fairness to all other such applications, are dealt with in strict chronological order and currently take approximately twelve months to process. It should be noted that marriage to an Irish national does not confer an automatic right of residence in the State.

Road Traffic Offences.

Joan Burton

Question:

235 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is only one Garda allocated to monitoring speeding for the whole of the Dublin west region; if there are proposals to increase resources for monitoring speeding in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9975/07]

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 13,178 following the attestation of 273 new members on Wednesday 14 March, 2007. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,476 (or over 23%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The combined strength (all ranks), of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training as at 14 March, 2007 was 14,258. Furthermore, I should say that on 19 December, 2006, as part of a package of anti-crime measures, the Government approved the continuation of the existing Garda recruitment programme to achieve a total Garda strength of 15,000. The accelerated intake of approximately 1,100 new recruits per annum into the Garda College will continue until this target is met. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.4 billion, an 11% increase on 2006 and a 96% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have also been informed by the Garda authorities that the Traffic Corps in the DMR West Division, dedicated to the enforcement of road traffic and transport legislation, is made up of one Inspector, three Sergeants and eighteen Gardaí. Members of the Regional Traffic Corps also conduct regular patrols and checkpoints in this Division.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that at present there are ten (10) hand-held speed detection devices allocated to the Division for use by members to detect speeding offences.

Garda Management also state that one static camera for the detection of speeding offences is located in the DMR West on the N4 at Lucan. GATSO vans are regularly allocated at various locations within this Division to detect speeding offences.

Following the enactment of the Road Traffic Act, 2006, the procurement procedure for the provision and operation of safety cameras by a service provider was initiated. I am informed by the Garda authorities that it is intended that the service provider will be required to provide all resources including personnel to collect and process all data on speeding obtained by the mobile and fixed safety cameras used. The service provider will also be required to process data collected by the safety cameras currently operated by An Garda Síochána.

In parallel with this process, work is ongoing with the Garda Síochána and the National Roads Authority on identifying locations that either have a speed related collision history or are of a type where a higher than expected frequency of collisions may be expected to occur. Monitoring of driver speeds by the outsourced service provider will focus on these locations.

Garda Stations.

Joe Costello

Question:

236 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will shut down Mountjoy or Fitzgibbon Street Garda station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9976/07]

I have been informed by the Garda Authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that they have made no decision regarding Fitzgibbon Street Garda Station at this stage. I should add that the formulation of proposals in relation to the opening and closing of Garda stations is a matter, in the first instance, for the Garda Commissioner in the context of the annual policing plan, as provided for in Section 22 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005.

Residency Permits.

Joe Higgins

Question:

237 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason persons (details supplied) have not yet been granted a residence permit despite the fact that such permits should be processed within six months of the application being made. [9977/07]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the application is at the final stage of processing and as soon as a decision is reached the person concerned will be notified of same in writing.

EU Directives.

Bernard Allen

Question:

238 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of EU directives awaiting transposition in his Department; the date by which these directives are to be, or were to be, transposed into Irish law; the number of such EU directives which are overdue for transposition; when the overdue directives will be transposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10056/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the table. I would like to point out that there are no Directives currently overdue for transposition in my Department.

EU Measure

Transposition date

Current position

1

Council Directive 2004/82/EC of 29 April 2004 on the obligation of carriers to communicate passenger data

05/09/2006

The transposition deadline is 6 September 2006. However this date does not apply to Ireland as this is a Schengen-related measure and therefore the deadline only applies to Schengen Member States. The Immigration and Residence Bill will, in the main, provide the legislative vehicle for implementing the provisions of this Directive. Drafting of this Bill is at an advanced stage.

2

Council Directive 2005/7/EC of 12 October 2005 relating to the specific admission procedure for third-country nationals for the purpose of scientific research

12/10/2007

Work is under way to allow for transposition into domestic legislation.

3

Council Directive 2005/85/EC of 1 December 2005, relating to the minimum standards concerning the procedure for granting and withdrawal of refugee status in the Member States

1/12/20071/12/2008 (Article 15)

Work is underway to allow for transposition into domestic legislation.

4

Council Directive 2004/113/EC of 13 December 2004 implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services

21/12/2007

Work is under way to allow for transposition into domestic legislation.

5

Council Directive 2002/90/EC defining the facilitation of unauthorised entry, transit and residence

5/12/2004

The transposition date does not apply to Ireland as this is a Schengen-related measure and therefore the deadline only applies to Schengen Member States. The legislative changes required to transpose this Directive will be brought forward by means of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which is expected to be published this year.

6

Council Directive 2001/40/EC of 28 May 2001 on the mutual recognition of decisions on the expulsion of third country nationals

Original deadline 2/12/2002 (No longer relevant)

The transposition date does not apply to Ireland as this is a Schengen-related measure and therefore the deadline only applies to Schengen Member States. The instrument is due to be repealed by the draft Council Directive on common standards on procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third country nationals. Discussions on this instrument are ongoing at Council working group level.

7

Directive 2006/24/EC of 15 March 2006 of the European Parliament and Council on the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks and amending Directive 2002/58/EC.

17/9/2007

Ireland has challenged the legal base of this Directive before the European Court of Justice.

8

Directive 2005/60/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 26 October 2005 on the prevention of the use of financial systems for the purpose of money laundering and terrorist financing

15/12/2007

The Minister for Finance has the overall responsibility for the implementation of the Directive. However, a number of amendments to the criminal law will also arise for which my Department is responsible. Arrangements for the assessment of the legislative changes required are already in train with a view to meeting the transposition deadline.

Proposed Legislation.

Denis Naughten

Question:

239 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will introduce the Criminal Justice (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10088/07]

Denis Naughten

Question:

240 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will sign the UN Protocol on Trafficking and the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10089/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 239 and 240 together.

As I informed the House on 31 January the Government approved the drafting of the Criminal Law (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill 2006 last July. It is at present being drafted in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.

The Bill is criminal law legislation which will implement the criminal law aspects of EU, UN and Council of Europe instruments on trafficking by creating offences of recruiting, transporting, transferring to another person, harbouring or knowingly arranging or facilitating:

(a) the entry into, travel within or departure from, the State of a person, or

(b) the provision of accommodation or employment in the State for that person, for the purpose of that person's exploitation. The term "exploitation" in the Bill is defined as meaning sexual or labour exploitation or the removal of a person's organs for the purpose of transplanting into another person. A copy of the draft Bill as approved by Government is available on my Department's website.

The UN Protocol to prevent and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, was signed by Ireland in December 2000 and I recently announced my intention to ask the Government to sign the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings. I also stated that it is intended, as part of the new immigration policy framework to provide a clear policy statement setting out how these cases will be managed once it is established that trafficking has taken place. I would reiterate, however, that the lack of a specific legislative provision on the victims of trafficking has in no way reduced Ireland's commitment to dealing with cases sympathetically as they arise.

Garda Equipment.

Paul McGrath

Question:

241 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if gardaí who are operating machinery for breath tests are required to wear gloves to prevent the possibility of cross contamination from tested persons. [10090/07]

Paul McGrath

Question:

242 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the possibility of cross contamination of infections of persons who are breath tested when the garda administering the test was not wearing sterile gloves. [10091/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 241 and 242 together.

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that there is no legal, operational or manufacturer's requirement for members of An Garda Síochána operating alcometer breath-testing equipment to wear gloves. Instructions on the correct handling of mouth-pieces to avoid contamination are given as part of the specific training members of An Garda Síochána receive in the use of alcometer breath-testing equipment.

Witness Intimidation.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

243 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a process involving two-way mirrors is available for the holding of identity parades, in order that the person who may have been a rape victim or a victim of serious assault and who is identifying the offender does not have their own identity disclosed. [10092/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that formal identification parades are the main way identification of a suspect by a victim or witness is tested prior to court. Instructions issued to every member of An Garda Síochána set out how, based on established best practice and case law precedent, a parade should be conducted. At present this process does not involve a two-way mirror.

The current procedure used by An Garda Síochána was introduced following advice from the Law Officers. In order to ensure that there is no doubt as to the person the victim or witness has identified, it is necessary that a clear identification is made. This may be done in a number of ways, including pointing to or stating the position of a person on the line-up or stating a number assigned to them. Prior to this the procedure necessitated the witness or victim placing their hand on the shoulder of the person as part of the identification process.

The conduct of identification parades generally is an issue I am reviewing at present with a view to seeing what improvements, if any, might be made, including the possibility of making the procedure less traumatic for victims or witnesses.

Visa Applications.

Joe Costello

Question:

244 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on the visa application of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 7; when the passports of the applicants will be returned to them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10125/07]

I understand from the Immigration Division of my Department that the persons concerned have recently been granted permission to remain in the State and that the passports have been returned to them.

Coroners Service.

Joe Costello

Question:

245 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will honour his commitment to pay the cost of independent forensic tests in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10128/07]

I wish to state at the outset that at no time was a commitment made by me to pay the costs of independent forensic tests in this case. My understanding is that agreement was reached under the auspices of the Coroner between the Garda Síochána, the Forensic Science Laboratory and solicitors for the Wheelock family to allow experts appointed by the Wheelock family to attend the Laboratory and carry out an examination of certain exhibits. A Coroner's Inquest is an independent inquisitorial process and it would have been wholly improper for me to attempt to play any role in this agreement. Consequently the agreement did not represent an implicit undertaking on the part of State to pay for the independent analysis.

However, I did offer the family an ex gratia payment for their representation as a unit at the Inquest. That offer of legal assistance was to cover costs relating to the provision of oral and written legal advice, along with representation by a solicitor or barrister at the Inquest. The offer was expressed to be subject to the then maximum Government approved rates for representation at Tribunals of Inquiry — i.e. €800 per day for a solicitor, €744 per day for a junior counsel or €1116 per day for a senior counsel.

When the issue of payment for independent forensic analysis was raised with me by the family solicitors I gave the matter due consideration. Unlike a criminal trial an Inquest is not an adversarial process. The person who decides who gives evidence is the Coroner. I ascertained from the Coroner that he had not directed that an independent forensic analysis be commissioned and that evidence of a third party expert would not be admissible at the Inquest.

Given the nature of the process and the fact that there is already independent evidence available to the Coroner, I was not prepared to meet the costs relating to the engagement of independent experts to facilitate forensic examination where the only purpose would be to act as private advisors to Counsel as distinct from giving evidence. This decision was conveyed to the family's solicitor on the 1 August 2006.

Garda Strength.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

246 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the delay in replying to Parliamentary Question No. 202 of 6 February 2007; if an urgent response can be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10143/07]

I refer the Deputy to my letter to him of 27 February 2007, issued as a follow up to Question No. 202, which sets out the information sought by the Deputy.

Citizenship Applications.

John Deasy

Question:

247 Mr. Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the exact requirements for citizenship for an individual who is married to an Irish citizen; the length of time that person must be resident before applying for citizenship; if he can grant discretion in certain cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10170/07]

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. In the case of a non national applicant who is the spouse of an Irish citizen those conditions are that the applicant must:

be of full age

be of good character

be married to the Irish citizen for at least 3 years

be in a marriage recognised under the laws of the State as subsisting

be living together as husband and wife with the Irish spouse

have had a period of one year's continuous residency in the island of Ireland immediately before the date of the application and, during the four years immediately preceding that period, have had a total residence in the island of Ireland amounting to two years.

intend in good faith to continue to reside in the island of Ireland after naturalisation

have made, either before a Judge of the District Court in open court or in such a manner as the Minister, for special reasons allows, a declaration in the prescribed manner, of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State.

Section 16 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended provides that I can exercise my absolute discretion to waive some or all of the statutory requirements for naturalisation in certain circumstances, e.g. where the applicant is of Irish descent or Irish associations, where the applicant is a person who is a refugee within the meaning of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or where the person is the spouse of an Irish citizen or a naturalised person.

Data Protection.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

248 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the persons arrested for drunk driving and who subsequently were not convicted have had their names removed from the Garda PULSE system as being drunk drivers in compliance with the Data Protection Act 1988. [10261/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that data entered onto PULSE, the crime recording system, is entered in compliance with the Data Protection Acts. I am further informed that incidents where required are updated and marked invalid if such be the case. If a person is not convicted in a court the result of the case is marked as non-conviction.

Visa Applications.

Billy Timmins

Question:

249 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to a person (details supplied) who has applied for an education visa; if this will be granted as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10279/07]

The application referred to by the Deputy was recently received in the Visa Office, Moscow. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the visa application in question has been approved.

Equality Issues.

Liz McManus

Question:

250 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the national women’s strategy will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10357/07]

Arrangements are being made for publication of the National Women's Strategy in the very near future.

Garda Operations.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

251 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people within a group (details supplied) under Garda surveillance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10358/07]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

252 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons in County Mayo and particularly persons within a group (details supplied) who have had surveillance carried out on their telephones taking into account the legislation readily available to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10359/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 251 and 252 together.

It is not the practice and it would be contrary to the public interest to comment upon the existence or otherwise of covert Garda operational measures and associated details, if and where applicable.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

253 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10371/07]

The person referred to by the Deputy applied for a certificate of naturalisation in January 2003 and I decided to refuse the application. The reason for my decision was disclosed to the individual concerned in a letter dated 10 July 2006. It is open to the person in question to submit a further application at any time provided he satisfies the relevant statutory conditions. In doing so, however, he should give due regard to my reasons for refusing the previous application.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

254 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10373/07]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications. As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted. A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

I am also informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person in question is currently the subject of a Family Reunification application submitted in October 2006. The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. This investigation is completed and the Commissioner has forwarded a report to my Department. This application for Family Reunification will be considered by my Department and a decision will issue in due course.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

255 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10374/07]

The person concerned claimed asylum in the State on 7 January 2004 and had her claim examined by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, following which it was recommended that she should be recognised as a refugee.

Based on this recommendation, the person concerned was advised of my decision to issue her with a formal declaration of refugee status by letter dated 16 August 2005. This communication also advised the person concerned of the rights and entitlements accompanying refugee status in the State. The person concerned continues to hold the status of refugee in the State.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

256 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10375/07]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that I have approved this application. The Citizenship section of my Department has written to the person concerned informing him of my decision. He has also been advised of the formalities to be completed before a certificate of naturalisation can issue. Once such matters are completed, a certificate of naturalisation will issue as soon as possible thereafter.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

257 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to a residency application in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 2; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10376/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

While it is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications, I am advised that the finalisation of the case referred to by the Deputy must await the outcome of Judicial Review proceedings.

Citizenship Applications.

Tom Hayes

Question:

258 Mr. Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary who has applied for citizenship. [10428/07]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to was received in the Citizenship section of my Department in October 2006. The case was recently submitted to me for a decision as to whether it might be expedited. However, as no reason has been put forward by the Deputy which would justify the application being dealt with ahead of other applicants, I decided that it should be processed in the normal manner.

Officials in the Citizenship section are currently processing applications received in the latter half of 2004 and have approximately 10,450 applications on hand to be dealt with before that of the person in question. I will inform the Deputy and the person concerned when I have reached a decision on the application.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

259 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the closed circuit television schemes in Dublin 8, 10, 12 and 20 which have received or are expected to receive grant aid from his Department. [10429/07]

As the Deputy is aware I launched the Community Based CCTV Scheme in June 2005 in response to the demonstrated demand from local communities across Ireland for the provision of CCTV systems. This Scheme is designed to provide financial assistance to qualifying local organisations towards meeting the capital costs associated with the establishment of local community CCTV systems. This Scheme offers two types of funding:

Stage 1 offers a pre-development grant of up to €5,000 to enable qualifying applicants investigate the need for CCTV in their area and to complete a detailed proposal, for submission under Stage 2. Stage 2 is a direct Application Process for organisations who consider that they can develop and deliver a CCTV Programme immediately. It enables communities to avail of grant aid funding of up to €100,000 from this Department to install a CCTV system in their area. In addition, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has given a commitment to provide successful applications from RAPID areas with a further grant to a maximum of €100,000 subject to the total grant-aid from both Departments not exceeding €200,000 or 100% of the capital costs of the project, whichever is the lesser.

I have been informed by Pobal, who have been engaged to administer the Scheme on behalf of my Department, that in the areas referred to by the Deputy, the following applications have been received: Dublin City Council — (Liberties Area, Oliver Bond complex) — applied for Stage 1 (pre-development grant) and received €5,000. Pobal invited all groups who received Stage 1 grants to apply for stage 2 funding. The group applied within the closing date of the end of January 2007 for stage 2 funding and Pobal are now carrying out evaluations of this and other applications received under this round of the scheme.

When the scheme was first launched, The Base, Ballyfermot and the Islamic Foundation (South Circular Road) both applied for Stage 2 funding in September, 2005. Following a thorough assessment of their applications both groups application for funding was deemed not to reach a high enough standard to be granted funding. Pobal have provided direct feedback to the unsuccessful applicants under the Scheme.

A new round of funding under the Community Based CCTV Scheme was advertised on 1 December 2006. The closing date for applications was 28 February 2007. I have been informed by Pobal that under this round an application for Stage 2 funding has been received from Dublin City Council (St. Teresa's Gardens Youth Project). This application will be evaluated by Pobal and recommendations will be made by end May 2007.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

260 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to a closed circuit television scheme being proposed for the Cleggen area of Ballyfermot; the exact sites that have been chosen for cameras; if there has been or is intended to be local public consultation on the matter; the person who will be responsible for the scheme and its monitoring; and if it is connected in any way with his Department. [10430/07]

Garda based CCTV Systems are a positive aid to policing and public safety and act as a deterrent to crime and public disorder. The schemes are usually located within the commercial and recreational areas of our towns and cities.

Applications for Garda CCTV systems are assessed by the CCTV Advisory Committee (a committee set up by the Garda Commissioner) on the basis of Garda operational needs and take into account the following criteria:

crime/public order statistics in the area;

population and level of activity there;

the recommendation of local Garda management;

any special circumstances/needs that exist; and

the likely impact of a Garda CCTV system on the area.

In October, 2006, the Garda authorities sought tenders for the provision of 3 systems — Ballyfermot, Clondalkin and Tullamore. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Ballyfermot CCTV system will be made up of eighteen cameras at the following locations:

(1) Ballyfermot Road/Cherry Orchard Industrial Estate,

(2) Ballyfermot Road/Clifden Road,

(3) Ballyfermot Road/Le Fanu Road,

(4) Ballyfermot Road/Tesco's Junction,

(5) Decies Road/O'Hogan Road,

(6) Decies Road/Garryowen Road,

(7) Ballyfermot Road/Garryowen Road,

(8) Kylemore Road/Le Fanu Road,

(9 ) Ballyfermot Road/Colepark Drive,

(10) Raheen Park/Cloverhill Road,

(11) Kylemore Avenue/Ballyfermot Road,

(12) Clifden Road/Clifden Drive,

(13) Cherry Orchard Avenue/Blackditch Road,

(14) Claddagh Green Shopping Area,

(15) Sarsfield Road/St. Lawrences Road,

(16 ) Kylemore Road/Labre Park,

(17) Cleggan Park/Drumfinn Avenue,

(18) Kennelsforth Road/Old Lucan Road.

Details of the proposed installation were advertised in the national newspapers and in accordance with normal planning processes are available for inspection at Ballyfermot Garda Station, Dublin City Council Planning Department Wood Quay and Garda Headquarters Phoenix Park.

The scheme is under the control of the local Garda District Officer and will be monitored in Ballyfermot Garda Station.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

261 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the erection of a closed circuit television scheme in the Lisadell area of Drimnagh; if there was local public consultation on the matter; the person who is responsible for the scheme and its monitoring; and if it is connected in any way with his Department. [10431/07]

As the Deputy may be aware I launched the Community Based CCTV Scheme in June 2005 in response to the demonstrated demand from local communities across Ireland for the provision of CCTV systems. This Scheme is designed to provide financial assistance to qualifying local organisations towards meeting the capital costs associated with the establishment of local community CCTV systems. Pobal have been engaged to administer the Scheme on behalf of my Department. Grant aid funding of up to €100,000 is available from my Department with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs providing matching funds for successful applications from RAPID areas.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the CCTV System referred to by the Deputy is not a Garda CCTV System. I have also been informed by Pobal that no application for funding under the Community Based CCTV Scheme has been received from any group/organisation in the Lisadell area of Drimnagh.

Asylum Applications.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

262 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a determination will be made in the appeal by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 2; and if the applicant has been communicated with to ensure that they are familiar with the way the asylum process works. [10432/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

263 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the hunger strike of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 2 whose frustration with the slow progress of their application has led them to taking this action; and if he will arrange for officials from his Department to meet with the applicant to reassure him that their appeal against refusal for asylum will receive due regard when it is being considered; and if he will indicate to them the timeframe for their appeal. [10433/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 262 and 263 together.

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications and I do not propose to do so in this case. As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process within the framework of the Refugee Act, 1996 comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

Applicants are provided with comprehensive information material on the asylum process. In addition, applicants who appeal to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal have the opportunity to submit detailed grounds of appeal and are provided with information material on the appeals process. Applicants also have access to legal advice at all stages of the asylum process provided by the Refugee Legal Service. A final decision will be made on receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Residency Permits.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

264 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the application for the right to remain by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 which had previously been granted on a temporary basis on 19 November 2003. [10434/07]

The persons in question entered the state on 18 September 1999 and applied for asylum. They were unsuccessful in their claim at initial stage with the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and at appeal before the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, both of which are statutory independent bodies. They where informed of the decision to refuse to grant them refugee status by the Minister on 01/05/2002.

These applicants challenged the decision through the medium of judicial review on three separate occasions. This delayed finalising their case. Their request to remain in the state is being considered at present. I expect their file to be submitted to me for my decision in due course.

Official Engagements.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

265 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide a list of each of the occasions he has visited each of the prisons in the State since he became Minister. [10449/07]

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

Prison

Date Visited

St. Patrick's Institution

03/07/2002

Portlaoise Prison

17/02/2003

Wheatfield

21/06/2002 12/11/2004

Castlerea

19/01/2006

Limerick

20/10/2006

Mountjoy Complex

24/07/2003

Cork

29/04/2003

Spike Island

05/04/2004

Cloverhill

21/06/2002

12/07/2004

12/11/2004

05/12/2005

Shelton Abbey

09/02/2007

Garda Operations.

Tony Gregory

Question:

266 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to a matter (details supplied); if he will ask the Garda Commissioner to ensure that no repetition of these events is allowed to happen in 2007 or in future years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10467/07]

Policing arrangements for public events and in locations generally, along with the allocation of Garda resources, are a matter for the Garda Commissioner. Where such events take place the Garda authorities work closely with local residents in order to avoid as far as possible disruption to local communities.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that an extensive policing plan, covering the area referred to, is put in place by local Garda management for every event held at the venue in question. As part of this plan members of An Garda Síochána are detailed for duty on the main thoroughfares and at licensed premises surrounding the venue. Specific areas which have been identified as prone to incidents of public disorder or anti-social behaviour are the subject of particular Garda attention in order to ensure a concentrated and visible Garda presence. Dedicated public order patrols are also on duty in the surrounding areas and proactively target the types of incidents referred to by the Deputy.

I understand that local Garda management is aware of the specific complaints referred to by the Deputy. The area referred to is closely monitored by the Garda authorities and is subject to regular Garda patrols by uniform and plain-clothes personnel on the days where events are held at the venue referred to. Members of the local Community Policing Unit attend community meetings and record and report to local Garda management any concerns or issues from local residents which may have occurred when events take place. The Garda authorities take account of concerns expressed and policing plans for future events are amended accordingly. I am assured by the Garda authorities that they will continue to give the matter their ongoing attention.

Juvenile Offenders.

John Curran

Question:

267 Mr. Curran asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of young people taking part in the Garda youth diversion project in Clondalkin and Lucan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10485/07]

John Curran

Question:

268 Mr. Curran asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of young people from Clondalkin and Lucan referred to the juvenile diversion programme for the years 2004, 2005, 2006 and to date in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10486/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 267 and 268 together.

Garda Youth Diversion Projects are community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiatives which seek to divert young people from becoming involved (or further involved) in anti-social and/or criminal behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development, and promote civic responsibility and improve long-term employability prospects. By doing so, the projects also contribute to improving the quality of life within communities and enhancing Garda/community relations.

There are currently 84 Garda Youth Diversion Projects funded and administered through the Community Relations Section of An Garda Síochána. The allocation of funding for these Projects (along with 7 Local Drug Task Force Projects) in 2007 is just over €9.8 million, which is an increase of 48% on 2006. It is my intention to ensure that 100 projects will be established nationwide before the end of 2007. The projects are particularly targeted at 10-18 year old "at risk" youths in communities where a specific need has been identified.

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that there is a total of five Garda Youth Diversion Projects operating in the areas of Clondalkin/Lucan/Ballyfermot. There are currently 178 young people taking part in these projects. In addition to the Garda Youth Diversion Projects, the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme provides an opportunity to divert juvenile offenders from criminal activity. It operates on a nationwide basis under the supervision and direction of the Garda National Juvenile Office, Harcourt Square, Dublin 2. The Programme provides that, in certain circumstances, a young person under 18 years of age, who freely accepts responsibility for a criminal incident, may be cautioned as an alternative to prosecution.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the operation of the Programme that the number of young people from the Clondalkin and Lucan areas referred to the juvenile diversion programme for the years 2004, 2005, 2006 and to date in 2007 are as follows:

Year

Total

2004

319

2005

389

2006

499

2007 to date

82

Residency Permits.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

269 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status regarding the case of a person (details supplied) seeking Irish residence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10487/07]

The person in question was granted permission to remain in the State under the revised arrangements for parents of Irish children born prior to 1 January 2005, commonly referred to as the IBC/05 scheme. A letter granting permission to remain in the State for two years issued on 13 September 2005.

Advertisements inviting applications for renewal of permission to remain granted under the IBC/05 scheme were placed in National Newspapers on 31 January 2007. It is open to the person in question to submit an application for consideration to my Department. Details of the Scheme and the renewals process can be found on my Department's website (www.justice.ie).

Decentralisation Programme.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

270 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of civil servants in his Department that have transferred to offices outside Dublin under the decentralisation programme to date; the percentage of these who had a previous transfer within a two year period of the decentralisation transfer; the number of these people who transferred from a non-Dublin office to a Dublin office in the initial transfer; the average time spent in the Dublin office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10533/07]

Under my Department's Decentralisation Programme, around nine hundred posts are scheduled to transfer from twelve agencies to seven locations around the country. To date, one hundred and thirteen civil servants from within my Department have been re-assigned to provincial locations. By the second half of this year, we will have a presence in all seven locations when over four hundred posts will have moved. This will account for 46% of my Department's overall target with three years of the programme still to run.

During this phase of my Department's programme, thirteen people have transferred from a non-Dublin office for training, spending on average eight weeks in Dublin for that purpose. The information sought by the Deputy in respect of staff who transferred prior to their decentralisation assignment cannot be compiled without the usage of a disproportionate amount of staff resources which would not be warranted.

Proposed Legislation.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

271 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he plans to amend equality legislation to prevent discrimination on grounds (details supplied). [8556/07]

The Employment Equality Acts 1998 and 2004 and the Equal Status Acts, 2000 to 2004 prohibit direct and indirect discrimination in the area of employment and in the provision of goods and services respectively, on nine grounds. These grounds are gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race and membership of the Traveller community.

The Employment Equality Act 1998, as amended by the Equality Act 2004, deals comprehensively with all areas relevant to employment, including access to employment, conditions of employment, remuneration, promotion and vocational training. This Act provides for a review of its operation with a view to assessing whether there is need to add to the discriminatory grounds set out in the Act.

This review commenced in 2001 and included a Round Table conference involving the social partners, relevant Government Departments, the Equality Authority, the Equality Tribunal and the Labour Court. It was argued by some interest groups that the Employment Equality Act should be amended to include the following new grounds socio-economic status (including social origin), trade union membership, criminal conviction/ex-prisoner/ex-offender and political opinion. It was also acknowledged, however, that the legislation, which has led to new challenges for enforcement bodies, employers and Government, is relatively new and that the practical implications of extending its scope to include the proposed new grounds would require detailed examination and debate. As part of the process UCC Law Department was commissioned to carry out a comparative review of the international experience of employment legislation prohibiting discrimination on some of the grounds suggested. Following completion of this review Government has decided not to add to the existing nine grounds contained in the Employment Equality Act.

The Equal Status Act 2000 also provides for a review of its operation to assess whether there is need to add to the discriminatory grounds covered by the Act. This review, which is a commitment under the Programme for Government and had been postponed pending completion of the review of the operation of the Employment Equality Acts, will now commence in April 2007 with a view to finalising a recommendation to Government in September 2007.

The Deputy will note that the list of grounds on which discrimination is outlawed already includes race, ethnic origin, nationality, colour, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, family status, religious belief and membership of the Traveller community.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

272 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he plans to initiate legislation to ratify Optional Protocol 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights in order to provide a full guarantee of workers’ fundamental right to freedom from discrimination. [8555/07]

My Department is considering, in consultation with other Departments, the legal and policy implications of ratification. The Government will consider whether or not to ratify based on a thorough review of the implications.

Departmental Communications.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

273 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the services and facilities available to persons with a hearing disability who wish to phone his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10956/07]

In keeping with the principles contained in my Department's Customer Charter and the requirements of the Disability Act, my Department endeavours to ensure, insofar as is practicable, that information provided orally is also available in an accessible format where required by persons with a hearing impairment.

An internal advisory group monitors the provision of services to persons with a disability and an Access Officer has also been appointed to assist in identifying and meeting particular needs in this field. Insofar as oral communication is concerned, and taking into account the inherent limitations of telephone services in assisting persons with a hearing impairment, the Department's policy emphasises the use of alternative two-way communication formats, especially email, as well as the provision in a written format of information which might otherwise be sought orally. In this latter regard, a major project to enhance the content and accessibility of the Department's website is currently at an advanced stage. Particular emphasis will be placed on making available comprehensive FAQ and Application Forms sections on the website, so as to reduce the necessity to make oral contact with the Department for routine enquiries or information requests. The Department has also been introducing loop systems in its key buildings in order to make communication easier and will continue to monitor the best means of meeting the needs of this particular group of customers.

Disabled Drivers.

Marian Harkin

Question:

274 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Finance if there is flexibility in the medical criteria for a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon to receive a primary medical certificate under the Disabled Drivers (Tax Concessions) Regulations, 1994. [9574/07]

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and VRT (up to certain limit) on the purchase of a car adapted for the transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, as well as relief from excise on the fuel used in the car up to a certain limit.

The disability criteria for eligibility for the tax concessions under this scheme are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. To get the Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be severely and permanently disabled and satisfy one of the following conditions:

(a) be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs;

(b) be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs;

(c) be without both hands or without both arms;

(d) be without one or both legs;

(e) be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg;

(f) have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

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.

I understand the person concerned has appealed the decision to refuse them a Primary Medical Certificate, to the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal. The Medical Board of Appeal is independent in the exercise of its functions. Queries in respect of the appeal should be addressed by the person concerned to the Secretary to the Board, Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, c/o National Rehabilitation Hospital, Rochestown Avenue, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin, Ph: 01-2355279.

Tax Code.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

275 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Finance if his Department has plans to extend the VAT exemption, which is currently available to fishermen who own boats of 15 tons and over, to smaller fishermen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9739/07]

I presume the Deputy is seeking an extension to sea-fishing boats of 15 tons or less of the zero-rating that applies to the supply, modification, repair and maintenance and hiring of such boats that are over 15 tons. The position is that the VAT regime and indeed the rating of all goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. Under EU VAT law we are precluded from extending the zero VAT rating regime. However, VAT registered fishermen can claim recovery of VAT suffered on boats of 15 tons or less and on their other business inputs in the normal way on their VAT returns.

An unregistered fisherman may claim repayment of any VAT incurred on the purchase, intra-Community acquisition, importation, hire, maintenance and repair of sea-fishing vessels of a gross tonnage of not more than 15 tons, provided the fishing vessel concerned has been the subject of a grant or loan from An Bord Iascaigh Mhara. In addition, unregistered fisherman may claim repayment of VAT on the purchase, intra-Community acquisition, importation, hire, maintenance and repair of specified fishing equipment for use in such vessels. The following are specified fishing equipment: anchors, autopilots, bilge and deck pumps, buoys and floats, compasses, cranes, echo graphs, echo sounders, electrical generating sets, fish boxes, fish finders, fishing baskets, life boats and life rafts, marine lights, marine engines, net drums, net hauliers, net sounders, radar apparatus, radio navigational aid apparatus, radio telephones, refrigeration plant, trawl doors, trawl gallows and winches.

Application for repayments by unregistered fishermen should be made on Form VAT 58A to the Central Repayments Office, Revenue Commissioners, The Plantation, Monaghan (Telephone 047-81425). Applications for repayment must be submitted within four years from the end of the taxable period to which the claim relates.

Garda Stations.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

276 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if he will sanction the proposals to commence the redevelopment of the old derelict Garda station at Dunmanway, County Cork. [10093/07]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

319 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that all outstanding issues, including confirmation of title and otherwise have been cleared up in relation to the Garda station at Dunmanway, County Cork and that the long promised upgrading of the station will now proceed. [10086/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 276 and 319 together.

The Commissioners of Public Works have agreed terms with the vendors for the purchase of a strip of land to the rear of Dunmanway Garda Station. The Chief State Solicitor awaits confirmation of title from the vendor's solicitors. It is essential that contracts be signed in advance of any redevelopment of the existing Garda Station. The Commissioners of Public Works have also advertised both nationally and locally for a greenfield site in Dunmanway. The closing date for receipt of proposals is 30th March 2007.

Disabled Drivers.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

277 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the relationship there must be between a person in receipt of a primary medical certificate and the person availing of the relief when purchasing a vehicle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10260/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a person claiming for relief of taxes under The Disabled Drivers and the Disabled Passengers [Tax Concessions] Regulations 1994 on behalf of a person in possession of a Primary Medical Certificate must be a family member of the said person. While the direct relationship between the driver and the disabled person is not defined by law the Commissioners consider each case on its merits and take a sensitive approach in coming to a decision regarding eligibility. Explanatory Leaflet VRT 7 contains details of the Tax Relief Scheme for People with Disabilities. It is available on the Revenue website at www.revenue.ie

Flood Relief.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

278 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he will directly or through Kildare County Council address the issue of the retaining wall at Captain’s Hill, Leixlip, County Kildare built in compliance with conditions set out through the Planning and Development Act 2000 and now the cause of flooding and a potential danger to nearby residents in Dún Carraig; if he will take appropriate action to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10548/07]

The Office of Public Works and Kildare County Council have agreed a programme of works to alleviate flooding on the Silleachain River at Mill Lane and on the Rye River including the Dún Carraig estate. The outline design for these proposals is currently being considered for planning approval in accordance with Part 8 of the planning and development regulations and it is envisaged that subject to approval, agreement by all affected parties and adherence to a tight framework, construction will commence on flood alleviation measures for the Leixlip area in early summer of this year.

I am advised that the retaining wall at Captain's Hill, while it may be contributing to surface water drainage problems in the area is not a factor in flooding from the Rye River, which the proposed works are intended to address.

Public Service Charges.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

279 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if he will initiate a review of user fees and service charges for essential public services to examine their impact on low income families with a view to bringing forward proposals to reduce the proportion of funding of public services which comes from charges to members of the public who utilise such services. [10455/07]

The level at which user fees and service charges, and where appropriate waiver schemes, are applied is primarily a matter for each relevant Department and public body to determine, in accordance with the statutory, administrative and regulatory frameworks that may apply in each case having regard to the nature of the service. The Deputy should raise the matter with the relevant Minister.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paul McGrath

Question:

280 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if a site has been identified for the decentralisation of the Department of Education and Science to Mullingar; if the contract has been awarded; if so, when the contract was awarded; the site chosen; the time frame for works on this site; when the Department is due to take up residency in Mullingar; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9403/07]

Terms have been agreed on a suitable site in Mullingar. Contracts for sale are being processed by the Chief State Solicitor.

An advertisement was placed by the Office of Public Works (OPW) in the national newspapers and in the Official Journal of the European Union seeking Expressions of Interest from experienced developers/contractors who wished to be considered in connection with the provision of office accommodation for the Department of Education and Science in Mullingar. This is part of a major PPP project which also involves the provision of office accommodation for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in Carlow and the Department of Agriculture and Food in Portlaoise. The project will be procured on a Design/Build/Finance/Maintain basis and a single contract will be placed covering the three buildings. Financial advice is being provided to the OPW by the National Development Finance Agency.

Evaluation of the Expressions of Interest received has now been completed and a short-list of developers/contractors has been identified from whom tenders will be invited in the very near future. When selected, it will be a matter for the preferred tenderer to secure a satisfactory planning permission in respect of each of the locations. On receipt of satisfactory planning permissions, the preferred tenderer will be instructed to prepare working drawings, specifications and Bills of Quantities with a view to a contract being placed and construction work commencing on the three sites. All going well, construction is expected to be completed in early 2009.

Garda Stations.

Tom McEllistrim

Question:

281 Mr. McEllistrim asked the Minister for Finance when the proposed long overdue building for Castleisland Garda station will be finally expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9430/07]

A revised sketch scheme incorporating the many changes requested by the gardaí in respect of the proposed new Area Headquarters at Castleisland will be forwarded to the Garda Authorities next week. On receipt of approval of the revised sketch scheme a Part 9 planning process will be initiated.

Question No. 282 answered with QuestionNo. 156.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

283 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance if a recent audit has been carried out on all public buildings, to ensure that they are fitted with appropriate equipment for deaf people, including counter loops, flashing light fire alarms and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9480/07]

The Commissioners of Public Works have advised that, in respect of public buildings in their care, access audits are carried out on an ongoing basis. Audio Frequency Induction Loop Systems are being installed at all reception and meeting room facilities as part of the OPW's Universal Access Programme. Visual alarm systems are being installed where required when alarm systems are replaced or upgraded.

Tax Code.

Willie Penrose

Question:

284 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance the steps he will take to have an application for tax credits by a person (details supplied) dealt with as quickly as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9494/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the certificate of tax credits and standard rate cut-off point has already issued to the named individual and his employer. The named individual contacted Revenue on 19 February regarding his tax credit certificate. His request was dealt with and a certificate issued on 5 March. It emerged that one allowance was not included on this and a further certificate issued on 7 March.

Garda Stations.

Bernard Allen

Question:

285 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Finance the number of sites identified in the Glanmire area of County Cork for the development of a new Garda station; when a decision will be made to identify a specific site for the development of the new station; and when planning will commence for that station. [9505/07]

The Commissioners of Public Works recently received 8 proposals following an advertisement placed both locally and nationally for a site for a new Garda Station in Glanmire. It is expected that an architectural assessment will take place soon. Should one of the sites be found to be suitable, the acquisition process will commence immediately. Design work on the new station will commence soon thereafter.

Tax Code.

Pat Carey

Question:

286 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance if he will address an apparent tax anomaly whereby a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 who is outside the tax net is unable to claim a refund on medical and other expenses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9509/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that as the person's tax credits are sufficient to cover the tax due on her total income, she has no liability to tax. Under the provisions of sections 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 (relief for health expenses), refunds can only be made in respect of health expenses where there is tax available to repay. As the person in question did not pay any tax, there is no tax available to refund to her.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Joan Burton

Question:

287 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance if there are proposals to take account of inflation and conduct a review of the payment for children aged under six announced in budget 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9527/07]

In the normal course of events, the practice is to review various payment support arrangements, such as the Early Childcare Supplement, in the run up to the annual Estimates and Budget, taking account of all relevant factors such as inflation and other changing circumstances.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

288 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the percentage of a matured SSIA that is deducted in exit tax; if there are special arrangements for pensioners who are on low incomes that fall well below the tax bracket; if such persons have to pay the exit tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9528/07]

The SSIA scheme was introduced in the 2001 Finance Act and gives a credit to all SSIA investors of 25%, or €1 for every €4 saved. The aim of the SSIA scheme was to encourage savings. This aim has been successfully achieved with over 1.1 million persons availing of the special scheme.

The exit tax on matured SSIA accounts is calculated at 23% of the gain or interest earned on the account over the 5 year period. For illustrative purposes, where a person has received interest on an SSIA account that amounts to 10% of their overall savings, the exit tax liable on the account at maturity would amount to around 2% of total funds in the account. In contrast, the Government top-up on SSIA accounts amounts to 25% of savings. In this respect, although all SSIA accounts are subject to an exit tax, it should be noted that the SSIA scheme represented a very good deal for all of those taking it up.

It is widely acknowledged that one of the reasons for the success of the SSIA scheme was its simplicity. It was clearly stated from the very outset that the SSIA investment returns would be subject to a 23% exit tax at maturity with no exemptions for anyone. I have no plans to change this.

Tax Clearance Certificates.

Pat Carey

Question:

289 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance if he will make arrangements for the application of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 for a tax clearance certificate to be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9558/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the person's application for a tax clearance certificate was received on 2 February 2007. Unfortunately, there was a delay in processing the application and this is very much regretted. The certificate issued on 7 March 2007.

Departmental Projects.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

290 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Finance when works will commence on a project (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9562/07]

The Commissioners of Public Works are scheduled to invite tenders in April 2007. Subject to satisfactory outcome from the tender process, it is expected that a contract will be placed in June 2007 with work commencing on site in early July 2007.

.

Departmental Properties.

Phil Hogan

Question:

291 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Finance if he will clarify the tendering arrangements for the recent erection of signage for the Government offices at Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim; if companies in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland were asked to tender; the outcome of the tender; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9572/07]

The Commissioners of Public Works have informed me that they have leased a fully fitted out building for the Department of Social & Family Affairs in Carrick-on-Shannon. Accordingly, the issue of signage, including the erection thereof, is a matter for the landlord.

Flood Relief.

Michael Ring

Question:

292 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if a canal (details supplied) in County Mayo can be repaired and cleaned as it is causing flooding problems. [9630/07]

The canal in question does not form part of any Drainage Scheme for which the Commissioners of Public Works have a maintenance responsibility under the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945. The Office of Public Works will not, therefore, be carrying out any works on the waterway.

Site Acquisitions.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

293 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Finance if the site for the new Garda headquarters in Wexford town is in public ownership; the price paid for the site; when the transfer to the State was effected; when a contract for construction will be signed; when construction will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9631/07]

The Commissioners of Public Works expect to finalise the acquisition of a site at Roxborough for Wexford Garda Station in the coming weeks. It would be inappropriate to disclose the purchase price before the legal formalities have been completed.

A sketch scheme is in preparation for the new Divisional Headquarters. On approval of the sketch scheme by the Garda Authorities, a Part 9 planning consultation will be initiated. Allowing for the completion of the planning process, the tender documents and the procurement process, it is expected that construction would commence within twelve months.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

294 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the tax implications, including stamp duty and capital acquisitions tax, for a first-time buyer and their parent if their parent purchases a home or a substantial portion of the home for the first-time buyer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9676/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the tax implications, where a parent of a first-time buyer is involved in the purchase of a home for the first-time buyer, will depend on the nature of the parent's involvement in the purchase. I will deal with the different taxes in turn.

Stamp Duty

Where the parent makes a cash gift to a child of all or part of the purchase monies to enable the child to purchase a house, there is no stamp duty liability on this gift. The stamp duty relief for first-time buyers would apply where the monies gifted are used by the child in purchasing a house in his own name provided the child had not previously purchased or received a gift of another house.

Where a house is purchased by a parent and subsequently gifted to a child who is a first-time buyer, a liability to stamp duty would arise in the first place on the purchase of the house by the parent. The subsequent gift of the house by the parent to the child would qualify for first-time buyer relief where the child had not previously purchased or received a gift of another house.

Where a house is purchased in the joint names of a parent and a child, the first-time buyer relief is only available where each of the purchasers is a first-time buyer. Therefore, the relief would not be available where the parent had previously purchased another house.

Capital Acquisitions Tax (Gift and Inheritance Tax)

Whether gift tax arises when a parent purchases a home or a substantial portion of the home for a child depends on the circumstances. The Finance Act 2000 introduced a package of measures specifically designed to reduce the impact of gift/inheritance tax for certain dwelling houses. The purpose of this exemption was to benefit individuals who had been living in a house for a period prior to taking the benefit, either by way of gift or inheritance. The main conditions attaching to the exemption are that the beneficiary of the dwelling house must have resided in the house for a minimum of 3 years prior to the gift/inheritance and must not have an interest in any other dwelling house. Also, the recipient or recipients must continue to occupy that dwelling house as his/her only or main residence for a period of 6 years commencing on the date of the gift/inheritance. Therefore, a parent can purchase a home or portion of a home in the parent's own name and subsequently transfer that home or their interest in that home to the child and, if the child, at the date of the transfer of the home to them, satisfies the above conditions, the transfer of the home to the child is exempt from Capital Acquisitions Tax.

If this exemption does not apply, depending on the circumstances of the case, then the normal Capital Acquisitions Tax computational rules set out below will apply to the gift of the dwelling house or alternatively to the gift of any purchase monies gifted to the child to enable the child to purchase the property directly in the child's own name in the first instance.

For the purpose of both Gift and Inheritance Tax, the relationship between the person who provides the gift or inheritance (i.e. the disponer) and the person who receives the gift or inheritance (i.e. the beneficiary), determines the maximum tax-free threshold- known as the "Group threshold".

The indexed Group threshold applying to a gift or inheritance received by a child from their parents is the Group A threshold and for 2007 this Group A threshold is €496,824.

Any other gifts/inheritances that might have been received by the beneficiary from within the same Group A threshold (i.e. from parents) since 5 December 1991 will also be taken into account when applying the threshold for the purposes of calculating the gift/inheritance tax. If the total value of all gifts and inheritances received by the beneficiary since this date from within this Group is above the threshold figure of €496,824, then a 20% rate of gift/inheritance tax will apply on the difference.

Capital gains tax (CGT)

CGT is chargeable on a transfer of ownership in an asset whether by way of sale, gift or otherwise. Cash is not an asset for CGT purposes. The subsequent disposal by a parent of a house or an interest in a house, which was purchased for a child, whether by way of a transfer to that child or a sale to a third party, is a chargeable event for CGT purposes. To the extent that the gain is attributable to the parent, main residence relief wouldn't apply. Where the house is wholly or partially owned by the child, any gain attributable to the child on a sale would be exempt from CGT provided he/she occupied the house as an only or main residence throughout the period of ownership or occupied it to within 12 months of sale.

Pat Carey

Question:

295 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance the course open to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 who has incurred significant medical and other expenses in respect of which, were they in the tax net, they could apply for a tax refund, but as their wages are too low this course of action is not open to them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9752/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that as the person's tax credits are sufficient to cover the tax due on her total income, she has no liability to tax. Under the provisions of sections 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 (relief for health expenses), refunds can only be made in respect of health expenses where there is tax available to repay. As the person in question did not pay any tax, there is no tax available to refund to her.

Question No. 296 answered with QuestionNo. 121.

Tony Gregory

Question:

297 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance if there is a second charge on persons who cancel credit cards; and if he will review this inequitable double taxation in the one year. [9755/07]

A person who holds a credit card account with a credit card provider pays stamp duty on that credit card account once for each 12 month period ending on 1 April each year. Where a person cancels a credit card account within a 12 month period he/she pays the charge at the time of cancellation. This means that, in respect of any credit card account, an individual will only pay once for the year ending on the following 1 April. Where the individual closes a credit card after 1 April in any year, a stamp duty charge of €40 will arise, as the account has been maintained by the financial institution during the year ending on the following 1 April. This is consistent with applying a stamp duty charge for a year or part of a year for which the credit card account is held.

However, Section 128 of the Finance Act 2005 contained measures to eliminate a double stamp duty charge for the same year on the switching of financial cards. Where a credit card account is closed in the tax year the financial institution will issue a Letter of Closure to the holder of the account stating that the stamp duty has been paid for that year. Where the individual opens a new credit card account at any point in that tax year, the new financial institution, upon receipt of the Letter of Closure, will provide that the stamp duty on the new credit card, normally charged in the following April, will not be applied.

Departmental Expenditure.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

298 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the amount his Department paid in 2006 for car mileage expenses; the amount paid to cover rail and bus ticket expenses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9775/07]

The amount paid from my Department's Vote in 2006 in respect of car mileage expenses was €185,327.48; the amount paid to cover rail and bus ticket expenses in the same period was €16,462.78.

Tax Code.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

299 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance his views on allowing tax relief for individuals or businesses who donate money towards the care of children with special needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9815/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, under Section 848A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, tax relief is available on donations to eligible charities and other approved bodies, including bodies which come under the category "Advancement of Education". Any school teaching children with special needs, for example, would be entitled to apply to the Revenue Commissioners for charitable tax exemption.

The minimum qualifying donation for relief purposes to an eligible charity or approved body is €250 per annum and there is no upper limit on the amount which can be donated. Donations for any one year can be on a cumulative basis. Thus, a weekly donation of €5 per week can qualify for the relief. The relief on the donation is at an individual's marginal rate of tax. The arrangements for allowing tax relief on donations depends on whether the donor is a PAYE taxpayer or an individual on self-assessment or a company. For a PAYE taxpayer, the relief is given at the donor's marginal rate of income tax and is given on a grossed-up basis to the charity. This means the tax refund goes to the charity. In the case of a donation made by an individual who is self-assessed, the individual claims the relief and there is no grossing-up arrangement. Similarly, in the case of companies, they can claim deductions for donations as if they were a trading expense. In Budget 2006 I extended the scheme to cover the donation of publicly quoted securities.

Given the existing donations schemes, I have no plans to introduce any special tax reliefs for donations towards the care of children with special needs. I would point out, however, that in recent years the Government has increased significantly the supports available through the direct expenditure system for children with disabilities.

Departmental Expenditure.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

300 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the cost of energy used running his Department in the year 2002; the cost of doing so in 2006; the quantity of energy used in each of these years to which this cost relates; and his plans to reduce this usage as a contribution to meeting concerns regarding climate change. [9824/07]

The cost of energy paid by my Department in 2002 was €297,609.00 and the cost for 2006 was €384,243.62. The quantities of energy used are not readily identifiable, as a large element of the Department's energy costs are billed on a shared basis with other departments/offices.

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, and will in due course be installed in offices occupied by my Department. This will allow for the identification of energy savings and enable these savings to be continued on an ongoing basis.

The Office of Public Works is also currently undertaking a pilot scheme, to put an energy conservation programme in place in a number of selected State buildings. It is expected that this programme will be implemented for the principal offices of my Department in the current year.

A new building, to be occupied by staff of my Department, currently under construction, has been designed with energy conservation in mind, and will allow for significant savings in energy consumption by the Department.

Tax Code.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

301 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Finance if there is a system of monitoring within his Department to assess the performance of companies participating in the business expansion scheme. [8563/07]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

303 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the methodology used for the 2006 survey of the business expansion scheme and seed capital scheme; the response rate for the survey; the factors assessed in the survey; and his views on whether the survey provides a sufficiently representative and informed assessment on which to determine the expansion of BES. [8567/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 301 and 303 together.

My decision to extend the Business Expansion Scheme (BES) and the Seed Capital Scheme (SCS) was based on a thorough review of the scheme that was carried out by my Department during Summer 2006 in conjunction with the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment and the Revenue Commissioners. It included a survey of firms which had benefited from the BES. The 2006 Review has been published on my Department's website at http://www.finance.gov.ie/documents/publications/Reports/BESSCSReport.pdf. The 2006 Review took account of the findings of the Report of the Small Business Forum, Small Business is Big Business, the Survey of SME Finance/Equity carried out by Forfás, and the PWC Report Strategic Advisory Services — Enterprise Ireland Seed and Venture Capital Funds Programme 2006, as well as a range of submissions from interested parties. In addition, the extension of the scheme was considered by the Tax Strategy Group in the context of Budget 2007.

On the basis of all of this I concluded that there was a strong case for extending the schemes given the clear market failure in providing equity capital for small firms in their start up and early development phase, the evidence of how vital the schemes have been in the past for such firms and the continuing needs in this regard, the potential return to the economy from indigenous Irish companies, and the clear support for continuation from a large number of representative and other bodies in the public and private sector.

Both the BES and SCS have been the subject of regular review and monitoring by my Department as well as the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the relevant development agencies since the schemes were first introduced, as is detailed in the 2006 Review. Each time, the main conclusion has been the same — a significant market failure exists due to the high risk associated with start-up business and this results in persistent difficulties in securing early stage capital; this market failure justifies continuing fiscal support.

The information the Deputy requests on the methodology used, the response rate and the factors assessed in the survey, together with the performance of companies participating in the scheme, is all contained in the above-mentioned review.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

302 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of recent research findings that companies may be laundering profits through Ireland to avoid American tax, there are difficulties in the way multinational companies declare their profits here; and the role the agencies under his aegis have in preventing same. [8564/07]

I am not aware of any difficulties with the way that companies declare their profits for Irish tax purposes. The structure of the Irish tax regime corresponds to the international norm. A company that is resident in the State is taxed on its worldwide income. A company that is not resident in the State but which carries on a trade through a branch or agency in the State is taxed on its trading income arising through or from that branch or agency and any income from property or rights used by, or held by, the branch or agency. Returns of profits made in an accounting period by a company that is within the charge to tax here are required to be made to the Revenue Commissioners within 9 months after the end of the accounting period.

The Irish tax regime applies a 12.5% corporation tax rate to trading income generally. A wide base is used in calculating the trading income concerned. This rate applies both to companies that are resident in the State and to those that carry on a trade here through a branch or agency. This is an up-front transparent regime.

Locating in Ireland does not protect a multinational group from taxation in its "home" country. Where a subsidiary located in Ireland pays a dividend to its foreign parent company, the parent company will be taxed on the dividend but will be entitled to a credit against the tax on the dividend for any Irish tax paid on the profits out of which the dividend is paid. The US and other parent company jurisdictions have sophisticated rules to prevent their companies from availing of tax deferral in low tax jurisdictions where this is not considered appropriate, such as in the case of passive income. Such deferral is only possible for genuine business activities.

Question No. 303 answered with QuestionNo. 301.

Departmental Staff.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

304 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on gender balance at each grade in his Department and in agencies that come under the aegis of his Department. [9852/07]

The following is the information requested by the Deputy in relation to my Department, and to the Bodies under the aegis of my Department:

Department of Finance

Grade

Female

Male

Secretary General/Second Secretary General

5

Assistant Secretary

1

9

Director

1

2

Principal

10

42

Assistant Principal

52

99

Higher Executive Officer

39

54

Administrative Officer

25

27

Executive Officer

30

25

Staff Officer

27

6

Clerical Officer

89

26

Services Officer

2

22

Services Attendant

0

2

Other

19

13

Total

295

332

Valuation Office

Grade

Female

Male

Assistant Principal

0

3

Assistant Principal Higher

1

0

Cleaner

1

1

Clerical Officer

7

2

Clerical Officer Higher

0

1

Commissioner

0

1

District Valuer

7

12

Executive Officer Higher

6

2

Executive Officer

8

6

Examiner in Charge

1

0

Higher Executive Officer Higher

3

1

Higher Executive Officer

4

1

Managing Valuer

0

8

Principal

2

0

Services Officer

0

4

Staff Officer

12

2

Staff Valuer

0

26

Superintendent Higher

0

4

Superintendent Mapping

0

7

Superintendent of Cleaners

1

0

Valuer

9

10

Totals

91

62

Office of the Commission for Public Service Appointments

Grade

Female

Male

Principal

0

1

Assistant Principal

1

2

Higher Executive Officer

1

0

Executive Officer

0

1

Clerical Officer

2

0

Total

4

4

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

Grade

Female

Male

Chairman

0

1

Commissioner

1

1

Deputy Secretary

0

1

Assistant Secretary

2

13

Principal

27

125

Assistant Principal

122

379

Third Assistant Solicitor

4

3

Economist

0

2

Financial Accountant

3

2

Administrative Officer

26

12

Higher Executive Officer

479

628

Librarian

1

0

Executive Officer

1,258

780

Staff Officer

205

104

Senior Legal Clerk

1

3

Law Clerk

0

1

Clerical Officer

2,063

742

Services Officer

7

135

Services Attendant

0

8

Cleaner

19

0

Total

4,220

2,942

State Laboratory

Grade

Female

Male

State Chemist

0

1

Principal Chemist

0

1

Senior Chemist

6

5

Chemist

11

11

Senior Laboratory Analyst

7

8

Laboratory Analyst

14

9

Librarian

0

1

Head Laboratory Attendant

0

1

Laboratory Attendant

1

6

Storekeeper

0

2

Assistant Principal

1

0

Higher Executive Officer

2

0

Staff Officer

2

1

Clerical Officer

8

0

Total

52

46

Public Appointments Service

Grade

Female

Male

Assistant Secretary

0

1

Principal level

1

3

Assistant Principal

6

2

Higher Executive Officer

14

7

Executive Officer

31

1

Staff Officer

6

4

Clerical Officer

53

21

Services Officer

1

3

Cleaner

1

1

Senior Psychologist

1

0

Psychologist Gr 2

5

0

Translator 3

0

1

Professional Accountant

0

1

Total

119

45

Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General

Grade

Female

Male

Secretary and Director of Audit

0

1

Director of Audit

0

2

Deputy Director of Audit

1

10

Senior Auditor

8

29

Auditor

17

19

Trainee Auditor

21

32

Executive Officer

2

1

Staff Officer

1

0

Clerical Officer

4

1

Services Officer

0

1

Total

54

96

Special EU Programmes Body

Grade

Female

Male

Chief Executive

0

1

Director

1

1

Manager

4

3

Officers

8

2

Clerical Supervisor

4

6

Clerical Officer

5

3

Clerical Assistant

4

3

Total

26

19

I have asked the Office of Public Works and Ordnance Survey Ireland to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to this matter.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

305 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the reason he has introduced the 21% VAT rate on drinks made from fruit and vegetable products, as these are made from fresh and wholesome ingredients and will be subject to a higher rate of VAT than most fast foods. [9905/07]

The Finance Bill 2007 amendment referred to by the Deputy ensured that the supply of fruit juices and vegetable juices continues to be taxable at the standard VAT rate of 21%. Indeed, all fruit juices, soft drinks and bottled water have been subject to the standard rated since 1992.

This amendment was necessary following a recent ruling by the Appeal Commissioner that a certain fruit/vegetable juice product qualified for zero-rating. The outcome of the appeal has led to uncertainty in relation to the VAT treatment of other drinkable products made from fruit and vegetables. In this regard, it should be noted that fruit and vegetables are also the main ingredients of most soft drinks which are also subject to the standard VAT rate.

Not ensuring that the supply of fruit and vegetable juices continued to be taxable at the standard VAT rate would have resulted in a possible distortion of competition between producers of what could be considered similar products. It should also be borne in mind that the scope of the zero rate on food and drink is challenged regularly by producers and suppliers, which meant it was necessary to re-establish a level playing field in this market to ensure that a more favourable tax treatment does not apply to one product.

Departmental Correspondence.

Denis Naughten

Question:

306 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 148 of 22 February 2007, if the Office of Public Works has received contracts or any contact from the vendors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9925/07]

I refer to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 148 of 22nd February, 2007. The Commissioners are currently awaiting Contracts for Sale from the vendors. The solicitor acting for the vendors has recently been in contact to advise that draft Contracts for Sale are currently in the process of being prepared.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

307 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the background of the removal of charitable status of a group (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9927/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the group as specifically named by the Deputy never held charitable tax exemption. However, a body with an almost identical name, which it is assumed is the intended subject of the Deputy's question, applied for charitable tax exemption in 1993 and 2001. On the first occasion, the application was refused on the basis that the body concerned had not been established for exclusively charitable purposes, as required by the legislation. On the second occasion the necessary documentation to enable the Revenue Commissioners finalise consideration of the application was not provided despite their request for such documentation.

John Curran

Question:

308 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Finance if he proposes to introduce a grant or aVAT reduction to people having their cars modified to enable them to use low CO2 emission biofuels; if a VAT reduction on these biofuels is planned to encourage greater use of these fuels. [9969/07]

I wish to advise the Deputy that there are no grants or financial incentives available for adapting diesel cars in order that they can use biofuels. In relation to VAT, the position is that the VAT regime and indeed the rating of all goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. While we can retain the zero rating provisions which were in existence on 1 January 1991, we cannot introduce any new ones. Therefore, it is not possible to apply a zero rate to the supply of goods used to modify cars to use low carbon dioxide emission biofuels.

In addition, while a reduced rate can be applied to certain goods and services, there is no mechanism which would allow for the reduced rating of alternative fuel consumption systems for cars. The VAT Directive does not make any distinction between different types of fuels or methods of production of energy. The supply of all fuel consumption systems, including environmentally friendly ones, is therefore chargeable at the standard VAT rate of 21%. Any change in the standard rate would apply to the sale of all fuel consumption systems and indeed products at the standard VAT rate. A reduction in the standard VAT of 1% would cost the Exchequer in excess of €440 million and have little or no effect on price.

However, under the VAT system, VAT registered businesses can claim a deduction for all other types of fuel e.g. diesel, LPG or bio-fuels except petrol. In addition, the conversion of a vehicle is allowable as a deduction provided the conversion is an expense suffered in the course or furtherance of business and used for a taxable activity.

The Deputy will also be aware, I introduced a provision in the Finance Act of 2006 which enables the Revenue Commissioners to grant a 50% vehicle registration tax (VRT) relief on the registration of flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) in the State. The purpose of this scheme is to encourage the development of new technology that is used in the manufacture of vehicles that use engines and fuel systems that are capable of running on E85-bioethanol (a combination of ethanol and petrol) which benefits the environment by producing lower pollutant emissions than conventional vehicles fuelled exclusively by petrol or diesel.

Jack Wall

Question:

309 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the reasons a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has not received their P21 tax certificate as they need it for an application for a shared ownership application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10007/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a PAYE Balancing Statement Form P21 issued to the taxpayer on 5 March 2007.

Decentralisation Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

310 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the status of the decentralisation of the Office of Public Works to Claremorris; when the construction of new offices will commence; when they will be occupied; if temporary offices will be sourced in the interim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10008/07]

The decentralisation of the Office of Public Works (OPW) to Claremorris will take place in two phases. The first phase deals with the setting up of an advance office in Claremorris and in this regard, OPW has secured leased accommodation and tenders are now being evaluated for the building fit out works. It is expected that the accommodation for the advance office will be ready for occupation in the second quarter of 2007.

OPW has acquired the site for the main decentralised office in Claremorris. OPW has requested experienced developers/contractors to submit Expressions of Interest on this building project. The indicative timeframe for the completion of the construction of the main decentralised office in Claremorris is in early 2009.

Denis Naughten

Question:

311 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the status of the decentralisation of the Department of Social and Family Affairs to Carrick-on-Shannon; when the construction of new offices will commence; when they will be occupied; if temporary offices will be sourced in the interim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10009/07]

The Commissioners of Public Works have informed me that they have leased a building in Carrick-on-Shannon to facilitate the decentralisation of the Department of Social & Family Affairs. It is expected that the building will be occupied in early April 2007.

Denis Naughten

Question:

312 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the status of the decentralisation of the Department of Education and Science to Athlone; when the construction of new offices will commence; when they will be occupied; if temporary offices will be sourced in the interim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10010/07]

Following a competitive tendering process, the contract for the construction of the new decentralised offices in Athlone has been awarded to John Sisk & Son Ltd. and construction of the new offices commenced on Monday 12th March, 2007. It is anticipated that the building will be ready for occupation mid 2008. To date, no request has been received by OPW from the Department of Education and Science in respect of temporary interim accommodation.

Denis Naughten

Question:

313 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the status of the decentralisation of the Railway Safety Commission to Ballinasloe; when the construction of new offices will commence; when they will be occupied; if temporary offices will be sourced in the interim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10011/07]

Denis Naughten

Question:

314 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the status of the decentralisation of the National Roads Authority to Ballinasloe; when the construction of new offices will commence; when they will be occupied; if temporary offices will be sourced in the interim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10012/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 313 and 314 together.

The Commissioners of Public Works have informed me that they are currently assessing a number of options in Ballinasloe for the decentralisation of the Railway Safety Commission and the National Roads Authority. When this assessment is completed, a short-list of properties will be determined and negotiations will then commence. The Commissioners are not aware of a requirement for temporary accommodation in Ballinasloe.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

315 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding an application by a person (details supplied) in County Galway who is seeking a transfer to the Office of Public Works in Claremorris under the decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10040/07]

The person referred to by the Deputy has applied on the Central Applications Facility (CAF) for a post in the OPW decentralised office in Claremorris. Current information in this regard indicates that this person will be offered a position with OPW in Claremorris.

Flood Relief.

Michael Ring

Question:

316 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works has any responsibility when there is a development built without planning permission from the local authority affecting a river (details supplied); the action it can take to ensure such a development is legalised in view of the impact this development could pose to the river, the flood plain, the water course and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10041/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

317 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance the action, following recent flooding in an area (details supplied), the Office of Public Works will take to help reduce the flood risk, particularly as it is alleged that an unauthorised development could have contributed to the flooding of the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10042/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

328 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works has received correspondence from a local authority (details supplied) regarding a warning letter; if a response has issued to the council in this regard; if the OPW has made observations or recommendations; and if so, the details of same. [10347/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 316, 317 and 328 together.

Planning control in relation to the development referred to is wholly a matter for Mayo County Council. A copy of a warning letter that had been issued by Mayo County Council was received by the Commissioners of Public Works. On 12th March, 2007 the Council requested information from the Commissioners of Public Works in relation to the condition of the channel prior to the development. The information available will be sent to the Council shortly.

As indicated in reply to the Deputy's questions Nos. 227 and 228 on 6th March, 2007 a number of measures to alleviate flood risk at Crossmolina have been identified and these will be carried out by Mayo County Council over the coming months. A joint study to determine the need for and feasibility of a more extensive flood relief scheme for the town is being considered.

EU Directives.

Bernard Allen

Question:

318 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Finance the number of EU directives awaiting transposition in his Department; the date by which these directives are to be, or were to be, transposed into Irish law; the number of such EU directives which are overdue for transposition; when the overdue directives will be transposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10053/07]

There are eight EU Directives awaiting either transposition into Irish law, or formal notification of completion of transposition to the European Commission, by my Department at the current time.

Directive 2005/60/EC is intended to strengthen legal measures to prevent the use of the financial system for money laundering and terrorist financing. Deadline for transposition is December 2007. The Department of Finance together with the Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform has conducted an extensive consultation with interested parties. It is intended that transposition will be effected by means of a Criminal Justice Bill to amend or replace relevant provision of the Criminal Justice Act 1994.

The Reinsurance Directive (2005/68) has been partially transposed and notified to the Commission on the 30th August 2006. The deadline for full transposition is December 2007. The remaining articles will be transposed shortly.

Directive 2006/79/EC was agreed in October 2006. Following consultation with the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, it has been decided that it is appropriate to legislate in respect of this Directive and this will be done by way of a Statutory Instrument before end 2007. There is no deadline by which this Directive must be transposed.

Council Directive 2006/112/EC: Deadline for transposition is 1 January 2007. SI No. 663 of 2006 was enacted to cater for the recast of the Sixth VAT Directive. On the advice of Parliamentary Counsel, this instrument is now being revoked in favour of its inclusion in Finance Bill 2007.

Council Directive 2006/138/EC (19 Dec 06). Transposition is not required as the Directive is already provided for under Irish VAT Law. Arrangements are being made to notify the Commission formally in this regard.

Council Directive 2006/98/EC (20 Nov 06) and Commission Directive 2006/84/EC (23 Oct 06) adapt a number of taxation directives to allow for the accession of Bulgaria and Romania and as such have a deadline of 1 January 2007. The Directives, which were published in the Official Journal in late December, are being actively examined by my officials. SIs are currently being prepared to cater for those aspects that require transposition. I expect that the draft SIs will be sent to the Parliamentary Counsel's Office in the coming days.

Council Directive 2006/97/EC (20 Nov 2006): Deadline for transposition is 1 Jan 2007. This Directive adapts certain Public Procurement Directives in the field of free movement of goods, by reason of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania. An investigation is ongoing to ascertain whether this directive needs to be transposed.

Directive 2006/138/EC does not need to be transposed as it is already provided for under Irish VAT law, but the European Commission must be formally notified of this. Four directives (2006/112, 2006/98, 2006/84, 2006/97) are overdue for transposition since 1st January 2007. I can assure the Deputy that strong efforts are being made to complete the transposition and formal notification to the European Commission of these overdue directives at the earliest possible date.

I am informed regularly by senior management about the up-to-date position with regard to European Directives under the responsibility of my Department awaiting transposition. In addition, my Department reports monthly to the Interdepartmental Committee on European Affairs, chaired by Minister of State Noel Treacy, on the status of outstanding directives. Every effort is being made in my Department, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General, to ensure that Directives are transposed on time.

Question No. 319 answered with QuestionNo. 276.

Tax Code.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

320 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance when a refund of tax will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [10102/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that an application for refund of Relevant Contracts Tax was received from the accountant acting on behalf of the taxpayer on 22 January 2007. The accountant instructed Revenue to retain the said amount pending further instructions. Revenue awaits further instructions from the accountant regarding the treatment of the refund.

Jack Wall

Question:

321 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance if there is provision within the Finance Acts for a parents' council of a primary school (details supplied) in County Kildare to recoup the VAT payments on sports equipment that it purchased for the school children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10103/07]

The position is that bodies supplying educational services and non-profit organisations are exempt from VAT under the EU 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.

Richard Bruton

Question:

322 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if it is possible for relatives managing the affairs of a person in institutional care to place stocks and shares belonging to that person in some form of trust in order that they could be used to pay for their care without being subject to capital gains tax on disposals against which nursing home expenses are not allowable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10114/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) Acts do not contain provisions which allow for stocks and shares held in a trust, in the circumstances outlined, to be sold free of CGT.

The transfer of the stocks and shares into a trust is treated, for CGT purposes, as a disposal by the owner at market value. The resultant gain or loss is computed by reference to their original cost and market value at the time of transfer. After deducting the first €1,270 of annual gains the owner is chargeable to CGT at 20%. Gains arising on subsequent disposals are chargeable on the trustees. These are computed on the excess of the sale price over the market value when the stocks were transferred to the trust. The annual exemption does not apply to trustees.

Gains arising on the disposal of assets held by a person as nominee or bare trustee for the beneficial owner are treated as if they were made by the beneficial owner.

Richard Bruton

Question:

323 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the basis for calculation of flat rate expenses in the tax code; and if he will ensure that more recent occupations are treated equitably with those that already have these reliefs. [10139/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, under Section 114 Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, employees have a statutory entitlement to claim a tax deduction in respect of expenses wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred in the performance of the duties of their employment. This, therefore, is the statutory basis for granting tax relief in respect of expenses to employees.

I am further informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, instead of each employee submitting his/her claims for tax relief in respect of allowable expenses, there is a long standing practice going back over 40 years under which Revenue and staff representatives bodies, including trade unions, agree the amount of expenses that are tax deductible for a category or group of employees. Such agreed rates have become known as "flat rate expenses". Such arrangement has a number of advantages for employees. For example, they can be assured that they are represented as regards their claim and they do not have to submit individual claims.

As regards ensuring the more recent occupations are treated equitably, this is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. However, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they are not aware of claims of inequitable treatment as regards the flat rate expenses arrangement. If, however, the Deputy has a case in mind, the Revenue Commissioner assure me that they are more than willing to examine the matter. If the Deputy will give details to my office, the matter will be passed to the Revenue Commissioners for examination.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

324 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance his views on removing VAT from life saving defibrillators, which are recommended to be made available in public places and at all sporting venues; if he has the power to do so; and when he will announce such a tax removal. [10165/07]

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 VAT Directive, Member States may retain the zero rates on goods and services which were in place on 1 January 1991, but cannot extend the zero rate to new goods and services. As the majority of defibrillators were not subject to the zero rate on 1 January 1991 it is not possible to apply the zero rate to the supply of such products. Implantable defibrillators are subject to the zero rate.

In addition, Member States may only apply the reduced VAT rate to those goods and services which are listed under Annex III of the VAT Directive. While Annex III does include the supply of medical equipment for the exclusive personal use of a disabled person, it does not include defibrillators for general use. The reduced rate cannot be applied to the supply of defibrillators. Therefore the only rate of VAT that can apply to the supply of defibrillators is the Standard VAT rate of 21%.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

325 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance if the Government plans to exempt older persons trading down their property from stamp duty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7479/07]

If tax concessions were introduced for persons wishing to trade down, it would have the effect of increasing the supply of larger (and generally more expensive) houses. This would be of benefit to people at the top end of the market. However, the demand for property at the lower end of the market would increase as the older person trading down sought a smaller house and this would adversely affect first-time buyers in particular, who would have to compete for such houses with a larger number of purchasers.

Anyone that sells their principal private residence is exempt from capital gains tax. If the house has been occupied for the full period of ownership, full exemption applies. Otherwise, the relief granted is in proportion to the period of occupation over the entire period of ownership. This relief is of very significant benefit to the taxpayer and would facilitate people with large homes trading down.

Capital Expenditure.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

326 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance if the cross-departmental team on housing, infrastructure and public private partnership has discussed ways of ensuring that cost-benefit analyses are conducted on all major infrastructural projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6324/07]

The role of the Cross-Departmental Team, which assists the Cabinet Committee on Housing, Infrastructure and PPPs, and which is chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach, is to identify and assist in advancing and resolving issues related to infrastructural planning and delivery, ensuring they are adequately prepared for consideration by the Cabinet Committee and, where necessary, the Government. This work by the team has helped to improve significantly the capacity for the delivery of national infrastructure, especially in terms of time and cost. However, notwithstanding the important contribution of the CDT, lead responsibility remains clearly with the relevant Minister and Department in respect of each policy area or individual infrastructural project.

Government Departments are fully aware that under my Department's February 2005 Guidelines for the Appraisal and Management of Capital Expenditure a full Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) is required to be carried out by Public Sector Agencies as part of the detailed appraisal for all major projects over €30m in value. It is the responsibility of the project sponsoring agency to carry out the Cost Benefit Analysis. The CBA is an important input into the appraisal of major capital projects and it must take place prior to entering into any commitments to proceed with the project.

Tax Code.

Denis Naughten

Question:

327 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance his views on reducing the VAT rate on road safety products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9550/07]

The Deputy will be aware from previous replies to the similar questions that 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 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.

In addition, Member States may only apply the reduced VAT rate to those goods and services which are listed under Annex III of the VAT Directive. While Annex III does specifically list the supply of children's car seats, it does not include other road safety products. The reduced rate cannot therefore be applied to such goods. Therefore the only VAT rate that can apply to the supply of road safety equipment, under EU law, is the standard VAT rate which in Ireland is 21%.

However, as I announced in the Budget, the VAT rate applicable to children's car seats will be changed from the standard VAT rate to the reduced VAT rate of 13.5% with effect from the 1st July 2007.

Question No. 328 answered with QuestionNo. 316.

Financial Services Regulation.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

329 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance his plans to regulate the lifetime mortgage sector and equity release schemes under which vulnerable elderly persons are required to draft wills, and executors of elderly persons’ estates are required to sign prior contracts of cooperation with banks in the event of the borrowers’ deaths; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10378/07]

Lifetime Mortgages are regulated under the Consumer Credit Act 1995. In addition, the Financial Regulator has included specific provisions in the Consumer Protection Code relating to Lifetime Mortgages. The Code provides that consumers are fully advised of the consequences of releasing equity from their home and that the financial service provider obtains sufficient information from the client to ensure that a suitable product is provided.

Equity release schemes are not currently a regulated financial service. They involve a part sale of the consumer's property and such transactions are of course subject to the general law in relation to contract and sale of property.

The Consumer Protection Bill 2007 currently before this House will further enhance consumer protection. The Bill provides for the establishment of the National Consumer Agency with an extensive remit including enforcement powers in relation to unfair commercial practices and unfair terms in consumer contracts. The Bill also provides that the functions of the Agency in relation to these matters may be exercised by the Financial Regulator in the case of regulated financial service providers.

In addition to the above my Department together with the Financial Regulator and the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is undertaking a review to establish whether or not home reversion products and/or their providers should be further regulated.

Participation in equity release products is at the discretion of the consumer. However such participation involves the granting of certain rights in relation to the property which will crystallise on the death of the homeowner. I understand therefore that some providers may insist on the making of a will or on other related formalities. The availability of a will clearly expressing the homeowner's intentions will facilitate the administration of the estate in a speedy and efficient manner to the benefit of all parties involved. Indeed this is generally true whether or not the home owner has availed of equity release or home reversion services.

At the launch on 6 February 2007 of the Financial Regulator's publication entitled "Equity release-using your home to get a cash sum" the Consumer Director issued the following advice to the potential purchasers of equity release products: "ask plenty of questions before you enter into any agreement; discuss the issue with your immediate family before you enter into an agreement; consider alternatives that may be available to you; take independent legal advice." I would recommend that anyone considering one of these products should heed that advice.

Garda Stations.

Tom Hayes

Question:

330 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Finance the situation regarding the future of Dundrum Garda station; and if a decision has been made in the matter. [10427/07]

The Commissioners of Public Works are involved in ongoing discussions with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Authorities in relation to a proposed Rural Garda Station Programme. Dundrum Garda Station, County Tipperary will be included in this programme.

Departmental Properties.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

331 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the reason the Office of Public Works purchased a property (details supplied); when the purchase was completed; the price that was paid; the plans for the property; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10448/07]

The property was purchased to maximise the development potential of the Mountjoy Prison site. Its inclusion was considered fundamental to the most efficient access arrangement of the overall development. It also, of course, creates a marriage value by combining the property with the larger Mountjoy site and increases the proposed development area.

The purchase of the property was completed on 21 December 2006; the purchase price was €23,500,000 plus VAT. It is planned to reinvent the existing Mountjoy site as a new and vibrant place to live and work through the creation of a new "village" for Dublin, which will allow families to live in the centre of the city in a sustainable way. This ties in with and will compliment Dublin City Council's Framework Plan for this area of the city.

Tax Code.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

332 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance if he will review and consider establishing a tax free status in the vicinity of Ireland West Airport Knock in view of the constant increase in passenger numbers at this airport, the importance of attracting investment to the west of Ireland and the benefits and much needed boost it would provide to the region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10479/07]

The 1997 Finance Act made provisions for a scheme of tax relief for areas adjacent to regional airports along the same lines as the relief then available under the Enterprise Areas Scheme. The scheme provided for accelerated capital allowances and double rent relief for lessees of qualified buildings. The position is that the scheme as originally announced was submitted to the European Commission for approval in 1997. However, the ensuing approval in 1998 imposed certain specific conditions i.e. that the qualifying period should end on 31 December 1999 in order to conform with the end of the then existing general regional aid framework throughout the European Union. In addition, the European Commission ruled out double rent relief in respect of any of the proposed enterprise areas adjacent to the regional airports.

The Commission also requested the Irish authorities to submit details of such airport projects to the Commission for approval by them. A total of two such projects were submitted to this Department for referral to the Commission. The first, a business park at Cork Airport was approved on 7 July 1999 and the second, a cargo handling operation at Knock Airport was approved on 26 October 1999.

Informal approval for a one year extension to 31 December 2000 in respect of capital allowances for both projects was subsequently obtained. This was on the strict understanding that no further extensions to the scheme would be sought by the Irish authorities. This understanding and recent experience of a much more rigorous examination of fiscal State aids by the Commission emphasises that it is not feasible to pursue any further extension in duration or scope of the scheme for Knock Airport with the Commission.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

333 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance his views on introducing a tax designated area in the vicinity of the River Moy in County Mayo similar to that recently introduced around the River Shannon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10480/07]

The areas to be included in the proposed Mid-Shannon Tourism Infrastructure Investment Scheme are outlined in Schedule 8B of Section 29 of the 2007 Finance Bill and include all of the District Electoral Divisions that are wholly or partly within a 12 kilometre band on either side of the mid section of the Shannon. This is a pilot scheme, the operation of which will be carefully monitored and assessed and will be for a limited period only.

The reason for selecting the mid-Shannon region is that from a tourism perspective, the inner core of the country remains relatively underdeveloped. Its tourism intensity is low and it has lagged behind recent growth in tourism in Ireland which has been predominately in Dublin and certain costal counties. This scheme aims to help redress this regional imbalance and for this reason it is important that the geographical scope of the scheme should be confined to this limited area. On this basis I regret that it is not intended to extend the proposed scheme.

John Perry

Question:

334 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance the measures he will introduce following the Irish charities campaign to have the Government introduce a VAT compensation scheme which will save the sector close to €20 million per annum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10483/07]

The position is that charities and non-profit groups engaged in non-commercial activity are exempt from VAT under the EU 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 accept that charities cannot 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 respect of the bodies they represent. However, given that Exchequer funding is made available to very many charitable organisations this is in effect already happening.

The 140 bodies represented by the Irish Charities Tax Reform Group already acknowledge that they receive some €9 million in funding either directly or indirectly from the Exchequer. However, there are approximately 7,000 charities registered with the Revenue Commissioners. It is therefore likely that the introduction of a scheme along the lines proposed by the Irish Charities Tax Reform Group would cost the Exchequer significantly more than the €18 million estimate put forward by the group in respect of the bodies they represent.

I understand that the only EU Member State to introduce a scheme providing partial compensation for a limited number of charities for VAT incurred on input costs is Denmark. To be eligible under the Danish scheme charities must already be approved bodies under the Danish equivalent of our tax relief on donations scheme. My Department understands that some 750 charities in Denmark could benefit as a result. In comparison, over 1,900 organisations have to date been approved under the Irish donations relief scheme. It also understands that under the Danish scheme educational institutions are not eligible for compensation.

It is likely, therefore, the introduction of any grant system in lieu of VAT paid by registered charities in Ireland 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 of refunds. These exempt bodies are already receiving considerable Exchequer funding.

The tax code already treats charities in a favourable manner. The tax code currently provides exemption for charities from Income Tax, Corporation Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Deposit Interest Retention Tax, Capital Acquisitions Tax, Stamp Duty, Probate Tax, Dividend Withholding Tax and the uniform scheme of tax relief for donations.

While no overall definitive figures are available on the cost to the Exchequer of charitable tax exemption status, Revenue estimated in 2005 that the cost of the various tax exemptions and tax reliefs, including the tax relief on donations scheme, in place for bodies conferred with charitable status could be as high as €190m annually. In addition to tax exemptions and reliefs, charities, voluntary and community groups, and sporting bodies benefit significantly from grants schemes administered by a number of Government Departments.

Finally, even if funds were available for grant-aiding charities and other voluntary groups, I am not sure that the most appropriate use of the funds would be to relieve them of the VAT paid on inputs as opposed to grant-aiding their activities using other criteria.

Flood Relief.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

335 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if directly or through the aegis of Kildare County Council it is intended to provide an ongoing cleaning programme for the Slate River, Allenwood, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10553/07]

The Slate River forms part of the Rathangan Drainage District and maintenance of this river is therefore a matter for the local authority. The Office of Public Works carried out drainage works on the River Slate in 2003, as agents for Kildare County Council and there are no proposals to carry out further cleaning or drainage works.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

336 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the position in relation to his proposals directly or in conjunction with Kildare County Council for the alleviation of flooding at Mill Lane, Leixlip, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10554/07]

The Office of Public Works and Kildare County Council have agreed a programme of works to alleviate flooding on the Silleachain River at Mill Lane and on the Rye River including the Dun Carraig estate. The outline design for these proposals is currently being considered for planning approval in accordance with Part 8 of the planning and development regulations and it is envisaged that subject to approval, agreement by all affected parties and adherence to a tight framework, construction will commence on flood alleviation measures for the Leixlip area in early summer of this year.

I am advised that the retaining wall at Captain's Hill, while it may be contributing to surface water drainage problems in the area is not a factor in flooding from the Rye River, which the proposed works are intended to address.

Disabled Drivers.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

337 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when it is expected to implement the recommendations of the interdepartmental group dealing with the disabled drivers disabled passengers tax concession 1994 regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10555/07]

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.

EU Directives.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

338 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he has had discussions with his EU colleagues with a view to early warning or identification of money laundering activities within the banking system throughout the EU; if he is satisfied that adequate safeguards already exist or if changes are proposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10556/07]

There is strong co-ordination of measures to deter money laundering in the financial system at EU level. A Third Money Laundering Directive was adopted in 2005 and is due to come into effect shortly and requires to be transposed into domestic legislation in each Member State by December 2007.

The Third Money Laundering Directive will replace and update the 1991 and 2001 Money Laundering Directives which imposed obligations on financial institutions and, more recently, on lawyers, accountants and auctioneers to identify their clients and report suspicious transactions to the police authorities. The new Directive reflects the 2003 revision of the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) — the main international anti-money laundering organisation. One of its central features is to strengthen the obligation on financial institutions, and others, to identify the beneficial ownership of legal entities. It will also impose an obligation on financial institutions and others to pay particular attention to "politically exposed persons", from other Member States and from third countries.

The directive also brings Terrorist Funding into the money laundering framework and introduces the concept of a risk-based approach to the implementation of its requirements. The Directive requires amendment of our domestic legislation in relation to money laundering and the relevant legislative proposals will be brought forward by the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform later this year.

Ireland also participates in work to ensure that the EU legal frameworks are adapted to the FATF's special recommendations on terrorist financing. For example, a proposal to tighten controls of money transfers in order to cut off funding sources for terrorists and other criminals were adopted in 2006 in line with FATF recommendations. The relevant Regulation requires that money transfers be accompanied by the identity of the sender, ensuring that this information will be immediately available to the appropriate law enforcement authorities.

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. As regards operational matters, there is ongoing cooperation and exchange of information between the relevant supervisory and police authorities within the EU.

Tax Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

339 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has received submissions requesting an increase in the amount of pure plant oil qualifying for excise free status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10557/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

340 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has received requests from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to increase the amount of bio-ethanol or bio-diesel qualifying for excise free status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10559/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 339 and 340 together.

The Government is firmly committed to the development of biofuels generally in Ireland. The promotion of biofuel is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, however, I am pleased to inform the Deputy that in Finance Act 2006 I provided for significant tax measures to promote biofuels in Ireland.

This scheme, which received the necessary EU State Aid approval, commenced in November 2006 and 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; contribute towards meeting a target of 5.75% transport fuel market penetration by biofuels by 2009; help reduce our dependency on conventional fossil fuels; and stimulate activity in the agricultural sector.

I have received representations requesting an increase in the amount of biofuels qualifying for excise duty relief, including pure plant oil. However, I should point out that the overall level of excise relief available for biofuels, which is subject to EU State Aid approval, — and the breakdown of the relief between each of the alternative fuels — is that which had been proposed by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in advance of Budget 2006. It is regarded as a level which is sufficient to match Ireland's output potential in relation to renewable energy crops for motor fuels over the coming years. Any extension in the amount of relief which formed part of that Budget announcement is not envisaged at this stage. These fiscal incentives were designed to kick-start the domestic biofuels industry and the evidence suggests that this is happening.

To provide further market certainty and encourage projects of scale, the Government recently announced its intention to move to a Biofuels Obligation by 2009, with targets for market penetration for biofuels of 5.75% in 2009 and 10% by 2020.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

341 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance his proposals to combat the issue of rising costs in the manufacturing sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10560/07]

Maintaining a moderate rate of inflation remains a key priority of economic policy because of its importance in restoring competitiveness to all sectors, including the manufacturing sector. The Government is focusing on areas it can control and taking positive actions to contain inflation by implementing responsible fiscal policies. For example, we have not increased excise duties for the last three years, apart from tobacco excise, which was done for sound health policy reasons.

We are promoting greater price competition through various measures. We are also investing in public infrastructure, as evidenced by the recently announced National Development Plan, which will enhance our ability to produce more goods and services and, by improving the economy's efficiency, keep inflation down. In addition, we recognise that services sector inflation is a cause for concern and this highlights the need for more competition in the economy as well as for pay and profit restraint in all sectors in order to keep our cost base down. We must ensure that the wage increases granted under the Social Partnership agreement, Towards 2016, are reflected in productivity gains.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

342 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he has identified the inflation that has caused relocation of manufacturing jobs to other economies; his plans to address this issue in the short, medium and long term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10561/07]

Some of the high profile job losses recently seem to be due to the fortunes of individual companies rather than national competitiveness. However, we will of course remain vigilant and are committed to maintaining our competitiveness.

Employment growth has been extremely strong in recent years, and over 2 million people are now employed in Ireland. Unemployment has remained consistently low at below 4.5 per cent — essentially full employment. While the numbers employed in industries fell during the first half of 2006, employment in this sector increased significantly during the second half of the year. In this context, it is expected that jobs in this sector will be created to replace those that have been lost.

Price Inflation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

343 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance his plans to address the cause or causes of hidden inflation; the extent to which inflation is causing the relocation of manufacturing jobs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10562/07]

The Director General of the Central Statistics Office 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.

Some of the high profile job losses recently seem to be due to the fortunes of individual companies rather than national competitiveness. However, we will of course remain vigilant and are committed to maintaining our competitiveness.

Employment growth has been extremely strong in recent years, and over 2 million people are now employed in Ireland. Unemployment has remained consistently low at below 4.5 per cent — essentially full employment. While the numbers employed in industries fell during the first half of 2006, employment in this sector increased significantly during the second half of the year. In this context, it is expected that jobs in this sector will be created to replace those that have been lost. Maintaining a moderate rate of inflation remains a key priority of economic policy because of its importance in restoring competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

344 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he has identified the cause or causes of recent inflation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10563/07]

Inflation, as measured by the CPI fell to 4.8 per cent in February from 5.2 per cent in January 2007. On a HICP basis inflation fell to 2.6 per cent in February from 2.9 per cent in January. The rate of CPI inflation has increased in the past year; this is mainly due to ECB interest rate increases which are outside of Government control. If mortgage interest was removed, CPI inflation would have measured 2.5 per cent in February. Annual goods inflation was unchanged in February but annual services sector inflation is currently running at 9.1 per cent and this is a cause for concern. It highlights the need for more competition in the economy as well as for pay and profit restraint in all sectors in order to keep our cost base down.

Decentralisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

345 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the incentives currently on offer to civil servants through the Government’s decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10564/07]

The programme of Decentralisation is being implemented through the transfer of staff on a voluntary basis. The potential benefits of decentralisation are significant. Existing Civil and Public Servants seeking to leave Dublin, for example, to return to family and friends back home, or to acquire an affordable and comfortable family home within easy reach of their workplace, have a broad range of options. There will also be a wider range of work and career opportunities for Public and Civil Servants already working outside Dublin. Present and future Civil and Public Servants who aspire to senior management positions will no longer have to necessarily migrate to the capital, although many will continue to do so.

On a broader note, the dispersal of jobs from Dublin has obvious advantages for securing a better regional balance. It will help the economic and social development of the chosen centres and their catchment areas. Decentralisation can provide high-quality jobs for regions that have not benefited as much as Dublin from recent economic success. It can provide a further boost to the provision of infrastructure in the regions. It can also attract other investment and services and act as an incentive to entrepreneurs to develop businesses in the regions thus creating a positive domino effect.

The Deputy may also wish to note that as a contribution towards the expenses of staff during training, a Decentralisation Training Allowance is payable for officers from locations outside Dublin who are required to come to Dublin (or another suitable provincial location) for an initial training period prior to taking up duty at new decentralised locations. My Department will be issuing a circular to departments on this matter shortly.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

346 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the number of civil servants other than those normally seeking relocation who have to date been relocated under the Government’s decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10565/07]

When the Decentralisation Programme was announced, all staff were given the opportunity to apply through a Central Applications Facility (CAF), which is operated by the Public Appointments Service, to relocate under the Decentralisation Programme. Apart from the CAF arrangements, my Department does not maintain data centrally on the number of staff who may wish to relocate for other reasons.

Over ten thousand six hundred civil and public servants have made applications under the CAF system at this stage. At the end of December 2006, over 2,400 staff had been assigned to decentralising posts. Approximately 800 of these are currently in place, in 17 new locations, while the remainder are being trained in advance of decentralisation to a new location, as soon as accommodation becomes available.

It is envisaged that by the end of 2007 public services will be delivered from 36 of the decentralisation towns with approximately 2,000 staff transferred. The precise numbers moving within that time frame will depend on the availability of property as well as timeframes for completion of fit out and installation of necessary ICT (information communications technology) and telecommunication cabling and equipment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

347 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the expenditure to date in respect of purchase or lease of premises in each county arising from the Government’s decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10566/07]

Overall, the programme of site identification and acquisition is progressing satisfactorily. To date, property acquisition negotiations have been completed or significantly advanced in 37 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, Cavan, Claremorris, Tipperary, Loughrea (leased building), Edenderry, Roscommon and Carrick on Shannon (leased building). 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 2 locations, Limerick (leased building) and Thomastown (site).

Contracts for sale have been received in a further 9 locations including Donegal, Portlaoise, Listowel (leased building), Carrickmacross (building purchase), Kilrush (leased building), Waterford, Wexford, Mullingar and Enniscorthy. Terms have been agreed and contracts are awaited in a further 3 locations including Clifden, Youghal and Newbridge.

The expenditure to date per county is detailed in the tabular statements.

Site/Building Purchases

County

Site Cost

Carlow

1,440,000

Cavan

2,900,000

Cork

2,875,000

Donegal

1,105,860

Kerry

4,500,000

Kilkenny

2,100,000

Limerick

325,000

Longford

576,250

Mayo

2,890,000

Meath

3,600,000

Offaly

8,900,000

Roscommon

3,000,000

Tipperary

2,592,500

Waterford

2,100,000

Schedule of Counties where long term lease terms have been agreed (permanent solutions)

County

Rental Cost (p.a.)

Clare

85,050

Galway

139,235.50

Kerry

183,000

Laois

73,500

Leitrim

800,000

Limerick

833,000

Schedule of locations where temporary interim accommodation has been acquired

County

Rental Cost (p.a.)

Cavan

49,498

Cork

157,480

Galway

92,242

Kerry

140,000

Laois

529,140

Limerick

68,771

Mayo

151,641

Sligo

114,681

Tipperary

134,265

Garda Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

348 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance his future intentions in respect of the old Garda station at Carbury, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10567/07]

It is proposed to place the former Garda station in Carbury, County Kildare for sale on the open market.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

349 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the services and facilities available to persons with a hearing disability who wish to phone his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10953/07]

While there are no specific facilities in my Department for people with a hearing disability to phone the Department there are a number of methods by which members of the public, who have a hearing disability, can contact the Department such as e-mail or fax. In addition my Department has, in compliance with the Disability Act 2005, appointed Access Officers to provide, or arrange for and co-ordinate the provision of, assistance and guidance to persons with disabilities in accessing the Department or its services.

Health Service Staff.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

350 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children the efforts her Department is prepared to make in order to help a person (details supplied) in County Galway; if she will provide advice to this person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9725/07]

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 healthcare 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 healthcare 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 the Actual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter 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 to the Deputy.

Food Labelling.

Michael Noonan

Question:

351 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that partially sighted persons find it difficult to read labels on food products due to font size and colour contrast; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that the relevant regulations only require labels to be legible; if she will assess the situation with a view to initiating a review of the relevant EU regulations to cater for the needs of the partially sighted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9958/07]

Most of our food legislation — including food labelling legislation — derives from our obligations as a Member State of the European Union.

The EU food labelling regime is being reviewed at present and my Department, in its input into this process, has suggested that the possibility of introducing bar codes for the visually impaired might be explored. This was in the context of the general principle that food labelling should be easy to understand, clearly legible and not obscured in any way.

A legislative proposal from the Commission is awaited; however, Ireland cannot pre-empt the outcome of the Commission's ongoing review.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

352 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for occupational therapy in view of the fact that this person has been waiting for over two years. [10098/07]

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.

Special Educational Needs.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

353 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason speech and language therapists are not available to assist a person (details supplied) who has autism and is in mainstream education; and if she will ensure that the resources are made available. [10152/07]

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

Departmental Properties.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

354 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that Ionad Folláin, Myshall, County Carlow, which was bought by the Office of Public Works a few years ago and handed over to the Health Service Executive, is due to be sold; the amount that was spent purchasing the property and insuring, securing and maintaining the property; if her attention has been further been drawn to the fact that the property will now be sold for a fraction of the total spent on it; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10258/07]

As the Deputy is aware the property at Myshall, Co. Carlow was purchased by the OPW on behalf of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to accommodate asylum seekers. However, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform decided against using the property for that purpose. Subsequently, the property was gifted by the OPW to the Department of Health and Children who in turn transferred ownership of the property to the former South Eastern Health Board in whose area the property is located.

The responsibility for the provision of security at Myshall rested with my Department from September 2002 to December, 2002. During that period the total cost of the security to my Department was €18,606.36. Since January, 2003, it has been the responsibility of the Health Service Executive South Eastern Area (formally the South Eastern Health Board).

Under the Health Act, 2004, it is the Health Service Executive which is responsible for the acquisition and disposal of property under its remit.

Community Care.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

355 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if a carer or home help can be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10370/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

495 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if a carer or home help can be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10369/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 355 and 495 together.

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. The Executive, therefore, 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.

Hospital Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

356 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the conditions in Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital where women in labour awaiting treatment are left in the waiting room with visitors and have no privacy; if she will make funding available in order that a separate room could be set up for pregnant women; her plans for the improvement of waiting facilities at the hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9404/07]

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 issues raised by the Deputy. My Department has asked the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

357 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with a MRI scan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9410/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive 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 question 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.

John McGuinness

Question:

358 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in arranging a second operation for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will expedite the matter. [9411/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive 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.

Michael Ring

Question:

359 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason it is taking so long for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo to be called for a urology appointment; and if this person will be called for an earlier appointment. [9415/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive 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 question 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.

Voluntary Sector Funding.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

360 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to an organisation (details supplied); the funding being provided to this organisation that deals with acquired brain injury; her views on same; if her Department has plans to provide further funding to the organisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9431/07]

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.

Pharmaceutical Sector.

Dan Neville

Question:

361 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the outcome of a meeting between her Department and the Irish Pharmaceutical Union which took place on 24 February 2007 with a view to establishing a mechanism whereby collective negotiation on behalf of pharmacists can resume. [9436/07]

A meeting was held on 21 February between the HSE/Department of Health and Children negotiating team and the Irish Pharmaceutical Union. The purpose of the meeting was to establish a procedure to examine available options for advancing contractual negotiations in compliance with Irish and EU competition law. A process and the relevant terms of reference have been agreed and this process is expected to commence shortly.

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

362 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 144 of 1 February 2007, the percentage of the budget 2007 allocation for psychiatric services in relation to the total health budget. [9441/07]

The Revised Estimate Volume published in February, 2007 provides 11, 474 million euros for Vote 40 for the Health service Executive (HSE). A sum of 1,037 million euros is provided for Mental Health Services which represents 9% of the total estimate for 2007. In addition, a sum of €20.5 million is provided in Vote 39 for the Department of Health and Children in respect of the Mental Health Commission.

It should also be noted that the expenditure by programme does not reflect the full extent of spending on each care group. In this way funding for mental health services reflects only the direct expenditure in this area. It does not take account of the expenditure for individuals receiving mental health services who are also receiving services from the primary care service, acute hospitals programme or disability services. In particular, there is often a cross-over between disability and mental health services in the provision of overall health services to people whose primary presentation is with a mental health need.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

363 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received a report from the Health Service Executive on the progress made in relation to the cervical screening programme; and the reason it has not been possible to meet the targets set for this programme. [9456/07]

I understand the Deputy is referring to the McGoogan Report on the Irish Cervical Screening Programme. This Report was commissioned by the former Health Boards Executive and submitted to my Department in 2004. It recommended that cervical screening be managed as a national call/recall programme via effective governance structures that provide overall leadership and direction in terms of policy, quality assurance, accountability and value for money. It is my objective to have such a programme rolled out, beginning late this year, based on an affordable model. For that purpose, on 1 January 2007, I established a National Cancer Screening Service which amalgamates BreastCheck and the Irish Cervical Screening Programme.

The total allocation to the new Service is €33m; this is a 71% increase on the 2006 allocation to the Programmes. This includes additional funding of €5m for 2007 to the Service to commence roll out of the Cervical Screening Programme at the end of this year. Significant preparatory work is well under way involving the introduction of new and improved cervical tests, improved quality assurance training and the preparation of a national population register. All elements of the programme — call/recall, smear taking, laboratories, colposcopy and treatment services — will be quality assured, organised and managed to deliver a single integrated service. An effective national cervical screening programme will result in a substantial reduction in the incidence of cervical cancer.

Hospital Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

364 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has not received an appointment for urgent surgery in view of the fact that the original appointment was in October 2006 which was cancelled and four appointments have been cancelled since that date; when the person will receive this appointment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9466/07]

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 issue 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.

Pat Carey

Question:

365 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the entitlements of school going children to dental treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9471/07]

The statutory position governing the eligibility of children to dental treatment under the Health Service Executive (HSE) service is Section 66 of the Health Act, 1970, the Health (Amendment) Act 1994 and the Health (Dental Services for Children) Regulations, 2000 (S.I. No. 248 of 2000). Responsibility for delivery of health services is a matter for the HSE.

Children in specific classes in national school, usually second, fourth and sixth class, are targeted for preventive measures under the school based approach; the children in these classes are screened and referred for treatment as necessary; the programme has been specifically designed to ensure that children are dentally fit before they leave national school. The screening provided in second, fourth and sixth classes ensures that follow up appointments for examination, treatment or orthodontic review are made, as necessary, with the Dental Surgeon in the clinic designated for the particular school(s). Children who have attended national school retain eligibility to dental treatment up to their 16th birthday.

The Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2006, contains provision for the amendment of Section 66 of the Health Act, 1970 to provide for a health examination and treatment service for pupils attending any primary school. The Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2006, also contains provision for the amendment of the Health (Amendment) Act, 1994 to provide dental health services to children attending any primary school. My officials are currently in discussion with the Health Service Executive with a view to ensuring an early commencement to the relevant sections of the Act.

Health Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

366 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive a refund under the health repayment scheme. [9473/07]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the 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 to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Tom McEllistrim

Question:

367 Mr. McEllistrim asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the trauma and orthopaedic services at Kerry General Hospital have not been developed; when facilities will be improved, (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9481/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive 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 issue 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