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 12, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 13 to 74, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 75 to 81, inclusive, answered orally.

Tax Code.

John Deasy

Question:

82 Deputy John Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of dutiable housing transfers which underpin the estimates for stamp duty receipts; the number in different duty rates; the aggregate value at each rate; the returns to date in 2007; and where there is a shortfall below expectation. [17290/07]

Stamp Duty from residential property in 2006, the latest full year for which details are available, made up approximately 35 per cent of the total Stamp Duty yield in that year. While my Department does not base its forecasts of Stamp Duty yield for the residential property sector on the number of transactions at the different rates of duty, a breakdown of the 52,901 such transactions in 2006 has been provided by the Revenue Commissioners.

This information, based on the consideration value upon which the stamp duty was payable, is as follows:

Where the consideration value was between €127,000 and €190,500 there were 10,877 transactions, yielding €52.9 million.

For consideration values between €190,501 and €254,000 there were 11,088 transactions, yielding a total of €98.2 million.

For consideration values between €254,001 to €317,500 there were 8,007 transactions, yielding €114 million,

For consideration values between €317,501 and €381,000 there were 8,600 stamp duty transactions, yielding €153.4 million.

For consideration values between €381,001 and €635,000 there were 9,833 transactions, yielding €339.2 million.

Finally, in the highest consideration value band, for properties valued at over €635,000 there were 4,496 transactions giving a yield of over €543.1 million.

Up to the end of May the Exchequer received €1,438m in stamp duty, which is just €16 million, or 1.1 per cent below profile. This includes Stamp Duty receipts from all headings, including shares, commercial transactions and property. The end-May figure represents an increase of 11 per cent on the same period last year, compared with a Budget day predicted increase of 5.6 per cent for the year as a whole.

Question No. 83 answered orally.

Programmes for Government.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

84 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the targets in the finance area in the programme for Government of June 2002 which were not delivered. [17348/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, a full progress report on the Programme for Government between Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats of June 2002 was published in April 2007 and is available on the Department of the Taoiseach website.

As outlined in that report, substantial progress has been made on meeting the targets set out in the Programme for Government. In the finance area good progress has been made on all targets. In particular the public finances have been maintained in a healthy condition while delivering dramatic reductions in taxation. Personal and business taxes have been kept low in order to strengthen and maintain the competitive position of the Irish economy. The budget and economic policies pursued by the Government have helped to generate unprecedented growth in the Irish economy, a spectacular increase in the number of people at work and the effective elimination of long-term unemployment.

The new Programme for Government will follow on the targets set out in the last Programme for Government.

Pension Provisions.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

85 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that in some Departments instructions have issued to agencies under their supervision that they should not follow general accounting principles in presenting deferred pension liabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17289/07]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to the application of Financial Reporting Standard 17 — known as FRS 17 — that requires annual accounts to show the total accrued value of future pension liabilities in respect of staff. FRS 17 is applied through-out the private sector and in the accounts of all commercial State bodies.

In the public service, FRS 17 does not arise in the case of accounts prepared on a cash-basis. This includes the Appropriation Accounts for all Departments and Offices covering most of central government. However, FRS 17 does apply to non-commercial State bodies whose financial statements are prepared on the basis of accruals accounting. Normally these accounts would show pension liabilities — for example, where there are funded pension schemes. In relation to pay-as-you-go pensions, with the agreement of the Comptroller and Auditor General, most of these accounts now show an asset to balance the pensions liability. This reflects the fact that public service pension funding policy provides financing for pay-as-you-go pensions.

Ministers have statutory powers to determine the form of accounts of bodies under the aegis of their Departments. Any specific questions in relation to particular accounts should be addressed to the relevant Minister.

Public Investment Projects.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

86 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the system in place for pinning responsibility on a named public official for the delivery of public investment projects. [17336/07]

I announced a comprehensive package of measures in October 2005 to achieve better Value for Money on major capital and ICT projects. As one element of these measures, which are codified in a Department of Finance letter on Value-for-Money of January 2006, each Department and Sponsoring Agency must appoint an individual as Project Manager for each capital project at the planning/procurement stage. The project manager should be a senior official, including at Management Committee or Board level where appropriate. It is a matter for each project-implementing Department or agency to determine who should be appointed project manager in each individual case having regard to the scale, complexity and cost of each project.

The Project Manager is assigned personal responsibility for monitoring progress on projects against contract requirements and for reporting progress and issues arising to the Project Board. For major capital projects i.e. projects costing more than €30 million, the project manager must also on a quarterly basis submit a progress report to the Department's Management Advisory Committee (MAC) or the Agency's Board, as appropriate, and then to the relevant Minister. If adverse developments occur such as potential cost overruns or delays, the project manager's progress report should include recommendations to address the situation, including if warranted the option of project termination.

Furthermore, under the conditions of sanction for capital expenditure issued by my Department, all Departments are required to implement a system of spot checks of projects to ensure compliance with VFM requirements and to report the findings of such spot checks annually to my Department. The spot checks enable compliance with the requirement to have an individual project manager in place to be checked.

In terms of accountability, the arrangements accordingly provide for personal responsibility within the overall management framework of the Department or Implementing Agency as regards the planning, management and execution of projects. It is a matter for each Department's Management processes to address issues of individual performance as appropriate taking account of these and other issues.

House Prices.

Willie Penrose

Question:

87 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the prospect that first-time buyers will be excluded from the housing market if interest rates increase as forecast to 4.75% in 2007, causing first-time mortgage limits to fall substantially; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17170/07]

At the outset, I would like to remind the Deputy that it is not appropriate for me to speculate on the likely path of interest rates, as these are set by the ECB which is independent. That said, I do not consider that potential first time buyers are facing exclusion from the housing market.

There are several reasons why this is the case. The first is that mortgage interest relief was doubled in the 2007 Budget. Furthermore, the new Programme for Government contains a commitment to increase in Budget 2008 the ceiling on mortgage interest relief for first time buyers, from €8,000 to €10,000 for single people and from €16,000 to €20,000 for couples and widowed persons and to keep the rate of relief at 20%. In addition, this Government has published a Bill which will abolish stamp duty for all first time buyers.

Finally, the available evidence indicates that house prices are easing. This, allied with rising incomes in the economy as a whole, should increase affordability for first time buyers.

Tax Code.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

88 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the interpretation of the objective in the programme for Government of keeping average earners out of the higher band. [17297/07]

The commitment in the Government Programme is to use tax credits and bands to keep low income earners out of the standard rate band and average earners out of the higher band. For 2007, in terms of gross liability to tax before the application of tax credits, the position is that a person earning the average wage, estimated to be about €33,000, will not face a liability to tax at the higher rate. This is because the upper limit of the standard rate band for a single person is set at €34,000 in 2007.

The aim is to maintain that position going forward. However, I would point out to the Deputy that the commitment is to be implemented subject to the controlling economic and fiscal framework. In addition, the Government are committed to operating a responsible fiscal policy characterised by broad budget balance and a declining debt burden.

Pension Provisions.

Noel Coonan

Question:

89 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his estimate of the deferred pension liabilities of all public service employees and the way this compares to the moneys accumulated in the NPRF. [17279/07]

The accrued pensions liability in respect of all current public servants is estimated at €45 billion. This figure represents the present value of the liability to make future superannuation payments to serving employees and their dependants in respect of service to date. The National Pensions Reserve Fund was set up under the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000. The Act provides for the payment from the Central Fund into the National Pensions Reserve Fund each year from 2001 until at least 2055 of a sum equivalent to 1% of GNP.

It is the responsibility of the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission to invest the moneys in the Fund. The purpose behind the legislation is that the assets of the Fund, made up of the contributions from the Exchequer over the years plus any return that may be generated from the investment of the Fund, would meet as much as possible of the cost to the Exchequer of social welfare and public service pensions from 2025 until at least 2055. The legislation provides that no money can be drawn down from the Fund before 2025.

As recently reported by the Commission, the market value of the funds in the National Pensions Reserve Fund at the end of May 2007 was €20.75 billion.

Freedom of Information.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

90 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the recent annual report from the Information Commissioner in which she expressed concern regarding the operation of the Freedom of Information Act 1997, including the continued exclusion of many public bodies from its scope, a failure by the Government to consult her office before making changes and the deterrent cost of high fees; his plans to address these concerns, particularly in regard to the level of fees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17161/07]

I am aware of the contents of the recently published Annual Report of the Information Commissioner. The Freedom of Information Act, which covered 67 public bodies when it commenced in April 1998, now applies to over 500 bodies across the public sector. My Department is involved in an ongoing programme of FOI extension and is actively engaged with Government Departments about a number of bodies that remain outside the scope of the Act.

In relation to consultation with the Information Commissioner on changes to the FOI Act, it is not the practice of my Department to consult the Information Commissioner in this regard. However, arrangements have been put in place by my Department to ensure that the Information Commissioner is kept informed of legislation impacting on the FOI Act. The arrangements provide for the Office of the Information Commissioner to be notified by the relevant Department when any FOI-related legislation is published, enacted or commenced.

In regard to the fees that apply under the Freedom of Information Act, I have no plans to review these. I am satisfied that the fees currently in operation strike the correct balance between the burden and cost to the taxpayer of administering the FOI Act and the need to allow access to information.

Departmental Expenditure.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

91 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the projects approved in his Department in 2007 which exceed the threshold for a cost benefit analysis; and the person who conducted the analysis in each case. [17342/07]

In relation to the totality of public capital programmes and projects, as the Deputy will appreciate, primary responsibility for managing capital projects and the evaluation, planning and execution of such projects rests with line Departments and the relevant implementing agencies. There were no projects proposed, or approved, by my Department in 2007, the value of which exceeded the €30 million threshold for cost benefit analysis set out in the Guidelines for the Appraisal and Management of Capital Expenditure Proposals in the Public Sector. I am also informed that neither the Office of Public Works nor the Office of the Revenue Commissioners have had proposals for, or approved, projects in the course of the year to date which exceed the threshold for a cost benefit analysis.

Tax Code.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

92 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the parameters for the introduction of carbon tax as agreed in the programme for Government. [17270/07]

The Programme for Government signals that a carbon tax/levy will be introduced over the lifetime of this Government. The matter of the introduction of a carbon tax is one of the issues to be considered by the new Commission on Taxation to be established under the Programme.

Consequently, at this stage, the precise design of such a tax has yet to be determined. This will, of course, form an important part of the normal deliberative process of the Government in setting fiscal and environmental policy. Deputies will recall, however, that the Programme for Government indicates that the phasing-in of a carbon levy will be on a revenue neutral basis, so it is not intended that its introduction will lead to any net Exchequer revenue increase or net addition to the overall tax burden.

Tax Collection.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

93 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of random audits carried out by the Revenue Commissioners in 2006 and to date in 2007; the way this compares with each year from 2003 to date in 2007; the number expected to be undertaken during 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17173/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that 402 cases were selected for random auditing in 2006. As of 31 March 2007, 187 of these audits have been concluded. 215 cases are ongoing. I am advised that 410 cases were selected for random audit in 2005. 6 cases are still ongoing. Revenue's approach to random compliance testing changed significantly for their 2005 programme. The new approach introduced both better design and improved statistical vigour.

In 2004, the traditional random audit programme was not carried out due to the change in Revenue's approach following a review of the programme. However, 25 cases selected under the programme for previous years were completed in 2004. In 2003, 274 random audits were completed in 2003. Finally, in relation to 2007, I am advised that the random audit programme commenced at the end of March and 401 cases have been randomly selected. Internationally a sample in the order of 400 cases is regarded as an adequate sample for the purposes of an exercise such as this.

There are two primary objectives to this programme:

Compliance measurement

To provide some measure of the effect that Revenue's compliance programmes have on taxpayer compliance over time.

Deterrence

Random case selection ensures that no taxpayer is exempt (or believes himself or herself to be exempt) from the possibility of having his or her compliance position checked.

Q. What was wrong with the previous random audit programme? Why was it changed?

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the previous programme was criticised by the Comptroller and Auditor General on the grounds that the cases selected by Revenue were not actually selected at random. Typically a certain amount of stratification was carried out before the cases were selected and there was subsequent screening of cases at Regional/District level. In other words, cases were not selected on a purely random basis and results could not be used to validate Revenue's other programmes or regarded as representative of the taxpayer population.

Q. How are cases selected under the Taxpayer Compliance Testing (Random) Programme?

For the 2005, 2006 and 2007 programmes a total of 400 cases approximately were selected at random on a pro-rata basis for each of Revenue's four regions and Large Cases Division. The cases were selected from those who had a live registration for any of the following taxes — Income Tax, Corporation Tax, VAT, Employer's PAYE/PRSI and Relevant Contracts Tax.

Q. What does the programme test?

The programme tests taxpayer compliance. Compliance measurement is a measure of the extent to which taxpayers fulfil their tax obligations. There are three basic tax obligations:

Taxpayers are obliged to file their returns on time (filing obligation);

Taxpayers are obliged to pay the liability on time (payment obligation), and

Taxpayers are obliged to report accurately on the return whatever is required for the correct liability to be established (reporting obligation).

Q. How do the Revenue Commissioners use the results of the new random audit programmes?

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that there are a number of secondary objectives associated with the new random programme and results will be used to evaluate these objectives. These are:

1. To validate the risk criteria being used to select cases for audit: This is one of the most frequently mentioned uses for random audit programmes as expressed by jurisdictions that operate a random audit programme. Typically this implies auditing a random sample of cases and comparing the results with those of cases that have been selected using risk-scoring systems. The expectation is that the adjustments, which arise on the risk selected cases, should be considerably higher than those from the randomly selected cases.

With the advent of Revenue's computerised risk scoring system, REAP, which is use throughout Revenue, this validation exercise will be more important in the future. The random programme will also have a role to play in the future identification of risk and the development of the risk assessment model.

2. Identifying emerging issues

Changes in the nature of economic activity and in tax legislation can give rise to new sources of tax evasion activity. Random case selection offers Revenue a means of gathering information on new forms of tax evasion activity that may not come to light using the existing risk assessment model.

3. Policy Changes

Random selection may provide data to allow the Revenue Commissioners to identify policy changes for improving tax compliance, including requests for staffing and resources.

Q. When will the results be available?

I have already given you the results for 2005 and prior years as well as an update for 2006. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they expect to have a comprehensive analysis of the 2006 programme available by October 2007. However, the finalisation of audits depends on the nature and complexity of the cases selected, as some difficult cases will be expected to have a longer timescale for completion and this may have an impact on the result evaluation target date. I am advised that the Revenue Commissioners expect to have a comprehensive analysis of the 2007 programme available by the Summer of 2008.

Q. Why confine the programme to 400 cases?

Internationally a sample in the order of 400 cases is regarded as an adequate sample for the purposes of an exercise such as this. With a sample size of 400 we can be 95% confident that the average results are broadly representative of the taxpayer population sampled. However we will keep this figure under review.

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

Q. Are there any big settlements arising from the 2005 and 2006 random audits closed to date?

2005/2006 Analysis of yield in bands

Range €

Total 2005

Total 2006

2,000 > Nil

27

24

5,000 > 2,000

31

13

10,000 > 5,000

21

7

20,000 > 10,000

17

4

50,000 > 20,000

13

1

100,000 > 50,000

2

1

> 100,000

1

Total

112

50

Q. How does the average yield from Random Audits compare with the yield from targeted audits?

Category

Average

2006 to date

Comprehensive (1)

63,760*

91,376*

Multi-tax (2)

42,893*

31,992*

Single-tax (3)

19,893*

21,178*

Single issue (4)

15,241*

15,546*

All non- Random audits

36,933*

43,154*

Random Yielding (5)

11,032

5,870

Random Overall (6)

3,581

1,570

*incl. Nils.

Q. What is the detailed breakdown of the €1.2m yield in 2005?

Analysis of Yield by Tax head from TCTP 2005

Description

Total €

Income Tax

380,303

Corporation Tax

4,396

VAT

294,895

PAYE/PRSI

126,383

RCT

25,786

Capital Gains Tax

36,535

Total Tax

868,298

Interest

261,567

Penalties

121,663

Total Yield

1,251,528

Economic Competitiveness.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

94 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the specific vulnerabilities he has identified in the Irish economy; and the steps he is taking or proposing to take to address these. [17257/07]

As the Deputy is aware, the Governments of which I have been a member have done a good job in ensuring strong economic growth over the past decade. Part of this success has been due to the ability of these governments to identify and address any issues under their control that might have put that growth at risk. It is my intention that this good work continue into the future.

Of course, as a small, open economy, Ireland is heavily reliant on the health of the international economy and external shocks have the potential to significantly reduce Irish growth. In this regard, my Department is constantly monitoring developments in the world economy. While the current view of international agencies (e.g. the EU and the OECD) for the world economic outlook is benign, we must not be complacent. Our ability to respond to any shock depends on the underlying health of the economy, in particular its competitiveness on international markets. This underlines the need, for example, to take whatever action is feasible to restrain domestic costs to help maintain and restore competitiveness.

Tax Code.

Joe Carey

Question:

95 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when he will publish the distribution of the benefits of tax relief across the different income cohorts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17273/07]

I understand from the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested by the Deputy is not currently available. The compilation of tables showing the cost of each of the income tax deductions, reliefs and tax credits by income cohort would be an extensive task and could not be undertaken by the Revenue Commissioners at this time.

Question No. 96 answered with QuestionNo. 83.

Tax Collection.

Mary Upton

Question:

97 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the estimate of the number of persons non-resident for tax purposes for each of the past three tax years; if the Revenue Commissioners have undertaken additional steps to clarify the number of visits made to Ireland by such non-residents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17182/07]

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

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

Economic Competitiveness.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

98 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the steps the Government will take to invest in increasing the productive capacity of the economy, particularly in terms of ensuring high levels of high quality employment in regard to the commitment contained in the programme for Government. [17150/07]

A major part of the €184 billion 7 year investment under the National Development Plan 2007-2013 is aimed at increasing the productive capacity of the economy, improving competitiveness and creating the conditions for high levels of quality employment. In particular, I would refer the Deputy to investment in the following key areas:

€bn

Economic Infrastructure

54.66

Enterprise, Science and Innovation

20.00

Human Capital

25.80

Within these areas there will be key investment as follows:

€bn

Transport

32.9

Energy

8.5

Environmental Services

5.8

Science, Technology & Innovation

7.6

Enterprise Development

3.3

Training and Skills Development

7.7

Higher Education

13.0

The above are all vitally important to maintaining the productive capacity of the economy and will be supported by other investments set out in Plan. The overall objective is a world class infrastructure and R&D system, complemented by the highest quality education and skills services, to ensure a productive and highly skilled workforce. The level of commitment to capital investment is evidenced by the fact that Central Government Investment will rise from around 4.5% of GNP in 2006 to an average of 5.4% of GNP over the period of the Plan.

Tax Code.

Alan Shatter

Question:

99 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reforms he proposes to introduce in relation to inheritance tax and in particular with regard to property inherited from family members. [17234/07]

Alan Shatter

Question:

103 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will abolish inheritance tax on property inherited by minor and adult children from their parents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17235/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 99 and 103 together.

Inheritance tax is part of the capital acquisitions tax (CAT) code, which includes both gift tax and inheritance tax. It was first introduced in 1976 and replaced estate duty taxation. The Finance Act 2000 introduced a package of measures specifically designed to reduce the impact of CAT where assets are transferred. These measures included increased thresholds, the introduction of a single low rate of tax at 20% and the exemption of the family home in the circumstances described below. These measures constituted the most radical reduction in the incidence of gift/inheritance tax since its introduction in 1976.

The CAT code includes group thresholds, below which no CAT is liable. The relationship between the person who provides the gift/inheritance (i.e. the disponer) and the person receiving the gift/inheritance (i.e. the beneficiary) determines the tax-free threshold applicable to the inheritance (the group threshold). There are three categories of relationship with regard to relief from CAT and these are increased on an annual basis in accordance with the CSO Consumer Price Index. The indexed group thresholds applying to a gift or inheritance for 2007 are set out in the table.

Group

Relationship to Disponer

Group Threshold 2007

A

Son/Daughter

496,824

B

Parent/Brother/Sister/Niece/ Nephew/Grandchild

49,682

C

Relations other than Group A or B

24,841

Any other gifts/inheritance that might have been received within the same group by an individual since 5 December 1991 are also taken into account when applying the thresholds for the purposes of calculating CAT. If the total value of all inheritances and gifts, within the group, which were received since this date is above the relevant threshold, then a 20% CAT will apply on the difference.

In addition to the group thresholds, the Finance Act 2000 introduced a very valuable exemption from CAT for certain dwelling houses. The purpose of the exemption is to benefit individuals who have been living in a house for a period prior to the taking of the benefit by way of inheritance. The conditions attaching to this exemption are not very restrictive and the main condition is that the beneficiary has to occupy the dwelling house as his or her only or main residence for a period of three years prior to the gift or inheritance and continue to reside in it for a period of six years after the date of the gift or inheritance. It is a full exemption without the application of any ceiling or requirement that the beneficiary has to be related to the disponer.

I have no plans to introduce any changes at this point.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

100 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if it is intended that the commission on taxation proposed in the programme for Government will review user fees and service charges for essential public services specifically to examine their impact on low income families with a view to reducing the proportion of funding of public services which comes from charges to members of the public who utilise such services. [17250/07]

The Programme for Government contains certain commitments in the area of taxation policy including a commitment to the establishment of a Commission on Taxation which will have a wide remit to consider the structure of the taxation system. The Commission will be specifically charged with considering and making recommendations on the following:

Examine the balance achieved between taxes collected on income, capital and spending and report on it

Review all tax expenditures with a view to recommending the discontinuation of those that are unjustifiable on cost/benefit grounds

Consider options for the future financing of local government

In the context of maintaining a strong economy, investigate fiscal measures to protect and enhance the environment including the introduction of a carbon tax

I will be bringing proposals to Government in the near future on matters relating to the establishment of the proposed Commission including its membership and terms of reference. Pending consideration by the Government of these proposals, I am not in a position to elaborate further on matters pertaining to the Commission or its work programme.

Public Service Staff.

James Bannon

Question:

101 Deputy James Bannon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the staff increases within public services, which are in addition to existing policy, planned in the programme for Government; and the cost of pay, the ancillary costs of their deployment and the ancillary capital costs in respect of each category. [17329/07]

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

This strategy will govern decisions about staffing issues arising from the implementation of the Programme for Government which will be taken in the context of the annual estimates process having regard to the Government's budgetary policy as set out in the Programme.

Economic Competitiveness.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

102 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his plans for a review of the entire economic regulatory environment in regard to the commitment contained in the programme for Government; the person who will undertake the review; when it is expected to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17151/07]

The commitment in the Programme for Government is "to instigate a review of the entire economic regulatory environment." The purpose of the review is to ensure that "the existing regulatory regime is operating efficiently, is balancing the needs of users with the requirements of producers and is not imposing excessive costs on the economy." The details of how it is intended to conduct this proposed review are currently being considered and further detailed information will be provided to the Dáil on the implementation arrangements in due course.

Question No. 103 answered with QuestionNo. 99.

Personal Debt.

Willie Penrose

Question:

104 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the effect that the relentless pace of interest rate increases over the past 15 months may be having on families with high credit card debt; if there are plans to increase the resources of MABS in view of the difficulties that families are having in meeting existing debts given the eight successive interest rate rises since December 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17171/07]

The role of the Consumer Director in the Financial Regulator includes monitoring the provision of financial services to consumers. In that context the Financial Regulator has prioritised the provision of information for consumers about the potential risk of excessive credit card debt. Credit card cost surveys have been undertaken by the Financial Regulator and are available to help consumers in assessing the appropriateness of using a credit card and to help choose the credit card that best suits their financial needs. The Financial Regulator recommends that in particular, consumers take on the right type of credit for the right purpose and has highlighted that credit cards are not suitable for long-term debt as the rates are considerably higher than for other forms of credit. The Financial Regulator also issues information to help people who have problems with credit card debt. This information is available through its publications, help-line and website (www.itsyourmoney.ie).

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

The Deputy may wish to note that credit card debt represents less than 2% of personal sector credit, and less than 1% of overall private sector credit. In addition, credit card data refers to debt outstanding on all credit cards at end-month and includes balances that may be paid in full at the payment due date. The increase in the number of credit cards issued and the amount of debt outstanding is in line with a general trend of increased market penetration in the EU and a move towards electronic retail payment methods.

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) which falls under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, is a national, free, confidential and independent service for people in debt, or in danger of getting into debt. MABS offices throughout the country work with people in order to assist them with their financial planning and budgeting for the future. The 2007 budget for MABS is €17.7 m.

Tax Code.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

105 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the estimated annual cost of indexing tax bands and personal and employee tax credits to the average rise in wages each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17166/07]

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, at www.finance.gov.ie.

Decentralisation Programme.

Phil Hogan

Question:

106 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if any of the proposed decentralisation moves affecting the Civil Service or the State agencies will be reconsidered over the course of the present term of Government. [17308/07]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

110 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the Government has plans for a review of the programme of decentralisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17156/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 106 and 110 together.

I would like to confirm the Government's commitment to the Decentralisation Programme and to re-iterate that this Government's policy on the programme is unchanged. To date over 10,600 have applied to decentralise through the Central Applications Facility and despite consistent negative commentary, no political spokesperson has said that any town or county should be dropped from the programme.

A progress report by the Decentralisation Implementation Group (DIG) was submitted to me and published on 4th October last. The Group reported that implementation of the Decentralisation Programme is progressing satisfactorily. It has been meeting with the Secretaries General of decentralising Departments and is satisfied that the implementation of the programme is being managed in a professional and carefully planned manner. At the end of April 2007, over 2,700 staff had been assigned to decentralising posts. It is expected that over 1,000 will be in place this summer in over 20 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 33 of the decentralisation towns with approximately 2,000 staff transferred. The precise numbers moving within that time frame will depend on the availability of property as well as timeframes for completion of fit out and installation of necessary ICT (information communications technology) and telecommunication cabling and equipment.

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

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

Discussions are ongoing with the unions representing professional & technical staff in the Civil Service on the range of industrial relations issues arising, including promotion arrangements and placing of staff who wish to remain in Dublin. Thirty State Agencies are due to relocate under the Government's Decentralisation Programme. Some 2,340 posts are involved, or just over 22% of the programme.

The Decentralisation Implementation Group (DIG) did not set specific timeframes for the State Agencies as they believed that it was the responsibility of the board and senior management of each agency to implement the Government decision and to report to its "parent" department in the first instance on the progress being made. The DIG noted in its latest Report that while progress has been made by some State agencies, there has been a marked lack of action in some other agencies. The Group is currently meeting with CEOs from a number of State agencies to get an overview of progress to date and to identify the challenges remaining in implementing the Government policy.

The main issues facing the State agencies are those relating to the filling of posts in undersubscribed locations, the placing of staff choosing to remain in Dublin and promotion arrangements. The main issues facing the State Agencies are those relating to the filling of posts in undersubscribed locations, the placing of staff choosing to remain in Dublin and promotion arrangements. These issues are the subject of ongoing contacts between my Department and ICTU.

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

Tax Collection.

Liz McManus

Question:

107 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he proposes to have the Revenue Commissioners carry out a detailed examination of the number of properties availing of licensing and similar arrangements for the purposes of avoiding stamp duty; if the Revenue Commissioners have carried out an estimate of the amount of stamp duty avoided each year from the year 2002 to date in 2007 using such avoidance mechanisms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17165/07]

The arrangement mentioned in the question arises where the developer obtains a licence from the landowner that entitles the developer to enter onto the land and erect buildings. The usual way of achieving this is for the landowner to grant the developer or his bank or both a power of attorney, which allows them to execute a conveyance or transfer of the legal title to the ultimate purchaser without further recourse to the landowner. Because there is no conveyance of the land from the landowner to the developer stamp duty does not arise at this point. Stamp duty does, however, arise when the ultimate purchaser buys the land on which a building will usually have been erected by the developer, subject to the availability of the normal stamp duty reliefs.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they do not, in the normal course, receive information on the number or value of transactions by developers that involved licence agreements or other such arrangements. Developers are not required to bring such arrangements to the notice of the Revenue Commissioners. However, I am also advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, in the course of a recent review, based on a survey of developers, of these arrangements, 60 instances of this type of transaction were identified in responses relating to the two-year period ending on 31 December 2005.

The Finance Act 2007, in Section 110, made provision for a charge to stamp duty where license agreements and other such arrangements are used. License agreements and the other arrangements will come within the terms of the section where the landowner receives a payment amounting to 25% or more of the market value or consideration concerned.

Section 110 is subject to a commencement order and I have to consider the state of the property market before the provision comes into effect to ensure that it does not have an unforeseen negative effect on the market. For this reason I have decided to commission an independent study of the potential effects that such a provision may have on the market. A "Terms of Reference" for the study is currently being finalised in my Department and a request inviting tenders will issue shortly.

Public Investment Projects.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

108 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the projects examined in the first six months of 2007 by the central evaluation unit; and the projects in which shortcomings have been identified. [17332/07]

I would stress that the efficient management and implementation of capital projects is a matter for implementing Departments and Agencies. My Department has set out an elaborate Value for Money framework dealing with such areas as appraisal, implementation, procurement etc to assist Departments and Agencies in delivering projects in a Value for Money way.I recently established a small Central Expenditure Evaluation Unit (CEEU) in my Department to more generally promote the better application of aspects of the Value for Money framework referred to above. Key responsibilities of the Unit include:—

Verification of the application of the 2005 Capital Appraisal Guidelines issued by my Department;

Co-ordination of overall implementation of the comprehensive programme of Value for Money and Policy Reviews agreed by Government last year;

Preparation and rollout of the Programme Evaluations under the National Development Plan 2007-2013; and

General remit to promote Value for Money across the system including through the provision, as resources permit, of technical and other advice to Departments and Agencies.

One element of the Unit's work programme does relate to the requirement for spot checks of capital projects for compliance with the capital investment VFM frameworks. Spot checks are in the first instance the responsibility of each spending Department, who are required to put a system in place to carry out spot checks of projects to ensure compliance with the VFM frameworks and to report their findings annually to my Department. The CEEU will review these spot check reports and may also directly undertake its own spot checks of individual capital projects either as part of this review process or on its own initiative.

The CEEU is currently reviewing the spot check reports submitted in 2007 by line Departments. It has also commenced its own series of spot checks of individual capital projects and is at present finalising its reports on a number of projects in the transport sector. The Unit will be rolling out its programme of spot checks over the remainder of 2007 primarily focussed on the bigger capital spending Departments. In this connection, the Unit is currently finalising arrangements for spot checks of projects in two other significant capital spending Departments and it expects to commence spot checks in these sectors shortly.

Reports on CEEU spot checks will be conveyed to the relevant Departments. These reports may include advice on the planning, appraisal and execution of specific projects by reference to the VFM framework in place. It will be a matter in the first instance for the relevant Department/ Agency to respond to and action this advice. The CEEU will, however, pay particular attention to follow up on advice it has given in subsequent engagement with relevant Departments and Agencies.

Tax Yield.

Pat Breen

Question:

109 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has had reason to revise his forecast for tax receipts in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17265/07]

Exchequer tax receipts to end-May were, at €18,603 million, just €19 million or 0.1 per cent below profile. They were up 9.6 per cent on the same period last year. This compares with a Budget day target of an increase of 7.8 per cent for 2007 as a whole. While overall tax receipts are almost exactly on target at end-May there are some variations under particular tax heads.

Corporation tax receipts are €221 million or 17.5 per cent above profile.

Customs receipts are €4 million or 3.6 per cent above profile.

VAT receipts were €28 million or 0.4 per cent below profile.

Income Tax receipts are €56 million or 1.1 per cent below profile.

Excise duties were €120 million or 4.7 per cent below profile.

Stamp duties were €16 million or 1.1 per cent below profile.

Capital Taxes were €71 million or 5.8 per cent below profile. Of these, Capital Gains Tax was €79 million or 7.2 per cent below; and Capital Acquisition Tax was €8 million or 5.1 per cent above.

Given the significance of tax payments in the latter part of the year, it is unwise to attempt to draw conclusions about the performance of the economy based on tax receipts at this early stage. The latest available economic estimates show that the economy continues to perform well. Preliminary CSO data for 2006 as a whole indicates that GDP growth was 6.0 per cent while in GNP terms, the growth rate in 2006 was estimated at 7.4 per cent.

In the circumstances I do not see a need to revise our forecast at this stage. However, my Department monitors tax receipts on an ongoing basis and as more data becomes available any significant changes to the expected end year receipts will be signalled once it becomes clear.

Question No. 110 answered with QuestionNo. 106.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

111 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has revised estimates of receipts on stamp duty for the rest of 2007 in view of the changing conditions in the construction industry and the reported decline in property and house sales; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17168/07]

In the period up to the end of May this year, the Exchequer received €1,438 million in stamp duties, which is just €16 million or 1.1 per cent below profile. The end-May figure represents an increase of 11 per cent on the same period last year. The target for the year as a whole is for an increase of 5.6 per cent.

While there may be some variation in the individual tax heads, on the basis of the performance to end-May, there is no need, at this stage, to revise our overall tax forecast. However my Department monitors tax receipts on an ongoing basis. We will take account of the costs arising from policy changes in Stamp Duty for first time buyers and any other significant changes in the expected end of year outlook. All changes in the forecast, as in the past, will be signalled when these changes become clear.

My Department will also be keeping the performance of the overall economy, including the housing market, under continuing review and any changes that appear will be taken into account in our ongoing assessment of the likely outturn for stamp duty receipts at year-end.

Fiscal Policy.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

112 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the ethical investment guidelines being adopted in respect of investments and investment vehicles such as the National Pension Reserve Fund under the remit of his Department; if such investments are made in accordance with United Nations guidelines on ethical investments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17178/07]

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

As set out in the Annual Report of the NPRF Commission for 2006, the Commission is taking specific measures to implement the Principles. Its initial focus is on the development and implementation of a comprehensive proxy voting policy and development of the capacity to engage on ESG issues with the companies in which Fund moneys are invested. It has decided to contract third-party service providers to deliver these services within NPRF policy guidelines and expects that these proxy voting and engagement services will be in place shortly.

Tax Code.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

113 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number and percentage of income earners who are paying tax at the higher rate and at the standard rate for 2006; the anticipated figures for each category for 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17169/07]

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

Tax Year

Exempt(1)

Paying at 20% or less(2)

Paying at greater than 20%

Total

2006*

776,100 35.92%

937,70043.40%

446,70020.68%

2,160,500

2007

845,90038.19%

930,60042.02%

438,20019.79%

2,214,700

Notes

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

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

*Provisional and likely to be revised.

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

Public Service Staff.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

114 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the implications for the public service generally of the recent Labour Court decision that the practice by the Health Service Executive of employing clerical staff provided by an outside agency, on an ongoing basis, breached the terms of national agreements; if he will review the embargo on recruitment in the public service in view of the Labour Court finding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17157/07]

Labour Court Recommendation 18912 related to the engagement of agency workers by the Health Service Executive West region. The Court found that the lack of prior consultation by management with the union (IMPACT) in relation to the engagement of agency workers was in breach of the provisions of Sustaining Progress and Towards 2016. The Court further recommended that the HSE-West should restore staffing levels to their previous levels without the use of agency workers.

This Labour Court recommendation related to particular circumstances in the Health Service Executive West region. It is a matter for individual public service employing bodies to consider whether it has any implications for them but I do not see it as having any implications for the public service generally.

To refer to the "public sector embargo on recruitment" does not properly reflect Government policy on public service numbers. There has not been any embargo on recruitment. The Government has, over the last number of years, followed a policy under which growth in public service employment has slowed overall. The Government will continue to control and regulate numbers employed in the public service within agreed ceilings. The number employed is kept under constant review given the importance of striking an appropriate balance between the need, on the one hand, to provide resources to improve front-line services and cater for demographic pressures and the need, on the other, to control and regulate overall numbers in the context of providing value for money for the public expenditure involved.

This strategy will govern decisions about employment in public services. It is a matter for each Minister and Department to manage their employment levels within this strategy.

Social Finance Foundation.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

115 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when the social finance fund announced in budget 2006 will start to issue loans to voluntary projects; the person who will be in charge of the fund; the number of staff members it will have; their responsibilities and their salaries; the criteria they will use for assessing loan applications; the penalties that will be imposed on projects that are unable to meet their repayments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17175/07]

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

The Foundation is a private company established under Company Law and is governed by its Board of Directors under its Memorandum and Articles of Association. The company has received seed funding of €25 million from the Irish banking sector for distribution to qualifying Social Lending Organisations.

The Foundation's lending policies and procedures as well as the appointment, role and responsibilities of staff and their terms and conditions of employment are matters for the Board of the Foundation. The Board is chaired by Mr Peter Quinn and information on the other directors of the Foundation is included in the press release issued by my Department which is available on the Department's website at www.finance.gov.ie. My Department has been advised by the Foundation that the Board is currently in the process of reviewing applications received from Social Lending Organisations and the first loans are expected to issue shortly.

I see the launch of the Foundation as a catalyst for deeper participation by private finance in the area of local and community development and social enterprise.

Tax Yield.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

116 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on the Exchequer returns for the first five months of 2007. [17160/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, the monthly Exchequer Returns are available on my Department's website, as are my Department's tax receipts, expenditure and debt service profiles for 2007. The Exchequer Balance to end-May 2007 showed a surplus of €266 million compared to a surplus of €1,841 million for the same period last year. The Budget day forecast is for a deficit of €546 million for 2007 as a whole. Exchequer tax receipts to end-May were, at €18,603 million, just €19 million or 0.1 per cent below profile. They were up 9.6 per cent on the same period last year. This compares with a Budget day target of an increase of 7.8 per cent for 2007 as a whole.

Corporation tax receipts were €221 million above profile. The other main tax-heads were all below profile. Stamp duties were €16 million below target, VAT was €28 million below, income tax was €56 million below, capital taxes were €71 million below and excise duties were €120 million below target. This resulted in overall tax receipts at end-May being almost exactly in line with profile.

Overall issues for net voted expenditure in the period to end-May 2007 were €88 million or 0.5 per cent above profile. Net voted capital expenditure at end-May was €160 million higher than expected due to stronger than expected progress on a number of projects while net voted current expenditure was €72 million below profile.

Tax Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

117 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the expected returns to the Exchequer from the proposed carbon tax in a single year; if the level of this tax has been agreed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17248/07]

The Programme for Government signals that a carbon tax/levy will be introduced over the lifetime of this Government. The matter of the introduction of a carbon tax is one of the issues to be considered by the new Commission on Taxation to be established under the Programme. Consequently, at this stage, the precise design of such a tax has yet to be determined. This will, of course, form an important part of the normal deliberative process of the Government in setting fiscal and environmental policy. Deputies will recall, however, that the Programme for Government indicates that the phasing-in of a carbon levy will be on a revenue neutral basis, so it is not intended that its introduction will lead to any net Exchequer revenue increase or net addition to the overall tax burden.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

118 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the volume of complaints received in relation to errors and problems in the statement of certificates of tax free allowances and tax credits; the length of time it takes for errors in tax certificates to be corrected; the volume of queries being dealt with through the on-line system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17181/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they are not in a position to provide information on the volume of complaints in relation to tax-free allowances and tax credits. If a taxpayer requests an amendment to a Tax Credit Certificate this is not recorded as a complaint. Revenue have further advised that by the 9th February last, they had completed the bulk issue of 2,194,174 Tax Credit Certificates (TCCs) to PAYE taxpayers, reflecting the changes announced in the 2007 Budget. Revenue identified a small number of certificates that contained errors and these were rectified automatically.

A further 859,156 TCCs issued in the period to 21 June, 2007. These relate to cases where individual taxpayers have advised Revenue of changed circumstances, have requested reviews, have claimed additional credits and allowances or sought duplicate certificates. In general where a PAYE taxpayer requests changes to their tax credits or allowances an amended TCC will issue within 20 working days of the request being received.

In relation to the on-line self-service facility now available to PAYE taxpayers, Revenue have informed me that 67,823 transactions were carried out using this facility from 1 January to 3 June this year.

Martin Ferris

Question:

119 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his plans to increase restrictions on the use of specified tax reliefs by high income individuals. [17255/07]

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

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

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

the various sectoral and area based property tax incentives,

certain exemptions including artistic income and patent royalties,

the reliefs for donations, and

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

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

I do not intend to introduce any further restrictions on the use of specified tax reliefs at this time. I would point out, however, that Finance Act 2007 introduced technical amendments to the restriction which will help to ensure that the measure will work as intended. Included in these amendments are provisions to enable the Revenue Commissioners to seek whatever information may be necessary from individuals affected by the restriction, so as to ensure that Revenue are in a position to monitor and assess the impact of the restriction in terms of numbers affected, the additional tax paid and the nature of the reliefs restricted.

Proposed Legislation.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

120 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his legislative priorities for the 30th Dáil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17159/07]

My specific legislative priorities will be formulated in the context of the implementation of the Programme for Government over the coming years. It may be helpful, however, to set out a list of current legislative priorities for my Department:—

Bills Published

Finance (No. 2) Bill 2007

This Bill provides for the amendment of Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999. This Bill has been published and is to be considered by the Dáil before the summer recess.

Ministers and Secretaries (Ministers of State) Bill 2007

This Bill provides for the increase in the number of Ministers of State who may be appointed by the Government under Section 1(1) of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1977. This Bill has been published and is to be considered by the Dáil before the summer recess.

Markets in Financial Instruments and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2007

While the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive has been transposed by Statutory Instrument (S.I. 60 of 2007), some complementary adjustments require primary legislation through this Bill. The Bill is also being availed of to make necessary technical amendments to various Acts. This Bill is to be restored to the Dáil Order Paper by way of a Government Chief Whip's Motion.

Ethics in Public Office (Amendment) Bill 2007

The main purpose of this Bill is to amend the Ethics in Public Office Acts so as to require office holders and Oireachtas members to seek the opinion of the Standards in Public Office Commission before accepting significant benefits from a friend for personal reasons. The Bill is currently on the Seanad Order Paper.

Bills yet to be Published

Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill

The purpose of the Bill is to widen the remit of the Ombudsman to include a range of additional bodies and to make provision regarding administrative procedures. Publication is expected in the latter half of 2007.

Financial Services Regulation Bill

The purpose of this Bill is to consolidate and simplify financial services legislation in accordance with the Government's Better Regulation agenda. An advisory Forum is being established to assist and advise the Department in the completion of this project. It is currently envisaged that Heads of Bill will be delivered one year after the establishment of the Forum, currently scheduled for the third quarter of 2007.

Tax Code.

James Reilly

Question:

121 Deputy James Reilly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on reform of the stamp duty system, exempting from stamp duty any house purchased by a person with a disability due to the appropriateness of that house for their disability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17246/07]

Stamp duty is a tax on certain documents, generally legal documents, used in transferring property or in creating rights for the parties concerned. The stamp duty code generally does not provide exemptions based on an individual's particular circumstances and introducing such a provision would represent a significant departure from normal stamp duty rules. However, I have been advised by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government that a scheme of disabled persons grants is operated by local authorities with capital provision from that Department.

These grants are designed to meet the needs of persons who are either physically handicapped or are suffering from severe mental handicap or severe mental illness. Where a new dwelling is being bought or built a maximum grant of €12,700 is payable. In the case of adaptation of an existing dwelling, 90% of the approved cost of the works is available up to an effective maximum grant of €20,320. Full details of the scheme and the conditions applicable are available from the local authority in whose area the dwelling is situated.

The Finance (No. 2) Bill 2007 provides that stamp duty will be abolished on any house purchased by a first-time buyer. A disabled person, who is a first-time buyer, may avail of this exemption. The Deputy will appreciate that stamp duty is a significant contributor to the Exchequer and stamp duty receipts allow for a broader tax base than would otherwise be possible. These receipts form an important element of State revenues which permits Government spending on services such as health and education.

Tax Collection.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

122 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the amount of outstanding uncollected taxes; the proportion of same the Revenue Commissioners expect to recover; if new measures are planned to assist in the collection of outstanding taxes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17172/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the tax debt outstanding at 31 March 2007 and as reported in its annual report was €1,107million. This represents 1.8% of gross receipts, a level which is exceptionally low by international standards. The amount under appeal was €315million leaving the remainder, €792million, available for collection.

The debt of €792m represents a snapshot of the debt at a particular point in time [31 March 2007] and is a constantly changing figure as additional debt arises and activity by Revenue results in debt being collected. This changing element of the debt composition makes it difficult to accurately predict the likely reduction in the debt figure. However, Revenue estimate that the collectible debt of €792m, plus any additional debts that subsequently arise for the same period, will be reduced by up to 97% over a five year period. The remaining debt will be under control, under appeal or at enforcement. Revenue is not in a position to estimate the likely collection from debt currently under appeal.

The strategies and methodologies adopted by Revenue to achieve a reduction over a five-year period are subject to annual review and evaluation that is carried out within the context of the business planning process. In the context of the preparation of a new Statement of Strategy for 2008-2010, Revenue will be considering the appropriate strategies and targets in relation to debt management for the period ahead.

Decentralisation Programme.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

123 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the discussions he has had with other Government Departments or State agencies who are concerned at the reported potential loss of up to 20% of the 1,700 specialists whose positions have been earmarked for decentralisation as a result of the Government’s decentralisation programme; the steps being taken to address these concerns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17177/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, less than 1,000 of the 7,200 Civil Service posts covered by the Decentralisation Programme or 10% of the overall programme is composed of professional and technical posts. While the take up from the professional and technical staff has been low to date, in the region of 140 professional and technical personnel have already been assigned to posts that are decentralising.

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

Having met with the Secretaries General of each Civil Service department decentralising in full, the DIG is generally satisfied that a prudent approach is being taken by each organisation in relation to assessing the risks involved and the adoption of appropriate measures to manage business risk.

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

I am pleased to report that there has been some positive engagement with the relevant unions in a number of individual organisations.

As the Deputy will also be aware, there are, in addition to the professional and technical grades in the Civil Service, specialists posts within the State Agencies which are due to decentralise under the Decentralisation Programme. The DIG noted in its latest Report that while progress has been made by some State Agencies, there has been a marked lack of action in some others. The DIG has met with CEOs from a number of State Agencies to get an overview of progress to date and to identify the challenges remaining in implementing the Government policy.

The main issues facing the State Agencies are those relating to the filling of posts in undersubscribed locations, the placing of staff choosing to remain in Dublin and promotion arrangements. These issues are the subject of ongoing contacts between my Department and ICTU.

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

Energy Resources.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

124 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the tax incentive measures he will introduce to ensure that Ireland meets the new target agreed by EU leaders of increasing renewable energy to 20% of all energy use by 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17180/07]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Furthermore, the Programme for Government signals that a carbon tax/levy will be introduced over the lifetime of this Government. The matter of the introduction of a carbon tax is one of the issues to be considered by the new Commission on Taxation to be established under the Programme. Consequently, at this stage, the precise design of such a tax has yet to be determined. This will, of course, form an important part of the normal deliberative process of the Government in setting fiscal and environmental policy. Deputies will recall, however, that the Programme for Government indicates that the phasing-in of a carbon levy will be on a revenue neutral basis, so it is not intended that its introduction will lead to any net Exchequer revenue increase or net addition to the overall tax burden.

Decentralisation Programme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

125 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position regarding the decentralisation of Revenue jobs to Listowel, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17259/07]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

157 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position on the decentralisation of Revenue jobs to Listowel, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16753/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 125 and 157 together.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Office of Public Works (OPW) has signed a lease for the premises in Listowel and has entered into a contract for the fit-out of these premises. The programme of works is now nearing completion. The handover of the building to the OPW will take place following certification of these works to the satisfaction of the OPW. A joint (OPW and developer) inspection of the works is scheduled for the week beginning Monday 25th June 2007 and a handover date will be decided following this inspection.

After the formal handover of the building to OPW, Revenue will be in a position to complete their networking and telephony installations and the building will be furnished ready for occupation.

Financial Services Regulation.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

126 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the recent criticism from the consumer panel of the Irish Financial Regulatory Authority to provide details of overcharging by financial institutions; if he will raise these criticisms with the authority; if he will initiate and review the regulator’s operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17158/07]

I am aware of the report of the Consultative Consumer Panel referred to by the Deputy and the recommendation that more analysis of overcharging by financial institutions should be provided by the Financial Regulator.

My Department has been advised by the Financial Regulator that it has implemented a set of General Principles to deal with issues of charging, which were published in the Financial Regulator's 2004 Annual Report. Where the Financial Regulator considers that it is in the public interest, for example, where there are significant difficulties in the repayment process or where the amounts concerned are large, the Financial Regulator may decide that it is appropriate to put a notice in the national media. The Financial Regulator does not see it as necessary or appropriate to publicise every overcharging issue, bearing in mind that the firm will have informed the affected customers, reimbursed and compensated customers and made the appropriate changes to the control environment. The Financial Regulator advised the Consumer Panel of this approach in responding to the Panel's recommendations.

My Department has also been informed by the Financial Regulator that an update on charging issues will be provided in its 2006 Annual Report, which will be published next month. The Financial Regulator will continue to monitor reimbursement programmes as part of the ongoing supervisory function with affected firms and ensure that reimbursement programmes are completed in as timely a manner as possible through monitoring and enforcement of the Consumer Protection Code.

Ensuring strong and effective public accountability is a key element of the legislation establishing the Financial Regulator. In addition to the annual reports of the Consultative Panels, the major accountability mechanisms include:

the Annual Report of the Financial Regulator is laid before each House of the Oireachtas

the Minister for Finance can determine the form of the Financial Regulator's Strategic Plan which is also laid before each House of the Oireachtas

there is a requirement for the Chair, Chief Executive Officer and Consumer Director of the Financial Regulator to appear before the Joint Committee of the Oireachtas that is responsible for examining matters relating to the Financial Regulator and to provide the Committee with whatever information it requires

the Annual Accounts of the Financial Regulator are audited by the C&AG; a Value For Money Examination of the Financial Regulator has recently been finalised by the C&AG and will be published shortly.

Public accountability of the Financial Regulator is also achieved through the extensive consultation undertaken on significant regulatory issues with all the main stakeholders. A February 2007 IMF study of 32 countries that overhauled their regulatory institutions over recent years concluded that the Irish system and structure of financial regulation was first in terms of accountability arrangements as compared with other international single financial regulators.

As recommended in the Final Report of the High Level Interdepartmental Committee on the recommendations contained in the Consumer Strategy Group Report my Department will commence a review of the consumer protection role of the Financial Regulator next year. In view of the extensive accountability arrangements which I have outlined, I have no plans for any further review of the Financial Regulator's operations.

Tax Code.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

127 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the increasing number of high net worth individuals avoiding capital acquisitions tax on multi-million house transfers as a consequence of Section 86 of the Consolidated Capital Acquisitions Act 2003; if an audit of such transactions has been conducted by the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17174/07]

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.

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 were made in the Finance Act 2007. These amendments were a result of Revenue's experience in administering claims under this section, including taking issues before the Appeal Commissioners.

Firstly, relief is not 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 requires 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.

Joe Costello

Question:

128 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his proposals for changes for mortgage interest relief for first time buyers and those who bought a house in the past seven years in regard to the commitment contained in the Programme for Government; the estimate of the cost of the proposed changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17153/07]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to increase in Budget 2008 the ceiling on mortgage interest relief for first-time buyers and those who bought a house in the past seven years, from €8,000 to €10,000 for single people and from €16,000 to €20,000 for couples or widowed persons. The estimated cost of this measure is about €10 million in a full year in 2007 terms.

The Programme also contains the commitment that, as income taxes are reduced, the rate of mortgage interest relief will be kept at 20% for all home owners. The cost of this will form part of the overall cost of the commitment to reduce the standard rate of tax which is to be achieved over the lifetime of the Government if economic resources allow.

I would draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that the tax measures in the Government Programme will be implemented subject to the controlling economic and fiscal framework and that the Government are committed to operating a responsible fiscal policy characterised by broad budget balance and a declining debt burden.

In addition, the Deputy will be aware that last week I published the Finance (No. 2) Bill 2007 which provides for a stamp duty exemption for a first-time purchaser of a house or apartment which he or she occupies as his or her only or principal place of residence. The Government intend to have the Bill enacted before the Dáil rises for the Summer recess.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

129 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the tax incentive measures he will introduce to ensure that Ireland meets the target agreed by EU leaders of increasing biofuels to 10% of all vehicle fuel by 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17179/07]

While the promotion of biofuel is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, I am pleased to inform the Deputy that in the Finance Act 2006 I provided for significant tax measures to promote biofuels in Ireland. This scheme, which received the necessary EU State Aid approval, commenced in November 2006 and will:

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

cost over €200m over 5 years;

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

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

help reduce our dependency on conventional fossil fuels, and

stimulate activity in the agricultural sector.

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

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

The Deputy might wish to note that there are additional non-fiscal measures that can be used to promote biofuels and reach the targets referred to. To provide further market certainty and encourage projects of scale, the Government recently announced its intention to move to a Biofuels Obligation by 2009, with targets for market penetration for biofuels of 5.75% in 2009 and 10% by 2020. The scheme is included in the Programme for Government in conjunction with a commitment to work with our EU partners to require biofuels used in transport to comply with an environmental certification system which incorporates sustainability criteria in terms of biofuel production.

Construction Sector.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

130 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the over-dependence of the economy on the construction sector; and the steps he will take to cushion against the economic effects of any downturn in this sector. [17252/07]

Investment in construction has been driven by strong activity in the residential, commercial and infrastructural sectors. The residential sector has been particularly strong, with the high demand for housing being underpinned by strong economic fundamentals and a rapidly growing population. A gradual easing back of housing output is envisaged in the coming years, with output levelling off at more sustainable long-term levels. However, commitment to the NDP at 5.4% of GNP, will inter alia, ensure that spare capacity from one sector is available in the other commercial and infrastructural sectors.

Tax Code.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

131 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on whether further reductions in income tax would make the Exchequer increasingly dependent on other more insecure sources of tax revenue such as those related to property and consumption; and if the proposals contained in the Programme for Government to reduce both the standard and higher rate of income tax are therefore imprudent. [17256/07]

The Programme for Government sets out clearly the Government's guiding economic and fiscal principles for the next five years. We are fully committed to a responsible fiscal policy, including keeping the budget in broad balance.

Within these broad principles, our first priority in the tax area will be to continue to support low and middle income earners, via the tax credits, bands and the PRSI system. The Programme for Government clearly states that once these commitments have been met, any additional resources will be targeted at further enhancing the rewards for work. We are committed to reducing the standard and higher rates of income tax over the lifetime of the Government if economic resources allow.

I would point out that the main consumption taxes are VAT and excise duty. Taken together these taxes account for some 43 per cent of total forecast tax revenues in 2007, whereas they accounted for 44 per cent and 46 per cent of total taxes in 1997 and 1987 respectively.

While revenues from property related taxes such as stamp duty and capital gains tax have made an increasing contribution to the Exchequer in recent years, we are not overly reliant on these receipts. Care has been taken not to plan the public finances around an assumption that receipts from stamp duty and capital gains tax will continue to grow in future years as they have done in recent years.

I reject the Deputy's suggestion that the policies and commitments in the Programme for Government are imprudent. They are based on a sustainable and responsible fiscal policy.

Proposed Legislation.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

132 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the Government plans amendments to the Ethics in Public Office Acts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17163/07]

In April, I published the Ethics in Public Office (Amendment) Bill 2007. The main purpose of this Bill is to amend the Ethics in Public Office Acts so as to require office holders and Oireachtas members to seek the opinion of the Standards in Public Office Commission before accepting significant benefits from a friend for personal reasons. The Bill is currently on the Order Paper of the Seanad.

Tax Code.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

133 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his proposals to weight vehicle registration tax in favour of cars with lower emissions; the estimated annual cost of this proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17167/07]

In my 2007 Budget Statement, I announced that I planned to introduce changes to the current VRT system to take greater account of environmental issues, and in particular Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions. The Programme for Government re-affirms this commitment.

A public consultation in this regard has taken place. Work on the matter is ongoing and a range of possible options are being considered at this stage. It is intended that the changes made to the VRT system will be broadly revenue neutral.

Financial Services Regulation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

134 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when, in view of the evidence of increased activity by sub prime lenders, legislative changes in respect of this type of predatory lending will be introduced in order to give consumers greater protection. [17251/07]

Sub-prime lenders are regulated in Ireland in respect of their lending activities under the Consumer Credit Act 1995. The Act makes detailed provision for the form and content of loan agreements and for advertising of consumer credit. The Financial Regulator has powers of investigation, review and enforcement in relation to matters covered by the Act. Consumer complaints about the performance of creditors with respect to their obligations under the Act also fall within the remit of the Financial Services Ombudsman. The Consumer Protection Act 2007 established the National Consumer Agency with an extensive remit including enforcement powers in relation to unfair commercial practices and unfair terms in consumer contracts. In the case of regulated financial service providers these powers may be exercised by the Financial Regulator.

I am aware that some lending activities (including those of some non-deposit taking lenders) fall outside the scope of the Financial Regulator's statutory Consumer Protection Code (CPC) and therefore borrowers do not benefit from the additional safeguards which the Code provides. The Third Money Laundering Directive, which is due to be transposed into Irish law by 15 December 2007, requires that financial institutions, as defined in the Directive, be subject to enhanced supervision. All non-deposit taking lenders and mortgage providers fall under the terms of this Directive and the application of the CPC where it does not currently apply is being considered in this context.

Decentralisation Programme.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

135 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the latest information available from the central applications facility in respect of applications from civil servants and from other public servants currently located in Dublin who wish to transfer to new locations outside of Dublin under the Government’s decentralisation programme; the way this compares with the Government target of 10,300; if agreement has been reached with all public service unions regarding promotional opportunities for persons who chose to move and those who opt to remain where they are; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17176/07]

Over ten thousand six hundred civil and public servants have applied to relocate under the Programme. Of these, approximately 5,600 or 53% are currently based in Dublin. The Central Applications Facility (CAF) remains open and continues to receive applications. My Department has requested an update of the CAF data from the Public Appointments Service and will make this available when received.

Discussions have concluded on a number of human resource and industrial relations matters and are being progressed on other issues. At the end of April 2007, over 2,700 staff had been assigned to decentralising posts. It is expected that over 1,000 will be in place this summer in over 20 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 33 of the decentralisation towns with approximately 2,000 staff transferred. The precise numbers moving within that time frame will depend on the availability of property as well as timeframes for completion of fit out and installation of necessary ICT (information communications technology) and telecommunication cabling and equipment.

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

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

In addition, the Public Appointments Service operates a system which will match Dublin based posts with people wishing to remain in Dublin. Any decentralising organisation which anticipates that it will have staff wishing to remain in Dublin who cannot be placed within the organisation will engage with the Public Appointments Service in the placement of these individuals.

Following detailed discussions with the civil service unions, the precise operation of these arrangements was amended earlier this year to improve their overall effectiveness. The aim is to achieve a close alignment between the assignment of staff to Dublin posts and the readiness of Departments to release staff at particular grade levels. In that context, Departments and Offices provide updates to the Public Appointments Service in relation to posts that require to be filled and staff that require to be placed through these arrangements. This will be an ongoing process throughout the transition phase of the Programme.

Discussions are ongoing with the unions representing professional & technical staff in the Civil Service on the range of industrial relations issues arising, including promotion arrangements and placing of staff who wish to remain in Dublin.

The position in relation to the State Agencies is of course more complex. The Government has always said that this is a voluntary Programme. Any staff member wishing to remain in Dublin will be accommodated with a public service job in Dublin. However, there is a need to balance the business needs of the organisation in furthering its relocation objective with the needs of staff remaining in Dublin. In these circumstances promotions policy must take account of the reality of Decentralisation. It is my strong view that these issues can be resolved through dialogue and negotiations.

David Stanton

Question:

136 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 137 of 18 October, 2006, the number of people who have indicated their desire to decentralise to Youghal in the Public Appointments Service and Valuation Office respectively; if decentralisation is on target for mid 2009; if the Office of Public Works completed the purchase of a site for the Youghal decentralised offices by the end of 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17245/07]

As part of the overall decentralisation programme, it is intended that 100 staff of the Public Appointments Service (PAS) and 100 staff of the Valuation Office will be decentralised to Youghal, Co. Cork. I am advised by PAS and the Valuation Office that the number of people who have indicated their desire to decentralise to Youghal with these offices is 100 and 28 respectively. In accordance with the indicative timescale set out in the report from the Decentralisation Implementation Group both offices are working towards decentralising to Youghal in mid 2009.

I am informed by the Office of Public Works (OPW) that they have agreed terms to acquire a local authority site in Youghal from Cork County Council. The legal formalities are being pursued by the Chief State Solicitors Office in consultation with Cork County Council's legal representatives.

Garda Stations.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

137 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position regarding the acquisition of a site for a new Garda station at Tralee, County Kerry; the position regarding the provision of a new Garda station at Castleisland, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17258/07]

A notice seeking expressions of interest from property owners or developers wishing to provide sites for new facilities in the Tralee area for both An Garda Síochána and the Courts Service was advertised earlier this year. The Commissioners of Public Works are, at present, considering the proposals which were received in response to the advertisement, as well as a number of other options. It is anticipated that this process will be completed in the near future.

A revised sketch scheme for a new Garda Station at Castleisland was signed off by Garda Authorities in April 2007. A Part 9 planning process has commenced and the final date for receipt of submissions is 11th July 2007. It is hoped to invite tenders in October 2007.

Tax Code.

Joe Costello

Question:

138 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his proposals for a review of current VAT classifications with a view to reducing the rate of VAT applied to certain environmental goods and services in regard to the commitment contained in the Programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17152/07]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to examine the scope for reducing the VAT rate on environmental goods and services from the standard VAT rate of 21 per cent to the reduced rate of 13.5 per cent. I should mention that this is just one of a number of initiatives in the Programme aimed at delivering a cleaner environment.

In carrying out this examination account will be taken of the growing range of environmental and renewable energy products which present opportunities to reduce our dependence on conventional energy systems and can make a contribution to tackling Climate Change. For example, energy-efficient insulation materials, renewable energy systems including wind, solar and geothermal systems, and the options arising in the bio-energy crop sector will be examined.

In considering a change in VAT arrangements for these, or indeed any other, goods and services, it is important to bear in mind that the treatment of goods and services is subject to EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply.

It is important however to point out that the reduced rate of VAT of 13.5 per cent may currently be applied to insulation materials and renewable energy systems where these products are supplied and installed as a single contract and where the VAT-exclusive cost of the goods does not exceed two-thirds of the total VAT-exclusive charge to the customer. I understand that the bulk of supply and install contracts are likely to meet this so-called "two-thirds" rule, resulting in the reduced VAT rate of 13.5 per cent rate being applied. Consequently, under existing VAT arrangements, the reduced VAT rate can apply to environmental products where they form part of such a supply and installation arrangement.

The reduced VAT rate of 13.5 per cent also currently applies to the supply of all fuel products, including wood pellets, used for home heating and light. Ireland is one of only eight Member States that apply a reduced VAT rate to the supply of fuel products used for home heating and light.

The purpose of our proposed VAT review is to examine whether there is scope within EU VAT law to further extend the application of the reduced VAT rate in the area of environmental goods and services. This and other measures under the Programme for Government clearly demonstrate the Government's commitment to addressing the environmental challenges which we face.

Commission on Taxation.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

139 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when the Commission on Taxation as proposed in the Programme for Government will be established. [17253/07]

The Programme for Government contains certain commitments in the area of taxation policy including a commitment to the establishment of a Commission on Taxation which will have a wide remit to consider the structure of the taxation system. The Commission will be specifically charged with considering and making recommendations on the following:

Examine the balance achieved between taxes collected on income, capital and spending and report on it

Review all tax expenditures with a view to recommending the discontinuation of those that are unjustifiable on cost/benefit grounds

Consider options for the future financing of local government

In the context of maintaining a strong economy, investigate fiscal measures to protect and enhance the environment including the introduction of a carbon tax

I will be bringing proposals to Government in the near future on matters relating to the establishment of the proposed Commission including its membership and terms of reference. Pending consideration by the Government of these proposals, I am not in a position to elaborate further on matters pertaining to the Commission or its work programme.

Tax Code.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

140 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his proposals to use the taxation system to encourage good environmental behaviour and discourage poor practice in regard to the commitment contained in the Programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17155/07]

I accept that the tax system can be used either to encourage or deter certain behaviours that have impacts on the environments. In this regard I have been to the fore in using the tax system to promote environmental policies; examples include

excise relief of over €200 million for biofuels over 5 years from 2006

50% VRT relief for flexible fuel vehicles, hybrid cars and electric cars

the inclusion of recycling companies in BES/Seed Capital Schemes from 2007, and

extending the tax relief for corporate investment in renewable energy.

In addition, work is continuing with respect to the commitment in last year's Budget, to introduce changes to the current VRT and Motor Tax systems to take greater account of environmental issues, and in particular CO2 emissions, from a target date of 1 January 2008.

Furthermore, the Programme for Government signals that a carbon tax/levy will be introduced over the lifetime of this Government. The matter of the introduction of a carbon tax is one of the issues to be considered by the new Commission on Taxation to be established under the Programme. Consequently, at this stage, the precise design of such a tax has yet to be determined. This will, of course, form an important part of the normal deliberative process of the Government in setting fiscal and environmental policy. Deputies will recall, however, that the Programme for Government indicates that the phasing-in of a carbon levy will be on a revenue neutral basis, so it is not intended that its introduction will lead to any net Exchequer revenue increase or net addition to the overall tax burden.

Revenue Commissioners Reports.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

141 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on the recently published Revenue Commissioners Annual Report for 2006. [17162/07]

I was pleased to note the strong performance on a number of fronts recorded in the eighty-fourth Annual Report of the Revenue Commissioners. The 2006 Report continues the practice of reporting on Revenue's Statement of Strategy, in accordance with the Public Service Management Act 1997. This is the second report on Revenue's Statement of Strategy 2005-2007 which highlights three main Goals:

To ensure everyone complies with their tax and Customs responsibilities;

To be a capable, flexible, results-oriented organisation, and,

To play its part nationally and internationally.

The three Goals and their associated strategies are reported on in detail in the annual Report, some of the highlights of which are as follows:

2006 was another year of very strong tax collection performance. Net receipts amounted to €45.5 billion, some €6 billion above the corresponding figure for 2005 and €3.7 billion above the Budget estimate.

Special investigations yielded a total of €119.6 million in 2006 of which €88.3 million arose from the Single Premium Insurance Policy and Offshore Assets investigations. The cumulative total from special investigations currently stands at €2.3 billion.

Seven convictions for serious tax and duty evasion were secured in 2006. A further 515 convictions were obtained for summary offences and there were 1,295 convictions for non-filing of tax returns.

Revenue continued the sectoral approach to audit. New projects initiated included the construction sector, publicans, computer consultants, coffee shops, restaurants and take-aways, hotels and rental income. The construction sector project alone yielded €125 million in tax, interest and penalties. Some 1,600 site visits identified over 1,000 cases not registered with Revenue and almost 500 sub-contractors who were reclassified as employees. This project is continuing in 2007.

Total audit and assurance check activity yielded €691.8 million and the names of 601 tax defaulters who concluded audit settlements amounting to €154 million were published.

A range of on-line and telephony self-service options were provided for PAYE taxpayers. It is now open to any of the 2.2 million PAYE customers to view their tax records, claim a wide range of tax credits, apply for repayments, request a tax review and change personal details — all on-line.

The Revenue On-Line Service (ROS) continued its strong growth in 2006. The number of payment transactions made via ROS increased by 40.48% to 408,575 while the value of the payments made via ROS increased by 37.19% to €16.6 billion.

To help ease the regulatory burden on business, less frequent filing of PAYE/PRSI returns was introduced in 2006 for employers whose annual PAYE/PRSI liability was €30,000 or less. A similar initiative has recently been extended to VAT.

Arrears as a percentage of total gross receipts now stand at an historic low of 1.8% — one of the lowest of any tax administration worldwide. Overall debt was €1,107 million in 2006.

Drugs with an estimated street value of €8.6 million were seized; tobacco with a value of almost €18.5 million and almost €725,000 of suspected criminal cash was detained by Revenue's Customs Service.

I announced in my Budget statement in December that Revenue would undertake a series of simplification measures to make the process of claiming reliefs as easy as possible in as many areas as possible. The first of these measures, the operation of DIRT — free accounts for people aged over 65 and the permanently incapacitated (subject to income limits in both cases) is now up and running and others are due to follow in 2007 and 2008.

While the volume of Revenue's business increased significantly during 2006, the cost of administration as a percentage of Gross Receipts fell to 0.77%, down from 0.81% in the previous year. This figure, which is now at a record low and which compares very favourably with other Tax and Customs Administrations worldwide, is a useful measure of administrative efficiency and clearly demonstrates Revenue's commitment to delivering value for money and maximising benefits from new technology .

I am satisfied that Revenue's Annual Report for 2006 reflects considerable success in all of its business areas, as borne out by the strong receipts and successful compliance activity, and displays Revenue's commitment to develop and enhance service provision across all of its activities.

Agreements with Members.

James Bannon

Question:

142 Deputy James Bannon asked the Taoiseach if the cost of deals with independent TD’s valued at hundreds of millions will be reimbursed to the taxpayer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16995/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

143 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach if his Department was consulted in regard to the special arrangements made to meet the requirements of individual Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas in return for the support for the Government; the extent to which the total costs involved have been assessed, the arrangements made or expected to be made to meet the necessary financial requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17637/07]

Billy Timmins

Question:

144 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Taoiseach the cost to his Department of the agreement between the Government and independent TDs Finian McGrath, Jackie Healy-Rae and Michael Lowry; the breakdown of same; the projects involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18033/07]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

145 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Taoiseach, further to the agreement reached with Deputy Michael Lowry in relation to support for the Government, the changes to his Department’s plans caused by this agreement; the line items of the agreement that fall within his portfolio; the increases, decreases or reallocations of spending caused by this agreement; the cost of each line item in this agreement in so far as it affects his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16932/07]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

146 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Taoiseach, further to the agreement reached with Deputy Beverly Flynn in relation to support for the Government, the changes to his Department’s plans caused by this agreement; the line items of the agreement that fall within his portfolio; the increases, decreases or reallocations of spending caused by this agreement; the cost of each line item in this agreement in so far as it affects his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16947/07]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

147 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Taoiseach, further to the agreement reached with Deputy Finian McGrath in relation to support for the Government, the changes to his Department’s plans caused by this agreement; the line items of the agreement that fall within his portfolio; the increases, decreases or reallocations of spending caused by this agreement; the cost of each line item in this agreement in so far as it affects his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16962/07]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

148 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Taoiseach, further to the agreement reached with Deputy Jackie Healy-Rae in relation to support for the Government, the changes to his Department’s plans caused by this agreement; the line items of the agreement that fall within his portfolio; the increases, decreases or reallocations of spending caused by this agreement; the cost of each line item in this agreement in so far as it affects his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16977/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 to 148, inclusive, together.

These are political agreements that I have entered into as Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party with individual independent Deputies. These agreements are confidential but I am happy to confirm to the House that they are as always based on the Programme for Government which incorporates the National Development Plan, approved Government Programmes and Annual Estimates for capital and current expenditure.

As Deputies will be aware, such arrangements have existed over the past ten years and, in all instances, I have used my best endeavours to deliver them.

Departmental Projects.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

149 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Taoiseach the projects approved in his Department in 2007 which exceed the threshold for a cost benefit analysis; and the person who conducted the analysis in each case. [18189/07]

There are no projects approved by my Department this year that exceed the threshold for a cost benefit analysis.

Employment Rights.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

150 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will assist a person (details supplied) in County Cork in obtaining their P45. [17068/07]

The Revenue Commissioners have advised me that an employer has an obligation to present the relevant parts of form P45 when the employee ceases employment.

Should a reasonable request be refused, the Revenue Commissioners advise that the local Revenue office can provide assistance in obtaining the form P45, on receipt of all relevant employment facts from the employee. The person concerned should submit details of his employment to Cork North West Branch, Government Buildings, Sullivan's Quay, Cork and advise that he has been unable to get a P45 from his former employer.

Disabled Drivers.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

151 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if a revision or review can or will be undertaken to remedy the inconsistency in the degree to which persons suffering from certain disabilities do not qualify under Disabled Drivers Disabled Passengers 1994 Tax Concession Regulations in order to acquire or adapt a vehicle for work purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17117/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

180 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when it is expected to implement the recommendations of the inter-Departmental group dealing with the Disabled Drivers Disabled Passengers Tax Concession 1994 Regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17635/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 151 and 180 together.

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

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

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

Decentralisation Programme.

Niall Collins

Question:

152 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position in relation to the decentralisation of the office of the Revenue Commissioners to Newcastle West, County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16527/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a site for the new decentralised offices in Newcastle West was purchased by the Office of Public Works (OPW) from Limerick County Council in 2005. Following due process a preferred tenderer was identified and a planning application was lodged with Limerick County Council which was granted on 26 March 2007.

Working drawings and other documents are being prepared and on completion OPW anticipates being in a position to place the contract.

I am advised by Revenue that OPW are not in a position to advise of a likely completion date at this time. Revenue, however, are ready to occupy the building as soon as it becomes available.

Tax Code.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

153 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reason a person (details supplied) in County Wexford is being taxed on their income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16597/07]

I have been informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a certificate of tax credits has issued to the taxpayer and her employer. In the absence of such a certificate employers are required to deduct tax on an emergency basis. The taxpayer's employer is now in a position to repay any excess tax deducted. If the taxpayer has any further queries on this matter, she should contact her local tax office who will be glad to be of assistance.

Decentralisation Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

154 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his plans to relocate staff from the Revenue Commissioners to Roscommon Town; the number of staff to be relocated and the timetable involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16678/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that it is currently planned to relocate up to ten officers to Roscommon Town. The relocation process is under discussion and once this is finalised it is expected that the officers will be in place within a short timeframe.

Driving Tests.

Denis Naughten

Question:

155 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the steps he proposes to take to relocate the driving test centre in Roscommon Town; his views on whether the current site and lack of public toilet facilities is acceptable; the steps taken to date by the Office of Public Works to address this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16688/07]

There are no plans to relocate the existing driving test centre at Circular Road, Roscommon. The existing test centre is due to be upgraded shortly and works will include improved toilet facilities.

Departmental Correspondence.

Denis Naughten

Question:

156 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 306 of 20 March, 2007, if the Office of Public Works has received the contracts for sale from the vendors; the status of the purchase of the property; when the purchase will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16691/07]

Further to Parliamentary Question No. 306 of 20th March 2007 and Parliamentary Question No. 193 of 5th April 2007, signed contracts were forwarded to Vendors Solicitor on 7th June 2007. The terms of the contracts provide for closing in 4 weeks from the exchange of contracts.

Question No. 157 answered with QuestionNo. 125.

Site Acquisitions.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

158 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works will approve a site for the new school at Listellick, Tralee, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16754/07]

The Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland act as general agents for the Department of Education & Science in the acquisition of sites for primary schools. A site has been identified which has been technically assessed as suitable.

Negotiations are ongoing with the vendors agent and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this point. When agreement is reached on price, the formal approval of the Department of Education & Science is obtained prior to proceeding to contract.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

159 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the steps he will take in relation to the reform of Stamp Duty; and the way he will compensate those first time buyers who paid huge sums in stamp duty immediately prior to the change in Government policy on the basis of statements by him that there would be no change in the applicable Stamp Duty rates. [16835/07]

The recently published Finance (No. 2) Bill 2007 introduces an exemption from stamp duty for first-time buyers in accordance with the commitments made in the Programme for Government to bring about immediate change to the stamp duty code for first-time buyers.

This provides that deeds presented by first-time buyers to the Revenue Commissioners on or after 30 April 2007 will be exempt from stamp duty. As a deed must be presented to the Revenue Commissioners within 30 of execution, the Bill is drafted to provide for exemption for deeds executed on or after 31 March 2007. The Revenue Commissioners will refund any monies already paid on deeds that benefit from the exemption.

Drainage Schemes.

Michael Ring

Question:

160 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will instruct the Office of Public Works to clean a river (details supplied) in County Mayo. [16849/07]

There are a number of channels in the Lough Mallard area which form part of the Moy Catchment Drainage Scheme and for which the Office of Public Works has a statutory maintenance responsibility under the Arterial Drainage Acts. These channels will be included in this Office's Maintenance Programme for 2008.

Flood Relief.

Michael Ring

Question:

161 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will ascertain from the Office of Public Works if a report has been carried out (details supplied); if so, if he will provide this Deputy with a copy of same; and the action the OPW will take if the local authority will not deal with this issue through the planning process. [16893/07]

As indicated in my predecessor's response of 24th April, 2007 to the Deputy in this matter, Mayo County Council sought a hydrological analysis of the impact of the development in question from the developer. Details of any data available to the Office of Public Works in relation to the condition of the channel were provided to the Council on 2nd April 2007 at their request. As previously indicated to the Deputy the information which accompanied the letter, which consists of cross sections and photographs, are available for viewing in OPW's office in Headford. The Deputy may wish to approach the County Council regarding the availability of the developers report.

The enforcement of planning requirements is a matter for the Local Authority. The OPW has no role in this regard. OPW and Mayo County Council officials are continuing to examine jointly ways of reducing flood risk in Crossmolina.

Michael Ring

Question:

162 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will ascertain from the Office of Public Works the funding that was put in place in relation to the flooding problem in South Mayo. [16894/07]

As indicated in the response by my predecessor of 24th April, 2007 to the House in this matter, Mayo County Council prepared a report on flooding in South Mayo, that identified a number of proposals to solve the problems in the different areas, many of which relate to flooding of roads.

The Office of Public Works is liaising with the Council in relation to the report and will provide assistance where appropriate under the initiative introduced in January this year to help Local Authorities to deal with flooding which occurred last November and December. Measures will be funded where the cost of works is commensurate with the social and economic benefits of the measures required and where the works required are environmentally sustainable. The cost of the works will be met from the overall provision for Flood Relief Projects in Vote 10, Office of Public Works on a project-by-project basis.

Michael Ring

Question:

163 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will ascertain from the Office of Public Works the action they propose to take to resolve the serious flooding problem in south Mayo. [16895/07]

The Office of Public Works has commenced works to alleviate flooding in the Kilmaine area of South Mayo. In this regard, works are ongoing on an overflow channel from Clyard turlough into an OPW scheduled channel of the Corrib — Headford Scheme. It is planned to follow this work with construction of an overflow pipeline into the same channel from Thomastown turlough. It is expected that both these projects will be completed before the onset of winter.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

164 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is not in receipt of tax relief in relation to rent payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16984/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer has received and continues to receive full credit due in respect of rent relief for the years 2006 and 2007.

John Perry

Question:

165 Deputy John Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when a refund will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17030/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a repayment in respect of the named person has been processed and a cheque will issue shortly.

Richard Bruton

Question:

166 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has plans to reorganise benefit in kind to link the structure to emissions; and the way this will impact on the present graded structure depending on mileage. [17096/07]

The benefit-in-kind system on company cars was substantially revised in 2004. Under the revised system the benefit to an employee of a car provided by his or her employer is calculated by reference to the original market price of the car and the employee's annual business mileage. For example, where an employee's annual business mileage is 15,000 miles or less the benefit of the car is calculated at 30% of the original market price of the car. This falls to 6% where the employee's business mileage is 30,001 business miles and over. The tapering of rates ensures that employees who genuinely need to travel significantly in the course of their work incur a lower benefit-in-kind charge.

Work is continuing with respect to the commitment in Budget 2007 to introduce changes to the current VRT system, to take greater account of environmental issues, and in particular CO2 emissions, from a target date of 1 January 2008. A public consultation in this regard has taken place and a range of possible options are being considered at this stage. Following the outcome of this exercise, it may well be appropriate to examine the scope for linking the structure of the benefit-in-kind system to emissions. Any changes would be a matter for consideration in the context of future budgetary policy.

Richard Bruton

Question:

167 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has received a report on reforms in the vehicle registration tax structure; and when he will publish this report. [17097/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, in my 2007 Budget Statement, I announced that I planned to introduce changes to the current VRT system to take greater account of environmental issues, and in particular Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions. The Programme for Government re-affirms this commitment. A public consultation in this regard has taken place. Work on the matter is ongoing and a range of possible options are being considered at this stage. It is intended that the changes made to the VRT system will be broadly revenue neutral.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

168 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when a P21 will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare for the year 1 January 2006 to 31 December 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17112/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that no previous request was received for issue of a P21 balancing statement for 2006. The relevant PAYE balancing statement (Form P21) will issue to the taxpayer in the coming days.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

169 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when VAT exemption status will be awarded to a club (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17113/07]

The position is that the provision of facilities for taking part in sporting and physical education activities, and services closely related thereto, provided by non-profit making organisations are exempt from VAT under the First Schedule to the Value Added Tax Act 1972 (as amended). I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that if the club in question fulfils the appropriate criteria, the services supplied are exempt from VAT. In this regard, there is no specific requirement to apply for the exemption.

Decentralisation Programme.

Michael Creed

Question:

170 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the situation regarding the proposed decentralisation of part of his Department to County Cork. [17222/07]

As part of the overall decentralisation programme, it is intended that 100 staff of the Public Appointments Service (PAS) and 100 staff of the Valuation Office will be decentralised to Youghal, Co. Cork. It is also intended that 100 staff of the Office of Public Works will decentralise to Kanturk, Co Cork. I am informed by PAS and the Valuation Office that the number of people who have indicated their desire to decentralise to Youghal with these offices is 100 and 28 respectively. In accordance with the indicative timescale set out in the report from the Decentralisation Implementation Group both offices are working towards decentralising to Youghal in mid 2009. I am advised by the OPW that they have agreed terms to acquire a local authority site in Youghal from Cork County Council. The legal formalities are being pursued by the Chief State Solicitors Office in consultation with Cork County Council's legal representatives.

I am also advised by the OPW that the number of people who have indicated their desire to decentralise to Kanturk is 90. In accordance with the indicative timescale set out in the report from the Decentralisation Implementation Group the OPW is working towards decentralising to Kanturk by the end of 2008. The acquisition of a suitable site in Kanturk is well advanced.

Tax Code.

Alan Shatter

Question:

171 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the moneys received in respect of each of the tax years from 2002 to 2006 by way of inheritance tax paid by sons and daughters on property inherited from deceased parents. [17238/07]

Alan Shatter

Question:

172 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the moneys received by way of inheritance in each of the years from 2002 to 2006 as a result of a son or daughter inheriting a family home from a deceased parent. [17239/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 171 and 172 together

I should point out to the Deputy that gifts or inheritances of dwelling-houses taken on or after 1 December 1999 are exempt from Capital Acquisitions Tax provided certain conditions relating to prior occupation, ownership of another dwelling-house and continued occupation are met. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that details from inheritance tax returns are not captured in such a way as to provide a basis for compiling the information sought by the Deputy. It is, therefore, not possible to separately identify the inheritance tax relating to property, including the family home, inherited by children from parents from within the overall yield from the tax without conducting an extensive investigation of the individual Revenue records.

The figures of net receipts from all inheritance tax for the years 2002 to 2006 are as follows:

Year

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Inheritance Tax Yield

€128.06m

€130.65m

€171.29m

€196.65m

€299.37m

Natural Heritage Areas.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

173 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position regarding the repair of the carpark at Carrigafoyle Castle, Ballylongford, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17388/07]

The repair of the carpark is a matter for Kerry County Council in the first instance. On completion of works, the Office of Public Works is prepared to make an equitable contribution towards the cost.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

174 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reason tax relief is not available on expenditure on psychotherapy services, even when the practitioner is registered; his estimate of the cost in a full year of extending relief to this kind of health expenditure; the last time the types of health expenditure were reviewed; the title of the report that set out this review; and if he will ensure a copy is available in the Oireachtas library. [17432/07]

Under Section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, tax relief, under the heading of health expenses, may be claimed in respect of the services of a practitioner and in respect of diagnostic procedures carried out on the advice of a practitioner. The cost of psychotherapy sessions will qualify for tax relief where such sessions are -: the services of a practitioner; or diagnostic procedures carried out on the advice of a practitioner.For this purpose, "practitioner" means any person who is (a) registered in the register established under section 26 of the Medical Practitioners Act 1978, (b) registered in the register established under section 26 of the Dentists Act 1985, or (c) in relation to health care provided outside the State, entitled under the laws of the country in which the care is provided to practice medicine or dentistry there.

It is not possible to provide an estimate of the full year cost of extending the scope of health expenses relief to cover psychotherapy services (beyond those who may currently qualify) as such cost would depend on the extent to which the relief was utilised. In common with all tax reliefs, health expenses relief, including its scope, is reviewed on a regular basis by my Department in the context of the annual Budget and Finance Bill. Such reviews are not usually the subject of formal published reports.

Flood Relief.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

175 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his proposals to progress the Tramore Road section of the St. John’s River flood relief scheme, County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17436/07]

A Flood Relief Scheme, to protect the Tramore Road against frequent flooding was not economically viable. The Commissioners of Public Works are in discussion with Waterford City Council to see if an economically and environmentally sustainable scheme can be devised.

Tax Code.

James Reilly

Question:

176 Deputy James Reilly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on reducing the VAT rate on insulation materials, solar panels, wool pellet burners, heat recovering units and other such materials and equipment which increase energy efficiency and reduces the wasteful use of energy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17495/07]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to examine the scope for reducing the VAT rate on environmental goods and services from the standard VAT rate of 21 per cent to the reduced rate of 13.5 per cent. I should state that this is just one of a number of Government initiatives in the Programme aimed at delivering a cleaner environment. In carrying out this examination account will be taken of the growing range of environmental and renewable energy products which present opportunities to reduce our dependence on conventional energy systems and can make a contribution to tackling Climate Change. Energy-saving products and systems including those mentioned by the Deputy will be considered during the exercise. As for all goods and services, the VAT treatment of environmental goods and services is subject to EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply.

It is important however to point out that, while the supply of insulation materials and renewable energy systems is subject to the standard VAT rate of 21 per cent, the reduced rate of VAT of 13.5 per cent may currently be applied where these products are supplied and installed as a single contract and where the VAT-exclusive cost of the goods does not exceed two-thirds of the total VAT-exclusive charge to the customer. I understand that the bulk of supply and install contracts are likely to meet this so-called "two-thirds" rule, resulting in the reduced VAT rate of 13.5 per cent rate being applied. Consequently, under existing VAT arrangements, the reduced VAT rate can apply to environmental products where they form part of such a supply and installation arrangement.

The reduced VAT rate of 13.5 per cent also currently applies to the supply of all fuel products, including wood pellets, used for home heating and light. Ireland is one of only eight Member States that apply a reduced VAT rate to the supply of fuel products used for home heating and light. The purpose of our proposed VAT review is to examine whether there is scope within EU VAT law to further extend the scope of the application of the reduced VAT rate in the area of environmental goods and services. This and other measures under the Programme for Government clearly demonstrate the Government's commitment to addressing the environmental challenges which we face.

Natural Heritage Areas.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

177 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his proposals in respect of Castletown House, Celbridge, County Kildare, its grounds and associated buildings; the discussions that have taken place with local interest groups in regard to the future of Castletown, with particular reference to the availability of the grounds to the general public and its use as a local amenity; if discussions are ongoing in relation to these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17632/07]

There are several parties involved in the management of the lands at the Castletown demesne and environs. The Office of Public Works manages the House and adjacent buildings at Castletown and approx. 120 acres of the original 550 acre demesne. Coillte owns some 120 acres of woodlands of the original demesne, Kildare County Council (KCC) has taken in charge some 25 acres approx. on the south side of the river and the balance of land surrounding Castletown is owned by a private company.

The current programme of development works being undertaken at the House by the Office of Public Works involves a significant investment in upgrading the visitor facilities and services in the main house and in the west wing. The aim is to bring the facilities and the presentation of the House up to modern standards befitting one of the major heritage sites in the country. The current works are part of a planned phased development programme that will see, ultimately, the creation of a significant enhanced public amenity at Castletown. One of the main elements in this will be the development of the OPW managed grounds at Castletown together with the adjoining lands owned by KCC and Coillte into an integrated public parkland area with linked pathways across the river and through the woods. Other aspects of the works are summarised in the attached appendix.

There has been considerable ongoing discussion with local residents and other interested parties on the works programme at Castletown. From the outset OPW held several meetings with resident groups and kept local interests informed insofar as possible of what was happening and what was planned. It is acknowledged that there has been some concern expressed recently by certain people in the area at the lack of access due to the closure of the Celbridge Gate for renovation work. This was necessary for health and safety reasons. The OPW has endeavoured to assure people that there will continue to be public access to the Castletown grounds and, as indicated above, it is planned to considerably enhance the public walking amenities in the grounds and surrounding lands. In the interest of proper traffic management and public safety, it is planned that the main traffic entrance to Castletown will be from the M4 motorway.

Appendix

Castletown House — Summary of Works

The two historic vistas to Connolly's Obelisk and to the Wonderful Barn have been re-opened during the winter and spring. This has been achieved by the OPW with the co-operation of the two landowners who own the land upon which these vistas exist. The Obelisk has been made a National Monument and a 2 year conservation project on it has commenced. The objective is to achieve public access to the viewing platform in the Obelisk subject to conservation and health and safety issues being resolved. The Batty Langley Lodge which was acquired by the OPW in December 2006 will be conserved commencing in the autumn of 2007 in collaboration with the Irish Landmark Trust. Planning permission was sought and received from Kildare County Council in 2005 to extend railings around the Main House. These railings will help to protect the House from anti-social behaviour and damage. A new Entrance Gate and railings will be erected at the Celbridge Avenue entrance; this will incorporate two dedicated pedestrian entranceways to coincide with re- opening of House on the 22nd of July, 2007.

A new exhibition space has been created in the Main Block of Castletown House for temporary exhibitions and will open in July with a prestigious exhibition called Art of the State "Journeys" with artworks drawn from the OPW's State Art Collection and the Department of Finance and Personnel, Northern Ireland's Art Collection. A new Café/Restaurant will re-open in the West Wing of Castletown and be managed by Claire Hanley Catering. There will be new Visitor Service facilities for visitors to include a new Reception and Ticket Office, space to leave buggies, coats, bags etc. In time, and depending on the availability of funds, it is planned also to redevelop the East Wing of the House into a conference and event venue.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

178 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the steps he proposes to take to improve the competitiveness of the Irish economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17633/07]

The last two Governments have developed policies which are designed to help Ireland's competitiveness and this Government intends to continue these policies. Important policy issues in the medium-term include: developing our innovation potential, improving the regulatory environment, enhancing the human capital of our country and developing our economic and technological infrastructure. By bolstering Ireland's competitiveness these, in turn, should raise living standards, improve the quality of life and lay the foundations for future growth.In this context, the National Development Plan for the period 2007-2013 will further enhance our economic and social infrastructure, notably in the key areas of Transport, Environmental Services, Social and Affordable Housing, Health, Education, Broadband and Energy. In addition, investment in support of the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation and investment in Education at all levels with a particular emphasis on the third and fourth — that is PhD — levels in tandem with continued investment in labour force training and lifelong learning will ensure that we are well prepared to face the challenges ahead. The new Government is also keen to enhance our competitiveness as a location for new internationally-mobile research-related investment. Recognising that Research and Development (R&D) is the key to a more knowledge-intensive economy aimed at providing a sustainable long-term basis for growth in employment and incomes, the last Government introduced a tax credit for R&D in 2004. Improvements to the tax credit scheme were announced in this year's Budget.

The aim of the tax credit scheme is to encourage existing overseas and indigenous firms to add research functions to their operations in Ireland or to increase their level of research activity. This, combined with our single 12.5 per cent corporation tax rate on trading profits in all sectors, will continue to support the necessary stable enterprise environment which Ireland has so carefully nurtured through the years, and help to underpin our economic and social development going forward.

Tax Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

179 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his proposals to tax incentivise bio-fuel production; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17634/07]

While the promotion of biofuel is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, I am pleased to inform the Deputy that in Finance Act 2006 I provided for significant tax measures to promote biofuels in Ireland. This scheme, which received the necessary EU State Aid approval, commenced in November 2006 and will:

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

cost over €200m over 5 years;

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

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

help reduce our dependency on conventional fossil fuels, and

stimulate activity in the agricultural sector.

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

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

The Deputy might wish to note that there are additional non-fiscal measures that can be used to promote biofuels and reach the targets referred to. To provide further market certainty and encourage projects of scale, the Government recently announced its intention to move to a Biofuels Obligation by 2009, with targets for market penetration for biofuels of 5.75% in 2009 and 10% by 2020. The scheme is included in the Programme for Government in conjunction with a commitment to work with our EU partners to require biofuels used in transport to comply with an environmental certification system which incorporates sustainability criteria in terms of biofuel production.

Question No. 180 answered with QuestionNo. 151.

Programmes for Government.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

181 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if revision of the financial proposals set out in Budget 2007 is anticipated or expected to be necessitated arising from the Programme for Government or related matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17636/07]

The Programme for Government sets out clearly the Government's guiding economic and fiscal principles for the next five years. We are fully committed to a responsible fiscal policy, including keeping the budget in broad balance. Updates of the economic and fiscal projections for the 2007-2009 period presented in Budget 2007 will be presented in my Department's next Pre-Budget Outlook, to be published this Autumn. These updates will take account of all relevant circumstances.

Carbon Tax.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

182 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the extent to which the proposed carbon tax is expected to impact on home heating costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17638/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

183 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the extent to which he has examined the impact of the proposed carbon tax on the economy in general; the effect this is expected to have on transport costs; if tax or excise reductions are anticipated to counter any negative effects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17639/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 182 and 183 together.

The Programme for Government signals that a carbon tax/levy will be introduced over the lifetime of this Government. The matter of the introduction of a carbon tax is one of the issues to be considered by the new Commission on Taxation to be established under the Programme. Consequently, at this stage, the precise design of such a tax has yet to be determined. This will, of course, form an important part of the normal deliberative process of the Government in setting fiscal and environmental policy. All relevant issues, including the effect a carbon tax may have on home heating and transport costs, will be taken into account in consideration of the proposal. The Deputy will recall, however, that the Programme for Government indicates that the phasing-in of a carbon levy will be on a revenue neutral basis, so it is not intended that its introduction will lead to any net Exchequer revenue increase or net addition to the overall tax burden.

Decentralisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

184 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the extent to which decentralisation has been progressed; the locations to which public servants have agreed to relocate; the number involved; when he expects the programme to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17641/07]

Over ten thousand six hundred civil and public servants have applied to relocate under the Programme. Of these, approximately 5,600 or 53% are currently based in Dublin. The Central Applications Facility remains open and continues to receive applications. Discussions have concluded on a number of human resource and industrial relations matters and are being progressed on other issues. At the end of April 2007, over 2,700 staff had been assigned to decentralising posts. It is expected that over 1,000 will be in place this summer in over 20 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 33 of the decentralisation towns with approximately 2,000 staff transferred. The precise numbers moving within that time frame will depend on the availability of property as well as timeframes for completion of fit out and installation of necessary ICT (information communications technology) and telecommunication cabling and equipment. The property programme is well advanced. The OPW conducts a review of the property timeframes for permanent accommodation on an ongoing basis. Based on its experience to date in relation to timeframes for property selection and acquisition, brief and design issues, tendering periods, planning issues and contractual arrangements, it has provided an updated schedule of the likely availability of accommodation.

This schedule allows for the planned movement of up to 6,800 staff in the next three years in line with the timeframes set out in the June 2005 report of the Decentralisation Implementation Group (DIG). The delivery time for some locations will be later than originally projected, however, leading to a greater concentration of moves in 2009 rather than in 2008. Matters outside the control of the OPW, which could give rise to delay, will continue to be monitored and mitigating action taken where possible. Discussions are ongoing with the unions representing professional & technical staff in the Civil Service on the range of industrial relations issues arising, including promotion arrangements and placing of staff who wish to remain in Dublin.

Thirty State Agencies are due to relocate under the Government's Decentralisation Programme. Some 2,340 posts are involved, or just over 22% of the programme. The DIG did not set specific timeframes for the State Agencies as they believed that it was the responsibility of the board and senior management of each agency to implement the Government decision and to report to its "parent" department in the first instance on the progress being made. The DIG noted in its latest Report that while progress has been made by some State agencies, there has been a marked lack of action in some other agencies. The Group is currently meeting with CEOs from a number of State agencies to get an overview of progress to date and to identify the challenges remaining in implementing the Government policy.

The main issues facing the State agencies are those relating to the filling of posts in undersubscribed locations, the placing of staff choosing to remain in Dublin and promotion arrangements. These issues are the subject of ongoing contacts between my Department and ICTU. An approach based on negotiations and agreement has enabled significant progress to be made in relation to the Civil Service moves and it is the intention to continue with this policy in relation to the State Agency sector.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

185 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position in regard to decentralisation; the costs associated with the project to date; the total anticipated costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17642/07]

When the Government's Decentralisation Programme was first announced, it was stated that the overall objective would be to ensure that property being acquired at a regional level is matched as closely as possible, both in time and in cost terms, by the disposal of property currently held in the Dublin region, whether held on lease or otherwise. In November 2004 the Decentralisation Implementation Group prepared a report on the procurement methodology and financial assessment of the property aspects of the programme, including a financial model, based on a property finance study carried out by the Office of Public Works. While the prevailing property market conditions in each area will have a bearing on cost, this model indicates that the break even position in relation to property will be reached in about 20 years.

Initial costings of the Decentralisation Programme estimated a gross cost of approximately €900m in respect of procuring sites and office accommodation for the Programme. This financial model for the Programme also includes estimates of receipts from sales of State owned property in Dublin which will be surplus to requirements post-decentralisation. The financial model is currently being updated by OPW. While individual aspects of the underlying assumptions may have changed, current indications are that the property elements of the original Programme will come in within the overall envelope of €900m (in 2004 prices). In terms of actual outlay to date, the total amount committed in principle by the OPW on site acquisition costs, excluding VAT, is approximately €79 million. Expenditure to date is approximately €49 million. A study was commissioned by the Decentralisation Implementation Group (DIG) which provides a model for identifying non-property costs and savings that arise both during the relocation phase and in the context of a post-decentralised civil service. Decentralising organisations have been asked to use this model to make periodic reports identifying non-property costs incurred and savings made both since the programme was announced and in its implementation in the future. At the end of June, the total non-property costs incurred amount to €6.8m.

Tax Code.

Alan Shatter

Question:

186 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will exclude cigarettes and other tobacco products from the basket of items from which the Consumer Price Index is presently calculated as recommended by the Joint Health Committee in its report A National Anti-Smoking Strategy a report on smoking published in November 1999. [17789/07]

The Director General of the Central Statistics Office has sole responsibility for, and is independent in, deciding the statistical methodology and professional standards to be used in compiling the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Deciding what items are included in the basket and goods and service is a matter for him. The CSO currently publishes a CPI figure excluding Tobacco every month. The best measure of underlying inflation is the EU comparable measure of inflation, the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP).

Care of the Elderly.

James Bannon

Question:

187 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to appoint a Minister for Older People, specifically to act on and implement legislation for the elderly and appoint an ombudsman to advocate on their behalf; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16495/07]

Services for Older People are a priority for the Government. The Deputy may wish to know that it is the intention of this Government to appoint Ms Marie Hoctor T.D. as Minister for Older People. It is intended that the Minister of State for Older People will also be a Member of the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion. The appointment of an Ombudsman for Older People will be considered in the context of overall policy developments/initiatives in the coming months.

Health Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

188 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary did not qualify for the homecare package. [16751/07]

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.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

189 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the arrangements whereby older people must get a letter from a doctor to say that they require an eye test in order to qualify for reading glasses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17430/07]

The ophthalmic scheme operated by the Health Service Executive, under Section 67 of the Health Act 1970, provides for a sight test and spectacles, free of charge, once every two years for adult medical card holders and dependants not covered by the relevant child health service.

To avail of these services the individual is required to complete an application form, which is available from local participating optometrists, and forward it to their Local Health Office. If the criteria of the ophthalmic scheme are met an authorisation to attend for the sight test will issue to the individual who may then avail of the service. In the normal course of events, a letter from a doctor is not required.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

190 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when it is expected to provide adequate one stop shop facilities for parents whose children are autistic with a view to an accelerated programme of early diagnosis, speech and language therapy and associated back up services whereby parents can have access to a reliable and comprehensive service, thus eliminating the current situation whereby parents are themselves forced to carry out their own research, source their own diagnosis and therapy facilities; her proposals for the future in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17671/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

339 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when it is expected to provide adequate one stop shop facilities for parents whose children are autistic with a view to an accelerated programme of early diagnosis, speech and language therapy and associated back up services whereby parents can have access to a reliable and comprehensive service, thus eliminating the current situation whereby parents are themselves forced to carry out their own research, source their own diagnosis and therapy facilities; and her proposals for the future in this regard. [17672/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 190 and 339 together.

As the Deputy may be aware, Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which commenced on June 1 2007 for children under 5 provides people with disabilities with an entitlement to: An independent Assessment of health and education needs; a statement of the services (Service Statement) which it is proposed to provide, which will be prepared by a Liaison Officer; pursue a complaint if there is a failure to provide these entitlements; make an appeal through an independent appeals office against a recommendation of complaints officer or the non implementation of recommendation of complaints officer (by HSE or education provider)

This prioritisation reflects the importance of intervention early in life, which can have a significant impact on the disabling effects of a condition or impairment. Part 2 will be commenced in respect of children aged 5-18 in tandem with the implementation of the EPSEN Act. The statutory requirements of Part 2 of the Disability Act will be extended to adults as soon as possible but no later than 2011. In order to part facilitate the Implementation of Part II of the Disability Act an additional sum of €75m, 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 multi-disciplinary 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.

Foreign Adoptions.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

191 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to ratify the Hague Convention with regard to adoption; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17752/07]

The Adoption (Hague Convention, Adoption Authority and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2007 is currently being drafted to establish the Adoption Authority and to give the force of law to the Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Convention 1993). It is intended that the Bill will be published in 2007.

Services for People with Disabilities.

James Bannon

Question:

192 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans for ongoing service development for children and adults with intellectual disability, particularly respite and residential services in Longford and Westmeath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16491/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service, 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.

James Bannon

Question:

193 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the completion of phase 2B Longford/Westmeath General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16492/07]

Phase 2B of the development of the Midland Regional Hospital at Mullingar is divided into two stages.

The completion of the first stage of the project will increase the bed complement from 215 to 244. This phase includes the fit out of the existing ward shells, the refurbishment of the existing paediatric and obstetric wards and an interim Special Care Baby Unit. The HSE has advised that the fit out of the existing ward shells is scheduled for completion by the end of September. These wards will then be utilised to facilitate the completion of the refurbishment of the existing paediatric and obstetric wards and the development of the interim Special Care Baby Unit.

The second stage of the project, which proposes to increase the bed complement to 324, is estimated to cost in the region of €48 million. It includes a new Acute Psychiatric Department, an Intensive Care Unit, a new Medicine for Elderly/Rehabilitation Unit, increased capacity in the Medical Assessment Unit and increased capacity for day procedures. In accordance with Department of Finance requirements, any capital project in the Health Sector costing more than €30 million requires a detailed cost benefit analysis. My Department is advised by the HSE that this analysis has now been completed in respect of the second stage of the Phase 2B development at Mullingar and is due to be considered by the Executive shortly.

Health Service Staff.

James Bannon

Question:

194 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she will take to reverse the trend whereby physiotherapy graduates are forced to go abroad to gain necessary employment and experience; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16500/07]

There has been a growing demand for and investment in therapy services over the last number of years. A particular priority for my Department and the Department of Education and Science in recent years has been the expansion of the supply of physiotherapy graduates. Training places for physiotherapists have increased by 134% (from 64 to 150) while the number of physiotherapists employed in the public health service has risen by 130% (from 593 to 1,364) since 1997.

The provision of additional physiotherapy services through developments in a number of service areas has been prioritised in recent years. A number of additional physiotherapists will be employed as a result of additional funding provided for new developments in 2006 and 2007. Additional physiotherapists will be required, for example, for the extension of the home care package scheme, the development of primary care teams and networks and the enhancement of the level and range of multi-disciplinary support services in the disability sector. However, I am aware that a situation emerged whereby some 2006 physiotherapy graduates had difficulty in obtaining employment in the public health service. My Department, in conjunction with the HSE, undertook to address this situation in a proactive manner and made significant progress in creating employment opportunities for these graduates. In this regard, my Department is continuing to chair a working group comprising representatives from the HSE, the therapy managers and IMPACT. The Group has identified the contributing factors and has developed an action plan with a view to addressing these factors to minimise similar difficulties for 2007 graduates. The group is now working through prioritised actions and continues to make progress on several key actions.

I understand that the HSE is reviewing the current panel for basic grade physiotherapists with a view to establishing a new basic grade physiotherapy panel as soon as possible. As a result of the proactive approach taken by my Department and the HSE, I understand that a large majority of the 2006 graduates are now employed.

Hospital Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

195 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with a bed in University Hospital Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16503/07]

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.

Hospital Staff.

Pat Breen

Question:

196 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a consultant radiologist (details supplied) will be employed at Ennis General Hospital, County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16504/07]

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:

197 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare has not been facilitated with a transfer from Limerick to Ennis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16506/07]

Over 120,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the number of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the healthcare needs of the population into the future.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of the Actual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

198 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with surgery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16507/07]

As the Deputy's question relates to the operation of the National Treatment Purchase Fund, my Department has asked the Chief Executive of the Fund to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the information requested.

Medical Cards.

Pat Breen

Question:

199 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare did not qualify for a medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16508/07]

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 moderate and 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.

Educational Assessments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

200 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when an educational assessment will be undertaken for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16544/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which commenced on June 1 2007 for children under 5 provides people with disabilities with an entitlement to:

An independent Assessment of health and education needs

A statement of the services (Service Statement) which it is proposed to provide, which will be prepared by a Liaison Officer

Pursue a complaint if there is a failure to provide these entitlements

Make an appeal through an independent appeals office against a recommendation of complaints officer or the non implementation of recommendation of complaints officer (by HSE or education provider).

This prioritisation reflects the importance of intervention early in life, which can have a significant impact on the disabling effects of a condition or impairment. Part 2 will be commenced in respect of children aged 5-18 in tandem with the implementation of the EPSEN Act. The statutory requirements of Part 2 of the Disability Act will be extended to adults as soon as possible but no later than 2011.

If a special educational need is identified as a result of the assessment of a child under the Disability Act, that aspect of the assessment must be referred to the National Council for Special Education where the child is not yet attending school or to the Principal of his or her school for the purposes of an assessment under the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act, 2004. The EPSEN Act will be implemented over a five year timeframe that commenced on 1 October 2005 with all sections of the Act having commenced by 1 October 2010. In preparation for its implementation, the Department of Education and Science has informed the Department of Health and Children that it intends putting systems in place on an administrative basis in the interim so that the requirements of the Act can be delivered. This means that in practice education services will be delivered on an administrative basis initially and are of course, a matter for the Minister of Education and Science.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

201 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when placement for intervention services at Moyvale Lodge, Naas, County Kildare will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16545/07]

My Department has sought more information from the Deputy in relation to the exact details of the case in question which has not been given by the Deputy's office. I cannot answer the question unless further details are provided.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

202 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be offered a medical procedure at Naas Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16546/07]

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 the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

203 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when respite care will be offered to persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16547/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, an additional sum of €75m 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 multi-disciplinary support services to adults and children with an intellectual, physical and sensory disability and those with autism, including the provision of additional resources towards respite care.

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.

Nursing Home Charges.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

204 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when repayment of nursing home charges will be refunded to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16548/07]

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.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

205 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a review of nursing home subvention will be undertaken on behalf of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16549/07]

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.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

206 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given to persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16551/07]

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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

207 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when an enhanced or expansion of treatment facilities will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16553/07]

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 the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

208 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a hospital appointment will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16554/07]

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 the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

209 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason orthotic prosthetic care requires a letter from the general practitioner before supplying special footwear in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin in view of the fact that the items in question were already recommended by the occupational therapist; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16555/07]

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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

210 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when orthodontic treatment will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who is in urgent need of immediate treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16556/07]

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.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

211 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a scan appointment at Naas Hospital will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16557/07]

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 the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

212 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when speech therapy will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16558/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, an additional sum of €75m 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 multi-disciplinary 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.

Hospital Services.

Phil Hogan

Question:

213 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children when public radiotherapy services at Waterford Regional Hospital will be available to patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16592/07]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

303 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of radiotherapy for public patients at Waterford Regional Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17434/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 213 and 303 together.

The development of radiation oncology at Waterford Regional Hospital (WRH) is an integral part of the Government's National Plan for Radiation Oncology. This will be part of a major oncology development at WRH, including the provision of a 20 bed oncology day ward. It is my objective and that of the HSE to see the early delivery of the Plan in the best interests of cancer patients throughout the country. The HSE and my Department are considering options to speed up the pace of delivery. In the interim, a service level agreement was signed on 1 February between the HSE and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre Whitfield Clinic in County Waterford. This will support the referral of public patients for radiation oncology treatment pending the commissioning of the radiation oncology centre at WRH.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Phil Hogan

Question:

214 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a cataract operation will be arranged for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in Waterford Regional Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16593/07]

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 Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

215 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in calling a person (details supplied) in County Wexford for dental treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16598/07]

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 Service Allowances.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

216 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when domiciliary care allowance will be granted to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16614/07]

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 to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Dan Neville

Question:

217 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an appeal against decision to refuse a medical card for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [16618/07]

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 moderate and 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.

Hospital Services.

Michael Noonan

Question:

218 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received the submission from mid-western Health Service Executive for the provision of a capital allocation to provide additional dialysis stations at the Mid-West Regional Hospital; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the hospital no longer has the capacity to deal with the number of persons seeking dialysis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16637/07]

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, and specifically the National Hospitals Office, is the appropriate body to consider the particular question raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

General Practitioner Co-operatives.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

219 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if the doctor on call service in County Louth will provide a doctor based in Ardee town to deal with calls for the Ardee area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16641/07]

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 Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for this service, it is the appropriate body to provide the information sought 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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

220 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist in arranging an appointment at a specific hospital in County Cork for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [16651/07]

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.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

221 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the ongoing delay in having an appointment arranged for a person (details supplied) in County Cork at a specific hospital. [16652/07]

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.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

222 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange an admission date for a person (details supplied) in County Cork who is awaiting a hip replacement operation. [16653/07]

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.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

223 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange to re-assess an application by a person (details supplied) in County Cork for grant aid to replace windows and doors; and if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the person’s spouse is very ill. [16654/07]

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 Charges.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

224 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the repayment of hospital charges in respect of a deceased person (details supplied). [16655/07]

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

Health Services.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

225 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange for an appointment to be made in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [16656/07]

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.

Medical Cards.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

226 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate an application for a medical card which has been refused in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [16657/07]

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 moderate and 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.

Compensation Schemes.

Denis Naughten

Question:

227 Deputy Denis 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. [16673/07]

In its report on Childhood Immunisation, the Oireachtas Joint 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 on 13 March 2007, 17 April 2007 and 21 May 2007. The Group will meet again in early July. 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

Ms Cornelia Stuart

Quality and Risk Manager — Dublin North East

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 end July of this year.

Community Pharmacy Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

228 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 326 of 3 April 2007 if she will outline the progress to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16675/07]

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 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.

Early in discussions, PDF refused to negotiate a new margin for community supply, based on its own legal advice. Subsequent advice to the HSE, confirmed by the Attorney General's office and Senior Counsel engaged by the Attorney General, indicated that, under section 4 of the Competition Act 2002, PDF as an association of undertakings may not collectively negotiate fees, prices or margins on behalf of its members. Given this position, and the fact that the Irish Pharmaceutical Union is also an association of undertakings, it is not possible for the State to negotiate with PDF or the IPU on fees or margins and such negotiations place these bodies at risk of prosecution.

The State had intended to address the review of community pharmacy, and in particular how to improve value for money and transparency and fairness in relation to service provision, through negotiation with the IPU, as it had in the past, but this is no longer possible. Accordingly, the negotiating team re-considered, in light of the legal position arising from the wholesaler legal advice, how best to address the review of pharmacy contractor services. Following consultation with the IPU, a procedure was agreed to examine available options for advancing contractual negotiations in compliance with Irish and EU competition law. This process, chaired by Mr Bill Shipsey, SC, has commenced.

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.

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

229 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the planned development of a new health centre in Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; when the project will commence construction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16684/07]

The Primary Care Strategy aims to develop services in the community to give people direct access to integrated multi-disciplinary teams of general practitioners, nurses, home helps, physiotherapists, occupational therapists 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 provision of the appropriate infrastructure to facilitate the delivery of primary care services is being considered by the HSE, having regard to a number of factors. These include the type and configuration of the services involved, the mixed public/private nature of our health system, the suitability of existing infrastructure and the capital requirements of the health services generally over the coming years.

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Denis Naughten

Question:

230 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will sanction an increase to the attendance allowance to service users on rehabilitative training and sheltered work programmes in view of the fact that it has not increased since 1 June 2000; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16686/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, responsibility for training of people with disabilities rested with the National Rehabilitation Board (NRB), prior to June 2000. Arising from the Government decision on mainstreaming of services for people with disabilities, the NRB was dissolved in June 2000 and responsibility for vocational training for people with disabilities was transferred from the Department of Health and Children to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and was vested in FÁS. Responsibility for rehabilitative training and sheltered work remained with the Department of Health and Children and the Health Boards.

Prior to June 2000, some categories of FÁS trainees, who are regarded as socially disadvantaged, e.g. travellers, lone parents, received a training bonus of £25 (€31.75) per week. This entitlement was extended by FÁS to people with disabilities in vocational training. In the interests of equity, the Department of Health and Children responded to the FÁS decision by introducing a similar payment (the rehabilitative training bonus) for rehabilitative trainees. As the Department of Health and Children's payment is linked to the FÁS payment, any consideration of a change in the rate is dependant on a prior decision being taken by FÁS to change the rate.

The Deputy's question also refers to an allowance payable to service users attending sheltered workshops. This payment, (known as a top-up payment to sheltered workers) is paid at the discretion of the service provider and is not a statutory payment. Therefore neither the Department of Health and Children nor the Health Service Executive is in a position to review such a payment.

Health Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

231 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will look into or request that the HSE intervene in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin City who is needing long-term care and whose family has been told that they can only be placed in a facility far away from their spouse and family, despite the fact that there is at least one facility near their home that could accommodate them. [16694/07]

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 Waiting Lists.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

232 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the waiting list numbers for each of the long-term care facilities in the greater Dublin area; the steps that have been taken to address the shortage of spaces in long term care facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16695/07]

As part of the overall investment package for the development of services for older people, my Department and the Health Service Executive (HSE) has prioritised the delivery of additional public continuing care beds through the development of community nursing units in large urban centres in both Dublin and Cork together with the expansion and the development of additional facilities across all regions. The HSE proposes to expand public capacity by 397 beds in 2007 and by 408 in 2008. The running costs in full year of this additional public capacity will be €42m.

In 2006, the HSE contracted a total of 1,050 extra beds in the private nursing home sector. A total of €28m is being allocated to cover the full year cost in 2007 of these beds. In addition, the HSE is planning to contract a further 350 beds in 2007 at a cost of €12m. 220 of these will be procured in the Greater Dublin area and 100 will be procured in HSE South.

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 provide the particular details requested by the Deputy in respect of the waiting list numbers for each of the long-term care facilities in the greater Dublin area. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the information co-ordinated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

233 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children when the new cystic fibrosis unit in St. Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin 4 will be opened in view of the increased life expectancy of CF sufferers which will come about from the service, if it will have the capacity to deal with the potential increase in the number of CF patients and the increased use of the facilities that will be required. [16699/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

234 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the findings of the Health Service Executive’s cystic fibrosis working group; when each of its recommendations will be implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16700/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

235 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has given consideration to immediately approving the upgrade of the specialist Cystic Fibrosis Unit at Cork University Hospital for adult and child CF sufferers and to accelerating the planning for the Galway University Hospital unit; and if there are plans for other regional units. [16701/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

236 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she or her officials have been in contact with counterparts in the Six Counties to agree an all Ireland approach to the provision of care and treatment for patients with cystic fibrosis; if not will she initiate such contact; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16702/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

237 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she has taken to address the major risk of cross-infection faced by children with cystic fibrosis attending Dublin’s paediatric hospitals, and the need for the existing facilities to be upgraded immediately to address that concern, especially in the event of MRSA in hospitals and the fatal consequences posed to CF patients from such an infection. [16703/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

238 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the strategies that have been undertaken to ensure that the required staff, with the required medical expertise, is in place to address the medical needs of cystic fibrosis patients both adult and children. [16704/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

276 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will release the recommendations of the Health Service Executive Cystic Fibrosis Working Group; and if she will implement them immediately. [17044/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

277 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will fund the building of a national adult referral centre for people with cystic fibrosis. [17045/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

278 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will approve the upgrade of facilities of the specialist cystic fibrosis centres, adult and paediatric, in a hospital (details supplied) in County Cork. [17046/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

279 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will start the planning process for new cystic fibrosis centres, adult and paediatric, in a hospital (details supplied) in County Galway. [17047/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

280 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will upgrade the in-patient and outpatient facilities in hospitals (details supplied) to allow effective cystic fibrosis patient isolation that will minimise cross infection. [17048/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

281 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will develop the physical and human resources in all the designated specialist cystic fibrosis centres identified by the Health Service Executive Working Group. [17049/07]

Denis Naughten

Question:

319 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she is taking to establish a cystic fibrosis unit in an acute hospital here; the reason one has not been established to date; the timetable for completion of such a project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17505/07]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

336 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when the additional posts in cystic fibrosis service delivery, for which an additional €2 million was allocated in Budget 2007, will be filled; when hospitals will be informed that they can start the recruitment process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17575/07]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

337 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when the findings of the Health Service Executive Working Group on Cystic Fibrosis, which sat for the last time a year ago, will be released; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17576/07]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

338 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will give a firm commitment for the establishment of the new cystic fibrosis unit at St. Vincent’s Hospital; if appropriate interim measures will be put in place for the current patients in St. Vincent’s to prevent lengthy waits in accident and emergency units and to allow patients to be treated without fear of cross infection; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17577/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 to 238, inclusive, 276 to 281, inclusive, 319, and 336 to 338, inclusive, together.

I acknowledge the need to develop services for persons with cystic fibrosis. I identified this as a key priority in 2006 and again in 2007. Development funding of €4.78 million was provided to the Health Service Executive (HSE) 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.

I also asked the HSE to address in particular the identified deficits at the national adult referral centre at St. Vincent's University Hospital. My Department is advised by the HSE that recent interim improvements at the hospital have resulted in additional capacity for persons with cystic fibrosis. In addition, the HSE has approved the establishment of a Project Team to progress the next phase of the ongoing major capital development at St. Vincent's. A new Unit for persons with cystic fibrosis has been identified by the HSE as one of a number of priority projects to be included in the development.

In 2005, the HSE established a Working Group to undertake a detailed review of cystic fibrosis services. The Group was asked to review the current configuration and delivery of services to persons with cystic fibrosis in Ireland. The Working Group has completed its work and publication of its report is a matter for the Executive.

With regard to cross border co-operation, the HSE has advised my Department that it will review the need and demand for such a service and seek to make the necessary service arrangements where appropriate. My Department will be happy to provide any assistance in this regard if required by the Executive.

Finally, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the additional service issues raised investigated and to reply directly to the relevant Deputies.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

239 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she has taken to put in pace a neo-natal screening programme to ensure the potential benefits of such screening is realised. [16705/07]

There is already a National Newborn Screening Programme in place for a number of metabolic disorders. It started in 1966 under the auspices of the National Children's Hospital, initially for Phenylketonuria (PKU) and it has been extended to include galactosaemia, homocystinuria, congenital hypothyroidism, maple syrup urine disease and most recently congenital toxoplasmosis. Parents of newborn infants are offered screening by the heelprick test between 72 and 120 hours following birth.

Vaccination Programme.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

240 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she has taken to ensure that the vaccine for pneumonococcal meningitis is available for all parents who wish their children to avail of the protection such a vaccine would give; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16706/07]

Ireland's recommended immunisation programme is based on the guidelines of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. These guidelines are prepared with the assistance of an active committee from associated disciplines in paediatrics, infectious diseases, general practice and public health.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has recently completed a review of our immunisation schedule and the Chief Medical Officer of my Department has received the updated guidelines. These new guidelines include two important changes — the addition of hepatitis B and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines to the schedule. I have asked my officials to liaise with the Health Service Executive with a view to ensuring a timely and effective implementation of revised programme.

Health Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

241 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 will have their house assessed by an occupational therapist for a disability grant to alter their home to cater for their spouse’s needs. [16708/07]

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.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

242 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) will receive their walking aids. [16709/07]

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.

Social Services Inspectorate Report.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

243 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the social services inspectorate report into a facility (details supplied) in County Dublin; when the report will be published; and if she will take appropriate action on the foot of same. [16710/07]

The Ballydowd Inspection report was published on 28th May 2007.

That part of the Deputy's question regarding appropriate action to be taken on foot of the report 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. The HSE have indicated that they will take full cognisance of the recommendations emanating from this report and will take any and all appropriate action.

Hospital Services.

Willie Penrose

Question:

244 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will take steps to have a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath admitted for a hip operation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16721/07]

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 the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Willie Penrose

Question:

245 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will take steps to have a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath admitted to Cappagh Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16722/07]

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 the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Willie Penrose

Question:

246 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will take steps to have a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath provided with a bed at University College Hospital, Galway as same is required for approximately three days to enable this person to be assessed as to the benefit of new medication, which requires observation for that period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16723/07]

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 the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Willie Penrose

Question:

247 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will take steps to have a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath immediately admitted for an appointment with a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Tallaght Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16724/07]

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 the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Staff.

John Perry

Question:

248 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is an EEG technician in Sligo General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16726/07]

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.

John Perry

Question:

249 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans in place to appoint a cardiologist in Sligo General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16727/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular question raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

250 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of discussions between her Department and the Health Service Executive regarding provision for a health examination and treatment services for pupils attending either national or private primary schools in view of the fact that the Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2006 contains provision for the amendment of Section 66 of the Health Act, 1970 and that the Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2006 contains provisions for the amendment of the Health (Amendment) Act, 1994 to provide dental health services for children attending any primary school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16730/07]

The statutory position governing the eligibility of children to dental treatment under the Health Service Executive (HSE) service is Section 66 of the Health Act, 1970. Furthermore, in relation to dental services for children, the Health (Amendment) Act 1994 and the Health (Dental Services for Children) Regulations, 2000 (S.I. No. 248 of 2000) also apply. Responsibility for delivery of health services is a matter for the HSE.

The Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2006, contains provision for the amendment of Section 66 of the Health Act, 1970 to provide for a health examination and treatment service for pupils attending any primary school. The Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2006, also contains provision for the amendment of the Health (Amendment) Act, 1994 to provide dental health services to children attending any primary school. The relevant sections of the Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, which give legal effect to these changes were commenced on the 1st May last. My officials are currently in discussion with the Health Service Executive with a view to beginning the early roll out of this scheme.

Pension Provisions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

251 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when pension pay and lump sum will be paid in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who has not received payment except for one holiday pay cheque since October 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16765/07]

Over 120,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the number of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals employed in the public health services.

The Health Service Executive administers the Local Government Superannuation Scheme and therefore are the appropriate organisation to address the Deputy's query. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Hospital Accommodation.

Seán Barrett

Question:

252 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Health and Children her proposals for the future of a hospital (details supplied) in County Dublin; if she proposes to dispose of any part or all of the hospital grounds or car parking areas; the rationale behind such a proposal; the estimated time-frame involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16782/07]

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 the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Parliamentary Questions.

Michael Ring

Question:

253 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a parliamentary question (details supplied) which was asked on 2 March 2007 was not responded to until 18 May 2007. [16837/07]

My Department has asked the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive to investigate the reason behind the time it took to issue a reply to the Deputy in this case and inform the Deputy of the position in relation to this question.

Health Service Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

254 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there is no dentist in a town (details supplied) in County Mayo. [16850/07]

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.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Michael Ring

Question:

255 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be provided with a trike as recommended by the occupational therapy services. [16851/07]

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.

Health Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

256 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their payment under the health repayment scheme. [16852/07]

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.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

257 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the position between the Irish Dental Association members and the Health Service Executive regarding the dental treatment service scheme; the progress made in resolving this dispute; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16896/07]

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. The issues involved are complex and my officials are working with the Attorney General's office to clarify the way forward. In the meantime I have indicated to the I.D.A. that I am prepared to meet them to listen to their concerns.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Question:

258 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is a payment or financial help available to persons (details supplied) in County Mayo. [16897/07]

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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Frank Feighan

Question:

259 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress in relation to the building programme for the Community Hospital in Ballinamore, County Leitrim; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16914/07]

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.

Hospital Accommodation.

Pat Breen

Question:

260 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will facilitate a meeting with all elected representatives in County Clare to discuss the future of Ennis General Hospital (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17002/07]

Following my re-appointment as Minister for Health and Children, I have received many requests for meetings from various groups. It is my intention to meet with Ennis Town Council and my office will be in touch with the Council to schedule this meeting on a suitable available date.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

261 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with an occupational therapist assessment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17004/07]

Pat Breen

Question:

269 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will receive an appointment for an occupational therapist; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17012/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 261 and 269 together.

The Deputy's questions relate 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 these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Pat Breen

Question:

262 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when an increase in subvention for a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be put in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17005/07]

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.

Pat Breen

Question:

263 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 168 of 25 April 2007, when an increase in subvention for a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be put in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17006/07]

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.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Pat Breen

Question:

264 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when an application for a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17007/07]

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.

Pat Breen

Question:

265 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason an appointment for surgery for a person (details supplied) in County Clare was cancelled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17008/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular question raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Pat Breen

Question:

266 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when an application for the housing aid for the elderly for a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17009/07]

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.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

267 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare did not receive an appointment as a public patient; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17010/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular question raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Pat Breen

Question:

268 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with a hearing aid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17011/07]

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.

Question No. 269 answered with QuestionNo. 261.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

270 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with toilet facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17013/07]

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.

Nursing Home Charges.

Pat Breen

Question:

271 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a refund will issue to a person (detail supplied) in County Clare in respect of nursing home charges; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17014/07]

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.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

272 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with rehabilitation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17015/07]

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. The Executive is, therefore, 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.

Nursing Home Charges.

Pat Breen

Question:

273 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a refund will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare in respect of nursing home charges; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17016/07]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Pat Breen

Question:

274 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare has to wait 20 weeks for an appointment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17019/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular question raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

275 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with an appointment for cataract surgery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17020/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular question raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Questions Nos. 276 to 281, inclusive, answered with Question No. 233.

Health Service Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

282 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if the minimum internationally recommended specialist medical staff levels will be reached by 2008. [17050/07]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Richard Bruton

Question:

283 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a home (details supplied) cannot provide residential placement for families who are stressed out providing care for severely disabled clients; if her further attention has been drawn to the fact that this Deputy has brought same to her attention by way of a previous parliamentary question and that there is no accountability for the decision to allow this situation to persist; and the person who has responsibility in this situation. [17094/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, an additional sum of €75m 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 multi-disciplinary 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.

Care of the Elderly.

Richard Bruton

Question:

284 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the terms of home care packages which she has established as a complementary measure to the revised nursing home care package; if she is satisfied that the terms are such that they encourage families, where possible, to provide care at home; and if she is further satisfied with the availability and access to home care packages. [17095/07]

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. Home Care Packages (HCPs) which include Home Care Cash Grants are designed to

1.Support older people to continue to live in their community.

2.Reduce inappropriate admission

3.Facilitate timely discharge of older people from acute hospitals

4.Reduce pressure on A&E departments

The Health Service Executive is responsible for the operation of Home Care Packages. Referral for packages can be made by any health professional whether community or hospital based. The decision to allocate a HCP is based on the assessment of needs of the individual and the identification of any assessed needs which are not being met by mainstream services, together with consideration of the appropriateness of care in the community in the individual case. Home Care Packages are therefore an additional support over and above existing mainstream community services and are designed to enhance rather than replace existing home support services.

In 2006 a total of 2,000 extra Home Care Packages were provided at a full year cost of €55 million. A similar increase in the number of packages will be provided in 2007 and a sum of €18m will fund the cost of 0.78 million additional home help hours in 2007. On the 2nd April 2007 Section 93 of the Finance Act was signed into law exempting under certain circumstances private homecare services from VAT.

A joint working group comprising representatives of my Department and the Health Service Executive is currently examining planning the staffing requirements for future developments in relation to HCPs. It is anticipated that the group will report to Government by the end of 2007.

A Steering Committee is being set up to begin the preparatory work of evaluating the effectiveness of the additional Home Care Packages. Following the results of this evaluation my Department will be in a position to make any further decisions necessary in this area.

Bearing in mind the significant resources that have been put in place in recent times, and the measures that have been introduced or are planned to monitor HCPs, I am satisfied that this important initiative has brought significant benefits to clients and their families availing of the service and that further improvements where necessary will be introduced in the light of operational experience.

Health Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

285 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6 receives an early assessment at a language unit in order that early and intensive treatment can be given; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17099/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which commenced on June 1 2007 for children under 5 provides people with disabilities with an entitlement to:

An independent Assessment of health and education needs

A statement of the services (Service Statement) which it is proposed to provide, which will be prepared by a Liaison Officer

Pursue a complaint if there is a failure to provide these entitlements

Make an appeal through an independent appeals office against a recommendation of complaints officer or the non implementation of recommendation of complaints officer (by HSE or education provider)

This prioritisation reflects the importance of intervention early in life, which can have a significant impact on the disabling effects of a condition or impairment. Part 2 will be commenced in respect of children aged 5-18 in tandem with the implementation of the EPSEN Act. The statutory requirements of Part 2 of the Disability Act will be extended to adults as soon as possible but no later than 2011.

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.

Disabled Drivers.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

286 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the appeal of an application for a primary medical certificate in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare whose condition has deteriorated and who requires the certificate to qualify under the Disabled Drivers Disabled Passengers 1994 Tax Concession Regulations in order to acquire or adapt a vehicle for work purposes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17114/07]

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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

287 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if a mobility allowance will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare to assist with work related driving; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17115/07]

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.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

288 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a review of eligibility for a primary medical certificate will take place in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17116/07]

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.

Nursing Home Charges.

Jack Wall

Question:

289 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position of an application by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare for repayment under the health repayment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17126/07]

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

Disabled Drivers.

John Perry

Question:

290 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made on the motorised transport grant for a person (details supplied) in County Sligo in view of their circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17132/07]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

291 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in transferring residents of a centre (details supplied) in County Westmeath to the newly refurbished community houses which have been vacant and available for a considerable time; and the time-scale for these transfers to take place. [17135/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, as part of the Government's multi-annual investment programme for the period 2006-2009, a commitment has been made to provide €2 million each year over the duration of the programme to cover the cost of additional staffing needed in order to transfer persons with intellectual disabilities/ autism from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

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

Health Service Staff.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

292 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the staffing levels of public health nurses in the Cork City region; if public health nurses are rostered for weekends; and if they are on duty at weekends. [17139/07]

The numbers of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals employed in the public health system have increased significantly in recent years, in tandem with the high level of investment in the development in new services. In December 2006, a revised employment ceiling for the health service of 108,000 expressed in whole time equivalents was sanctioned, representing an increase of 10,450 over the previous approved ceiling.

There has also been a substantial expansion of training places available at undergraduate level across a range of healthcare professions in order to ensure an ongoing supply of personnel in sufficient numbers for our health services 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.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

293 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo can expect to be called for an appointment. [17147/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular question raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

294 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when funding will be made available for a dementia unit at a nursing home (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17196/07]

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 the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Alan Shatter

Question:

295 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans with regard to St. Luke’s Hospital, Rathgar; and if she intends to end the excellent patient services currently provided by the hospital. [17237/07]

The Government's policy on radiation oncology is based on the Report on ‘The Development of Radiation Oncology Serves in Ireland'. The Report was prepared by a multi-disciplinary group of experts in radiation oncology, medical oncology, public health and palliative care, including significant expertise from St. Luke's Hospital and the Irish Cancer Society. The Report has had significant international endorsement from such bodies as the US National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society. The Report recommended that there should be two radiation oncology treatment centres located in the Eastern region, one serving the southern part of the region and adjacent catchment areas and one serving the northern part of the region and adjacent catchment areas. A detailed request for proposals issued to six hospitals in Dublin in June 2004 and an International Panel submitted its advice to me in January 2005.

The decision to transfer St. Luke's Hospital was taken by the Government in the context of this advice and its consideration of the National Plan for Radiation Oncology Services. The decision is designed to ensure that radiation oncology, one element of cancer care, is integrated with all other aspects of care, including surgery and medical oncology. This is in line with best international practice. I am convinced that this model will provide better patient centred treatment with improved quality of service and outcome for patients. The Board of St. Luke's Hospital and its Executive Management Team are fully committed to supporting the Government's decision in relation to the development of radiation oncology. A transfer on similar lines took place last year in Northern Ireland when radiation oncology services transferred to Belfast City Hospital, a major academic teaching hospital.

In progressing the transfer, I will build on the expertise and ethos of St. Luke's. I have ensured that experts at St. Luke's are centrally involved in the planning and delivery of the National Plan. The plan consists of large centres in Dublin (at Beaumont and St. James's Hospitals), Cork and Galway and two integrated satellite centres at Waterford Regional Hospital and Limerick Regional Hospital. The Chief Executive at St. Luke's will lead the management team of the new facility at St. James's. I also appointed the Chairman of St. Luke's to chair a National Radiation Oncology Oversight Group which is advising me on progress on the implementation of the plan.

Discussions on transfer, facilitated by the HSE, are taking place involving the Chief Executives of both hospitals. A working group is in place to develop close working relationships and ensure a smooth transition. In addition and in recognition of the role for St. Luke's in the new facility at St. James's, I will pursue discussions with the Boards of both Hospitals about its governance and a re-configuration of the Boards. The twin goals are to ensure continuity of expertise and ethos in the care of cancer patients and the effective integration of multi-disciplinary patient care at the one site.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

296 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with an appointment for chiropody and podiatry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17363/07]

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.

John Deasy

Question:

297 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason chiropody services have been withdrawn from pensioners in Waterford; the counties where the Health Service Executive has made this service available; if there is uniformity throughout the HSE on the provision of such services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17386/07]

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.

Health Service Charges.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

298 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the basis on which her Department expects to lay claim in the residue of a traffic accident award made in 1964 in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17389/07]

Under the Health (Amendment) Act 1986 the Health Service Executive may impose charges on all patients for treatment arising out of injuries sustained in road traffic accidents where compensation is subsequently payable. The Act does not withdraw eligibility for public hospital services from road traffic accident victims, but allows the Health Service Executive to recover the costs of all services provided to them. As I have insufficient information in relation to this specific case, I have asked the HSE to investigate this matter and I will reply to the Deputy once I have received the necessary information from the HSE.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

299 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if home help or a suitable alternative can or will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17390/07]

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.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

300 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17391/07]

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 moderate and 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.

Mental Health Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

301 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the chronic lack of psychiatric and psychological services for teenagers under 18 years and the fact that the only services available to this category are adult services; the way the delineation of services in terms of age is organised; if gaps exist in service provision; the number of whole-time equivalent psychologists and psychiatrists allocated to public services; the number of these that are vacant expressed in whole-time equivalent terms; when the adequacy of such services was last reviewed; and her plans to expand services, and in particular the plans to expand services for minors. [17427/07]

The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, entitled "A Vision for Change", was published in January 2006. It provides a framework for action to develop a modern, high quality mental health service over a 7 to 10 year implementation timeframe. "A Vision for Change" acknowledges gaps in the current provision of child and adolescent mental health services and makes several recommendations for the further improvement of these services. The report recommends that child and adolescent mental health services should provide mental health services to all aged 0-18 years.

An audit of child and adolescent mental health teams was carried out by the Health Service Executive in March 2007. At this time there was 45.6 whole time equivalent consultant psychiatrists and 48.04 whole time equivalent clinical psychologists on these teams. There were 3.66 whole time equivalent consultant psychiatrist vacancies and 12 whole time equivalent clinical psychologist vacancies. It is important to note that multidisciplinary child and adolescent mental health teams also include registrars, social workers, occupational therapists, nurses, childcare workers, other therapists and administrative support staff.

In 2006, €3.25 million was provided for the enhancement of child and adolescent services including the development of eight new multidisciplinary teams. A further €7.95 million has been provided in 2007 to significantly improve both community and hospital based services and facilitate the provision of early intervention services. The multidisciplinary nature of existing child and adolescent mental health teams will be enhanced and a further eight new teams will be developed in 2007.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

302 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the rules regarding the quantity of prescription tablets that are permitted for dispensing by licensed chemists; if there is a reason that these are normally sold in packs of 28 rather than a full month’s supply; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17428/07]

There is no legislation that specifically deals with the quantity of prescription tablets that are permitted for dispensing by licensed chemists. The standard industry practice across Europe is for prescription tablets to be packaged in sizes of 28 as this number has been found to be the most convenient for patients.

Question No. 303 answered with QuestionNo. 213.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

304 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in having an outpatient appointment arranged for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [17435/07]

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.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

305 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the date on which the new terms for nursing home subvention will come into force in 2008; the arrangements she is putting in place to review cases where nursing home subvention has been refused in the past; if past payments in these cases will be given recognition in calculation when the 15% property threshold has been reached; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17449/07]

The new nursing home support scheme "A Fair Deal" is due to come into effect on 1 January 2008. The scheme will require new legislation. In the interim, as of 1 January 2007 there are no longer three separate rates for subvention. Persons who apply may receive any amount up to a maximum of €300 per week. Persons who are already in receipt of subvention may re-apply to the HSE as they may now be eligible for an increased payment. Persons who have previously been refused a subvention may also re-apply to the HSE as they may now be eligible for a payment.

Furthermore, in reviewing all cases, the HSE will ensure that income is only imputed from the principal private residence for the first three years of a person's stay in a nursing home from the date of admission. This means applicants who may have been refused subvention in the past may benefit from the 15% cap on imputation of income from the principal private residence.

Nursing Home Charges.

Michael Ring

Question:

306 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be refunded the money owed to them under the national repayment scheme. [17450/07]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

307 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the discussions she has had with the Health Service Executive regarding the implementation of the Teamwork Report proposals which would see further loss of services in Monaghan, Dundalk and Navan hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17452/07]

I am familiar with the approach being adopted by the Health Service Executive in seeking to improve safety and standards across the acute hospital network in the North East Region, having regard to the issues raised in the Teamwork Management Services Report — "Improving Safety and Achieving Better Standards — An Action Plan for Health Services in the North East".

The Teamwork Report includes a number of recommendations to improve patient care in the region. It particularly highlights the need to develop a high quality, responsive emergency and planned service, in line with international standards. It recommends that there be one major regional hospital in the North East, supported by the five existing local hospitals. The new hospital is to provide emergency and trauma services on a 24 hour basis and also provide planned specialist procedures that are complex and require the facilities of a large regional hospital.

The hospital reconfiguration process is being overseen by the HSE Steering Group which is leading the project. A sub-committee of the Steering Group was established to progress the issue of site selection for the new regional hospital. Following a tendering process, the HSE appointed consultants to carry out an independent site location study. The study, which the HSE expects to be finalised in August, will take account of various criteria including demographics, access, planning and development considerations and interdependencies.

The first step in the development of a fully integrated regional health service is to ensure that the people of the North East have local access to both routine planned care and immediate life saving emergency care. Over the next few years, in preparation for all acute emergency in-patient care and complex planned care being provided at a regional centre, services at the existing five hospitals will continue to be improved. My Department has been advised that the existing hospitals will continue to provide services which meet the majority of health needs of the community.

The HSE has given me an assurance that, in progressing the implementation of the Teamwork Report, there will be no discontinuation of existing services until suitable alternative arrangements have been put in place.

Medical Cards.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

308 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the changes in medical card income qualification guidelines she proposes to make; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17453/07]

Since the beginning of 2005 the medical card assessment guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29%. Other significant changes which I have introduced are that applications are now considered on the basis of income net of tax and PRSI and allowance is made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, childcare and travel to work. In June 2006, I agreed with the Health Service Executive (HSE) a further adjustment to the assessment guidelines for GP visit cards and these are now 50% higher than those used in respect of medical cards.

In assessing eligibility, the HSE uses national guidelines to assess people's means, which includes their income, certain allowable outgoings and the effect of other factors which may impact on people's ability to meet the cost of GP services. Under the assessment arrangements, persons whose sole income is derived from Department of Social and Family Affairs payments or HSE payments, even if these exceed the assessment guidelines, qualify for a medical card.

Since January 2005 to June 2007 an additional 166,591 people have free access to GP services. This figure consists of an additional 98,383 people with a medical card and a further 68,208 people with a GP visit card. I have no immediate plans to change the guidelines used in the assessment process. My Department and the HSE monitor on an ongoing basis the number of medical cards and GP visit cards, and the need for changes to the guidelines is kept under review, having regard to factors such as changes in income levels generally, the nature of typical household outgoings and also changes to the various social welfare schemes.

Hospital Staff.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

309 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress which has been made on the renegotiation of the hospital consultants’ contract since the dissolution of the 29th Dáil; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17454/07]

The independent chairman of the negotiations, Mr. Mark Connaughton SC., has put forward proposals for a Framework Agreement between the employing authorities in the health service and consultants. I have recently met with the organisations representing the consultants, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association and the Irish Medical Organisation, and both organisations expressed their willingness to resume talks within the context of the chairman's proposed framework. I have also met with Mr Connaughton and I am hopeful that the talks process will be concluded by early Autumn.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

310 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure increased resources for the National MRSA reference laboratory in view of the endemic nature of MRSA in hospitals here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17455/07]

Tackling Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs) including MRSA is a priority for the Government and for the Health Service Executive (HSE). The National MRSA Reference Laboratory is operated by St. James's Hospital. 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 health services, including funding for St. James's Hospital, 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.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

311 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received the report of the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine Health and Safety Standards for Irish accident and emergency departments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17456/07]

I have not received a copy to date of the report referred to by the Deputy.

Departmental Offices.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

312 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the arrangements within her Department for liaison with the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety in the Six Counties; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17457/07]

The Research, EU and International Unit in my Department has responsibility for overseeing and coordinating North/South co-operation in the health sector and for direct liaison with the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSS&PS). There is regular on-going contact between officials from the Unit and their counterparts in the DHSS&PS to ensure that co-operation continues in the designated areas and to explore further potential areas for co-operation.

Health Services.

John Perry

Question:

313 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene on behalf of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo and have them called for their treatment in Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17460/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular question raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

John Perry

Question:

314 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children when speech and language therapy will become available for a person (details supplied) in County Sligo as an adult on a continuous basis. [17463/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, an additional sum of €75m 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 multi-disciplinary 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.

Hospital Services.

John Perry

Question:

315 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene with the Bon Secours Hospital, Galway on behalf of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17464/07]

The Bon Secours Hospital, Galway, is a private hospital. The Minister and the Health Service Executive has no responsibility in relation to the operation of the hospital, accordingly, it is suggested that Mr Murtagh contact the hospital directly.

Health Repayment Scheme.

Bernard Allen

Question:

316 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the health service’s health repayment scheme have refused a claim made by a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [17465/07]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

317 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be assisted with regard to their travel and accommodation costs and so on while obtaining hospital treatment in another EU country; the help available in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17473/07]

Regulation (EC) 1408/71 makes provision for patients covered by the health care system of one member state to be referred to another member state for treatment at the cost of the home state. Where such a referral is made, Form E112 is issued accordingly by the HSE and is confirmation that the HSE will bear the cost of the treatment. Under the Regulation, there is no obligation on the HSE to meet the cost of travel and accommodation but the HSE may at its discretion provide assistance where necessary. 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 have the matter examined and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Repayment Scheme.

James Bannon

Question:

318 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take to expedite payment under the national repayment scheme to elderly widows or widowers of deceased persons whose money was taken unlawfully, but are denied recompense due to priority being given to affected persons who are still living; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17503/07]

The health repayment scheme was launched in August 2006 and is administered by the Health Service Executive (HSE) in conjunction with the appointed Scheme Administrator KPMG/McCann Fitzgerald.

The position at 15th June, 2007 was that 3,200 offers of repayment, with a value of approximately €60m have been issued by the scheme administrator. Arising from these offers approximately 1,800 repayments with a value of approximately €38m have been made to date. This rate of repayment is lower than had been projected. I understand from the HSE that this is due to a number of factors including the legal and technical requirements, a high level of deficiencies in the application forms submitted to the scheme administrator and complexities in the operation of the probate process.

In accordance with the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006 priority has been given to repaying living applicants as they were most immediately affected. However, the repayments to estates has now commenced. In relation to elderly widows or widowers of deceased persons and the priority that should be given to their claims, the HSE has put additional resources in place to encourage both the completion of application forms for clients in vulnerable client groups and to ensure that these claims (in particular where there is an elderly spouse who could benefit) are processed as quickly as possible.

The HSE is monitoring the operation of the repayment scheme and has agreed a range of initiatives with the scheme administrator to speed up the repayment process. The closing date for receipt of applications is 31st December 2007 and I have been informed by the HSE that final repayments should be made by mid 2008.

Question No. 319 answered with QuestionNo. 233.

EU Directives.

Denis Naughten

Question:

320 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children if she plans to give Irish pharmacists the same rights of establishment in other EU countries as pharmacists from other Member States have here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17506/07]

Many EU States continue to operate some form of restriction on entry to the pharmacy profession, and under EU Directive 85/433/EEC they are within their rights to do so. The initiative for the removal of these restrictions rests with the EU Commission and I would support any moves which the Commission may make in this regard.

With respect to Ireland, the Pharmacy Act 2007 will remove the restriction on pharmacists educated in other EU or EEA countries from owning, managing or supervising a pharmacy in Ireland that is less than three years old — the derogation under Article 2.2 of Council Directive 85/433/EEC. My motivation in removing this "derogation" was to facilitate the many Irish pharmacy graduates who, because of the shortage of pharmacy undergraduate places available in the State, went abroad to train. On their return these graduates found that they were at a disadvantage to their Irish trained colleagues in not being able to establish a new pharmacy business, having instead to confine themselves to ones which had already been in operation for at least 3 years, a situation that was clearly unfair and unsustainable.

Health Repayment Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

321 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon will receive the nursing home repayment due to them; the reason for such a delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17508/07]

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.

Health Service Staff.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

322 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children if the necessary resources will be made available to the Health Service Executive to provide a nurse at St. Mary of the Angels, Beaufort; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17519/07]

The numbers of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals employed in the public health system have increased significantly in recent years, in tandem with the high level of investment in the development in new services. In December 2006, a revised employment ceiling for the health service of 108,000 expressed in whole time equivalents was sanctioned, representing an increase of 10,450 over the previous approved ceiling. There has also been a substantial expansion of training places available at undergraduate level across a range of health care professions in order to ensure an ongoing supply of personnel in sufficient numbers for our health services 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.

Hospital Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

323 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9, will receive an appointment date for surgery at the Mater Hospital in order to have stents inserted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17520/07]

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 the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

324 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of applicants on the waiting list for dental treatment within the Health Service Executive in County Kildare; the number of dentists employed by the HSE; if there are vacancies within the HSE for dentists within the specified area; the waiting period for treatment within the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17528/07]

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.

Jack Wall

Question:

325 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be given a dental appointment in view of the fact that the person has been one and a half years on the waiting lists for such an appointment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17529/07]

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.

Pat Breen

Question:

326 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason subvention for a person (details supplied) in County Clare was substantially reduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17532/07]

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.

Foreign Adoptions.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

327 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the whole time equivalent number of social workers devoted to the assessment of foreign adoption applicants in each of the Health Service Executive areas; the percentage of social workers devoted to assessment in each of these areas; the average waiting period for applicants in each of these areas; and the steps she is taking to reduce the waiting period. [17538/07]

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 Office 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 has allocated additional funding to the HSE in recent years to assist in tackling inter-country adoption waiting times. The HSE has been assessing the provision of services in the context of moving from the health board system to a single executive. It has acknowledged that there is a divergence in the provision of services and is committed to addressing those differences.

The Deputy will be aware that demands for assessment for inter-country adoption are continuously increasing. It should be noted that consequent on the increased number of children coming from abroad, there is also a new and increasing demand for post-adoption reports for sending countries. These are also being undertaken by HSE social work staff. In a number of areas, the HSE have increased capacity through contract arrangements with non-statutory agencies with appropriate expertise. Officials from my office are currently engaged in discussions with the HSE to explore these and other strategies to increase capacity across the country.

Medicinal Products.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

328 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will seek a detailed explanation from the Health Service Executive as to the reason a medication (details supplied) was withdrawn from the market here before a replacement was available; the number of days that elapsed before an alternative was available on the Irish market; if her attention has been drawn to the life-threatening implications of such a decision for users who were left with no alternative medication as a result of the decision; the procedures and criteria applying to decisions on the withdrawal of licences; if she will ensure that future decisions on medications are made with due consideration to the alternatives and lack of them for dependent users; and the licensed medication available on the market here for users who require non-steroid forms of tilade. [17539/07]

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.

Under Clause 9.1 of the agreement recently negotiated between the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association and the Health Service Executive on the supply terms, conditions and prices of medicines supplied to the health services, manufacturers, importers or their agents, who experience foreseeable or prolonged stock shortages, or the possibility of such shortages, must notify the HSE as soon as they become aware of the problem. Furthermore, the supplier shall endeavour to source, within the notice period, an alternative supply.

In this particular instance the manufacturer concerned notified the Health Service Executive in a notice dated 15 February 2007 that supplies of Tilade were in short supply. It was the company's intention to replace the Tilade with a CFC free version of the product. However, due to unforeseen administrative difficulties the CFC free version of this product will not, according to the company, become widely available until July. I understand that the manufacturer concerned has undertaken to source an alternative supply of this product and make it available for patients who require it. Cromogen was removed from the common list of reimbursable drugs and medicines at the request of the manufacturer.

Health Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

329 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the fact that newly diagnosed diabetic patients can wait up to two years before they see a specialist doctor; her proposals in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17540/07]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

330 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the fact that 250,000 people here have impaired glucose tolerance, pre-diabetes, of which 50% will develop diabetes in the next five years if lifestyle changes are not made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17541/07]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

331 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether the estimated €370,000 spent on prevention which is less that 1% of the estimated €580 million spent on diabetes treatment here in 2006 is inadequate; her proposals in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17542/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 329 to 331, inclusive, together.

An Expert Advisory Group on Diabetes was recently established by the HSE and is currently drawing up standards of care for diabetes. This process will take account of the Department of Health and Children's document "Diabetes: Prevention and Model for Patient Care". The group has identified as one of its priorities the development of an Integrated Care Model for the treatment of Diabetes. This model will focus on the joint participation of hospital consultants and general practitioners in the planned delivery of care for patients. The Expert Advisory Group has also identified the other areas of diabetes care that need priority attention such as retinopathy screening, pediatric diabetes, patient education and empowerment, and podiatry. It should be noted that the diabetic retinopathy screening to prevent eye diseases in diabetes sufferers is currently being rolled out in the Western region and in North Dublin.

In addition my Department and the HSE are currently finalising a series of measures to manage the health impacts of chronic disease generally in the population. These measures include:—

The development of a comprehensive, integrated chronic disease policy framework which will view chronic disease as a continuum with "upstream" action on the avoidable cause of disease, disability and premature death (including in particular inter-sectoral action to address the wider determinants of health) as well as "downstream" action to improve the health and quality of life of those already suffering from the condition;

Comprehensive patient registration systems;

The development of shared care models for each condition under a disease management programme;

The development and use of evidence-based clinical guidelines for each condition;

A Self-Care Management Programme; and

Quality assurance and evaluation Protocols.

In Budget 2007, €4 million was approved for the funding of Chronic diseases and an additional €1 million to be given in 2008. This funding includes the prevention and treatment of diabetes.

The remaining issues raised in the Deputy's questions relate 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.

Hospital Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

332 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of palliative beds at Waterford Regional Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17543/07]

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.

Health Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

333 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children if additional speech and language therapists have been successfully recruited to the service in County Kildare. [17568/07]

There has been a growing demand for, and investment in, therapy services over the last number of years. A particular priority for this Department and the Department of Education and Science in recent years has been the expansion of the supply of therapy graduates. Training places for speech and language therapists have increased by 320% (from 25 to 105) while the number of speech and language therapists employed in the public health service has increased by 130% (from 282 to 649) since 1997.

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.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

334 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the present waiting times for optical tests for children in Maynooth and Naas Health Centres in County Kildare. [17570/07]

Child health examinations are provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to children under 6 years of age and children attending national school in accordance with Section 66 of the Health Act, 1970. Under Section 67 of that Act, such children are eligible for HSE ophthalmic services in respect of problems noted at child health examinations.

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.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

335 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the present waiting time for children for hearing tests in County Kildare. [17571/07]

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.

Questions Nos. 336 to 338, inclusive, answered with Question No. 233.
Question No. 339 answered with QuestionNo. 190.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

340 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide funding to bring into operation newly built residential units (details supplied) in Dublin 20; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17747/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, an additional sum of €75m 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 multi-disciplinary 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.

Health Services.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

341 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether general practitioner registrars should be afforded the status of specialist registrars; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17748/07]

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.

Hospital Services.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

342 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, Dublin 15 is the only acute general hospital in Dublin that does not afford general practitioners direct access to routine chest x-rays, plain film lung x-rays and ultrasound; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17749/07]

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.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

343 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children her policy on general practitioner access to first-line investigations such as chest x-rays and ultrasound in public hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17763/07]

The Primary Care Strategy aims to support and promote the health and well-being of the population by developing multi-disciplinary teams of professionals, including general practitioners, which enable the vast majority of people's health and social care needs to be met in their local community. I recognise that in order to support and facilitate this model of care, general practitioners need to have access to appropriate diagnostic services so that, as far as possible and as appropriate, the diagnosis and the management of illness can take place in the community rather than the hospital setting.

The Health Service Executive has, I understand, undertaken a number of measures to enhance access for GPs to x-ray and ultrasound services for patients. As the Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for Primary Care services, it is the appropriate body to provide more detailed information in this regard. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Tony Gregory

Question:

344 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the long delay in a decision on the appeal for a medical card by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and when a decision will be made. [17787/07]

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 moderate and lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

Since the beginning of 2005 substantial changes have been made to the way in which people's eligibility for a medical card is assessed and these apply equally to the assessment process for a GP visit card. The income guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29% and in addition allowance is now made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, child care and travel to work costs. In June 2006 I agreed 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.

Tony Gregory

Question:

345 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the long delays in decision for medical card applications on the north side of Dublin; and when a decision will be made on the application by persons (details supplied) in Dublin 7. [17788/07]

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 moderate and lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

Since the beginning of 2005 substantial changes have been made to the way in which people's eligibility for a medical card is assessed and these apply equally to the assessment process for a GP visit card. The income guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29% and in addition allowance is now made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, child care and travel to work costs. In June 2006 I agreed 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.

Departmental Surveys.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

346 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Health and Children the projects approved in her Department in 2007 which exceed the threshold for a cost benefit analysis; and the person who conducted the analysis in each case. [18186/07]

The National Rehabilitation Unit, Dun Laoghaire is the only capital project approved in the Capital Plan 2007 which requires a cost benefit analysis. The cost benefit analysis for this project has been commissioned and is currently underway. This exercise is expected to be completed by the end of August 2007.

Road Safety.

James Bannon

Question:

347 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the time-scale in relation to the setting up of an urgently required road safety strategy in view of the fact that it has been over six months since the previous one expired; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16996/07]

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 were examined by the Authority who are now working towards 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.

James Bannon

Question:

348 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine his plans to reduce fatalities on roads in view of the publication of the first Road Safety Performance Index by the European Transport Safety Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16997/07]

The European Transport Safety Council published the Report referred to by the Deputy, on 7 June 2007. It includes rankings on the three most important aspects of road user behaviour in Europe — speed, alcohol and seat belt wearing and relates to the period 2001 to 2005. Ireland ranks thirteenth out of the EU twenty five based on road deaths per million of population in 2005.

Achieving progress in the areas of speeding, drink driving and seat belt wearing has been central to the implementation of Ireland's national Road Safety Strategy. Significant initiatives have been achieved since 2005 including 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 Garda Traffic Corps, hard hitting safety awareness campaigns, new legislation, tougher fines and penalties, and the introduction of roadside Mandatory Alcohol Testing.

Other major proposals, such as the plans to establish a system of private sector operation of speed cameras under the auspices of the Gardaí, are well advanced.

The Report does not reflect the significant developments and reduction in fatalities on our roads since 2006 when the number of deaths, at 368, was the second lowest rate in forty years. This downward trend has continued into 2007 with 35 less fatalities on 22 June 2007 than on the same day in 2006. These significant improvements will be reflected in the EU rankings when the next review is published.

Rail Network.

James Bannon

Question:

349 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine his plans for the Athlone to Mullingar rail link; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16501/07]

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. My predecessor met representatives of the Midlands Railway Action Group on a number of occasions to discuss the matter. I understand also that the matter was also discussed with Iarnród Éireann on the basis of a report commissioned by the group.

John O'Mahony

Question:

350 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the amount of funding which has been provided by his Department for the re-opening of the Western Rail Corridor; the reason that no approval has been given or date set for the re-opening of the section of line from Coolooney to Claremorris; the amount of funding which is being made available by his Department for the project; and the date on which it is proposed that work will commence on same. [16763/07]

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. Iarnród Eireann plan to have Phase 1 completed in 2008. I understand from Iarnród Éireann that route clearance, site investigation works and excavations for improved bridge clearance are already under way.

I do not consider it prudent to release commercially sensitive information in relation to the cost of individual projects within Transport 21 until the public procurement processes are completed. However, my Department has allocated €10m in 2007 to Iarnród Éireann to fund expenditure on Phase 1 (Ennis — Athenry section) of the Western Rail Corridor.

Iarnród Éireann, with the assistance of funding under the Clár programme, are undertaking work to preserve the rail alignment on the Claremorris to Collooney section in line with Transport 21. This is prior to examining the feasibility of reopening the line from Claremorris to Sligo, as provided for in the Programme for Government.

Public Transport.

Richard Bruton

Question:

351 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the number of routes operated by Dublin Bus; the number of buses assigned to each route and the passengers carried; and the change that has occurred in respect of these numbers between 2000 and 2006. [17090/07]

I have no function in relation to these matters. They are day-to-day operational matters for Bus Átha Cliath.

Richard Bruton

Question:

352 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the proportion of the route covered by bus priority in respect of each Dublin Bus route. [17091/07]

The deployment of buses on routes with bus priority is an operational matter for Dublin Bus and I have asked the company to provide any available information regarding this matter directly to the Deputy.

Richard Bruton

Question:

353 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the passengers carried by Dublin Bus in each year from 2000 to 2006. [17092/07]

Passenger carryings by Dublin Bus over the period since 2000 are as follows:

Year

No. of Passengers

2000

134.2m

2001

142.9m

2002

146.6m

2003

149.8m

2004

149.8m

2005

145.7m

2006

146.3m

Richard Bruton

Question:

354 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the reason his Department has not licensed Dublin Bus to use the Port Tunnel and recently intervened to ban the 41X from using the tunnel; and the public policy benefits from his decision. [17093/07]

The initiation or alteration of a bus service by Dublin Bus is subject to compliance with the requirement of giving advance notice to my Department and to compliance with the provisions of Section 25 of the Transport Act 1958 concerning competition with licensed private operators. Under these arrangements, Dublin Bus is now operating routes 33X and 142 for travel through the Dublin Port Tunnel.

Separately, my Department has an application from a private operator to provide a commercial express bus service, without State subvention, from Swords to the City Centre, via the Dublin Port Tunnel. This application was made prior to receipt of a notification from Dublin Bus for a service along a similar route.

In accordance with standard regulatory procedures, the application from the private bus operator, made under the provisions of the Road Transport Act, 1932, as amended, has to be considered first and is currently under consideration. Hence, the Dublin Bus application has to await the decision on the prior application and Dublin Bus has been advised of this.

I recognise the importance of the licensing regime governing the bus sector being in keeping with consumer needs for the provision of a quality public transport system. I accept that the Road Transport Act, 1932 and the Transport Act, 1958 are in need of reform and I will be pursuing this in line with the commitments in the Programme for Government in relation to reforming bus licensing to facilitate the optimum provision of services by providing a level playing field for all market participants.

Richard Bruton

Question:

355 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the number of additional buses for Dublin in 2007; and the way these buses are allocated across the various depots. [17368/07]

Dublin Bus took delivery of 100 additional buses in 2006 for which Exchequer funding of €30m was approved. 42 of the buses will be in service by the end of June and the remainder by September. The allocation of these buses across the depots is a matter for Dublin Bus.

Parking Regulations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

356 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine his plans to introduce legislation to allow local authorities introduce parking bans on heavy goods vehicle cabs in certain residential areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17485/07]

Road authorities already have power under article 38 of the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 to apply restrictions on the parking of large vehicles. This power is applied through the provision of a regulatory prohibition on parking signs specifying a weight threshold at the entrance to an area.

Any large vehicle, whose unladen weight exceeds the weight specified, is restricted from parking in that area except for a period of time not exceeding 30 minutes from the commencement of parking while goods are being loaded or unloaded.

No road authority has been in contact with my Department to convey any indication that the current legislative provision is not ample to prohibit the parking of heavy goods vehicle cabs in any residential area.

The RPA has received many, and sometimes irreconcilable requests, from residents along the route of Metro North. On 15 June, RPA wrote to over 2,000 residents setting out the current status of work and committing to follow up with an analysis of other tunnel alignment options that would make greater use of green space. When these options have been further developed, RPA will write to all affected residents again enclosing details of the options and seeking comments on them. It is important to note that whichever route is chosen will pass beneath houses, businesses and other buildings.

A programme to address concerns expressed about the location of the DCU stop has also been put in place by the RPA.

The comments of residents will feed into the overall environmental assessment of the options so that the detailed tunnel alignment and stop locations for this portion of Metro North can be finalised in order to make a Railway Order application to An Bord Pleanála.

Rail Network.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

357 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the position regarding works being carried out to build a new train station at Kishogue, Lucan, County Dublin; and when the works are due to commence and due for completion. [17500/07]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

358 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the position regarding works being carried out to build a new train station at Fonthill, Clondalkin, Dublin 22; and when the works are due to commence and due for completion. [17501/07]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

360 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine if the contracts have been signed for the Kildare route project. [17550/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 357, 358 and 360 together.

Construction contracts for the Kildare Route upgrade project, including stations at Kishogue and Fonthill, are matters for Iarnród Éireann and I have no role in relation to them. I understand from Iarnród Éireann that some contracts have been placed and work has commenced and all contracts will be in place in the coming weeks. Iarnród Éireann, in line with Transport 21,expect construction to be completed by late 2009 and commissioning of the new facilities, including new stations, to take place in early 2010.

Road Network.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

359 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine if he has viewed documents in relation to the consequences of lifting the barriers on the M50 toll bridge in advance of barrier free tolling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17549/07]

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects, including the M50, is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) and the local authorities concerned.

Also, 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, including the M50, is vested in the NRA under Part V of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000).

Question No. 360 answered with QuestionNo. 357.

Public Transport.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

361 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 375 of 5 April 2007, if the proposals have been decided upon and cleared. [17554/07]

The two notifications to which the Deputy refers were noted by my Department on 10th May 2007. It is now an operational matter for Dublin Bus to introduce the proposed changes.

Rail Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

362 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine his plans to speed up the provision of additional capacity on the Maynooth suburban line including the provision of additional railcars and the bringing forward of the completion of the city centre resignalling project. [17565/07]

The capacity and frequency of services on the railway network have been substantially increased in recent years. The capacity on the Maynooth line, in particular, has trebled in the last 5 years. The opening of the Docklands Station in March has also provided a significant increase in capacity on this line. As part of Transport 21, Iarnród Éireann also propose to resignal the city centre area and to electrify the Maynooth line to provide faster journey times and increased frequencies and planning in relation to these projects is already under way.

EU Directives.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

363 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the EU directives within his Department’s competency which have not been fully transposed into law; the articles that await transposition for those partially transposed; the date by which the whole directive was meant to have been transposed in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17573/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following tables.

Table I

Directives awaiting full Transposition

No.

Title

Deadline for transposition

Comments

1

Council Directive 2006/103/EC of 20 November 2006 adapting certain Directives in the field of Transport Policy, by reason of accession of Bulgaria and Romania.

1 January 2007

Under consideration to establish if Ireland needs to take any action with regards to this Directive.

2

Council Directive 2006/96/EC of 20 November 2006 adapting certain Directives in the field of free movement of goods, by reason of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania.

1 January 2007

A number of amending regulations are required to be made to fully transpose this Directive into Irish Law in relation to motor vehicle type-approval directives. The amendments are technical amendments consequent on the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, namely, adding these names to the list of other Member States’ names. The first amendment was submitted recently by the RSA to the Department of Transport.

3

Directive 2003/59/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15th 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

10 Sept 2006

Since the 1st of September 2006 the RSA has commenced a process for the introduction of this Directive. To have implemented the Directive by the 10th of September 2006 would have precluded a thorough consultation process with the necessary stakeholders, or allowed for their feedback to be considered.In this regard, as part of a 6 week consultation process, a consultation document will be available to all stakeholders by early July 2007 before enabling legislation later in the year.

4.

Directive 2006/22/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15th March 2006 on minimum conditions for the implementation of Council Regulations (EEC) No. 3821/85 concerning social legislation relating to road transport activities and repealing Council

11 April 2007

Office of Parliamentary Counsel finalising a draft text of SI to give effect to the directive.

5

Commission Directive 2006/119/EC of 27 November 2006 amending for the purposes of adapting to technical progress Directive 2001/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning heating systems for motor vehicles and their trailers.

30 September 2007

6

Commission Directive 2006/120/EC of 27 November 2006 correcting and amending Directive 2005/30/EC amending, for the purposes of their adaptation to technical progress Directives 97/24//EC and 2002/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, relating to the type-approval of two or three-wheel motor vehicles.

30 September 2007

7

Directive 2006/40/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17th May 2006 relating to emissions from air-conditioning systems in motor vehicles and amending Council Directive 70/156/EEC.

4 January 2008

8

Commission Directive 2007/15/EC of 14 March 2007 amending, for the purposes of its adaptation to technical progress, Annex 1 to Council Directive 74/483/EEC relating to the external projections of motor vehicles.

4 April 2008

9

Commission Directive 2007/34/EC of 14 June 2007 amending, for the purposes of its adaptation to technical progress, Council Directive 70/157/EEC concerning the permissible sound level and the exhaust system of motor vehicles.

5 July 2007

10

Commission Directive 2007/35/EC of 18 June 2007 amending, for the purposes of its adaptation to technical progress, Council Directive 760/756/EEC concerning the installation of lighting & light-signalling devices on motor vehicles and their trailers.

9 July 2007

11

Commission Directive 2007/37/EC of 21 June 2007 amending, Annex 1 & 111 to Council Directive 70/156/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to type-approval of motor vehicles and their trailers.

4 January 2008

12

Directive 2004/36/EC of 21 April 2004 on the safety of third-country aircraft using Community airports.

30 April 2006

Drafting of an S.I. to implement this Directive is at an advanced stage.

13

Directive 2006/23/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5th April 2006 on a Community air traffic control licence.

17 May 2008

14

Directive 2006/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 May 2006 amending Directive 1999/62/EC on the charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain infrastructures.

10 June 2008

Preparations have commenced.

Table II

Motor Vehicles Type-Approval Directives substantially transposed but where some provisions re sale or use of Component Parts are still to be transposed.

No.

Directive

Deadline for Transposition

Comments

1

Directive 70/220/EEC as amended by Directive 98/77/EC relating to measures to be taken against air pollution by emissions from motor vehicles.

1st October 1999

Draft regulations to provide for the transposition of the outstanding matters are with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel (OPC) for settling.

2

Directive 70/221/EEC as amended by Directive 2006/20/EC relating to fuel tanks and rear underrun protection of motor vehicles and their trailers.

11 March 2010

3

Directive 71/320/EEC as amended by Directive 98/12/EC relating to the braking devices of certain categories of motor vehicles and their trailers

31st March 2001

4

Directive 72/245/EEC as amended by Directive 2004/104/EC relating to the radio interference (electromagnetic compatibility) of vehicles

31 December 2005

5

Directive 74/61/EEC as amended by Directive 95/56/EC relating to devices to prevent the unauthorized use of motor vehicles

1st October 1998

6

Directive 74/408/EC as amended by Directive 96/37/EC relating to the interior fittings of motor vehicles (strength of seats and of their anchorages)

1st October 1999

7

Directive 76/757/EEC as amended by Directive 97/29/EC relating to retro-reflectors for motor vehicles and their trailers

1st October 1999

8

Directive 76/758/EEC as amended by Directive 97/30/EC relating to the end-outline marker lamps, front position (side) lamps, rear position (side) lamps and stop lamps for motor vehicles and their trailers

1st October 1999

9

Directive 76/759/EEC as amended by Directive 1999/15/EC relating to direction indicator lamps for motor vehicles and their trailers

1st April 2001

10

Directive 76/760/EEC as amended by Directive 97/31/EC relating to the rear registration plate lamps for motor vehicles and their trailers

1st October 1999

11

Directive 76/761 as amended by Directive 1999/17/EC relating to motor vehicle headlamps which function as main-beam and/or dipped-beam headlamps and to incandescent electric filament lamps for such headlamps

1st October 1999

Draft regulations to provide for the transposition of the outstanding matters are with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel (OPC).

12

Directive 76/762 as amended by Directive 1999/18/EC relating to front fog lamps for motor vehicles and filament lamps for such lamps

1st April 2001

13

Directive 77/538/EEC as amended by Directive 1999/14/EC relating to rear fog lamps for motor vehicles and their trailers

1st April 2001

14

Directive 77/539/EEC as amended by Directive 97/32/EC relating to reversing lamps for motor vehicles and their trailers

1st October 1999

15

Directive 77/540/EEC as amended by 1999/16/EC relating to parking lamps for motor vehicles

1st April 2001

16

Directive 77/541/EEC as amended by Directive 96/36/EC relating to safety belts and restraint systems of motor vehicles

1st October 1999

17

Directive 88/77/EC amended by Directive 2001/27/EC relating to measures to be taken against the emission of gaseous and particulate pollutants from compression-ignition engines for use in vehicles, and the emission of gaseous pollutants from positive-ignition engines fuelled with natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas for use in vehicles

1st October 2001

18

Directive 92/22/EEC amended by Directive 2001/92/EC relating to safety glazing and glazing materials on motor vehicles and their trailers

1st July 2003

19

Directive 92/23/EEC as amended by Directive 2001/43/EC relating to tyres for motor vehicles and their trailers and to their fitting

4 August 2002

20

Directive 2001/56/EC relating to heating systems for motor vehicles and their trailers

9 May 2005

21

Directive 2003/97/EC relating to the type-approval of devices for indirect vision and of vehicles equipped with these devices

24 January 2005

22

Directive 2005/55/EC as amended by Commission Directives 2005/78/EC 2006/51/EC relating to the measures to be taken against the emission of gaseous and particulate pollutants from compression-ignition engines for use in vehicles, and the emission of gaseous pollutants from positive-ignition engines fuelled with natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas for use in vehicles *(See also under Appendix III)

1st October 2006

23

Directive 2005/66/EC relating to the use of frontal protection systems on motor vehicles *(See also under Appendix III)

25 August 2006

24

Council Decision of 13 March 2006 amending Decisions 2001/507/EC and 2001/509/EC with a view to making United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE) Regulation Nos. 109 and 108 on retreaded tyres compulsory.

13 September 2006

Draft Regulations have been prepared for settling by Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.

25

Council Directive 93/14/EC relating to the braking of two or three-wheel motor vehicles

9 May 2003

Draft regulations being prepared.

26

Council Directive 93/30/EEC on audible warning devices for two or three — wheel motor vehicles

9 May 2003

27

Directive 97/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 1997 on certain components and characteristics of two or three-wheel vehicles, as amended by directive 2003/77/EC

9 May 2003

28

Directive 2000/7/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on speedometers for two or three-wheel motor vehicles

9 May 2003

Table III

Motor Vehicles Type_Approval Directives substantially transposed but for which partial transposition is or will be required (other than in relation to component parts as set out in Appendix II)

No.

Directive

Provision to be Transposed

Comments

1

Directive 2005/49/EC of 25 July 2005 amending, for the purposes of their adaptation to technical progress, Council Directive 72/245/EEC relating to the radio interference (electromagnetic compatibility) of vehicles and Council Directive 70/156/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the type-approval of motor vehicles and their trailers.

Prohibit, wef 1 July 2013, the registration, sale or entry into service of vehicles (other than cars) equipped with 24 GHZ — short-wave radar equipment.

Draft instrument submitted recently to the Department by RSA.

2

Directive 2005/66/EC relating to the use of frontal protection systems on motor vehicles *(See also under Appendix II)

Transpose directive so as to apply also to small vans. Overdue since 25 August 2006

Ditto

3.

Directive 2005/55/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 September 2005 as amended by Commission Directives 2005/78/EC & 2006/51/EC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the measures to be taken against the emission of gaseous and particulate pollutants from compression-ignition engines for use in vehicles, and the emission of gaseous pollutants from positive-ignition engines fuelled with natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas for use in vehicles.

Transpose wef 1 October 2007, for Nox monitoring & torque limitation requirements for entry into service of HGVs.

Ditto

4.

Directive 2005/64/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2005 on the type approval of motor vehicles with regard to their reusability, recyclability and recoverability and amending Council Directive 70/156/EEC.

Will require to be transposed in relation to small vans in due course when EC Whole Vehicle Type Approval becomes mandatory for such vehicles. Measures not operable until 2010.

This depends on adoption of proposed revised framework type-approval directive by EU.

Transport Regulations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

364 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the regulations, including SI reference number, signed by him since 1 January 2007; if he will verify that the text of each of these are available on his Department’s website; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17574/07]

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

SI Number

Title of SI

Text available on Department website

161 of 2007

Air Navigation and Transport (Amendment) Act 1998 (Aggregate Borrowings Limit Variation) Order 2007

The Order was signed by my Predecessor on the 18th April 2007. The statutory period in relation to the laying of the S.I. before the Houses of the Oireachtas is 21 sitting days. Due to the dissolving of the Dáil and Seanad this document still has 17 sitting days remaining to be served. When that 21 statutory sitting days period has expired, the S.I. will be published on my Department’s website.

285 of 2007

European Communities (Occurrence Reporting in Civil Aviation) Regulations 2007

Text of Regulation is available on my Department’s website.

145 of 2007

Railway (Glounthane to Midleton) Order 2007

Text of Regulation is available on my Department’s website.

232 of 2007

Railway Safety Act 2005 (Part 8) (Appointed Day) Order 2007

Text of Regulation is available on my Department’s website.

15 of 2007

Railway (Dublin Light Rail Line A — Tallaght to Abbey Street) (Amendment) Order 2007

Text of Regulation is available on my Department’s website.

189 of 2007

Light Railway (Fixed Payment Notice) Regulations 2007

Text of Regulation is available on my Department’s website.

212 of 2007

European Communities (Transport of Dangerous Goods by Rail) (Amendment) Regulations 2007

Text of Regulation is currently being put on my Department’s website.

86 of 2007

Road Traffic Act 2006 (Commencement) Order 2007

Text of Regulation is not available on my Department’s website. It is available from the Government Publications Sale Office.

112 of 2007

European Communities (Port State Control) (Amendment) Regulations 2007

Text of Regulation is available on my Department’s website.

283 of 2007

Road Traffic (special permits for Particular Vehicles) Regulations 2007

Text of Regulation is available on my Department’s website.

284 of 2007

European Communities (Port Security) Regulations 2007

Text of Regulation is available on my Department’s website.

S.I. Number to be allocated

The Mercantile Marine (Tonnage) Regulations 2007

S.I. Number to be allocated before placing on the Department’s website.

63 of 2007

Harbours Act 1996 (Compulsory Acquisition) (Dublin Port Company) Order 2007

The text of SI 063 of 2007 is not yet available on the Department’s website.

Parking Regulations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

365 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to the acute shortage of adequate parking space at the various rail stations throughout County Kildare coupled with undercapacity of commuter trains and the lack of adequate services to meet the requirements of commuters; if he will take initiatives to address these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17673/07]

The provision and management of car parking adjacent to railway stations is an operational matter for Iarnród Eireann and the local authorities. My Department has provided funding of almost €11m to Iarnród Éireann to fund additional car parking spaces at various stations along the rail network including the Kildare and Maynooth lines. These improvement works are due for completion by the end of 2007 and will increase the total car parking available at these stations by over 1600 spaces.

This funding will also cover the costs of feasibility studies by Irish Rail on a car park expansion programme.

In addition, car park provision will form part of major new railway infrastructure works such as the Kildare Route Project and the Navan Rail Link.

The capacity and frequency of services on the railway network have been substantially increased in recent years. Capacity on the Maynooth line has trebled in the last 5 years. The opening of the Docklands Station in March has also provided a significant increase in capacity on this line.

Public Transport.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

366 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the additional funding that has been set aside for the Metro North project to ensure that the project is built underground through Ballymun and Glasnevin. [17680/07]

The RPA engaged in extensive consultation on the arrangements for Metro North in Ballymun. Whilst it was very clear that there is overwhelming public support for the concept of Metro North serving Ballymun it was also clear that a significant majority of those consulted were in favour of an underground option.

In April 2007 the Board of the RPA approved the underground (cut and cover) option as the preferred alignment for Metro North through Ballymun. Since the RPA Board were in the best position to reach this conclusion, the Minister considered it appropriate that he should accept this decision.

This design change will require an adjustment to the capital envelope for the project. It is my intention that any necessary adjustment to the capital envelope for Metro North will be met from within the overall Transport 21 capital envelope.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

367 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine when a decision will be reached on the exact locations of the DCU and Griffith Avenue Metro North stations; and if further consultation is planned with affected residents. [17681/07]

Following an extensive public consultation process the selected route for Metro North was announced in October 2006. Metro North will have 15 stops, including ones at DCU, Griffith Avenue and Drumcondra.

The Railway Procurement Agency are at present preparing of an Environmental Impact Statement and other documentation required to support an application to An Bord Pleanála for a Railway Order (the legal permission needed to build and operate Metro North).

The RPA continues to engage extensively with residents along the route of Metro North in exploring mechanisms for addressing their concerns (including concerns about the location of the Griffith Avenue and DCU stops and the tunnel alignment between Drumcondra and Griffith Avenue). The RPA have also responded to individual queries raised by residents and businesses and have had meetings with many of these stakeholders to discuss their concerns.

The RPA has received many, and sometimes irreconcilable requests, from residents along the route of Metro North. On 15 June, RPA wrote to over 2,000 residents setting out the current status of work and committing to follow up with an analysis of other tunnel alignment options that would make greater use of green space. When these options have been further developed, RPA will write to all affected residents again enclosing details of the options and seeking comments on them. It is important to note that whichever route is chosen will pass beneath houses, businesses and other buildings.

A programme to address concerns expressed about the location of the DCU stop has also been put in place by the RPA.

The comments of residents will feed into the overall environmental assessment of the options so that the detailed tunnel alignment and stop locations for this portion of Metro North can be finalised in order to make a Railway Order application to An Bord Pleanála.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

368 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the way Metro West will serve Finglas and Meakstown. [17682/07]

After studies of possible Metro West routes the RPA has identified two main route options. Route Option 1 runs west of the M50 via Clondalkin, Liffey Valley and Blanchardstown, (with possible stops at Meakstown and Sillogue). Route Option 2 runs west of Clondalkin via Lucan and Blanchardstown and serving Blanchardstown Institute of Technology and Ballycoolin (with possible stops at Harristown and Sillogue). Various sub-options have also been identified.

Since the RPA could not identify a possible feasible alignment, there are no plans for Metro West to serve Finglas directly. The possible stop at Meakstown would, however, serve the northern fringe of the Finglas area.

The route finally selected may be a combination or variation of the Options I or 2 or other options identified during the public consultation process which took place November 2006 to February 2007. Approximately 850 submissions were received by the RPA during this time. I expect the RPA to make an announcement on the preferred route of Metro West in the near future.

Road Safety.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

369 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine if his Department has issued guidelines to local authorities on the qualifying criteria applied by them for the provision of pedestrian crossings and other traffic calming measures; and the role of his Department in setting policy in relation to criteria from such measures. [17683/07]

Section 38 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 provides that a road authority may, in the interest of the safety and convenience of road users, provide such traffic calming measures as they consider desirable in respect of public roads in their charge. The decision of whether or not to provide a traffic calming measure at any location and the nature of the measure that is deemed to be appropriate is a matter to be determined at local level by each road authority as part of its traffic management role.

The regulatory signs to be provided at pedestrian crossings are prescribed in Part V of the Road Traffic (Signs) Regulations 1997. In addition, the Traffic Signs Manual is a statutory directive given to road authorities by the Minister for Transport setting out guidance on the provision and use of traffic signs, including the provision of pedestrian crossings and various traffic calming measures.

I have not issued statutory guidelines pursuant to section 38 of the 2004 Act but a non-statutory manual, titled Traffic Management Guidelines, was published jointly in 2003 by my Department, the Dublin Transportation Office and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. This publication sets out comprehensive guidelines, best practice and recommended criteria in relation to the deployment of a wide range of traffic calming measures.

Copies of each of the publications that I have referred to are available in the Oireachtas library.

The RPA has received many, and sometimes irreconcilable requests, from residents along the route of Metro North. On 15 June, RPA wrote to over 2,000 residents setting out the current status of work and committing to follow up with an analysis of other tunnel alignment options that would make greater use of green space. When these options have been further developed, RPA will write to all affected residents again enclosing details of the options and seeking comments on them. It is important to note that whichever route is chosen will pass beneath houses, businesses and other buildings.

Road and Rail Networks.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

370 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the projects approved in his Department in 2007 which exceed the threshold for a cost benefit analysis; and the person who conducted the analysis in each case. [18190/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is outlined in the following table.

Project approved

CBA conducted by

Luas Line B1 from Sandyford to Cherrywood

Railway Procurement Agency

Luas Line C1 from Connolly station to the Point

Railway Procurement Agency

Luas Line A1 spur off Red Line to Citywest

Railway Procurement Agency

Funding for thirty three Intercity Railcars

Bernard Feeney of Goodbody Economic Consultants

Integrated Ticketing Project

Independent Technical Adviser to the Integrated Ticketing Project Board and by the Railway Procurement Agency Project Director to the Integrated Ticketing Project.

The business cases, including the cost benefit analyses, for the projects referred to above were independently reviewed on behalf of the Department.

In relation to national roads projects, the planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects, including the preparation of cost benefit analyses, is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) and the local authorities concerned.

Emigrant Support Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

371 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in relation to undocumented Irish people living in America; the discussions that have taken place in this regard recently between the Government and the US politicians; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16836/07]

James Bannon

Question:

372 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the measures he will take to assist the undocumented Irish following the failure of the US Emigration Bill to gain Senate approval; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17000/07]

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

375 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding the issue relating to the undocumented Irish in the United States of America; the contacts he is maintaining in the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17125/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 371, 372 and 375 together.

The Government attaches the highest priority to the welfare of the undocumented Irish in the United States, and takes every opportunity in contacts with US political leaders to emphasise the importance of addressing this matter in a sympathetic and pragmatic manner.

Immigration reform is one of the most contentious and high profile political issues in the US. Only a bipartisan solution can succeed in reforming the immigration system. However, it is clear that securing the necessary bipartisan consensus on this complex and divisive matter remains a very considerable challenge.

There is strong awareness on Capitol Hill of the Irish dimension to the undocumented issue. Our Ambassador in Washington is extremely active in highlighting our concerns, as are officials of our Consulates across the United States. The Taoiseach and I, as well as members of the Oireachtas, have raised the issue with key figures in the US Administration and on Capitol Hill, and have made known our strong support for measures that would be of benefit to the undocumented Irish. Our sustained political contacts have been strengthened by the mobilisation of the Irish community behind the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, a highly effective organisation which we are happy to support, including financially.

On May 17th, a bipartisan coalition of US Senators, including Senator Kennedy, reached what has been characterised as a "grand compromise" on comprehensive immigration reform. Very regrettably however, it did not prove possible to move the bill to a final vote on this occasion.

Following a meeting on June 12th between President Bush and Republican Senators, and a subsequent announcement by the President of his support for a $4.4 billion initiative on strengthening border security, the Democratic Leader in the Senate and his Republican counterpart announced that the bill is being brought back to the Senate floor. In this regard, a vote is expected to be taken today to determine whether debate will be resumed on the Bill. The Government will continue to lobby actively for a favourable outcome in the critical period ahead.

Passport Applications.

Willie Penrose

Question:

373 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding whether the baby of an Irish person and their fiancé in Thailand, is entitled to an Irish passport; the position in this context regarding the mother of the child, who wishes to come here, to be with her Irish fiancé on a long term basis; the emigration procedures provided for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17081/07]

Irish passports are only issued to Irish citizens. In the case of the baby referred to in the Deputy's question, if (as seems to be implied) his/her father was born in Ireland, then the baby is automatically an Irish citizen. In order to obtain a passport for the baby, a passport application form can be obtained from the office of our Honorary Consuls in either Bangkok or Phuket, at the following addresses:

Honorary Consulate of Ireland

28th Floor, Q. House Lumpini Building

1 South Sathorn Road

Thugmahamek, Sathorn

Bangkok 10120, Thailand

Telephone: +662 677 7500

Honorary Consulate of Ireland

Tamarind Valley

79/6 Moo 4

Soi Sermsook

Viset Road,

Rawai, Muang,

Phuket 83130, Thailand

Telephone: +66 76 281 273

Further information is also available at www.passport.ie

If the fiancée in question is a Thai passport holder (as also seems to be implied), she will require a visa to enter Ireland. A visa application form can be obtained from the above addresses and should, on completion, be lodged there together with supporting documentation. Useful guidelines and details of the documentation required for specific visa types are available on the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) website at www.inis.gov.ie

Diplomatic Representation.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

374 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when he expects to establish an Irish Embassy in Ukraine. [17124/07]

Ireland established formal diplomatic relations with the Ukraine in 1992 and our Ambassador to the Czech Republic is accredited there on a non-resident basis. There are regular contacts at political and official level, while the economic relationship between the two countries is growing.

As I believe the Deputy will appreciate, any expansion of our diplomatic network can only be undertaken having regard to clear priorities. In this regard, and while the opening of new Missions is reviewed by the Government on a regular basis, there are no plans to establish a resident Embassy in the Ukraine at this time.

Question No. 375 answered with QuestionNo. 371.

State Airports.

Richard Bruton

Question:

376 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether random checks of flights through Shannon should be put in place in order to validate the claims that the airport is never used for rendition flights; if such checks have been carried out to date; if the views of the Human Rights Commission have been sought on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17445/07]

The Government are completely opposed to the practice of so-called extraordinary rendition, as were the previous Government. Our concerns in relation to this matter have been made clear to the highest levels of the US Government, including by the Taoiseach to President Bush. The Government received specific assurances from the US authorities, confirmed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, that such prisoners have not been transferred through Irish territory, nor would they be, without our permission.

A number of Garda investigations have confirmed that there is no evidence of any illegal activity related to extraordinary rendition at Irish airports. Where the Gardaí have suspicions about a particular aircraft, they have full powers to board and inspect that aircraft. As I have previously informed the House, the decision to search a particular aircraft, if and when warranted in accordance with law, would be a matter for An Garda Síochána. As the Government have also repeatedly made clear, An Garda Síochána has the powers it needs to investigate all allegations of illegal activity. In addition, there is no legal bar to the search of civilian aircraft of the type allegedly involved where there is a basis for so doing.

I have had detailed exchanges with Dr Maurice Manning, the President of the Irish Human Rights Commission, on all issues related to extraordinary rendition, and I have set out the Government's view that we are fully in compliance with our international obligations. I would also note that in their joint statement on extraordinary rendition of 27 June 2006, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists and the Association for the Prevention of Torture do not call for spot checks, but rather for the inspection of aircraft "where there are grounds for believing... [they are] being used to transport detainees". It has always been the Government's position that in such circumstances, An Garda Síochána should exercise their powers of entry and search of an aircraft.

On my instructions, Ireland has taken the lead at EU level in raising possible improvements to the regulation of civil aviation, in particular through the amendment of the 1994 Chicago Convention. We are also in ongoing discussion with fellow-members of the International Civil Aviation Organisation in this regard. These discussions are at an early stage, but nonetheless I believe that they may have the potential to be productive. It is clear, however, that for any reforms in this area to be effective, they will require to be implemented at least at the European level.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

377 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the way he will establish whether aircraft using Shannon Airport, which are owned or contracted by foreign military or intelligence organisations, are doing so as part of a UN mandated operation in view of the Programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17757/07]

The use of Shannon airport by aircraft continuing to transport US troops is wholly in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions on Afghanistan and Iraq. In relation to Iraq, UN Security Council Resolutions 1511 and 1546 explicitly call on UN member States to assist the multinational force in Iraq. Subsequent Resolutions have annually renewed the mandate of the multinational forces, noting also that they are there at the request of the Government of Iraq. The current mandate under UNSCR 1723 runs up to the end of 2007.

The Programme for Government does not address the above but deals with the quite separate issue of extraordinary rendition and reiterates that the Government are totally opposed to the practice. The Government will ensure that all relevant legal instruments are used so that the practice of extraordinary rendition does not occur in this State in any form, while Ireland will seek EU and international support to address deficiencies in aspects of the regulation of civil aviation under the Chicago Convention. This specific issue is also addressed in my reply of today's date to Deputy Bruton (Ref no. 17445/07).

Human Rights Issues.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

378 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the action he has taken to reprimand the Government of Sudan for its failure to protect the life and property of people in the Darfur region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17762/07]

The Government is gravely concerned about the plight of the vulnerable people of the Darfur region of Sudan. In cooperation with our international partners, we continue to pursue all possible avenues to provide them with increased security and support.

In my direct contacts with the Sudanese Foreign Minister in July and September 2006, I called on his Government to agree to UN engagement in peacekeeping in Darfur, and emphasised the need to make political progress on foot of the Darfur Peace Agreement of May 2006. I also pushed for improved humanitarian access in Darfur to avert further tragic consequences. I have continued to make these points in meetings I have had with states and organisations capable of influencing Sudan, including the United States, Egypt, the Arab League and the UN. I have consistently underlined Ireland's support for a genuine ceasefire, a renewed political process and an effective AU/UN hybrid peacekeeping force. On 26 March 2007, I stated publicly that in the absence of full co-operation between the Government of Sudan and the United Nations, Ireland supports urgent consideration in the UN Security Council of further measures against the Government of Sudan.

Ireland has worked unceasingly with our EU partners to ensure protection for the victims of the Darfur crisis. At the General Affairs and External Relations Council of 18 June 2007, EU Foreign Ministers condemned the Government of Sudan's renewed bombing of civilians, and again noted that the EU is ready to consider further measures (notably in the UN framework) to ensure humanitarian deliveries and the protection of civilians. We stated that those violating the human rights of civilians must be held responsible, and urged the Government of Sudan to comply with the arrest warrants that the International Criminal Court issued in May against two individuals accused of committing atrocities in Darfur.

Ireland also supports the UN Human Rights Council's work on human rights abuses in Darfur. We actively supported the holding of a UN Human Rights Council Special Session on Darfur earlier this year, as well as the dispatch of a Human Rights Council fact-finding mission to Darfur. The Government supported the decision on 30 March 2007 to establish a high level UN group to work with Sudan on implementing core recommendations in Darfur. These efforts have increased the pressure for improvements on the ground.

Although progress remains slow, pressure by the international community has produced some results. The Government of Sudan's statement on 12 June that it accepts the AU/UN hybrid mission is a step in the right direction. The hybrid mission, as described in the joint AU/UN report of 5 June 2007, will be very substantial, will be managed in line with UN standards and will have a mandate to protect civilians from violent attacks, facilitate humanitarian access and contribute to the restoration of security. It is hoped that this force will bring some respite for the people of Sudan while work in pursuit of a political solution continues.

Recognising the urgent need to sustain and strengthen the African Union AMIS force in advance of the establishment the UN/AU hybrid force, Ireland has committed €5 million to support its efforts to protect the vulnerable in Darfur. Three members of the Permanent Defence Forces also serve with the EU support mission for AMIS. In addition to our work on protection and security, the Government has been striving to meet the human needs of the victims of violent attacks and those who have been forced to flee their homes. Since 2006, Irish Aid has provided a total of over €25 million in humanitarian assistance to Sudan, through international organisations and through Irish and international NGOs.

Capital Expenditure.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

379 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the projects approved in his department in 2007 which exceed the threshold for a cost benefit analysis; and the person who conducted the analysis in each case. [18185/07]

I wish to advise the Deputy that there are no capital projects approved in my Department this year that exceed the financial threshold for a cost benefit analysis.

Job Creation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

380 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he will take to ensure that Ireland remains an attractive investment location with particular reference to the need to maintain its position in attracting foreign direct investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17640/07]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment (FDI) to Ireland and its regions. Today the level of FDI in Ireland, relative to the size of the economy, is one of the highest in the world. At present there are over 1,000 overseas companies with substantial international operations in Ireland, employing over 135,000 people. The challenge for IDA Ireland is to sustain, embed and grow this investment.

We have been successful as a country over the past decade but we continue to face new challenges in light of strong competition. We have to move to a more advanced level of investment, bearing in mind the higher costs and lower level of unemployment we now experience. In responding to this challenge IDA Ireland is focusing on the development of its employment base into high technology, high value added and high skill functions, including not only high-end manufacturing, but also areas such as high-end services and R&D.

The economic environment facing Ireland has changed in recent years. Irish firms are facing growing competition both in Europe and globally. We know that we cannot compete on the same basis as in the past. We need to protect our current strengths and develop new bases for competitive advantage. As knowledge and innovation become the basis for competition and economic development, important policy issues in the medium term will be developing our innovation potential, the human capital of our country and our economic and technological infrastructure.

The National Development Plan 2007 to 2013, which was announced earlier this year, details an investment of €13.6billlion in Enterprise over the lifetime of the Plan. The investment includes €7.7 billion for training and upskilling our people, €3.3 billion in Enterprise Development and €2.7 billion, as part of an overall investment of €8.3 billion, in Science, Technology and Innovation.

Ireland has now established a reputation globally as a location for advanced manufacturing, sophisticated business services and, increasingly, for leading research and innovation. Each of these areas will be of critical importance to our continuing success.

I am satisfied that the policies and strategies being pursued by the Government under the National Development Plan together with the policies being pursued by IDA Ireland are the most appropriate ones to attract and grow foreign direct investment in the country that will, in turn, maintain and grow employment into the future.

James Bannon

Question:

381 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures being taken to put job creation programmes into place to bring quality and secure employment to Longford/Westmeath and to compensate for job losses due to company closures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16499/07]

The development agencies under the remit of my Department, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, the County Enterprise Boards and FÁS (the Training and Employment Authority) have remits, respectively, in the areas of attracting and growing foreign direct investment, growing indigenous enterprises; and developing the labour market.

A range of strategies, programmes and financial incentives are in place to promote economic development that will give rise to sustainable employment throughout the country.

The strategies and programmes of the development agencies are very much in line with the National Development Plan and the National Spatial Strategy. Under the NSS, Longford/ Westmeath is part of the Midland region. Athlone and Mullingar are joint gateway towns together with Tullamore, while Longford is a hub town.

I am satisfied that the strategies currentlyin place for the development of Longford/Westmeath under these plans are the most appropriate and will lead to productive and sustainable employment for the people of the region.

Proposed Legislation.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

382 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the dates on which the heads of Bills (details supplied) will be approved by Government; and the expected dates of publication of the said bills. [16613/07]

The following is the position in relation to the Bills in my Department:

Chemicals Bill

I expect to seek Government approval for the drafting of this Bill before the end of the year. The content and timing of publication of the Bill will be decided by the Government in due course.

Collective Investment Schemes Consolidation Bill

My intention is to have Heads of Bill available for submission to Government for approval for drafting by December 2007. This, however, is dependent on a number of factors, including, for example, a positive outcome to discussions with stakeholders. It is not possible, at this stage, to give an indication of the likely date for publication of the Bill.

Company Law Consolidation and Reform Bill

I expect to seek Government approval in early autumn for the formal drafting by the Office of the Parliamentary Council of the Company Law Consolidation and Reform Bill. As the Office of the Parliamentary Council has indicated that its work on the Bill is expected to take up to 18 months, the date of publication of the Bill is likely to be late 2008 or early 2009.

Employment Agency Regulation Bill

Following the recent period of consultation and subsequent clarification of certain legal questions, I expect to submit the Heads of the Bill to Government for approval in early autumn. Depending on the volume of Bills submitted for drafting to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel and the priorities identified by Government as to drafting, it is anticipated that the Bill will be published before end-year.

Employment Law Compliance Bill 2007

Preparatory work is well advanced to give effect to the commitment in "TOWARDS 2016" for publication of the Employment Law Compliance Bill in 2007. The Social Partners and other relevant interests will be consulted on detailed proposals for the Bill and Government approval for final drafting will be sought as soon as those consultations are completed, within the next few months. The content and timing of publication of the Bill will be decided by the Government in due course.

Transfer of Undertakings (Pensions) Bill

The examination of this issue is to be concluded by the end of 2007. The outcome in terms of legislation is not yet clear and therefore I cannot give dates for either approval of draft Heads or publication of the Bill.

Semi-State Bodies.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

383 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the salary and expenses paid to each individual vice-chairperson of a body (details supplied) for each year of their membership up to January 2007 with a breakdown of the expenses to include travel expenses. [16648/07]

The Vice-Chairpersons of the body concerned are part time and are appointed for a term of office on a three-year basis. Vice-Chairpersons are paid a per diem fee and paid expenses (travel and subsistence) in line with Department of Finance regulations. The last term of office ended on 29th January 2007.

The gross fees and expenses paid to Vice-Chairpersons over the three year period up to 29th January 2007 is set out in the following schedule.

SCHEDULE

Fees and expenses paid to vice-chairpersons in respect of the period 30 January 2004 to 29 January 2007

No.

Fees

Expenses (all of which are in respect of travel and subsistence)

1

14,680.00

1,980.09

2

39,798.00

3,704.21

3

42,091.00

7,488.09

4

50,351.00

21,207.59

5

63,535.00

23,436.69

6

9,196.00

883.69

7

37,556.00

2,268.55

8

32,198.00

13,588.80

9

22,862.00

673.67

10

5,839.00

2,432.69

11

4,264.00

2,932.89

12

42,014.00

664.39

13

68,261.00

2,306.29

14

40,470.00

2,840.24

15

33,932.00

11,877.75

16

9,259.00

2,552.59

17

36,764.00

319.14

18

6,703.00

1,119.34

19

57,999.00

7,398.26

20

99,548.00

18,059.63

21

43,111.00

1,676.27

22

44,208.00

12,899.68

23

47,275.00

2,713.59

24

16,204.00

3,356.32

25

80,605.00

11,495.82

26

18,064.00

4,941.95

27

46,747.00

5,272.09

28

45,656.00

6,599.07

29

20,416.00

1,478.51

30

33,588.00

26,454.87

31

31,148.00

1,284.10

Total

1,144,342.00

215,906.86

National Partnership Agreement.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

384 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a person (details supplied) in County Cork is entitled to be paid under the national wage agreement. [16649/07]

The pay terms of all social partnership agreements are negotiated voluntarily and they come into force in individual employments through normal industrial relations processes. While the pay terms are not binding in the formal sense, it is expected that implementation would be effected through local agreement. Except where otherwise agreed at local level, the pay terms of "Towards 2016" came into force on the expiry of the pay terms of Part Two of "Sustaining Progress" in each individual employment or industry and last for a period of 27 months.

It is open to an employee whose employer has refused to pay the terms of the social partnership agreements to refer the dispute to the Labour Relations Commission. The dispute can only be investigated if the employer is willing to participate in such an investigation.

Job Protection.

Denis Naughten

Question:

385 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he proposes to take to secure the future employment of staff at a company (details supplied) in County Westmeath; the discussions which have taken place between the State agencies and the company concerned; the plans there are to relocate other planned developments by another company to the Athlone site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16685/07]

On 7 May, the company in question announced that it was necessary for it to discontinue with immediate effect, the sale of the sole product manufactured in Athlone. On 22 May, the company advised all employees that it was considering closing its facility in Athlone and entered into a period of consultation with employees and their representatives.

In the meantime, discussions had been taking place between IDA Ireland and local management in Athlone and the management of the parent company in the United States. These discussions centered on the possibilities of finding alternative products that could be moved to Athlone at short notice. Efforts to find such products continued throughout May and June but were unsuccessful.

Last Friday, the company advised its employees that it had no alternative but to cease operations in Athlone. Some 32 staff will remain to the end of August to decommission the facility. A further 12 staff members are being relocated to other facilities in Ireland and 65 staff members have already succeeded in finding alternative employment. The balance, 54 people, have received one month's notice of redundancy. The company is supporting its staff through active outplacement and the hosting of job fairs.

Both the company and IDA Ireland will be actively involved in promoting the site and, indeed, there have already been visits to Athlone by potential new tenants. However, at this stage, it is too early to say when a new employer might occupy the facility. The Employment Services of the Industrial Training agency FÁS are working with the company to assist the workers to find employment, identify training needs and provide guidance and training where necessary. In addition, the agency is co-operating with the Athlone Institute of Technology in the provision of appropriate services for the workers.

Work Permits.

Michael Ring

Question:

386 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a work permit renewal application will be finalised for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [16891/07]

I am informed by the Employment Permits Section of my Department that a Work Permit in respect of Mr. Wai Ming Mak was renewed for the period 19 March 2007 to 18 March 2009. The original work permit was issued to the employee and a copy was issued to his employer on 13 June 2007.

National Minimum Wage.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

387 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the minimum wage for a person working in a private child care facility or creche. [17070/07]

The provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act apply to all employees, including full-time, part-time, temporary and casual employees except the following categories of employees who are excluded from its provisions: (i) close relatives of the employer such as a spouse, father, mother, son, daughter, brother and sister; (ii) apprentices within the meaning of the Industrial Training Act, 1967 and Labour Services Act, 1987 including an apprentice printer, bricklayer, mechanic, plumber, carpenter/ joiner and electrician.

An experienced adult worker must be paid an average hourly rate of pay that is not less than the national minimum wage shown under in a pay reference period. A pay reference period may be a week, a fortnight or no longer than a month. From 1 January, 2007 the national minimum hourly rate of pay is €8.30. From 1 July, 2007 the national minimum hourly rate of pay is €8.65.

For employees who are :(i) under age 18 or (ii) in the first two years after the date of first employment over age 18, or trainees undergoing structured training the lower minimum wage rates shown in the table below apply.

Employee

Minimum Hourly Rate of Pay

From 1 January 2007 Per working hour

From 1 July 2007 Per working hour

Experienced adult worker

8.30

8.65

Under age 18

5.81

6.06

* In the first year after the date of first employment over age 18, whether or not the employee changes employer during the year

6.64

6.92

* In the second year after the date of first employment over age 18, whether or not the employee changes employer during the year

7.47

7.79

In a course of training or study over age 18, undertaken in normal working hours

1st one third period

6.23

6.49

2nd one third period

6.64

6.92

3rd one third period

7.47

7.79

NB: Each one third period must be at least one month and no longer than twelve months.

Experienced adult worker named by the Labour Court in granting a temporary exemption to an employer from paying the national minimum hourly rate of pay.

Labour Court will decide the lower hourly rate of pay that the employee must be paid for the period of the temporary exemption.

NB: Minimum period of temporary exemption is 3 months and maximum period is 12 months.

* Employment experience prior to age 18 is not taken into account for these rates.

Company Closures.

Jack Wall

Question:

388 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of complaints submitted to the Companies Registration Office in relation to companies continuing to trade after dissolution for each of the past three years; the aspect of trading that each company was involved with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17242/07]

Jack Wall

Question:

389 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the procedure in legislation to deal with companies that continue to trade after dissolution of the company. [17243/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 388 and 389 together.

The main provision of the Companies Acts dealing with cases of trading while unincorporated is Section 381 of the Companies Act 1963 (as amended). Under this section, it is an offence for a person to trade or carry on a business under a name or title of which "Limited" or "Teoranta" is the last word, unless duly incorporated with limited liability.

Complaints relating to cases of this kind received by the Companies Registration Office are referred to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) for attention. I am informed by the ODCE that it received 13, 26 and 43 complaints in 2004, 2005 and 2006 respectively in relation to alleged trading while unincorporated. A minority of this category of complaint related to trading as a limited company while struck off the Companies Register. ODCE does not track the aspect of trading pertaining to the person the subject of each such complaint.

I understand that it is ODCE practice to determine these complaints on an administrative basis. This means that the persons who are the subject of the complaints are either found not to be in breach of company law or where a breach is evident, that the persons in question take action to correct their non-compliance thereby obviating the need for possible legal proceedings. Such remedial action typically includes restoring the company to the Register of Companies or ceasing to represent the trading entity as a limited company. If the Deputy has information relating to particular companies trading while unincorporated I would encourage him to refer it to the ODCE for its consideration.

Job Creation.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

390 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his proposals in regard to job creation in the Waterford constituency; the discussion he has had with the relevant State agencies in this regard since the general election; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17544/07]

The development agencies under the remit of my Department, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, the County Enterprise Boards and FÁS (the Training and Employment Authority) have remits, respectively, in the areas of attracting and growing foreign direct investment; growing indigenous enterprises; and developing the labour market.

A range of strategies, programmes and financial incentives are in place to promote economic development that will give rise to sustainable employment throughout the country. The strategies and programmes of the development agencies are very much in line with the National Development Plan and the National Spatial Strategy. Under the NSS, Waterford is part of the Southeast region, with Waterford city designated as a gateway city and Dungarvan as a hub town. I am satisfied that the strategies currently in place for the development of Waterford under these plans are the most appropriate and will lead to productive and sustainable employment for the people of the region.

Departmental Projects.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

391 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the projects approved in his Department in 2007 which exceed the threshold for a cost benefit analysis; and the person who conducted the analysis in each case. [18182/07]

The Department of Finance's guidelines on the Appraisal and Management of Capital Expenditure Proposals in the Public Sector provide that a cost-benefit analysis should be carried out on capital projects above a threshold of €30 million. My Department has not directly approved any capital projects costing over €30 million this year. Capital funding allocated to my Department's Vote is expended through various agencies under the aegis of my Department. I will check the position regarding capital projects costing over €30 million with the agencies concerned and I will write to the Deputy further on the matter.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

392 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when the expenditure review of the local authority swimming pool programme will be completed; and when is it expected that a new round of the local authority swimming pool programme will be launched. [17548/07]

My Department is completing the Expenditure Review of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme at present and on its completion it will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and published. The Review is examining, among other things, how the programme has worked to date and what changes, if any, are required to ensure its effective and efficient delivery. Thereafter, following consideration of the recommendations in the Review, it is my intention to launch a new round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme.

Departmental Projects.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

393 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the projects approved in his Department in 2007 which exceed the threshold for a cost benefit analysis; and the person who conducted the analysis in each case. [18177/07]

There have been no projects approved to date in my Department in 2007 which exceed the threshold of €30 million required for undertaking a cost benefit analysis.

Social Insurance.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

394 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare can pay PRSI health contributions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16543/07]

Self employed (Class S) contributors are entitled to the following payments:

Widow's/Widower's (Contributory) Pension;

Orphan's (Contributory) Allowance;

Old Age (Contributory) Pension;

Maternity Benefit;

Adoptive Benefit, and

Bereavement Grant.

When Class S was introduced for self-employed persons in 1988, coverage for both short-term insurance-based payments such as disability benefit and for illness was excluded on the grounds that it would prove too administratively/legally complex and costly to implement. The range of benefits to which different groups of workers may establish entitlement reflects the risks associated with the nature of their work and this is in turn reflected in the rate of contributions payable. Self-employed individuals pay Class S contributions at a rate of 3% and are eligible for a narrower range of benefits than employees who, together with their employers, are liable for a total contribution of 14.05% under PRSI Class A. Self-employed workers who do not qualify for an insurance-based benefit may claim supplementary welfare allowance, which is subject to a means test.

PRSI contributions comprise a social insurance portion and a health contribution. The health contribution goes towards the funding of public health services and does not become part of the Social Insurance Fund which finances social insurance payments. Entitlement to health services in Ireland is not related to these contributions but is primarily based on residency and means. If the Deputy has any further queries in relation to this case, he is invited to contact officials from my Department.

Decentralisation Programme.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

395 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the situation regarding the decentralisation to Carrickmacross and Monaghan towns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17380/07]

Under the Decentralisation Programme announced by the Government in 2003, the Department is to relocate 85 posts to Carrickmacross. In addition, the Combat Poverty Agency, which is under the aegis of the Department, is designated to relocate to Monaghan Town. The Decentralisation Implementation Group Progress Report to the Minister for Finance in September 2006 indicates that the indicative construction start date for Carrickmacross is mid 2007 and the construction completion date is end 2008. The Office of Public Works (OPW) has been charged with securing accommodation in the decentralised locations. At this time there is no indicative construction start date for Monaghan Town.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

396 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a decision has been made on the awarding of an old age pension to a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16522/07]

The person concerned applied for State Pension (Contributory) in May 2006. According to the records of my Department, she has outstanding PRSI liabilities as a self-employed person for the following years, 1995/6, 1996/7, 1998/9 and 1999/00. Section 110 (1) of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act of 2005 provides that a self-employed contributor shall not be regarded as satisfying the qualifying conditions unless all outstanding PRSI contributions are paid.

This customer was previously notified of this decision and has been advised to contact her local Tax Office regarding the outstanding liabilities. She has also been informed by my Department on a number of occasions of the amount of PRSI outstanding. When the outstanding liability has been discharged entitlement to State Pension Contributory can be re-examined.

Grant Payments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

397 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a bereavement grant will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16566/07]

An application for a bereavement grant from the person concerned was received on the 17/01/07 but, based on the information provided, a grant is not payable as there is no record of any reckonable PRSI contributions having been paid by the person concerned. A deciding officer disallowed the claim on 17/01/07 and a notice of the decision with a right of appeal was issued to the claimant on that date.

Question No. 398 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Ring

Question:

399 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the outcome of an appeal for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [16854/07]

The person's claim for disability allowance was refused by a Deciding Officer following an examination by a Medical Assessor of the Department who expressed the view that he was not medically qualified for this payment. The person appealed this decision and was examined by another Medical Assessor and the comments of the Deciding Officer were also sought.

The papers have now been referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in the case. The person is currently in receipt of Supplementary Allowance pending the resolution of his appeal. Under Social Welfare Legislation decisions in relation to claims must be made by Deciding Officers and Appeals Officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Ring

Question:

400 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved and awarded invalidity pension based on the new medical evidence submitted. [16858/07]

The person concerned applied for an invalidity pension on 2 March 2007. Prior to this he was in receipt of Illness Benefit with effect from 23 November 2005. A medical examination was carried out on the 10th May 2007 following which the person concerned was found to be not permanently incapable of work.

The application for Invalidity Pension was refused on 23rd May, 2007. The person concerned was notified of the decision and given a right of review and appeal. Further medical evidence was submitted on the 7th June, 2007 and is being reviewed by a Medical Assessor of my Department. The person concerned will be notified of the outcome of the review as soon as possible.

Joe Costello

Question:

401 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a two to three month delay in issuing disability payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16860/07]

Disability Allowance (DA) is a weekly Allowance paid to people with a specified disability who are aged over 16 and under 66. Processing of claims for Disability Allowance necessitates a medical examination of the claimant in some instances, and also investigation of the claimant's means by a Social Welfare Inspector, which may require a visit to the claimant's home. These processes can add time to the overall claim adjudication process.

There has been a continuous upward trend in recent years in the numbers of Disability Allowance claims — at the end of 2005 there were 79,253 recipients of DA, this had increased to 83,697 at the end of 2006, and at this point there are 85,905 people in receipt of the allowance. The Department received 17,581 new applications in 2006, and to date in 2007 some 8,986 claims have been received.

The average time to decide a claim is currently just under 17 weeks. While some of this time can be attributed to the factors mentioned above, this timescale falls short of the Department's target processing time for this scheme, which aims for 70% of new claims to be decided within 9 weeks. Every effort is being made to improve claim processing times, including use of overtime. Additionally, a review of the resourcing requirements of the section is being undertaken to identify any further steps which may be necessary.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Ring

Question:

402 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason an oral hearing to finalise a disability allowance appeal for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo was cancelled; when it will be rescheduled in order that this matter can be brought to a conclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16908/07]

The person concerned applied for disability allowance which is a means tested scheme. The Deciding Officer disallowed the claim on the grounds that the person's means exceeded the means limits for that scheme. He appealed against this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. The Appeals Officer proposed to hold an oral hearing on 6 June 2007. This hearing was cancelled due to the unavailability of a witness who was requested to attend by the Appeals Officer. The case will be rescheduled as quickly as possible.

Under Social Welfare Legislation decisions in relation to claims must be made by Deciding Officers and Appeals Officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Social Welfare Code.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

403 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if there are plans to pay the living alone allowance to returned emigrants who are not in receipt of other payments from his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17025/07]

The living alone allowance, or living alone increase as it is now known, is an additional payment of €7.70 per week made to people aged 66 years or over who are in receipt of certain social welfare payments and who are living alone. It is also available to people under 66 years of age who are living alone and who receive payments under one of a number of invalidity type schemes. The increase is intended as a contribution towards the additional costs people face when they live alone.

The increase is not a payment in its own right but one that is paid as a supplement to an Irish social welfare payment. As such, it cannot be paid to people without a social welfare entitlement or to those whose pension payments are made exclusively under the social security regimes of other countries.

In relation to the latter, the needs of older people are often provided for in different ways by other countries. While the Irish system provides a basic pension, supplemented by allowances, increases and other benefits, the approach adopted by other countries can be very different involving, for instance, a pension based on pre-retirement earnings. It is of course open to recipients of pensions from other countries to apply for the state pension (non-contributory). In order to qualify for the state pension (non-contributory) a person must satisfy a means test. The pension, including, where appropriate, a living alone increase, can be paid in addition to other pension income. Changes in the income disregard for non-contributory pensions announced over the last two Budgets will help more people to qualify for a pension and improve the income of existing pensioners on reduced payments. At present some 11,000 British Retirement Pensioners are also receiving a state pension (non-contributory).

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Ring

Question:

404 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when an oral hearing will be scheduled for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo to finalise their appeal for a respite care grant for 2005 as the delay is most unfair in view of the fact that the matter has been ongoing for many months and that the claimant has been caring for their brother for many years; the date this appeal was lodged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17058/07]

The person concerned was awarded respite care in respect of 2006. A Deciding Officer disallowed his application in respect of 2005 on the grounds that the care recipient was not so incapacitated as to require full-time care and attention at that time.

On 15 January 2007 the person concerned appealed against the decision to refuse him a Respite Care Grant for 2005. In accordance with the statutory requirements, the relevant departmental papers and comments of my Department were sought. These have now been provided and I am informed that the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing. The person concerned will be informed when arrangements have been made.

Social Insurance.

Michael Ring

Question:

405 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will review the PRSI rate being deducted from retired Civil Service personnel; if this deduction is grossly unfair in view of the fact that those people have no entitlements to health care or State pension and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17059/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

406 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason people such as nurses who worked within the Civil Service and paid a modified rate of PRSI during their careers which did not entitle them to a State contributory pension on retirement have to pay PRSI from their health board or Health Service Executive retirement pension; the purpose of this PRSI deduction from their pension payments; the benefits it entitles them to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17060/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 405 and 406 together.

Permanent and pensionable employees in the public service — other than those who were recruited after 6 April, 1995, registered doctors and dentists employed in the Civil Service, Gardaí, commissioned army officers and members of the Army Nursing Service — are liable to pay social insurance contributions at the modified PRSI Class D rate during their working lives. While these contributors are not eligible for social insurance-based pensions on retirement, they can accrue entitlement to the widow's/widower's (contributory) pension, the guardian's payment (contributory), occupational injuries benefits, the bereavement grant and carer's benefit. This reflects the reduced 0.90% PRSI rate that they paid as permanent and pensionable workers and the fact that their former employers cover them directly under Civil Service regulations for occupational pensions.

Holders of occupational pensions are required, under statutory provisions set down by the Department of Health and Children, to pay a health contribution of 2.00% on all income exceeding €480 per week and for an additional contribution of 0.50% on all income exceeding €1,925 per week. The Department of Social and Family Affairs collects this contribution on behalf of the Department of Health and Children and nominally denotes the contribution as PRSI Class K.

Health contributions are channelled into the funding of national health services by the Department of Health and Children and are consistent with the solidarity principle of the PRSI system. Entitlement to health services in Ireland is not related to these contributions but is primarily based on residency and means.

Social Welfare Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

407 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to redress the imbalance that currently exists in the qualification criteria for the household benefits package which currently is not open to a person in receipt of a disability pension and living with an early retired sibling. [17065/07]

The household benefits package, which comprises the electricity/gas allowance, telephone allowance and free television licence schemes, is generally available to people living in the State, aged 66 years or over, who are in receipt of a social welfare type payment or who satisfy a means test. The package is also available to carers and people with disabilities under the age of 66 who are in receipt of certain welfare type payments. Widows and widowers aged from 60 to 65 whose late spouses had been in receipt of the household benefit package or free travel retain that entitlement. This measure is in place to ensure that households who have this entitlement do not lose it on the death of a spouse.

People aged over 70 years of age can qualify for the household benefits package regardless of their income or household composition. Those aged under 70 must live alone or only with certain excepted people in order to qualify. Excepted people for the purposes of the scheme include qualified adults, dependent children under age 18 or under age 22 if in full time education, people who are so incapacitated as to require constant care and attention for at least 12 months, people who would qualify for the allowance in their own right, people who are providing constant care and attention to any member of the household who is so incapacitated as to require constant care and attention for at least 12 months.

A range of proposals has been made to extend the coverage of the household benefits package of free schemes. These proposals are kept under review in the context of the objectives of the scheme and budgetary resources.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

408 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason for the delay in processing family income supplement claims; the efforts being made to reduce the waiting times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17141/07]

David Stanton

Question:

413 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a backlog of family income supplement claims exists; if so, the number of applications currently awaiting decision; the number of these which are renewals; the average amount of time it is currently taking to process an application; the measures his Department is taking to address the delays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17202/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 408 and 413 together.

The Family Income Supplement (FIS) is an income support for employees on low earnings with families. There are currently 20,780 people in receipt of a weekly FIS payment with an average value of over €130. Entitlement to FIS is based on an applicant satisfying a means test and on certification of employment by the employer. My Department has publicised the scheme regularly in order to maximise uptake by qualified families. Following significant increases in the income limits in the 2006 budget, my Department undertook a week-long nationwide awareness campaign in March of that year to encourage increased take up of the scheme. This campaign, combined with the improvements in the income limits, resulted in a strong upward trend in the level of new claims. During 2006 some 13,608 new claims were received. This compared with 7,781 claims in 2005 — an increase of 75 %.

Family Income Supplement is paid for 52 weeks provided a person continues to meet the qualifying conditions, and a claim for renewal may then be made. The upward trend in new claims is reflected in volumes of claims for renewals. Renewals to 23rd June 2007 are 12,278 compared to 9,889 received in the same period in 2006. This represents an increase of 24%. This has resulted in an increase in the number of claims on hand.

To date in 2007, my Department has received 18,249 new and renewal FIS claims and has decided a total of 14,766 cases. At 1st June 07 there were 8,068 claims awaiting decision. These were comprised of 3,526 new claims and 4,542 renewal claims. The average time it takes to award a FIS claim or renewal in 2007 (up to end of May) is 10.16 weeks.

My Department is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers. This includes ensuring that applications are processed and that decisions on entitlement are issued as expeditiously as possible having regard to the eligibility conditions which apply. Measures have been introduced to directly address the timeliness of claim processing for FIS: A review of existing processes and procedures has been undertaken with the explicit objective of reducing delays in claim processing; Priority is being given to cases where a claim is being renewed to ensure continuity of payment; Additional resources have been assigned specifically to improve delivery of service, and the ongoing staffing requirement is under review.

These measures will, over time, lead to more efficient processing and reduce the number of claims on hand. The position is being kept under review by my Department.

Social Insurance.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

409 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the revenue which will be lost to the to the social insurance fund on an annual basis if PRSI is reduced from 4% to 2% for PAYE workers and from 3% to 2% for the self employed as proposed in the programme for Government. [17197/07]

Approximately 76 per cent of workers pay PRSI Class A and Class H at the rate of 4 per cent. A further 11 per cent of workers pay social insurance contributions at the Class S rate. These contributions which are subject to various thresholds, allowances and ceilings, accrue entitlement to a range of benefits and pensions under various social insurance schemes. The current employee PRSI ceiling stands at €48,800 per annum.

It is estimated that a decrease in the employee PRSI rate from 4% to 2% would reduce Social Insurance Fund income by some €720 million in a full year. The abolition of the PRSI ceiling for ordinary employees would yield some €295 million in additional contribution income. A decrease in the self-employed PRSI rate (Class S) from 3% to 2% is estimated to cost approximately €220 million in a full year. Of course if introduced as a package, the combination of measures could give rise to a compound effect.

Revisions to PRSI rates and the employee ceiling are considered annually in a budgetary context, with changes incorporated into the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 2005, as required.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

410 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when the second actuarial review of the social insurance fund, provided for under section 17 of the Social Welfare Act 1998 will be published. [17198/07]

The Social Welfare Consolidation Act, 2005, requires that an actuarial review of the financial condition of the social insurance fund will be undertaken at five-year intervals. The first actuarial review was published in October, 2002 and reflected the position of the Social Insurance Fund at the end of 2000.

The second actuarial review will update that report to address the position of the Fund at the end of 2005. The focus of the examination is the income of the Fund (including the accumulated surplus), the contributory pensions and benefits paid from the Fund, including non-cash benefits (household benefits package) and other payments (redundancy and insolvency payments). The period to be covered by the review is 55 years (from 2006 to 2061).

Following an evaluation process during the summer of 2006, external consultants were selected to carry out the actuarial review. Work on the review has now been completed. When the report has been considered by Government, it will then be laid before the houses of the Oireachtas. There is no date fixed for publication as yet but, legislation requires that a copy of the report be laid before the Oireachtas within six months of completion, publication.

Social Welfare Benefits.

David Stanton

Question:

411 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the situation regarding the implementation of lone parent proposals; when the necessary legislation regarding same will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17200/07]

The Government discussion paper, Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents, puts forward proposals for the expanded availability and range of education and training opportunities for lone parents; the extension of the National Employment Action Plan to focus on lone parents; focused provision of childcare; improved information services for lone parents and the introduction of a new social assistance payment for low income families with young children. The paper also proposes the abolition of the cohabitation rule as a condition for receipt of the proposed social assistance payment.

One of the proposals in the report is that the upper income limit for the new social assistance payment should be set at €400 per week. This element of the proposal was achieved with the increase in the upper income limit for the one parent family payment to €400 per week with effect from May this year.

The new social assistance payment, currently being developed by officials in my Department will have the long term aim of assisting people to achieve financial independence through supporting them to enter employment — the avenue that offers the best route out of poverty. Any proposed new payment can only be introduced when the necessary co-ordinated supports and services are put in place by other Departments and Agencies. This is why the Government has instructed the Senior Officials Group on Social Inclusion to draw up an implementation plan to progress the non-income recommendations in tandem with the development of the legislation required in my Department to introduce a new payment scheme.

Work on the development of this implementation plan is progressing. Issues including access to childcare support, education, training and activation measures are being discussed with the relevant Departments and Agencies. The development of legislation to introduce the new social assistance payment has been prioritised in my Department and work on this is at an advanced stage.

To further inform the process, my Department, with the co-operation of FÁS, the Office of the Minister for Children and the Department of Education and Science, will test the proposals in both an urban and rural setting. These tests will focus on identifying and resolving the practical and administrative issues that may arise. The tests will allow for operational and logistical co-o