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 15, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 16 to 49, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 50 to 56, inclusive, answered orally.

Traffic Management.

Willie Penrose

Question:

57 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport the strategy he has in place to curb traffic associated with the school run. [12664/07]

John Gormley

Question:

88 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Transport the safe routes to school projects that will be undertaken in 2007; the overall budget for this scheme; the schools that will be involved; and the outcomes expected from the projects that are undertaken. [12719/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 88 together.

Pilot programmes aimed at reducing the amount of car-based school traffic and the encouragement of walking, cycling, car-sharing, etc., have been in operation in the Greater Dublin Area for some time. Twenty nine schools are currently participating in the current programme. This represents the involvement of more than 10,000 students and more than 500 teachers.

The current "green schools" programme is operated by the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO), with the support of An Taisce and with financial assistance from my Department through the DTO traffic management grants scheme.

I understand that the pilot programme is almost completed and a review of the programme with recommendations on next steps will be submitted to my Department by the DTO within the next few days. I will then give careful consideration to mainstreaming the programme.

Details of the costs and schools that will be involved in the 2007/8 programme will not be available until the DTO submits its report.

The schools participating in the pilot programme are as follows: Saint Clare's National School, Harold's Cross; Scoil Aine, Raheny; Our Lady of Victories National School, Ballymun; Saint Joseph's Boys National School, Terenure; Rathmichael Parish School, Shankill; Scoil Maelruain, Old Bawn, Tallaght; Scoil an Linbh Iosa, Prosperous, County Kildare; Scoil Mhuire, Stratford on Slaney, County Wicklow; Scoil Conghlas, Baltinglass; Sacred Heart National School, Aughrim; Saint Brigid's National School, Annacurra; Saint Michael's Girls National School, Arklow; Saint Mary's College, Arklow; Carysfort National School, Arklow; Saint Joseph's National School, Arklow; Colaiste Iosagain, Stillorgan; Saint Brigid's GNS, Cabinteely; Scoil Phadraic Cailini, Donabate; Scoil Neasain, Dublin 5; Saint Paul's, Walkinstown; Caragh National School, County Kildare; Saint Conleth's Infants' School, Newbridge, County Kildare; Scoil Bhride Naofa, Kildare; Scoil Eoin, Rathstewart; Scoil Mhuire, Rathstewart; Scoil Mhuire na nAird, Wicklow; Scoil Naofa Padraig, Avoca; Delgany National School, Wicklow; Kilcommon National School, Wicklow; Saint Laurence's National School, Wicklow; and Saint Cronan's Boys National School, Wicklow.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

58 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport his policy in relation to the use of bus lanes by motorcyclists; and the road safety research this policy is based upon. [12648/07]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

151 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Transport his intentions to amend regulations to allow hackneys use bus lanes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12649/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 58 and 151 together.

The primary purpose of bus lanes is to facilitate and promote bus based public transport and the use of bus lanes is provided for in the Road Traffic (Traffic & Parking) Regulations 1997 and 1998. The regulations, which have national application, generally limit the use of bus lanes to buses and, in the case of with-flow bus lanes, to cyclists also.

Having regard to the role of taxis in providing an on-street immediate hire service, an exemption to the restriction relating to the use of with-flow bus lanes is allowed in respect of taxis when they are being used in the course of business.

Many representations have been received by my Department seeking to extend access to bus lanes in relation to a wide range of other road users including hackneys. A review of the access issue was carried out in 2001 and took account of the physical characteristics of the vehicles seeking access. The result of that review was to maintain the existing position.

Last year, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) carried out and presented to my Department some research in relation to motorcycle safety and proposed that the issue of allowing motorcyclists access to bus lanes on a pilot scheme basis be examined.

Following consultation with the other relevant agencies, work is now proceeding with regard to the detailed specification of pilot schemes permitting motorcyclists in bus lanes where all aspects of the RSA proposal, including any safety implications, will be taken into account. Subject to the evaluation of such pilot schemes, more widespread access to bus lanes for motorcyclists can be envisaged.

Rules of the Road.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

59 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport the arrangements in place to update the Rules of the Road book in tandem with reform of the driver licensing system; the amount of funding set aside for this in 2007; the revenue that is expected to be raised from sales of the book in a full year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12651/07]

Damien English

Question:

106 Mr. English asked the Minister for Transport the reason the new Rules of the Road is not downloadable in English on the RSA’s website; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12736/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 59 and 106 together.

Following a two-year comprehensive review of the Rules of the Road by my Department, which culminated in a public consultation process last Summer and the redesign and printing of the publication by the Road Safety Authority (RSA), I formally launched the new edition of Rules of the Road on 21 March 2007.

The Road Safety Authority has now taken over responsibility for the Rules of the Road, as part of its overall duties. The new Rules of the Road is available on the Road Safety Authority website and a link to the publication will be available on my Department's website shortly.

The new publication is an evolving document and will change as new initiatives come on stream. The intention is that an electronic version of the document will be up-dated by the RSA to clearly indicate information that issues in relation to any changes as they are made. Road users will in the future have access to an updated document on a regular basis.

Decisions regarding the allocation of specific funding as part of that process is a matter for the RSA. The expected revenues to be raised from the sale of the publication will depend on the demand for hard copies of the publication and is also a matter for that Authority.

Integrated Ticketing Project.

Joe Costello

Question:

60 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide an update on the integrated ticketing project; the timescale and budget this project is working to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12667/07]

Michael Noonan

Question:

67 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Transport the date when integrated ticketing will be fully operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12704/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 60 and 67 together.

The Integrated Ticketing Project Board has prepared a roadmap for the implementation of integrated ticketing within the Dublin area, based on smartcard technology. Subject to the formal approval of the approach by the relevant Boards of the transport operators, the Integrated Ticketing Project Board will proceed to the next phase of the project which is to go to public procurement.

The Board of the Railway Procurement Agency has sought clarity on a number of issues given that it is currently the statutory body responsible for delivery of integrated ticketing. My Department is involved in discussions with the RPA and the independent chairman of the Integrated Ticketing Project Board with a view to providing the necessary clarifications.

A revised sanction for the project will also be required from the Department of Finance. My Department is in contact with the Department of Finance to finalise this. It is premature to comment on budget and precise timescale at this time pending approvals from the Boards and the necessary sanction from the Department of Finance.

In the interim, there are in place a range of integrated tickets that allow transfers between Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus, LUAS and Irish Rail. There are also integrated tickets available between LUAS and the private bus operator, Morton's Coaches. Details of these are available from the operators. More products are being developed in line with market need.

Road Safety.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

61 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport his view on the recent report by the British Vehicle and Operator Services Agency that up to 55 per cent of Irish registered vehicles, including public service vehicles, travelling to the UK are in breach of safety regulations; the explanation for the discrepancy between the number of detections in Ireland and in the UK in view of the similarity of the regulatory standards; and the response he will make to VOSA’s report. [12715/07]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

69 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport the amount of funding provided to the Road Safety Authority for the enforcement of standards on heavy goods vehicles; his policy in respect of increasing this funding in future years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12640/07]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

105 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Transport his views in relation to the situation where many Irish heavy goods vehicles inspected in the UK are failing to meet UK safety standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12693/07]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

107 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport if he will introduce primary or secondary legislation to set higher standards for the testing of HGVs in view of the very high percentage of Irish trucks found to be in breach of standards in the UK. [12639/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61, 69, 105 and 107 together.

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 responsibility for matters relating to vehicle standards has passed to the Road Safety Authority.

The Road Safety Authority has advised my Department that while it has not been provided with the report in question by the UK authorities it is aware of the situation relating to the performance of Irish vehicles inspected by the UK Vehicle Operating Standards Agency (VOSA) for compliance with vehicle standards requirements.

Insofar as improving vehicles standards and enforcement in this State is concerned, the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 strengthens the institutional framework for improving enforcement levels for vehicle and driver legislation and for increasing cooperation with the Garda Síochána, which has responsibility for enforcement of road traffic law, including vehicle standards. The Road Safety Authority has now taken over responsibility for matters relating to vehicle standards, roadworthiness testing and enforcement of drivers hours, tachograph and licensing regulations. The Road Safety Authority is putting in place the necessary resources to fulfil its mandate and in that regard four (4) vehicle testers have been recruited. The addition of these testers will significantly strengthen the capacity of the Authority in relation to vehicle standards and it is the intention to provide further resources for that area. It is a priority for the Road Safety Authority in conjunction with the Garda Síochána to increase and enhance the arrangements for enforcement of vehicle standards.

In August 2006 the Road Safety Authority engaged consultants to conduct a fundamental review of the scheme of the compulsory periodic roadworthiness testing of goods vehicles and buses. My Department has been informed by the Authority that it has received the report from the consultants and that it is being examined by the Authority. I expect to receive the report and recommendations from the Road Safety Authority shortly.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

62 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he will take steps to enhance safety on the motorways with particular reference to procedures to be followed such as early warning in the event of accidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12625/07]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

86 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied with the measures that are in place to deter the type of motorway pile-up that occurred on 27 March 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12721/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

485 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the efforts made to enhance and improve motorway safety in bad driving conditions with particular reference to visibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13005/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 62, 86 and 485 together.

I would like, at the outset, to extend my sympathy to the family of the person killed and to those who were injured during the incident on 27 March. Indeed, all victims of road traffic accidents and their families have our sympathy.

Unfortunately, driver behaviour, particularly in relation to inappropriate speeds in foggy conditions, has been suggested as one of the main contributors to the particular events of 27th March.

Drivers must take responsibility for their own behaviour on our roads. Notwithstanding any maximum speed limit that may be in force on any particular public road, the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations, 1997 provide a general obligation on drivers to ensure that a vehicle is not driven at a speed exceeding that which will enable a driver to bring it to a halt within the distance which the driver can see to be clear. This includes the requirement that drivers should also maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of them so as that they can pull up safely if the vehicle in front slows down or stops suddenly.

The majority of offences committed on our roads relate primarily to the behaviour of drivers. Hence, the focus of the national Road Safety Strategy (2004-2006), which has just come to an end, was on changing attitudes and behaviour on our roads through a range of measures.

Significant initiatives identified in the Strategy that have been realised to date include the introduction of a new system of metric speed limits, the further extension of the operation of the penalty points and fixed charge systems from April 2006, the establishment of the Road Safety Authority and the Garda Traffic Corps. The Corps provides the basis for the achievement of the significant gains in road safety that emanate from consistent high levels of traffic law enforcement.

Other major proposals identified, such as the plans to establish a system of private sector operation of speed cameras under the auspices of the Gardaí, are well advanced by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Meanwhile the NRA is actively considering the deployment of ITS technology, including variable message signage, on the national roads network with a view to rolling it out on a phased basis.

The Road Traffic Act 2006 enacted a number of key measures. These include the provision to combat drink driving through enabling roadside Mandatory Alcohol Testing (MAT) and a ban on the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving. Since the commencement of the Act 30,000 MAT checkpoints are carried out monthly by the Gardaí and the number of road deaths and collisions have fallen significantly. Last year the number of road deaths was 368 – the second lowest rate in forty years. The Road Safety Authority (RSA) is currently working on developing a new road safety strategy for the period 2007-2011.

Road Network.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

63 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied that the new tolling contract on the M50 represents best value for taxpayers money; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12692/07]

As the Deputy is aware, the planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) and the local authorities concerned.

In addition the statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll bye-laws and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads, is vested in the National Roads Authority (NRA) under Part V of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000).

It is therefore a matter for the National Roads Authority, in contracting an agent to carry out a function on its behalf, to secure value for money in line with the administrative and statutory requirements which apply in relation to public procurement.

Road Transport Legislation.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

64 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport the reasons he has not transposed Regulation (EC) No.561/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 on the harmonisation of certain social legislation relating to road transport and amending Council Regulations (EEC) No. 3821/85 and (EC) No. 2135/89 and repealing Council Regulation (EEC) No. 3820/85. [12655/07]

EC Regulation No. 3820/85 is being repealed and replaced by Regulation No. 561/2006 on the harmonization of certain social legislation relating to road transport.

Regulation No. 561/2006 which has automatic legal effect in the State comes into force from 11th April 2007 with the exception of certain provisions relating to the fitment of digital tachographs, obligations in relation to record sheets and printouts and the downloading of data from digital tachograph units and driver cards which came into effect from 1 May 2006.

A Statutory Instrument dealing with certain enforcement issues and other enabling provisions relating to the EU Regulation is being prepared.

Rail Network.

Tom Hayes

Question:

65 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Transport if all the rail projects which were timetabled to begin under Transport 21 in 2006 have now begun; if not, the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12740/07]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

102 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if all the rail projects which were timetabled to begin under Transport 21 in 2006 have begun; if not, the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12680/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 65 and 102 together.

Four (4) new rail upgrade projects were timetabled to begin in 2006. Work commenced on both the Docklands Station and the Portlaoise Traincare Depot. The Docklands Station was opened on 10 March 2007 and the Portlaoise Traincare Depot is due to be completed in early 2008. Preparatory and enabling works began in 2006 on the Kildare Route upgrade project and the Glounthaune to Midleton Line. I understand from Iarnród Éireann that the main contracts for the Kildare Route Upgrade will be placed in April and June this year and that contracts for the Glounthaune to Midleton project will, subject to an enforceable Railway order in April, be placed in July. I will sign the Railway Order for this project shortly.

Construction of the Luas extension to Cherrywood was also timetabled to begin in late 2006. However, the Railway Order for this project was the subject of an application for judicial review. These proceedings were settled in late January and preliminary work on the project is now underway.

Railway Stations.

Liz McManus

Question:

66 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Transport the funding he has set aside in the 2007 Estimates for the upgrade, commissioning, and reopening of train stations; the status of Avoca Train Station and the plans there are to reopen it. [12659/07]

Iarnród Éireann has been allocated Exchequer funding of just over €395 million in 2007 for capital investment in the railway network. This will fund the new Docklands Station, Portlaoise train care depot, the Railway Safety programme, a programme of automation of level crossings, rail network resignalling, continued upgrading of rolling stock through acquisition of all new intercity fleet, and the commencement of work on the Kildare Route Project (including 4 new stations), the Cork — Midleton Project (including four new stations), and Phase 1 of the Western Rail Corridor (Ennis-Athenry). It will also fund planning and design work on projects such as City Centre Resignalling, Dunboyne/Navan line (Phase 1 of which includes three new stations), the Interconnector and the electrification of the Maynooth line.

I am informed by Iarnród Éireann that it has no plan at present to reopen Avoca station but that it will keep the matter under review having regard to developments in the area which might justify the reopening the station

Question No. 67 answered with QuestionNo. 60.

Road Safety.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

68 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Transport if he has received the new Road Safety Strategy; if not, the reason for the delay; when it will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12697/07]

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) is responsible for developing a new Road Safety Strategy for the period 2007 -2011. They went out to public consultation in October last year and I understand they have received a substantial number of suggestions and proposals as a result of this process. The RSA also engaged in a process of direct consultation with key stakeholders in December 2006. The volume of submissions received from these processes are being considered by the Authority prior to the finalisation of the new Strategy. When I receive the new Road Safety Strategy I will submit it to Government for approval as soon as possible thereafter.

Question No. 69 answered with QuestionNo. 61.

Airport Development Projects.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

70 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if the second terminal at Dublin Airport will be completed on time by 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12687/07]

Dan Boyle

Question:

124 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Transport the cost benefit analysis his Department has received on the proposed Terminal 2 development at Dublin airport; the way funding will be provided for the project; the return expected on the development; the way charges at Dublin Airport will be raised to cover the cost of this project; and the powers that exist to compel airline operators to use a facility once it is built. [12713/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 and 124 together.

The Aviation Action Plan, adopted by Government in May 2005 mandated the building of the second terminal at Dublin airport by the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA). This decision was driven by the urgent need to provide for additional capacity at the airport in response to the significant growth in passenger numbers there in recent years.

Under the DAA Capital Investment Programme, provision is made for the delivery of Terminal Two and associated pier facilities (Pier E). Fingal County Council granted planning permission for the project in October 2006 and this is now under appeal to An Bord Pleanála. An oral hearing will be held by An Bord Pleanála into the planning permission for T2 on 16 April next. I am assured that the DAA is working to the Government deadline to have the terminal operational by 2009.

The DAA are required to take full account of the capital appraisal guidelines issued by the Department of Finance and responsibility for compliance with the guidelines rests with the board of the company.

I would point that, in line with the Government decision of May 2005 mandating the DAA to build Terminal Two, independent experts have since reported to me on the specification and cost of Terminal 2. The experts appointed by my Department concluded that the methodology, approach and execution of the planning objectives and considerations for passengers adopted by the DAA accords with best practice. They also found that the estimated cost of the new terminal is within industry norms for this type of project in a European capital city. The verification team report is available on my Department's website, (www.transport.ie). The Deputy will also be aware that the Commission for Aviation Regulation is currently reviewing Dublin Airport charges in the light of the DAA capital expenditure plans including Terminal 2.

Rail Services.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

71 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport the assurances he can give that the North Esk freight facility and freight yard will remain connected to the Cork to Cobh line; and the details of the proposed location of the park and ride facility proposed under the Midleton plan. [12722/07]

This is an operational matter for Iarnród Éireann. I understand from Iarnród Éireann that there are presently no rail freight activities at the North Esk rail freight depot. Iarnród Éireann have also informed me that while it is planned to disconnect the terminal as part of track and signalling upgrading on the Cork – Cobh line the depot can be re-connected at any stage in the future if viable rail freight traffic arises.

I also understand from Iarnród Éireann that three new stations are planned on the Cork – Midleton line at Midleton, Carrigtwohill and Dunkettle and that it is planned to provide 350, 220 and 400 car parking spaces at these stations respectively.

Departmental Agencies.

David Stanton

Question:

72 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport the various bodies and organisation under the aegis of his Department; the responsibilities of each and the responsibilities that have been devolved to them from his Department since 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12726/07]

The following table lists the bodies and organizations under the aegis of my Department and their responsibilities. Where responsibilities have been devolved to a body from my Department since 2002, this is indicated in the table in italics under the entry for the body concerned.

Table of Bodies under the aegis of the Department of Transport

Body

Function

Dublin Airport Authority

Dublin Airport Authority is responsible for the management and development of Dublin Airport. DAA Authority also remains responsible for Shannon and Cork airports pending the completion of the restructuring of the company (i.e. prior to the assets of Shannon and Cork Airports being vested in their respective Airport Authorities) as provided for in the State Airports Act 2004.

Shannon Airport Authority

Shannon Airport Authority will in due course, own and operate Shannon Airport. At present the board of Shannon Airport Authority is charged with preparing to assume responsibility for the management and development of Shannon Airport as well as being empowered to undertake any functions delegated to it by, and in agreement with, Dublin Airport Authority during the interim period.

Cork Airport Authority

Cork Airport Authority will in due course, own and operate Cork Airport. At present the board of Cork Airport Authority is charged with preparing to assume responsibility for the management and development of Cork Airport as well as being empowered to undertake any functions delegated to it by, and in agreement with, Dublin Airport Authority during the interim period.

Irish Aviation Authority

The Irish Aviation Authority carries out a range of operational and regulatory functions and services relating to the safety and technical aspects of civil aviation.The Authority ensures that the Irish Civil Aviation operates to international and European safety standards and systems in accordance with international agreements.

Commission for Aviation Regulation

The principal function of the Commission for Aviation Regulation is to regulate airport charges at Dublin Airport and to regulate aviation terminal services charges at Irish airports, which have an annual throughput in excess of one million passengers. The Commission also has responsibility for discharging Ireland’s responsibilities under EU legislation on slot allocation, the licensing of air carriers, the regulation of the groundhandling market and the enforcement of air passenger rights. Additionally, the Commission is the competent authority for the licensing of travel agents and tour operators.

C.I.E. Group

Córas Iompair Éireann (CIÉ) is charged with the provision of bus and rail public transport for passengers as well as rail freight transport within the state and the operation of Rosslare Europort and CIÉ Tours. CIÉ has three wholly owned subsidiary limited liability companies: Iarnród Eireann, Bus Átha Cliath and Bus Éireann.

Iarnród Éireann

Iarnród Éireann manages, maintains and develops the rail network infrastructure. It provides a railway service and a road freight service.

Dublin Bus

Dublin Bus provides bus services in Dublin city and county and contiguous areas.

Bus Éireann

Bus Éireann provides bus services throughout Ireland with the exception of Dublin City. Bus Éireann is also responsible for the operation and administration of the national school transport scheme on behalf of the Department of Education and Science.

Railway Procurement Agency

The Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) is responsible for the procurement of such light rail and metro infrastructure as may be determined from time to time by the Minister. It is also responsible for the delivery of integrated ticketing systems as may be determined by the Minister. The Agency may also exploit commercial opportunities arising from its functions.

The Railway Safety Commission

The Railway Safety Commission has responsibility for regulating the safety of railway systems carrying fare-paying passengers and commercial freight and of other railways where they interface with public roads. The Commission also has responsibility for safety approval of new and modified passenger carrying cable railways, cable cars and drag lifts.

Responsibilities Devolved

With effect from 1 January 2006, under the Railway Safety Act 2005 the Commission has taken over responsibility for railway safety and rail incident investigation which were previously dealt with by the Department of Transport.

The National Roads Authority

The National Roads Authority has overall responsibility for the planning and supervision of works for the construction and maintenance of national roads, including. the management of the national roads programme and for the allocation of grants to specific projects on the national roads network.

Dublin Transportation Office

The Dublin Transportation Office was established to coordinate the implementation by relevant agencies of an agreed integrated transport strategy for the Greater Dublin Area, the Dublin Transportation Initiative. The DTO is also responsible for carrying out ongoing strategic transportation planning work, including the regular updating of the transport strategy. It also administers a traffic management grants scheme on behalf of the Department.

Medical Bureau of Road Safety

The Medical Bureau of Road Safety’s principal functions are to carry out analyses, for their drug or alcohol content, of specimens of blood and urine, provided for the Gardaí by people suspected of drink or drugs driving offences. The Bureau issues certificates in respect of the results of these analyses, which may be used as evidence in prosecutions for offences. The Bureau also participates in the Evidential Breath Testing Programme, providing Evidential Breath Testing instruments and training to Gardaí.

Commission for Taxi Regulation

The Commission for Taxi Regulation was established under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 and is responsible for the development and maintenance of the regulatory framework for the control and operation of small public service vehicles (taxis, hackneys and limousines) and their drivers.

Responsibilities Devolved

As a consequence of the making of a commencement order under the 2003 Act, the Commission took over the regulatory role in relation to the licensing, control and operation of taxis, hackneys and limousines, and their drivers, from the Minister for Transport with effect from 26 September 2005.

Advisory Council to the Commission for Taxi Regulation

The Advisory Council to the Commission for Taxi Regulation is appointed by the Minister for Transport.The function of the Advisory Council is to advise the Commission and the Minister as appropriate on issues relevant to small public service vehicles and their drivers.

Road Safety Authority

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) is responsible for promotion of road safety including, driver testing and licensing, registration of driving instructors, driver vocational training, compulsory basic training for motorcyclists, accident and road safety research, vehicle standards and road haulage enforcement functions.

Responsibilities Devolved

With effect from the 1st of September 2006 all responsibilities listed under the Road Safety Authority Act (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 were transferred to the Road Safety Authority. These responsibilities relate to the areas of driver testing and licensing, vehicle testing and standards and road haulage enforcement. Responsibility for promoting public awareness of road safety and measures, including the advancement of education, relating to the promotion of the safe use of roads was transferred to the Authority from the National Safety Council.

Marine Casualty Investigation Board

The function of the MCIB is to carry out investigations into marine casualties that take place in Irish waters or involve Irish registered vessels.

Responsibilities Devolved

With effect from 5 June, 2002, when the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) was established, it took over certain marine casualty investigation functions from the Marine Survey Office of the Department of Transport.

Port Companies: Port of Cork Company, Drogheda Port Company, Dublin Port Company, Dundalk Port Company, Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, Galway Harbour Company, New Ross Port Company, Shannon/Foynes Port Company, Port of Waterford Company, Wicklow Port Company.

The port companies are State-owned companies established under the Harbours Act 1996. The Act provides that the principal objects of the companies include the provision of such facilities, services and lands in their harbours for ships, goods and passengers, as it considers necessary. The companies are required to take all proper measures for the management, control, operation and development of their harbour.

Driving Instruction.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

73 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport when driving instruction will become State regulated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12686/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 163 on Wednesday, 21st February, 2007.

On the 19 June last I launched a document entitled "Consultation on the Regulation of Driving Instruction in Ireland" which was prepared by my Department.

In the document it was proposed that from 1 July 2007 all new entrants to the driving instruction industry must be approved and registered before being allowed to instruct for reward and that existing driving instructors must be approved and registered by 1 July 2008.

This area is now the responsibility of the Road Safety Authority and I understand that the Road Safety Authority plan to commence the regulation process for new entrants to the industry starting on 1 July 2007.

Public Transport.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

74 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Transport the measures he proposes to increase the use of public transport by all public servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12696/07]

The range of measures that my Department funds through the Transport 21 Programme for the improvement of the transport infrastructure and the prioritisation of public transport apply to public service employees equally as to the general public alike.

A key recommendation of the Travel Demand Management Study that was produced in 2004 by the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO), which is an agency of my Department, was that employers should introduce measures to encourage more staff to travel to work by alternative means to the car. The study recommended that such measures should be introduced in the first instance in large public sector organisations in the Greater Dublin Area. The DTO has recently introduced a Workplace Travel Plan for DTO staff.

The DTO intends to launch a sustainable transport public awareness campaign for the Greater Dublin Area in June 2007. One of the areas it will focus on is encouraging employers, particularly those in the public sector, to introduce Workplace Travel Plans that provide employees with sustainable travel information and incentives to drive less and consider car sharing, cycling, walking and public transport options. My own Department is committed to supporting and participating in this campaign.

There are already a number of provisions in place designed to facilitate and encourage the use of public transport, including its greater use by public service employees.

The Annual Travel Pass Tax Saver Scheme is extensively promoted across the public service and has a high level of take-up among public service employees. There has been a substantial increase in the sale of annual and monthly commuter tickets in recent years. Much of the growth can be attributed to the tax savings accruing to those who commit to purchasing annual tickets under the Tax Saver scheme, which comes under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Finance. In 2006, for example, Dublin Bus had 1,700 employers, including employers across the Public Service, actively purchasing monthly and annual tickets directly from Dublin Bus for their employees.

John Perry

Question:

75 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Transport when the DTA will be formally established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12738/07]

Richard Bruton

Question:

81 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport when he expects the legislation to establish the DTA will be published; the preparatory work conducted by its new chairperson; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12684/07]

Joan Burton

Question:

98 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport the way he will ensure that the proposed Dublin Transport Authority is fully accountable; and when he will publish legislation. [12675/07]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

140 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport when the Dublin Transportation Authority will be established; when the necessary legislative changes will be in place to allow the authority to function; when new staff for the agency will be appointed; and the functions the authority will have from its inception. [12711/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 75, 81, 98 and 140.

I refer to my reply to Priority Question No. 50 of today. Substantial progress has been made in preparing the legislation and it remains my intention to publish the Dublin Transport Authority Bill very shortly. The establishment of the Authority will ensure the full and effective delivery of an integrated transport system in the Greater Dublin Area under Transport 21.

In anticipation of the publication of the legislation and to commence the process of putting the necessary organisational arrangements in place, I recently appointed Mr. Tom Mulcahy as chairman designate of the Authority.

Pending the establishment of the Authority on a statutory basis I have asked Mr. Mulcahy, in his capacity as chairman designate, to give initial consideration to the management and organisational structure and to human resource and financial requirements of the proposed Authority and to engage with the key stakeholders and other interested parties as part of the preparatory process leading to the establishment of the Authority and its early discharge of its statutory functions.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

76 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the supports provided by his Department, as part of its disability sectoral plan in relation to the provision of transport services for persons for whom existing public transport services are inaccessible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12710/07]

Denis Naughten

Question:

156 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied with the pace of the roll-out of fully accessible public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12709/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 76 and 156 together.

‘Transport Access for All', my Department's Sectoral Plan under the Disability Act 2005, along with those of five other Departments, was approved by the Oireachtas in Autumn 2006. The Department of Transport Plan addresses the accessibility needs of people with mobility, sensory and cognitive impairments across all transport modes and contains time bound targets for the progressive realisation of accessible transport in Ireland. In general, the delivery of the various elements of the Plan is aligned with the timeframe of Transport 21, the Government's 10-year transport investment programme launched in November 2005. The Plan includes robust monitoring arrangements to ensure timely delivery of its targets and objectives.

Significant resources for accessibility are being provided under Transport 21 and the National Development Plan 2007-2013 to facilitate further progress. Accessibility is being built into new public transport infrastructure projects and funding is also being provided to continue the phased retrofit of existing infrastructure. I am satisfied that progress to date is in accordance with the Plan.

Light Rail Project.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

77 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the specific remit given to the RPA in relation to the design of the Metro North route; and the amount of funding set aside for the project. [12673/07]

Transport 21 includes a budget provision for the implementation of a Metro line from the City Centre to Swords via Dublin Airport to be completed by end 2012. The mandate to the RPA is to deliver the project within that budget provision and timescale. The design of the project is a matter for the RPA within that overall mandate. I am not in a position at present to release details of the cost of Metro North because the details are commercially sensitive from the point of view of protecting public funds and getting best value for money.

Rail Services.

Simon Coveney

Question:

78 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Transport his views on introducing incentives to revive the rail freight sector in view of the need to reduce national levels of carbon emissions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12689/07]

The rail freight market is fully liberalised and I will be glad to consider any proposals that will assist in expanding the use of rail freight but the business environment is such that no real opportunities have been identified.

It should be noted that the operation and upgrading of the railway service already benefits from substantial Exchequer capital and current funding – nearly €600m in 2007.

Road Safety.

Damien English

Question:

79 Mr. English asked the Minister for Transport if, in view of its road safety implications, he is satisfied with the robustness of the road worthiness tests operated by all public transport providers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12735/07]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 responsibility for matters relating to vehicle standards, including vehicle testing, has passed to the Road Safety Authority.

The framework at European level in relation to compulsory periodic roadworthiness testing of motor vehicles is set down in EU Directive 96/96/EC. In accordance with that Directive, buses and taxis are required to undergo a roadworthiness test every year. The testing of buses is carried out by authorised testers appointed by local authorities in accordance with the European Communities (Vehicle Testing) Regulations 2004. In the case of taxis, testing is carried out by National Car Testing Service Limited in accordance with the Road Traffic (National Car Test) Regulations 2003. The items to be tested, the method of testing and the reasons for failure of the roadworthiness test for a bus or a taxi are set down in the relevant Test Manual prepared and published by the Road Safety Authority.

In August 2006 the Road Safety Authority engaged consultants to conduct a fundamental review of the scheme of compulsory periodic roadworthiness testing for commercial vehicles. My Department has been informed by the Authority that it has received the report from the consultants and that it is being examined by the Authority.

State Airports.

Liam Twomey

Question:

80 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Transport the basis of his decision to give Cork Airport responsibility for €100 million of its outstanding debt; if this decision contravenes with company law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12703/07]

Bernard Allen

Question:

130 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Transport if he will intervene to resolve the ongoing dispute over the Cork Airport debt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12681/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 and 130 together.

As part of the necessary preparatory work for the separation of Cork under the State Airports Act 2004, DAA have been advised by consultants on the financial aspects mentioned. In doing so these consultants worked with Cork airport management on business planning requirements. The firm also advised on an appropriate financing proposal, which would facilitate the statutory objective of airport separation in a timely manner, consistent with the requirements of the State Airports Act 2004 and the Companies Acts. I understand that the outcome of this analysis was that Cork Airport could sustain a certain level of debt while remaining a very viable enterprise.

The Cork Airport Development Project, which was completed last year, is comprised not only of a new terminal, but also a fire station, car parks, a combined utility building and new roads and pathways and associated works. As I have said before, the funding of these developments will have to take account, not only of what is commercially and financially feasible for Cork Airport, but also what is commercially and financially feasible for Dublin Airport.

If the Cork Airport Authority is to achieve autonomy in the foreseeable future, it will have to accept responsibility for a reasonable portion of the outstanding debt, in return for the substantial assets to be transferred to it on separation. In deciding what level of debt is to be borne by Cork, it will have to be manifest to all concerned that it is a manageable debt burden that would not put at risk the airport's commercial future.

Responsibility for the production of the business plans rests with the authorities. My function, under the Act, is to consider the plans, in conjunction with the Minister for Finance, once they have been submitted.

Question No. 81 answered with QuestionNo. 75.

Rail Network.

Dan Neville

Question:

82 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Transport if he supports the view of An Taoiseach that the Phoenix Park rail tunnel should be reopened for use by commuter rail services; if he has requested Irish Rail to progress this proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12706/07]

The Phoenix Park Tunnel is an existing railway line connecting Heuston Station with Connolly Station and North Wall Freight Yard. I am informed by Iarnród Éireann that the railway line is not used for commuter services because it would not be possible to accommodate additional peak train services into Connolly Station. The lines into and out of Connolly Station are already at full capacity and any additional capacity created in the future will be needed to cater for growth on the DART, Northern Suburban and Maynooth lines. Connections between Heuston Station and Connolly Station are provided by LUAS and Dublin Bus services.

Iarnród Éireann regards the Interconnector tunnel as the best option for providing additional cross city capacity. Approval has been granted for design development for the Interconnector alignment and its proposed station locations and layouts. This is expected to be completed in mid 2007.

Tax Code.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

83 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if he has reached a decision in relation to a proposal to provide a subsidy for wheelchair accessible taxis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12728/07]

Joe Costello

Question:

119 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Transport, further to Parliamentary Question No. 95 of 21 February 2007, if he has made a decision in respect of the proposal by the Office of the Taxi Commissioner for the introduction of a subsidy scheme to assist with the purchase of wheelchair accessible taxis and hackneys. [12646/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 and 119 together.

The outline proposal for a draft subsidy scheme to assist with the purchase of wheelchair accessible taxis and hackneys, which was received by my Department on 16 January 2007, is currently being considered. This proposal will require consultation with the Department of Finance. Pending completion of this examination, I am not in a position to make any further comment.

Driving Tests.

Phil Hogan

Question:

84 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Transport when compulsory basic training for motorcyclists will be introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12699/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 181 on Wednesday, 21st February, 2007.

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) the Road Safety Authority has responsibility for the oversight of the operation of the driver licensing system including the preparation of proposals for draft regulatory provisions relating to driver licensing and testing. In this context the Road Safety Authority is responsible for bringing forward proposals for the introduction of compulsory initial practical training for motorcyclists.

A consultation document seeking the views of stakeholders was published by the Road Safety Authority on 1 March 2007 and submissions may be made to the Road Safety Authority until 27 April 2007. Following this process a formal scheme of training for novice motorcyclists will be developed and rolled out.

State Airports.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

85 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport when he will publish the marketing and infrastructural support plans for the Shannon region in the context of Open Skies. [12653/07]

I announced my intention to prepare an Economic and Tourism Development Plan for Shannon Airport in the context of the EU-US negotiations on Open Skies when negotiators initially signed off on the text of a draft EU-US agreement in November 2005. That draft agreement provided for a transitional arrangements for Ireland, relating to the phasing out of the ‘Shannon Stop'.

In preparing the Plan, my Department has consulted with the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment and the Department of Finance. A liaison group, established by the Mid West Regional Authority, has separately prepared a report on the future development of the Shannon region as an input to the Plan.

Following the endorsement of the EU-US Air Transport Agreement by the Council of Transport Ministers on 22 March I expect to be in a position to finalise the Tourism and Economic Development Plan for Shannon shortly.

Question No. 86 answered with QuestionNo. 62.

Road Traffic Offences.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

87 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether drug driving is a major cause of road fatalities and injuries; if so, the proposals he will introduce to tackle this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12698/07]

The main contributory factors in road traffic fatalities and injuries are speeding, drink-driving and the non-wearing of seat belts. The influence of drugs on driving behaviour is an issue of increasing concern and has thus been given recognition in the previous Government Strategy on Road Safety.

Identification of the presence of drugs is however more complex than for alcohol. Consequently, considerably more work is needed to develop a more detailed regulatory regime in relation to drugs and driving.

The Road Traffic Acts provide that a member of the Garda Siochana may, where he or she is of the opinion that a person in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place is under the influence of a drug or drugs to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of that vehicle, require that person to go to a Garda station and further require that person submit to a blood test or to provide a urine sample.

The Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS) analyses blood and urine specimens received under the Road Traffic Acts for the presence of a drug or drugs.

At a meeting of the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg in July 2006, representatives from all over Europe addressed the issue of random drug testing of drivers at the roadside in the light of the most up to date developments throughout this region.

The MBRS and An Garda Síochána participated in that seminar, which concluded that there is currently no device considered to be reliable enough in order to be recommended for roadside saliva screening of drivers for drugs. The Medical Bureau is keeping abreast of developments in this area.

Question No. 88 answered with QuestionNo. 57.

Public Transport.

Dan Neville

Question:

89 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Transport if he continues to support a role for the private sector in the Dublin bus market; when he will introduce reforms to allow for greater private sector involvement in this market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12707/07]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

126 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the significant delay in the reform of the Transport Act 1932; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12732/07]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

131 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport when the 100 private sector operated buses will be fully deployed and operating in Dublin; and the areas they will serve. [12669/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89, 126 and 131 together.

I am committed to modernizing the regulatory framework governing public transport, not just in Dublin, but nationally. As previously announced, the Government has decided that the regulation of the bus market in the Greater Dublin Area will be the responsibility of the Dublin Transport Authority and has decided to mandate the Dublin Transport Authority to procure 100 buses from the private sector to provide services on new routes. The precise arrangements for the awarding of franchises to private operators in the Dublin market will be dealt with in the context of replacing the Road Transport Act 1932.

The legislation in that regard is currently being prepared in my Department which will be applicable to all public coach and bus services within the State.

In the meantime, the licensing provisions of the Road Transport Act 1932, as amended, will continue to be applied and all applications for bus licences from private operators will be considered on their merits subject to the provisions of the Act.

Cycle Facilities.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

90 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Transport the way he will encourage and promote cycling. [12590/07]

Seán Crowe

Question:

112 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport the details of Government policy in relation to facilitating cyclists in Dublin City. [12586/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90 and 112 together.

While the provision of cycle ways and cycle parking is, in the first instance, a matter for local authorities, my Department provides funding to the local authorities for the development of such facilities, either as part of QBN programmes or as specific cycling projects. For example, the investment to date has resulted in some 300kms of cycle facilities being provided, as well as cycle parking facilities throughout the Greater Dublin Area (GDA).

The main policy measures to encourage and promote cycling are set out in the regional transport strategy for the GDA, A Platform for Change. The policy measures outlined in A Platform for Change are being further developed through the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO) Cycle Policy Working Group and the local authorities under the active support of the DTO.

I am satisfied that the arrangements outlined above are a substantive approach to the provision of cycle facilities and to the promotion and encouragement of cycling.

Road Safety.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

91 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Transport if he has received the 2005 Road Collision Fact Book; and when he will lay it before the Houses of the Oireachtas. [12650/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

482 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if statistics show the category of drivers with the worst road traffic accident rate; if this identifies persons on provisional licences or those within the first five years of achieving a full licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12999/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 91 and 482 together.

Statistics relating to road accidents are based on information provided by the Garda Siochana. They are published by the National Roads Authority (NRA) in their annual Road Accident Facts reports. The most recent report, now entitled "Road Collision Facts", relates to 2004 and is available in the Oireachtas Library and on the NRA website. The reports do not contain information on the driver licensing status of those involved in road traffic collisions.

Responsibility for the collection of structured information on road safety, including the publication of the annual Road Collision Facts Report, now lies with the Road Safety Authority. I understand that the statistics relating to 2005 are currently being analysed and authenticated in preparation for publication.

I expect to receive the 2005 Report from the Road Safety Authority towards the end of April 2007 and I will lay it before the Houses as soon as possible thereafter.

Departmental Reports.

David Stanton

Question:

92 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport the reports that have been commissioned by his Department since 2002; the costs and publication dates of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12727/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is being compiled and will be forwarded to him when complete.

Landing Rights.

Paul McGrath

Question:

93 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the Government’s position on the landing slots at Heathrow Airport held by Aer Lingus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12744/07]

The slots held by Aer Lingus at London Heathrow Airport currently serve an important role in ensuring connectivity between Irish airports and the extensive network of international air services to and from Heathrow.

In preparation for the Aer Lingus IPO last year, consideration was given to the possible need for measures to prevent the disposal of landing slots at London Heathrow.

Arrangements to safeguard Heathrow slots are built into the Company's Memorandum and Articles of Association. The effect of these arrangements, at present, is that any disposal of Heathrow slots can be prevented by 30.4% of the votes cast at an Extraordinary General Meeting. 25.4% of the shares in the Company are held by the Minister for Finance on behalf of the State.

The Articles of Association of the Company state that I will set out the criteria by reference to which I intend to make recommendations to the Minister for Finance in relation to the exercise of his functions as a shareholder in regard to any possible disposal of Heathrow slots. Following is my statement of 2 October 2006 which sets out these criteria.

Statement by the Minister for Transport

2 October, 2006

Heathrow Airport, London serves a unique role in ensuring connectivity to/from Ireland. This connectivity is fundamental both to provide connections to and from Dublin as well as to and from the regions. This is the reason for the mechanism providing for a possible consideration of slot disposals by extraordinary general meeting as set out in the Articles of Association of Aer Lingus Group plc. The Minister for Transport will not recommend that the Minister for Finance seek to convene an extraordinary general meeting to approve a slot disposal unless the disposal would result in the slots at London Heathrow falling below the level that is critical to ensuring connectivity to and from Ireland. Such an assessment will be conducted on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the criteria set out below.

Criteria

The Minister for Transport considers that four London Heathrow slot pairs for services to and from Cork and that four (summer season) and three (winter season) for services to and from Shannon would each be critical to ensuring connectivity to these airports because this is the minimum necessary to ensure a spread of flights throughout the day. On this basis, the Minister for Finance as a shareholder in the Company, acting on the advice of the Minister for Transport, is unlikely to support a proposed disposal of any slot pair such that there would be less than the existing London Heathrow slot pairs that relate to services between London Heathrow and Cork or Shannon and is likely to request the convening of an extraordinary general meeting, as provided for in the Articles of Association, to consider such matter. In the event of a proposed disposal of a slot pair subject to the above requirements, the Minister for Transport, when deciding how to advise the Minister for Finance, would take into account the services operated by other carriers from Cork and Shannon to London Heathrow and any evolution of services to other connecting airports from Cork and Shannon. The Minister for Transport would also take account of any relevant direct long haul flights from Cork or Shannon (as the case may be).

The Minister for Transport considers that the level of slots relating to Dublin that are critical to connectivity is that which ensures passengers from and to Dublin can connect throughout the course of the day with key long-haul destination flights to and from London Heathrow. The Minister for Finance, as a shareholder in the Company, acting on the advice of the Minister for Transport, is unlikely to support a proposed disposal of any slot pair relating to services between London Heathrow and Dublin that would result in the interval between air services operated using slots on this route exceeding 90 minutes (not reckoning any time between the last slot on one night and the first slot on the following day) and is likely to request the convening of an extraordinary general meeting to consider such proposal. In the event of a proposed disposal of a slot pair subject to the above requirements, the Minister for Transport, when deciding how to advise the Minister for Finance, would take into account the services operated by other carriers between Dublin and London Heathrow. The Minister for Transport would also take into account services which could be provided via other connecting airports, provided that there is relevant available capacity both from Dublin to the other airport and from that airport to key long haul destinations, and any relevant direct long haul flights from Dublin.

Any new slot (not being part of a swap arrangement) that may be acquired by the Company after the Offer would only become subject to the potential constraints on disposal set out above if the Company decides that any such new slot should be included. Where the Company has decided that any new slot should not be so included then the Minister for Transport shall not have regard to any air services being provided using that slot in considering a proposed disposal of any other slot.

Extract from the Articles of Association of Aer Lingus plc

10. Disposal of a LHR Slot

In this Article the following expressions have the following meanings:

"Disposal Transaction"

A transaction pursuant to which any member of the Group proposes to sell, transfer or otherwise dispose of, lease, surrender, mortgage or otherwise alienate or encumber any Existing Slot(s) held by it or any of its subsidiaries. PROVIDED HOWEVER that each of the following shall be excluded from this definition of a Disposal Transaction:

a Short Term Lease except as otherwise provided below;

a Permitted Security; and

a transaction related to the pair of slots which are the subject of the agreement dated 29 July 2005 between the Aer Lingus Limited and British Airways plc including any renewal or extension of that agreement.

"ESOT Option Shares"

The shares which are the subject of an Option Deed entered into on or about 11 September 2006 between the Minister for Finance, Aer Lingus ESOP Trustee Limited and the Company under which shares held by the Minister for Finance are put under option in favour of the ESOT, but only to the extent that that option remains exercisable

"Existing Slot(s)"

any Slot(s) held by a member of the group at the date of adoption of these Articles or any alternative or corresponding Slot(s) allocated to the group by the airport co-ordinator at London Heathrow Airport by reason of the Historical Precedence of any Slot(s) held by the Group at the date of adoption of these Articles. PROVIDED THAT

If the Group swaps an Existing Slot for another Slot, that other Slot shall however be regarded for all purposes hereof as an Existing Slot. It is recognized that different numbers of Slots are held for the summer season and the winter season and that notwithstanding that these Articles are being adopted during the summer season, the Slots which will accrue for the next winter season after the date of adoption of these Articles by reason of Historical Precedence from the preceding winter season are for the avoidance of doubt to be Existing Slots for all purposes hereof. The Company may choose to designate any future acquired Slot as an Existing Slot, whereupon the provisions of these presents will apply to that Slot.

"Historical Precedence"

the entitlement of an air carrier which has been allocated a Slot to claim a corresponding Slot in the next equivalent scheduling period pursuant to the Regulations as same may be amended, revised, supplemented or substituted from time to time.

"Permitted Security"

Any fixed and/or floating debenture, given to a bank or financial institution or issued in connection with the securing of bonds, over a substantial part of the assets of the Group which are given as security for a funding advance to the Group.

"Regulations"

Council Regulation (EEC) No. 95/93 of 18 January 1993 on common rules for the allocation of slots at Community airports, as amended by Regulation (EC) No. 793/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004.

"Short Term Lease"

A lease, temporary swap or temporary exchange (whether or not in return for consideration) of a Slot or a pair of Slots the term of which is no longer than 36 months; provided that a series of such leases (whether in favour of the same or different parties) in respect of [the same] Slot or pair of Slots shall not be regarded for purposes hereof as a Short Term Lease if in the aggregate they exceed 36 months over a 4 year period in respect of the relevant Slot. Provided further that if such a lease is to be put in place in relation to a Slot and there is already a Short Term Lease in place in relation to a pair of Slots, that lease should not be considered to be a Short Term Lease. A proposal to renew a Short Term Lease which has lasted for 36 months (whether continuous or discontinuous) shall be treated as a Disposal Transaction and subject to the provisions hereof. For the avoidance of doubt a lease of the slots referred to at © of the definition of "Disposal Transaction" shall not be taken into account for any purpose of this definition, in particular so that a lease of those Slots may be in place simultaneously with a Short Term Lease over another pair of Slots "Specified Percentage"

The Ordinary Shares at the date of the relevant meeting (or where a date is specified in the notice of the meeting for purposes of regulation 14 of the Companies Act 1990 (Uncertificated Securities) Regulations 1996, that date) held by the Minister for Finance (but excluding the ESOT Option Shares) expressed as a percentage of total issued Ordinary Shares plus 5% (thus if Ordinary Shares (excluding the ESOT Option Shares) held by the Minister for Finance represent 25.5% of total issued shares, the Specified Percentage is 30.5%).

"Slots"

The scheduled time of arrival or departure available or allocated by the co-ordinator to an aircraft movement on a specific date at London Heathrow Airport, being the permission to use the full range of airport infrastructure at such airport for purposes of landing or taking off.

If a member of the Group proposes to enter into a Disposal Transaction or enters into a Disposal Transaction conditional on the provisions of this Article, the Company shall notify all shareholders of the Company of its intention to do so or of the conditional Disposal Transaction. Such notification shall be by way of letter, explaining the details of the proposal to each shareholder who at the date of notification holds in excess of 10% of the issued Ordinary Shares in the capital of the Company. Particulars of this notification shall also be notified to the Irish Stock Exchange and London Stock Exchange via a Regulatory Information Service.

If within 28 days of the giving of the notification referred to in paragraph (b) (during which time the Disposal Transaction may not be effected), shareholders holding Ordinary Shares, amounting to at least 20% of the Ordinary Shares, so request in writing (such request can be in counterparts), the Company shall convene an extraordinary general meeting of shareholders to consider the Disposal Transaction. Such extraordinary general meeting shall be convened for a date occurring within two months of receipt of the request in writing from the shareholders holding at least 20% of the Ordinary Shares. Such an extraordinary general meeting may also be convened by the Company of its own volition, provided that it is fixed for a date which is no sooner than 21 days from the giving of the notices referred to in paragraph (b). If such shareholders so request or if the Company so convenes a meeting, the Disposal Transaction may not be concluded until it is approved in accordance with the following paragraphs (d) and (e). If no such request in writing is made, the Disposal Transaction may thereafter be concluded within twelve months of the expiry of the period of 28 days aforesaid.

The Disposal Transaction may proceed if at the extraordinary general meeting convened to consider the Disposal Transaction the relevant resolution shall have been passed by not less than X% of the votes cast by such members as, being entitled so to do, vote in person or by corporate representative or by proxy in respect of such resolution.

Where X is [100 — the Specified Percentage]

provided that if the value of X by reason of the application of this formula is greater than 75, it shall be deemed to be 75.

If such majority is obtained for the resolution, the Disposal Transaction may be concluded within twelve months of the date of passing of the resolution.

The Disposal Transaction may also be concluded within twelve months of the Company obtaining the consent in writing to such Disposal Transaction from the holders of at least 75% of the voting rights attaching to Ordinary Shares in the capital of the Company.

The exercise of any rights by the Minister for Finance under this article will be in accordance with the recommendations of the Minister for Transport. The Minister for Transport shall from time to time set out the criteria by reference to which he intends to make recommendations to the Minister for Finance as to whether to seek the convening of an extraordinary general meeting in respect of a Disposal Transaction and/or by reference to which he intends to make recommendations to the Minister for Finance concerning the casting of his votes on any such resolution. These criteria from time to time will be placed by the Company on the Company's website.

Car Pooling.

Martin Ferris

Question:

94 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Transport the Government’s policy on car pooling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12591/07]

The Travel Demand Management Study that was published in 2004 by the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO), an agency of my Department, recommended a series of measures to reduce the demand for travel, particularly single occupant car travel in the peak period.

As part of a sustainable travel public awareness campaign planned to launch in June 2007, the DTO intends to fund the piloting of a car-share website for use in a group of larger workplaces, to facilitate car-sharing amongst employees in these organizations. The results of this pilot exercise will be examined and used as the basis for a possible wider roll out of the initiative within the Greater Dublin Area in 2008 and beyond.

Public Transport.

Billy Timmins

Question:

95 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied with the current situation whereby many of the public buses and routes which serve main hospitals are not accessible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12748/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 146 of 21st February, 2007.

Road Traffic Act 2006.

Seán Ryan

Question:

96 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the ongoing delay in commencing fully the Road Traffic Act 2006. [12672/07]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

145 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport the aspects of the Road Traffic Bill 2006 which have not yet been implemented; the functions and implications of these unimplemented provisions; when each one will take effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12746/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 and 145 together.

All sections of the Road Traffic Act 2006 have now been commenced with the exception of Sections 5, 10, 11, 13 and 16. The provisions in relation to Mandatory Alcohol Testing (MAT) checkpoints were commenced last year, and approximately 30,000 Mandatory Alcohol Tests are being conducted by the Gardai every month.

Sections 5 and 16 which relate to Fixed Charge and Disqualification for certain drink driving offences and Penalty Point Offences (other than the offence of driving while holding a mobile phone), require a considerable amount of work to be carried out on Garda IT systems. Work is progressing in these areas.

Sections 10, 11 and 13 relate to driving licences, learner permits and certificates of competency and fitness requirement to carry a driving licence while driving a vehicle. These provisions will be commenced shortly, in the context of a phased transition from provisional licences to a completely different approach to driver training and licensing.

Public Transport.

Enda Kenny

Question:

97 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport if he has received the report regarding public transport subventions; the recommendations contained in this report; the actions he will take on foot of this report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12729/07]

The Expenditure Review on CIÉ Subvention is currently being finalised. It is expected that the final Report will be published shortly.

Question No. 98 answered with QuestionNo. 75.

Road Traffic Offences.

Mary Upton

Question:

99 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Transport the progress made on the mutual recognition of penalty points between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; and the reason for the ongoing delay. [12677/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 88, 112 and 167 on 21 February, 2007.

In relation to driver disqualification a framework for the mutual recognition of disqualifications is contained in the European Union Convention on Driving Disqualifications (98/C 216/01). The Convention relates to disqualifications arising from a range of specified traffic offences including drink-driving, speeding and dangerous driving. Irish legislation to support the application of the Convention is contained in the Road Traffic Act, 2002.

In advance of the Convention fully coming into force and following a Ministerial meeting of the Transport Sectoral Group of the British-Irish Council on 9 February 2006, I have formally agreed with the UK Minister of State for Transport to enter into bilateral arrangements on the mutual recognition of driving disqualifications as envisaged in the EU Convention.

The UK Minister for State for Transport wrote to me recently advising me that it is now likely to be later than the first half of 2007 when the UK and NI authorities will have the necessary legislative and consultative processes complete to enable mutual recognition to be put in place. Officials continue to work to ensure that the necessary administrative arrangements are in place to enable relevant administrations to recognise and take action on driving disqualifications occurring in the other jurisdiction.

In relation to lesser offences, the North South Work Programme, as agreed by the North South Ministerial Council, included a commitment to examine the mutual recognition of penalty points between the Republic of Ireland and the North. However, in addition to the fact that separate penalty point systems operate in the two jurisdictions on this island, the system that operates in Northern Ireland differs from that applying in Great Britain. For that reason, it was agreed that it would be more appropriate to pursue the question of mutual recognition of penalty points on the basis of the operation of the three systems and that it would also be more appropriate that it would be dealt with under the auspices of the British-Irish Council.

As Northern Ireland has the lead role for transport matters in the BIC, the authorities in that jurisdiction are taking the lead in considering this issue. It was agreed at the British-Irish Council meeting on the 9 February 2006 that officials should examine the prospects for greater co-operation in the treatment of road traffic infringements where the penalty falls short of disqualification. Arising from work in this area I have agreed with the UK Minister for State for Transport the terms of reference proposed for a study of the feasibility of greater co-operation between us in relation to lesser road traffic infringements with a view to our officials undertaking a study on this basis. Work on this study is ongoing.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

100 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Transport when he will bring the full list of penalty point categories into force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12668/07]

The roll-out of the penalty points system to the range of offences set out in the Schedules to the Road Traffic Act 2002 was commenced in October 2002 in respect of speeding offences. It was progressed further in 2003 to cover driving without insurance and non-wearing of safety belt offences and extended in 2004 in respect of the offence of careless driving.

The range of penalty point offences was significantly extended from 3 April 2006 with the addition of 31 new offences. The most recent extension was in September 2006 to bring the offence of holding a mobile phone while driving within the ambit of the system. The total number of offences to which the penalty point system now applies is 36.

The focus of the roll-out of the penalty points system to date is on offences that relate primarily to the behaviour of drivers. This reflects the fact that 86% of all road deaths can be attributed to driver behaviour in its broadest sense.

The relevant support systems must be put in place to support the extension of the penalty points system, and where applicable, the fixed charge system. Discussions are held in advance with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and other agencies regarding the timing of each scheduled roll-out of new offences to ensure that the relevant interfaces are in place between the Garda Síochána and the Court Services IT systems, and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government who holds and administers the National Driving File. The progressive extension of the penalty point system will continue to be pursued.

Light Rail Project.

John Deasy

Question:

101 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Transport the reason funding has not been provided for the linking of the two city centre Luas lines in his Department’s 2007 Estimates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12741/07]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

143 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport his proposed timetable for the linking of the two existing LUAS lines in Dublin City centre; and if he has a preferred routing for such a connection. [12716/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 101 and 143 together.

The Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) began a public consultation on five potential routes, A to E, for connecting the two existing Luas lines in November 2005. During public consultation a new option, F, was identified.

Options A and F emerged as the better options and RPA launched a second phase of public consultation in January 2007 involving an open-day, display days, newspaper notices and distribution of newsletters focusing on the selection of the best of these two route options.

I also understand that the RPA engaged in dialogue with Dublin City Council, Dublin Bus and the Dublin Transportation Office in relation to the implications of the potential routes for bus services and other road users. Arising from these discussions, Dublin City Council and the Dublin Transportation Office recommended that a traffic management plan for the city centre be initiated to facilitate light rail, bus and metro development. Dublin City Council will undertake the necessary traffic modelling and is committed to delivery of early results from this work, by Autumn of this year.

The Board of the RPA recently decided that its preferred route option for the cross-city Luas line is option F. The RPA now plan to commence detailed design work on the project based on this option. This will take account of the results of the City Council's traffic modelling results as they become available. Following completion of this design work, and subject to a satisfactory outcome to the city centre traffic management planning work, the RPA will submit a Railway Order application to An Bord Pleanála. The construction timescale will be dependent on the outcome of this statutory approval process.

A second stage of this project will extend the line to Liffey Junction via Grangegorman and Broadstone. The selection of an emerging preferred route for the cross-city link will facilitate the commencement of work on the route selection for the onward extension to Liffey Junction. Subject to an enforceable Railway Order, the scheduled completion date for the overall project is 2012.

It is untrue to say that funding has not been provided for the linking of the Luas lines in the 2007 Estimates. My Department has allocated €173m towards the advancement of all Luas and Metro projects, including funding for the continuing planning and design work on the cross-city link.

Question No. 102 answered with QuestionNo. 65.

Road Safety.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

103 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the reason for his decision not to provide a default speed limit on non-public roads in view of the fact that it means that no urban speed limit is applied to estates not yet taken in charge by its local authority. [12641/07]

Public roads are roads that are in the charge of a road authority. The legislative basis for the application of speed limits on public roads is set out in the Road Traffic Act 2004.

I have no authority to extend the application of the Road Traffic Acts to private property or apply a default speed limit to non-public roads in private residential developments or to provide that local authorities can make special speed limit bye-laws in respect of such private roads.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Mary Upton

Question:

104 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Transport his plans to introduce a grant to people having their cars modified to enable them to use low CO2 emission biofuels. [12678/07]

I refer to my reply to Question Reference No. 8659/07 on 6 March, 2007:

The Department of Transport has recently funded a scheme to convert 50 selected vehicles to run on pure plant oil (PPO), which is being carried out under the aegis of the German-Irish Chamber of Industry and Commerce. The cost to the Department is €227,000 and provides for 75% of the cost of engine modification.

Decisions about successful applications are being made in April with the view to obtaining a diverse mix of transport operators. It is expected that this scheme will be complementary to the Minerals Oil Tax Relief (MOTR) Scheme II, which aims to place 163 million litres of biofuels on the market at a cost of €200 million, and will help develop a sustainable indigenous network of localized PPO supply chains in Ireland.

However, this scheme does not apply to private cars as it is targeted at hauliers or captive fleets maintained by local authorities or public organizations. In Budget 2006, the Minister for Finance provided for a 50% VRT relief on flexi-fuelled vehicles (FFV), which are capable of operating on 85% blend, for 2006 and 2007.

In addition, the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (DCMNR) announced obligatory 5% fuel blending by 2009, which will help to achieve the indicative target of 5.75% set out in the Biofuels Directive 2003/30/EC.

Question No. 105 answered with QuestionNo. 61.
Question No. 106 answered with QuestionNo. 59.
Question No. 107 answered with QuestionNo. 61.

Road Traffic Offences.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

108 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Transport his views in relation to its effect on road safety of the situation whereby it is not possible to issue fixed penalty notices on foot of detections under the MAT regime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12695/07]

The Road Traffic Act 2006 was passed by the Oireachtas on 6th July 2006 and was signed by the President on 16th July 2006.

A Commencement Order in July brought a number of the provisions in the Act into effect, including the introduction of Mandatory Alcohol Testing (MAT) checkpoints, from Friday 21st July 2006. Approximately 30,000 Mandatory Alcohol Testing checkpoints are being operated by the Gardai every month.

Section 5 of the Road Traffic Act 2006 provides for the introduction of a fixed charge and disqualification for certain drink driving offences. The implementation of that section requires necessary administrative and enforcement preparations, including adjustments to the Garda Fixed Charge Processing and IT systems and the testing of those systems.

Although work is progressing on these matters, it is not possible to commence this section until the necessary arrangements as outlined above are finalised and in place.

National Roads Authority.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

109 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport the directions he has made to the NRA under section 41 of the Roads Act 1993 since coming into office. [12654/07]

I have not issued any directions to the National Roads Authority under this Section of the 1993 Act since I took up office in this Department.

Public Transport.

Shane McEntee

Question:

110 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether, as he has recently stated, all new vehicles procured by CIÉ from 2008 will be capable of operating on 30% biofuels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12734/07]

As part of my overall objective of developing transportation in a sustainable manner I have requested CIE to plan to achieve a 30% bio-diesel blend in all new buses. Dublin Bus have secured a commitment from the relevant engine manufacturer, Volvo, that would allow new buses to be modified to operate on a 30% biofuel mix without affecting the warranty. My Department is working with CIE to establish how this target can be achieved for all new buses in the shortest time frame possible.

Pedestrian and Cycle Routes.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

111 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the role his Department has in the development of the Sutton to Sandycove pedestrian and cycle route along the Dublin coastline; if his Department supports the proposed development; the budget available for the project; and the approval process to be followed on such a project. [12712/07]

The Sutton to Sandycove pedestrian and cycle route project is being developed by the local authorities and is funded from the Traffic Management Grants (TMG) Scheme, which is funded by my Department and administered by the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO).

In 2007, funding of €270,000 has been requested by Dublin City Council for Phase 1 of the project (from Bull Island causeway to the Bull Wall (Wooden Bridge), to take this element from concept design to preliminary design. The funding requested has been approved.

I am advised that Phase 2 of the project (from Sean Moore Park to East Pier Dún Laoghaire) is being developed jointly by Dublin City Council and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. The Councils involved have not yet sought funding but, in the normal course, the funding necessary will be forthcoming.

The approval process for any DTO-funded scheme is as set down in the DTO TMG Terms and Conditions. The Phase 1 project (from Bull Island to Bull Wall) is covered under this process.

Question No. 112 answered with QuestionNo. 90.

Parking Regulations.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

113 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Transport his proposals in relation to changes to parking regulations in areas which cater for social, sporting or cultural events; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12731/07]

The imposition of restrictions and prohibitions on parking on public roads is a complex matter and legal advice was sought in this regard from the Office of the Attorney General. I have included a section in the Roads Bill 2007, which is now before the Houses, to deal with this matter.

Airport Security Procedures.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

114 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Transport if he will review the security situation at Ireland West Airport, Knock as there is concern that the cover is not sufficient due to the rapid growth of this airport and the increased passenger numbers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6762/07]

Regulation (EC) No. 2320/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing common rules in the field of civil aviation security has been in force since January 2003. This Regulation and a number of implementing regulations have been adopted into our National Civil Aviation Security Programme (NCASP).

A common position of the Transport Council on a Regulation to replace Regulation 2320/2002 was adopted on 11 December 2006 and is currently before the European Parliament for a second reading. The proposed new Regulation sets out to clarify, simplify and further harmonise requirements in relation to civil aviation security with the objective of enhancing overall levels of security.

I am satisfied that the aviation security practices and procedures implemented at Irish airports conform to the highest standards set down in the European Union common rules. These practices and procedures are subject to monitoring by my Department's Aviation Security Division and are also the subject of periodic reviews by international organisations, such as the EU Commission and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

It is not the practice to comment on specific security measures in place or that may be implemented at Irish airports. However, aviation security arrangements at Irish airports are kept under continuous review by my Department and the National Civil Aviation Security Committee, which is chaired by a senior official from my Department. The Committee comprises representatives of Government Departments, State Airports, airlines, the Garda Siochána, the Defence Forces, Customs and Excise, An Post, Irish Aviation Authority, the Irish Airline Pilots' Association and the Regional Airports.

On 21 February last I announced that the Government had given approval for capital grant allocations amounting to €86 million under a new scheme for the six regional airports. In the case of Ireland West Airport Knock, a total of up to €27.1 million is being allocated which includes €9.9 million for safety and security projects.

Taxi Regulations.

Dan Boyle

Question:

115 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Transport the level of accessibility of wheelchair accessible taxis in Dublin; the measures he will take to improve such availability; and the reason the Government has failed to live up to the commitment that was made by the Government at the moment of liberalisation of the Dublin taxi market that by the end of 2003 all taxis in the capital would be wheelchair accessible. [12714/07]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

475 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport the percentage and the amount of wheelchair accessible taxis which were operating in 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2005; and the reason deregulation of the taxi service was not made contingent on accessibility in taxis and other public service vehicles. [12495/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 115 and 475 together.

In line with its commitments in the Programme for Government, the Government approved the establishment of an Office of the National Taxi Regulator in November 2002 which led to the enactment of the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 and the establishment of the independent Commission for Taxi Regulation. The objectives of the Commission include to promote the development of high quality cost effective services by small public service vehicles and their drivers which meet a wide range of customer needs including those of passengers with mobility or sensory impairments, and to promote access to small public service vehicles by persons with disabilities.

Since 26 September 2005, the independent Commission for Taxi Regulation has been responsible for the development and maintenance of the regulatory framework for the control and operation of taxis, hackneys and limousines, including the licensing of such vehicles under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003, as amended. The Commission for Taxi Regulation is reviewing the current wheelchair accessible taxi specification in the context of a consultation process on vehicle standards generally which took place recently. An outline proposal from the Commission for a draft subsidy scheme to assist with the purchase of wheelchair accessible taxis and hackneys is also being examined in my Department.

The following table indicates the available data on the numbers of licensed wheelchair accessible taxis and their percentage of the total taxi fleet.

Date

Number of Wheelchair Accessible Taxis

Total Number of taxis including wheelchair accessible taxis

% of total fleet that are wheelchair accessible

%

1990

Nil

Not available

Nil

1995

50

Not available

Not available

21.11.2000

840

3,934

21.35

31.12.2003

1,238

12,845

9.64

30.06.2004

1,297

13,563

9.56

I understand there are currently 1,341 wheelchair accessible taxis available.

Rail Network.

Michael Noonan

Question:

116 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Transport if he has signed the railway orders for rail projects (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12705/07]

I signed the Railway Order for the Luas extension from Sandyford to Cherrywood on 14 August 2006 and preliminary works have already commenced on this project.

I have decided to grant the Railway Order for the Glounthaune to Midleton Rail Project, in line with the recommendations of the Inspector who held the Public Inquiry into the project. The drafting of the Order is currently being finalised between my Department and the Office of the Attorney General.

When the Order has been prepared it will be submitted to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in relation to his consent for the provisions of the Order affecting roads. I will sign the Order immediately thereafter.

In accordance with the amendments of the Transport (Railway Infrastructure) Act 2001 which were incorporated in the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006, all future applications for Railway Orders by CIE and the RPA, including those in respect of the proposed linking of the Luas lines in the city centre and the Luas spur to Citywest, will be made to An Bord Pleanála.

Question No. 117 answered with QuestionNo. 55.

Planning Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

118 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport if he has met with the Dublin Transportation Office regarding their alleged suggestion that Dublin City Council should extend its plan to ban fast-food outlets and mobile phone shops on Grafton Street to include neighbouring areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12587/07]

I have not had any communication with the DTO regarding this matter. The issue in question relates to planning and development, and such issues fall within the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Question No. 119 answered with QuestionNo. 83.

EU Directives.

Willie Penrose

Question:

120 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport the reason he has not transposed Directive 2003/59/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 July 2003 on the initial qualification and periodic training of drivers of certain road vehicles for the carriage of goods or passengers, amending Council Regulation (EEC) No 3820/85 and Council Directive 91/439/EEC and repealing Council Directive 76/914/EEC. [12663/07]

The Road Safety Authority has responsibility for putting in place a scheme of training for drivers to comply with this Directive.

As part of this process I understand that the Road Safety Authority will publish a consultation document this month seeking views on the manner in which EU Directive 2003/59/EC should be implemented in Ireland. The Road Safety Authority will, following this process, prepare draft regulations to transpose the directive. In accordance with the Directive new rules relating to the training of vocational drivers will take effect in October 2008.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

121 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport the action he is taking through vehicle standards, road pricing, public transport provision or otherwise to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the transport sector here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12665/07]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

480 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport the measures he will take to reduce CO2 emissions in the transport sector, which have risen by 7% in 2005 as outlined in the recent EPA report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7470/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 121 and 480 together.

A number of measures relating to transport are being included in the new Climate Change Strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These include a rebalancing of motor taxes, a Mineral Oil Tax Relief for biofuels, a modal shift through Transport 21 and the achievement of a 5.75% biofuels blend in fuels by 2010. In all the transport sector will provide up to 13% in total national emission savings under that Strategy.

The completion of projects identified in Transport 21 will see public transport capacity in the Greater Dublin Area almost double over its ten-year implementation period and modelling of the impacts of Transport 21 in the Greater Dublin Area shows a reduction of 6% in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions during rush hour in 2016. This will increase to 20% with the implementation of demand side management measures.

I have also announced the preparation of a Sustainable Transport Action Plan, which will support the revised National Climate Change Strategy and Energy White Paper. This Action Plan will set out a broad suite of policies and measures to help the transport sector progress along a more sustainable trajectory and make a critical contribution to reducing emissions to 2020.

The Action Plan will include consideration of measures such as:

Soft measures to reduce car use, including car sharing, flexible working, travel blending and individual or workplace travel plans with leadership being demonstrated by the public sector,

Additional initiatives such as public awareness campaigns on eco-driving as well as support for alternative fuels and technologies for public transport, haulage and taxi fleets,

Support for EU proposals to reduce CO2 emissions of new passenger cars to an average level of 130 g/km,

Support for a higher biofuels target of 10% by 2020,

Transformation of the public transport fleet to a more sustainable basis by mandating that existing buses and rail engines move to a 5% biodiesel blend with new vehicles to a higher blend of 30% biofuels in as short a time-frame as possible as well as the consideration of hybrid electric buses as part of fleet replacement,

Use of 100% pure plant oil (PPO) in captive fleets such as local authorities and public bodies,

Fiscal measures to reduce transport demand, including road pricing or congestion charges once sufficient infrastructure has been provided and public transport alternatives are in place, and

Support for measures to include the aviation and maritime sectors in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), as part of a multilateral commitment by Member States.

Tackling transport emissions requires a cross-Departmental approach and I am determined to ensure that my Department will continue to play its part in ensuring that the transport sector makes its contribution to the task of controlling national greenhouse gas emissions so that Ireland fulfils its international obligations relating to climate change

EU Directives.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

122 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport the reason he has not transposed Directive 2003/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 June 2003 on occurrence reporting in civil aviation. [12661/07]

Drafting of the Statutory Instrument transposing this Directive into Irish law is nearing completion and I expect to be in a position to sign the Regulations in the very near future.

Railway Stations.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

123 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the decision to close Cherry Orchard train station in Ballyfermot; and if he will ensure that this is immediately reviewed before the Kildare route project by-passes Ballyfermot. [12658/07]

The Kildare Route Upgrade project provides for the replacement of the Cherry Orchard station by a new station at Parkwest to be constructed by developers at no cost to the taxpayer. This will be completed ahead of the main Kildare Route Project itself. The relocated station will be 900m west of the existing Cherry Orchard station.

I understand from Iarnród Éireann that the reasons for this relocation are that the timetable improvements that the project will deliver could not be achieved if the existing station locations in the area were used and that a number of technical difficulties would arise if the station is not relocated.

Question No. 124 answered with QuestionNo. 70.

Departmental Estimates.

Liz McManus

Question:

125 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Transport the projects that benefited from the diversion of the unspent surplus accruing from his Department’s 2006 Estimates; the criteria applied for the selection of these projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12660/07]

The capital carryover of €29.1m from 2006 to 2007 in my Department's Vote has been allocated as follows.

Subhead

Amount 000s

B.1 Road Improvements and Maintenance

24,100

B.3. Medical Bureau of Road Safety

55

E.1 Maritime Safety and Irish Coast Guard

1,645

E.2 Seaports and Shipping

3,300

No projects have benefited, as of yet, as the Ministerial order from the Department of Finance which provides for the spending of the capital carryover was approved by the Dail on 22nd March 2007 and signed by the Minister for Finance on 29th March 2007.

Question No. 126 answered with QuestionNo. 89.

Integrated Transport Policy.

Ivor Callely

Question:

127 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Transport his Department’s policy on public transport integration; the principle issues of such a policy; the progress made since such a policy of integration was adopted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12356/07]

Transport integration has, for a long time, been a cornerstone of Government policy on transport. The Programme for Government indicates that an integrated transport policy will be implemented, designed, as far as possible, to overcome existing delays, bottlenecks and congestion and to provide alternative choice by alternative modes of transport.

This commitment has guided my Department in developing transport policy. An integrated and sustainable approach to the development and delivery of public transport services is central to my Department's Mission Statement and is reflected in specific policy objectives outlined in my Department's Statement of Strategy.

Transport 21 is perhaps the most striking example of the implementation of this integration policy in my Department. Transport 21 will create a transport network which connects roads, rail, ports and airports, facilitating ease of connection for people and goods.

Transport 21 will deliver a fully integrated transport network for the Greater Dublin Area, comprised of heavy and light rail, new Metro services, buses and strategically targeted park and ride facilities.

Transport 21 will improve integration in the provincial cities also by expanding public transport provision and by developing traffic management and park and ride facilitates to enable ease of interchange.

Rail Network.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

128 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport the timescale he is proposing for the reopening of the Navan Rail line; the studies carried out or commissioned in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12647/07]

Transport 21 provides for the re-opening of the railway line to Navan on a phased basis. The position on Phase 1 (Clonsilla-Dunboyne), which is due to be complete in late 2009, is that Iarnród Éireann expects to complete preliminary design work by June next and to submit an application for a Railway Order to An Bord Pleanála later this year. A scoping/feasibility study on Phase 2 is due to be completed by August next.

Road Safety.

Simon Coveney

Question:

129 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Transport if he will introduce regulations to lower or raise speed limits on designated national roads; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12690/07]

Section 7 of the Road Traffic Act 2004 provides that a default speed limit of 100 km/h will apply to all national roads outside built-up areas, save where a county council applies an alternative lower speed limit or where a county manager makes an order applying an alternative lower speed limit at a road works site. Section 8 of the 2004 Act provides for a default speed limit of 120 km/h on motorways.

Question No. 130 answered with QuestionNo. 80.
Question No. 131 answered with QuestionNo. 89.

Taxi Regulations.

Denis Naughten

Question:

132 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport if the position of Commissioner of Taxi Regulation is currently vacant; when this position will be filled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12708/07]

The position of Commissioner for Taxi Regulation has been vacant since 11 February 2007.

The Public Appointments Service is currently holding a competition to select a candidate for appointment as Commissioner for Taxi Regulation. The post was advertised in newspapers during the week ending 16 March 2007 and post is on the Public Appointments Service website www.publicjobs.ie. The closing date for applications is 5 April 2007. Following the closing date, an interview process will be held to select a suitable candidate for appointment to the post.

Pending the filling of the post of Commissioner, Ms Kathleen Doyle, Deputy Commissioner, is carrying out all the functions of the Commissioner.

Parking Permits.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

133 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport when he expects to complete the review of the disabled person’s parking permit; and the legislative or other regulatory changes which he is proposing as part of this review. [12652/07]

The Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations, 1997 empower local authorities, the Irish Wheelchair Association and the Disabled Drivers Association, to grant a disabled person's parking permit to a person who is suffering from a disability that is of a nature that prevents him or her from walking or causes undue hardship to the person in walking.

A review of all aspects of the disabled person's parking permit is still ongoing in my Department.

Public Transport.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

134 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Transport if he will outline in each case the way the public service obligation payment for 2007 for Iarnród Éireann, Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus was arrived at; the specific routes, areas, passenger profile and other category on which the PSO applies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12645/07]

Following publication of the 2007 Book of Estimates, which set out the overall provision available for compensation to CIÉ in respect of its public service obligation, my Department and CIE determined the allocation of the provision for each of the three CIÉ companies, taking into account the needs of each company and plans for the expansion of services. The compensation is not broken down by route, area or types of passenger traffic.

Energy Consumption.

Enda Kenny

Question:

135 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport the measures that have been taken by his Department in recent years to reduce his Department’s level of energy consumption; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12730/07]

Before outlining the practical measures taken by my Department to reduce energy consumption, I should clarify that the buildings in which my Department is located are sourced through the Office of Public Works, which plays a key role in this area.

The OPW provides expertise, advice and maintenance services concerning energy usage and has, for example, installed its Building Management Systems in buildings occupied by my Department. These high-technology systems control heating, ventilation and air conditioning levels and are subject to constant monitoring by the OPW to ensure that all mechanical plant is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible.

The OPW is also in the process of installing web-based energy monitoring systems which record all energy consumption, including electricity, natural gas and oil, every 15 minutes. Data is automatically transmitted to a central database for normative analysis and any necessary remedial action. Such monitoring systems are currently in place for approximately half of the main buildings in which my Department is located and work is in hands to extend these systems to other Departmental buildings.

I am also concerned to ensure that a general energy conservation culture exists within my Department. Notices are issued periodically to staff stressing the importance of switching off lights and equipment and it is also long-established policy to check buildings at close of business to ensure that lights and non-essential electrical equipment are switched off. The Deputy may also wish to note in this regard that low-energy lighting is used in all general offices in my Department.

Park and Ride Facilities.

Jack Wall

Question:

136 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide a timescale in each case for the opening up of the park and ride sites promised as part of the Transport 21. [12643/07]

I am making funding available over the lifetime of Transport 21 to provide for the development of park and ride facilities through local authorities, Iarnród Éireann and the RPA.

In the case of the Irish Rail network, work on expanding car parking facilities at Arklow, Gormanstown, Leixslip-Louisabridge, Newbridge and Tullamore railway stations is due to be completed by October 2007. My Department is currently in discussion with Iarnród Éireann on the details of further expansion of car-parking along the rail network.

The park and ride sites associated with the proposed Luas and Metro lines in Transport 21 will open at the same time that the lines open for passenger services. These sites are determined by the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) when individual Railway Order applications are submitted for the various lines.

In the case of local authorities, it is a matter for the relevant local authorities to prioritize projects and apply for funding under Transport 21.

Integrated Transport Policy.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

137 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport if it is a part of his Department’s transport strategy to introduce train station feeder buses in order that train users may access services without the use of private cars; if so, when this will occur; the investment that will be made in same; if it is part of his Department’s transport strategy that intra county bus services will be introduced to link towns via public transport and provide an alternative to private car use; if he will continue to support a strategy of pay parking at commuter train stations where those wishing to use train services have no other means of travelling to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12725/07]

Feeder bus services to/from, and car parking facilities at, commuter rail stations are operational matters for Iarnród Éireann and bus operators. I agree that feeder bus services are important in optimizing the use of the train service and understand that Iarnród Éireann and bus operators seek to develop such services where feasible. I understand from Iarnród Éireann that feeder bus services are in operation at various stations throughout the network including, for example, at Sallins for Naas. The recently opened Docklands station is served by a city centre feeder bus operated by Dublin Bus, Dublin Bus also operate services that connect to other stations on the DART/Commuter lines.

The position in relation to intra-county bus services is that Bus Éireann and private bus operators currently provide an extensive network of bus services throughout the country linking provincial cities, towns and villages. Transport 21 recognises the critical importance of bus services generally, including provincial bus services, as part of an integrated transport system. In this context I approved funding of €50 million in September 2006 for the purchase by Bus Éireann of 160 new buses for deployment throughout the country.

The Rural Transport Programme has also been extended. This provides local transport for those living outside major population centres to towns throughout the country.

Decisions in relation to parking charges for the use of Iarnród Éireann car parks at railway stations are a matter for Iarnród Éireann having regard to the location of the car park, the demand for places, and, other factors, such as the need to ensure that the facility is reserved for different categories of rail users.

Courts Service.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

138 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport if he has held discussions with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in order to improve road safety in relation to the capacity of the Courts Service here to deal with the increased number of drivers being detected under the MAT regime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12691/07]

The capacity of the Courts Service is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Courts Service. However, following discussions with An Tánaiste, he has informed me that the levels and types of business coming before the courts are continually monitored to ensure that delays in hearing cases are kept to a minimum. Systems are reviewed to ensure that potential backlogs are detected early so that allocation of resources can be properly planned.

Rail Network.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

139 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport the proposed timescale for the reopening of each of the sections of the Western Rail Corridor. [12662/07]

Billy Timmins

Question:

142 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Transport when the Western Rail Corridor will be completely upgraded along its length; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12747/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 139 and 142 together.

Transport 21 provides for the re-opening of the Western Rail Corridor between Ennis and Claremorris on a phased basis. The Ennis to Athenry section is to be completed in 2008, the Athenry to Tuam section in 2010 and the Tuam to Claremorris section in 2014. I am informed by Iarnród Éireann that preparatory work is underway on the Ennis/Athenry section with a view to commencement of track upgrade work later this year and completion of the section in 2008.

Question No. 140 answered with QuestionNo. 75.

Road Safety.

Seán Crowe

Question:

141 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on recent meetings he has had with the Road Safety Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12585/07]

As part of the preparation of the Road Safety Strategy 2007-2010 and ongoing briefing sessions on the various functions of the RSA my officials are in contact on a regular basis with the Executive of the Authority.

Question No. 142 answered with QuestionNo. 139.
Question No. 143 answered with QuestionNo. 101.

Rail Network.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

144 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Transport his position on the re-opening of the midlands rail line; if he supports this proposal; if he has held discussions with Irish Rail regarding this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12701/07]

The re-opening of the Mullingar to Athlone rail line was considered as part of the Strategic Rail Review. The review did not recommend inclusion of the scheme in the list of new rail schemes. On this basis the project was not included in Transport 21. I have met representatives of the Midlands Railway Action Group on a number of occasions and a report prepared by the group is under consideration in my Department and in Iarnród Éireann. I understand that the group have also discussed their proposals with Iarnród Éireann.

Question No. 145 answered with QuestionNo. 96.

Road Traffic Offences.

John Perry

Question:

146 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Transport his views on the fact that 93% of those detected for driving carelessly did not have Irish driving licences; if he has discussed this problem with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform; the measures he will introduce to deal with this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12737/07]

I assume the Deputy is referring to statistics on penalty points that show that, up to the end of February, of a total of 1,396 cases where penalty points have been applied for careless driving that 1,312 have no driver number. While no driver number may indicate either a person who has no driving licence or holds a foreign driving licence it is also possible that no driver number indicates that an Irish driving licence holder did not present his or her driving licence to the Courts. I therefore do not accept that 93% of drivers prosecuted for driving carelessly are foreign drivers.

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) the Road Safety Authority has responsibility for ensuring that penalty points are endorsed on a driving licence record. Data in relation to penalty points is held on the National Driver File, which is administered by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

All careless driving cases go to Court as the option of a fixed penalty payment does not apply. Notification of conviction is sent electronically by the Courts Service to the National Driver File. Where the notification includes the driver number the penalty points are applied to the appropriate driver record in the National Driver File.

It is a matter for the Courts Service to ensure that the driver number is included in the notification. I am not happy that in the vast majority of cases notifications sent by the Courts Service to the National Driver File, driver numbers are not included. Both my Department and the RSA have been in contact with the Courts Service with a view to ensuring that driver numbers are included in notifications. Under section 22 of the Road Traffic Act 2002 as substituted by section 21 of the Road Traffic Act 2004 a person is required to produce his or her driving licence to the Court and is guilty of an offence if they fail to produce the licence.

Traffic Management.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

147 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the steps he can take in the interim to address the issue of road traffic congestion in anticipation of Transport 21; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12626/07]

Transport 21, which was launched on 1st November, 2005, contains the full capital expenditure envelope of my Department in respect of traffic management measures during the lifetime of the Programme. The provision of traffic management measures is a matter for the relevant local authority.

My Department is a source of funding for local authorities for provision of Quality Bus Corridors and other traffic management measures. The Dublin Transportation Office and the Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford local authorities draw down these grants from my Department in respect of the traffic management projects that the local authorities have prioritised for funding. Allocations for traffic management grants in the Regional Cities include provision for Bus Priority and Park & Ride in those cities.

Road Signage.

Jack Wall

Question:

148 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Transport the funding provided in 2007 to the NRA for the provision of electronic advanced warning signage on motorways; and the progress to date in commissioning such signage. [12674/07]

The allocation of funding for the provision of traffic signs on National Roads is a matter for the NRA under the Roads Act, 1993.

Driver Licensing System.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

149 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport the reason for his delay in introducing changes to the driver licensing system as envisaged by the Road Traffic Act 2006. [12656/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 126 and 251 on the 21 February 2007.

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) the Road Safety Authority has responsibility for the oversight of the operation of the driver licensing system including the preparation of proposals for draft regulatory provisions relating to driver licensing and testing. At my request the Road Safety Authority has been examining the driver licensing system, as to what further reforms might be introduced in the interests of road safety.

In my reply to Priority Questions Nos. 1 and 2 on the 2 November last I indicated that I had asked the RSA to come back to me as soon as possible with a structured approach to a complete transition, with time lines, from the current regime of provisional licences to a regime of learner permits and restricted category drivers and related learner/drivers formation arrangements. The RSA has responded to this request and I am considering the detailed proposals submitted.

Air Services.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

150 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Transport his views regarding the impact of increased baggage charges on the aviation sector by the two main airline carriers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12694/07]

This is entirely a commercial matter for the airlines in question.

Question No. 151 answered with QuestionNo. 58.

Road Safety.

Joan Burton

Question:

152 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport when he will legislate for the compulsory fitting of cyclops mirrors on all heavy good vehicles. [12676/07]

Under The Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) the Road Safety Authority is now responsible for vehicle standards.

In October 2006, the European Commission published a proposal for a directive to require existing HGVs to be retrofitted with enhanced mirrors on their passenger side to improve the lateral field of indirect vision of drivers. At a meeting of the EU Transport Ministers in December 2006 the Transport Council reached agreement on a general approach to the draft directive. Essentially, the approach involves requiring HGVs registered since 1 January 2000 to be retrofitted with the enhanced mirrors within three years of the directive coming into force. Also at the Council, in response to requests from a number of Member States, including Ireland, to include in the proposals measures to address the blind spot to the front of existing HGVs, the Transport Commissioner indicated that the European Commission would undertake a study of this particular matter.

I understand that the Road Safety Authority will await the outcome of the Commission's further consideration of this matter and that of the European Parliament in relation to the retrofitting proposals before proceeding further with the development of national measures in relation to the retrofitting of mirrors to existing HGVs. The Authority will be pressing for the Commission and the Parliament to conclude its work as quickly as possible.

Road Traffic Offences.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

153 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport his position on the compulsory testing for alcohol of all drivers who are involved in a road traffic collision. [12642/07]

The Road Traffic Acts provide that a member of the Garda Síochána may require a person in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle to provide a preliminary breath specimen where the vehicle is involved in a road collision. Garda discretion in relation to the use of preliminary roadside tests in such circumstances is necessary, having regard to possible injuries sustained, and I do not propose to alter that position.

The Road Traffic Acts also place an obligation on a person to provide a blood or urine sample in a hospital. This applies where an event occurs involving a vehicle which results in a person being injured, or a person claiming or appearing to have been injured, where the person is admitted to or attends a hospital, and a member of the Garda is of the opinion that, at the time of the event, the person had consumed an intoxicant. An intoxicant includes alcohol and drugs or any combination of alcohol and drugs.

Rail Network.

Seán Ryan

Question:

154 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the way he will accelerate the interconnector project as announced by the Taoiseach on 24 March 2007; and the timescale proposed. [12671/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 460 of today.

Road Safety.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

155 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport his views on the introduction of driver education and training at second level education; if he has requested the RSA to progress this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12745/07]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) the Road Safety Authority has responsibility for the promotion of public awareness of road safety and measures, including the advancement of education, relating to the promotion of the safe use of roads.

A comprehensive road safety education programme "Streetwise" was piloted by the Road Safety Authority in 2006 and is being formally launched at the end of April. This programme will cover the junior cycle. The RSA is working in partnership with the Department for Education and Science on the development of a new programme for senior cycle students. This programme will be a significantly extended modular programme and this will include inputs from key public sector agencies. It is planned to pilot the new programme in September 2007 with a view to rolling it out nationally in the 2008 school year.

Question No. 156 answered with QuestionNo. 76.

Public Transport.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

157 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the service performance standards he has set down for Bus Éireann, Iarnród Éireann and Dublin Bus through the 2007 memorandum of understanding; and the way these have changed in the past year. [12644/07]

The 2007 Memoranda of Understanding with each of the CIÉ operating companies are currently being finalised. The Memoranda will build on those agreed in previous years which have included targets relating to the quantity and quality of services to be provided by each company.

Vehicle Standards.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

158 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on the progress to date on the reintroduction of maximum height limits for trucks. [12666/07]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 responsibility for matters relating to vehicle standards is now with the Road Safety Authority.

I announced on 25 January 2007 that I proposed to make a regulation to provide for a national maximum vehicle height limit of 4.65 metres and asked the Road Safety Authority to prepare a draft regulation providing for this maximum vehicle height limit and to undertake the necessary consultation with the European Commission regarding its introduction. Before the regulation can come into force, it must first be referred to the European Commission for consideration by it and the other Member States in accordance with the EU Technical Standards and Regulations Directive — Directive 98/34/EC. In making the announcement, I confirmed that, subject to the outcome of the EU consultation, it would be my intention to implement the height limit at the earliest date possible and to provide a period of two years for the phasing out of existing vehicles that exceed the proposed height limit.

A draft regulation providing for the vehicle height limit has since been prepared by the Road Safety Authority, and was referred to the European Commission on 5 March 2007. We must now await the outcome of the three months mandatory EU consultation period.

Departmental Staff.

Paul McGrath

Question:

159 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Taoiseach the number of civil servants in his Department in receipt of a full salary and by whom no work has been undertaken in the past month; the cost of employing these staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13499/07]

One staff member of my Department has been on sick leave for a month or more. Given the small numbers in my Department, the Deputy will appreciate that giving salary details would identify that person.

Paul McGrath

Question:

160 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Taoiseach the number of staff in his Department for whom two or more phone lines have been provided at their home; the number of lines provided in each case; the reason for this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13053/07]

One member of staff in my Department (Press Officer) has two phone lines, one for remote access to the Department's network and one as a dedicated fax line provided at his home.

Paul McGrath

Question:

161 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Taoiseach the amount of money paid to the training officers in his Department in respect of travel and subsistence allowances; the number of training days organised; and if the relocation of CMOD to Tullamore has had an impact on the work of training officers or on the work of those who attend courses there. [13068/07]

Since CMOD's relocation in July 2006, the Training Officer in the Department of the Taoiseach travelled to Tullamore on one occasion to attend a Training Officers Network Meeting held in their Offices. The travel and subsistence cost totalled €180.46.

The relocation of CMOD to Tullamore has not had an impact on the work of the Training Officer or on the work of those who attend courses there. It should be noted that there are still courses held in the Dublin Offices of which staff can avail.

Paul McGrath

Question:

162 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Taoiseach the average amount of travel and subsistence allowances paid by his Department in respect of attendance at pre-retirement planning courses prior to the relocation of the Civil Service Training Centre to Tullamore; the average amount paid in respect of attendance at the same course since the centre was relocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13098/07]

There were no travel and subsistence allowances paid by the Department of the Taoiseach in respect of attendance at pre-retirement planning courses prior to the relocation of the Civil Service Training Centre to Tullamore. Staff nearing retirement attended retirement planning classes in the CMOD Offices in Dublin.

Since the relocation of the Office to Tullamore in July 2006, the total travel and subsistence allowance paid in respect of retirement planning courses has amounted to €287.95.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paul McGrath

Question:

163 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Taoiseach the number of staff who have transferred to his Department under the decentralisation CAF or DCAF schemes and who have found that they must make a further move to another section within six months of their departmental transfer; the effect such moves have on staff morale; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13113/07]

No staff who transferred to my Department under the decentralisation CAF or DCAF schemes made further moves to another section within six months of their Departmental transfer.

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.

Registration of Title.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

164 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, when a person is attempting to claim an unused piece of land for themselves, under a Section 49 all neighbouring farmers should be notified of same and not just an advertisement in a local paper; his views on the fact that often where landowners live outside the country they are not aware of this change; if he will change this system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12366/07]

I am informed by the Property Registration Authority that Rules 17 and 18 of the Land Registration Rules 1972 deal with applications for registration based upon possession.

Rule 17 makes provision for applications for registration based on possession. Rule 18 provides that every title to property the subject of an application under Rule 17 shall be examined under the supervision of the Property Registration Authority (formerly the Registrar of Titles) and the Authority shall direct such searches, advertisements, notices and enquiries as it may deem necessary. I understand that the Authority's standard practice is to serve notice on the registered owner or the personal representative of registered owner and immediate next of kin if the registered owner died intestate. Normally, notice will also be served on all persons in occupation at the date of death of the registered owner, or their personal representatives if deceased. Other persons may also be considered for notice, e.g. adjoining owners, tenants under an oral tenancy, occupiers of other parts of folio lands, owners of charges, depending on the particular facts and circumstances of each individual case.

I am also informed that notices are usually published in a newspaper circulating in the area where the property is situated in all cases of doubt as to the identity or whereabouts of the owner or his successors, particularly in cases where the applicant asserts that he does not know the identity or whereabouts of the persons entitled or where it appears that the information furnished is incomplete. Where it is claimed that a person has left the jurisdiction, notices are published in a national or other appropriate newspaper and in certain circumstances notices are also served on the adjoining owners.

Pension Provisions.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

165 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he met recently with a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and the action he has taken on foot of their complaint that they were discriminated against in terms of their spouse’s pension. [12954/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

201 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who has been refused their spouse’s pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12953/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 165 and 201 together.

Under the Garda Síochána Pensions Orders, a widow's pension is payable on the death of a member or of a retired member of An Garda Síochána. While the person in question had been married to a member of An Garda Síochána, that marriage had been dissolved by decree of divorce. The member subsequently remarried. Since his death, a Garda widow's pension has been paid to his spouse at the time of his death.

Departmental Staff.

Paul McGrath

Question:

166 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of civil servants in his Department in receipt of a full salary and by whom no work has been undertaken in the past month; the cost of employing these staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13497/07]

Aside from staff availing of statutory entitlements or entitlements consistent with their conditions of service as Civil Servants (annual leave, sick leave, maternity leave, parental leave, etc.), no staff in my Department are not working and in receipt of full wages.

In relation to staff availing of leave entitlements for the full month of March, the position is that as the month only ended on Saturday last, it is not possible at this stage to say how many staff were absent for the entire month, while on full pay. However, I can say that they would represent a relatively small proportion of the 1,900 staff working in my Department.

Finally, it would be relatively easy to draw incorrect conclusions from the absence of staff on leave with full pay. Take for example the case of a woman on Maternity Leave. In Budget 2006, the Government announced the extension of Maternity Leave to 26 weeks paid and 16 weeks unpaid. While there is a cost to the extension of this leave, the Government is firmly of the view that putting the needs of expectant and new mothers, their children and their families first is the right thing to do, both socially and economically.

Citizenship Applications.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

167 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 must take in order to obtain a passport for their Irish born child; and if he will ensure that they are provided with the necessary documentation by his Department. [12312/07]

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2004, which commenced on 1 January 2005, provides that certain non-nationals are required to be resident in Ireland for a period of three years prior to the birth of their child in order for that child to be entitled to Irish Citizenship.

As the person referred to in the Deputy's question is an E.U. national, there is no restriction on her period of residence and she should lodge an application for a passport on behalf of her child to the Passport Office. That office will then advise her of the documents she will be required to provide.

Airport Immigration Controls.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

168 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make contact with the Dublin Airport Authority to ensure sufficient space is made available for immigration processing to cope with an increase in new carriers from the United States as a result of the Open Skies deal; and if he will ensure that sufficient immigration resources are allocated to prevent undue delays to passengers. [12332/07]

Senior Garda management at the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) meet regularly with the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) and the airline operators utilising facilities at Dublin Airport to discuss issues relating to the implementation of immigration controls, air routes and flight schedules and other related matters arising at Dublin Airport.

An Garda Síochána are engaged in discussions regarding additional facilities at Dublin Airport with regard to the GNIB. These discussions involve the Office of Public Works and DAA and are at an early stage of development.

It is anticipated that one or more airline operator(s) will commence new transatlantic routes following the implementation of the recently agreed Open Skies Agreement, which is due to be signed at an EU-US Summit in April, 2007. The implications for An Garda Síochána, GNIB, DAA and the airlines operating out of and into Dublin Airport have been, and will be subject of discussion at these regular meetings.

Garda personnel assigned throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the general public.

Residency Permits.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

169 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the policy of his Department in circumstances where a person from outside the EU has been resident here for more than three years, has Irish born children and wishes to be joined by their spouse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12361/07]

Foreign national parents of Irish citizen children do not have an automatic right to reside in the State solely by virtue of such parentage. An administrative scheme for processing applications for permission to remain in the State based on parentage of Irish citizen children finished in February 2003 subsequent to the Supreme Court's decision (23 January 2003) in the L & O cases. On 18 July 2003 I announced the Government's policy in regard to the applications for permission to remain which were outstanding. The policy included a decision that there could be no presumption in favour of allowing parents granted permission to remain to be joined in the State by other family members (including other children).

On 15 January 2005 I announced the revised arrangements for the processing of claims for permission to remain in the State from foreign national parents of Irish children born prior to 1 January 2005. That scheme, commonly referred to as the IBC/05 Scheme, finished in March 2005. All those who availed of the IBC/05 Scheme signed declarations indicating their acceptance that permission to remain granted to them under that scheme would not confer any entitlement or legitimate expectation on any other person, whether related to them or not, to enter the State. Applications from a number of parents, other than the parents granted permission to remain, to be allowed enter and/or remain in the State under the scheme were refused on the basis that certain conditions of the scheme were not satisfied. In November, 2006 the High Court ruled in favour of a number of those persons and quashed the decisions to refuse their applications. The High Court decision is the subject of an appeal to the Supreme Court.

The general policy of the Government, where requests for family reunification in this area are concerned, has been and remains that permission for the spouse to enter and/or remain in the State is considered on a case by case basis but that there is no automatic right for a spouse to enter the State to join the family in question.

If the Deputy has a specific case in mind he should contact the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service who can advise on the policy and procedures in regard to the case.

Crime Levels.

John Perry

Question:

170 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if personnel from headquarters are visiting all Garda districts reclassifying offences where no activity occurred on a case; if he will confirm that the mildest interpretation of the offence is taken regardless of the victim; the way these reclassifications will be reflected when crime statistics as serious offences will be downgraded to minor offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12385/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that crime incidents are recorded on the PULSE crime recording system in accordance with the Garda crime counting rules, which are published in the Annual Reports of An Garda Síochána. The Garda Assistant Commissioner, Crime and Security has responsibility for ensuring that all crime reported is recorded in accordance with these rules.

Since autumn 2006, civilian staff at the Garda Information Service Centre (GISC) in Castlebar record incidents on PULSE by taking reports from Gardaí using mobile telephony.

Road Traffic Offences.

John Perry

Question:

171 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, further to his correspondence of 6 February 2007 regarding mandatory breath testing for alcohol for all drivers at road traffic accidents scenes, he will clarify the difference between the Road Traffic Act 2003 and the new directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12387/07]

Section 12 of the Road Traffic Act, 1994 (substituted by section 2 of the Road Traffic Act, 2003) provides that a member of An Garda Síochána may request the provision of a preliminary breath specimen or the provision of a blood or urine specimen from a person who the member is of the opinion has been involved in a collision. Section 15 of the Road Traffic Act, 1994 provides a power to require the provision of a blood or urine specimen from the driver of vehicle who has been admitted to hospital following a collision, where an opinion has been formed by a member of An Garda Síochána that the driver has consumed an intoxicant.

The Headquarters Directive referred to sets out the Commissioner's policy for the enforcement by An Garda Síochána of this legislation. Members of An Garda Síochána have been directed that, as a matter of policy, section 12 should be exercised (i) in all instances where a Garda is of the opinion intoxicating liquor has been consumed or (ii) where a Garda is of the opinion that the person in charge of a vehicle is, or has, with the vehicle, been involved in a collision, unless that Garda is of the opinion that the person has not consumed intoxicating liquor, and unless circumstances, such as the need to render medical assistance, require otherwise. Members of An Garda Síochána have also been directed that section 15 should be exercised where the driver of a vehicle has been admitted to hospital following a collision and a Garda has formed the opinion that the driver has consumed an intoxicant.

Section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 2006 provides for the testing of drivers, without individual suspicion that the driver has consumed alcohol. Under the section a member of An Garda Síochána, who is on duty at a checkpoint established under an authorisation, may stop any mechanically propelled vehicle at the checkpoint and, without prejudice to any other powers (including the powers under section 12 of the Act of 1994) conferred on him or her by statue or at common law, may require a person in charge of the vehicle to undergo a breath test.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

172 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the estimated cost of expanding the use of closed circuit television to all major country towns. [12390/07]

There are two CCTV programmes in operation at present, the Garda CCTV programme and the Community-based CCTV scheme which I launched in June 2005.

In addition to the Garda CCTV systems already in operation, contracts for systems in Ballyfermot, Clondalkin and Tullamore have been placed and implementation will be completed in a number of weeks. Tenders have issued for another nine locations (Castlebar, Drogheda, Ennis, Kilkenny, Mullingar, Portlaoise, Sligo, Tallaght and Waterford) and requests for tender for a further five locations (Athlone, Carlow, Clonmel, Dungarvan and Kinsale) will issue in the near future.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the capital cost of providing one CCTV camera under the Garda CCTV programme is approximately €35,000. The number of cameras required to be installed in any town would vary according to the area required to be covered and the geographical layout of the town.

Under the Community-based CCTV scheme financial assistance may be provided to qualifying local organisations towards the capital costs associated with the establishment of local community CCTV schemes. The Scheme offers both pre-development grants of up to €5,000 to enable qualifying applicants to investigate the need for CCTV in their area and to complete a detailed proposal, and substantial grants of up to €100,000 from my Department to install a CCTV system in their area. In addition, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs provides successful applicants from RAPID areas with a further grant to a possible maximum of €100,000.

Pobal has been engaged to administer the Scheme on behalf of my Department. Grants pertain to capital expenditure only with responsibility for maintenance and running costs of the systems resting with the applicants.

I recently approved eleven proposals for substantive funding for CCTV schemes, as outlined as follows, at an estimated cost of €1m with a similar amount being provided by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in respect of applications from RAPID areas:

Blackpool, Cork;

New Ross Town;

Killorglin;

Cavan;

Carrick-on-Suir Town;

Lisduggan and Larchfield in County Waterford;

Jobstown;

North Clondalkin;

Killinarden;

Brookfield and Fettercairn; and

The Liberties in Dublin.

Garda Recruitment.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

173 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the estimated cost of recruiting and training 2,000 additional gardaí. [12391/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the cost of recruiting and training 2,000 gardaí is estimated to be in the region of €193 million.

Garda Remuneration.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

174 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the estimated annual salary costs for 2,000 gardaí. [12392/07]

The estimated annual salary costs including pay, allowances and employer's PRSI for 2,000 gardaí in their first year following qualification from the Garda College is €85.3 million.

Residency Permits.

Pat Breen

Question:

175 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 100 of 1 March 2007, when an application for a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12416/07]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that a decision on the residency application recently issued in writing to the persons concerned.

Registration of Title.

Michael Ring

Question:

176 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will ascertain from the Land Registry Office the way persons (details supplied) in County Mayo can obtain a duplicate land certificate for a folio as the original land certificate has been mislaid. [12434/07]

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 TDs 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.

Asylum Applications.

Joe Costello

Question:

177 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made regarding the application of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12452/07]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 2 September, 1999 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, he was informed by letter dated 27 November, 2001, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; leaving the State before an order is made or consenting to the making of a deportation order. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned.

This 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). I expect the file to be passed to me for decision in due course.

Joe Costello

Question:

178 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made regarding the application of persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12453/07]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 24 April, 2005 with her three children and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, she was informed by letter dated 21 March, 2006, that the Minister proposed to make deportation orders in respect of her and her children. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she and her children should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; leaving the State before orders are made or consenting to the making of deportation orders. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned.

This 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). I expect the file to be passed to me for decision in due course.

Joe Costello

Question:

179 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made regarding the application of persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12454/07]

The persons concerned arrived in the State on 25 August, 2003 and applied for asylum. Their applications were refused following consideration of their cases by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, they were informed by letters dated 10 February, 2005, that the Minister proposed to make deportation orders in respect of them. They were given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why they should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; leaving the State before orders are made or consenting to the making of deportation orders. Representations have been received on behalf of the persons concerned.

These persons' case files, 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). I expect the file to be passed to me for decision in due course.

Joe Costello

Question:

180 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made regarding the application of persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12455/07]

The two persons concerned arrived in the State on 29 August 2003 and applied for asylum. Their applications were refused following consideration of their case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The persons concerned were informed by separate letters dated 9 March 2005, that the Minister proposed to make deportation orders in respect of them and afforded them three options in accordance with Section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, namely to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of deportation orders or to submit, within 15 working days, representations to the Minister, in writing, setting out the reasons why they should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State.

Their case is currently under consideration pursuant to Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 as amended, and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 on the Prohibition of Refoulement. Consideration will be given to all representations received on their behalf for temporary leave to remain in the State, including those from the Refugee Legal Service.

Citizenship Applications.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

181 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of pending naturalisation applications that were filed in 2004; the number that were filed in 2003; and the number that were filed in any previous years. [12456/07]

The information sought by the Deputy is set out in the following table. There are no applications made prior to 2002 which are still outstanding.

Year

Naturalisation applications received

Naturalisation applications pending

2002

3,574

13

2003

3,580

132

2004

4,074

1,362

Visa Applications.

Joe Costello

Question:

182 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a tourist visa will be granted to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12462/07]

My Department has no record of a current visa application from the person in question.

An earlier application was received on 7 December, 2006. The decision of the Visa Officer on 14 December, 2006 was to refuse the application.

An appeal against the refusal decision was received on 9 January, 2007. Following a re-examination of the application, the decision to refuse was upheld on 17 January, 2007. As each applicant is entitled to one appeal only, no further review in this matter can be granted; however it is open to the applicant to make a fresh application.

Departmental Properties.

Joe Costello

Question:

183 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to his replies to previous parliamentary questions on proposals for the future use of the land at Mountjoy Prison, if he will sell the site in its entirety, with planning permission, to commercial interests; if he has planning consultants appointed for the purpose of advising him in that regard; the stage the process is now at; if the entirety of the land is or will be classified as having commercial uses or some of it may be transferred for public and community uses; if he still maintains his initial reluctance to transfer part of the Mountjoy Prison site to the Mater Hospital, in view of that hospital’s subsequent designation as the site for a combined national children’s hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12466/07]

I have asked the Office of Public Works to prepare a development plan for the site. This plan will, when finalised, include detailed proposals for the utilisation and development of the site and will also take account of issues to include heritage and historical context as well as the proper and sustainable development of the area itself.

I have been advised that the Office of Public Works has appointed a multi-disciplinary team which is currently engaged in the production of a site master plan / re-zoning submission. I understand that this engagement is proceeding in conjunction with Dublin City Council's Local Area Plan for the Mountjoy/Phibsboro area. The planning consultants have also been appointed.

Mountjoy will continue to operate as a prison until the new complex at Thornton has been completed and is fully operational, which will not be before 2009/2010. It is too early at this stage to indicate the precise means of disposal or its utilisation. This will be dependant in part on the outcome of the multi-disciplinary team's deliberations and the planning process.

Registration of Title.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

184 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will respond to queries submitted on a Land Registry query (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12553/07]

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 TDs 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 Properties.

Joe Costello

Question:

185 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the price he paid for a property (details supplied) which is adjacent to Mountjoy Prison; the extent of the site; if he will include it as part of the Mountjoy site development; if he will include Mountjoy Garda Station in the plans; the extent of the total site now in the possession of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12554/07]

I wish to advise the Deputy that neither my Department nor the Irish Prison Service had any role in the purchase of the site in question, which I understand was a matter for the Office of Public Works.

In relation to Mountjoy Garda Station, section 22 of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005 sets out the Garda Commissioner's obligation to produce an Annual Policing Plan. Such a Plan must include any proposal to cease stationing members in an existing station.

I will carefully consider any proposal from the Commissioner relating to the matters referred to by the Deputy in due course. It should also be noted that Mountjoy Garda Station is owned by the Office of Public Works rather than my Department.

The Mountjoy Prison Complex comprises approximately 20 acres in size.

Refugee Status.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

186 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department will assist a person (details supplied) who has lived here since 2001 but was refused asylum in 2005; if his Department will give leave to remain in Ireland in view of the fact that the person came here as a separated child and has no support systems outside of Ireland; the present circumstances of this case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12571/07]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the person concerned was the subject matter of an Adjournment Debate in the Dáil on Thursday evening, 22 March 2007. During this debate it was indicated on my behalf that I had directed my officials to look again at the circumstances surrounding the proposed deportation. In the meantime an application for revocation of his deportation order was received from his legal representatives on 23 March 2007. This is currently being examined in my Department and a decision will issue to the applicant in due course.

Departmental Telecommunications.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

187 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that many people have difficulty in contacting officials in his Department by phone; the arrangements in place in this regard; and his proposals to improve same. [12600/07]

I can inform the Deputy that callers contacting my Department's Head Office during office hours are generally put immediately through to the relevant officials or Division requested.

Insofar as applicants for visas, citizenship, residency status and related immigration matters are concerned, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, which forms part of my Department, operates four separate help lines to handle their queries. Callers to the help lines are greeted by an automated answering service with recorded information messages and a menu option which effectively asks them which of the four help lines they wish to be connected to. When automatically put through to the help line they require, they speak to one of the staff assigned to the help line. I can also inform the Deputy that the maximum number of calls which are queued to each of the four help lines at any given time is ten.

I'm sure the Deputy will appreciate that there is a balance to be struck between the resources allocated to giving information about these applications and dealing with such applications and I can inform hin that the allocation of resources in this regard is kept under regular review.

Finally, it may also be of interest to the Deputy to note that the Department is in the process of replacing its current website with two new improved websites dealing with general Departmental matters and with the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service respectively. These websites will be introduced within the next few months and will considerably enhance the Department's communications with its customers and with the public generally.

Citizenship Applications.

John Perry

Question:

188 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the citizenship anomaly that has been highlighted in three cases (details supplied); if he will address the concerns raised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12603/07]

It appears that the Deputy's question relates to the entitlement to Irish citizenship of children born outside the State to Irish parents. As the information provided is insufficient to enable me to respond to the individual cases cited by the Deputy, I propose to answer the question in general terms.

The entitlement to Irish citizenship of a child born outside of the island of Ireland is dependant on the way the parent of the child obtained Irish citizenship. I have set out as follows the different circumstances that can arise in this regard:

Parent born in Ireland

Child automatically Irish from birth.

Parent born outside of Ireland but his or her parent (i.e. child's grandparent) born in Ireland

Child entitled to Irish citizenship but must first be registered in Foreign Births Register maintained by Department of Foreign Affairs.

Parent naturalised or made a declaration of post-nuptial citizenship prior to child's birth

Child entitled to Irish citizenship but must first be registered in Foreign Births Register maintained by Department of Foreign Affairs.

Parent obtained Irish citizenship after the birth of the child

Parent must apply for naturalisation on behalf of the child or the child must apply himself or herself if of full age.

The Citizenship section operates a telephone helpline every Tuesday and Thursday morning between 10.00 am and 12.30 pm. If the persons in question require any further information or assistance, they should contact the helpline at Lo-call 1890 551 500 or (01) 6167700.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

189 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will accept a new application for family reunification in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Dublin in view of the fact that their sons already have been awarded residency status and having particular regard to the family’s good standing in the local community and local school and that the person’s family depend on them for financial support; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12635/07]

I wish to refer the Deputy to my response to Parliamentary Question 132 of 8th February 2007, in which I indicated that it is open to the person in question to make a new Family Reunification application. I am informed that to date no such application has been received.

Departmental Expenditure.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

190 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the expenses claimed by members of An Garda Síochána for mobile phone usage for the years 2005 and 2006. [12818/07]

I am advised by the Garda authorities that they do not approve for payment expenses that may be incurred by members of the force in connection with the use of private mobile phones. The policy of the Garda Commissioner is to promote the use of the organisation's radio systems as the approved communication system of the Force. I have provided the Commissioner with significant funding to both maintain the existing radio systems and to provide for a new state of the art digital radio service. Implementation of the new digital radio service has already commenced and the preferred bidder are now installing the service in a large area in North Dublin to demonstrate the performance of the system. This is scheduled to be completed by mid-July and thereafter, nationwide rollout will be completed within 2 years. As the rollout progresses and radio coverage is available, the gardaí will be migrating onto the new service.

An Garda Síochána also provides official mobile phones to individual members as required. In addition, mobile phones are made available to members in order to report incidents to the Garda Information Services Centre in Castlebar so that they do not have to return to their stations to enter the details onto Pulse. These phones can also be used to contact the local station as well as emergency services as required.

Garda Equipment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

191 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, as a matter of policy, An Garda Síochána have a preference, taking into consideration security issues, for wired broadband services over wireless broadband service providers for the use of the PULSE system, in the event that the WAN system is unavailable in a particular station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12819/07]

I am informed by Garda Authorities that any broadband service used to carry PULSE data must satisfy stringent security requirements in keeping with Garda IT and Communications Security policies. An Garda Síochána have no preference for wired over wireless broadband services provided the broadband service provider can meet these requirements.

Drugs in Prisons.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

192 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the estimated cost of introducing mandatory drug testing on arrival for all prisoners and regularly thereafter. [12824/07]

I am informed by the Irish Prison Service that the cost of introducing mandatory drug testing along the lines described by the Deputy would be in the region of €300,000, not including staff and other costs. However costs would obviously differ depending on the frequency of testing, whether all prisoners would always be tested or whether a random or targeted testing model was to be used.

Residency Permits.

John Curran

Question:

193 Mr. Curran asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a visa application will be processed as quickly as possible for a person (details supplied) in County Dublin. [12831/07]

I understand from the Immigration Division of my Department that a decision on the residency application of the person concerned has recently issued.

Asylum Applications.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

194 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a decision has been made on an application for subsidiary protection by a person (details supplied); if not, when he expects it to be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12832/07]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 25 April 2005 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The person concerned was informed by letter dated 29 September, 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him and afforded him three options in accordance with Section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, namely to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of a deportation order or to submit, within 15 working days, representations to the Minister, in writing, setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State.

His case was examined under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 as amended, and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 on the Prohibition of Refoulement. Consideration was given to representations received on his behalf for temporary leave to remain in the State. On 23 November 2005, I refused temporary leave to remain in the State and signed a deportation order in respect of him. Notice of this order was served by registered post requiring him to present himself to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), 13/14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2, on 5 December 2005, in order to make travel arrangements for his deportation from the State. The person concerned failed to present himself as required and was classified as evading his deportation. He should present himself to the GNIB without any further delay.

The effect of the deportation order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter outside the State.

An application for Subsidiary Protection pursuant to the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006, Statutory Instrument No. 518 of 2006, on behalf of the person concerned was made by his legal representatives and submitted by letter dated 29 October 2006. Said application was refused by my Department by letter dated 13 November 2006. The basis for the refusal was that the deportation order was signed by me on 23 November 2005, whereas the Regulations came into operation on 10 October 2006 and do not operate retrospectively.

The enforcement of the deportation order is now an operational matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Garda Operations.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

195 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason on 6 May 2004 the premises of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford were searched; the circumstances under which this search was carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12837/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that they are not aware of any search being carried out on the premises referred to on 6 May, 2004.

I understand however that a search of the home of the person referred to was carried out on 6 May, 1994 and that the person referred to requested and received a copy of the search warrant in 1995.

Garda Deployment.

Joe Costello

Question:

196 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí assigned to Garda stations (details supplied); the number of community gardaí included; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12843/07]

I am 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.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of Store Street, Bridewell, Fitzgibbon Street, Mountjoy and Cabra Garda Stations on 3 April, 2007 was as set out in the table hereunder:

Station

3/04/2007

Store Street

289

Bridewell

164

Fitzgibbon Street

117

Mountjoy

94

Cabra

68

I have also been informed by the Garda authorities that, according to the most recent figures available at 28th February 2007, the personnel strength of each Community Policing Unit attached to Store Street, Bridewell, Fitzgibbon Street, Mountjoy and Cabra Garda Stations was as set out in the following table:

Station

28/02/07

Store Street

23

Bridewell

15

Fitzgibbon Street

13

Mountjoy

12

Cabra

5

Garda personnel assigned throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are continually reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the general public.

The Deputy will 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.

Garda Operations.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

197 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons breathalysed since the beginning of 2006; the number of those persons who were male; the number who were female; the age profile each fell within; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12847/07]

The information which the Deputy has requested is not readily available and is being compiled. When the information is to hand, I will write to the Deputy.

Legal Aid Service.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

198 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the regulations made pursuant to the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995; his proposals to update these regulations, bearing in mind that the average industrial wage is over €30,000 per annum while the means tested disposable income for legal aid is currently only €18,000. [12873/07]

I can inform the Deputy that the Regulations in question were updated last year by means of the Civil Legal Aid Regulations, 2006 which came into effect from 1 September, 2006. Under these new Regulations the income limits and allowances which govern eligibility for civil legal aid were all increased significantly, thereby ensuring that the scheme continues to provide effective access to legal advice and representation for persons on modest incomes.

Insofar as the assessment of eligibility is concerned, the Deputy should note that the determining factor is not gross income (as reflected in the average industrial wage) but rather disposable income, which for the purpose of these Regulations is arrived at by deducting from gross income the amount of income tax and social insurance paid as well as certain specified and generous allowances for dependants, accommodation and childcare costs.

Garda Vetting Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

199 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when Garda clearance will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [12896/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that a request for vetting was received in respect of the person in question on 19 March, 2007, and that this request is currently being processed.

I am further informed that a response will issue as soon as all necessary enquiries are completed. It is not possible to provide an exact time frame for the completion of this process.

Residency Permits.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

200 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the granting of residency to a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12950/07]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 28 December 2005 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The person concerned was informed by letter dated 23 August 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him and afforded him three options in accordance with Section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, namely to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of a deportation order or to submit, within 15 working days, representations to the Minister, in writing, setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State.

His case is currently under consideration pursuant to Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 as amended, and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 on the Prohibition of Refoulement. Consideration will be given to representations received on his behalf from the Refugee Legal Service for temporary leave to remain in the State.

The person concerned made an application for residency in the State pursuant to the revised arrangements announced by the Minister on 15 January 2005 for the processing of applications for permission to remain in the State from the non-national parents of Irish born children born before 1 January 2005. The closing date for applications under the IBC '05 Scheme as it became known was 31 March 2005. As the application of the person concerned was received by my Department on 3 January 2006, which was after the date of expiry of the scheme, it was refused.

I wish to advise the Deputy that the circumstances of the application for residency by the person concerned under the IBC '05 Scheme are similar in nature to those of another individual whose case was heard before the High Court late last year and is now referred to as the Adio Judgement. This judgement challenged the power of the Minister to refuse applicants under the IBC '05 Scheme whose applications were lodged after the expiry date of the Scheme. Following the Adio Judgement, and several other judgements concerning various criteria for refusing applications under the scheme, my Department lodged an appeal of the various judgements to the Supreme Court.

No action will be undertaken by my Department in respect of the case of the person concerned until the decision of the Supreme Court in these matters is known.

Question No. 201 answered with QuestionNo. 165.

Legal Profession.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

202 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to a group (details supplied); if he has met with them; if he will meet with them; if his attention has been drawn to their complaints; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12955/07]

A group claiming to represent victims of the legal profession were in contact with my office some months ago. I agreed to meet them but my offer was not taken up and I have had no further contact from them since.

Citizenship Applications.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

203 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the application by a person (details supplied) in County Kerry for naturalisation will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12959/07]

As stated in my reply to Question No. 250 of 10 October 2006 and to Question No. 294 of 31 January 2007, processing of this file has commenced.

However, I am informed by officials in the Citizenship section of my Department that they have been in touch with the person concerned requesting further documentation and to date this has not been received. As soon as this documentation is submitted they will be in a position to finalise processing of the case and submit same to me for a decision on the matter.

I will be in touch with the Deputy and the person concerned when I have reached a decision on the case.

Victims of Crime.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

204 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the measures he will put in place to provide for the interests of the victim in criminal cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12968/07]

I wish to advise the Deputy that I am fully committed to giving victims of crime a central place in the criminal justice system.

The Victims Charter entitled "Victims Charter and Guide to the Criminal Justice System" provides a written framework of rights and entitlements against which crime victims can measure the level and standard of treatment received in their dealings across all sections of the criminal justice system. It sets out, from the victim's perspective: a general description of the overall criminal justice system; a concise summary of the role and functions of each of the main bodies/agencies involved; and the entitlements of the victim in terms of standards of treatment, rights and complaints procedures in each area.

A guiding principle of the Victims Charter is a commitment to giving victims of crime a central place in the criminal justice system. As indicated in the Charter, victims of crime are entitled to dignity and compassion from all the services involved in supporting victims of crime.

Against a background of a need to review the mechanism and services put in place by specific agencies to assist victims, in the context of the criminal justice system as a whole as set out in the Victims Charter and in the wider context of Ireland's obligations under the EU Framework Decision on the Standing of Victims of Criminal Proceeding, I established the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime, CSVC, in March 2005. The members of the CSVC are: Mr Jim Mc Hugh, retired Assistant Commissioner, An Garda Síochána, Chairman; Ms Nora Owen, former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Mr Sean Lowry, former head of the Probation and Welfare Service; Mr Michael Whelan, Gemini Consulting; and Ms Marian Finucane, broadcaster.

The CSVC has a three year remit to disburse funding for victim support measures and to develop a framework for victim services going forward. Its remit also includes the examination of all aspects of the provision of services for victims of crime within the criminal justice system. The CSVC is at present carrying out a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of the Victims Charter as part of its work programme.

In its first two years, the CSVC concentrated mainly on funding non-governmental organisations that provide front-line services to victims of crime, in order to ensure continuity of services to victims on the ground To date, it has allocated close to €1.5million in funding to organisations engaged in providing support to victims of crime. Such funding ranges from €4,000 to the smaller voluntary groups to €100,000 to the large well established non-governmental organisations.

As I understand it the CSVC, has recognised that one of the primary functions that an organisation supporting victims of crime can provide to a victim, is their support by way of accompaniment, where the victim has to attend Court. Such support can make a real difference to the experience that victim has in court and of court processes. In this regard, the CSVC prioritised the funding of activities at ground level that provide supports for victims of crime, such as court accompaniment services.

In addition to the disbursement of funds to organisations that support victims of crime, the CSVC is required to devise an appropriate support framework for victims of crime into the future. I am informed that the CSVC is currently actively engaged in this work.

The CSVC sees ongoing communication and co-operation between the organisations its funds and the criminal justice agencies as being essential to the provision of a successful support structure for victims of crime. Respect for the dignity, autonomy and rights of every victim are core values of those organisations and agencies. The CSVC works closely with them to ensure that the needs and concerns of victims of crime are addressed.

This greater focus on the importance of the victim is also reflected in the remit of the Commission on Restorative Justice, CRJ, which I announced on 11th March last. Restorative Justice is a victim and community orientated approach to criminal justice which puts the victim at the centre of the process, requiring the perpetrator to face up to the harm he or she has caused and repair or make good the damage done. The Commission on Restorative Justice is being chaired by Judge Mary Martin, a very experienced Judge of the District Court, and will report to me on how restorative justice can best be expanded in Ireland with appropriate structures and a sound funding base. In its terms of reference I have specifically asked the CRJ to seek out the views of victims and the potential impact for victims of the various restorative justice models under consideration. The CRJ has been charged to submit an interim report to me in 6 months and a final report before end 2008.

On the legislative side, I wish to inform the Deputy that Part 11 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides for civil proceedings to address the anti-social behaviour by adults. Anti-social behaviour by children is addressed in Part 13 of the Act. This part empowers a senior officer of the Garda Síochána to apply to the District Court by way of civil procedure for a "civil order" which would prohibit a person from behaving in an anti-social manner. Prior to a senior officer applying for a civil order in respect of a person that individual must have been given a "behaviour warning" by a Member of the Garda Síochána. Section 113(2) defines anti social behaviour as behaviour that is likely to cause harassment, distress, intimidation, or fear to persons who are not of the same household. Effectively the anti-social behaviour is defined by the perspective of the victim, and it is the victim who initiates the process by complaining to the Gardaí.

Section 25 of the Criminal Justice Bill 2007 which is currently before the Oireachtas provides for a Court to make a "crime prevention order" on an individual. Under 25(2)(a) that order may specify conditions that are necessary to ensure that persons who are likely to be adversely affected by the presence of the offender are protected.

The Criminal Law (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill, which is at present being drafted in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, contains several provisions protecting children and other vulnerable persons from sexual abuse and exploitation. In particular, it introduces a harassment order under which the court can prohibit a person convicted of a sexual offence from doing anything, or going anywhere, which the court is satisfied would cause the victim or any other person fear, distress or alarm or which would amount to intimidation.

The General Scheme of the Bill, as approved by Government for drafting, can be accessed on my Department's website.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

205 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the application for reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13018/07]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the Family Reunification application from the person in question was refused on 18 January 2007.

At present there is no Family Reunification application pending in respect of the above named.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Pat Carey

Question:

206 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is proposed to provide any part of the closed circuit television scheme for Finglas Village in the short term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13034/07]

The Deputy will be aware that there are plans to provide a Garda Town Centre CCTV system for Finglas. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the selected contractors have been requested to commence the installation of all nine cameras that constitute the system. The completion date for installation will be subject to the planning process, permission for wayleaves and completion of civil works.

Until such time as the new Garda Station is built, which will provide state of the art monitoring facilities, the Garda authorities plan to install two monitors in the existing station. I would stress that the output from all cameras will be recorded from the outset and it will be possible for the operator to switch to any camera as required.

As I have indicated previously, the provision of the new Garda Station in Finglas is an urgent priority and I am advised by the Office of Public Works that tenders have issued for its construction with a planned completion date of mid-2008.

Departmental Staff.

Paul McGrath

Question:

207 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of staff in his Department for whom two or more phone lines have been provided at their home; the number of lines provided in each case; the reason for this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13051/07]

I can inform the Deputy that one member of staff in my Department has been provided with two phone lines at his home, being separate phone and fax lines and warranted by the communications needs of his duties.

Paul McGrath

Question:

208 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of money paid to the training officers in his Department in respect of travel and subsistence allowances; the number of training days organised; and if the relocation of CMOD to Tullamore has had an impact on the work of training officers or on the work of those who attend courses there. [13066/07]

In 2006 my Department paid €1,300 in respect of travel and subsistence to officers engaged in training staff. To date in 2007 the Department has had no expenditure on travel and subsistence for officers engaged in training staff.

In 2006 training courses were conducted on 142.5 days. To date in 2007 training courses have been conducted on 44 days.

The move of the Civil Service Training & Development Centre has had no impact on the work of the officers engaged in organising and facilitating training in my Department or on the work of the staff who attended courses in Tullamore.

Departmental Transport.

Paul McGrath

Question:

209 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he requested the provision of additional equipment in his State car, such as satellite navigation. [13081/07]

I can inform the Deputy that I requested no additional equipment, such as satellite navigation, in my official transport.

Departmental Staff.

Paul McGrath

Question:

210 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the average amount of travel and subsistence allowances paid by his Department in respect of attendance at pre-retirement planning courses prior to the relocation of the Civil Service Training Centre to Tullamore; the average amount paid in respect of attendance at the same course since the centre was relocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13096/07]

From January 2006 to date, nine people from my Department have attended pre-retirement courses organised by the Civil Service Training & Development Centre. Seven of these people attended the course at a Dublin location and as all of them were Dublin based there were no subsistence costs associated with the training.

Two people attended the pre-retirement course in Tullamore and the average cost in respect of subsistence was €700. One of those officers was travelling from a regional location and would have been entitled to subsistence whether the course was held in Dublin or Tullamore.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paul McGrath

Question:

211 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of staff who have transferred to his Department under the decentralisation CAF or DCAF schemes and who have found that they must make a further move to another section within six months of their Departmental transfer; the effect such moves have on staff morale; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13111/07]

I can inform the Deputy that, under the Decentralisation Programme, no staff have been obliged to move to another section following their transfer to my Department.

Prison Education Service.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

212 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners with literacy or numeracy difficulties in each of the years 2002 to date in 2007. [13121/07]

The Irish Prison Service publication entitled "The Prison Adult Literacy Survey — Results and Implications" published in September 2003 is the most recent information available to my Department. The major results of the survey showed that a significant number of prisoners have virtually no literacy skills — 52% of them were at Level 1 or Pre-Level 1 literacy levels. In other words, more than twice as many prisoners are at the lowest level as compared with the population generally.

The definition of illiteracy as used by the Department of Education and Science in conjunction with the Vocational Education Committee literacy schemes is: Level 1 — knows alphabet but has difficulties with reading; Level 2 — can read but has difficulties with writing, spelling or grammar; Level 3 — can read and write but needs to improve those skills for other education or work.

A significant number of prisoners with literacy difficulties are at entry level (pre-level 1) and unable to read simple words but have the ability to write their names or know the alphabet. Most will have left school between the ages of 9 — 14 years and only some would have finished the junior cycle of education. This means that many of the students will already have a large deficit in general education, which often manifests itself in poor reading and writing skills.

Literacy work has been a strong element of the Prison Education curriculum since the early 1980's. The literacy curriculum concentrates on the needs of the individual and respects the adult status of the student, his/her prior knowledge, skills and life experience. It is also concerned with improving self-esteem and building confidence. A number of significant initiatives commenced or were strengthened since 2003 which paralleled efforts to address adult literacy in the community.

Among these are the fuller use of negotiated learning plans for all literacy students, introducing and supporting the new FETAC level 1 and level 2 courses, the introduction of the National Adult Literacy Agency's assessment framework, "Mapping the Learning Journey" in each Education Centre, devising and delivering the National Adult Literacy Agency and Waterford Institute of Technology 30 hour Initial Tutor Training course for teachers new to prison education and drawing up and rolling out a national Literacy Plan for Prison Education.

An Adult Basic Education Development Worker is employed by The Prison Education Service with specific responsibility for implementing and supporting developments and initiatives in the area of literacy, numeracy, English for Speakers of Other Languages and basic education. The need for such developments was highlighted in the 2002 Guidelines of Quality Literacy Work in Prisons, produced by the Prison Education Literacy Working Group, and also the findings and recommendations of the 2003 Prison Adult Literacy Survey.

Crime Levels.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

213 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of convictions that have been obtained in respect of white-collar crime in line with An Agreed Programme for Government Between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats 2002. [13122/07]

Following the submission to me in 2004 of a report and recommendations by an expert group on crime statistics, I decided that the compilation and publication of crime statistics should be taken over by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, from the Garda Síochána. The Garda Síochána Act, 2005 consequently makes provision for this and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. Following the setting up of the necessary technical systems and auditing of the data from which the statistics are compiled, I am pleased to note that the CSO is now compiling and publishing criminal statistics and has published provisional headline crime statistics for the third and fourth quarters of 2006. In addition, it has compiled and published a series of quarterly and annual statistics for the period starting with the first quarter of 2003. I understand that the CSO are examining how the crime statistics published might be expanded and made more comprehensive.

I have requested the CSO to provide the information sought by the Deputy directly to him.

Garda Operations.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

214 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the value of resources made available at local level to existing drugs units in line with An Agreed Programme for Government Between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats 2002. [13123/07]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

222 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the resources, both financial and otherwise, allocated to the Garda National Drugs Unit for each year from 2002 to date in 2007. [13131/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 214 and 222 together.

The enforcement of the law relating to drugs and public order continues to be a key element in the Government's policing priorities as reflected in An Garda Síochána's Policing Plan for 2007. The Gardaí continue to achieve considerable successes in reaching the drug seizure targets set down in the Government's National Drugs Strategy 2001 — 2008.

The Garda National Drugs Unit co-ordinates large scale operations against drug dealing/trafficking and Unit personnel either investigate such cases themselves or assist local investigation teams. Additional assistance is also available from other specialised Garda support units, such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Criminal Assets Bureau. A joint Garda National Drugs Unit/Criminal Assets Bureau initiative is now in place which targets local dealers.

Since the publication of the Government's National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008, Garda resources generally in the fight against illicit drugs have increased. This is particularly evident with the creation of Divisional Drug Units in areas of particular need. These Drugs Units operate in Divisions throughout the country with a primary focus on local drugs activities. The total financial resources allocated to the National Drugs Unit over the period 2002 to end of March, 2007 is as follows.

Year

Amount

€m

2002

3.68

2003

3.89

2004

4.13

2005

4.3

2006

5.27

2007 to end March

1.47

I am advised by the Garda authorities that resources are allocated annually to the National Drugs Unit rather than to individual Drugs Units.

There is a total of 331 Gardaí dedicated to national and regional drugs units. These units are also supported in their work by officers from other national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the Criminal Assets Bureau. Of course all Gardaí have responsibility for dealing with drug related issues as they arise. I am further advised that the total personnel strength of the National Garda Drugs Unit for the periods in question were as set out in the table below.

Year

2002

50

2003

52

2004

49

2005

55

2006

48

2007

48

Garda Management have further advised that a process is currently underway to recruit an additional two Sergeants and ten Gardaí to the Garda National Drugs Unit thereby bringing the personnel strength of the unit to 60. The Deputy will appreciate that, as with any large organisation, on any given day, personnel strengths of individual units may fluctuate due, for example, to promotions, retirements and transfers.

There are 103 vehicles allocated to the local Drugs Units — a 12% increase on the 2002 figure. Other equipment is provided as required.

The Government decision to increase the overall strength of An Garda Síochána to 15,000 will assist in enabling additional Garda resources to be targeted at the areas of greatest need, with areas where there is a significant drug problem being deemed a particular priority.

The manner in which Gardaí are allocated to various specialist units is ultimately a matter for Garda Management to decide. I am informed by Garda Management that personnel levels in all areas are kept under constant review having due regard to operational needs and ensuring that optimum use is made of Garda Resources in order to provide the best possible service to the public. Also, Local Drug Task Force areas continue to be monitored by local Garda management in conjunction with the Garda National Drug Strategy Implementation Group.

Garda Deployment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

215 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of local drugs units established in areas of need in line with An Agreed Programme for Government Between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats 2002. [13124/07]

I have asked to have the information compiled in the format sought by the Deputy and I will communicate with him in relation to this matter at the earliest opportunity.

Garda Communications.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

216 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a coordinating framework has been drawn up in each Garda district in line with An Agreed Programme for Government Between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats 2002; and the liaison that has taken place with the local community on drug-related matters in each Garda district. [13125/07]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that a co-ordinating framework linking Garda District, Divisional and National Drug Policing Plans is in place within An Garda Síochána.

Furthermore, the Garda Síochána Act 2005, makes provisions for Joint Policing Committees at local authority level and for the establishment of local policing fora in designated areas under the umbrella of such committees. Twenty two pilot joint policing committees with representation from the statutory, community and voluntary sectors are now in place in local authority administrative areas as the first phase of the implementation of this initiative.

These bodies are to act as fora where matters relating to local issues of policing and crime, including drug related issues, can be discussed and where strategies and recommendations for dealing with issues locally can be formulated.

Garda Operations.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

217 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a drug policing plan has been produced in respect of every Garda district and sub-district in line with An Agreed Programme for Government Between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats 2002. [13126/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Síochána Policing Plan 2007 targets as a priority, action to target organised crime, including drug trafficking and the gun culture associated with it. This reflects the Government's policing priorities for 2007.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that in the development of the overall Policing Plan, each Garda District and Sub-District's input is now built into their relevant Garda Divisional Policing Plan which includes that Division's drug policing element.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

218 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the multi-agency actions that have been taken to target drug dealers in local communities in line with An Agreed Programme for Government Between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats 2002. [13127/07]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that since the publication of the Government's National Drugs Strategy, Garda resources generally in the fight against illicit drugs have increased.

This is particularly evident with the creation of additional Divisional Drug Units in areas of particular need. These Drugs Units operate in Divisions throughout the country with a primary focus on local drugs activities.

Furthermore a joint Garda National Drugs Unit/Criminal Assets Bureau initiative is now in place which targets local dealers.

In addition, An Garda Síochána are represented on all Local and Regional Drug Task Forces who develop multi-agency Area Action Plans to address the problem of drug misuse within their areas.

Finally, I would refer the Deputy to the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which makes provision for Joint Policing Committees at local authority level and for the establishment of local policing fora in designated areas under the umbrella of such committees.

Twenty two pilot joint policing committees with representation from the statutory, community and voluntary sectors are now in place in local authority administrative areas as the first phase of the implementation of this initiative.

These bodies are to act as fora where matters relating to local issues of policing and crime, including drug related issues, can be discussed and where strategies and recommendations for dealing with issues locally can be formulated.

Criminal Assets Bureau.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

219 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the value of all assets of persons involved in drug dealing that have been targeted in each year from 2002 to date in 2007 in line with An Agreed Programme for Government Between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats 2002; the number of such persons targeted; the number of such persons successfully convicted; the number of such persons who have had assets confiscated; and the number of such persons who are middle-ranking criminals. [13128/07]

I am advised by the Garda authorities that for operational reasons it is not appropriate for proceedings being taken by the Criminal Assets Bureau to be linked to particular criminal groups or activities.

However, I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the majority of applications under the Proceeds of Crime legislation made by the Criminal Assets Bureau over the past five years have, in general, related to proceeds believed to be the result of drug related activities.

The Bureau also continues to apply its revenue powers under its statutory remit against persons involved in drug trafficking.

In carrying out its functions, the Criminal Assets Bureau works closely with the Garda National Drug Unit and liaises with the Divisional Criminal Assets Profilers in each Garda Division throughout the country.

A feature of this work is to ensure that assets derived from criminal conduct, and in particular drug related crime are subject to the following as deemed appropriate: post conviction confiscation pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act, 1994; civil restraint pursuant to the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996/2005; and application of Revenue and Social Welfare legislative provision.

Statistics in relation to the monies seized and collected by the Criminal Assets Bureau are available from the Annual Reports of the Bureau which are available in the Oireachtas library.

Garda Operations.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

220 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the results of the review of the Community Warden Service in line with An Agreed Programme for Government Between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats 2002; and the number of trained police officers released to operational duties on foot of that review. [13129/07]

I have requested the information sought by the Deputy from the Garda authorities. I will be in contact with the Deputy when this information is to hand.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

221 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of money that has been grant aided to local communities for the provision of closed circuit television cameras in line with An Agreed Programme for Government Between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats 2002; and the number of CCTV cameras installed in each year from 2002 to date in 2007. [13130/07]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to extend the use of CCTV and to also to grant aid communities to fund them. In tandem with the Garda based CCTV scheme, I launched the Community-based CCTV Scheme in June 2005, in response to a 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 capital costs associated with the establishment of local community CCTV systems. The Scheme offers both pre-development grants of up to €5,000 to enable qualifying applicants to investigate the need for CCTV in their area and to complete a detailed proposal, and substantial grants of up to €100,000 from my Department to install a CCTV system in their area. In addition, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs provides successful applicants from RAPID areas with a further grant to a possible maximum of €100,000. Pobal has been engaged to administer the Scheme on behalf of this Department and it carries carry out thorough assessments of all applications received.

Interest in the first round of the Scheme, which concluded in September 2005, was quite high with 24 successful groups receiving pre-development grants totalling €115,665 which were paid in 2006. A total of 13 successful groups were also approved to receive substantive grants totalling €1 million, to be matched in RAPID areas by the Department of Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs. Payment of these grants commenced in October 2006 and the supply, delivery and installation of cameras has recently begun and is currently in progress.

Pobal invited the 24 groups who received pre-development grants to submit Stage 2 proposals by 31st January 2007. Twenty of these groups submitted proposals and 11 groups were approved to receive grants totalling in excess of €1 million, again to be matched in RAPID areas by the Department of Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs. The final amounts involved will be determined subject to the finalisation of contracts.

The first of the Community-based schemes to receive funding is in the Moyross area of Limerick. To date five cameras have been delivered for this scheme; these are currently being installed and are expected to be up and running this week. These cameras complement an earlier community CCTV scheme which has been in operation in the Moyross area for some time.

In addition, a new round of funding under the Community Based CCTV Scheme was advertised in December 2006 with a closing date for receipt of applications of 28 February 2007. Interest in this second Round of the Scheme is also very high with 50 groups applying for pre-development grants and 27 groups applying directly for substantive funding. Pobal are currently evaluating these proposals and expect to be in a position to make their recommendations on successful pre-development applications by mid-April. The substantive proposals will take somewhat longer to evaluate and Pobal are expected to make recommendations on these by mid-May.

Question No. 222 answered with QuestionNo. 214.

Drug Seizures.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

223 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the work of An Garda Síochána in tackling the importation of illegal drugs into Ireland; the measures that have been put in place in this respect at airports, ports, in particular small ports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13132/07]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

224 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of ports and harbours on the coast of Ireland not constantly monitored by An Garda Síochána with a view to preventing the illegal importation of drugs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13133/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 223 and 224 together.

The Government remains resolutely committed to tackling the problem of drug misuse through our National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008.

Under the Strategy, it is the Customs Service of the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Finance, Mr. Brian Cowen T.D., which has primary responsibility for the prevention, detection, interception and seizure of controlled drugs at importation. The service has particular responsibility for implementing import controls at points of entry to the State, specifically, at ports, airports (including licensed airfields) and on the land frontier.

In relation to my Department's remit and the role of An Garda Síochána in the area of drug supply reduction and drug law enforcement, I can advise the Deputy of the following.

Given its nature, tackling drug trafficking demands local, national and international responses and is primarily intelligence led.

An Garda Síochána invokes a number broad strategic responses in addressing the issue. 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.

An Garda Síochána liaises on an ongoing basis with other national and international enforcement services such as the Customs authorities (with whom there is a formal Memorandum of Understanding and Protocols in place to facilitate joint working), the Naval Service, the Air Corps, and foreign customs and police services.

The benefits brought about by all of these ongoing law enforcement efforts are demonstrated by the continuing high level of drug seizures being made by both An Garda Síochána and the Customs authorities and their continued success in bringing serious drug traffickers to book and putting them out of business.

The issue of drug trafficking is one which the Government, in conjunction with our law enforcement agencies, will continue to tackle as a priority under one of the main pillar headings of our overall National Drugs Strategy.

Garda Deployment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

225 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí currently assigned to the Garda National Drugs Unit; and the number assigned on each of 1 January 2006, 1 June 2006 and 1 January 2007. [13134/07]

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.

There is a total of 331 Gardaí dedicated to national and regional drugs units. These units are also supported in their work by officers from other national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the Criminal Assets Bureau. I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of the National Drugs Unit on 29 March, 2007, 1 June, 2006, 31 December, 2006 and on 31 December, 2005 was as set out in the table hereunder:

29/03/07

31/12/06

01/06/06

31/12/05

National Drugs Unit

48

48

55

55

Garda Management have further advised that a process is currently underway to recruit an additional two Sergeants and ten Gardaí to the Garda National Drugs Unit thereby bringing the personnel strength of the unit to 60. The Deputy will appreciate that, as with any large organisation, on any given day, personnel strengths of individual units may fluctuate due, for example, to promotions, retirements and transfers.

Garda personnel assigned throughout the country, together with the overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are continually monitored and reviewed by Garda authorities. I am informed that such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the general public.

Garda Communications.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

226 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the problems with the Garda PULSE system; the annual cost of running the system; the fees that have been paid in respect of consultancy services in 2006 and for each month in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13135/07]

I am advised by the Garda Authorities that Pulse, the primary IT system for An Garda Síochána, is operating very satisfactorily. Significant investment has been made to improve the availability and response times of the system and I am advised that as a result, over the course of the past year, there has been no unplanned downtime of the system.

The total development cost of the PULSE project was €61.3 million and covers the period up to 2001. The Garda authorities advise that the average annual maintenance and upgrade costs for PULSE from 2001 to the end of 2006 amounts to €12.88m This expenditure includes the cost of contract resources and there are no monthly expenditure on consultancy fees in relation to the system.

By way of background, the figure above includes replacement of the Pulse hardware and major upgrades to the Pulse software as part of the Garda Pulse stabilisation programme which was completed last year. In addition, a range of upgrades and modifications have been carried out to the system to support changes arising from new legislation, additional functionality etc. It also includes costs associated with the extension of the pulse system to new locations and to the set-up of the new Garda Information Services Centre in Castlebar and the new Vetting Unit in Thurles. PULSE is now available in 320 locations with 79 new locations added in 2006 alone. The figure also includes various software licence fees which over the period amounted to €14.25m. The full licence costs are included for completeness although the costs relate to user-based licences which are also used for other Garda systems such as the Garda National Immigration Bureau and the Fixed Charge Processing systems.

Garda authorities also inform me that following the completion of PULSE stabilisation and a programme of maintenance and hardware upgrades in 2006, PULSE has now been amalgamated with the Garda National Immigration Bureau Information System, GNIB-IS, and the Fixed Charge processing System, FCPS, to form a new combined IT system referred to as the Garda Information System, GIS. Accordingly, specific figures relating to Pulse for 2007 are not available.

Identification Cards.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

227 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his view on the introduction of a national identity card; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13136/07]

I can inform the Deputy that while I remain to be convinced of the necessity of the introduction of an identity card scheme, any final judgement in this regard must include a full assessment of the implications of a UK ID card scheme. Developments in the rest of the EU, where ID cards are a much more normal part of everyday life and are often used, for example, to access public services, will also continue to inform our thinking on this matter.

Garda Recruitment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

228 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of positions within An Garda Síochána that have been civilianised in 2007. [13137/07]

Under the Garda Síochána Act, the Commissioner became responsible for all civilians in An Garda Síochána in 2006. The Commissioner is now responsible for recruitment of all personnel to the force including civilians.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there is currently a campaign underway to recruit 300 civilian support staff into An Garda Síochána. This process is well underway and interviews are currently being held by the Public Appointments Service to recruit these Clerical Officers. Since the beginning of 2007, 93 Clerical Officers have been appointed to An Garda Síochána. A further 46 have been offered a Clerical Officer post.

The Garda Information Services Centre employs over 160 civilians doing work which was previously done by operational gardaí. The success of the incident reporting and data quality review facilities available at the GISC encouraged the Garda authorities to seek opportunities for the devolution of further tasks to the Centre. One such initiative involves the reporting of the outcome of court cases to the GISC, which allows Gardaí to remain operational following completion of their court attendances. The call-taking function of Garda Traffic Watch has already transferred from six Regional Garda Communication Centres to the GISC. Under a further initiative, the logging of driving licence and insurance particulars, a function formerly carried out by Gardaí and civilian personnel in the Fixed Charge Processing System, is now undertaken at the GISC. All of these initiatives are contributing significantly to the release of Garda resources for visible, front-line policing across our communities. It is proposed to carry out a review of the GISC in the summer of 2007 and the outcome of this evaluation will inform future projects.

Preparations are at an advanced stage to commence the recruitment of a civilian Chief Administration Officer in An Garda Síochána, at a grade equivalent to Deputy Commissioner. An Garda Síochána is also in the process of recruiting senior civilian managers as Directors of Communications, Strategy, Human Resources, Finance and Information Technology. A dedicated Human Resource Directorate has been established within An Garda Síochána to serve the needs of approximately 2,000 clerical, administrative, professional, technical and industrial civilian staff already working in An Garda Síochána and to promote an extensive programme of civilianisation.

Significant progress is being made on recruitment to a range of key specialised civilian posts, including: 31 posts in the Garda Telecommunications area; 28 staff for the Professional Standards Unit, comprising statisticians, analysts and administrative staff; 10 posts in the new Internal Audit Unit; 14 additional teaching / training posts in the Garda College in Templemore; and 29 posts for the new civilian Crime Analysis Service.

The developments outlined above represent a major acceleration in the pace of civilianisation in An Garda Síochána. I remain committed to achieving the greatest level of civilianisation consistent with the effective and efficient functioning of An Garda Síochána and will continue to work with the Garda Commissioner to drive the civilianisation programme forward.

Garda Strength.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

229 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of fully attested persons currently serving in the Garda Reserve. [13138/07]

The Garda Commissioner is proceeding with the recruitment and training of 1,500 members of the Garda Reserve. The first group of 36 Garda Reserves completed their training and were formally attested as members of An Garda Síochána on 15 December 2006.

A further 87 Reserve trainees are currently in training, some of whom will be attested next month. Recruitment and selection of trainees for the Reserve is continuing. The next group of trainees will commence training later this month.

While I am satisfied generally with the progress being made in the recruitment and training of Reserve members, I consider that the process of initial recruitment can be made more efficient if it is given a local dimension. In that context, I have asked the Garda Commissioner, and he has agreed, to involve local Garda Superintendents directly in local recruitment arrangements to attract suitable candidates from the local community. This will assist in ensuring that the 1,500 target is reached as soon as possible.

The Commissioner has also appointed a Chief Superintendent to oversee the Garda Reserve on a full-time basis. I will of course, in conjunction with the Commissioner, keep all procedures relating to the Garda Reserve under review to ensure that target figure of 1,500 is reached.

Pension Provisions.

Jack Wall

Question:

230 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the reason civil servants have to pay 1.7% of their annual salary under the child and spouse scheme main schedule in view of the fact that an applicant may never marry or have children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12834/07]

Jack Wall

Question:

231 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the amount of contributions a person has to make under the child and spouse scheme main schedule; if this payment is compulsory from a persons salary within the Civil Service; the lump sum a person will receive on early retirement or when they retire from service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12835/07]

Billy Timmins

Question:

232 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the position in relation to the payment of the widows and orphans scheme by single people in the Public Service; the position in relation to their contributions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13355/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 230 to 232, inclusive, together.

The contribution rates for the Civil Service Spouses' and Children's Pensions Schemes are as follows: Scheme for Established Officers, 1.5% of Salary; Scheme for Unestablished Officers, 1.5% of net salary, i.e. salary less twice the rate of Old Age Contributory Pension, OACP.

Under current arrangements appointment to a pensionable post in the Civil Service is conditional on (i) membership of a Main Superannuation Scheme which provides for the member's own pension benefits and (ii) membership of an associated Spouses' and Children's Scheme which covers pensions for spouses and children. Compulsory membership of the Spouses' and Children's scheme is on foot of negotiated agreements between the Civil Service unions and management.

The Spouses' and Children's Schemes effectively provide insurance for contingency benefits. The schemes are designed on a group insurance basis and the member contribution rate is structured accordingly. The total cost of the schemes is borne, on a 50/50 basis, by the employer and employees. Scheme cover continues to be provided until the member's death, whether that occurs before or after retirement.

The Commission on Public Service Pensions considered the question of compulsory membership for single people and the non-refundable nature of the contributions paid by them and decided not to recommend any change in the foregoing scheme rules.

With regard to lump-sum entitlements, these benefits are paid under the main (occupational) pension schemes as opposed to the spouses' and children's schemes. Generally, entitlements are calculated as 3/80th of pensionable remuneration multiplied by the number of years reckonable service. In exceptional circumstances (e.g. ill-health retirement) officers retiring before the minimum retirement age may get additional notional years added to their actual service for pension purposes. Any outstanding contributions due to the relevant spouses' and children's scheme will, as a general rule, be deducted from the retirement lump-sum.

Tax Code.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

233 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the relevant date which is applicable to the capital gains tax where a compulsory purchase order has been served to acquire agricultural land and entry has taken place by the National Roads Authority. [12311/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that for capital gains tax, CGT, purposes, the time of disposal of land under a compulsory purchase order is the earlier of the time the authority enters on the land and the time at which the compensation is agreed. The CGT liability arises in the year of assessment (i.e. the calendar year) in which the disposal is treated as being made.

This general rule is disapplied, however, where the disposal is under a compulsory purchase order and is for the purposes of, or ancillary to, road construction, widening or extension, the person making the disposal is engaged in farming, and immediately before the disposal, the land was used for the purposes of farming.

Where these circumstances occur the CGT liability will not arise until the year of assessment in which the compensation is received.

Jack Wall

Question:

234 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding a family who use the tenants in common method of farming which was used as a result of the death of their father and now wish to dissolve this method and equally divide the farm; the effect this will have in relation to the payment of capital gains tax and any other applicable taxes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12321/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the partition of a tenancy in common is a disposal for capital gains tax (CGT) purposes. Each party is treated as disposing of an interest in the undivided farm in exchange for an interest in a divided part. The chargeable gains are computed by reference to the respective market values of the farm at the date the father died and on partition. A family member who is aged 55 years or more might be entitled to relief from CGT (retirement relief).

I am further advised that a liability to stamp duty or gift tax does not arise in the case of the equal division of a farm between existing co-owners on the partition of a tenancy in common.

If the family are currently farming in partnership the income tax commencement and cessation provisions might be applicable if the partnership ceases when the farm is partitioned. These could give rise to a revision of profits for tax purposes for the final years of the ceasing farming partnership while the rules for assessing a start-up business would apply to the individuals in their new roles as sole farming traders.

The Deputy should contact the Revenue Commissioners if he would like further information on this matter.

Disabled Drivers.

Willie Penrose

Question:

235 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance if his Department has received a completed application for tax relief in respect of a vehicle purchased for use by a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath with severe disabilities; the reason it has not been dealt with despite the application being made in August 2006; if same will be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12330/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that based on the information supplied they have been unable to trace any claim by the named person under the Disabled Drivers and the Disabled Passengers [Tax Concessions] Regulations 1994.

A claim under the above regulations can only be considered from a person who has qualified for a Primary Medical Certificate issued by the Senior Area Medical Officer of their local Health Service Executive administrative area.

If the Primary Medical Certificate has been refused in this case, the named person may appeal the refusal to the Medical Board of Appeal, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Rochestown Avenue, Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin. Tel. 01-2355279.

Tax Yield.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

236 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of reducing the standard rate of income tax from 20% to 18%, reducing the marginal rate from 41% to 40%, increasing tax credits and tax bands in line with wage inflation and doubling the credit where one spouse works in the home to care for children, the elderly or the disabled. [12388/07]

By reference to the 2007 post-Budget income tax ready reckoner prepared by the Revenue Commissioners, the full year costs to the Exchequer of the Deputy's measures are as follows. Reduction in the standard rate of tax from 20% to 18% is estimated at €1,025 million. Reduction in the marginal, that is, higher rate of tax from 41% to 40% is estimated at €210 million. Increasing the home carer credit from €770 to €1,540 is estimated at €60 million.

In the absence of a specific figure being provided by the Deputy for wage inflation, it is not possible to provide an estimate of the cost of increasing tax credits and tax bands in line with wages inflation. In order to avoid setting a headline, as a general rule, my Department does not publish forecast estimates of wages growth.

However, using the data in the income tax ready reckoner, each 1% increase in the value of the main personal credits (basic personal credit and employee credit) and the tax bands would cost about €120 million in a full year. If the Deputy wishes to estimate costs for future years, he could apply this indicative figure to the pay increases set out in Towards 2016 or to forecasts for wages growth published by the European Commission in its Autumn 2006 Economic Forecast or the Quarterly Economic Commentary published by the ESRI in March 2007.

The costs quoted are provisional, subject to revision and estimated to the nearest €5 million. The ready reckoner is available on my Department's website, atwww.finance.gov.ie.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

237 Ms Burton 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 due to children using the property as their residence for three years plus; if an audit of such transactions has been conducted by the Revenue Commissioners; the number of such transactions that have taken place for each of the years 2004, 2005 and 2006; if he will estimate the sum of capital acquisitions tax avoided in this manner for each of the above years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12475/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that 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 inheritance. The conditions require 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 or in the other property for periods which, taken together, amounted to 3 years in the 4-year period prior to the date of the gift or inheritance. In addition, 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.

The total number of claims for relief under section 86 of the Capital Acquisitions Tax Consolidation Act 2003 which were made in each of the years 2004, 2005 and 2006 were 553, 542 and 680 respectively. Data is not captured in the Revenue database in a manner which would enable the values of properties subject to section 86 claims to be separately identified. However, on the basis of a recent once-off survey carried out by the Revenue Commissioners, it was established that the aggregate value of the 542 properties for which claims under section 86 were made in 2005 was some €140 million.

Claims for relief under section 86 of the Capital Acquisitions Tax Consolidation Act 2003 in respect of high-value houses are verified. Amendments to section 86 are being made in the current Finance Bill, which was passed by the Seanad last week. These amendments are as a result of Revenue's experience in administering 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, in particular, the argument that, where the donee, having until then lived in the parental home, is gifted a house by a parent, the 3 year period of occupancy of the gifted house is satisfied.

The second change will require that the gifted house 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 parent for full value and the house is then gifted back to that individual by his parent. It also counters the use of family trusts in gifting houses to children.

Decentralisation Programme.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

238 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance the number of civil servants in tabular form awaiting transfer to locations such as Tullamore and Nenagh; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12544/07]

My Department has completed the transfer of 126 people to Tullamore. There remain a number of applications on the Central Applications Facility from civil servants for a transfer to my Department and the grade breakdown is as follows:

Grade

Number of Staff

Principal Officer

0

Assistant Principal

0

Higher Executive Officer/Administrative Officer

4

Executive Officer

2

Staff Officer

1

Clerical Officer

28

Service Officer

0

Total

35

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners there are a number of applications from civil servants (both internal and external) for a transfer to the existing Revenue offices in Tullamore and Nenagh. The grade breakdown is as follows:

Grade

Number of Staff — Tullamore

Number of Staff — Nenagh

Principal Officer

0

0

Assistant Principal

0

2

Higher Executive Officer/Administrative Officer

6

26

Higher Tax Officer

1

2

Executive Officer

16

25

Staff Officer

1

7

Tax Officer

1

6

Clerical Officer

27

70

Total

52

138

Tax Code.

Seamus Kirk

Question:

239 Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Finance if the provision of courtesy transport by publicans is an allowable expense for tax purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12578/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the running costs of providing courtesy transport by a publican would be allowed as a deduction for tax purposes where those costs are incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the publican's trade and where customers using the transport service are not charged for it. Any part of the running costs attributable to the private use of the vehicle would not be allowable.

I am also informed by the Revenue Commissioners that capital allowances would be available against the capital cost of providing a vehicle which belongs to a publican and which is to be used in the provision of such a transport service for the purposes of his or her trade. The amount of expenditure qualifying for allowances is subject to an upper limit or cap. This cap which stood at €23,000 for 2006 is increased to €24,000 for 2007. Subject to the cap, expenditure on a vehicle may be written off over 8 years at the rate of 12.5% per annum. Where a vehicle qualifies for capital allowances and is used both for business and private purposes, the allowances are not available for the element of private use and the expenditure on the vehicle must be apportioned between the business and private uses.

Disabled Drivers.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

240 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the options highlighted in the report of the Interdepartmental Review Group in 2004 for the extension of the qualifying medical criteria for the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers Tax Concession regulations; and the reason none of these options have been followed. [12582/07]

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 outlines 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. Changes in relation to the appeals process have been introduced.

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.

Garda Stations.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

241 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if all documents, maps and contracts have been received by the Chief State Solicitor in relation to the Garda station at Dunmanway; and if he will confirm that contracts can be completed in order that the redevelopment of the existing Garda station can commence. [12583/07]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Questions No's. 319 & 276 dated 20th March, 2007. The position has not changed since that date.

Disabled Drivers.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

242 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons presently qualifying for the Disabled Drivers and Passengers tax concessions scheme; the number of current applicants; and the number of those whose applications are under appeal. [12584/07]

Based on the most recent data available from the Revenue Commissioners, it is estimated that the number of claimants in the Disabled Drivers and the Disabled Passengers [Tax Concessions] Regulations 1994 Scheme in 2006, was approximately 11,000.

The initial application under the Scheme is made to the Senior Medical Officer for the relevant local Health Services Executive (HSE) administrative area and therefore falls under the remit of the HSE. Consequently, my Department is not in a position to outline the total number of applications received.

Appeals relating to the medical aspect of the Scheme are made to the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal. As at end February 2007, 358 appeals were with the Medical Board of Appeal.

Financial Services Regulation.

Dan Neville

Question:

243 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Finance if the group established to review the powers of credit unions in respect of loans and mortgages has reported to him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12784/07]

The Report of the Review Group on Longer-Term Lending Limits under Section 35 of the Credit Union Act, 1997, was published on my Department's website on 2 February 2007. The Review Group was comprised of representatives from the Irish League of Credit Unions, the Credit Union Development Association, the Registrar of Credit Unions and my Department.

The Report recommended that Section 35 lending limits should be increased for loans over five years from 20% to 40% and over ten years from 10% to 15%, for those credit unions approved by the Registrar as having the necessary controls and safeguards in place and which satisfy financial criteria in relation to arrears and reserves.

I consider that the recommendations in the Report strike an appropriate balance between the development needs of credit unions and the protection of members' savings and have undertaken to introduce the necessary Regulatory amendments in the coming months.

It should be noted that the focus of the review was on longer-term lending in general and not on any specific product type such as mortgages. I understand however, that a number of credit unions have been approved by the Registrar of Credit Unions to provide a mortgage referral service to their members, as a result of partnership arrangements they have entered into with specific banks/building societies.

Archaeological Sites.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

244 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance his views on increasing the opening periods for a castle (details supplied) in County Wexford in order to cater for school groups and tourists in the off season; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12812/07]

The site to which the Deputy refers will be open to the public with a full guide service from 15 May to 4 October. Arrangements are also in place to accommodate school groups outside of this period. The question of extending the opening of the site to cover the period of the Wexford Opera Festival will be considered in 2008 when the festival returns to its normal October dates.

Health and Safety.

Enda Kenny

Question:

245 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the steps that were taken to protect staff working in the basement of Leinster House in close proximity to asbestos; the further steps that were taken to protect staff during the removal of this asbestos; the follow up that was carried out in relation to a member of staff (details supplied) who contracted pleural plax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12859/07]

The Commissioners of Public Works have carried out a number of surveys in the basement area of Leinster House to determine the location, type, form and condition of any asbestos materials present and the steps required to manage the problem.

Works identified as necessary were carried out as soon as possible under strict supervision and controlled conditions, in accordance with all relevant safety provisions under national and E.U. legislation and in consultation with the Health & Safety Authority, local management and staff.

Insofar as the individual referred to is concerned I understand that he was employed directly by Tithe an Oireachtais and, in the circumstances, I have no information in relation thereto.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

246 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons claiming tax relief on pension contributions; the income category these individuals fall into; the value of the tax relief and the tax revenue foregone to the Exchequer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12860/07]

I assume the Deputy has in mind the estimated cost of tax relief on pension contributions by employers, employees and self-employed. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the latest relevant figures available are in respect of the income tax year 2003. The total cost of tax relief on pensions contributions is tentatively estimated at approximately €1.456 billion. With the exception of the data on RACs and PRSAs below, the figures provided are not definitive costings and are based on various broad assumptions and parameters. The total figure is broken down as follows both in terms of numbers where available and in terms of costs.

Type of Pension Contributions

Numbers

2003 Costs

€million

Employees’ Contributions to approved Superannuation Schemes

724,300*

622

Employers’ Contributions to approved Superannuation Schemes

Not available

564

Retirement Annuity Contracts (RACs)

109,500

264

Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) **

2,400

6

Total

836,200

1,456

*Numbers sourced from annual Report of The Pensions Board for 2003.

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

With regard to occupational pensions, that is approved superannuation schemes set up by the employer, it should be noted that the cost figures in respect of employee and employer contributions are available only in aggregate form on a tentative basis. It is not possible to provide a breakdown across income categories in respect of the tax relief for pension contributions by employers and employees to occupational schemes as the relevant data are not captured in such a way as to make this possible.

Provisions were included in Finance Act 2004 with a view to improving data quality and transparency without overburdening taxpayers or employers. The Act includes provisions that require employers to provide data on superannuation contributions in the P35 form to be filed by employers in February 2006. These changes will yield additional information regarding the overall cost of tax relief for pension contributions but as the returns will be aggregated at employer level they will not provide a precise basis for measuring the potential impact on the Exchequer of proposals for changes at individual level. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that work on developing the necessary technical enhancements to their computer system to enable this data to be captured is ongoing.

I am further informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the only relevant information available by income category is in respect of income tax relief allowed for contributions to "Retirement Annuity Contracts" for the income tax year 2003, which are available to the self-employed and to employees not in occupational pension schemes. A distribution by income ranges of the number of cases, amount of deduction and reduction in tax for tax relief for Retirement Annuity Contracts is contained in the table that follows this reply.

The lower aggregate figures in the latter table (compared to the slightly higher figures for RACs in the opening table) are taken directly from filed income tax returns which represent about 98 per cent of all income tax returns expected for 2003. The higher figures in the initial table have, in accordance with normal practice, been grossed-up at aggregate level to adjust for this 2% incompleteness. A married couple who has elected or has deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

Retirement Annuity 2003 — by range of Gross Income

Range of gross income €

Number of cases

Amount of deduction €

Reduction in tax €

Gross Tax*€

Reduction in tax as % of Gross Tax %

0–9,000

1,311

2,258,341

141,112

1,220,083

11.6

9,000–10,000

396

520,767

56,739

145,733

38.9

10,000–12,000

960

1,390,966

182,028

325,681

55.9

12,000–15,000

2,117

3,294,103

476,424

1,123,382

42.4

15,000–17,000

1,839

2,916,457

440,441

1,433,123

30.7

17,000–20,000

3,562

5,982,637

1,057,797

3,925,339

26.9

20,000–25,000

7,437

13,264,657

2,509,060

11,424,694

22.0

25,000–27,000

3,456

6,636,168

1,288,242

6,761,114

19.1

27,000–30,000

5,185

10,416,281

2,236,258

12,281,820

18.2

30,000–35,000

8,760

19,577,391

5,322,680

28,319,511

18.8

35,000–40,000

8,310

21,125,491

6,176,678

35,540,978

17.4

40,000–50,000

14,146

42,851,406

13,602,269

83,706,273

16.2

50,000–60,000

11,495

43,082,859

13,969,983

95,014,387

14.7

60,000–75,000

11,870

57,063,627

21,767,071

139,128,001

15.6

75,000–100,000

9,855

69,066,748

28,384,806

179,694,549

15.8

100,000–150,000

7,164

90,203,134

37,714,062

221,977,076

17.0

150,000–200,000

2,978

61,979,607

25,965,403

151,200,057

17.2

200,000–250,000

1,699

46,772,306

19,609,506

116,963,786

16.8

Over 250,000

3,885

183,042,333

76,815,851

558,543,348

13.8

Totals

106,425

681,445,279

257,716,410

1,648,728,935

15.6

*"Gross tax" means the tax that would be due before relief is allowed for retirement annuity deductions.

Garda Stations.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

247 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the position of the new Garda station for Wexford Town; if the Rocklands site has been selected as the site for the new station to be located; when he expects a planning application to be submitted to Wexford County Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12883/07]

The Commissioners of Public Works expect to finalise the acquisition of a site at Rocksborough for Wexford Garda Station very soon. The OPW is scoping the works for this project to enable a design team to be placed under the new Standard Conditions of Engagement for Construction Consultants effective from the beginning of 2007. Planning Consultation under Part 9 will be initiated later on in the year.

Archaeological Sites.

Seamus Healy

Question:

248 Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Finance if he will develop Ormonde Castle, Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary as a significant heritage site including the building of a visitor centre, bus and car parking facilities and a new entrance roadway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12940/07]

Built in the 1560's Ormonde Castle is perhaps the best example of an Elizabethan manor house in Ireland and as such is an important element in the Heritage Sites of Ireland programme presented by the Office of Public Works. The site is generally open to the public from mid June to mid September.

A number of initiatives have been put in place in recent times to increase the numbers of visitors to the site. In 2006 a decision was made to remove all admission charges to the site. This initiative led directly to visitors to the site increasing by 26% over 2005.

In January of this year my officials met with the representatives of the Carrick on Suir Tourism and Economic Development Committee. Following on from this meeting OPW has agreed to extend the 2007 visitor season at Ormonde Castle until the end of September. It was also agreed that should visitor numbers continue to increase that for the 2008 season consideration will be given to opening the site to visitors from early May. The meeting with the committee also discussed issues such as car and bus parking which are of concern to OPW but are matters which can only be addressed by the local authority.

I think the Deputy will accept that significant efforts have been made in recent times to increase visitor numbers to Ormonde Castle and while the efforts of OPW will continue in this regard there are no plans to provide a separate visitor centre at the site.

Departmental Staff.

Paul McGrath

Question:

249 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if his Department has conducted a review of staffing complements in Departments which received large numbers of additional staff for specific purposes; his plans to reallocate such staff to deal with other work in different areas of the Civil Service; and the way the reallocation of these staff will impact on the CAF and DCAF processes. [13025/07]

Given the size of the public service pay and pension bill as a component of overall Government expenditure, Ministers are required to control and regulate public sector numbers within their respective areas. It is the responsibility of each Minister and his or her Department to ensure that staff employed in their areas of responsibility are deployed as effectively as possible to meet current work and service priorities. My Department becomes involved when significant changes in work patterns have led to staff becoming available for redeployment outside their own Department (e.g. my officials have been working with the Department of Agriculture & Food to redeploy staff from that Department following the successful introduction of the Single Payment Scheme).

Any such redeployment exercises will, of course, continue to be integrated with the operation of the CAF or Dublin arrangements, as appropriate, following appropriate consultation with staff and management interests.

Paul McGrath

Question:

250 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if his Department has conducted a review of staffing complements and staff duties in the Office of Public Works; if he plans to reallocate excess staff to deal with other work; and if so, the way the reallocation of these staff will impact on the CAF and DCAF processes. [13026/07]

There are no excess staff in the Office of Public Works (OPW). The staffing complement in the OPW operates within authorised staffing levels that are agreed on an on-going basis with the Department of Finance.

The Decentralisation Programme includes the relocation of OPW to three locations: Trim, Co. Meath, (OPW HQ); Claremorris, Co. Mayo and Kanturk, Co. Cork. OPW continues to review the staffing position with regard to the totality of its functions and the timeline applicable to moving the organisation to the three locations involved. The staff exchange process under the CAF and DCAF is on-going and it is not envisaged that an excess staff scenario will arise within OPW.

Departmental Expenditure.

Paul McGrath

Question:

251 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of civil servants in receipt of a full salary and by whom no work has been undertaken in the past month; the cost of employing these staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13027/07]

Aside from staff who availed of statutory/civil service leave entitlements (set out below), my Department had no staff who were in receipt of full salary and not working. A number of staff of my Department availed of the following leave in the past month: Annual leave — 2; maternity leave — 2; sick leave and maternity leave — 1; maternity leave and annual leave — 1; special leave for study (2 year programme) — 4. The total salary cost in respect of the staff above during this period was approximately €49,000.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paul McGrath

Question:

252 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he has commissioned an independent assessment of the effects of the Government’s decentralisation programme on morale within the Civil Service or within the Public Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13028/07]

I have no plans to commission an assessment of the type referred to by the Deputy. The Government is aware that the decentralisation programme impacts on the staff in the organisations affected, on their career choices and their expectations. From the outset therefore, my Department has put in place a process to discuss the full range of staff issues with union representatives. An approach based on negotiations and agreement has enabled significant progress to be made in relation to civil service general service grades on issues relating to promotion arrangements, protocols for transfer of staff and arrangements for placing staff who wish to remain in Dublin. My Department will continue to work closely with union representatives throughout the transition phase of the Programme to ensure that these arrangements are operating effectively. My Department will also continue to seek to make progress on issues affecting the professional & technical staff and those working in State Agencies.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government's Decentralisation Programme is a voluntary programme. To date over 10,600 applications have been received on the Central Applications Facility (CAF) with 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.

While much media coverage of the decentralisation programme has focussed on the negative impact of the Programme on staff, much less attention has been paid to the benefits of decentralisation. 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 – will have a broader range of career options. Present and future Civil and Public Servants who aspire to senior management positions will now have options to work either in Dublin or in one of a number of regional locations.

Departmental Expenditure.

Paul McGrath

Question:

253 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of people who have completed the IPA Masters degree course in policy analysis in each of the past five years; the average cost to the taxpayer of facilitating each member of staff in completing these courses; when the Government will have enough policy analysts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13029/07]

The Master of Economic Science in Policy Analysis is a two year full time programme delivered by the IPA in conjunction with UCD and is one of a number of measures in place to enhance public policy analysis capability in the civil service. It was commissioned by the Civil Service Training and Development Centre in 2003 and commenced in the academic year 2003/2004. To date 33 students have successfully graduated (16 in 2005 and 17 in 2006). There are 25 students in the final year of the 2005 -2007 cycle of the programme. The current average cost per student for the time away from work is approximately €65,000.

Policy analysis and evaluation are core activities in the work of Departments/Offices. Apart from this specific programme, there is also a separate course and a separate higher diploma programme aimed at improving the policy analysis capability of public servants. I am satisfied that this variety of measures will continue to be needed to provide the general level of capability required in this area.

Garda Stations.

Pat Carey

Question:

254 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance when construction will start on the Finglas Garda Station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13032/07]

The Commissioners of Public Works expect to place a contract very soon for the construction of the new Garda Station at Finglas, Dublin.

Departmental Staff.

Paul McGrath

Question:

255 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of staff in his Department for whom two or more phone lines have been provided at their home; the number of lines provided in each case; the reason for this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13048/07]

There are currently no members of staff from my Department for whom two or more phone lines have been provided in their private residence. On occasions, staff have been provided with two phone lines where this has been necessitated by business reasons. This is not a usual occurrence.

Departmental Expenditure.

Paul McGrath

Question:

256 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the amount of money paid to the training officers in his Department in respect of travel and subsistence allowances; the number of training days organised; and if the relocation of CMOD to Tullamore has had an impact on the work of training officers or on the work of those who attend courses there. [13063/07]

In 2006, a total of €246 was paid to the training officers in the departmental training unit of my Department in respect of travel and subsistence allowances and a total of €884 has been paid to date in 2007. The number of departmental training days organised in 2006 was 950 approximately. All participation in training is managed taking full account of work needs and the duration and venue of individual programmes. The relocation of the Civil Service Training and Development Centre to Tullamore has had no discernible impact on the work of the departmental training officers or on the work of those officers who attend courses there.

Paul McGrath

Question:

257 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the average amount of travel and subsistence allowances paid by his Department in respect of attendance at pre-retirment planning courses prior to the relocation of the Civil Service Training Centre to Tullamore; the average amount paid in respect of attendance at the same course since the centre was relocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13093/07]

No travel and subsistence allowances were paid by my Department in respect of attendance at pre-retirement planning courses prior to the relocation of the Civil Service Training Centre to Tullamore. A total of €777.54 has been paid in respect of attendance at the same course since the centre was relocated.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paul McGrath

Question:

258 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of staff who have transferred to his Department under the decentralisation CAF or DCAF schemes and who have found that they must make a further move to another section within six months of their Departmental transfer; the effect such moves have on staff morale; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13108/07]

It is understood, following clarification by the Deputy, that the question refers to staff moves out of the Department/Office within six months of their transfer into the Department/Office. Ninety five (95) staff from other Departments/Offices transferred in to my Department under the rules that apply to the Central Applications Facility for decentralisation to Tullamore. One person opted to return to their parent Department within six months of their arrival.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that two officers who joined Revenue for decentralisation opted to return to their original Departments within six months of their arrival. I am informed by the Office of Public Works that no officer who joined the OPW for decentralisation has moved to any other Department or Office.

Child Care Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

259 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the estimated cost of providing 50,000 new childcare places by 2010. [12393/07]

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

The NCIP came into effect from 1 January 2006, with an allocation of €575 million for the 5 year period of 2006 to 2010. The NCIP is a key element of the National Childcare Strategy 2006-2010, the aim of which is to deliver a more comprehensive approach to early years care and education. Unlike the EOCP, the NCIP is completely Exchequer funded. The NCIP is designed to deliver 50,000 additional childcare places, with a greater focus on pre-school places for 3 to 4 year olds and school age childcare. Childcare places are provided either through community based/not for profit childcare groups or by private providers.

Of the €575 million total budget for the NCIP, some €357 million is earmarked for capital investment and to provide for the cost of meeting the programme's target of 50,000 additional childcare places. Capital grant applications under the NCIP are assessed under a number of criteria; chiefly the nature and extent of the need locally for the service proposed, the applicant's capacity to deliver the project proposed and value for money. All proposals are expected to demonstrate how they will increase the supply of quality childcare, and furthermore, community projects are expected to have a focus on disadvantage.

Tony Gregory

Question:

260 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding sought by a service (details supplied) in Dublin 1; the reason this funding has not been provided since it was applied for in November 2006; if it will be provided; if it will be established that €60,000 and not €49,000 is required to sustain the crèche as a viable concern; if the remaining funding will be made available in order that the fees from the disadvantaged parents will not have to be raised for a second time in 12 months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12960/07]

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

With regard to the application for staffing grant assistance under the EOCP referred to in the question, I understand that this Group were approved an additional staffing grant of €49,375 in December 2006. This brought their staffing grant funding for the period of 15 months, October 2006 to December 2007, up to the maximum level of staffing funding allowed under EOCP, which is €172,500 per annum. To date, this Group has been approved a total of €920,219 in staffing grant assistance. I also understand that this Group recently made an application for capital grant assistance under the NCIP. This application is currently being assessed by Pobal, who I understand will be in contact with the Group shortly in this regard.

Hospital Accommodation.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

261 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether the proposed hospitals co-location initiative is the most cost-executive way of providing 1000 extra public hospital beds; the cost of the co-location initiative to the Exchequer; the cost of providing 1000 new public beds by traditional means; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13030/07]

I am convinced that the co-location initiative is the most cost effective way of providing an additional 1,000 public beds for public patients in public hospitals including in the Adelaide and Meath Hospital incorporating the National Children's Hospital, Tallaght.

There will be no capital cost to the Exchequer. The State already funds the nursing and support staff employed to provide acute hospital services in these beds. The State will have to replace the income which the public hospitals have been receiving in respect of the private and semi private beds whose activity will transfer across to the new co-located hospitals. These private and semi private beds are currently being subsidised, for private patients, by the state. Investors in the new co-located hospitals, like investors in all new private hospitals, may be eligible for capital allowances over a 7 years period in accordance with the provisions of the Finance Acts.

There will be a rigorous value for money assessment of any proposal and this will take account of the value of the public site and the cost of any tax expenditure. Any transaction will be on a commercial basis and will fully protect the public interest. In addition, there will be full adherence to public procurement law and best practice.

The capital cost per bed for acute public hospitals differs depending on the scope of medical services provided and the consequential functional content of the hospital facility. Direct comparison, on a cost per bed basis, with private sector hospitals could be misleading without detailed information on the services being provided, functional content and floor areas of facilities.

Public acute hospitals have departments not normally provided in private facilities (A&E, Post Mortem, Teaching,) which will increase the cost per bed. The estimated average capital cost for an acute hospital bed in a major acute teaching hospital is €625,000. However, this figure does not include the cost of increasing numbers of single room accommodation being provided in public hospitals. The costs do not include the cost of land acquisition, future inflation financing costs, or cost of underground/overground car parking facilities.

The average revenue cost of an inpatient bed in a major acute teaching hospital in 2005 (the most recent year for which information is available) was approximately €300,000 per annum. This includes acute inpatient costs and inpatient activity only and excludes day cases, outpatients, longstay and psychiatric patients. The cost also excludes capital and depreciation costs.

Health Insurance.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

262 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the introduction of a universal health insurance system; the cost implications to the Exchequer of such a switch; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13031/07]

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

356 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the introduction of a universal health insurance system; the cost implications of such a switch; her views on whether such a system would improve the standards of healthcare; if not, the reason for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13033/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 262 and 356 together.

It is difficult to comment on and assess the costs of the general merits of universal health insurance system in Ireland. Such a system would move insurance from being voluntary to compulsory. Consideration of the many complex issues inherent in any such proposal would include whether a particular universal health insurance system would be more effective than present arrangements in terms of service delivery and quality and, also, whether it would lead to additional unnecessary costs. On a simplified basis, about 52% of the population pay for health insurance voluntarily at a cost of approximately €1.25 billion. On this basis, the cost of the State providing the same benefits to 48% of the population without private health insurance would be approximately €1.12 billion. However, this does not reflect the total cost of any change to universal coverage as there are many programmes, such as general medical services which will cost about €1.6 billion in 2007, that are not met by insurers.

I may add that the World Health Organisation commented in April 2005 in a paper "Social Health insurance" that "no specific health-financing mechanism is optimal and recommendable in all settings... Little advantage is discernible in one financing system over another in terms of impact on health outcomes, responsiveness to patients or efficiency."

This Government and the previous Government have provided, over the past ten years, unprecedented levels of investment for the health services. Ireland already has universal coverage for hospital services, funded through general taxation.

Departmental Staff.

Paul McGrath

Question:

263 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of civil servants in her Department in receipt of a full salary and by whom no work has been undertaken in the past month; the cost of employing these staff; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13496/07]

Aside from staff who are availing of statutory/civil service leave entitlements (e.g. maternity leave, sick leave, annual leave, etc.), my Department had no staff who were in receipt of full salary and not working in the month of March 2007.

Hospital Services.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

264 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children if it is standard practice in general hospitals to offer epidurals to all maternity patients; the hospitals in which this service operates full-time and where it is only part-time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12306/07]

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 address the particular issues 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.

Richard Bruton

Question:

265 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to ensure that the dental scheme for medical card holders is secured into the future. [12310/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

334 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person who holds a medical card can no longer access dental treatment through the family dentist; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12770/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 265 and 334 together.

The Dental Treatment Service Scheme (DTSS) provides for a range of dental services for adult medical card holders from participating dentists holding contracts with the Health Service Executive (HSE). The DTSS Review Group was established in May 2006 to undertake a comprehensive review of Primary Care Oral Health Services provided under the DTSS. Represented on the Review Group are the HSE, the Health Service Employers Agency, the Department of Health and Children, the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the Department of Finance and the Irish Dental Association (IDA). The Group is chaired by Mr Finbar Flood.

Since the Group was established, a legal issue has arisen with regard to the Competition Act 2002 as it relates to the negotiation of professional fees. My Department has sought legal advice from the Attorney General in this regard. In the meantime, the management side has offered to continue discussions on the non-fee element of the review. The IDA has not accepted this offer.

I understand that the IDA has balloted its members on a proposal to withdraw the association's support from the DTSS and that this proposal has been carried. The existing contractual arrangements with private dental practitioners under the DTSS for the provision of dental services to eligible patients remain in place.

Community Care.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

266 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children when the necessary money will be made available to bring the proposed Ballinrobe Community Nursing Unit to the planning and development stage, taking into account the long delay in getting the necessary lands into the name of the Health Service Executive from Mayo County Council; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12319/07]

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. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Liam Twomey

Question:

267 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children her views regarding the adequacy of the ethical framework which applies to persons who have a consultancy relationship with the Health Service Executive; if she has discussed these arrangements with senior officials in the HSE or with the consultants involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12326/07]

The Health Act, 2004 sets out the HSE's responsibilities in relation to codes of standards of integrity, conduct and governance. Under section 35 of the Health Act 2004 the HSE is obliged to submit a Code of Governance for my approval. A draft code of governance was received from the Executive at the end of September. It comprises a suite of documents which make up a Framework for the Corporate and Financial Governance of the HSE. The contents of this Code are being assessed and considered by my officials and will be complete shortly.

However, as this question relates more specifically to the adequacy of the ethical framework which applies to persons who have a consultancy relationship with the HSE, I have 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.

Youth Services.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

268 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children when the promised Government Strategy on Recreation for Teenagers will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12327/07]

A National Recreation Policy has been to the forefront of this Government's commitment to improving the lives of young people in Ireland. Accordingly, it is my intention to publish the National Recreation Policy for Young People at the earliest opportunity.

Hospital Charges.

Liz McManus

Question:

269 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children if the residents of a hospital (details supplied) are liable for the bills which are beyond the ability of people on limited incomes to pay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12331/07]

The Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations 2005 have provided for two different classes of persons on whom charges may be levied. These regulations were signed by the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Health and Children on 14 January 2005.

Class 1 refers to people in receipt of in-patient services on premises where nursing care is provided on a 24 hour basis on those premises. In this case, a weekly charge can be levied of €120 or the weekly income of that person less €35, whichever is the lesser.

Class 2 refers to people in receipt of in-patient services on premises where nursing care is not provided on a 24 hour basis on those premises. In this situation, a weekly charge can be levied of €90, or the weekly income of that person less €55 or 60% of the weekly income of that person, whichever is the lesser.

These regulations provide for the maximum charge to be levied on either class of person. The HSE issued revised guidelines for the implementation of the charges in July 2006. The HSE has the power to reduce or waive a charge on the grounds of "undue hardship". Under Section 1 (b) of the Health (Amendment) Act, 2005, the HSE can examine a person's overall financial situation in view of the person's reasonable expenditure in relation to themselves or their dependants, if any. The HSE when assessing charges takes into account only that income attributable solely to the person in care.

As the information sought relates to a specific hospital which is within the area of responsibility of the Health Service Executive, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the mater investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

270 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called to have a mould made for the proper fitting of an artificial leg in view of the fact that the current leg is causing huge discomfort, that this person is waiting for this appointment since June 2006 and that a re-assessment should be carried out every six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12337/07]

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 case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

271 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there is no facility for a fully trained and qualified person (details supplied) in County Mayo who has worked for three years minding a child who suffers from severe spastic quadriplegic, microcephaly, tube feeding, epilepsy and reflux condition; the way this person will get the financial allocation for an additional 10 hours to continue minding this child; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12338/07]

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.

Health Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

272 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has been turned down for a primary certificate; her views on whether this case should be reviewed as they have ongoing complaints and are maintained on a long list of medication; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12341/07]

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.

Care of the Elderly.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

273 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo cannot get a PA to assist them as they live alone and have nine hours home help which is not sufficient; if she will guarantee that this can be reviewed immediately; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12348/07]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

274 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether it is fair that a Friedreichs ataxia sufferer (details supplied), confined to a wheelchair is unable to attend vital hospital appointments due to a lack of service and that this entire facility needs to be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12349/07]

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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Joe Higgins

Question:

275 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if full State funding for the capital costs of a new hospice in Dublin 15, as requested by the Dublin 15 Hospice Fundraising Committee, will be provided. [12350/07]

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. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matterinvestigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

276 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene to alleviate the overcrowding at Ennis General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12351/07]

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

Vaccination Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

277 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 930 of 31 January 2007, the outcome of an examination into the feasibility of introducing the vaccine damage compensation scheme by the Vaccine Damage Steering Group; the number and date of meetings of the group; the membership of the group; when such a scheme will be put in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12362/07]

In its report on Childhood Immunisation, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children recommended that legislation be drawn up to provide for a no-fault National Vaccine Injury Compensation Scheme.

The Vaccine Damage Steering Group has been established to examine the issue of vaccine damage. The Group met for the first time on 13 March 2007. The Group is due to meet again in mid April. The membership of the Group is as follows:

Organisation

Nominee

Position

DOHC

Mr Chris Fitzgerald (Chair)

Principal, Public Health Division

Health Service Executive

Dr Darina O’Flanagan,

Director of the HPSC

Health Service Executive

Dr Brenda Corcoran

Head of National Immunisation Office

Health Service Executive

Nominee to be confirmed

Head of Quality and Risk

Irish Medicines Board

Ms Rita Purcell

Director of Finance and Corporate Affairs

State Claims Agency

Ms Susan Moriarty

Solicitor and Deputy Head of Claims

UCD

Professor Denis Cusack

UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science

DOHC

Mr Brendan Phelan

Principal, Public Private Policy Issues and Health Insurance

DOHC

Dr Eibhlin Connolly

Deputy CMO

DOHC

Ms Caroline Sellars

Secretary to Group

The Group is committed to producing a preliminary report on its findings by July of this year.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

278 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on introducing a scheme similar to the home care package which would enable the parents of severely disabled children to avail of same to care for children at home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12367/07]

The Deputy may be aware that the HSE provides a range of services for children with disabilities such as home support, respite, day services, therapies, and residential services. The funding for these services has been augmented over the last three years through the Multi-annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 and Multi Disciplinary funding to underpin the implementation of Part 2 of the Disability Act.

The HSE strives to ensure that the combination of services afforded an individual maximises support for that person, and their family, giving recognition to this Department's Statement of Strategy of providing appropriate care in the most appropriate setting to people with disabilities. These initiatives can, and are, being targeted at children with disabilities and their families with the objective of sustaining such family units and it is a policy of the HSE to promote such supports to this cohort of children.

Medical Cards.

Dan Neville

Question:

279 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will be granted to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [12375/07]

Medical cards are made available to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services. In 2005 the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

Since the beginning of 2005 substantial changes have been made to the way in which people's eligibility for a medical card is assessed and these apply equally to the assessment process for a GP visit card. The income guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29% and in addition allowance is now made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, childcare and travel to work costs. In June 2006 I agreed a further adjustment to the income guidelines for GP visit cards. These are now 50% higher than those in respect of medical cards.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for these benefits, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Adoption Services.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

280 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that, in the south east, the waiting period for the pre-course required before the assessment procedure for international adoption applicants is in excess of eighteen months and that this delay is due to the inadequate number of social workers employed in the south-east; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that currently international adoptions can take as much as four years to complete; the steps she proposes to take to remedy this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12379/07]

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 (HSE) 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.

The Government did allocate €1 million to the HSE in additional ongoing funding commencing in 2005 to assist in tackling intercountry adoption waiting times. I understand that this additional funding is being used to pilot measures which will, for example, allow for more flexible working arrangements within the HSE with a view to addressing waiting times.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

281 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason an appointment for orthodontic treatment for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo was cancelled; and when they will be called again for treatment. [12382/07]

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.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

282 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the estimated cost of providing treatment through the National Treatment Purchase Fund for children under five who need occupational, speech or language therapy. [12394/07]

The National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) was established to arrange treatment for patients who have been waiting longest on surgical, in-patient waiting lists. Under the provisions of its establishment order, the NTPF currently arranges hospital-based treatment. As the type of services the Deputy refers to do not require in-patient care, they do not fall currently within the remit of the NTPF.

Medical Cards.

Michael Ring

Question:

283 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has reviewed the possibility of including certain drugs (details supplied) on the medical card list, in view of the fact that the drugs are not currently available here; if this medication could be made available here; and if progress has been made in this regard. [12415/07]

There is a common list of reimbursable medicines for the General Medical Services and Drug Payment schemes. This list is reviewed and amended monthly, as new products become available and deletions are notified. For an item to be reimbursed, it must comply with published criteria, including authorisation status as appropriate, price and, in certain cases the intended use of the product. In addition, the product should ordinarily be supplied to the public only by medical prescription and should not be advertised or promoted to the public. Products are considered for reimbursement on application by a supplier. Tetrazepam is not currently reimbursable through the state schemes. Any application by a supplier to have Tetrazepam included on the common list will be considered in the usual way.

People who experience undue financial hardship in obtaining any particular product should contact the local area office of the Health Service Executive.

Health Services.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

284 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children when it is proposed to commence building the new blood transfusion facility in Cork to replace the Munster Regional Transfusion Centre at St. Finbarr’s Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12424/07]

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) has sought capital funding to build a new blood transfusion centre in Cork. In March 2006 I requested the IBTS to carry out an assessment of the need for this centre in order to comply with the Department of Finance's Guidelines for the Appraisal and Management of Capital Expenditure Proposals in the Public Sector. This assessment was submitted to me in December 2006, but did not make a firm business case for the second centre. The IBTS set up a Focus Group, chaired by the Chief Executive, to provide the information necessary to support its proposals for a second centre. The Focus Group's report was submitted to me on 7th March 2007 and I am currently considering it with relevant officials.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

285 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in regard to the provision of a 35 bed hospice at Waterford Regional Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12428/07]

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.

Hospital Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

286 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures she is introducing in the mid-west area to address the regional differences in treatment and survival for breast, bowel and prostate cancers compared to the east of the country, as recently highlighted in the National Cancer Registry report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12447/07]

I welcome the Report on patterns of care and survival of cancer patients in Ireland between 1994 and 2001 which was published last week. This Report, funded by my Department, adds significantly to our understanding of survival patterns of care for four major causes of cancer viz breast, colorectal, lung and prostate.

This Government has invested substantially in all regions in the country to improve cancer survival. The improvements are evidenced in the Report which shows improvements in survival for breast, colorectal and prostate cancers, but not lung cancers, at a national level in that time. At regional level, there were improvements in all regions for breast and prostate cancers and in most regions for colorectal and lung cancers.

We know there are regional variations in cancer survival rates. The Government's National Cancer Control Strategy, published last year, and welcomed by stakeholders, is designed to fundamentally change this, to improve outcomes for cancer patients in each region of the country. We are committed to investing significantly in the implementation of the Strategy. The National Development Plan 2007-2013 includes major investment in the cancer area. We have made available an additional €20.5m this year for cancer control (screening, acute services and research). This is an increase of 74% on the comparable 2006 investment and includes €3.5m to support the initial implementation of the HSE National Cancer Control Programme.

It is the my intention and that of the HSE to ensure that patients, regardless of location, have timely access to high quality, specialised care that will lead to further improvements in cancer mortality. The HSE Cancer Control Programme will manage, organise and deliver quality assured cancer services on a whole population basis, regardless of geography. The Service Plan for the HSE for this year sets out the detailed deliverables of the Programme.

The Deputy's specific question regarding the Mid-Western Region relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the matter raised.

Health Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

287 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person with rheumatoid arthritis in Dublin who needed an occupational therapist was provided with this service within two weeks of being assessed by their district health nurse and another person in Mayo with the same condition is waiting nine months after assessment from their district nurse to be appointed an occupational therapist; the further reason there are such differences between east and west; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12457/07]

The Primary Care Strategy aims to increase health service capacity through the development of services in the community to give people direct access to integrated multidisciplinary teams of occupational therapists, general practitioners, nurses, home helps, physiotherapists and others. It has been estimated that up to 95% of people's health and social services needs can be properly met within a primary care setting and the establishment of new Primary Care Teams can contribute greatly to enhancing community based health services.

The HSE received funding totalling €32m in 2006 and 2007 for the establishment of 200 Primary Care Teams, which altogether will involve the appointment of some 600 additional front-line professionals, including a significant number of Occupational Therapists. The Government has committed under the Towards 2016 agreement to the establishment of 300 Primary Care Teams by 2008; 400 by 2009; and 500 by 2011. A review of these targets will be undertaken in 2008.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for Primary Care services, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

288 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason it currently takes an elderly person in County Mayo four to five months to obtain an appointment for a chiropodist to have a simple procedure of having a corn removed; if this situation will change; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12463/07]

There is no statutory obligation on the Health Service Executive (HSE) to provide chiropody services to GMS patients; however in practice arrangements are made to provide these services. Before the establishment of the HSE the nature of the arrangements for chiropody and the level of service provided was a matter for individual health boards and so a degree of variation in practice developed over time. Priority is usually given to certain groups of people, including people who are medical card holders aged 65 years and over. In several regions the service is provided by private chiropodists by arrangement with the HSE.

My Department is currently preparing legislation to clarify and update existing legislation on eligibility for health and personal social services. The Bill will define specific health and personal services more clearly; define who should be eligible for what services; set out clear criteria for eligibility; establish when and in what circumstances charges may be made and provide for an appeals framework.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for Primary Care services, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Tobacco Control.

Liz McManus

Question:

289 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide, in tabular format, on an annual basis since 1 January 2002 to 31 December 2006, by community care area and local health office, the number of prosecutions initiated in the Courts by health authorities for breaches of the legislation regarding the sale of tobacco products to minors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12470/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the enforcement of tobacco control legislation. The number of prosecutions initiated in the Courts by health authorities for breaches of the legislation regarding the sale of tobacco products to minors is the responsibility of the environmental health service of the Health Service Executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Liz McManus

Question:

290 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children her timetable for implementing the remaining sections of the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002 and the Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Act 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12471/07]

My Department has commenced discussions with the Office of Tobacco Control and the Office of the Attorney General on this matter.

Liz McManus

Question:

291 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children when it is intended to introduce pictorial health warnings on tobacco product packages here as agreed by the European Commission; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12472/07]

Pictorial warnings have been developed by the European Commission in conjunction with the Member States but their use is not mandatory; it is an option open to Member States. While a number of Member States, including Ireland, are currently considering their introduction, Belgium is the only Member State to introduce them so far. The tobacco industry has been informed that consideration is being given to the introduction of pictorial warnings.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

292 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the ratio of nurses to patients in relation to accident and emergency departments here; if she has satisfied herself that the ratio of nurses to patients in accident and emergency is sufficient; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12473/07]

Almost 120,000 people work full-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the number of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the health care needs of the population into the future.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the 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 directly to the Deputy.

Community Care.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

293 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there are no community social workers in County Mayo; her views on whether this is a huge issue for many people taking into account that social workers in Mayo require a community social worker; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12479/07]

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 numbers of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the health care needs of the population into the future.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the 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 directly to the Deputy.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

294 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children if the public health nurses in County Mayo are constantly requesting community social workers in County Mayo to assist with the elderly of the county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12480/07]

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. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

295 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the condition of a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon continues to deteriorate following the postponement of the living kidney transplant operation recently scheduled at Beaumont Hospital; the reason the procedure was delayed; when this crucial procedure will take place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12481/07]

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 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.

Medical Cards.

Finian McGrath

Question:

296 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will clarify the issue for families of children with downs syndrome and medical card entitlements; and if she will support the efforts of all families of children with a disability in their request for a full medical card. [12493/07]

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

Medical cards are made available to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services. In 2005 the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on low and moderate incomes, particularly parents of young children, who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

Since the beginning of 2005 substantial changes have been made to the way in which people's eligibility for a medical card is assessed and these apply equally to the assessment process for a GP visit card. The income guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29% and in addition allowance is now made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, child care and travel to work costs. In June 2006 I agreed with the Health Service Executive a further adjustment to the assessment guidelines for GP visit cards and these are now 50% higher than those in respect of medical cards.

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

Hospital Services.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

297 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange for a person (details supplied) in County Cork to be admitted to hospital to undergo surgery; and if the person will be referred to the National Treatment Purchase Fund if a further delay is to be incurred. [12496/07]

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. Patients waiting more than three months on a surgical waiting list may qualify for treatment under the National Treatment Purchase Fund. It is open to the person in question or anyone acting on her behalf to contact the Fund directly in relation to this case.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

298 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the proposals she has to provide additional funding for the weight management clinic at St. Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12501/07]

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

Gay Mitchell

Question:

299 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the concern regarding the lack of neurologists in the State, particularly concerns of people with epilepsy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12502/07]

Revenue funding of €3 million was provided to the Health Service Executive in 2006 for the development of Neurology and Neurophysiology services. An additional €4m has been provided to the Executive in 2007 to support the ongoing development of neurosciences, including neurology services.

The HSE is currently conducting a national neurology needs assessment which is seeking to identify clearly the current provision and future requirements of the health system for neurology services. This group, which has multi-sectoral representation, has already identified key priorities for 2007 which reflect the recommendations of the 2003 Comhairle report on Neurology and Neurophysiology.

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.

John McGuinness

Question:

300 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in arranging an operation for a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if she will expedite the matter. [12506/07]

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.

Patients waiting more than three months on a surgical waiting list may qualify for treatment under the National Treatment Purchase Fund. It is open to the person in question or anyone acting on his behalf to contact the Fund directly in relation to this case.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

John McGuinness

Question:

301 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite approval under the housing aid for the elderly scheme of a grant for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12507/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive (HSE) under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The HSE's responsibility includes the operation of the Housing Aid Scheme for the Elderly, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

302 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if €5 million was allocated to Waterford Regional Hospital in 2006 relative to services and staff dealing with cystic fibrosis; if the funding has been drawn down; if so, the areas in which it has been spent; if it has not been drawn down, the reason for same; and the plan for its spend. [12508/07]

I have identified the enhancement of services for people with cystic fibrosis as a key priority in 2006 and again in 2007. Development funding of €4.78 million was provided to the Health Service Executive in 2006 to facilitate the recruitment of additional medical, nursing and allied health professional staff to improve services for cystic fibrosis patients. Additional funding of €2 million has been allocated this year to build on the investment provided in 2006. The detailed application of this funding across individual hospitals is a matter for the Health Service Executive and, accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

John McGuinness

Question:

303 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in arranging two knee operations for a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if she will expedite the matter. [12509/07]

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.

Patients waiting more than three months on a surgical waiting list may qualify for treatment under the National Treatment Purchase Fund. It is open to the person in question or anyone acting on her behalf to contact the Fund directly in relation to this case.

John McGuinness

Question:

304 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in arranging an appointment for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; the reason for the delay between the MRSI scan in December 2006 and the assessment; the further reason the patient who is suffering chronic pain has been told to wait until 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12514/07]

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.

Early Childhood Education.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

305 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children if an essential staffing grant will be awarded to a play-school (details supplied) in County Mayo; her views on whether a preschool education is essential; her further views on the fact that there will be a large number of children starting school in this area in September 2007 without preschool experience; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12516/07]

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

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

The NCIP aims to provide a proactive response to the development of quality child care. supports and services, which are grounded in an understanding of local needs. The Programme has a budget of €575 million for the 5 year period 2006-2010, with a target to create 50,000 additional child care. places with a greater focus on preschool places for 3 to 4 year olds and school age child care. The 50,000 new places will include 10,000 preschool education places aimed at 3 to 4 year olds. This commitment is a clear recognition by the Government of the value of preschool education, and it will assist parents to avail of the benefits of preschool education for their children.

As part of the process of closing the EOCP, the final date for reaching contract stage, for Groups applying for funding under this programme, was 31 December 2006. As the Deputy will be aware, the EOCP is co-funded by the European Union and timescales agreed with the Commission must be observed as financial penalties will accrue to the State if they are not. The Group in question submitted their application to Pobal, which is engaged to assess EOCP and NCIP grants on behalf of my Office, in October 2006. Final information required to complete the assessment was received by Pobal from the Group on 6 December 2006. As it was not possible at that stage for the application to be brought through the assessment and appraisal process and to contract stage by 31 December 2006, it was recommended by the Programme Appraisal Committee that the Group's application under that Programme be declined and that the application be considered in the context of the forthcoming NCIP staffing grant scheme. The Secretary General of the Department concurred with this recommendation.

In certain circumstances, including where an application is linked to a previous EOCP capital grant, applications for staffing grant assistance are continuing to be considered under the EOCP and, subject to the outcome of a review in each case, the applicants will be advised of the position as soon as possible. In the case of other Groups such as that referred to by the Deputy, which have been declined staffing grant funding under the EOCP as a result of being unable to meet the contractual deadlines of that Programme, and whose applications were not linked to a previous EOCP capital grant, the review of their applications for staffing grant funding will be undertaken as soon as the details of the new NCIP staffing grant scheme are announced. In each case, the review will be undertaken as quickly as possible to facilitate the Group concerned. Officials in my Office will be in contact with the Group in due course to inform them of the outcome of that review.

Medical Cards.

John Gormley

Question:

306 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children the estimated cost of providing medical cards to under 18’s with Downs syndrome. [12518/07]

John Gormley

Question:

307 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children the estimated cost of providing medical cards to under 18’s with a recognised disability. [12519/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 306 and 307 together.

The number of persons aged under 18 and who have Down's Syndrome is not formally recorded by my Department. However it can be estimated that there are some 1,800 to 2,000 persons in this category. The number of persons aged under 18 and who are on either the National Intellectual Disability Database or the National Physical Sensory Disability Database is approximately 15,000. The Health Service Executive is not in a position to identify within its national medical card database the number of persons with full eligibility under section 45 of the Health Act 1970 who are also in either of the above categories.

It should also be noted also that under the 1970 Health Act, the Health Service Executive may arrange for the supply, without charge, of drugs, medicines and medical and surgical appliances to people with a specified condition, for the treatment of that condition, through the Long Term Illness Scheme (LTI). The LTI does not cover GP fees or hospital co-payments. The conditions include mental handicap, mental illness (for people under 16 only), phenylketonuria, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophies, Parkinsonism and conditions arising from thalidomide.

On the basis of the average cost to the General Medical Services of general practitioner services, prescription medicines and community dental and ophthalmic services for persons aged under 18, and assuming that 70% of the persons encompassed by the Deputy's questions are not currently covered by a medical card, the estimated annual direct cost, at 2007 prices, of providing medical cards to persons under 18 with Down's syndrome is approximately €0.5 million; the estimated annual direct cost, at 2007 prices, of providing medical cards to persons under 18 with a recognised disability is approximately €3.8m.

I wish to emphasise that the above cost estimates do not take account of a range of other factors which could influence the actual cost of implementing such arrangements. These include potential requirements to pay increased fees to contracted providers if full eligibility were extended to particular categories of high-demand clients and that the actual costs of drugs, aids and appliances and other health services available free of charge to the holders of medical cards in these categories could be substantially higher than the average, given the pre-existing condition(s) of the patients concerned. They also do not take into account potential costs to the health service or other areas of Government in which the holding of a medical card may be used to determine entitlement to services or benefits.

Mental Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

308 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Government’s mental health policy is cognisant of the link with gender based violence and mental health risk, as advised by the World Health Organisation; the measures planned to ensure that links and referral protocols are devised, nationally and locally, between mental health services and services that provide specialised expert counselling and support for women who experience gender based violence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12520/07]

The Government is committed to the full implementation of "A Vision for Change" the report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy and has accepted the report as the basis for the future development of mental health services. Although "A Vision for Change" does not specifically mention gender based violence, it identifies violence as one of the risks that may lead to mental health problems. The Report recommends a mental health system that addresses the needs of the population through a focus on the requirements of the individual and that mental health promotion programmes should particularly focus on those interventions known to enhance protective factors and decrease risk factors for developing mental health problems.

The Deputy may be aware that the National Strategy for Women (NWS) has been prepared by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. It is a wide-ranging document, covering many aspects of women's lives. The Strategy, which is to be launched later this month clearly endorses the Mental Health Strategy, A Vision for Change. The ongoing work of the National Steering Committee on Violence Against Women, chaired by Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Frank Fahey, is an ongoing mechanism for addressing issues relating to gender based violence.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

309 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps that have been taken to ensure a right of access to mental health advocacy services for all users of the mental health services, as outlined in A Vision for Change; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12521/07]

The Government is committed to the full implementation of "A Vision for Change" the report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy and has accepted the report as the basis for the future development of mental health services. "A Vision for Change" recommends that advocacy should be available as a right to all service users in all mental health services in all parts of the country. Implementation of the individual recommendations of "A Vision for Change" is a matter primarily for the HSE. The HSE established an implementation group in July 2006 to ensure that mental health services develop in a synchronised and consistent manner across the country and to guide and resource service managers and clinicians in making the recommendations in "A Vision for Change" a reality.

In recent years significant funding has been provided to support the work of advocacy groups in the mental health area. These groups include the Irish Advocacy Network, Schizophrenia Ireland, Grow, Steer, Aware, Mental Health Ireland and Bodywhys. In recognition of the key role of advocacy related to hospital admission and detention, peer advocacy is now available at all psychiatric acute admission sites, many community service sites and the Central Mental Hospital.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

310 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps that have been taken by her Department to provide dedicated funding for mental health service research, as recommended in A Vision for Change; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12522/07]

The Health Research Board (HRB) is the statutory body with responsibility for improving health through research and information. My Department provides funding for mental health research to the HRB as part of its overall vote. The Mental Health Research Division (MHRD) of the Health Research Board carries out national and international research, information gathering and the dissemination of research outcomes on mental health in Ireland. The Division manages and reports on the National Psychiatric In-Patient Reporting System (NPIRS) and is developing COMCAR — a system which collects information on community psychiatric services. Both databases will inform on policy and planning for mental health services nationally and regionally. In addition, research is an integral part of the work of the Health Service Executive and the Mental Health Commission.

Health Service Charges.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

311 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on an amendment to Statutory Instrument No. 276 of 2005 and Section 53(2) A of the Health Act 1970, as amended by the Health (Amendment) Act 2005, in order to ensure that back payments will not be sought for a nursing contribution from those parents, such as the parents of autistic children, in long stay institutions, and other institutions. [12523/07]

The Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations 2005 came into force on 14th July 2005 and provide for two different classes of persons on whom charges may be levied. Class 1 refers to people in receipt of in-patient services on premises where nursing care is provided on a 24 hour basis on those premises. In this case, a weekly charge can be levied of €120 or the weekly income of that person less €35, whichever is the lesser. Class 2 refers to people in receipt of in-patient services on premises where nursing care is not provided on a 24 hour basis on those premises. In this situation, a weekly charge can be levied of €90, or the weekly income of that person less €55 or 60% of the weekly income of that person, whichever is the lesser.

The HSE has the power to reduce or waive a charge on the grounds of "undue hardship". Under Section 1 (b) of the Health (Amendment) Act, 2005, the HSE can examine a person's overall financial situation in view of the person's reasonable expenditure in relation to themselves or their dependants, if any. The HSE when assessing charges takes into account only that income attributable solely to the person in care. The Health (Amendment) Act 2005 and the Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations 2005 enabled the HSE to recommence the raising of charges for long stay in-patient services with effect from the 14th July 2005. The HSE established an Expert Group to develop a set of national guidelines to deal with the provisions of the legislation.

The national guidelines support a standardised approach to the implementation of Health (Charges for In-Patient) Regulations 2005 and take account of the persons residing in community residences. The guidelines have been implemented with effect from 1st August 2006, retrospective to 14th July 2005 where charges had not been raised while awaiting finalisation of the guidelines. Clients in community residences were informed in July 2005 that they might be liable for charges under the new regulations.

In regard to retrospection, charges were to be raised with effect from the 1st August 2006 based on the financial assessment for each of the clients. Arrears of charges due from 14th July 2005 were to be calculated and advised to the client. The clients were to be given the following options:

1. Pay the arrears in full or in instalments

2. Deduct the arrears from any monies due under the repayment scheme where applicable.

A National Working Group on Rents and Charges in HSE Mental Health Services was established in December 2006. The purpose of this Working Group is to develop and recommend a process for the collection of rents and charges in accordance with the statutory provisions outlined in Section 53 (2) (a) of the Health Act 1970 as amended by the Health (Amendment) Act 2005, Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations 2005 S.I No 276 of 2005. This process will be specific to mental health services, will safeguard both the individual and the staff member and will comply with financial probity and HSE governance requirements. To date the National Working Group on Rents & Charges has met on four occasions and I understand a draft report with specific recommendations will be presented in the near future.

In relation to children, the Deputy may wish to note that, under Section 4 (b) of the Health (Amendment) Act, 2005, charges are not payable where the in-patient services concerned are provided to a person under 18 years of age.

Health Services.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

312 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children when speech and occupational therapists will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Louth; the reason neither essential speech nor occupational therapists have been provided to date as required by psychologists in this case; the action that will be taken to compensate or atone for this failure on her part; when same will occur; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12525/07]

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. 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 the case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

313 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the concerns expressed by the Mental Health Commission, the Irish Mental Health Coalition and the Human Rights Commission with regard to the redevelopment of the Central Mental Hospital on a site adjacent to the main prison at Thornton Hall; if she has developed a response to these concerns; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12526/07]

In May 2006, the Government approved the development of a new national forensic mental health facility at Thornton Hall, Co. Dublin and the disposal of the site at Dundrum. The Health Service Executive has established a project team to progress the redevelopment of the Central Mental Hospital.

Liz McManus

Question:

314 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps being taken at a departmental level to ensure the delivery of reduced waiting times and enhanced in-patient facilities for children accessing mental health services by January 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12527/07]

The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, entitled "A Vision for Change", was launched in January 2006 and provides a framework for action to develop a modern, high quality mental health service over 7 to 10 years. It recommends the provision of two child and adolescent community multidisciplinary mental health teams per 100,000 of the population.

In 2006, a sum of €26.2 million was allocated for the development of mental health services in line with " A Vision for Change". A further sum of €25 million has been allocated in 2007 to continue this development. A significant amount of this year's funding, €7.95 million, is for the development of child and adolescent mental health services. This funding will bring about significant improvements in community, hospital-based and early intervention services including the development of a further eight new child and adolescent mental health teams. The provision of additional teams will reduce waiting times for assessment and treatment.

It is important to note that all emergency referrals are seen without delay. However, the HSE is currently examining non-emergency waiting lists to identify and improve the least developed services. Currently, there are 10 child and adolescent psychiatric in-patient beds in the public sector for the under 16 age group, four at St Anne's, Galway and six at Warrenstown House, Dublin. A further 12 beds will be provided this year in these units, i.e. six additional beds in each unit. Four new purpose built 20-bed units in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick are at an advanced planning stage and have secured funding through the HSE Capital Programme 2006-2010.

As an interim measure pending the development of additional dedicated in-patient beds, the provision of an additional 24-32 dedicated adolescent psychiatric beds, primarily for the 16 and 17 year age group, across the four HSE administrative areas is being progressed by the HSE. Dedicated child and adolescent multidisciplinary teams will be provided for these additional beds and training will be provided for staff in the identified units.

Liz McManus

Question:

315 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children when her Department will publish an implementation plan, including timeframes, performance indicators and interim delivery targets, to ensure the full execution of the mental health policy, A Vision for Change; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12528/07]

The Government is committed to the full implementation of "A Vision for Change" the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy and has accepted the Report as the basis for the future development of our mental health services.

In March 2006, I appointed an independent monitoring group to monitor progress on the implementation of the recommendations of "A Vision for Change". The group will monitor and assess progress on the implementation of all the recommendations including those which fall under the responsibility of the Health Service Executive (HSE), government departments and other relevant agencies. The Group is to submit its first annual report by mid 2007.

Implementation of the individual recommendations of "A Vision for Change" is a matter primarily for the HSE. The HSE established an implementation group in July 2006 to ensure that mental health services develop in a synchronised and consistent manner across the country and to guide and resource service managers and clinicians in making the recommendations in "A Vision for Change" a reality. Both of these groups will play an important role in ensuring that the recommendations are implemented in a co-ordinated and timely manner. I have been informed by the HSE that they plan to publish a Progress Report and outline the proposed implementation programme over the life of "A Vision for Change" in the near future.

In 2006, a sum of €26.2 million was provided for the development of our mental health services in line with "A Vision for Change". A further sum of €25 million has been allocated for 2007 to continue this development.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

316 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she or her Department have received correspondence from the Alzheimer Society of Ireland in Dún Laoghaire in relation to the urgent need for investment and accelerated implementation of the dementia manifesto; her plans to address this issue in early date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12546/07]

My Department has received correspondence, including a copy of the Dementia Manifesto 2007-2009, from the Alzheimer Society of Ireland. I met with the Society on 8th March 2007 to discuss, inter alia, the recommendations outlined in the Manifesto.

The development of Services for Older People, including the development of services for people with dementia, is a priority for the Government. This is reflected in the funding committed to Services for Older People in Budgets 2006 and 2007. Last year, the Government funded the largest ever expansion in Services for Older People with a full year cost of €150m. This year a full year package of €255m has been allocated for Services for Older People. This gives a total of over €400m added to services for older people over two years.

Government policy in relation to older people is to support people to live in dignity and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible and, where this is not possible, to support access to quality long-term residential care. This policy approach is renewed and developed in the latest partnership agreement, Towards 2016. The Action Plan for Dementia, published in 1999, describes a model of best practice for the provision and planning of dementia care in Ireland.

There is a complementary link between Government policy in the area of the care of older people and care for people with dementia. Both policies stress the need to provide support in dignity and independence, through the provision of appropriate services to the people concerned and their carers. The Government is fully committed to providing such support and service improvement, including the expansion of community and residential care services for people with dementia. This commitment is reflected in the additional funding of approximately €109 million in Budget 2006 and €82 million in Budget 2007 which was allocated to community supports for older people, including those with dementia. These supports include Home Care Packages, the Home Help Scheme and Respite Care.

The additional funding provided for Home Care Packages and the Home Help Scheme will further enhance the supports available to families caring for people with dementia at home. In 2006 a total of 2,000 extra Home Care Packages were provided at a full year cost of €55 million (prior to this date only 1,100 Packages had been in operation on a pilot basis). A similar increase in the number of Packages will be provided in 2007, benefiting some 4,000 people. An additional €21 million has been provided in 2007 to fund the cost of some 780,000 additional Home Help hours in 2007. This brings the total funding allocated to Home Helps to approximately €171 million per annum.

Among the areas where funding has been provided are day care and respite care which are an integral part of delivering a comprehensive community service for older people. Day care and respite care offer respite for family members and/or carers and provide social stimulation in a safe environment for older people with mild forms of dementia. The provision of an additional €9 million in 2006 funded a further 1,325 additional places per week in these centres, together with additional programmes for specific needs such as activity therapy. It also means that many day care centres can increase the number of days per week they open. Additional funding of €3.5 million provided in Budget 2007 will cater for a further 1,100 day places per week in day care centres.

The HSE has responsibility for the planning and management of capital projects in the health sector, including the development of services for people suffering from Dementia. The HSE's capital plan for 2007 has recently been approved and includes an allocation of €107 million for older people specific projects.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

317 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a new surgery will be offered to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 10 who did not receive notification of same from the hospital in time due to irregular postal service delivery in their area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12547/07]

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 Service Investigations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

318 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she has taken to investigate the circumstances surrounding the recent tragic death of a mother and her baby at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, County Louth; if decisions have been taken to address the issues leading to the tragedy; if she will take action to prevent a recurrence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12548/07]

I wish to extend my sincere sympathy to the family involved in this tragic case. My Department has been advised by the Health Service Executive (HSE) that it is making arrangements for a full review of the circumstances surrounding the recent death of a mother and her baby at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, to be carried out and that the coroner has also been notified.

Community Pharmacy Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

319 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received correspondence in her Department regarding fees for services under public community drug schemes from various individuals or pharmacies; her plans to address this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12549/07]

Denis Naughten

Question:

326 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding Parliamentary Question Nos. 750 and 764 of 31 January 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12598/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 319 and 326 together.

My Department has received correspondence regarding fees for services under public community drug schemes from individuals and pharmacies. As the Deputies may already be aware, my Department and the HSE have been reviewing the pharmaceutical supply chain, with a view to seeking value for money in the State's drugs bill in order to better fund existing and innovative therapies without compromising continuity of supply or patient safety. The review of the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) and the Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of Ireland (APMI) Agreements, with the proprietary and generic supplier representative bodies, was completed in mid-2006 and the new agreements are in place.

Following completion of the manufacturer agreements and in line with the process agreed by the Cabinet Committee on Health, the State entered talks with the wholesaler representative body, the Pharmaceutical Distributor's Federation (PDF). As wholesale margins are not addressed in the new IPHA and APMI Agreements, the State intended to negotiate, for the first time, direct formal arrangements with the wholesale sector, to address the cost of wholesale supply to hospital and community through fair, transparent and accountable cost structures.

In particular, the State wished to examine the high margin, relative to the EU, for wholesale supply to community pharmacy and the wholesalers' claim that they supply hospitals at a loss. However, while PDF was willing to negotiate new arrangements for hospital supply, it refused to negotiate a new margin for community supply. This refusal was based on legal advice that such negotiation would interfere with agreed trading terms of third parties, community pharmacists, and expose PDF to prosecution.

Subsequent advice to the HSE indicated that the PDF position was too narrow. As wholesalers and pharmacists are undertakings for the purposes of competition law, PDF and the IPU are associations of undertakings and collective negotiation of fees, prices or margins on behalf of their members breaches section 4.1 of the 2002 Competition Act. The position is as follows:

Section 4.1 prohibits all agreements between undertakings, decisions by associations of undertakings and concerted practices which have the object or effect of restricting or distorting competition, including agreements to fix prices, unless the agreement, decision or concerted practice meets certain conditions. I have been advised that those conditions are not met in this case.

Wholesalers and pharmacy contractors are undertakings. Therefore, PDF and the IPU are associations of undertakings and come under Section 4.1 of the Act.

The coming together of wholesalers under PDF or pharmacy contractors under the IPU to negotiate prices would be a breach of Section 4.1.

Acting in contravention of Section 4.1 is a criminal offence and would expose those parties and their officials to the risk of criminal prosecution.

In light of the implications for GP and dental contract negotiations, the Department sought the Attorney General's views. The Attorney General and Senior Counsel engaged by the Attorney General confirmed the HSE advice. Given this position, it is not possible for the State to negotiate with PDF or the IPU on fees or margins and such negotiations places these bodies at risk of prosecution.

As for the rest of the supply chain, the State has been examining how to improve value for money and transparency and fairness in relation to the cost of service provision in community pharmacy. The State intended to address the review through negotiation with the IPU, as it had in the past. This is no longer possible for fees, although contractual matters other than fees may be negotiated. Accordingly, the negotiating team re-examined, in light of the legal position arising from the wholesaler legal advice, how best to address the review of pharmacy contractor services.

The HSE wrote to all community pharmacy contractors in January, setting out the situation in detail and stating that the HSE is constrained from negotiating fees with the IPU for the reasons outlined, and the IPU was fully briefed. A meeting was held on 21 February between the negotiating team and the IPU, to agree a procedure to examine available options for advancing contractual negotiations in compliance with Irish and EU competition law. Following that meeting, agreement was reached on talks to examine options for contract review that would comply fully with competition law. The talks will be chaired by Mr Bill Shipsey, SC. Both parties met Mr Shipsey yesterday, 2 April, to begin the process.

The State continues to recognise the IPU as the representative body for its members, but negotiations with the Union must comply with the law. The legal issues that emerged during the wholesale sector review were raised by the wholesaler representatives. Once the State became aware of these issues, it was no longer possible to continue as intended. There is, and will continue to be, ongoing dialogue with the IPU as the representative body for pharmacists, within the constraints of the competition legislation and the negotiating team will consider, in the context of competition law and in particular the relevant Competition Authority guidelines, all available options for advancing the process agreed by the Cabinet Committee on Health. I am satisfied that the Cabinet Committee process for review of the supply of drugs to the State is progressing effectively, within the constraints of relevant legislation.

Youth Services.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

320 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children the reasons that the National Recreation Policy has been continually pushed back to later dates; when the Government plans to launch this instrument; if she is in receipt of correspondence from a centre (details supplied) in County Galway; if her attention has been drawn to this centre’s calls for a café and drop-in centre; her views on this request; if such a request will be granted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12550/07]

I welcome the valuable work being undertaken by the many groups and organisations around the country who are engaged in the provision of services and programmes for young people. I recently received correspondence from the Centre about the provision of facilities for teenagers in its locality and I will be responding over the coming days.

A National Recreation Policy has been to the forefront of this Government's commitment to improving the lives of young people in Ireland. Accordingly, it is my intention to publish the National Recreation Policy for Young People at the earliest opportunity. One of the key aspects of the policy is the provision of more recreational facilities and in particular, the establishment of youth cafés, identified by young people as their single biggest need. The policy recognises that youth cafés offer great potential for providing a wide range of developmental, educational and information programmes to young people and that the provision of such services within these settings will require a cross-departmental and inter-agency collaborative approach through a formal partnership process.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Enda Kenny

Question:

321 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the lack of therapeutic services for children aged 6 to 12 years with a diagnosis of dyspraxia in County Galway; the average waiting time for a child in the county seeking treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12551/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, a sum of €75 million for revenue purposes was provided to the Health Service Executive for Disability Services in the 2007 Budget. This sum incorporates the 2007 element of the Government's multi-annual investment programme for the National Disability Strategy. This Strategy is committed to enhancing the level and range of multidisciplinary support services to adults and children with an intellectual, physical and sensory disability and those with autism.

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.

Nutrition Guidelines.

Michael Lowry

Question:

322 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the fact that international research indicates that hydrated fats present in many foods are a leading contributor to high cholesterol and cardiac related health problems, she has commissioned research on the effects of hydrated fat on cardiac health and cholesterol; if her attention has been drawn to international research on the matter; her views on limiting the use of hydrated fats in foodstuffs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12552/07]

My Department is aware of the international research indicating that hydrogenated fats, including trans fats, are a contributor to heart disease and that these fats should be reduced. This recommendation is included in the Nutrition Advisory Group's Recommendations for a Food and Nutrition Policy for Ireland (1995) and the Report of the Cardiovascular Health Strategy Group (1999). Most hydrogenated fats and in particular trans fats eaten in Ireland are consumed in confectionary, biscuits and cakes as well as fried foods.

My Department has Healthy Eating Guidelines and these state: "Total fat should be reduced with an emphasis on reducing saturated fats. Some saturated fats may be replaced by unsaturated fats. Current evidence suggests that there should be no increase in trans fatty acid intake". My Department also has a nutrition education guidance tool, the Food Pyramid, and foods that are high in hydrogenated and trans fats are represented on the smallest shelf at the top of the Food Pyramid and are recommended only to be eaten in very small amounts.

At the request of my Department, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland's nutrition subcommittee has been asked to review the Healthy Eating Guidelines (2006). This review runs concurrently with an EU request to the European Food Safety Authority to draw up nutrient -based dietary guidelines for EU member states. Once these pan European nutrient-based guidelines are available, member states can then draw up National Food-Based Dietary Guidelines as applicable to each of their specific food consumption intake patterns and incidence of diet-related diseases.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

323 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if the occupational therapist has reported on an application under the DPG scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will expedite the matter. [12595/07]

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.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

John McGuinness

Question:

324 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 300 of 6 February 2007, the action that has been taken to resolve the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if an appointment at the Mater Private hospital has been arranged; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12596/07]

I am advised by the National Treatment Purchase Fund that, due to the indisposition of the consultant at the Mater Private Hospital with whom an arrangement had been made to see the person referred to in the Deputy's question, it is now in contact with the Blackrock Clinic with the agreement of the individual concerned.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

325 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if home help will be approved as a matter of urgency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny, who was returned home having spent 14 months in hospital; and if she will expedite a positive response. [12597/07]

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. 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.

Question No. 326 answered with QuestionNo. 319.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

327 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children if the proposed extension to Kenmare Community Hospital in Kenmare, County Kerry has been approved by her to proceed in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12616/07]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

328 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the proposed new community hospital for An Daingean, County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12617/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 327 and 328 together.

The total Revised Estimates capital provision for the health service for 2007 is approximately €664 million, of which €546 million relates to the Health Service Executive (HSE), €76.6 million relates to the Office of the Minister for Children (OMC) and €41.4 million is in respect of health agencies directly funded by my Department.

The HSE Capital Plan 2007 was approved in early March. Capital initiatives this year by the OMC and for the directly funded agencies primarily relate to ongoing approved projects. Details in relation to new capital initiatives under these programmes are expected to be finalised shortly.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

329 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children if plans for the nationwide rollout of BreastCheck to the south and west of the country by the end of 2007 are on schedule; when women in these areas can expect to be invited for screening; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12618/07]

I am committed to ensuring that the BreastCheck service is rolled out to the remaining regions in the country as quickly as possible. I have allocated additional revenue funding of €8 million for this year to meet the additional costs involved and I have approved an additional 69 posts for the roll-out. BreastCheck appointed the Clinical Directors for the South and West last November and has recently appointed three Consultant Radiologists, two Consultant Surgeons and two Consultant Histopathologists, all with a special interest in breast disease. The recruitment of Radiographers and other staff is under way.

I have also made available an additional €26.7m capital funding for the construction of two new clinical units and the provision of five additional mobile units and state of the art digital equipment. The static units at the South Infirmary/Victoria Hospital in Cork and University College Hospital Galway are on schedule for hand-over in September followed by a three week commissioning period. They will be operational in October.

Screening in individual counties will be dictated by BreastCheck's management and operational considerations. In advance of the commissioning of the static unit in the South, BreastCheck is making every effort to achieve earlier roll-out through the use of a mobile unit. Early deployment of a mobile unit in advance of the completion of the regional screening unit gives rise to particular and unique operational and recruitment challenges for BreastCheck in the South. At present, these challenges have not been overcome and as a result it is not possible to indicate at this stage when an early mobile unit will be deployed. As regards the West, BreastCheck expects the roll-out to commence in April.

Child Care Services.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

330 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the new national child care investment programme; if staffing grants for community based child care centres will continue under the programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12619/07]

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

A new programme of staffing grants under the NCIP is to be announced in 2007 and will be informed by the outcome of a Value for Money Review of the EOCP which is currently in progress. The Review is expected to be completed in the first half of 2007 following which the procedures and criteria governing the new grant scheme will be made available both generally and to existing staffing grant recipients, as will application forms for the new scheme. This will be done in good time to allow an orderly transition from the EOCP to the NCIP, on 1 January 2008.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

331 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she has taken to ensure that there is no delay in the provision of ongoing funding for child care facilities previously funded by the equal opportunities child care programme; the further steps she is taking to make the child care facilities that were previously funded by EPOC aware of the new criteria for funding under the National Child Care Investment Programme; when application forms will be issued for funding under NCIP; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12627/07]

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

A new programme of staffing grants under the NCIP is to be announced in 2007 and will be informed by the outcome of a Value for Money Review of the EOCP which is currently in progress. The Review is expected to be completed in the first half of 2007 following which the procedures and criteria governing the new grant scheme will be made available both generally and to existing staffing grant recipients, as will application forms for the new scheme. This will be done in good time to allow an orderly transition from the EOCP to the NCIP, on 1 January 2008.

Hospital Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

332 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children the 11 acute hospitals where PACS is currently installed; the community hospitals linked to these as mentioned in Parliamentary Question No. 67 of 15 February 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12759/07]

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

Vaccination Programme.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

333 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the lengthy waiting time for the BCG vaccination for newborn babies in the Cork area; her proposals to reduce this waiting time in view of the recent tuberculosis health scare in the Cork area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12769/07]

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

Question No. 334 answered with QuestionNo. 265.

Mental Health Services.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

335 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the action being taken to fully implement the Mental Health Act 2001; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12779/07]

The full provisions of the Mental Health Act 2001 have been in operation since 1 November 2006. The Act significantly improves safeguards for persons who are involuntarily admitted to approved centres. All involuntary admissions are now subject to an automatic and independent review by a mental health tribunal. Since November 2006, over 500 mental health tribunals have been held to review involuntary admission or renewal orders.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

336 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that additional funding will be made available for the further development of mental health services in the Tallaght region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12780/07]

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. The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Charges.

Dan Neville

Question:

337 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when payment under the national repayment scheme will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [12785/07]

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.

Child Care Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

338 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when money will be made available for a group (details supplied) in County Limerick under the equal opportunities child care programme. [12786/07]

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

The Group in question were approved €398,975 in capital grant assistance under the EOCP in October 2002. They were approved further capital grant assistance of €126,224 in November 2006, bringing the total capital grant assistance approved to the Group to €525,009. The Group were also approved €160,000 in staffing grant assistance under the EOCP in October 2002. However before drawdown of the money can commence the Group need to furnish Pobal, the agency engaged to administer the grants, with outstanding information.

General Register Office.

Seán Ryan

Question:

339 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in signing commencement orders for civil marriages in venues of choice; and when the necessary orders will be signed. [12816/07]

An tArd Chlaraitheoir (Registrar General) is the person with statutory responsibility for the administration of the civil registration system in Ireland, including civil marriages. I have made inquiries with an tArd Chlaraitheoir and the position is as follows. The Civil Registration Act 2004 provides for the commencement of the various provisions of the Act on a gradual basis. Parts 1, 2, 3, 5 and 8 of the Act, which relate to the administration of the service and the registration of births, stillbirths and deaths, were commenced on 5 December 2005.

The new provisions for marriage are set out in Part 6 of the 2004 Act and include universal procedures for notification, solemnisation and registration of marriages, as well as a choice of venue for civil marriage ceremonies, provided for under section 52 of the Act. Before the provisions can be commenced by statutory instrument, a substantial body of work needs to be completed, including drafting and publication of regulations, guidelines and detailed procedures; establishment of a register of solemnisers in consultation with religious bodies; and the further development of the computer system to facilitate the administration of the new marriage provisions introduced in the Act. Work in all these areas is underway and is progressing well.

In view of the number of complex tasks involved in preparing for the commencement of the marriage provisions, it is not possible to be definitive as regards a date for signing commencement orders. However, an tArd Chlaraitheoir is aiming to have this work completed by July 2007. It is intended to give as much public notice as possible and a comprehensive public information campaign will be undertaken at the appropriate time.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

340 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether the amendments she introduced to the Pharmacy Bill are adequate to prevent inappropriate economic relationships between doctors and pharmacists in view of the recent debate on the matter; her views on prohibiting business relationships between doctors and pharmacists or introducing a ban on the location of pharmacies in health centres; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12817/07]

It is clear that there has been rapid growth of the pharmacy sector in recent times with many possible interactions arising between prescribers and dispensers. It is, however, my opinion, the vast majority of professionally qualified pharmacists and medical practitioners, adhere to the highest standards in the carrying out of their professional duties. However, it would be remiss not to recognise that, occasionally, unacceptable practices may arise between different professionals. In view of these concerns, namely the practice of low rents for doctors and high rents for pharmacy businesses in medical centres, and other such inducements, I have included provisions in the Pharmacy Bill 2007 to deal with this matter. I would also remind the Deputy of the recommendations of the Pharmacy Review Group in this regard, namely that there should be no beneficial ownership or business interest of any kind between dispensing and prescribing.

The sections of the Bill dealing with this issue are as follows: (i) Section 63 which deals with the prohibition of certain economic relationships between pharmacists and medical practitioners, namely either party having a beneficial interest in the others practice that would be considered in excess of standard ownership arrangements, and such as would constitute an excessive beneficial interest by virtue of these relationships. This would also involve company or corporate relationships by way of preferential leasing or tenancy arrangements, and (ii) Section 64 which deals with pharmacy and medical practices using shared premises, the type of improper economic relationships which it is considered necessary to prohibit that could arise by virtue of sharing premises, and also the expectation that any recommendations by prescribers of dispensers, or visa versa, would not be beyond that which arises through normal professional practice. I am not ruling out the co-location of pharmacies and health centres but I am prohibiting arrangements which give rise to conflicts between prescribing and dispensing.

I am confident that these two sections will achieve the fairest and most proportionate response to any possible conflicting situations, having regard to the basic legal and constitutional rights of all concerned.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

341 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the estimated cost of introducing a personal health check for all, including screening for breast, cervical and prostate cancer. [12825/07]

The cost of introducing a personal health check depends on a range of variables, including type and frequency of diagnostic tests, the cohort(s) of the population to be covered, the setting in which tests would be conducted and the arrangements, including possible contractual arrangements with private health service providers, put in place for the delivery of such a programme.

A further and significant issue is that a personal health check programme would undoubtedly result in the earlier detection of previously unidentified disease in individuals. This would unlock significant demand for treatment services in primary care, continuing care and the acute hospital sector to assure the prompt, appropriate and effective treatment of individuals invited for a personal health check who are identified with disease or at risk of disease. The service and cost implications in this regard would require detailed examination if a personal health check programme were being developed.

Evidence based population screening programmes are an essential element of the National Cancer Control Strategy which I published last June. As the Deputy is aware, on 1 January this year, I established a National Cancer Screening Service Board which amalgamates BreastCheck and the Irish Cervical Screening Programme, both of which will be rolled out nationally this year. The total allocation to the new Service in 2007 is €33m. This is a 71% increase on the 2006 allocation to the Programmes and includes an additional €8m for BreastCheck and an additional €5m for the Irish Cervical Screening Programme. The Service will also advise on the implementation of a national colorectal screening programme.

Health Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

342 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the estimated cost of creating a national network of primary care teams to ensure that every community has access to 24 hour general practitioner cover. [12826/07]

The Primary Care Strategy aims to develop services in the community to give people direct access to integrated multidisciplinary teams of general practitioners, nurses, home helps, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and others.

The Health Service Executive received an additional €10m in funding in 2006 to enable the establishment of up to 100 Primary Care Teams. A further €22m is being provided in 2007 to meet the full year costs of the Teams initiated in 2006 and to enable a further 100 Primary Care Teams to be established. The Government has committed under the Towards 2016 agreement to the establishment of 300 Primary Care Teams by 2008; 400 by 2009; and 500 by 2011. A review of these targets will be undertaken in 2008.

GP out of hours co-operatives allow general practitioners to put in place arrangements to provide services to their patients, while their surgeries are closed in the evenings, on weekends and bank holidays. The development of GP co-operatives is in line with the overall health service policy of strengthening primary care services and ensuring that to the greatest extent possible, people's care needs are met in the primary care setting.

Out of hours co-operatives are now in place in all Health Service Executive (HSE) areas, providing coverage in all or in part of all counties. Between 2000 and 2006 approximately €139 million was allocated to the HSE for out of hours GP co-operatives. In 2007, the HSE Vote includes almost €34 million in baseline funding for these services and a further €3 million to meet the full year cost of co-op developments commenced in 2006. These figures do not include the fees of the participating doctors.

As the development of further out-of-hours general practitioner services is a matter for the Health Service Executive in the first instance, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to consider the matter of the estimated cost of ensuring that every community has access to such a service and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Staff.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

343 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the estimated cost of doubling the number of consultants to over 4,000. [12827/07]

Existing salaries for category I and II medical consultants range from €143,738 — €178,429. The implementation of Government policy regarding the provision of a consultant-provided service will require an estimated 1,500 additional medical consultants. The Deputy will be aware that negotiations are currently taking place regarding new contractual arrangements for medical consultants. At this stage, it is not possible to be specific regarding costs arising.

The creation of consultant posts also generates significant costs for support staff and other non-pay elements. The extent of these costs may vary according to speciality, service and geographical location.

Health Service Staff.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

344 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children if, further to the setting up of the Health Professionals Council and the recent submission from the Irish Association for Creative Arts Therapies, she is in a position to progress the recognition of the Creative Arts Therapists including music therapy to professional standards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12861/07]

In relation to the recommendations contained in the Eleventh Report of the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs — "Defining Music Therapy" — in relation to the recognition of music therapy, the Deputy will appreciate that the development of the human resources of the health service must be dictated by service developments and strongly evidence-based decision making aligned closely to improved patient and client care. The creation of a new health service profession should only be considered in circumstances where there is a clearly identified service requirement for the provision of a new set of skills and competencies, knowledge and expertise which cannot be provided by existing health service staff/professions.

The establishment of new grades within the public health service is a human resource management matter for the Health Service Executive which, under Section 22 of the Health Act 2004, must have the approval of the Minister for Health and Children given with the consent of the Minister for Finance. My Department has advised the HSE that if it wishes to proceed with the establishment of a grade of music therapist in the health service, it must establish a business case for the introduction of the grade on the basis of service need and effective use of resources. My Department has given the HSE some guidance as to what information should be encompassed by such a business case and a response from the HSE is awaited.

The Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 provides for the establishment of a system of statutory registration for health and social care professionals. The structure of the system of statutory registration comprises a registration board for each profession to be registered, a Health and Social Care Professionals Council with overall responsibility for the regulatory system and a committee structure to deal with disciplinary matters.

Music therapists or creative arts therapists are not one of the professions to be regulated from the outset. However, Section 4 of the Health and Social Care Professionals Act provides for the inclusion by regulation of additional professions in the system of statutory registration. This section also sets out the criteria the Minister for Health and Children must have regard to in considering the designation of further professions under the legislation. The Deputy will appreciate that the future inclusion of any profession must be dependent upon its meeting this criteria.

As the Deputy may be aware, I launched the Health and Social Care Professionals Council on 26 March and the Council held its inaugural meeting on this date. I understand that the Council intends to make a recommendation to the Minister in relation to the establishment of registration boards for the twelve professions to be registered from the outset as soon as practicable. However, the Deputy will appreciate that the Council will need to undertake a considerable amount of work, as detailed in the legislation, before it will be in a position to recommend the establishment of registration boards.

Hospital Services.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

345 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on a letter (details supplied) in relation to maximising cross border co-operation where capacity is available for heart surgery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12862/07]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Billy Timmins

Question:

346 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if they will be seen as a mater of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12877/07]

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.

Pharmacy Regulations.

John Deasy

Question:

347 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children the requirements and procedures in place for Irish citizens who have qualified as pharmacists in the United States to gain recognition to practice as pharmacists here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12878/07]

The relevant statutory regulatory body for the registration of pharmacists in Ireland is the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) and all queries regarding the specifics of the qualifications required to become registered to practice pharmacy in the State should be addressed to them. The PSI registers non-EU\EEA pharmacists by way of its "adjudication route of registration". As you may be aware the Society has currently suspended this route. I might add that the Society did submit amended regulations to me for approval; however, the legal advice was that there are legal difficulties with these amended regulations in the context of the current legislation and they cannot be approved. I should also make you aware that new pharmacy legislation is currently before the Oireachtas and among the issues being addressed is that of registration of pharmacists, including non-EU\EEA pharmacists. I understand that the PSI is at an advanced stage in preparing new regulations, dealing with the registration of pharmacists by way of their "adjudication route", and will submit them for my approval when the new Pharmacy Bill is enacted.

Health Insurance.

John Deasy

Question:

348 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that VHI members are receiving bills from consultants for top-up payments for some procedures and services, in addition to the payments being paid to those consultants by the VHI; the measures she proposes to end this practice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12879/07]

Under the Voluntary Health Insurance Acts, the day to day operation of health insurance contracts offered by VHI Healthcare are, firstly, a matter for the company. Therefore, as Minister for Health and Children, I do not have any statutory or administrative role in such operations, when such contracts comply with the provisions of the Health Insurance Acts and related regulations.

Following enquiries, VHI Healthcare have indicated to me that every two years under the Full Cover Scheme, Hospital Consultants are offered a new agreement with VHI Healthcare whereby they agree to accept VHI's benefits in full settlement of their fees. The full cover scheme, which has been in operation for over 18 years, is currently supported by 99% of consultants. These agree to accept VHI's benefits as published in the Schedule of Benefits for Professional Fees, in full settlement of their fees for treating a patient. The twenty-two Consultants who have opted out of the scheme may or may not charge an additional fee to patients.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

349 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if psychological assessments will be provided for primary school children who are on long term waiting lists, under the National Treatment Purchase Fund (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12890/07]

Psychological assessments for educational purposes is the responsibility of the Department of Education and Science and the National Educational Psychological Service.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) was established to expedite the provision of treatment for patients on public hospital waiting lists who have been waiting longest for surgery. I have no plans to expand the remit of the NTPF to the type of treatment referred to by the Deputy.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

350 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved and awarded the mobility allowance. [12897/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal 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.

Infectious Diseases.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

351 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children the policy that exists in relation to hospitals telling patients and families that they have MRSA in view of the fact that a number of people would indicate they have been told they have an infection but the follow up procedures do not specify MRSA; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12899/07]

Tackling Healthcare-Associated Infections (HCAIs), including MRSA, is a priority for the Government and for the Health Service Executive.

Recently-published studies show that in Ireland, the overall rate of HCAIs, which includes MRSA, is lower than our UK counterparts. However, it is generally accepted that MRSA infection rates in the UK and Ireland are higher than our European counterparts. Excessive antibiotic prescribing is a key cause of these higher rates.

The Health Service Executive has recently developed a National Infection Control Action Plan including governance and performance management. The plan includes a commitment to informing patients of HCAI/MRSA status and to ensuring that death certificates accurately reflect HCAI. The plan has clear targets for all hospitals, clear hygiene and infection control standards, an improved physical environment, initiatives on reducing antibiotic consumption and education of the public and of health professionals, including the current T.V. and media campaign.

Achieving these targets is a priority for the HSE so that patients can be assured that in the future their chances of contracting an infection will be reduced to the minimum level possible. To achieve this, there must be a corporate commitment throughout the HSE and services generally. Evidence-based guidelines, clear responsibility and accountability and the recognition that the public also has a role to play in improving HCAIs and MRSA are vital to achieving improvements.

Hospital Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

352 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to previous parliamentary questions regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny, the reason this person has not had the emergency gastric bypass surgery they require; the further reason the surgeon concerned has informed the person that the funding for the surgery is not available; if she will insist on the surgery being carried out based on the appeal from their general practitioner; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12943/07]

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.

Health Service Staff.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

353 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if a severance package was agreed with Health Service Executive and a person (details supplied); if so, the details of same; if care centres were negotiated by the person while working for the HSE; the names and locations of such centres; if the person negotiated a role for caredoc at call centres; if so, the name and location of same; if they negotiated software packages; if so, the locations, and costs involved; the date they left the employment of the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12946/07]

The person referred to by the Deputy was engaged by the HSE as an advisor. Section 24 of the Health Act, 2004 empowers the HSE to engage such advisors as it considers necessary for the performance of its functions.

I am advised by the HSE that this individual's engagement with the Executive concluded on 15 February 2007. No severance package was provided.

The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the other matters raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

354 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the proposals she has to address as a matter of extreme urgency the crisis in relation to the cataract surgery waiting list at Waterford Regional Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12972/07]

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.

Health Service Allowances.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

355 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if a domiciliary care allowance application will be reviewed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13015/07]

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

Question No. 356 answered with QuestionNo. 262.

Departmental Staff.

Paul McGrath

Question:

357 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of staff in her Department for whom two or more phone lines have been provided at their home; the number of lines provided in each case; the reason for this; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13050/07]

There are no staff in my Department for whom two or more phone lines have been provided at their homes.

Paul McGrath

Question:

358 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money paid to the training officers in her Department in respect of travel and subsistence allowances; the number of training days organised; and if the relocation of CMOD to Tullamore has had an impact on the work of training officers or on the work of those who attend courses there. [13065/07]

Since CMOD moved to Tullamore in July 2006 no travel and subsistence has been paid to the training officer. The relocation of CMOD to Tullamore has had a limited impact on the work of the training officer or on the work of those who attend courses there. The relocation of CMOD has not affected the number of training days organised by the Department of Health and Children in 2006 which was 90 days.

Paul McGrath

Question:

359 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the average amount of travel and subsistence allowances paid by her Department in respect of attendance at pre-retirement planning courses prior to the relocation of the Civil Service Training Centre to Tullamore; the average amount paid in respect of attendance at the same course since the centre was relocated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13095/07]

Travel and subsistence amounting to €781 was paid to one officer in 2006 in respect of attendance at a pre-retirement planning course in Tullamore. No travel and subsistence claims were received in the preceding year in respect of attendance at such courses.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paul McGrath

Question:

360 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of staff who have transferred to her Department under the decentralisation CAF or DCAF schemes and who have found that they must make a further move to another section within six months of their Departmental transfer; the effect such moves have on staff morale; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13110/07]

As the Deputy will be aware my Department is not one of the Departments earmarked for decentralisation under the Civil Service Decentralisation Programme. However the Deputy may wish to note that under the decentralisation programme thirty civil servants have transferred to other Government Departments from my Department to date.

Energy Market.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

361 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the recent report by the EU Competition Directorate that found Ireland has the second least transparent electricity market in western Europe and which warned that the threat of market power abuse is high, in view of his role fostering competition in industry here; the steps he will take to ensure the market becomes more transparent and the threat of market power abuse is removed; his views on whether there is little hope of encouraging further independent investment and greater competition in the electricity market until such steps are taken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12634/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

372 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the recent report by the EU Competition Directorate that found Ireland has the second least transparent electricity market in western Europe and warned that the threat of market power abuse is high; the steps he will take to ensure the market becomes more transparent and the threat of market power abuse is removed; his views on whether there is little hope of encouraging further independent investment and greater competition in the electricity market until such steps are taken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12630/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 361 and 372 together.

I am aware of the European Commission's Final Report of the Energy Sector Inquiry 2005-2006, which was conducted by DG Competition and published by the Commission last January.

The Inquiry comprehensively investigated the barriers currently impeding the development of a fully functioning open and competitive EU-wide energy market. It examined the situation under a number of headings in each Member State.

The Commission's findings in essence are that while there is progress, a number of further measures are needed to achieve a complete internal energy market with open competition and effective regulation across Europe.

One of the areas highlighted by the Commission is the critical importance of transparency for the efficient working of wholesale electricity markets. All market players must have timely access to the information necessary to trade, particularly in relation to demand, supply and transmission network issues. This is endorsed by the European Regulators (including CER), the European Transmission System Operators and the European Electricity Industry and Trading Groups. The Inquiry found that there is still a lack of transparency in most Member States when measured against a range of information headings.

It is the case that Ireland scored low in terms of the league table on the number of issues for which information is published. It is also the case that CER and EirGrid are working to steadily improve the availability of information to all market participants. Addressing the transparency of information barrier, together with the other barriers to a fully level playing field in the electricity market is a key priority. An immediate objective is to ensure that the Single Electricity Market is fully transparent in all key respects. The Regulators North and South, together with EirGrid and SONI as the Transmission System Operators are working to put this in place.

The Commission's Energy Sector Inquiry further serves to underline the crucial importance of the comprehensive policy actions, set out in the Energy Policy White Paper, which we are taking in order to create an open, fair and competitive electricity sector which works in the interests of the consumer. The Government's decision to transfer the ownership of the transmission assets from ESB to EirGrid by the end of next year is critical in that context. The combining of the ownership and operation of transmission in EirGrid is proportionate, will create efficiencies, and is necessary for effective competition. It will instill confidence in all market players that the transmission system is operated independently of commercial interests in a strictly non-discriminatory manner. We will also ensure the progressive reduction in ESB's market share in power generation to around 40% in an all-island market context by 2010 through implementation of the CER-ESB Asset Strategy Agreement. EirGrid will be working with CER to develop a landbank of ESB owned sites by 2008 to facilitate independent power generation investment up to 2020. This will complement the release of ESB sites under the CER-ESB Agreement this year and incrementally up to 2010.

The White Paper also endorses the actions by CER to progressively reduce the dominance of ESB PES in competitive sectors of the retail electricity market which will see the delivery of real and effective competition in energy supply. The White Paper also commits to a comprehensive review of the Irish energy regulatory framework following the introduction of the Single Electricity Market. The review will take into account the further developments in the EU internal energy market.

Departmental Staff.

Paul McGrath

Question:

362 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of civil servants in his Department in receipt of a full salary and by whom no work has been undertaken in the past month; the cost of employing these staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13489/07]

In the past month my Department had one member of staff on sick leave with full pay, three staff on maternity leave with full pay, and two staff suspended on full pay as part of disciplinary investigations. The cost of employing these staff was €24,223.32.

Aquaculture Licences.

Michael Ring

Question:

363 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the changes that have taken place in relation to oyster fishing in 2007. [12441/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

364 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if people without tonnage will be allowed to fish for oysters in 2007. [12442/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 363 and 364 together.

The function of the Licensing Authority for sea-fishing boats was transferred under the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003 to the Registrar General of Fishing Boats. The Act provides that the Licensing Authority is independent in the exercise of its functions under the Act, subject to the law for the time being in force and policy directives in relation to sea-fishing boat licensing.

The Registrar General has informed me that in accordance with the provisions of the EU Common Fishery Policy a Sea-Fishing Boat Licence is required in respect of boats engaged in aquaculture activities, which include Oyster fisheries, where such activities include, at any time:

1. Having on-board fishing gear as specified in Table 3 of Annex 1 of Commission Regulation (EC) No 26/2004 of 30 December 2003 as amended by Commission Regulation (EC) No 1799/2006 of 6 December 2006 on the Community fishing fleet register or

2. Engaging in commercial sea-fishing activities outside aquaculture areas.

The entitlement to engage in any of the activities outlined above depends on the segment of the fleet in which the boat is licensed and registered. Where a boat is licensed and registered within the Aquaculture Segment of the Irish fishing fleet, it is a condition of the licence that the boat shall be used solely for the management, development and servicing of aquaculture areas.

It should be noted that boats licensed and registered within the Aquaculture Segment are not subject to the entry/exit regime, whereby replacement capacity must be removed from the Irish fishing fleet register before the boat may be licensed or registered. Where it is intended that a boat may be engaged in activities other that management, development and servicing of aquaculture areas, the boat should be licensed and registered in either the Polyvalent or Specific Segment. In either case, the entry/exit regime applies and replacement capacity must be removed from the same segment of the fleet before the boat may be licensed and registered in either segment.

Electricity Generation.

Pat Breen

Question:

365 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the progress that is being made in processing applications for the REFIT scheme under the AER 6 scheme; the way he will provide regular updates and an up-to-date information policy for applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12448/07]

The REFIT programme is an ongoing support programme separate from AER 6. This latter support programme is now closed.

The terms and conditions of REFIT are published on my Department's website and no material changes will be introduced. All compliant project submitted to date under REFIT have been accepted. Details of the relevant projects are published on my Department's website which will be updated regularly.

Pat Breen

Question:

366 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason there are still projects on the AER 5 and AER 6 lists which either will not be built, are selling power under a TPA contract, are getting support under the REFIT scheme or have not kept to the AER terms; the timeframe for the remaining qualified projects of the AER 6 reserve list for receiving an offer of a power purchase agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12449/07]

The latest date for the completion of electricity generating plants under AER 5 and AER 6 has passed. These programmes have ceased in the context of any further allocation of support with the exception of the "Offshore Wind" category.

All projects supported under the AER and the REFIT support programmes must remain compliant with the applicable terms and conditions which are available on the Department's website at www.dcmnr.ie.

Pat Breen

Question:

367 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will compensate projects or adjust the PPA conditions for qualifying projects for which consideration was delayed under the AER 6 scheme; if the AER competition still conforms to the EU directive under which it was implemented following repeated changes of conditions of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12450/07]

There are no proposals to offer any additional compensation to any project entered in AER 6. No changes have been introduced to the AER 6 support programme top amend the published terms and conditions. The AER 6 programme continues to operate in a manner consistent with the associated EU State aids clearance.

Harbours and Piers.

Martin Ferris

Question:

368 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when the fendering work will be carried out at Rathmullen Pier (details supplied). [12467/07]

Rathmullen Pier, Co. Donegal is the property of Donegal County Council and responsibility for its maintenance and development is a matter for that local authority in the first instance.

The Department is currently preparing the 2007 Harbours & Coastal Infrastructure Programme and has received an application for funding from Donegal County Council for design and repair works at Rathmullen, which is currently under consideration.

Funding for projects under the 2007 Harbours and Coastal Infrastructure Programme will be allocated taking account of Exchequer funding and overall national priorities going forward. I hope to be in a position to announce the 2007 Harbours & Coastal Development Programme shortly.

Telecommunications Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

369 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in relation to the roll-out of a service (details supplied) both in County Mayo and nationally. [12468/07]

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband by private sector companies is a matter for the companies themselves operating in a fully liberalised market, regulated, where appropriate, by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg.

It continues to be a priority of the Government that there will be broadband coverage across the entire country. In that regard my Department has undertaken initiatives to address the gaps in broadband coverage. These include investment in Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) in over 120 towns and cities. These MANs will allow the private sector to offer world-class broadband services at competitive costs. My Department has also provided grant-aid under the recently concluded Group Broadband Scheme.

However, despite Government and private investment in broadband, I am aware that there are still some parts of the country where the private sector is unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband connectivity. A Steering Committee comprising officials from my Department and ComReg is currently finalising the proposed National Broadband Scheme, which will aim to provide broadband to these unserved areas. The scheme, when it is fully rolled out, should ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband from houses and premises in unserved areas, including rural areas, are met. Work on the design of an appropriate public tender is underway and indicative maps are being prepared to help inform the tendering process.

Flood Relief.

Michael Ring

Question:

370 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the action the Fisheries Boards will take in relation to an erosion problem at a river (details supplied) in County Mayo. [12532/07]

I am advised that the case referred to by the Deputy in relation to flood relief is a matter primarily for the relevant local authority and one in which I have no function.

Under the Fisheries Acts, primary responsibility of the Central and Regional Fisheries Boards is the management, conservation, protection and development of inland fisheries. Any works on the banks of a river should be carried out following consultation with the relevant Regional Fisheries Board to ensure that damage to habitat, water quality and fish life is minimised.

Power Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

371 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on whether, following his recent comments to a magazine (details supplied) that the ESB Aghada plant will cost between €350 and €400 million, other companies have produced equivalent power stations, such as the two Huntstown power stations built for €250 million; if he has enquired of the ESB the reason their plant will cost much more than that amount to construct; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12629/07]

The estimated cost of ESB's construction of a 430MW Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) plant at Aghada reflects a fundamental shift in worldwide market dynamics for CCGT plant, fuelled by rising commodity prices for speciality steels and other prefabricated materials, in addition to increasing labour costs. The availability of engineering resources is also becoming a limiting factor restricting suppliers' ability to scale up production to meet the increasing demand. This shift is a worldwide phenomenon and is not restricted to projects in this country.

Prior to granting my approval for the relevant capital expenditure on the Aghada project, I received clear assurances from ESB that it had independently validated this upward movement in commodity prices and labour costs as part of its contract negotiation process and that it had satisfied itself that the cost of the power plant in Aghada reflects current global market prices and represents the best value for money outcome in difficult power plant market circumstances.

With construction commencing in December 2000 and October 2005 respectively, the cost of constructing the two Huntstown power plants was reflective of more favourable market circumstances at the time the EPC (Engineering Procurement Construction) contracts were awarded.

Question No. 372 answered with QuestionNo. 361.

Fisheries Protection.

Michael Ring

Question:

373 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the by-laws he has introduced in the past twelve months in relation to all and any type of fishing or species of fish. [12761/07]

Over the last twelve months, I have introduced the following 16 Bye-laws:

Bye-laws

Conservation of Salmon and Sea Trout Bye-law No. 803, 2006

Salmon and Trout Conservation Bye-law No. 804, 2006

Conservation of Pike Bye-law No. 805, 2006

Conservation of and Prohibition on Sale of Coarse Fish Bye-law No. 806, 2006

Conservation of Bass Fishing Bye-law No. 807, 2006

Conservation of Salmon and Sea Trout (amendment) Bye-law No. 808, 2006

Conservation of Pike Bye-law No. 809, 2006

South Western Fisheries Region (Prohibition of the use of Prawns, Shrimp and other Crustacea) Bye-law No. 810, 2006

South Western Fisheries Region (River Lee) Bye-law No. 811, 2006

Western Fisheries Region Dawros (Kylemore) River Bye-law No. 812, 2006

Conservation of Salmon and Sea Trout Bye-law No. 814, 2006

Shannon Fisheries Region (River Feale) Conservation of Salmon and Sea Trout Bye-law No. 816, 2007

Conservation of Salmon and Sea Trout Bye-law No. 815, 2006

Conservation of Salmon and Sea Trout Bye-law No. C.S. 287, 2006

Conservation of Salmon and Sea Trout Bye-law No. C.S. 288, 2006

Shannon Fisheries Region. (Prohibition on Angling with rod and line) Bye-law No. C. S. 289, 2007

Harbours and Piers.

David Stanton

Question:

374 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if a report has been undertaken by his Department into works carried out in Dingle Harbour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12767/07]

A report is currently being prepared by the Department regarding dredging works at Dingle Harbour. The matter referred to by the Deputy is quite complex and while an interim report has been prepared, further examination of papers related to this issue will be required and this may take some time. I understand that court proceedings may be under way between other parties regarding this matter and accordingly it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this stage.

Fisheries Protection.

Michael Ring

Question:

375 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the effect that a by-law (details supplied) will have on tourism; when this by-law came into effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12774/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

376 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will amend a by-law (details supplied) by increasing the 50 cm limit to 70cm; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12775/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

377 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will amend a by-law (details supplied) in certain angling waters in view of the effect the by-law is having unnecessarily on the angling tourism business and in view of the actual fish stocks, and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12776/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

379 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will amend a by-law (details supplied) by increasing the 25cm limit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12799/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 375 to 377, inclusive, and 379 together.

The Conservation of and Prohibition on Sale of Coarse Fish Bye-law No. 806, 2006, which came into effect on 20 July 2006, introduced a series of controls to protect coarse fish stocks. The Conservation of Pike Bye-law No. 809, 2006, which came into effect on 3 August 2006, was primarily brought in to protect pike.

The impact of these bye-laws, which were introduced as a conservation measure, is being monitored by the Regional Fisheries Boards and their application will be reviewed over time. The suggested amendments by the Deputy would presume that reduced conservation effort is necessary. It is, I understand, too soon to make such a judgement.

I am not aware of any adverse impact on angling tourism for coarse fish in the area of the Great Western Lakes, which are primarily managed as a wild brown trout fishery and are, according to the fisheries board, attracting many thousands of tourist trout anglers to the West every year.

The bye-laws were introduced to prevent overexploitation of coarse fish and pike in rivers, canals and lakes where there may have been excessive exploitation taking place. I have received no reports that the bag limits applying adversely affect tourism angling.

Regional Fisheries Boards.

Michael Ring

Question:

378 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will instruct the WRFB to stop an activity whilst a by-law is in place (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12777/07]

The Western Regional Fisheries Board is charged with managing what I am advised are three of the top four wild brown trout fisheries in the country. Part of the Board's remit has been to maximise the wild brown trout populations in these lakes, which have been carefully managed over the past 50 years.

This management programme has necessitated, I understand, the removal of predator and competitor species from the lakes is carried out on scientific advice so that the wild brown trout populations can be maximised. As a consequence Loughs Corrib and Mask in particular are now renowned as the top wild brown trout fisheries and are attracting many thousands of tourist trout anglers to the West every year.

In addition Ireland also has a requirement to protect the indigenous species composition of these lakes under the Water Framework Directive so as a result introduced species such as pike, perch and roach are removed, on scientific advice, from the lake. I am informed that the Western Regional Fisheries Board is currently engaged in a public consultation process for the Great Western Lakes with a view to introducing conservation measures for wild brown trout.

The Deputy should be advised that it is only in these three lakes and their tributaries in the Western Fisheries Region where the coarse fish numbers are controlled and there remain numerous lakes in the region where pike are available for the local and tourist anglers to catch on a catch and release basis.

The Conservation of Pike Bye-law No. 809, 2006, to which the Deputy has referred, was primarily brought in as a conservation measure to protect pike nationally from overexploitation in rivers, canals and lakes where excessive exploitation was taking place. I have received no reports that the bag limits applying adversely affect tourism angling.

Question No. 379 answered with QuestionNo. 375.

Fishing Quotas.

Martin Ferris

Question:

380 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the quota for the different species allocated to a vessel (details supplied). [12803/07]

Martin Ferris

Question:

381 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the amount of the quota allocated to a vessel (details supplied) that was unused at the time it came off the register. [12804/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 380 and 381 together.

Atlantic Dawn Ltd was allocated some 2,927 tonnes of mackerel quota and 706 tonnes of horse mackerel quota for 2007 in respect of the MFV Atlantic Dawn. Some 343 tonnes of mackerel remained uncaught at the time of the Atlantic Dawn's deregistration. This 343 tonnes has now reverted to the National pool. There was no horse mackerel uncaught.

Atlantic Dawn Ltd was also allocated some 271 tonnes of herring in the North West fishery. This fishery closed to all participants on 9 February 2007, before the Atlantic Dawn was deregistered. The Atlantic Dawn caught none of its allocation. All allocations of herring in the North West fishery uncaught at 9 February reverted to the National pool.

Regional Fisheries Boards.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

382 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when the next elections to the Regional Fisheries Boards will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12829/07]