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 9, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 10 to 82, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 83 to 89, inclusive, answered orally.

Tax Collection.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

90 Deputy Róisín Shortall 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; the number expected to be undertaken during this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23694/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that 401 cases were selected for random audit as part of their 2007 programme. As of 30 September 2007, 148 cases have been concluded, 253 cases are still ongoing. In 2006, 402 cases were selected for random auditing and 352 of these cases have been completed leaving 50 cases ongoing.

In 2005, 410 cases were selected for random audit. Of these, 62 cases did not proceed to final audit due to the particular circumstances of the taxpayer (e.g. trading had discontinued, the taxpayer was deceased or the case had been recently audited), 346 cases have been completed leaving 2 cases 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. Revenue plan to conduct a further Random programme in 2008, which again will consist of a sample size of at least 400 cases.

Carbon Budget.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

91 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the nature of the carbon budget which will be presented to Dáil Éireann; and the policy instruments which have been sanctioned by him for influencing carbon intensity. [23560/07]

The Programme for Government states that the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance will present an outline carbon report, referred to as a carbon budget, in conjunction with the annual financial budget. The Programme for Government also states that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, will follow the carbon budget with a report outlining our use of energy in the preceding year, the progress made in meeting the reduction targets and government plans to meet the targets in the following year. I will be announcing details of the 2008 budget on 5 December and prior to that date I will not make any statement regarding policies which may be introduced.

Price Inflation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

92 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his plans to ensure continued confidence in the economy with particular reference to inflation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23543/07]

I will set out my pre-Budget outlook later this week. However, at this stage I can once again reiterate that I do not subscribe to the more gloomy views of the economy that are currently abroad. Inflation, as measured by the CPI was 4.6 per cent in the twelve months to September, down from 4.8 per cent in August 2007. Although the annual rate of inflation has increased in the past year, this has, to a large extent, been due to ECB interest rate increases which are outside Government control.

A better measure of inflation is the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) which excludes, amongst other things, mortgage interest. Including the impact of mortgage rate increases, as the CPI does, would not only mask the underlying inflation rate, but would also serve to highlight the short term impact of interest rate increases which are designed to bring down inflation. The increase in the HICP to September was 2.9 per cent. Achieving a moderate rate of inflation remains a key priority of economic policy. The Government is focusing on areas it can control and has taken and continues to take positive actions to contain inflation, particularly by implementing responsible fiscal policies and by promoting greater price competition.

I note that indicators of confidence in the Irish economy continue to remain strong, with the overall IIB Bank/ESRI Consumer Sentiment Index rising to 74.3 in September, from 72.0 in August. The ESRI report that consumers are becoming more positive in their perception of the outlook for the labour market, and in relation to current economic conditions.

Tax Code.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

93 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when the commission on taxation proposed in the programme for Government is expected to be established; and if he has brought proposals on this matter to the Government to date. [23651/07]

I will be bringing proposals to Government in the near future on matters relating to the establishment of the proposed Commission on Taxation including its membership and terms of reference. 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.

Pending consideration by the Government of these proposals, I am not in a position to elaborate further on matters pertaining to the Commission.

Ministerial Transport.

Phil Hogan

Question:

94 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the fact that the recent award of a tender for the supply of 18 ministerial/executive vehicles did not include biofuel or hybrid vehicles; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that some of the cars involved had engine sizes of three litres and are powered by diesel which can produce equally harmful emissions including carbon, and the example that the decision by the State to ignore biofuel and hybrid vehicles in this tender sends to the general public about more sustainable choices in motoring; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23021/07]

Liz McManus

Question:

112 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will ensure that the ministerial and Government fleet is converted to environmentally friendly and more fuel efficient alternatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23053/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 and 112 together.

The Government Supplies Agency (GSA), which is a Business Unit of the Office of Public Works, provides a procurement service to Government Departments, Offices and Agencies for a range of goods and services including vehicles. Procurement is organised by way of public tender competitions, with contracts being awarded to the most economically advantageous tenders in each category of vehicle. Departments, Offices and Agencies purchase their vehicle requirements directly from appointed contractors on the prices, terms and conditions of the GSA contracts. The class or category of vehicle to be purchased in any individual case is a matter for the Department, Office or Agency concerned, having regard to the purposes for which the vehicle is required, the cost of the vehicle and other relevant factors including environmental factors.

It is the policy of the GSA to provide its clients with a range of contracts to meet their varying needs and to include environmentally-friendly options, where available, as an alternative to conventional vehicles. In 2007, for the majority of contracts placed by the GSA, alternative environmentally friendly options are available including hybrid vehicles (with petrol and electric engines) and flexible-fuel vehicles which can run on petrol or bio-ethanol, as well as diesel-engined vehicles which have the capacity for the inclusion of biodiesel in the fuel mixture. I am satisfied that this balanced approach provides the necessary flexibility, allowing clients to buy environmentally friendly vehicles where appropriate, while having the option of conventional vehicles.

The recent contracts for the supply of diesel-engined vehicles form a part of the procurement process for vehicles for the Ministerial fleet. Arrangements also exist for the purchase of hybrid vehicles for this fleet.

Tax Code.

James Bannon

Question:

95 Deputy James Bannon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has considered the appropriate timing for the introduction of a carbon tax; and if the proposed taxation commission will be asked to complete its assessment of the optimum structure for such a tax. [23547/07]

The Programme for Government signals that a carbon tax/levy would 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 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.

Departmental Reports.

Ulick Burke

Question:

96 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has received a report on the pay levels of chief executive officers in the State sector; the recommendations made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23554/07]

Hay Management Consultants were commissioned to size the chief executive positions of all the commercial State bodies by reference to comparable positions in the private sector and rank them according to job score. Based on an analysis of rates across the private sector for jobs of comparable size, Hay identified median rates for the various job score level. They recently submitted their report to me and I am bringing proposals to Government on their recommendations.

The pay of Chief Executive Officers of non commercial State bodies comes within the remit of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector. I recently received the Review Body report on the seventh general review and I will bring proposals to Government on their recommendations. As no decisions have yet been made on the reports, it would be inappropriate to comment on their recommendations at this time.

Official Engagements.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

97 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position he will adopt at the World Bank IMF meeting in October 2007 in respect of anticipated decisions; and if he will be tabling resolutions on behalf of Ireland. [23601/07]

The Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund (Fund) and the Boards of Governors of the World Bank Group (Bank) normally meet once a year to discuss the work of their respective institutions. I will attend the meeting to be held this year in Washington and will speak on behalf of Ireland. In addition there are meetings of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC), the IMF's policy-guiding body, and the Development Committee, a joint IMF-World Bank forum. Ireland is not a member of either of these bodies, but is represented indirectly.

In my speech at the Annual Meeting, I intend to recognise the very important work being done by both organisations and especially by the World Bank in its mission of global poverty reduction and the improvement of living standards in developing countries around the world. I will take the opportunity at the meeting next week to address a number of challenges facing both organisations including governance and surveillance. I will also emphasise our commitment to enhancing the position of the emerging market economies while at the same time accommodating the quota position of the more developed dynamic countries which are significantly under represented, including Ireland.

In relation to anticipated decisions, these relate primarily to the normal work of the organisations, for example, annual reports and accounts. I am awaiting the circulation of the relevant documents for the meeting and I will consider my position when I have them to hand. I have no plans to table any resolutions on behalf of Ireland at next week's meeting.

Financial Services Regulation.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

98 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he plans to improve the deposit protection scheme for savers in financial institutions here. [23615/07]

Joe Costello

Question:

122 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the guarantees the State offers to depositors with banks and financial institutions; if he has plans to review the level of protection available in view of the recent crisis (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23672/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 122 together.

The Irish deposit protection scheme is based on the harmonised arrangements set out in the EU Deposit Guarantee Schemes Directive 94/19/EC. The Directive currently provides for a minimum level of protection of €20,000 or 90% of the loss incurred by a depositor when a credit institution cannot repay funds, whichever is the lesser. The Exchequer or the CBFSAI do not fund the scheme; it is funded by a levy of 0.2% on bank deposits.

Ireland participates in discussions in the EU relating to financial services regulation. In contributing to those discussions, important lessons are to be learned from recent developments in international financial markets. This process of review and examination is already under way. A key issue following recent events in the UK is the effectiveness of deposit protection arrangements across the EU. The European Commission has recently concluded a review of the Deposit Protection Schemes Directive which sets the framework for national schemes in the EU. It is necessary to look again at this work and in the light of recent developments to make sure that deposit guarantees strike the right balance between protecting depositors and making sure banks are not encouraged to take inappropriate risks.

In this context the Ecofin Council, at its meeting on 9 October last, decided on a preliminary set of issues to be analysed and addressed following the recent market turbulence. These include reviewing possible enhancements of the deposit guarantee schemes in the EU. This review is to be undertaken by the Commission and the EU's Financial Services Committee on which Ireland is represented. This review is to report by mid-2008. The work carried out on this review and its conclusions will be important inputs to the process of ensuring that arrangements to safeguard financial stability in Ireland continue to conform to international standards.

I think it is always well to remember that sound prudential supervision aimed at ensuring the continuing solvency and liquidity of banks provides the best protection for depositors. Ireland prides itself in matching best international practice in all aspects of financial regulation whether they involve international activities or domestic activities. According to the IMF itself, our regulatory regime is up to the best international standards. Additionally, the Governor of the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland (CBFSAI) in a recent speech has indicated that Irish banks are solidly profitable and well-capitalised and, consequently, have good shock-absorption capacity to deal with risks emanating from the current period of uncertainty in financial markets. The CBFSAI is monitoring the domestic situation very closely, and is confident that Ireland is not exposed to the risks underlying recent disruption in financial markets.

Public Service Pay.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

99 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the cost to the taxpayer of the benchmarking process to date; his views on whether the benchmarking process has not delivered the promised programme of public service reform to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23537/07]

The first Public Service Benchmarking Body was established as an independent body in July 2000 under the terms of the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness to examine public service pay and jobs by comparison with the private sector. The Body reported in June 2002 and recommended varying levels of pay increases for the grades examined, with the average increase being 8.9%. The cumulative cost of implementing the recommendations of the Report was approximately €1.2bn in a full year.

The Benchmarking Body, in their first report, recommended that, apart from the first quarter of the award, the payment of the balance should be dependent on real and verifiable outputs from modernisation, flexibility and change. This was endorsed by the social partners in Sustaining Progress. It was also agreed that the final two phases of the benchmarking increases should be conditional on satisfactory implementation of the modernisation agenda and the maintenance of industrial relations stability.

It should be noted — and this is a point that has been repeatedly misunderstood by some — that there is not nor was it envisaged that there would be a direct correlation between the cost of the benchmarking increases and the "value" of the change measures implemented. The levels of the benchmarking increases recommended were determined on the basis of comparison with the remuneration of jobs of comparable weight in the private sector (taking account of relevant factors such as security, pensions, perks, etc.). The change agenda as set out in Sustaining Progress and subsequent action plans reflected the priorities of the various sectors. The Government in the negotiations insisted on and secured agreement to payment of the various pay increases being conditional on progress on the change agenda and on commitments on industrial relations stability.

Benchmarking has been accepted, by both the employers and unions, as a significant improvement on the old pay determination system which was based on relativities whereby if one grade or group of public sector workers received an increase it led to leapfrogging and catch up claims right throughout the public service. The pay increases provided for in Towards 2016 are, once again, predicated on co-operation with change and modernisation initiatives as well as improvements in productivity right across the public service.

The agreement builds on the progress made under previous partnership agreements and reaffirms commitment to the further development and accelerated implementation of modernisation frameworks in each sector of the public service in order to secure the flexibility required to achieve the highest international standards. It provides an important framework for meeting the economic and social challenges ahead and builds on previous achievements in areas such as:

more responsive and better quality customer services;

better management of performance — individually and organisationally;

better financial and human resource management;

greater flexibility and openness to change.

Critically, Towards 2016 sets out a mechanism for the verification of progress at sectoral, organisational and grade level in the public service through the establishment of Performance Verification Groups — PVGs — for the Civil Service, the Health, Education and Local Authority sectors, and the Garda Síochána and Defence Forces. Under the terms of the agreement, the PVGs are required to satisfy themselves on progress in relation to co-operation with flexibility and ongoing change, including co-operation with the satisfactory implementation of the agenda for modernisation set out in the agreement, the maintenance of stable industrial relations and the absence of industrial action in respect of any matters covered by the agreement before recommending the pay increases provided for under the agreement.

Financial Services Regulation.

John Perry

Question:

100 Deputy John Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has plans to amend the legislation governing the Financial Services Ombudsman in order that he can make rulings on classes of transaction in respect of which refunds should be made instead of hearing each case individually. [23620/07]

The Financial Services Ombudsman (FSO), established in April 2005 to deal with consumer complaints about financial service providers, has made a very significant contribution to protecting and promoting the interests of consumers of financial services. Where a complaint is upheld the Financial Services Ombudsman can direct the financial service provider to pay compensation to the complainant for any loss, expense or inconvenience sustained by the complainant and can also issue directions to the financial services provider concerned to change a practice relating to its conduct. To end September 2007 the Financial Services Ombudsman has received 10,463 complaints and has concluded 9,608 cases, 60% of which were settled in the complainants favour.

The role and functions of the FSO in dealing with consumer complaints strongly complements that of the Financial Regulator in protecting the interests of consumers of financial services as a whole. During the passage of the FSO legislation through the Oireachtas in 2004 it was stated, on behalf of the Minister for Finance, that the Ombudsman's remit essentially is to deal with individual complaints from customers of financial institutions and it is the responsibility of the Consumer Director in the Financial Regulator to deal with general issues relating to the protection of consumers.

The relevant legislation provides for co-operation between the Financial Services Ombudsman and the Financial Regulator on general issues relating to the protection of consumers. A Memorandum of Understanding has been concluded between the Financial Services Ombudsman and the Financial Regulator to ensure the efficient and effective handling of complaints. An issue drawing attention to a general breach affecting consumers can be referred by the Financial Services Ombudsman to the Financial Regulator. Such issues can then be examined by the Financial Regulator through its codes of practice and its administrative sanctions regime. The Financial Regulator can, as part of the administrative sanctions regime seek to mediate or can make rulings in relation to classes of transactions and order refunds if appropriate.

A recent High Court judgement confirmed in that context that the Financial Services Ombudsman's power of direction, except in relation to a change in general practice, may only relate to an individual claimant and does not extend to payment of compensation for other consumers in relation to similar conduct of the financial service provider. The FSO and Financial Services Ombudsman Council have asked me to review the implications of the recent High Court decision and to consider if a change in legislation is warranted. I propose to refer this issue to the Advisory Forum on Financial Legislation which will be commencing work shortly to consolidate and modernise legislation governing financial services regulation. In the interim my Department has asked the FSO and the Financial Regulator to review their current co-operation arrangements to ensure that these work smoothly where a finding of the FSO in an individual case may have implications for a broader group of consumers.

Tax Code.

Noel Coonan

Question:

101 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the impact on corporate tax receipts here of the adoption of the proposed sales factor for calculating corporate tax receipts; the impact on the effective tax rate on corporate earnings here if this latest proposal for harmonised corporate tax was adopted throughout the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23562/07]

The Deputy will be aware that there have been no decisions taken at the level of the Council of Ministers on the harmonisation of corporate tax throughout the EU. However, a technical working group, chaired by the Commission, is working on a proposition for a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base. The Commission has not itself completed an assessment of the issues involved here, but we understand that the Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union currently hopes to table a proposal sometime in late 2008.

Ireland, along with a number of other Member States, opposes the idea of creating common rules for the calculation of company profits across the EU and for allocating the taxing rights for those profits to Member States. Accordingly Ireland is participating in the meetings of the Commission technical working group strictly without prejudice to our stated position. One of the key planks of any proposition for a common consolidated base will be a sharing mechanism for allocating the consolidated profits back to participating member states. While there is evidence that the Commission is leaning towards the inclusion of the traditional factors of capital, labour and sales in such a sharing mechanism, the Commission's outline technical paper on the sharing mechanism will not be available until later this year at the earliest. Since the technical specification for the proposed sharing mechanism is not yet available it is not possible to estimate the impact on tax revenues.

However, the allocation of corporate profits on the basis of a sales factor would not in our view lead to a fair distribution of profits across the EU. In fact it would seriously disadvantage all small open export driven economies where sales into larger Member States would be taxed at their corporate tax rates. This would lead potentially to a significant reduction in corporate tax take in Ireland. Our position in this regard has been made clearly known to the Commission.

These are tax issues of importance that must be progressed at a European level. This particular proposition, however, would severely restrict the fiscal autonomy of Member States and in my view would lead to a loss of competitive advantage for the EU as a whole. As I said in a speech at the weekend, I believe that there are issues of principle and of a practical nature which all EU Member States would have to consider very carefully before moving to deal with any proposal the Commission might bring forward. I am confident that my scepticism is shared in a significant number of other Member States.

State Agencies.

Willie Penrose

Question:

102 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the concern expressed by the Ombudsman regarding the creation of agencies to fulfil functions once covered by Government Departments and which are now outside the remit of the Ombudsman; if he will take action to deal with this situation; when the promised Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23686/07]

I am aware of the concern expressed by the Ombudsman. My Department is currently preparing an Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill 2007 to widen the Ombudsman's remit and update the existing Ombudsman legislation, and is in consultation with all Government Departments about the list of bodies to be included. Publication of the Bill is expected towards the end of the current Dáil session.

Decentralisation Programme.

David Stanton

Question:

103 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 136 of 26 June 2007, the further progress made on decentralisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23742/07]

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 with these offices is 104 and 28 respectively. In accordance with the indicative timescale set out in the Decentralisation Implementations Group's July 2007 report, both Offices are working towards decentralisation to Youghal in the 3rd quarter of 2009.

I am informed by the Office of Public Works (OPW) that in August 2006 they agreed terms to acquire a site, comprising circa 3 acres, in Youghal from Cork County Council. The contract for the sale of the site is still awaited from Cork County Council.

Tax Code.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

104 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has reviewed the position of older people allowed to avail of free banking without charges and fees by a number of banks in view of the fact that such people still have to pay the €40 stamp duty on credit and laser cards and ATM facilities; if he has reviewed the matter; the estimated revenue received from such older people; and the cost to the State of foregoing the €40 charge for older people. [23669/07]

The stamp duty on cheques, bills of exchange and promissory notes has existed for many years. When electronic means of money transfers were subsequently introduced, stamp duty was gradually extended to these products to ensure that the stamp duty from cheques was not eroded.

The current annual rates of stamp duty are as follows:

Credit card or charge card account

40

ATM card without a debit function

10

Debit card without an ATM function

10

Combined ATM and debit card

20

The stamp duty applies irrespective of the volume of bank transactions made.

As the stamp duty is paid by the Financial Institutions and is based on the aggregate number of (a) credit card/charge card accounts and (b) debit/ATM cards, it is not possible to identify the revenue that is received in respect of older people.

Pension Provisions.

Bernard Allen

Question:

105 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his estimate of the deferred liability of pension commitments under social welfare provisions, assuming the maintenance of existing ratios to average earnings and the achievement of targets suggested as desirable; and the way this impacts on the adequacy of the National Pensions Reserve Fund provision. [23546/07]

The Deputy will recall that my Department's projections of future pension liabilities were published in the Stability Programme Update of last December and presented to the Dáil on Budget Day. The Government's Green Paper on Pensions, which will be launched tomorrow, updates these projections to take account of more recent developments, including Programme for Government commitments in this area.

The value of the National Pensions Reserve Fund at end-June 2007 was just over 21 billion euro. As envisaged from the outset, the assets accumulated in the NPRF will go some way towards easing future funding concerns, but will fall short of projected pension liabilities. A range of measures that could help address the challenges we face in meeting pension commitments will be discussed in the Green Paper.

Financial Services Regulation.

Tom Hayes

Question:

106 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the progress made in developing a transparent and strong deposit protection scheme for credit unions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23593/07]

The Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) has since 1989, operated a savings protection scheme (SPS) for credit unions. The SPS aims to protect the individual savings of members by ensuring that credit unions are financially and administratively sound and provides for savings protection for each individual credit union member. It is important to note that no member of a credit union has experienced any loss of shares and deposits and no credit union has become insolvent. The SPS has only been called upon in a very limited number of cases, and it has never been necessary to make savings protection payments to individual credit union members.

The design and operation of the SPS for credit unions is consistent with the specific regulatory approach adopted for credit unions under the Credit Union Act, 1997. However in line with changes in the regulatory environment for financial services generally, the need for modernisation of the organisational structure and governance arrangements for the credit union SPS has become evident over time.

Earlier this year the Registrar of Credit Unions commenced a structured series of meetings with the ILCU to examine certain SPS reform proposals put forward by them. The Registrar of Credit Unions has advised that these discussions identified common ground with regard to how savings protection based on ILCU's proposal should work. I understand that, since the conclusion of these discussions, ILCU have been consulting with their membership and I am advised that they will revert to the Registrar shortly with their revised proposals for the reform of SPS.

Tax Code.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

107 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his proposals to weigh 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. [23691/07]

In Budget 2007, I announced that it was 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 the commitment to introduce measures to further weight VRT in favour of cars with lower emissions. 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.

Tax Collection.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

108 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number and percentage of income earners who are paying tax at the higher rate and the standard rate for 2006; the anticipated figures for each category for 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23692/07]

The information requested by the Deputy in a format which presents the data in terms of the numbers who are actually paying tax at the higher rate is set out in the table.

Tax year

Exempt (Standard rate liability fully covered by credits or Age Exemption Limits)

Paying tax at the standard rate (including those whose liability at the higher rate is fully offset by credits)

Higher rate liability NOT fully offset by credits

All cases

Number

%

Number

%

Number

%

2006

784,100

35.6

939,200

42.6

481,800

21.9

2,205,100

2007

868,000

38.0

939,400

41.1

478,000

20.9

2,285,400

The figures are estimates from the Revenue tax forecasting model using actual data for the year 2004 adjusted as necessary for income and employment growth for the year in question. It is therefore provisional and likely to be revised. 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.

Financial Services Regulation.

Joan Burton

Question:

109 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the proposals he has to regulate the area of sub-prime lending; his views on the issue of re-financing packages as offered by a number of sub-prime lenders in view of the fact that such packages often include the family home, credit card debt and short or medium term loans such as car finance; if such packages are excessively risky; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23668/07]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

124 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when it is expected that the new regulation of non-deposit taking lenders, including what is described as sub-prime lending, will be introduced. [23650/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 and 124 together.

I have already announced my intention to propose an amendment to the Markets in Financial Instruments and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2007, at Committee Stage this week, with a view to regulating the non-deposit taking lending sector. The text of the amendment has already been circulated. The main aim of the proposed measures is to ensure that borrowers from sub-prime lenders, or from other lenders in that sector, will be able to benefit from the additional safeguards which the Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Code provides.

With respect to the issue of re-financing packages, The Financial Regulator has drawn attention to the need for consumers to choose the right type of loan for their needs and in particular to carefully consider the long-term effects of consolidating personal debt into new or existing loans or mortgages. Despite a possibly lower rate of interest or lower repayments, the consumer can end up paying more in the long term because the consolidated loan lasts much longer than the original loans. Also, if the new loan is secured by a mortgage their home could be at risk in the event of failure to keep up repayments. Individual decisions in relation to consolidating loans, like those in relation to any other form of credit, are primarily a matter for the borrower in each case. They should only be taken after careful consideration of the available information and taking full account of how their personal circumstances or the financial environment may change. As has been highlighted by the Financial Regulator, consumers should carefully examine their needs and means beforehand, shop around and examine all of the options.

Where difficulties arise in keeping up repayments on any form of credit the advice given by the Financial Regulator and by the bodies and agencies that help people who are in financial difficulty may be summarised as three key points:

Don't ignore the problem.

Take action as early as possible and keep lenders informed.

Contact the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS). Early action on these lines may pre-empt the need to consider re-financing or consolidation of debt.

Tax Code.

Denis Naughten

Question:

110 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his plans to have Annex III of the EU VAT directive amended to include road safety products, and thereby reduce the rate of VAT applicable on such products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22313/07]

The position is that the VAT rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. Under the VAT Directive Member States may only apply the reduced VAT rate to those goods and services which are listed under Annex III of the VAT Directive. As Annex III does not list the supply of road safety products, the rate that can applies to such products is the standard VAT rate which in Ireland is 21%. However, as it was possible under EU law, I have reduced the VAT rate applicable to children's car seats from the standard VAT rate to the reduced VAT rate of 13.5%. This came into effect on the 1st July 2007.

In relation to amending Annex III of the VAT Directive, the Deputy will be aware that this could only be done in the context of an overall review at Community level of reduced rates. That would be the forum for such a proposal. Whilst the Commission has launched a debate on reduced rates in July 2007, as yet, no specific Commission proposals have been brought forward. Generally, any significant review of the application of VAT across the different EU Member States can be complex.

Tax Yield.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

111 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if concerns regarding Government revenue from taxation require corrective measures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23544/07]

Exchequer tax receipts to end-September were, at €31,462 million, €490 million or 1.5 per cent below profile. They were up 6.1 per cent on the same period last year. Corporation tax and income tax were both ahead of target, at +€296 million and +€56 million above profile respectively, reflecting the health of the economy generally. The other main tax-heads were all below profile. Stamp duties were €401 million below target, excise duties were €225 million below, VAT was €132 million below and capital gains tax was €107 million below. However, I would point out that the "big four" taxes — VAT, income tax, corporation and excise duty — which together were estimated to account for around 85 per cent of total tax revenue this year, were exactly on target at end-September.

While taxes are likely to be somewhat below target this year, it must be remembered that we expect to collect over €48 billion in overall tax revenue this year, around 5½ per cent up on last year's very strong performance.

Question No. 112 answered with QuestionNo. 94.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

113 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the implications of the shortfall in projected tax receipts in terms of Government spending plans and in respect of promises contained within the programme for Government. [23653/07]

While taxes are likely to be below target this year, reflecting developments in some taxes, such as stamp duty, it must be remembered that we expect to collect over €48 billion in overall tax revenue this year, around 5½ per cent up on last year's very strong performance. This significant level of tax revenue will enable the Government to continue to make adequate provision for day-to-day public services and investment. 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.

Pension Provisions.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

114 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that some Departments have issued instructions 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. [23584/07]

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 the form of particular accounts should be addressed to the relevant Minister.

Capital Investment Framework.

Simon Coveney

Question:

115 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if cases of non-compliance with the capital investment framework were reported to his Department in 2007; the Departments and the projects involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23564/07]

Compliance with the capital investment framework is of course a matter in the first instance for implementing Departments and Agencies in respect of their capital expenditure. Under the conditions of sanction for capital expenditure issued by my Department, Departments are required to put in place a system of annual spot-checks of projects to ensure compliance with the VFM requirements and to report the findings of these spot-checks annually to my Department. This may be included as part of a Department's annual report on their capital investment programme.

These reports are reviewed by the Central Expenditure Evaluation Unit (CEEU) in my Department who report on issues arising. The focus of these reviews in this first full year of operation of the CEEU has been on the systems in place in Departments for undertaking spot checks. As a result of these reports my Department is following up a number of issues with some Departments in assessing compliance with the guidelines with a view to ensuring that enhanced procedures are implemented in future years. A small number of Departments have yet to submit a report on their spot checks and this is being followed up with the Departments in question.

Tax Yield.

Martin Ferris

Question:

116 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on whether his Department failed to recognise the expected extent of the impact of the much anticipated downturn in the property and construction sectors on tax receipts. [23656/07]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

131 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on whether the failure of his Department to recognise the extent to which the economy was over dependent on the construction sector has meant that the Government was ill prepared for the consequences for the Exchequer of the contraction which is currently under way in that sector. [23652/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 116 and 131 together.

The relatively high level of new housing investment as a percentage of GNP in recent years reflects the increase in the housing stock that was required to address the demand for housing. Ireland still has a housing stock below the Western European average. At Budget time, my Department did anticipate an easing in new housing output from the very high rates of completions last year. While the actual slowdown is now larger than initially anticipated other components of construction continue to do well.

While tax revenues from Stamp Duties and CGT have made an increasing contribution to the Exchequer in recent years, it is important to put that contribution in context. The Budget forecast of yields from Stamp Duties and CGT in 2007 together represent about 15 per cent of tax revenues overall. In contrast the main four taxes (Income Tax, VAT, Corporation Tax and Excise Duties) together account for about 84 per cent of expected revenues this year. Overall, the four main taxes are on target.

Care has been taken not to plan the public finances around the assumption that tax receipts from the property and wider construction sector would continue to grow in future years as they have done previously. The 2007 forecasts for Stamp Duties and CGT together assumed only a modest increase over their 2006 outturn on the basis that the property market would begin to ease back to more sustainable levels of growth.

It now looks likely that overall tax revenue will be about 2 percent below the Budget Day target. This shortfall will be offset to some extent by savings of about €500 million in other areas such as Central Fund expenditure and higher than expected non-tax revenue. An Exchequer deficit of up to €1 billion now seems likely at end year. In addition a General Government surplus, the tenth out of the last eleven years, is anticipated for this year.

Social Finance Foundation.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

117 Deputy Emmet Stagg 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; the responsibilities of same; the salaries of same; 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. [23695/07]

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 who will on-lend to individual social finance projects.

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 Social Finance Foundation has commenced wholesale lending to accredited Social Lending Organisations. Loans totalling €2.4 million have been approved by the Foundation and €486,700 of these loans have been drawn down to date.

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.

National Development Plan.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

118 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that there is a strong pipeline of bankable projects under the national development plan on which robust value for money appraisal has been carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23596/07]

Richard Bruton

Question:

171 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will outline and publish an appraisal of individual national development plan capital projects in terms of project selection and roll out. [23407/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118 and 171 together.

The Capital Appraisal Guidelines of February 2005 as amended by the Value for Money (VFM) circular of February 2006 provide for a comprehensive system of project selection, appraisal and management. All capital projects are subject to project appraisal, with the nature and extent of the appraisal being related to the type and value of the particular project. The responsibility for undertaking such appraisals rests in the first instance with the individual Departments and Agencies. The primary purpose of the guidelines is to reinforce the need for rigorous appraisal of projects at all stages including selection stage.

Each Department is also required to put in place a system to carry out spot-checks of projects so as to ensure compliance with the VFM frameworks, and the findings of these spot-checks are reported annually to my Department. These spot-checks should examine a number of issues, including whether the appropriate form of appraisal has been properly applied to projects. The spot check reports submitted to my Department are reviewed by the Central Expenditure Evaluation Unit, which may also undertake its own spot checks of individual capital projects to verify compliance with the requirements of the VFM framework.

The individual National Development Plan capital projects are subject to the standard appraisal rules in the normal way. While the handling of these appraisals is a matter for each relevant Department and Agency, it has not been the practice to publish such analyses. The appraisals are generally prepared to facilitate and inform the internal decision making process and as such they would contain commercially sensitive information, the publication of which could be prejudicial to the State's capacity to get best value for money in procurement of capital projects. For example, appraisals would include the estimates of the capital and operating costs of projects, information which it would be inappropriate to share with potential tenderers in advance of procurement.

While the NDP itself was launched by the Government in January of this year, the roll out of projects under the Plan has been making satisfactory progress to date, and I anticipate that there will be continued strong delivery into the future. Indeed, a strong monitoring and reporting framework has been provided for in the NDP from the outset, with a view to maintaining the focus on delivery and value for money. The NDP monitoring process includes the establishment of a Central Monitoring Committee (CMC) whose membership includes all the relevant Government Departments, the Regional Assemblies and Regional Authorities, the Social Partners and bodies representing environmental interests. The first meeting of the CMC will be in November. A detailed reporting system based on a focused monitoring template has been developed. This template will facilitate the monitoring of Sub-Programmes in terms of financial and physical outputs and impacts including by reference to the horizontal objectives of the NDP in relation to balanced regional development, all-island co-operation, development of the rural economy and environmental sustainability.

All implementing Departments will report on the implementation of Sub-Programmes they are responsible for early in the New Year. These reports will be considered by the CMC. They will also feed into the annual report on NDP progress that will be submitted to the Oireachtas.

Proposed Legislation.

Richard Bruton

Question:

119 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he plans to amend the legislation governing the Standards in Public Office Act 2001 in order that it can initiate its own investigations of matters which may breach proper behaviour by persons in its area of responsibility. [23581/07]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

125 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the Government will amend the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 to allow the Standards in Public Office Commission to appoint an inquiry officer without having received a formal complaint in view of the fact that SIPO has urged the Government to do so on a number of occasions. [23688/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 and 125 together.

The Standards in Public Office Act 2001 already allows the Standards in Public Office Commission to carry out ‘own initiative" investigations, where it considers it appropriate to do so, on "specified acts" and on breaches of other provisions of the Ethics legislation, by persons in its area of responsibility, and as provided for by the legislation.

As regards the appointment by the Standards Commission of an inquiry officer into matters in respect of which no complaint has been made, the Government's position on this has been made clear on several occasions: a formal complaint to the Commission should be required before the Standards Commission can appoint an inquiry officer to initiate a preliminary inquiry. Such an inquiry process, in itself, can carry serious consequences for the person under investigation. It is difficult to accept that the appointment of an inquiry officer would be justified in circumstances where a formal complaint had not been made to the Standards Commission from any of the numerous categories of persons (including members of the public and any public representative) entitled to do so against persons and officer-holders against whom complaints can be made to the Commission. If a matter is of sufficient public importance or substance to warrant an inquiry, it must surely be of sufficient importance to warrant a formal complaint.

Tax Code.

David Stanton

Question:

120 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 220 of 9 October 2007, the way hospitals are selected for approval under section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997; if applications must be made; the number of hospitals which applied for approval or were considered for approval under the scheme in the past five years; the names and locations of same; the number which were rejected and their names and locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23741/07]

As indicated to the Deputy in reply to a previous question from him, the position is that in accordance with the provisions of section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, "hospital" means:—

(a)any institution which is provided and maintained by the Health Service Executive for the provision of services pursuant to the Health Acts 1947 to 2004,

(b)any institution in which services are provided on behalf of the Health Service Executive pursuant to the Health Acts 1947 to 2004,

(c)any hospital, nursing home, maternity home or other institution approved of for the purposes of this section by the Minister for Finance after consultation with the Minister for Health and Children.

Once an institution falls within the definition of "hospital" as set out above, health expenses in respect of maintenance or treatment in that institution may qualify for tax relief. As regards (c) above, the legislation provides that consultation with the Minister for Health and Children must take place before an institution may be approved of for the purpose of section 469.

Generally, institutions are not actively selected for approval. It is more usual for an individual to request that an institution be approved of, or for an institution to request that it be approved of, for the purpose of section 469. This is done by contacting my Department, the Revenue Commissioners or the Department of Health and Children. There is no formal application process and contact by telephone or e-mail is sufficient to initiate the approval process. As indicated above, consultation with the Minister for Health and Children is a prerequisite before an institution may be approved of.

In relation to the Deputy's questions about the number of hospitals who applied for approval or were considered for approval under the scheme in the past five years, I understand that there are over 100 such institutions. It will take some time, therefore, to compile the information requested in conjunction with the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Health and Children. However, arrangements in this regard are being made and I will revert to the Deputy with the information as soon as may be.

Tax Yield.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

121 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the concerns expressed by the Comptroller and Auditor General in his most recent report at the significant underestimation of tax revenues by his Department in each of the past three years; the steps he is taking to ensure a more accurate level of forecasting by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23674/07]

Exchequer tax revenues in each of the last three years have been better than Budget Day estimates. In 2004 tax revenues were 6.5 per cent ahead of target. In 2005, receipts were 4.7 per cent ahead of target and in 2006, tax revenues were 9.3 per cent ahead of target. These additional receipts allowed for a significant reduction in debt levels which is a welcome outcome. One of the reasons for the improved revenue performance was stronger economic activity in the years in question.

Excluding the impact of special investigations receipts, which, by their nature, could not be forecast with any degree of accuracy, the "big four" taxes — VAT, income tax, corporation tax and excise duties — which have accounted for around 85-90 per cent of actual tax revenues in the last three years have been close to target, particularly in 2004 and 2005.

Nevertheless, my Department is anxious to provide the most accurate tax forecasts possible in order to assist in managing the economy and the budgetary process. Therefore, the approach to tax forecasting is kept under review on an ongoing basis. For that reason, a Group chaired by a Senior Economist from the Central Bank, currently on secondment to the Department of Finance was formed to conduct a review of the methodology employed. I expect to receive a copy of the Group's report shortly.

Question No. 122 answered with QuestionNo. 98.

Tax Code.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

123 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if, in regard to the commitment contained in the programme for Government, he will outline 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; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23679/07]

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 the 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.

Question No. 124 answered with QuestionNo. 109.
Question No. 125 answered with QuestionNo. 119.

Decentralisation Programme.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

126 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will clarify the circumstances in which decentralisation proposals can be withdrawn based on difficulties created for the practical operation of the body concerned; and the proposals he has received for the withdrawal or substitution of decentralisation proposals. [23566/07]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to the relocation of posts to Kildare Town by the Office of the Revenue Commissioners. The Revenue decentralisation project to relocate 380 posts to Kildare Town will go ahead in full. The Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners wrote to me outlining some business continuity issues regarding the relocation of that Office's full ICT function to Kildare Town. I agreed in principle to an alternative mix of 380 posts for the Kildare location and have asked the Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners to submit a formal proposal setting out a revised mix of posts.

The Deputy will be aware that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform also put forward proposals last year for a change in the mix of posts for Navan based on the business needs of the Probation and Welfare Service. In that instance an equivalent number of posts was agreed by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform for the Navan location from within the Justice group of Agencies.

This decision to consider an alternative mix of functions which Revenue will relocate to Kildare Town is further evidence that the decentralisation programme is vibrant and flexible enough to adapt to changing business needs as they arise in the detailed implementation phase while also ensuring delivery of the Government commitment to the 59 towns across 25 counties included in the programme.

On an ongoing basis, many of the organisations included in the Government's decentralisation programme will make small adjustments to the number and mix of posts for particular locations as their business evolves and changes over time.

Tax Code.

Martin Ferris

Question:

127 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will proceed with tax cuts proposed prior to the 2007 general election and promised in the programme for Government. [23657/07]

The Budget is less than eight weeks away. It has been the practice of successive Ministers for Finance not to comment on tax changes in the run up to the annual Budget and I do not propose to depart from that approach.

Economic Competitiveness.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

128 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his Department’s forecast for the expected level of economic growth for the full year of 2007; the way this compares with the forecast he gave in his budget 2007 speech; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23676/07]

On Budget Day 2007 my Department forecast economic growth of 5.3% for 2007, in both GDP and GNP terms. Updated economic growth forecasts, reflecting developments in the year to date, will be published in the Pre-Budget Outlook which I will lay before the House later this week.

Price Inflation.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

129 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his Department’s forecast for the expected increase in the consumer price index for the full year of 2007; the way this compares with the forecast he gave in his budget 2007 speech; his views on whether the level of inflation continues to run at 5%; the measures he will take to deal with this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23675/07]

The Department of Finance's most recent inflation forecast remains that which was published with Budget 2007 on the 6th December 2006. At that time, my Department forecast that CPI inflation would average 4.1 per cent for this year. This forecast was based, as it always is, on the assumption of no further interest rate increases over the forecast period. However, the ECB has increased interest rates on three occasions by a total of 0.75 per cent since Budget Day. The cumulative impact of these interest rate increases has been to add about 1 per cent to the CPI since Budget Day. The latest figures show that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by 4.6 per cent in the year to September.

A better measure of inflation is the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) which excludes, amongst other things, mortgage interest. Including the impact of mortgage rate increases in the CPI not only masks the underlying inflation rate, but also highlights the short term impact of interest rate increases which are designed to bring down inflation. The increase in the HICP to September was 2.9 per cent.

A moderate rate of inflation remains a key priority of economic policy because of its importance for competitiveness. The Government is focusing on areas it can control, in particular by implementing responsible fiscal policies. My Department will publish its Pre-Budget Outlook later this week, which will include a revised inflation forecast for the period 2007-2010.

Tax Code.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

130 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on whether in many instances the present stamp duty system places an unjust burden on those who are purchasing homes; and if he has proposals to reform same. [23464/07]

The Finance (No. 2) Act 2007 introduced 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 regime for first-time buyers. It is considered that the changes brought about a positive impact upon the ability of first-time buyers to purchase a house. In relation to other purchasers, who are not first-time buyers, they generally enter the market with a build up of equity which reflects their previous home-ownership. This enables them to enter the market at a higher level than first-time buyers.

It should be noted that, in real terms since 1997, a person on the average industrial wage will have seen their take-home pay rise by 42%, about half of which is due to reductions in taxation. In International terms, Ireland has the lowest tax wedge in Europe for the single worker on average earnings; this has been the case in each of the years over the 2000-2006 period. This improvement in disposable income has undoubtedly helped people purchase houses regardless of whether they are first-time buyers or existing home owners.

In Budget 2007, the ceiling for mortgage interest relief for first-time buyers was doubled from €4,000 to €8,000 for single persons and from €8,000 to €16,000 for couples or widowed persons. This means that mortgage holders may receive extra relief of up to €66 per month, if single, or €133 per month, if married or widowed, subject to paying sufficient mortgage interest to avail of the relief. It was estimated at Budget time that in the region of 125,000 individuals who were first time buyers for mortgage interest relief purposes would benefit from the increased level of relief. I might also mention that the ceiling for mortgage interest relief for non first-time buyers was increased from €2,540 to €3,000 for single persons and from €5,080 to €3,000 for couples or widowed persons.

Looking ahead, people will be aware of our commitment, contained in the Government Programme, to increase in Budget 2008 the ceiling on mortgage interest relief for first-time buyers and first-time buyers 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. In addition, as income taxes are reduced, we are committed to keeping the rate of mortgage interest relief at 20% for all home owners. These commitments were made alongside the commitment to immediately abolish stamp duty for all first-time buyers which has already been implemented.

These measures underpin the Government's solid support for first time buyers who may have extended themselves relative to their incomes to buy a first home.

Question No. 131 answered with QuestionNo. 116.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

132 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the implications for the Government’s decentralisation programme of the recent Labour Court ruling that promotions could not be linked to a willingness to transfer to new locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23698/07]

The Programme for Government states that the Government will continue to move ahead with decentralisation and ensure that no public servant is obliged to accept decentralisation against their wishes and that promotion opportunities remain available. It is now a matter, in the first instance, for each state body, together with its parent Department, to manage their approach to implementation of the programme, taking account of the implications of the Labour Court recommendation issued in relation to FÁS.

It has always been recognised that there were particular issues for the State bodies in progressing decentralisation at the same pace as the Civil Service because of the size and nature of the individual organisations. This point has been acknowledged by the Labour Court itself.

In relation to the Court's recommendation for the appropriate authorities to address the issues arising in the broader context of decentralisation of the non-commercial state bodies overall, I have asked my Department to engage with the unions representing staff in the State Agencies generally to establish how progress can be made on this aspect of the Labour Court recommendation. ICTU's response to an approach by my Department is awaited.

However, it is important to recognise that the Decentralisation Programme is progressing well in the Civil Service based on understandings reached with the unions representing most civil servants and this approach will be maintained. Evidence of this progress is provided by the fact that approximately 40% of all the civil service posts due to relocate are already filled. In the region of 2,000 civil and public service posts will have moved to their new locations by the end of this year.

Having examined the Labour Court Recommendation LCR 18974 I have concluded that it is firmly rooted in the context of the State Agencies and has no implications for the Decentralisation Programme in the Civil Service.

Tax Collection.

Mary Upton

Question:

133 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his estimate of the number of persons non-resident for tax purposes for each of the past three tax years; if the Revenue Commissioners have undertaken additional steps to clarify the number of visits made to the country by such non-residents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23699/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the 2005 income tax year was the first year for which it was possible to capture the number of returns of income and gains made by persons based outside the State who are not resident here for tax purposes. The number of persons concerned in 2005 is 3,030. Returns for 2006 are due to be filed by 31st October 2007 or, in the case of returns made on ROS (Revenue's on-line system), by 15 November 2007.

I am further advised by the Revenue Commissioners that inquiries relating to residence are a feature of the risk-based programmes operated by Revenue. The procedures adopted in relation to validating non-resident status depend on the circumstances in each case. The administration of the validation procedures is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners and the methods used to verify claims to non-residence include a range of tests and an intelligence dimension which for obvious reasons they do not publicise.

However, in relation to work carried out by the High Wealth Individuals Unit of Revenue, as part of its risk-based programme for 2005, the Commissioners have advised me that they have no reason to conclude that there is failure to comply with the rules governing non-resident status. They continue to include examination of a cross-section of non-resident cases in their risk-based programmes.

Tax Code.

Phil Hogan

Question:

134 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the way he will enhance the business expansion and seed capital schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18985/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, an extensive review of the Business Expansion Scheme (BES) and the associated Seed Capital Scheme (SCS) was carried out by my Department, in conjunction with the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment last year. This review took account of various studies, including the Report of the Small Business Forum. Following this review I announced in Budget 2007 that the schemes were to be extended for a seven year period from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2013. I also increased the aggregate amount that a company can raise under the schemes from €1 million to €2 million. The individual investment limits were increased from €31,750 to €150,000 in the case of the BES and from €31,750 to €100,000 in the case of the SCS. Recycling companies were added to the list of qualifying trades and a number of other amendments, aimed at improving the operation of the schemes, were made. As the schemes are considered to be State-aids, these changes required that an application be made to the European Commission for approval. The approval was received in August this year and I signed a Commencement Order giving effect to the changes in September.

I have no plans to make further amendments to the schemes at this time. However, as with all tax reliefs, the BES and SCS are kept under ongoing review in order to ensure that they meet their objectives.

Jack Wall

Question:

135 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he is considering new proposals or methods to remove the 21% VAT on fees for non-resident artists performing here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19252/07]

I should explain that the VAT rating of goods and services is subject to EU VAT law with which Irish law must comply. Under Article 132 of the EU VAT Directive member states are allowed to exempt certain cultural activities. This exemption is applied differently across the various Member States of the EU.

In Ireland, we apply the exemption to the promotion of and admissions to certain live theatrical or musical performances. This very broad exemption is allowed under the EU VAT Directive. In effect, this means that the promoter realises the full value of admission fees as no VAT is applied to admission fees. In this regard, the current exemption is already very generous covering a broad range of actives accessible to the wider public. In addition, one of the basic tenets of EU VAT law relates to the proper functioning of the internal market. This means that it is not possible to use VAT law to favour artists not resident in this state over artists who are resident in the state.

In relation to providing a VAT exemption for performance fees charged by musical or theatrical performers to not-for-profit arts organisations, the position is that the VAT treatment of a particular good or service is determined by the nature of the good or service, and not by the status of the customer. There is no provision in European VAT law that would allow for an exemption from VAT on supplies by non-resident artists when they perform for not-for-profit cultural organisations as such an exemption would have to apply to all such performers. It is estimated that this would cost in excess of €20 million. All performance fees are therefore liable to VAT at the standard rate of 21 per cent.

Tax Collection.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

136 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the report of the Revenue Commissioners on the effective rate of tax of the top 400 earners during 2003; the steps he is taking to ensure that all high earners pay their full share of tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23673/07]

The Revenue Commissioners' study, Effective tax rate of top 400 earners: Report for the tax year 2003, indicates that in 2003 the percentage of high earners on low rates of tax remained relatively static in comparison with 2002.

There are a number of factors to bear in mind when reading the results of that report:

Reliefs that reduced the effective tax rates include loss relief and standard wear and tear allowances, reflecting real trading losses and depreciation of business assets.

Reliefs reducing effective rates would also, for example, have included relief for interest paid on borrowings for business investments in partnerships and companies and relief for charitable donations.

The effective rates shown are effective rates for Irish tax on income and, in some cases, the rates would increase significantly if adjusted to reflect tax payments in respect of that income in other jurisdictions.

Historically, there have been some individuals with high incomes who have paid a very low level of tax. While their use of legitimate reliefs was entirely legal, it did give rise to questions of equity, which further justifies and reinforces the valid reasons for my decision in Budget 2006 to restrict income tax relief for high earners.

The measures introduced in Budget 2006, which took effect from 1 January 2007, will both greatly restrict the availability of special tax incentives — especially in the property sector — and reduce the ability of high earners to offset these reliefs against annual income. This means that from this year onwards the tax take from the better off will rise and the tax system will be more equitable as a result. This action complemented the series of measures taken by the Government since 1997 to curb abuses, curtail reliefs, reinforce equity and restore confidence in the fairness of the tax system.

Notwithstanding the above, it should be noted that the vast majority of those with high incomes pay tax at or close to the top rate (42% in 2003) and the top 1.5% of income earners pay more than a quarter of all income tax in the State, while after Budget 2007 nearly 40% of income earners at the lower end of the income scale pay no income tax.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Programme for Government includes a commitment to establish a Commission on Taxation which will further examine tax reliefs and incentives in Ireland. While tax incentives are a valid and useful policy instrument, which can be very effective in influencing economic behaviour, they must be used judiciously and with their cost effectiveness and impact on the overall fairness of our tax system kept in mind.

Proposed Legislation.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

137 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the Government’s response to the ten specific amendments to the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 suggested by SIPO in its most recent annual report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23689/07]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

144 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the Government is planning amendments to the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23687/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 137 and 144 together.

Deputies will be aware that I published the Ethics in Public Office (Amendment) Bill 2007 earlier this year. The main purpose of that Bill is to amend the Ethics Acts so as to require office holders and non-office holding Oireachtas members, before accepting significant benefits from a friend for personal reasons, to seek the opinion of the Standards in Public Office Commission that acceptance would not be likely to materially influence the recipient in the performance of his or her official duties or functions. It is intended to move the Bill in the Dáil in the current session.

As regards the proposals for further amendment of the Ethics Acts suggested by the Standards Commission, some are of a technical nature. The more substantive of the Commission's proposals are being examined, though I should say that I have no plans for the preparation of a consolidated Ethics Bill at this stage. Furthermore, as I have already indicated in a reply to another question today, I do not intend to amend the legislation to allow the Standards Commission to appoint inquiry officers to carry out preliminary inquiries where a formal complaint has not been made.

Public Service Pay.

Richard Bruton

Question:

138 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the progress that has been made in the various reviews of special awards within the public service due to a report in 2007; and his views on the need to reform the process for setting and implementing special pay awards within the public service. [23769/07]

There are four such reports due in 2007 and I will outline the position in relation to each, as follows:

I recently received the final report of the seventh general review of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector and I will be bringing proposals to the Government for consideration.

The Public Service Benchmarking Body is due to report at the end of the year.

The Parallel Benchmarking report on the pay of craft workers was presented to both parties on 15 June 2007. Discussions are ongoing in relation to the recommendations.

Hay Management Consultants have carried out a review of the salaries of Chief Executive Officers of commercial State bodies and recently submitted their report. I will be bringing proposals to Government on their recommendations.

Government policy on public service pay is quite simple. It is that the public service should be in a position to attract and attain its fair share of good quality staff at all levels. It should neither lead the market nor trail it. Periodic reviews of public service pay levels are necessary to deliver on that criterion.

The pay of the majority of public servants comes within the remit of the Public Service Benchmarking Body. This is an independent body. Benchmarking arose from the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness and is a process for determining public service pay rates through comparison of specific roles, duties and responsibilities in the public service by reference to comparable positions in the economy generally. In this way, appropriate, grade-specific salary levels may be determined for the public service that are grounded in the rates applicable to similar jobs in the private sector. The first Benchmarking Report was published in 2002 and the Benchmarking Body is well advanced in its work for a second report which is expected to be completed around the end of the year.

Benchmarking has been accepted, by both the employers and unions, as a significant improvement on the old pay determination system which was based on relativities whereby if one grade or group of public sector workers received an increase it led to leapfrogging and catch up claims right throughout the public service.

Payment of any pay increases in the public service is contingent on co-operation with a robust agenda of measures to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and user friendliness of our public services and to the maintenance of industrial peace. Progress on the modernisation agenda is monitored by Performance Verification Groups for the various sectors and payment of any increase under the agreement is subject to verification of co-operation with flexibility and on-going change, including co-operation with the implementation of the agenda for modernisation. There is a need for continuous improvement and development across the whole range of public services.

Decentralisation Programme.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

139 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the latest information available from the central applications facility in respect of applications from civil servants and other public servants 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; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23696/07]

Over ten thousand nine hundred civil and public servants have applied to relocate under the Programme. Of these, approximately 6,000 or 55% are currently based in Dublin. The Central Applications Facility (CAF) remains open and continues to receive applications. At the end of August 2007, over 3,000 staff had been assigned to decentralising posts.

Tax Code.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

140 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the numbers of first time buyers availing of the revised first time buyer’s exemption; the value of such houses above €300,000 and the number in each category in rises of €50,000; and the cost to the Exchequer of the revised exemptions to stamp duty for first time buyers to date. [23670/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested by the Deputy in relation to the first time buyer exemption from Stamp Duty introduced in the Finance (No. 2) Act 2007 is as set out in the table, which reflects the position up to and including 30 September 2007.

First Time Buyer Transactions exempted under the provisions of the Finance (No. 2) Act 2007

Consideration

Number of Transactions

Cost to Exchequer

Aggregate Value of Property

€m

€m

317,500-350,000

388

3.93

130.850

350,000-400,000

664

8.63

248.460

400,000-450,000

219

5.57

92.900

450,000-500,000

133

3.80

63.300

500,000-550,000

92

2.92

48.655

550,000-600,000

67

2.31

38.582

600,000-650,000

36

1.46

22.540

650,000-700,000

6

0.37

4.103

700,000-750,000

11

0.73

8.103

750,000-800,000

5

0.35

3.878

800,000-850,000

10

0.75

8.305

850,000-900,000

6

0.48

5.285

900,000-950,000

7

0.59

6.522

950,000-1,000,000

4

0.35

3.885

>1,000,000

13

1.52

16.462

Total

1,661

33.76

701.830

This table represents only transactions that would not have been exempt from stamp duty, but for the changes introduced in the Finance (No. 2) Act 2007. Houses below €317,500 are therefore not included because they were already exempt, as were, for the most part, new built houses.

Freedom of Information.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

141 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan 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 with her office before making changes and the deterrent cost of high fees; if he has plans to address these concerns particularly in regard to the level of fees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23684/07]

I am aware of the contents of the Information Commissioner's Annual Report for 2006, which was published earlier this year. 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.

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.

Tax Yield.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

142 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on the Exchequer returns for the first nine months of 2007; the estimated budget deficit he expects at the end of 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23683/07]

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-September 2007 showed a deficit of €3.1 billion compared to a Budget day deficit of €546 million for the year as a whole.

Exchequer tax receipts to end-September were, at €31,462 million, €490 million or 1.5 per cent below profile. They were up 6.1 per cent on the same period last year. Corporation tax receipts were €296 million above profile while income tax receipts were €56 million above profile. The other main tax heads were all below profile. Stamp duties were €401 million below target, excise duties were €225 million below, VAT was €132 million below and capital gains tax was €107 million below.

Overall issues for net voted expenditure in the period to end-September 2007 were €274 million or 0.9 per cent above profile. Net voted capital expenditure at end-September was €328 million higher than expected, largely reflecting the progress being made under the National Development Plan. Net voted current expenditure was €54 million below profile.

Based on an assessment of the position as at end-September, there is likely to be a shortfall in overall tax revenues this year. While it is expected that this shortfall in tax revenue will be compensated for by positive developments on other elements of the Exchequer account an Exchequer deficit of up to €1 billion now seems likely. The Budget day forecast was for a deficit of €546 million in 2007. The end year position will fall to be reviewed further in the light of tax receipts over the rest of the year — a significant amount of tax revenue is due for collection in the last quarter of the year, in November in particular when large amounts are profiled from corporation tax, capital gains tax and income tax of the self-employed.

Economic Competitiveness.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

143 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the fact that the ESRI has revised downward its growth forecast for 2008 in its latest quarterly economic commentary, from GNP growth in 2008 of 3.7% in the June 2007 commentary to 2.9% in its latest commentary issued at the end of September 2007. [23655/07]

I have noted the revision of the 2008 growth forecast by the ESRI in their latest quarterly economic commentary. A reduction in new housing output is the main factor behind their revised growth forecast. However, there are a wide range of economic forecasts for 2008, and not all have as pessimistic an outlook as the ESRI. For example, the Central Bank's growth forecast for 2008 is higher, at 3½% and 3¼% in GDP and GNP terms respectively. I will publish revised growth forecasts covering the period 2007-2010 and beyond in the Pre-Budget Outlook which I will lay before the House later this week.

Question No. 144 answered with QuestionNo. 137.

Garda Stations.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

145 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the progress that has been made in respect of providing a new Garda station for Portlaoise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22541/07]

The provision of a new Divisional Headquarters for An Garda Síochána at Portlaoise, Co. Laois is a priority for An Garda Síochána and for my Office. Considerable time and resources have gone into identifying a suitable solution. This involved considering options on the existing site and trawls of the local market for suitable sites.

Earlier this year, a suitable site was identified on the grounds of the Health Service Executive in Beladd, Portlaoise, Co. Laois. The site is approximately 2 acres in area and occupies the location known as the ‘Old Walled Garden' within the HSE grounds, directly opposite Portlaoise Prison. In April, 2007, the HSE agreed to the transfer of the site to OPW for the development of a new Divisional Headquarters and the necessary arrangements are being put in place to effect this transfer.

Tax Collection.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

146 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the amount of outstanding uncollected taxes; the proportion of this 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. [23693/07]

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

The debt of €792m represents a snapshot of the debt at a particular point in time [in this instance 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 additional debt that arises from new or revised tax charges 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 is considering the appropriate strategies and targets in relation to debt management for the period ahead.

Financial Services Regulation.

Joe Costello

Question:

147 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will carry out a review of the regulatory framework for funds operating here in view of the recent crisis in a Dublin based investment fund (details supplied) which brought a German state bank close to collapse and the fact that this fund was not subject to any Irish regulatory authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23671/07]

Ireland prides itself in matching best international practice in all aspects of financial regulation at both domestic and international level. The IMF has recently confirmed that our regulatory regime complies with the best international standards.

It is very important to distinguish clearly between the type of wholesale off-balance sheet Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) which are sponsored and managed by banks which have given rise to some recent concerns, and the wider investment funds industry where there are important safeguards in place to protect investors, especially retail investors. Retail investment funds such as EU UCITS (Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities) have tight restrictions on what they can invest in and there are strong rules about what information must be given to investors.

The type of investment vehicles that recently encountered difficulties are not authorised funds or collective investment schemes covered by EU Directives. They are SPVs for issuing commercial paper, frequently referred to as Structured Investment Vehicles (SIVs), and they are not, either in Ireland or internationally, subject to direct regulatory oversight. Where such investment vehicles expose a parent banking entity to risk by way of, for instance, a guarantee of a significant line of credit in the event of a financing difficulty being encountered by the investment vehicle, then it is the duty of the financial regulator of the parent banking entity to monitor such exposures, regardless of where the investment vehicle may have been incorporated.

In 2005, KPMG produced a report on the German parent bank which included certain issues in relation to its Irish-licensed subsidiary. As part of its ongoing relationship with other regulators, the Financial Regulator has had regular contact with the relevant authority, on whose behalf the report was produced. As recently as April 2007, a meeting between the two regulators concluded that there were no outstanding issues with regard the 2005 report.

It may well be the case that there is a need for greater transparency about the links between off-balance sheet vehicles and their parent entities. That is why the treatment of non-regulated entities will be part of the discussions taking place at EU and international level over the coming months.

The Deputy will be aware that Ireland participates in EU discussions relating to EU financial services regulation. At its recent meeting on 9 October, the Ecofin Council decided on a preliminary set of issues to be analysed and addressed following the recent financial market turbulence. These include reviewing whether disclosure of sponsoring of SPVs by banks under the new Basel II/Capital Requirements Directive framework is sufficient. This review is to report by mid-2008. I consider that it would be appropriate to await the outcome of this review.

Decentralisation Programme.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

148 Deputy Brian O’Shea 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. [23681/07]

The Programme for Government states that the Government will continue to move ahead with decentralisation, ensure that no public servant is obliged to accept decentralisation against their wishes and that promotions opportunities remain available.

A progress report by the Decentralisation Implementation Group (DIG) was submitted to me and published on 8th October last. The Group reported that implementation of the civil service elements of the Decentralisation Programme is progressing satisfactorily. At the end of August 2007, over 3,000 staff had been assigned to decentralising posts. Almost 1,300 of these are currently in place, in 20 new locations, while the remainder are being trained in advance of decentralisation to a new location, as soon as accommodation becomes available. In addition to these 20 locations are a further 9 locations in which Agencies have established a presence.

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 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. While I am satisfied with the progress reported so far, I am anxious to ensure that the momentum of the programme is maintained and developed and I will be asking my Ministerial colleagues to review these timeframes in association with the OPW and the DIG to assess where earlier progress could be made either in relation to permanent accommodation or advance accommodation.

The Government appreciates that there are a number of challenges remaining, which have been identified by the DIG in its latest report. My Department and the wider management of the public service will continue to work closely with staff representatives to seek appropriate solutions to address the concerns of the professional & technical staff and those employed in state agencies, while also ensuring the delivery of the Government programme.

I can confirm that the Government is determined to make significant progress towards advancing the State Agency elements of the programme during the lifetime of this administration. In this context I would refer the House to the remarks of the DIG that over 1,000 employees of State agencies have expressed a preference on the CAF to relocate with either another public service or civil service organisation and it is not unreasonable that these applicants would expect that their applications would have been advanced at this stage. The recent Labour Court recommendation in relation to FAS provides both unions and management with a fresh opportunity to address this issue constructively and in that regard my Department is actively seeking to get discussions underway with ICTU on the range of industrial relations issues involved.

As you will be aware at this stage, the Chairman of the Revenue Commissioner has written to me outlining some business continuity issues regarding the relocation of that Office's full ICT function to Kildare Town. I have agreed in principle to an alternative mix of posts for the Kildare location and have asked the Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners to submit a formal proposal for the sourcing of those posts.

I can also confirm that the Minister for Defence has decided to increase the number of Defence Force personnel relocating to the Curragh from 300 to 413. The number of Defence Force personnel moving to Newbridge will also increase to 43 which is a small increase in the numbers from that previously proposed.

Proposed Legislation.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

149 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his legislative priorities for the 30th Dáil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23682/07]

My legislative priorities for the 30th Dáil 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 my legislative priorities for the current Dáil session:—

Bills Published:

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. The Bill is due for Committee Stage in the Dáil on 17th October and is scheduled to finish in the Seanad on the 31st October 2007.

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, before accepting significant benefits from a friend for personal reasons, to seek the opinion of the Standards in Public Office Commission that acceptance would not be likely to materially influence the recipient in the performance of his or her functions and duties. The Bill has been passed by the Seanad and it is intended to move it in the Dáil during the current session.

Bills yet to be Published

Appropriation Bill, 2007 — The primary purpose of this Bill is to give statutory effect to individual Estimates (including Supplementary or Additional Estimates) as passed by the Dáil. The Bill will be published in December 2007.

Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill — The purpose of this Bill is to extend the Ombudsman's remit and to update the existing Ombudsman legislation. Publication is expected towards the end of the current session.

Financial Services Regulation Bill — The purpose of this Bill is to consolidate and modernise legislation relating to regulation of financial services. This is an important priority contained in the Building on Success Strategy for the development of the financial services industry in Ireland. An Advisory Forum composed of representatives of all the main stakeholder interests is currently being established to advise and assist in the preparation of the draft legislation. The first meeting of this Forum is expected to take place shortly.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

150 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of civil servants based in Dublin who have applied for decentralisation, who have been transferred to their decentralising post and are actually in position in the decentralised location outside of Dublin; and the locations and the number of civil servants transferred from a Dublin post who are at such locations. [23667/07]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

155 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of civil servants and other public servants who have relocated to locations outside of Dublin under the Government’s decentralisation programme; the estimated number of each category who will have relocated by the end of 2007; if he will break each set of figures down in terms of those who are relocating from Dublin and relocating from elsewhere; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23697/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 150 and 155 together.

One Hundred and nineteen (119) staff of my Department have decentralised to Tullamore and a further six (6) have accepted offers of decentralisation. Of those in Tullamore, eighty-three (83) staff transferred from Dublin posts to Tullamore, twenty-three (23) were serving in various other locations in the country and fourteen (14) were recruited specifically for Tullamore. About thirty further posts in my Department are scheduled to be decentralised to Kildare by end 2007 early 2008.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that fifty (50) staff of their Office have decentralised to temporary accommodation in Limerick in preparation for the move to Newcastle West and a further two (2) have accepted offers of decentralisation. Of those in the temporary accommodation in Limerick, two (2) were serving in Dublin with other Departments prior to moving to Limerick.

Fifty four (54) staff have decentralised to Kilrush. Of those, six (6) staff were based in Dublin. A further one (1) has accepted an offer to decentralise to Kilrush. Forty nine (49) staff have decentralised to Listowel. Of those, six (6) staff were based in Dublin. A further five (5) have accepted offers to decentralise to Listowel.

As part of the overall decentralisation programme the Revenue Commissioners also intend to move 100 staff to Navan and 250 staff to Athy. To date, eighty three (83) staff have accepted decentralisation offers for Navan, four (4) of whom are currently serving in provincial locations. The Office of Public Works (OPW) is currently negotiating a lease for suitable accommodation and it is expected that Revenue will be in a position to move to Navan in the first quarter 2008. To date fifty one (51) staff have accepted offers for Athy, of whom forty seven (47) are currently serving in Dublin. It is intended to send an advance party of approximately 50 staff to Athy by the end of 2007 and the OPW are examining a number of possibilities for permanent accommodation.

I am informed by the OPW that twenty (20) staff of their Office have decentralised to Claremorris. Of those, six (6) were based in Dublin. A further ten (10) will decentralise to Claremorris by the end of 2007, one (1) of whom is serving in Dublin.

With regard to the other agencies under the aegis of my Department, arrangements for decentralisation are proceeding in accordance with their implementation plans which have been prepared and submitted by each of the agencies to the Implementation Group. To date, no staff have been decentralised by the Public Appointments Service (PAS), Valuation Office (VO), or Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI).

Tax Code.

James Reilly

Question:

151 Deputy James Reilly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will review and update the exemption limits on the revenue relief scheme for the transfer of sites from parent to child to bring the exemption limits within realistic current market values as the current exemption limit is approximately ten years old and out of date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22314/07]

The transfer of a site from a parent to a child for the purpose of building a private residence is, subject to certain conditions, exempt from capital gains tax, capital acquisitions tax and stamp duty. One of the conditions for relief is that the value of the site does not exceed €254,000. This is still a very generous exemption and I have no plans to change it.

Tax Yield.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

152 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reason for the lack of accuracy in respect of the projections made by the Government with regard to tax receipts for 2007. [23654/07]

At Budget time, based on the latest available economic and fiscal information to hand, my Department prepares its forecasts for the coming years. At the time of the last Budget some commentators suggested that my tax projections were too cautious. At the end of September tax receipts were €490 million or 1.5% below profile. Income Tax and Corporation Tax are performing well and when taken together with VAT and Excise Duties, the four main taxes, which were forecast to account for around 85 per cent of total taxes this year, are on target.

This year, it now looks likely that tax receipts for the year will be about 2% below the Budget day target. This shortfall is largely accounted for by lower than expected receipts for Stamp Duty, Capital Gains Tax and VAT — reflecting the change in the residential property market as it returns to more normal levels of activity. Excise Duties are also expected to be below target but Income Tax and Corporation Tax are expected to outperform their targets.

My Department is anxious to provide the most accurate tax forecasts possible in order to assist in managing the economy and the budgetary process. A Group chaired by a Senior Economist from the Central Bank, currently on secondment to the Department of Finance was formed to conduct a review of the methodology employed. I expect to receive a copy of the Group's report shortly.

Tax Code.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

153 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if, in regard to the commitment contained in the programme for Government, he will outline his proposals for major changes for mortgage interest relief for first time buyers and those who bought a house in the past seven years; if he has an estimate of the cost of the proposed changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23680/07]

An Agreed 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.

I would draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that the guiding economic and fiscal principles for the next five years contained in the Programme provide that "we will operate a responsible fiscal policy characterised by broad budget balance and a declining debt burden" and "keep the budget in broad balance and fully within our commitments under the Stability and Growth Pact."

Tax Collection.

Willie Penrose

Question:

154 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the continuing high level of tax evasion as indicated by the number of financial settlements revealed in the quarterly defaulters list published by the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23685/07]

The Revenue Commissioners are dealing in a very determined way with tax evasion and are very effectively using the additional powers they have been given in recent years. For example, Revenue special investigations, capitalising on the powers given in the Finance Act 1999 and subsequent legislation, have yielded a total of €2.4 billion to date. Revenue's normal audit programme each year also continues to recover significant tax, interest and penalties and these successes are reflected in the settlements revealed in the published quarterly defaulters lists.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that their high level of success in securing settlements is also the result of a more sophisticated and targeted approach on their part to focus its audit and enforcement resources on those areas where they are needed most. An associated strategy is to minimise the number of contacts with largely compliant taxpayers. Accordingly, as Revenue's audit selection is now increasingly targeted at areas of highest risk, the level of published settlements must be seen in that context and it would be wrong to draw any conclusions from the published lists (which still include a number of "legacy" investigation cases) about the current level of tax evasion.

I am further advised by Revenue that tax compliance generally is improving. This is partly attributable to lower rates of direct taxation and partly due to the highly visible success of Revenue's special investigations and ongoing audit and enforcement programmes, backed up by appropriate powers.

Question No. 155 answered with QuestionNo. 150.

Public Service Contracts.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

156 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the way he will ensure better exploitation of domestic opportunities to facilitate companies in applying for public sector contracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18993/07]

Government recognises the important business opportunities that public service contracts represent for business enterprises in the local and national economy and encourages participation to the greatest extent possible. My Department is currently involved in an initiative to improve access to public procurement for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). The National Public Procurement Policy Unit is consulting with stakeholders to identify possible obstacles and to consider ways of appropriately encouraging and facilitating that sector's participation. Responses have been received from interested parties and these are currently being examined with a view to identifying what action can be taken.

Significant measures have been introduced which make it easier than ever to bid for public contracts. A national public procurement website (www.etenders.gov.ie) was developed by my Department in recent years where all significant public sector contracts are now advertised. This central facility, which is available free of charge, increases transparency and greatly facilitates access to public sector contracts for all suppliers. On average, about 1,000 tendering opportunities are open at any given time. Significant efforts have been made, through advertising and promotion, to encourage suppliers to use the site and there are currently more than 37,000 suppliers registered. A facility whereby suppliers receive free email alerts when a tender notice that matches their areas of supply has been published is a key feature of the site. In addition, the site offers access to contracting authorities' buyer profiles and contacts as well as general information on public procurement, regulations and guidance.

Tax Code.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

157 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if, in regard to the commitment contained in the programme for Government, he will outline the proposed membership and terms of reference of the planned commission on taxation; when the commission will be appointed; when it is expected to report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23677/07]

The Programme for Government contains 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.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

158 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the steps he has taken to implement a promise made in a speech on 25 March 2007, where on tax individualisation he promised to double the credit where one spouse works in the home to care for children, the elderly or the disabled; the steps he plans to take to implement same; if it will be included in the Estimates for 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23324/07]

The Government's commitments in relation to taxation are contained in the Programme for Government. All income tax provisions are reviewed regularly, particularly in the context of the annual Budget. The Budget is less than eight weeks away. It has been the practice of successive Ministers for Finance not to comment on tax changes in the run up to the annual Budget and I do not propose to depart from that approach.

Departmental Expenditure.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

159 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the amount of money awarded in domestic mileage to each individual Minister of State in his Department for each of the past four years and to date in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23514/07]

The table details the payments in respect of domestic mileage, as provided for in the relevant Department of Finance circulars, made to Minister of State Dick Roche since 2003. Minister of State Roche was entitled to these expenses because he used his private car for official business. No claims were made by Minister of State Noel Treacy as he was also Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Since the Chief Whip is provided with Garda transport by the Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform, no domestic mileage claims arose in respect of former Minister of State Mary Hanafin and current Minister of State Tom Kitt.

Minister of State Dick Roche

Item

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007 (up to end of Sept)

Domestic Mileage

€19,956

€14,841

Nil

Nil

Nil

Richard Bruton

Question:

160 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Taoiseach the remuneration package of each of the CEOs of State agencies reporting to his Department including pay, pension and ancillary benefits. [23734/07]

The State agencies which come under the aegis of my Department are the Central Statistics Office and the National Economic and Social Development Office which comprises the National Economic and Social Forum, the National Economic and Social Council and the National Centre for Partnership and Performance.

The information requested is outlined in the table.

Body

Director

Salary

Pension

Ancillary benefits

CSO

Gerry O’Hanlon

Secretary General Grade — €201,178

Superannuation Scheme for established civil servants

None

NESDO *NESC

Rory O’Donnell (Chief Officer)

€136,034 (4th point Assistant Secretary Modified Scale)

An allowance of 16.66% of salary is paid in lieu of superannuation. This currently is €22,663.26**

None

NESF

Sean O hÉigeartaigh

€113,145

Superannuation Scheme for established civil servants

None

NCPP

Lucy Fallon Byrne

€108,856

Superannuation Scheme for established civil servants

None

*The Deputy should note that Rory O'Donnell is the Chief Officer of NESDO as well as the Director of NESC. He receives no additional emoluments for the dual role.

**Section 27 of the NESDO Act provides for a pension scheme. A scheme is being prepared at present and will be submitted shortly to the Taoiseach for approval, as required by the Act. The Chief Officer of NESDO/Director of NESC may opt to join that scheme, if he so wishes. The terms and conditions which will apply to such transfer are under negotiation at present.

Official Travel.

Enda Kenny

Question:

161 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Taoiseach the official functions he undertook during his recent visit to France; the names and titles of the persons who accompanied him; the mode of transport used; the cost of the visit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23837/07]

I travelled to Paris by Government Jet on Friday, 21 September. I returned to Dublin on Saturday, 22 September. I met with President Sarkozy at the Elysée Palace, Paris on 21 September. During an open and productive meeting, we discussed a wide range of issues on the European Agenda including the Reform Treaty, agriculture, the EU budget review, the Doha round of the WTO negotiations and international financial issues. Later that evening, the President and I attended the Ireland-France rugby match together.

On 22 September, I officiated at the official re-opening of the Old Library of the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris. I also visited our Embassy in Paris, where I met with the Ambassador and her staff and inspected the magnificently restored reception rooms there. This was part of an Embassy open day, which a large number of people attended. Among those whom I met were the family of an Irishman who had gone missing in Paris and is sadly still missing.

While not all costs have yet been settled for the visit, it is likely that the cost incurred by the Department of the Taoiseach will be in the region of €12,000. This figure does not include the cost of using the Government Jet. Questions regarding the cost of the use of the Government Jet should be directed to the Minister for Defence.

The delegation accompanying me for the visit was as follows:

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Minster of State for European Affairs*

Mr. Dermot McCarthy, Secretary General, Department of the Taoiseach*

Ambassador Anne Anderson*

Mr. Gerry Hickey, Programme Manager and Special Advisor to the Taoiseach

Mr. John Callinan, Assistant Secretary, EU and International Division, Department of the Taoiseach

Mr. Dan Mulhall, Director General, European Union Division, Department of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Eoghan O Neachtáin, Government Press Secretary

Mr. David Feeney, Private Secretary to the Taoiseach

Ms. Olive Melvin, Personal Assistant to the Taoiseach

Mr. Eddie Walsh, Higher Executive Officer, Government Press Office

Mr. Tony Maxwell, Official Photographer

Ms. Mary Browne, Higher Executive Officer, Department of Foreign Affairs

Ms. Cathy Bruton, Private Secretary to the Minister of State for European Affairs*

*Joined the delegation in Paris. Did not travel by Government Jet.

Regulatory Impact Assessments.

Denis Naughten

Question:

162 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Taoiseach the number of regulatory impact assessments produced by his Department since the adoption of the policy by Government; the number of appropriate decisions made by his Department which did not include such assessments; the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23914/07]

The Government Decision of June 2005 requires Regulatory Impact Analysis to be produced in respect of all proposals for primary legislation involving changes to the regulatory framework, significant Statutory Instruments and draft EU Directives and significant EU Regulations. In the period since June 2005, only one piece of legislation requiring RIA arose in respect of my Department, namely the Statute Law Revision Act. A RIA was produced in this case and has been published on my Department's Better Regulation website.

Official Statistics.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

163 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Taoiseach the number of people employed in the construction industry in County Kildare in the years 1997 to 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23187/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is not available on an annual basis at county level. The table contains the relevant Census of Population data for the years 1996, 2002 and 2006. Persons aged 15 years and over at work in the construction industry in County Kildare, 1996, 2002 and 2006.

Census Year

Persons

1996

3,866

2002

7,665

2006

10,981

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

164 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach the number of civil servants based in Dublin who have applied for decentralisation, who have been transferred to their decentralising post and are actually in position in the decentralised location outside of Dublin; and the locations and the number of civil servants transferred from a Dublin post who are at such locations. [24437/07]

Joan Burton

Question:

165 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach the number of civil servants and other public servants who have relocated to locations outside of Dublin under the Government’s decentralisation programme; the estimated number of each category who will have relocated by the end of 2007; if he will break each set of figures down in terms of those who are relocating from Dublin and relocating from elsewhere; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24451/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 164 and 165 together.

33 staff currently serving in my Department have applied through the Central Applications Facility to relocate under the Decentralisation Programme. 15 members of my Department have already transferred to other Departments for decentralisation purposes — their chosen options are listed below. However, the timing of the relocation of these officers is a matter for their new Departments.

1 AP to the Department of Social, and Family Affairs (Sligo)

1 AP to the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism (Killarney)

1 AP to the Department of Agriculture and Food (Portlaoise)

1 AP to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Carlow)

1 AO to Development Co-operation Ireland (Limerick)

1 AO to the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Charlestown)

1 EO to the Department of Finance (Tullamore)

1 EO to the Department of Defence (Newbridge)

1 EO to the Department of Transport (Loughrea)

1 SO to the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Clonakilty)

1 CO to the Office of Public Works (Claremorris)

1 CO to the Department of Social and Family Affairs (Sligo)

1 CO to Garda Headquarters (Thurles)

1 CO to the Office of the Revenue Commissioners (Tralee)

1 CO to the Department of Justice (Mayo)

The Deputy will be aware that there are no proposals to decentralise my Department or any of the bodies under its aegis and also that the Department of Finance has overall responsibility in Government for the Decentralisation Programme.

Fiscal Policy.

Richard Bruton

Question:

166 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reason the rates base has not been expanded to incorporate Government buildings and other properties exempted from payment of rates as recommended by the Dublin Business Alliance. [23404/07]

State occupied buildings have been exempt from rates since before the enactment of the Valuation Act 1852 and was specifically continued and provided for under Section 15(3) of the Valuation Act 2001. Schedule 4 of the Valuation Act, 2001, sets out several categories of property which are not rateable. I have no plans at present to amend the existing legislation.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

167 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the introduction of a VAT reclaim system on hotel and restaurant costs incurred for conferences, corporate meetings and incentive travel purposes as recommended by IBEC in its publication, Vision for Dublin. [23406/07]

I would like to draw the Deputy's attention to a dedicated scheme I introduced in the 2007 Budget and Finance Act which allows deductibility of VAT on conference related accommodation expenses. This measure recognises the importance of tourism to our economy and will help Irish hotels to compete more favourably for international conference business where significant opportunities are available. The measure which came into effect from 1st July 2007 addresses concerns raised by the hotels and tourism bodies regarding Ireland's attractiveness as a location for international conferences. The international conference market is seeing considerable growth and it is important that Ireland is sufficiently well positioned in order to avail of opportunities of attracting new business in this area.

A conference is defined as a meeting attended by a minimum of 50 delegates "in the course or furtherance of business". In addition, there is no minimum number of nights stay required and attendees may be accommodated at the conference venue or elsewhere. Under the scheme, VAT relief is available to conference attendees whether they come from Ireland or abroad and applies to accommodation expenses irrespective of the accommodation chosen. I have no plans to widen the scope of this measure.

Disabled Drivers.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

168 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when a review of an application for VRT will be undertaken in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23487/07]

The initial application for a Primary Medical Certificate under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994, is made to the Senior Medical Officer of the relevant local Health Service Executive administrative area. If the Primary Medical Certificate is refused, the person may appeal the refusal to the Medical Board of Appeal, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Rochestown Avenue, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.

I understand the named person appealed the decision of the Senior Medical Officer not to grant a Primary Medical Certificate and the appeal was subsequently refused by the Medical Board of Appeal. If the named person wishes to apply again for a Primary Medical Certificate, the application to the Senior Medical Officer must be accompanied by a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner indicating that the practitioner has formed the opinion that the medical condition of the person concerned has materially disimproved since the previous application. I would point out that the medical Board of Appeal is independent in the exercise of its functions.

Tax Code.

Willie Penrose

Question:

169 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the stamp duty exemption which applies to first time purchasers of dwelling houses here will apply to a couple who are returning to Ireland from the United States having not previously purchased a dwelling house for their own use and occupation here, and in the context where one of the people concerned is an Irish citizen and the other is a US citizen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23347/07]

To avail of first-time buyers relief, all the parties to the purchase must be first-time buyers. A first-time buyer is a person

(a)who has not on any previous occasion, either individually or jointly, purchased or built on his/her own behalf a house (in Ireland or abroad) and

(b)where the property purchased is occupied by the purchaser as his/her only or principal place of residence and

(c)where no rent, other than rent under the rent-a-room-scheme, is derived from the property for five years after the date of the current purchase.

The citizenship of a purchaser is not an issue for the purposes of availing of this relief.

Richard Bruton

Question:

170 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the circumstances in which a bet is subject to duty and value added tax; and the definition of the tax base in each case; and if this changes depending on whether the bet is done electronically, on the high street or through a betting exchange. [23367/07]

Bets placed with bookmakers in the State are liable to betting duty at 1%. However, an exemption applies to bets accepted by on-course bookmakers at horse-race or greyhound race meetings but the exemption does not extend to bets accepted by on-course bookmakers by any means of telecommunications. Bets placed with the Tote are also exempt from betting duty. Bets placed with bookmakers outside the State are not liable to betting duty. Most providers of internet betting are based outside the State.

With the exception of bets entered into by an on-course bookmaker by any means of telecommunications, the means by which a bet is placed or accepted does not affect the duty payable on that bet. Under current betting legislation, betting exchanges are not deemed bookmakers. They differ from bookmakers in that they facilitate the matching of bets between outside parties unlike a bookmaker who takes the bet and the associated risk involved. Bets entered into or accepted through an exchange are not liable to betting duty.

VAT is a Community tax and Irish VAT law must comply with the relevant EU requirements. Article 135(1)(i) of the VAT Directive 2006 (formerly Article 13B(f) of the Sixth VAT Directive) provides that Member States must exempt betting, lotteries and other forms of gambling from VAT, subject to conditions and limitations laid down by each Member State. That measure has been transposed into Irish law by paragraphs (xv) and (xvi) of the First Schedule to the Value-Added Tax Act 1972, as amended, which provide that licensed betting, betting on the Tote and lotteries are exempt from VAT.

Question No. 171 answered with QuestionNo. 118.

Departmental Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

172 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of jobs advertised through open recruitment for the positions of HEO, assistant principal, principal officer, assistant secretary and secretary general in the past 12 months. [23411/07]

The number of advertisements for the filling, through open recruitment, of positions in these grades in the past 12 months is set out in the Table; it should be noted that in the case of the HEO, A.P. and the P.O. grades, the recruitment process will establish panels from which a number of appointments will be made.

Position

No. of open competitions advertised

No. of posts filled

HEO

One competition

Competition in progress

Assistant Principal

One competition

Competition in progress

Principal

One competition

Competition in progress

Assistant Secretary

Nine competitions

Nine positions filled

Secretary General Level

One competition*

One position filled

*Second Secretary post

Tax Code.

Finian McGrath

Question:

173 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will clarify the term first time buyer and the issue of stamp duty for anyone on the title deeds of another house. [23440/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the stamp duty relief for first time buyers is provided for in section 92B of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999 and that the term "first time purchaser" is defined in the section. In the definition, a first time purchaser is referred to as a person who has not previously purchased a house or a part of a house or previously built a house on his or her own behalf. In addition, a first time purchaser is a person who has received a gift of a house after 22 June 2000 or received a gift of part of a house after 27 June 2000.

A person on the title deeds of a house, whether this resulted from that house being purchased, built or gifted after that dates above, would not be regarded as a first time purchaser should they acquire another house at a later date.

National Development Plan.

Finian McGrath

Question:

174 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the profile of actual expenditure and expenditure versus profile in the Border Midlands Western region in the national development plan up to 31 December 2006. [23442/07]

Finian McGrath

Question:

175 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the amount of extra expenditure spent in the Border Midlands Western region up to 31 December 2006. [23443/07]

Finian McGrath

Question:

176 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the profile of actual expenditure and expenditure versus profile in the southern and eastern regions in the national development plan up to 31 December 2006. [23444/07]

Finian McGrath

Question:

177 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the amounts of extra expenditure spent in the southern and eastern regions up to 31 December 2006. [23445/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 174 to 177, inclusive, together.

The National Development Plan/Community Support Framework (NDP/CSF) 2000-2006 has made a major contribution to our economic growth and employment levels and has significantly enhanced Ireland's competitiveness. The benefits of projects and programmes in areas including child care, housing, rural development, training and business innovation have been experienced nationwide and the completion of many of these programmes has both improved our social infrastructure and encouraged regional development.

The ESRI (Oct 2006) in its ex-ante assessment of investment priorities for the NDP 2007-2013 concluded that "The NDP/CSF 2000-2006 has greatly enhanced the economic and social infrastructure of the State with major benefits to economic development throughout all regions".

The most recent information available to my Department, following the June NDP/CSF Monitoring Committee, regarding expenditure under NDP/CSF 2000-2006 indicates that over €54.5 billion has been invested nationally to the end of December 2006, with expenditure of €15.1 billion in the BMW region and expenditure of €39.4 billion in the S&E region. In terms of Exchequer and EU funding under NDP/CSF 2000-2006 nearly €47 billion was spent nationally to the end of December 2006, with expenditure of over €13 billion spent in the BMW region and expenditure of over €33.6 billion spent in S&E region.

The original forecast under the NDP/CSF 2000-2006 is for €57 billion to be invested nationally with €18 billion allocated to the BMW region and nearly €39 billion allocated to the S&E region. The original forecast under the NDP/CSF 2000-2006 for Exchequer and EU funding is for €44.6 billion to be invested nationally, with €14.6 billion to be invested in the BMW region and over €30 billion to be invested in the S&E region.

The Exchequer and EU expenditure nationally is ahead of the original forecast which indicates that all demands for expenditure are being met by the Exchequer. However there is some over-performance and under-performance of expenditure taking place within and between the programmes. The main difficulties are a large demand led component that did not materialise and a lower than expected private sector involvement rather than a lack of Exchequer resources. The principal reasons are well known at this stage and reflect a slower rate of expenditure as a result of the impact of the slowdown in economic activity in 2000-02 — the early years of the Programmes — and the outbreak of foot and mouth disease which meant that businesses and the agriculture sector were not in a position to put forward sufficient, suitable investment plans in those early years to avail of funding and a lower drawdown of funding for Research and Development projects.

It is important to point out that national development planning is an ongoing process and the €184 billion National Development Plan 2007-2013 will continue the investment required to maintain and enhance national competitiveness while at the same time providing a better quality of life for all our citizens.

Departmental Expenditure.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

178 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the amount of money awarded in domestic mileage to each individual Minister of State in his Department for each of the past four years and to date in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23511/07]

The domestic mileage amounts were paid to the Minister of State at the Office of Public Works, Mr. Tom Parlon, in 2007 and in each of the previous four years.

Year

Total

2007

19,769.49

2006

42,809.96

2005

33,397.38

2004

34,917.29

2003

35,259.57

Departmental Advertising.

Niall Collins

Question:

179 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will implement a request (details supplied) for inclusion in all scheduled advertising and public awareness campaigns by his Department. [23526/07]

My Department uses various communications media as part of advertising and public awareness campaigns. Where it is deemed appropriate to the needs of the campaign local media are used. I have had details of the organisation concerned forwarded to the relevant officials in my Department for consideration where appropriate in any future advertising or public awareness campaigns.

Benchmarking Awards.

Richard Bruton

Question:

180 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of the interim payment made under the higher remuneration review of the payment made to craft workers in the public service in lieu of benchmarking 1; if he has received the promised reports on these two dimensions of special pay awards; and their implications for the development of the public service pay bill. [23632/07]

The cost of the full increase to the Exchequer of the interim payment recommended by the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector is about €33m a year. The greater part of this cost relates to the Health Service Executive because of the numbers of hospital consultants who constitute a majority of those covered by the Interim Report.

The cost of the payment made to craft workers and related grades in the public service under the first Parallel Benchmarking Process was about €160m in a full year. The final report of the seventh general review of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector has been received and I am bringing proposals to Government for consideration. The consultant's report under the second Parallel Benchmarking process on the pay of craft workers was presented to management and unions on 15 June 2007. Discussions are ongoing in relation to the report. In the event that the Government accept the recommendations of the Review Body, details of the implications for the Public Sector Pay Bill will be forwarded to the Deputy directly.

Public Service Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

181 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the categories of worker in the Public Service whole standard working week exceeds 35 hours; and if the approach of cost neutral reductions in working hours is a viable public policy for those activities. [23633/07]

The following grades in the public service are working in excess of a net 35 hours week:

Health Services

Ambulance, Support Staff, Nurses, Child Care, Craftworkers, General Operatives and related grades.

Local Authorities

Firemen, Craftworkers, General Operatives and related grades.

Education

Technical Officers in Institutes of Technology, Craftworkers, General Operatives and related grades.

Justice

Prison Officers and Gardaí

State Industrial Employees

Craftworkers, Stores, General Operatives and related grades.

Any reduction in the standard working week for any of the above groups could only be considered on a cost neutral basis and would have to reflect the requirement to maintain service provision. The settlement of the nurses' dispute earlier this year provided for a reduction in the working week from 39 hours to 37.5 hours on a cost neutral basis by June 2008. A further reduction to 35 hours is the subject of a seven person commission, under the chairmanship of Ms. Justice Maureen Harding Clark, who are due to present their report in mid 2008. The Labour Court recommended some time ago that, if there was to be any reduction in the working week, nurses should be the first group to benefit. Developments in other areas will have to await the outcome of the position on nurses.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

182 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of competitions below the rank of assistant secretary general which have been subject to open competition; the number of posts filled; the origin of the successful applicants distinguishing those who are internal to the recruiting Department from another Department, from elsewhere in the public service, from the Irish private sector or from abroad; and if he will provide similar information for TLAC appointments in the past three years. [23634/07]

I understand that the Deputy is seeking information on the number of open recruitment competitions held for the general service grades of Principal Officer, Assistant Principal Officer and Higher Executive Officer, and for similar details in respect of the general service competitions conducted by the Top Level Appointments Committee (TLAC), in the years from 2004 to date. The tables set out the relevant details.

Assistant Principal Open Competition

Year

No. assigned

Candidates Internal to recruiting Department

From another Department

Elsewhere in the public service

From the Irish Private Sector

From Abroad

2004

6

0

0

0

6

0

2005

3

0

0

2

1

0

Higher Executive Officer Open Competition

Year

No. assigned

Candidates Internal to recruiting Department

From another Department

From elsewhere in the public service

From the Irish Private Sector

From Abroad

2004

3

0

1

0

2

0

2005

3

0

0

0

3

0

No open recruitment competitions were held for the Principal Officer Grade between 2004 and 2006. An open recruitment competition for the Principal Officer Grade was advertised in 2007 under the provisions of Towards 2016 and is nearing completion.

Top Level Appointments Committee (TLAC)

TLAC held no open recruitment competitions for general service grades in 2004 and 2005. One open recruitment competition took place in 2006 for appointment to a post at the grade of Second Secretary. The post was filled by an internal candidate.

To date in 2007, 9 posts at the grade of Assistant Secretary General have been filled by open competition. Six were filled from within the appointing Department, one from another Department, one from the wider public service and one from the private sector.

Expenditure Reviews.

Richard Bruton

Question:

183 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the progress to date in the programme of work of the central evaluation unit in his Department. [23635/07]

I am pleased to report substantial progress has been made in the programme of work of the Central Expenditure Evaluation Unit (CEEU) in my Department. Following an external recruitment campaign, two specialist evaluators were appointed to the Unit, augmenting the internal expertise already in situ. In addition, two more evaluators joined the Unit on completion of the MSc in Policy Analysis Programme for civil servants run by the Faculty of Commerce at UCD and the Institute of Public Administration.

A key focus of the Unit's work to date in 2007 has been to check compliance with the Value for Money Frameworks by Government Departments and Agencies. Spending departments are required to establish systems to carry out spot-checks on projects to ensure compliance with the VfM Frameworks and to report their findings to my Department on an annual basis. While such spot-checks and the development of appropriate systems are the responsibility of Departments themselves, the CEEU reviews the reports received and reports their findings to the relevant sections in my Department who then engage with line Departments on any remedial action which may be required. The Unit is also undertaking its own spot-checks on a range of projects across a number of the major capital spending departments. CEEU spot checks are currently underway in the Departments of Health and Children; Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Enterprise, Trade and Employment; and Arts, Sport and Tourism. Spot checks in the Department of Transport have been completed and final reports will issue to that Department shortly.

The Unit has also played a pivotal role in overseeing programme evaluation under the scheme of Value for Money and Policy Reviews (VfMPRs). Along with coordinating progress under the agreed schedule of Reviews, the Unit has published a detailed Guidance Manual for officials tasked with carrying out VfMPRs. This represents an important step in transferring necessary skills to Departments and Agencies which will assist in fostering a greater culture of evaluation across the Government system.

Finally, with respect to development and implementation of a scheme of programme evaluation under the 2007 — 2013 National Development Plan, the Unit is in the midst of developing such a scheme covering the period up to and including the mid-term review in 2010. An outline of this scheme will be discussed at the first Monitoring Committee meeting later this year.

Richard Bruton

Question:

184 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if a report on the value for money initiative has been presented to him on its first year of work; the number and subject of reports completed; the value of the programmes involved; and if these reports have been published. [23636/07]

In July this year I submitted a report to Cabinet to update my colleagues on progress with the Value for Money and Policy Reviews. Under this initiative which was introduced in June 2006 some 90 reviews are to be carried out during the period June 2006 to end 2008. To date, 42 reviews are complete or substantially complete, with 24 having been fully completed. Details of the completed reviews and the value of the individual programmes concerned, which amount to some €2.2 billion in total, are set out in the table.

The reviews when completed will normally be published, laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and submitted to the relevant Select Oireachtas Committee for consideration. Responsibility for carrying out each of the reviews, publishing them and submitting them to the Houses of the Oireachtas and the Select Committees rests with the individual Departments and Offices.

Department Name

Review Title

Estimated cost of area to be reviewed based on 2005 REV

€ millions

Education & Science

Supply Panel for Primary Teaching

2

Education & Science

1st and 2nd level Building Programmes (Devolved Initiatives)

36

Defence

Aircraft Maintenance in the Air Corps

9

Finance

Grant-in-Aid to the ESRI

3

Enterprise, Trade & Employment

Science and Technology Spending

97

Revenue

Revenue’s Data Capture Outsourcing Programme

2

Communications, Energy & Natural Resources

Energy (Conservation and Alternative)

16

Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs

Scéimeanna Feabshsúcháin sa Ghaeltacht

11

Finance

Information Society Fund

9

Justice, Equality & Law Reform

Asylum & Immigration

124

Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs

Local Drugs Task Forces

13

Social & Family Affairs

Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme

650

Social & Family Affairs

Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents

770

Oireachtas

IT Service Level Agreement Contract

2

Environment, Heritage and Local Government

Motor-tax-online

2

Agriculture, Fisheries & Food

Laboratory Testing

3

Finance

Grant-in-aid to OSI

11

Social & Family Affairs

UA/UB for Atypical workers

175

Communications, Energy & Natural Resources

Public (Exchequer and EU) Supports for Aquaculture

6

Justice, Equality & Law Reform

Prisons Capital Projects

56

Health & Children

Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme

114

Foreign Affairs

Support for Irish Emigrant Groups Abroad

8

Social & Family Affairs

Medical Review and Assessment Service

30

Defence

Clothing Procurement in the Defence Forces

3

Tax Yield.

Richard Bruton

Question:

185 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of returns in respect of capital acquisition tax which were made in 2002 and in 2006; the number in respect of which tax was payable; and the distribution of cases by class of relationship to the donor and by size of acquisition. [23637/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the total numbers of gift and inheritance tax returns (IT38) made in 2002 and 2006, and also the numbers in respect of which tax was payable, are as follows:

Year

Number of IT38s filed

Number of Taxable IT38s

2002

11,073

7,231

2006

19,485

11,058

Details from inheritance and gift taxes returns are not maintained in such a way as to provide a basis for compiling the detailed information sought by the Deputy. It is, therefore, not possible to separately identify the details relating to the distribution of cases by class of relationship to the donor and by size of acquisition without a protracted investigation of Revenue records.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

186 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the percentage of women occupying each of the major Civil Service grades. [23638/07]

Based on the latest data on serving numbers supplied by Departments/Offices, to my Department, the following is the information requested by the Deputy:

Main General Service Grades

% Female

Secretary General

24

Assistant Secretary General

12

Principal

23

Assistant Principal

34

Higher Executive Officer

50

Administrative Officer

57

Executive Officer

65

Staff Officer

81

Clerical Officer

79

Head Services Officer

6

Services Officer

24

Services Attendant

11

Pension Provisions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

187 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his latest estimate of the actuarial cost of providing the present public service pension to all of the key professions in the public service (details supplied) and of different grades within the public service in terms of the contribution required as a percentage of salary to fund such a pension. [23639/07]

The actuarial costs of providing public service pensions to future new recruits for various public service grades are given below where all figures are expressed as the percentages of annual pensionable pay:

Gardai: 22%

Nurses: 15%

Teachers: 17%

Prison Officers: 20%

Defence Forces Commissioned Officers: 29%

Defence Forces Enlisted Personnel: 20%

The above figures represent the estimated annual notional costs of funding the application of current pension terms for new entrants to future new recruits based on current pay, pensionable allowances and social welfare pension rates. These different percentages reflect the different retirement ages, accrual rates and pay scales applying to the grades in question. These costs are before any allowance is made for employees' occupational pension contributions which, on average, amount to around 5% of pay.

Tax Code.

Michael Creed

Question:

188 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will investigate and rectify the level of tax being paid by a person (details supplied) in County Cork who is currently on emergency tax. [23660/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, on being contacted by the person in question, a Certificate of Tax Credits and Standard Rate Cut-Off point issued to the taxpayer on 9 October 2007 and to his employer on the previous day. The certificate will adjust the level of tax being paid. A tax refund will be due, via the payroll system, following implementation of the certificate by the employer.

Flood Relief.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

189 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position of the proposed programme of flood alleviation at Portarlington; the role of the Office of Public Works therein; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23700/07]

The Office of Public Works is represented on the Steering Group established to undertake an assessment of the flooding situation in Portarlington, where there is a long history of flooding. Officials from Laois and Offaly County Councils are also represented on the Steering Group.

A Feasibility Study dealing with the flood risk in Portarlington and identifying viable options which could be undertaken to alleviate such flooding has been completed. The OPW is currently in consultations with the Local Authorities on the possible implementation of flood relief works as a result of the Report. Once viable options to alleviate the flood risk be identified, OPW will consider undertaking the works directly with its own workforce.

Regulatory Regime.

Richard Bruton

Question:

190 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the main categories of administration cost or compliance cost for business created by Government Departments or agencies; the benchmark value for these costs against which it is planned to reduce cost by 25%; and the reduction which he hopes to achieve in the next two years. [23714/07]

There is a commitment in the Programme for Government to review the regulatory environment for business. Based on the ESRI Survey of Business Attitudes to Regulation (published March 2007) and the Report of the Business Regulation Forum (published April 2007), the main areas of regulation which the business sector wants examined are:

Taxation,

Statistical reporting

Environmental regulations

Health and Safety regulations, and

Company and employment law.

Taking account of these findings, the Government agreed in March, 2007 that the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment would establish a High-level Group on Business Regulation with a wide range of membership from Government Departments, agencies, industry, and the trade unions to carry out the review.

The Group has already begun its work of examining the regulatory environment for business and will report in July 2008. This issue is of major importance in ensuring the future competitiveness of the Irish economy. I am confident that the review will ensure that the regulatory burden on business is minimized as much as possible.

State Agencies.

Richard Bruton

Question:

191 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the remuneration package of each of the CEOs of State agencies reporting to his Department including pay, pension and ancillary benefits. [23729/07]

The remuneration of the CEOs of the two State agencies, funded from the Vote of my Department, is as follows:

Special EU Programmes Body: The salary scale for the CEO ranges from €84,075 to €116,875. In addition a non-pensionable performance related bonus may be paid up to a maximum of €11,430. A pension is payable on retirement, of 1/80th of final salary for each year of service. A lump sum will also be payable on retirement of 3 times the annual pension.

Ordnance Survey Ireland: As a commercial State body, the salary of the CEO is a matter to be determined by the Board within the following agreed pay range:— €109,495 to €136,875. A performance related pay scheme provides for payment of up to a maximum of 25% of basic pay annually, which is not reckonable for pension purposes. The CEO is also provided with a car. A pension is payable, on retirement, of 7/80th of final salary (based on 7 years service). A lump sum will also be payable on retirement of 3 times the annual pension.

Of the other State Agencies which come under the remit of my Department, the remuneration for the CEO of the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland, is a matter for the Board of the individual authorities. The remuneration packages of all National Treasury Management Agency staff, including that of its CEO and the CEO of the National Development Finance Agency, are negotiated on an individual contract basis and are confidential. The administration accounts (including pay and pensions, etc.) of the NTMA are audited by the Comptroller & Auditor General each year.

In relation to the Financial Regulator details of the remuneration of the Financial Regulator CEO are published in the Annual Report of the Financial Regulator.

The annual basic salary of the Director of An Post National Lottery Company is €188,700. In addition in 2006, the Director was paid directors fees of €14,000 and non-pensionable performance related bonuses of €42,500. Taxable Benefits amounted to €20,000. The Director is a member of An Post main superannuation scheme.

Tax Yield.

Richard Bruton

Question:

192 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of residential property sales which were the subject of stamp duty in each of the past five years; and the aggregate duty raised. [23738/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the available information in respect of the number of residential property transactions where stamp duty was paid in the past five years is as follows:

Stamp Duty on Residential Property

Year

Number of Duty Paid Transactions

Net Receipt

€m

2006

52,911

1,311

2005

44,000

945

2004

44,500

752

2003

35,000

528

2002

Not Available

349

Departmental Properties.

Damien English

Question:

193 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the properties owned by the Office of Public Works in County Meath; if he has plans to sell or lease these properties or to change their current use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23811/07]

Details of the properties that are owned by the Office of Public Works in County Meath are set out in the table. The majority are fully operational Garda Stations and there are no plans envisaged for change of current use. The same applies to the office buildings. Also included in the schedule is the site purchased for the purpose of building the Decentralised O.P.W. H.Q.

Property Name

Address

Location

Ashbourne Garda Station

Frederick Street

Ashbourne

Athboy Garda Station

Lower Bridge Street

Athboy

Ballivor Garda Station

Killucan — Ballivor Road

Ballivor

Crossakiel Garda Station

Kells Road

Crossakiel

Duleek Garda Station

Main Street

Duleek

Dunboyne Garda Station

Auction Paddock

Dunboyne

Dunshaughlin Garda Station

Dublin — Navan Road

Dunshaughlin

Enfield Garda Station

Kinnegad Road

Enfield

Grange EU Office

Derrypatrick

Grange

Kells Garda Station

Fairgreen — Church Lane

Kells

Kilmessan Garda Station

Kilmessan

Kilmessan

Laytown Garda Station

Laytown

Laytown

Longwood Garda Station

Main Street

Longwood

Navan Garda Station

Abbey Road

Navan

Navan Government Offices

Kells Road

Navan

Nobber Garda Station

Navan Road

Nobber

Slane Garda Station

Navan — Drogheda Road

Slane

Summerhill Garda Station

Dublin — Mullingar Road

Summerhill

Trim Boyne CDS HQ

Newtown

Trim

Trim Garda Station

New Dublin Road

Trim

Trim Model School

Trim

Trim

Trim OPW Decentralisation Site

Townparks South & Manorland

Trim

Overseas Development Aid.

Richard Bruton

Question:

194 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the call from Debt and Development Coalition Ireland and Trócaire that Ireland should not pay money beyond the basic membership subscription into the IDA 15 replenishment round unless World Bank economic conditionality is ended and to instead re-channel its aid through aid channels without economic conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23823/07]

I do not support this call. The International Development Association (IDA) provides financial assistance to the poorest countries by means of both loans at zero interest with a 10-year grace period and maturities of 35 to 40 years and, more recently, grants. These grants and loans are provided by donors, such as Ireland, financed by the Irish taxpayer and by return reflows. Consequently conditions must be imposed to ensure proper use of IDA resources by recipient countries.

There is no basic membership subscription, as such, in any IDA replenishment round. The World Bank would hope that each donor would subscribe as much money as possible to meet the expanding needs of IDA, not least to meet the Millennium Development Goals in Africa, where IDA resources are particularly focused. Ireland is a strong supporter of IDA as a vehicle for channelling assistance to the poorest countries.

Richard Bruton

Question:

195 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the Government position that will be presented at the World Bank IMF meetings from 20 to 22 October 2007 and at the meeting of International Development Association deputies that will be held immediately after the World Bank IMF meetings on 23 October 2007 on the replenishment of the IDA fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23824/07]

The Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund (Fund) and the Boards of Governors of the World Bank Group (Bank) normally meet once a year to discuss the work of their respective institutions. I will attend the meeting to be held this year in Washington and will speak on behalf of Ireland.

In addition there are meetings of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC), the IMF's policy-guiding body, and the Development Committee, a joint IMF-World Bank forum. Ireland is not a member of either of these bodies, but is represented indirectly. A considerable amount of the preparatory work emerges from the IMFC and Development Committee meetings in the form of conclusions and indeed from the entirely separate gathering of the G7 Finance Ministers to be held in Washington on 19 October.

In my speech at the Annual Meeting, I intend to recognise the very important work being done by both organisations and especially by the World Bank in its mission of global poverty reduction and the improvement of living standards in developing countries around the world. I will take the opportunity at the meeting next week to address a number of challenges facing both organisations including governance and surveillance. I will also emphasise our commitment to enhancing the position of emerging market economies while at the same time accommodating the quota position of the more developed dynamic countries which are significantly under represented, including Ireland.

A specially arranged meeting of persons dealing with the International Development Association will be held on 23 October 2007. This will be addressed by Mr R Zoellick, the new President of the World Bank. This meeting will be attended by the appropriate officials from my Department.

Richard Bruton

Question:

196 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views of the attaching of economic conditions to World Bank loans and grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23825/07]

The World Bank group comprises the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the International Development Association (IDA), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Together the IBRD and IDA provide low-interest loans, interest-free credit, and grants to developing countries. The IFC promotes private sector investment by supporting high-risk sectors and countries, while the MIGA provides political risk insurance (guarantees) to investors in, and lenders to, developing countries. The ICSID settles investment disputes between foreign investors and their host countries.

The IDA is the "soft" loan arm of the World Bank. It provides highly concessional financial resources to low-income countries to help them reduce poverty and achieve faster, more environmentally sustainable, broad based growth. It is the single largest source of concessional financial assistance to the world's poorest countries. The IDA provides both loans at zero interest with a 10-year grace period and maturities of 35 to 40 years and more recently grants. These loans and grants are provided by donors, such as Ireland, and are financed by the Irish and other taxpayers, and by the return reflows from past loans. Conditions in relation to the provision of such loans and grants are always necessary to ensure that borrowers and grant recipients carry out the projects as intended and repay the funds loaned. This allows donors to be sure that the intended purposes of IDA actions are met and that, where relevant, the resources return to IDA for future reuse to assist poor countries.

Richard Bruton

Question:

197 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the time-frame and approval process for the decision making on Ireland’s contribution to the IDA 15 replenishment specifically; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23826/07]

Discussions on a replenishment round for the International Development Association (IDA) have commenced. The donors for a 15th replenishment, which number about forty countries, will hold a number of meetings during the course of this year, and possibly next year also, to determine the scale and scope of the overall replenishment needed. Ireland will consider its position in that context.

Tax Clearance Certificates.

Brian Hayes

Question:

198 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reason the Revenue Commissioners are delaying the issuing of C2 certificates by several months thereby causing a great deal of hardship and stress for many sub-contractors as they cannot get paid without these certificates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23852/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they experienced technical difficulties in the production of C2 cards for a short period in August/September. These difficulties have now been resolved. The backlog which developed has now been largely overcome, and will be eliminated completely within the next two weeks.

I am also advised by the Revenue Commissioners that when the technical issues were brought to their attention, they took steps to alleviate difficulties any affected contractors might be experiencing. As an interim measure, they issued a letter to the Principal Contractor advising them that the sub-contractor had been approved for the issue of a C2 card and that an application should be made for a Relevant Payments Card for that sub-contractor.

Garda Stations.

Niall Collins

Question:

199 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position regarding the provision of a Garda station (details supplied) in County Limerick. [23864/07]

A Sketch Scheme for the new station will be forwarded to An Garda Síochána for approval by the end of this year. The planning process under Part 9 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 (as amended) will then follow on receipt of this approval. It is hoped that work on the new Garda Station will commence in early 2008.

It is planned to build a new Garda Station in Limerick City to replace Henry Street, Garda Station. A suitable site is being sought for this purpose. There is an ongoing programme of refurbishing Garda Stations nationwide.

Tax Code.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

200 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the cost of introducing a middle tax rate of 30% to be applied to the first €10,000 single and €20,000 couple currently paid at the higher rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23875/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

201 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the first €20,000 single and €40,000 couple currently paid at the higher rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23877/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 200 and 201 together.

It is assumed that the thresholds for the proposed new tax bands mentioned by the Deputy would not alter the existing standard rate band structure applying to single and widowed persons, to lone parents and married couples.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the full year cost to the Exchequer, estimated by reference to 2008 incomes, of the introduction of each of these 30 per cent rate bands could be of the order of €800 million and €1,300 million, respectively, depending on how the bands were structured. Given the current band structures there would be major issues to be worked out as to how such a new rate could be integrated in practice into the current system and how this would affect the relative position of different types of income earners. These figures are provisional and subject to revision.

Regulatory Impact Assessments.

Denis Naughten

Question:

202 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of regulatory impact assessments produced by his Department since the adoption of the policy by Government; the number of appropriate decisions made by his Department which did not include such assessments; the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23909/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, following a Government Decision on 21 June 2005, Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) is now to be applied to all new proposals for primary legislation and significant Statutory Instruments that involve changes to Ireland's regulatory framework, and proposals for EU Directives and significant EU Regulations when they are published by the European Commission.

In accordance with this decision, screening Regulatory Impact Analyses were carried out by my Department in respect of the following Bills and Statutory Instruments:—

The Asset Covered Securities (Amendment) Bill 2006,

Transposition of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (S.Is and Bill produced in 2007),

National Development Finance Agency (Amendment) Bill 2006

The proposed Financial Services Regulation Bill

There were no other decisions involving legislation where it was deemed that a Regulatory Impact Analysis would be appropriate.

Tax Code.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

203 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the different types of worker or employee who may claim expenses against income tax; the amount allowable for each employee or worker for each of the past three years; his views on whether these employees or workers are generally claiming expenses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23939/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, where a PAYE worker is not reimbursed in respect of the cost of his/her work related expenses, then he or she may claim a tax deduction in respect of—

(a)the cost of expenses of travel necessarily incurred in the performance of the duties of an office or employment; and

(b)the cost of expenses, other than expenses of travel, wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred in the performance of the duties of an office or employment.

However, it is a long established principle of tax case law that the expenses of travelling from home to work and work to home are not expenses of travelling necessarily incurred by an employee in the performance of the duties of an employment and do not qualify for a deduction. I am further informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, as an alternative to employees submitting individual expenses claims to them, agreements have been entered into between Revenue and employee representative bodies (e.g. trade unions) resulting in what are known as ‘flat rate' tax deductions in respect of qualifying employee expenses.

The Revenue Commissioners publish on their website the agreed flat rate expense deductions for the different categories of employee. For ease of reference, the relevant details are set out in the annexed table.

2003

2004

2005

2006

Agricultural Advisers (employed by Teagasc)

548

548

600

600

Archaeologists: (Civil Service)

127

127

127

127

Architects employed by

(a) Civil Service

127

127

127

127

(b) Local Authorities

127

127

127

127

Airline Cabin Crews

64

64

64

64

Bar trade: Employees

93

93

93

93

Building Industry

Bricklayer

175

175

175

175

Fitter mechanic, plasterer

103

103

103

103

Electrician

153

153

153

153

Mason, roofer slater, tiler, floor layer, stone cutter

120

120

120

120

Driver, scaffolder, sheeter, steel erector

52

52

52

52

Professionals: engineers, surveyors, etc.

33

33

33

33

General operatives (labourers etc. incl. Public Sector)

97

97

97

97

Bus, rail and road operatives in

Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnód Éireann

160

160

160

160

Cardiac Technicians

Female

212

212

212

212

Male

107

107

107

107

Carpentry and joinery trades

Cabinet makers, Carpenters, Joiners

220

220

220

220

Painters, Polishers, Upholsterers, Wood Cutting Machinists

140

140

140

140

Civil Service

Architectural Technologists & Assistants

138

138

166

166

Clerks of Works (incl. Senior and District Inspectors)

119

119

142

142

Engineering Technicians for Archaeologists, Architects, Engineers and Surveyors

138

138

166

166

Clergymen (Church of Ireland)

127

127

127

127

Note: Refer to SIM dated 3/11/1977 regarding claims in excess of flat-rate deduction.

Consultants (hospital)

534

534

534

695

Note: Refer to SIMs dated 21/7/1982, 28/8/1985, 21/1/1986 and Tax Memo 24/1994 regarding reimbursed expenses subjected to PAYE/PRSI

Cosmetologists

Obliged to supply and launder their own white uniforms

160

160

160

160

Dentists in employment

376

376

376

376

Dockers

73

73

73

73

Doctors (hospital, including consultants)

534

534

534

695

Note: Deduction includes subscription to the Irish Medical Council. Please also refer to Tax Memo 25/1992

Draughtsmen (Local Authority)

133

133

133

133

Engineers employed by:

(a) Civil Service

138

138

166

166

(b) Local Authorities

127

127

127

127

(c) Bord Telecom, Coillte, OPW

138

138

166

166

Engineering Industry [and Electrical Industry from 1997/98]

Skilled workers who bear the full cost of own tools and overalls

280

280

280

318

Semi-skilled workers who bear the full cost of own tools and overalls

215

215

215

244

All unskilled workers and skilled or semi-skilled workers who do not bear the full cost of own tools and overalls

185

185

185

210

Firemen Full-time

138

250

250

272

Note: Refer to SIM dated 11/11/1985 regarding treatment of uniform allowance received

Firemen Part-time

Note: Refer to SIM dated 10/6/1985 regarding treatment of uniform allowance received

375

375

375

407

Fishermen in Employment

318

318

318

318

Foresters employed by Coillte

127

127

166

166

Grooms (Racehorse Training)

294

294

294

294

Home Helps (Employed directly or indirectly by Health Boards)

204

236

236

256

Hospitals Domestic Staff:

To include general operatives, porters, drivers, drivers, attendants, domestics, laundry operatives, cooks, catering supervisors, waitresses, catering staff, kitchen porters

(a) who are responsible for providing and laundering their own uniforms.

325

325

325

353

(b) who are obliged to launder the uniforms supplied

170

170

170

185

(c) whose uniforms are supplied and laundered free

85

85

85

93

Hotel industry

Head hall porter

90

90

90

90

Hall porter

64

64

64

64

Head waiter

127

127

127

127

Waiter

97

97

97

97

Waitress

64

64

64

64

Chef

97

97

97

97

Manager

191

191

191

191

Assistant Manager

127

127

127

127

Trainee Manager

78

78

78

78

Kitchen Porter

21

21

21

21

Journalists

Journalists, including those in public relations area of journalism

381

381

381

381

Journalists who receive expense allowances from their employers

153

153

153

153

Local Authorities

Executive Chemists

115

115

115

115

Parks Superintendents

40

40

40

40

Town Planners

115

115

115

115

Mining Industry

(a) miners/shift bosses underground, mill process workers/shift bosses and steam cleaners

1018

1018

1155

(surface workers)

508

508

576

Motor repair and motor assembly trades

Assembly workers, greasers, storemen and general workers

(a) who bear the full cost of own tools and overalls

52

52

52

52

(b) who do not bear the full cost of own tools and overalls

42

42

42

42

Fitters and mechanics

(a) who bear the full cost of own tools and overalls

85

85

85

85

(b) who do not bear the full cost of own tools and overalls

42

42

42

42

Panel Beaters (See Panel Beaters/Sheet Metal Workers)

Nurses:

(a) where obliged to supply and launder their own uniforms

572

572

572

733

(b) where obliged to supply their own uniforms but laundered free

496

496

496

638

(c) where obliged to launder the uniforms supplied

280

280

280

353

(d) where uniforms are supplied and laundered by hospital

205

205

205

258

Nurses: Short Term Contracts thriough an Agency. Additional Amount Due

64

64

64

80

Nursing Assistants (including attendants, orderlies and nurses’ aids)

(a) where obliged to supply and launder their own uniforms

485

485

485

526

(b) where obliged to supply their own uniforms but laundered free

405

405

405

440

(c) where obliged to launder the uniforms supplied

215

215

215

234

(d) where uniforms are supplied and laundered by hospital

85

85

85

93

Occupational Therapists

(a) where obliged to supply and launder their own uniforms

217

217

217

217

(b) where obliged to supply their own uniforms but laundered free

153

153

153

153

(c) where uniforms are supplied and laundered by hospital

52

52

52

52

Panel Beaters / Sheet metal Workers

(a) Who bear full cost of own tools and overalls

78

78

78

78

(b) Who do not bear full cost of own tools and overalls

40

40

40

40

Pharmacists

160

160

160

160

Assistant Pharmacists

97

97

97

97

Physiotherapists

(a) where obliged to supply and launder their own uniforms

381

381

381

381

(b) where obliged to supply their own uniforms but laundered free

318

318

318

318

(c) where uniforms are supplied and laundered by hospital

64

64

64

64

Pilots (Aer Lingus Group Pilots)

191

191

191

275

Plumbing trades

Plumber (non-welder)

177

177

177

177

Plumber-welder

205

205

205

205

Pipe fitter-welder

205

205

205

205

Printing Bookbinding and allied trades

Bookbinders (Hand)

109

109

109

109

Bookbinders (Others)

97

97

97

97

Compositors, linotype and monotype operators

121

121

121

121

Copy Holders, photo lithographers, photo engravers and workers in T and E section of newspapers

114

114

114

114

Monotype caster attendants, stereotypes and machine minders

135

135

135

135

Readers and revisers

100

100

100

100

Rotary machine minders and assistants

150

150

150

150

Others (e.g. cutters, dispatchers, rulers, warehousemen)

90

90

90

90

Professional Valuers in the Valuation Office

555

555

615

615

Radiographers

(a) where obliged to supply and launder their own white uniforms

242

242

242

242

(b) where obliged to supply their own white uniforms but laundered free

143

143

143

143

(c) where white uniforms are supplied and laundered by hospital

73

73

73

73

Respiratory & Pulmonary Function Technicians

191

191

191

191

Shipping

British Merchant Navy

Foreign-going trade:

(a) First class passenger and cargo liners.

Master

318

318

318

318

Chief officer, chief engineer, other officers, including pursers

318

318

318

318

Chief steward

318

318

318

318

Assistant steward

244

244

244

244

Carpenter

194

194

194

194

Other ranks

148

148

148

148

(b) Cargo-vessels, tankers, ferries

Master

318

318

318

318

Chief officer, chief engineer, other officers, including pursers

318

318

318

318

Chief steward

318

318

318

318

Assistant steward

244

244

244

244

Carpenter

194

194

194

194

Other ranks

148

148

148

148

British home or coasting trade:

Master

318

318

318

318

Chief officer, chief engineer, other officers, including pursers

318

318

318

318

Chief steward

318

318

318

318

Assistant steward

244

244

244

244

Carpenter

194

194

194

194

Other ranks

148

148

148

148

Mercantile marine officers and crews of Irish ships

Foreign-going trade: cargo vessels

Master

98

98

98

98

Chief officer, chief engineer, radio officer

90

90

90

90

Other officers including pursers

73

73

73

73

Chief steward

73

73

73

73

Assistant steward

55

55

55

55

Carpenter (to include tools)

55

55

55

55

Other ranks, including boys

37

37

37

37

Home trade:

(a) Cross channel and continental

Master

98

98

98

98

Chief officer, chief engineer, radio officer

90

90

90

90

Other officers, including pursers

73

73

73

73

Chief steward

73

73

73

73

Assistant steward

55

55

55

55

Carpenter (to include tools)

55

55

55

55

Other ranks including boys

37

37

37

37

(b) Coasting vessels

Master

98

98

98

98

Chief officer, chief engineer, radio officer

90

90

90

90

Other officers, including pursers

73

73

73

73

Chief steward

73

73

73

73

Assistant steward

55

55

55

55

Carpenter (to include tools)

55

55

55

55

Other ranks, including boys

37

37

37

37

Shop Assistants

(including supermarket staff, general shop workers, drapery and footwear assistants)

97

115

115

121

Surveyors employed by:

Local Authorities

127

127

127

127

Civil Service

127

127

127

127

Coillte

127

127

127

127

Teachers

Teachers [excluding guidance counsellors, third-level academic staff and physical education teachers]

School principals

471

558

558

558

Other teachers

402

475

475

475

Part-time teacher (on full hours)

402

475

475

475

Kindergarten and/or sewing to include arts and crafts — (additional allowance)

Arts & Crafts (additional allowance)

Part-time (not on full hours)

217

256

256

256

Guidance Counsellors

(a) employed full-time in second level schools

402

475

475

475

(b) engaged mainly in teaching general subjects but also doing part-time guidance counselling (additional allowance)

97

115

115

115

Third level academic staff

Professor, Heads of Schools/Departments

471

558

558

558

Senior lecturer

402

475

475

475

College lecturer

402

475

475

475

Assistant lecturer

402

475

475

475

Part-time lecturer (on full hours)

402

475

475

475

Part-time lecturer (not on full hours)

217

256

256

256

Physical education teachers

(a) fully engaged in teaching P.E.

402

475

475

475

(b) engaged mainly in teaching general subjects but also doing part-time P.E. (additional allowance)

97

115

115

115

*Expenses deductions to be apportioned on a time basis amount

Veterinary Surgeons

337

337

337

337

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that in addition to details of flat rate expenses due to employees being available on their website, representative bodies (including trade unions) generally circulate their members with information on the amount of the expenses due for the various categories of employee and the employees, in turn, make a claim to their Revenue office. Employees were reminded that they could claim flat rate expenses by using the ROS PAYE Self- Service System in early 2007. This reminder was contained in the PAYE Notice to Employees sent to all taxpayers with their tax credit certificate for 2007. A similar reminder will be included in the 2008 Notice.

Fiscal Policy.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

204 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has plans to introduce multi-annual budgeting for spending Estimates, borrowing and tax changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23940/07]

We have been publishing Budgets on a multi-annual basis since 1997. Table 1 (page D5) of the Budget book outlines the Government's budget position, including expenditure and revenue projections, on a three-year basis. The overall Exchequer and General Government Balance position are also set out for the three-year period in question. Each year's Budget is framed in the context of the overall economic and budgetary position at the time.

Five-year multi-annual capital envelopes were introduced in 2004 to promote the planning and delivery of public capital investment projects over the medium-term. This multi-annual framework will be particularly important in implementing the important infrastructural and other capital elements of the National Development Plan 2007-2013 which the Government launched in January this year.

As part of the ongoing process of budgetary reform, this year I announced that I will bring forward a Unified Budget where my spending and revenue plans will be presented together on Budget day. Policy in this area will be kept under review in the context of the ongoing reform of the budgetary process.

Tax Code.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

205 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reason VAT has been introduced for psychotherapy practitioners while other health professionals such as clinical psychologists are exempt; if the decision will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23985/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there has been no change to the VAT treatment of services provided by psychotherapy practitioners. The position is that the rules and rating structure is determined by EU law with which Irish law must comply. Professional medical services are exempt from VAT in accordance with paragraph (iii) of the First Schedule to the Value-Added Tax Act 1972, as amended. Article 132(1)(c) of the VAT Directive 2006 (formerly Article 13A(1)(c) of the Sixth VAT Directive) provides that the exemption applies to "the provision of medical care in the exercise of the medical and paramedical professions as defined by the member State concerned.

In interpreting the law, the Revenue Commissioners are guided by the policy of the Department of Health and Children as to what constitutes as "medical and paramedical". As there is no system of statutory regulation for psychotherapists at present and as psychotherapy is not a designated profession for the purposes of the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005, the Revenue Commissioners do not treat the provision of services provided by psychotherapists as an activity which is exempt from VAT. Such services have been and continue to be liable to VAT at the reduced rate of 13.5% in accordance with paragraph (xix) of the Sixth Schedule to the Value-Added Tax Act 1972, as amended.

On the other hand, services provided by a clinical psychologist are exempt from VAT. The Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 provides for a system of statutory registration for a number of health and social care professions, and psychology is a designated profession under the Act. The purpose of establishing this system was to ensure that members of the public are protected and informed so that they can be confident that the professional providing the service is properly qualified, competent and of good standing. The system also ensures professional conduct and the promotion of high standards of professional education and training among health and social care professionals.

Child Care Services.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

206 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the supports he will provide to parents of young children who want to participate in the workforce; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23987/07]

The Government is well aware of the difficulties faced by many parents and families in securing affordable childcare and to this end, it has provided more options to increase the choices available to parents, and has developed a 5 year strategy, to address the supply and the cost of childcare. Childcare has become a central pillar in a diverse range of Government strategies aimed at tackling social and economic issues, including unemployment, gender equality, family support, educational disadvantage and social inclusion.

The National Childcare Strategy was announced in Budget 2006 and is also included as part of the Social Inclusion Priorities set out in the recently published National Development Plan. There is a commitment in ‘Towards 2016' to increase the childcare places by 100,000 over the life time of the framework through a combination of the National Childcare Investment Programme, appropriate successor programme(s) and other providers. Also, there has been a very substantial increase in the level of direct financial supports to parents since 1997, highlighting that childcare is an important issue of Government policy.

The Programme for Government recognises the need for care places for school going children and working parents. During the course of this Government for example, we will provide further investment in, and support the roll out of, affordable school-age childcare whereby children will be given access to a range of after-school and holiday time activities. We will work with social partners to promote greater availability of family friendly work practices, ensure each child has access to a preschool place by 2012 and increase paid maternity leave. These initiatives will build on the policies already supported by this Government.

Decentralisation Programme.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

207 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has plans to decentralise any of his staff or personnel to anywhere in Counties Monaghan or Cavan; if so, the destinations, the number of persons and when; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23991/07]

I have no plans to decentralise any staff of my Department or staff of the agencies under the aegis of my Department to Counties Monaghan or Cavan.

Tax Yield.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

208 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the projected receipts to the Exchequer for the year ending 31 December 2007 from the motor industry including VRT, excise duty and fuel taxation; the way this compares with 2007 budgetary estimates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24039/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the relevant information available is the amount of tax revenues collected as Mineral Oil Tax (excise) and VRT in respect of motor vehicles. Details as follows:

2007 Budget Estimate

2007 Current estimated Outturn

€ million

€ million

Mineral Oil Tax

2,200

2,165

VRT

1,538

1,421

The yield from VAT on cars, petrol, auto diesel and other goods and services relating to the motor industry is not separately identified in the Budget target for VAT in 2007 published by my Department. The information furnished with VAT returns does not require the yield from a particular sector or sub-sector of trade to be identified. However, it is provisionally estimated, that the net receipt of VAT from the motor industry will be of the order of €1,350 million in 2007.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

209 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the expected revenue to accrue to the Exchequer by 31 December 2007 from stamp duty; the way this figure compares with 2007 budgetary estimates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24040/07]

The Budget 2007 forecast for Stamp Duty was for €3,925 million to be collected in 2007, a year on year growth rate of 5.6 per cent above the 2006 outturn. Stamp Duty was expected to represent 8 per cent of total tax forecast for this year. Stamp Duty at the end of September was €401 million or 13.8% below profile. This is largely due to the weakness in the level of Stamp Duty collected from property.

As indicated at the time of the end-September Exchequer Returns, there is likely to be a shortfall in overall tax revenues this year of up to €1 billion. It is currently anticipated Stamp Duties will be around €600 million below target. Capital Gains Tax, VAT and Excise Duties are also expected to be below target but Income Tax and Corporation Tax are expected to outperform their targets.

The shortfall in tax revenues this year will be offset to some extent by positive developments on other elements of the Exchequer account and as a result an Exchequer deficit of up to €1 billion now seems likely. The Budget day forecast was for an Exchequer deficit of €546 million in 2007.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

210 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the extent to which revenue from income tax is expected to be in accord with budgetary projections for 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24041/07]

At Budget 2007 Income Tax receipts for 2007 of €13,555 million were forecast. This represented an increase over the 2006 outturn of 9.4 per cent year on year. At the end of September Income Tax receipts were, at €8,823 million, €56 million or 0.6 per cent above profile. On the basis of the end-September figures and in light of the positive economic outlook for employment and earnings I expect Income Tax to remain largely on target to the end of the year.

Price Inflation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

211 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the extent to which he has been able to isolate and address the inflationary trends not reflected in the CPI; the way this will affect budget 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24042/07]

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

Inflation, as measured by the CPI was 4.6 per cent in the twelve months to September 2007, down from 4.8 per cent in August. Although the annual rate of inflation has increased in the past year, this has, to a large extent, been due to ECB interest rate increases which are outside Government control. If mortgage interest was removed, CPI inflation would have measured 2.6 per cent in the twelve months to September. Maintaining a moderate rate of inflation remains a key priority of economic policy because of its importance with regard to competitiveness.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

212 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that economic growth projections for 2008 are expected to be achieved; the extent to which revenue from taxation will be affected by fluctuations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24043/07]

On Budget Day 2007 my Department forecast economic growth of 4.6% for 2008, in both GDP and GNP terms. However, the outlook for 2008 has changed, mainly due to the outlook for new housing output which has disimproved somewhat from what was envisaged at Budget Day; this is likely to have an impact on aggregate economic growth rates in 2008. Updated economic growth and tax forecasts, reflecting the latest developments and covering the period 2007-2010, will be published in the Pre-Budget Outlook which I will lay before the House later this week.

Financial Services Regulation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

213 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the extent of sub-prime lending here; the expected impact on the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24044/07]

The information available suggests that the level of lending in the sub-prime market is currently extremely small. For instance it is estimated that sub-prime loans make up roughly 2.5% of the overall mortgage market. The sub-prime market exists to provide finance to those who have difficulty accessing mainstream credit, usually due to an adverse credit history or difficulties proving income. Consequently, interest on such loans is normally higher than in the case of mainstream credit, as the lender must allow for a greater degree of credit risk. In practice, various credit providers offer loans where the interest rate or conditions differ from those generally available in the market. These interest rates and conditions depend on a number of factors, including risk.

As there is no single category of ‘sub prime lender' it would not be possible to quantify the impact on the economy of sub-prime lending. Where responsibly used, credit provided on this basis can generate advantages in terms of investment or lifestyle opportunities. The benefits and costs accrue to individual borrowers and lenders and are not readily identifiable in the aggregate. The fact that borrowers who establish a track record in relation to repayment of sub-prime can re-finance the loan on better terms and access mainstream loan finance is an important benefit of these loans at the individual level. As far as the disadvantages of this type of lending is concerned I have consistently highlighted the need for responsible behaviour by both borrowers and lenders and in particular the need to factor into their financial decision making the effects of potential future changes in the economic and financial conditions.

I have already announced my intention to propose an amendment to the Markets in Financial Instruments and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2007, at Committee Stage this week, with a view to regulating the non-deposit taking lending sector, including sub-prime lenders. The text of the amendment has already been circulated. The main aim of the proposed measures is to ensure that borrowers from sub-prime lenders, or from other lenders in that sector, will be able to benefit from the additional safeguards which the Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Code provides.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

214 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if guidelines have existed to ensure prudent borrowing and prudent lending; the degree to which such guidelines have not been adhered to; his proposals to address such issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24045/07]

A comprehensive system of banking supervision is in place under both EU and domestic law to ensure that credit institutions do not put customers' deposits at risk through imprudent lending practices. Banking Supervision encompasses the authorisation of banks and building societies, their prudential supervision on an ongoing basis and the development of supervisory guidance and requirements for their operation. Prudential supervision involves monitoring the business of banks and building societies and how it is planned, managed, and controlled and checking compliance with statutory and non-statutory requirements.

This system is administered in Ireland by the Financial Regulator, who can increase the level of surveillance of particular practices once a concern arises. Thus, for instance, when there was heightened concern about rising levels of mortgage debt mortgage lenders were asked to review their practices and to stress test every would-be borrower's ability to meet their credit obligations in the event of more challenging times.

As regards prudent borrowing the Consumer Credit Act 1995 obliges credit providers to include specific information in all credit agreements in order to ensure that a consumer, when making credit decisions, has access to the fullest possible information in relation to the agreement being entered into and the impact that servicing a loan will have on the consumer's household budget.

In addition to its oversight role in relation to the Consumer Credit Act 1995, the Financial Regulator have sought to raise the level of awareness of both borrowers and lenders of the importance of prudent borrowing and responsible lending. For instance, the Financial Regulator, with its statutory consumer mandate, has developed a number of specific initiatives to help consumers make informed choices in terms of the financial products they choose, the amount of risk they take on and the cost of financial products. These initiatives have been developed through the framework of the Financial Regulator's "It's Your Money" campaign and have involved publishing consumer guides on credit products, fact sheets, cost surveys on personal loans, all of which are intended to assist borrowers in making the most appropriate credit decisions given their circumstances.

Price Inflation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

215 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the extent to which he expects inflationary tendencies here to affect the economy in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24046/07]

Annual inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was 4.6 per cent in the year to September. A better measure of inflation is the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) which excludes, amongst other things, mortgage interest. Including the impact of mortgage rate increases in the CPI not only masks the underlying inflation rate, but also highlights the short term impact of interest rate increases which are designed to bring down inflation. The increase in the HICP in the year to September was 2.9 per cent.

My Department will publish its Pre-Budget Outlook later this week, which will include an inflation forecast for 2008 based on up-to-date data. It will also include a general assessment of the outlook for the economy as a whole, including inflation, in 2008.

Decentralisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

216 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of people relocated to date under the Government’s decentralisation programme; when the programme will be completed in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24047/07]

A progress report by the Decentralisation Implementation Group (DIG) was submitted to me and published on 8th October last. The Group reported that implementation of the civil service elements of the Decentralisation Programme is progressing satisfactorily. At the end of August 2007, over 3,000 staff had been assigned to decentralising posts. Almost 1,300 of these are currently in place, in 20 new locations, while the remainder are being trained in advance of decentralisation to a new location. These staff will relocate as accommodation becomes available. In addition to these 20 locations there are a further 9 locations in which Agencies have established a presence.

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.

Price Inflation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

217 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the way inflation levels here compare with the best and the worst in eurozone countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24048/07]

The latest available figures for the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) show that annual inflation for the twelve months to August, in the 13 euro area countries, was highest in Slovenia, at 3.4 per cent, second highest in Greece, at 2.7 per cent, while Ireland was third highest, at 2.3 per cent. The euro area country with the lowest HICP increase in that period was the Netherlands, at 1.1 per cent.

The relatively high level on HICP inflation in Ireland when compared with the majority of Euro area countries, demonstrates the need for pay moderation and increased competition across the economy. Figures for September 2007 were due to be published by Eurostat today, October 16th, but were not available at the time of writing. My officials will send them to you shortly.

Tax Code.

Michael Creed

Question:

218 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when he will establish the commission on taxation. [24087/07]

I will be bringing proposals to Government in the near future on matters relating to the establishment of the proposed Commission on Taxation 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.

Food Labelling.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

219 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children the budget 2008 Estimates that have been included to fund the enforcement of the regulations S.I. No. 307 of 2006 as amended by S.I. No. 85 of 2007 governing the country of origin of beef labelling for caterers. [23470/07]

Checks on compliance with the Health (Country of Origin of Beef) Regulations are undertaken in conjunction with routine hygiene inspections; accordingly, it is not anticipated that additional costs will be incurred. These inspections are carried out by Environmental Health Officers in the Health Service Executive operating under a service contract with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

Medical Cards.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

220 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kerry is having difficulties obtaining a new medical card. [24052/07]

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.

James Reilly

Question:

221 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide extra funding, staff and resources to address the crisis in obstetrics where maternity hospitals are operating at levels that according to media reports may be putting patients at risk and where birth levels have increased from 49,000 in 1993, to 64,000 in 2006 and are expected to hit 68,000 in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23338/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issues raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Richard Bruton

Question:

222 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the value of the dispensing fees and mark-up allowed on medications to retail chemists on prescribed medication in each of the past eight years; and the value of those paid to wholesale chemists over the same period. [23362/07]

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 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.

Richard Bruton

Question:

223 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the contingency plan she is putting in place to deal with threats by pharmacists to discontinue methadone services and medical card services in order that patients will not be put at risk. [23363/07]

Richard Bruton

Question:

245 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures she plans as a contingency to ensure that medical card holders and other people in need of medication are not prevented from obtaining their medicines as a result of the industrial dispute between the Health Service Executive and the pharmacists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23465/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 223 and 245 together.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Repayment Scheme.

Niall Collins

Question:

224 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to an application by a person (details supplied) for the nursing home charges refund. [23364/07]

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.

Niall Collins

Question:

225 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to an application by a person (details supplied) for the nursing home charges refund. [23365/07]

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.

Niall Collins

Question:

226 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to applications (details supplied) for the nursing home charges refund. [23366/07]

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:

227 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with surgery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23376/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to 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 this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

228 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans her Department and the Health Service Executive have for the rheumatology department at Ennis General Hospital; if the service is to continue at Ennis General Hospital; if not, the plans in place to accommodate Clare patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23377/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to 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 this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

229 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a twelve month waiting list for children requiring the services of an audiologist in the Cork region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23378/07]

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.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Brian Hayes

Question:

230 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on a recent decision of pharmacists throughout the country to withdraw from the methadone distribution scheme in view of recent announcements made by the Health Service Executive regarding the cost of medicine; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23383/07]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

231 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children the situation regarding the ban on admissions at the National Rehabilitation Centre, Dún Laoghaire and the closure of two wards at the centre; if the embargo on the recruitment of staff is responsible for the situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23392/07]

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.

Hospital Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

232 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the difficulties in recruiting nurses at Clontarf Orthopaedic Hospital (details supplied); if there is a general shortage of such skills nationwide; and the measures she will put in place to alleviate this shortage. [23409/07]

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.

Mental Health Services.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

233 Deputy Beverley Flynn asked the Minister for Health and Children if it is intended to set up an interdepartmental working group to co-ordinate action by all Departments in relation to mental health; and when this will be established. [23415/07]

Beverley Flynn

Question:

234 Deputy Beverley Flynn asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps being taken by the various relevant Government Departments to meet their responsibilities for mental health under the policy framework, A Vision for Change. [23416/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 and 234 together.

The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, A Vision for Change, which was launched in January 2006, provides a framework for action to develop a modern, high quality mental health services for a seven to ten year period. The Report represents Government policy and is the basis for the future development of mental health services.

I have been given responsibility for mental health and disability issues in the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Education and Science. It is likely that the proposed new office of the Minister for Disability and Mental Health will oversee the role of interdepartmental cooperation on the implementation of A Vision for Change.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

235 Deputy Beverley Flynn asked the Minister for Health and Children the percentage of health spending allocated to mental health; and the way this figure compares to mental health spending in other EU states. [23417/07]

Comparing the proportion of health budgets dedicated to mental health varies considerably across member states and making comparisons is very difficult because of definitions of mental health expenditure, diversity between countries, cultures etc. The proportion of our overall health spending on mental health is frequently used to make a point on the adequacy of funding. However, it is not entirely valid to make this comparison, as the nature and scope of health services change, funding ratios automatically change.

Since 1997, significant additional revenue funding has been invested in mental health services. Approximately €1 billion will be spent on mental health services in 2007. This funding includes an additional €51 million which was allocated in 2006 and 2007 for the development of mental health services in line with A Vision for Change. This is one third of the total cost of €150 million estimated by the Expert Group to fully implement the mental health strategy over 7 years. Increased expenditure in other areas e.g. the development of primary care also benefits mental illness. It is estimated that 90% of public mental health services are provided at primary care level.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jack Wall

Question:

236 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive an appointment date for a clinic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23430/07]

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.

Jack Wall

Question:

237 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive an appointment date for an outpatients clinic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23431/07]

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.

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

238 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on concerns (details supplied) in relation to the decision to close St. Edmundsbury Hospital, Lucan on 31 December 2007. [23436/07]

St. Patrick's and St. Edmundsbury Hospitals are private psychiatric hospitals and responsibility for their operation is a matter for the management of the hospital. I should however point out that under the Mental Health Act 2001, children and young people i.e. under 18 years can only be admitted involuntarily to an approved centre following an application by the Health Service Executive to the District Court. Where the Court is satisfied that the child is suffering from a mental disorder the court will make an order that the child be admitted and detained for treatment for a period up to 21 days. It should be noted that the criteria for involuntary admission relates to mental disorder and excludes involuntary admission for reason only of addiction.

Care of the Elderly.

John O'Mahony

Question:

239 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children if an increase in home help hours will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23437/07]

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.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

240 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 109 of 5 July 2007, the progress she has made in relation to completing the review of the DTSS scheme. [23438/07]

As the Deputy is aware, a legal issue has arisen with regard to the Competition Act 2002 as it relates to the regulation of professional fees for dentists. The matter is still being considered by the Attorney General's office and my Department is awaiting the outcome of its consideration.

Finian McGrath

Question:

241 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist a person (details supplied) in Dublin 17. [23441/07]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

242 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 291 of 26 June 2007, the reason a formal reply has not been issued by the Health Service Executive; and if she will furnish a reply to the question. [23449/07]

The Health Service Executive has informed my Department that a formal reply was issued to the Deputy on 12th July 2007.

Health Service Staff.

James Reilly

Question:

243 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the levels of staff employed by the Health Service Executive in administration and other non-frontline duties; if it compares well in comparison to other countries with efficient health care services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23458/07]

Almost 130,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. 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 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 to the Deputy.

The Deputy may wish to note that the HSE has commissioned an independent study to examine such issues as the number of clerical/admin staff, the proportion of such staff engaged in front line services, comparisons with other jurisdictions, comparisons with non-healthcare settings and resource issues and I look forward to the outcome of this study.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

244 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision is expected from the Health Service Executive regarding the proposed new acute hospital in the north east; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23459/07]

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.

Question No. 245 answered with QuestionNo. 223.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

246 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the issues raised by the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23472/07]

Áine Brady

Question:

281 Deputy Áine Brady asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will amend the Competition Act 2002 to facilitate discussions between the Health Service Executive and the pharmacists organisations with a view to sustaining commercially viable small pharmacies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23975/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 246 and 281 together.

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. An HSE-led negotiating team, including officials from my Department, engaged with the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) and the Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of Ireland (APMI), representing the proprietary and generic supplier representative bodies, and completed new agreements with these bodies in mid-2006. These agreements are in place.

As wholesale margins are not addressed in the new IPHA and APMI Agreements, it was intended to negotiate direct formal arrangements with the wholesale sector. Following completion of the manufacturer agreements, the negotiating team entered talks with the wholesaler representative body, the Pharmaceutical Distributors' Federation (PDF).

Early in discussions, PDF refused to negotiate a new margin for community supply, based on its own legal advice that this was a contractual matter between individual wholesalers and retailers. Subsequent legal advice to the HSE, confirmed by legal advice to my Department, indicated that, under section 4 of the 2002 Competition Act, PDF as an association of undertakings may not collectively negotiate fees, prices or margins on behalf of its members. Given the fact that the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU) is also an association of undertakings, it is not possible for the State to negotiate with PDF or the IPU on fees or margins as such negotiations would place these bodies at risk of prosecution. Consultation with the IPU Pharmaceutical Contractors' Committee, under Clause 12 of the Community Pharmacy Contractor Agreement, in relation to fees, prices or margins, would also be excluded under Section 4 of the 2002 Competition Act. The question of amending the Competition Act, 2002 is a matter for the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

In light of the legal position arising from the wholesaler legal advice, the negotiating team re-considered how best to address the review of pharmaceutical supply. Based on the legal advice, a consultation process accompanied by independent economic analysis was considered the most appropriate means to allow for the determination of new reimbursement arrangements. The consultation process involved direct discussion with wholesaler companies and a call for public submissions, published on 20th December 2006, in response to which a total of 161 submissions (including 143 from community pharmacy contractors) were received.

Following the completion of public consultation, and informed by independent economic analysis, carried out by Indecon Economic Consultants, new reimbursement arrangements were announced by the HSE on 17th September 2007. The new price arrangements involved revised rates for community and hospital supply, as follows:—

Community supply — reimbursement of cost of drugs and medicines to pharmacy contractors reduced from ex-factory price plus 17.66% for wholesale supply (previous mark-up), to ex-factory price plus 8% from 1st January 2008 and 7% from 1st January 2009 (new mark-up);

Hospital supply — new interim mark-up of 5% for wholesale supply from 1st January 2008, with further discounts or efficient ordering and supply in that sector.

Community pharmacies are paid the ex-factory price of drugs and medicines, as determined under the IPHA and APMI agreements, plus a percentage mark-up to cover distribution costs by wholesalers. There is no direct arrangement between wholesalers and the HSE for community delivery, as the HSE does not buy medicines directly for the community schemes. In addition to the foregoing, community pharmacies are paid a dispensing fee per item for dispensing to GMS medical care patients, and a fee plus 50% mark-up on each item dispensed under the DPS and LTI schemes.

In its examination of the issues involved and in determining the new arrangements, the negotiating team considered a reimbursement level that reflects the market value of pharmaceutical wholesale services, and security and continuity of supply at current levels to patients. The evidence on which the decision is based, following examination of the issues, direct consultation and independent economic analysis, all indicates that the State is currently paying a premium for the services in question. It is possible and necessary for revised arrangements to be put in place without a substantial impact on the delivery of such services.

Information available to the negotiating team indicates that small and rural pharmacies typically receive discounts of 2-3% on the existing wholesale markup, while larger urban pharmacies and chains typically receive discounts of up to 12%. Therefore, smaller and rural pharmacies would be proportionately less affected by the revised arrangements.

I would also point out that pharmacists' arrangements with wholesalers for the supply of drugs and medicines is a private commercial arrangement, and that the HSE's role is confined to setting the most appropriate reimbursement rates for pharmacies. The basis for the new reimbursement arrangements was set out in detail by the CEO, HSE on the 17th September 2007, and is available on the HSE website.

The negotiating team met with the IPU on the 3rd October to discuss implementation issues arising from the recent announcement of new wholesaler arrangements, and in particular the position of wholesalers in relation to their pricing structures under the new arrangements. I understand that clarification has been received from each of the main wholesalers on their processes for compliance with the new arrangements.

Health Repayment Scheme.

James Reilly

Question:

247 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children when it is expected that a person (details supplied) in Dublin 10 will receive an offer of refund of nursing home charges; the reason the refund system is so slow in carrying out the refund process; if she has plans to improve the process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23474/07]

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:

248 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when the Health Service Executive will provide home help to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo in view of the fact that the nurse has called out to assess them and this case is urgent. [23476/07]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Peter Kelly

Question:

249 Deputy Peter Kelly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people here with deaf blindness; and if there are policies or strategies in place to address this condition specifically. [23490/07]

Government policy in relation to people with a disability, is to put in place the most effective combination of legislation, policies, institutional arrangements and services to support and reinforce equal participation for people with a disability. The framework includes provision for health and personal social services for people with a disability and special educational needs arising from those disabilities. The policy framework includes:

The National Disability Strategy;

The Disability Act 2005

The Education for Persons with Special Education Needs Act 2004 and the National Council for Special Education

The Sectoral Plans for 6 Government Departments and

The Multi Annual Investment Plan

The National Physical and Sensory Disability Database has 85 people registered as having a combination of hearing and visual disability. In addition, the database has 239 people registered with hearing and visual disability along with some other type of disability also.

It should be noted that registration on the database is voluntary in nature therefore it cannot claim to capture all people with a particular type of disability. In addition one of the key registration criteria is that an individual must be currently in receipt of specialised health or personal social services or require them in the future (over a 5 year time period from date of registration). As such, not all people with a visual and hearing impairment would be receiving or requiring specialised services. Finally, people who are aged 66 years or over are currently not eligible to register on the database and the database does not report on people who have been registered on the database once they turn 66 years of age.

Hospital Services.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

250 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the catchment area for St. James’s Hospital; the reason a person living in Chapelizod is unable to get an appointment with a consultant at St. James’s even if, geographically, it is the closest hospital to their home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23491/07]

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.

Ministerial Transport.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

251 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money awarded in domestic mileage to each individual Minister of State in her Department for each of the past four years and to date in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23512/07]

The amounts paid in domestic mileage to each Minister of State at my Department for each of the years 2003 to 2006 and to date in 2007 are set out in the table.

Year

Mr. Ivor Callely T.D.

Mr. Brian Lenihan T.D.

Mr. Sean Power T.D.

Mr. Tim O’Malley T.D.

2003

23,611

15,416

Nil

23,810

2004

47,280

16,914

Nil

7,427

2005

Nil

20,000

15,198

49,002

2006

Nil

11,188

40,739

15,429

2007

Nil

24,926

45,107

50,584

Departmental Advertising.

Niall Collins

Question:

252 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will implement a request (details supplied) for inclusion in all scheduled advertising and public awareness campaigns by her Department. [23528/07]

As part of the re-structuring of the health services, the Department of Health and Children transferred responsibility for health promotion public awareness campaigns to the Health Service Executive. This Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to have the specific matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Tony Gregory

Question:

253 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 who has a medical card must pay a fee to a public hospital for a bone scan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23540/07]

Medical card holders are entitled to a full range of services including general practitioner services, prescribed drugs and medicines, all in-patient public hospital services in public wards (including consultants services), all out-patient public hospital services (including consultants services), dental, ophthalmic and aural services.

Under the Health Acts, responsibility for service provision and any associated charges are a matter for the Chief Executive Officer of the Health Service Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issue directly to the Deputy.

Medicinal Products.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

254 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are plans to review the permission for a drug (details supplied) here, in view of the fact that it has received a black box warning by the US Food and Drink Administration; if her attention has been drawn to the research that points to significant and potentially life threatening side effects that are in excess of any standard benefits outweigh risk argument regarding usage of this long-term reproductive system controlling substance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23541/07]

In order for a product to be considered for inclusion on the list of products available on the General Medical Services and Community Drug Schemes it must meet strict criteria as set out in Article 11.2 of Council Directive 89/105/EEC.

The product must be an ‘allopathic' medicinal product which is the subject of a current product authorisation granted by the Irish Medicines Board under the Medicinal Products (Licensing and Sale) Regulations, 1998 (S.I No 142 of 1998) or an authorisation granted or renewed by the European Commission in accordance with EU Council Regulation (EEC) No 2309/93 laying down Community procedures for the authorisation and supervision of medicinal products. If the Deputy is aware of any information as to the efficacy of the product it would be advisable to contact the Irish Medicines Board immediately.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

255 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans in place to ensure that patients continue to receive methadone treatment from pharmacies in view of claims by some pharmacies that they will discontinue the provision of methadone prescriptions in the coming weeks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23641/07]

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

Stage Agencies.

Richard Bruton

Question:

256 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the remuneration package of each of the CEOs of State agencies reporting to her Department including pay, pension and ancillary benefits. [23731/07]

The level of remuneration (with salary scale where appropriate) for the CEOs of state agencies under the aegis of the Department of Health and Children are provided in the table, along with pension scheme membership. A CEO on the PPC rate pays the Class A rate of PRSI contribution and makes a contribution in respect of personal superannuation benefits. A CEO on the non-PPC rate pays the Class D modified rate of PRSI.

Name of Body

Salary (w.e.f. 01/06/2007)

Pension scheme membership

An Bord Altranais

€118,791 (Non-PPC rate)

Local Government Superannuation Scheme

Crisis Pregnancy Agency

€86,332 – €106,785 (LSI2) (PPC rate)

CPA Pension Scheme

Dental Council

€82,016 – €101,446 (LSI2) (Non-PPC rate)

Local Government Superannuation Scheme

Food Safety Authority of Ireland

€143,192 (PPC rate)

FSAI Pension Scheme

Food Safety Promotion Board

€121,978 (Non-PPC rate)

FSPB Pension Scheme

Health Information and Quality Authority

€194,636 (PPC rate)

HIQA Pension Scheme

Health Insurance Authority

€92,913 – €114,581 (LSI2) (PPC rate)

HIA Pension Scheme

Health Research Board (New CEO contract currently being negotiated)

€136,034 (Non-PPC rate)

Civil Service Pension Scheme (post-holder seconded)

Health Service Executive

€360,696

VHSS scheme for seconded post and 25% of the difference between Academic Consultant Professor (Category 1) salary and CEOs basic salary paid to private scheme

Irish Blood Transfusion Service

€163,882 (PPC rate)

IBTS Pension Scheme

Irish Medicines Board

€136,034 (Non-PPC rate)

Local Government Superannuation Scheme

Mental Health Commission

€118,791 – €136,034 (Non-PPC rate)

Local Government Superannuation Scheme

National Cancer Screening Service

€133,026*

Local Government Superannuation Scheme

National Cancer Registry Board

€88,261 – €108,856 (LSI2) (Non-PPC rate)

Nominated Health Agencies Superannuation Scheme

National Council on Ageing and Older People (Acting Director)

€86,332 – €106,785 (LSI2) (PPC rate)

Nominated Health Agencies Superannuation Scheme

National Council for Professional Development of Nursing and Midwifery

€82,016 – €101,446 (LSI2) (Non-PPC rate)

Local Government Superannuation Scheme

National Social Work Qualifications Board

€86,332 – €106,785 (LSI2) (PPC rate)

Nominated Health Agencies Superannuation Scheme

National Treatment Purchase Fund (Acting CEO)

€125,000**

Civil Service Pension Scheme (post-holder seconded)

Office of Tobacco Control

€82,016 – €101,446 (LSI2) (Non-PPC rate)

Civil Service Pension Scheme (post-holder seconded)

Postgraduate Medical and Dental Board

€86,845 – €103,040 (Non-PPC rate)

Local Government Superannuation Scheme

Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council

€82,016 – €101,446 (LSI2) (Non-PPC rate)

Local Government Superannuation Scheme

Children Acts Advisory Board (formerly Special Residential Services Board)

€143,193***

Health Service Executive pension scheme (post-holder seconded)

Women’s Health Council

€86,332 – €106,785 (LSI2)(PPC rate)

Local Government Superannuation Scheme

Voluntary Health Insurance Board

€234,300

25% of salary pension contribution to private pension scheme

* Rate for post has not yet been approved by the Department of Finance.

** Rate paid to Acting CEO

*** Personal rate

Depending on the terms and conditions of individual contracts of employment, CEOs of certain state agencies may be eligible to participate in a Performance Related Award Scheme in line with the provisions and principles of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector. All schemes must be approved by the Department of Finance. Where agencies participate in the Scheme, awards are made to the CEO directly by the Board of the agency concerned.

Health Services.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

257 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ask the CEO of the Health Service Executive to explain the reason a decision to transfer a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13 from the NRH to a new nursing home at Hamilton Park, Balrothery, County Dublin was rescinded; and the reason the HSE has withdrawn funding committed to nursing homes, especially given that this person is a recovering stroke patient and that they and their family are very anxious for the commitment on their transfer to Balrothery to be fulfilled. [23743/07]

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.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

258 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the payment structure for doctors and pharmacists who dispense methadone under the methadone treatment scheme; the payment allocated for each patient; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23756/07]

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

Hospital Services.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

259 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason two dialysis units in the Cork University Hospital are not operational; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23757/07]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

260 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children the dialysis services available to patients in the Cork region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23758/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 259 and 260 together.

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/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.

Michael Ring

Question:

261 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in relation to the oncology services that currently exist in a hospital (details supplied) in County Mayo, these services will be removed or altered when the centre of excellence is up and running in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23775/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

262 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if a hospital (details supplied) in County Mayo will be targeted and lose some of its oncology services once the centre of excellence is up and running in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23776/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 261 and 262 together.

The decisions of the HSE in relation to four managed cancer control networks and eight cancer centres will be implemented on a managed and phased basis. The HSE plans to have completed 50% of the transition to the cancer centres by the end of 2008 and 80-90% by the end of 2009. Discussions between the HSE and the networks will focus on identifying the capacity issues for the eight designated centres so that a detailed transitional plan can be put in place to facilitate the progressive, gradual and carefully managed transfer of services over the course of the next two years or so. No timeframe has been agreed for the cessation of surgery at Mayo General Hospital.

Arising from the designation of cancer centres by the HSE and in order to comply with the National Quality Assurance Standards for Symptomatic Breast Disease, the HSE has directed thirteen hospitals, with very low case volumes, to cease breast cancer services immediately, to be followed by further staged reductions in the number of hospitals providing breast cancer services from twenty-two to the eight cancer centres. A number of the thirteen hospitals had in practice already discontinued symptomatic breast services. The National Hospitals Office has already planned the redirection of this symptomatic caseload. Additional groups of hospitals, including Mayo General Hospital will be similarly directed, in line with the further development of quality assured capacity in the eight designated centres.

Pat Breen

Question:

263 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. [23777/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to 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 this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

264 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the widespread concern caused by the recent policy change in regard to the NICP community child care subvention scheme 2008 to 2010 which is seen as socially divisive by community organisations; if she will maintain the existing system pending discussion in the community child care sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23789/07]

The main supports the Government makes available to parents to assist them with their childcare costs are Child Benefit and the Early Childcare Supplement. The latter payment, which is in recognition of the higher childcare costs of pre-school children, is the responsibility of my Office, and it alone amounts to expenditure of over €400m in a full year. These payments are universal and benefit all parents, regardless of their income, labour market status or the type of childcare they choose and regardless of whether they live in urban or rural areas. In addition to these universal supports, Government childcare policy has also recognised the need to target additional supports towards disadvantaged families.

Under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP), which is co-funded under the EU Social Fund (ESF), targeted support was provided through the staffing support grant scheme whereby community based not-for-profit childcare providers with a strong focus on disadvantage were awarded grant aid towards their staffing costs to allow them to operate reduced fees to disadvantaged parents. Funding under this scheme was originally awarded for a limited period during which services were expected to move towards sustainability. This funding was subsequently continued to the end of 2007, where it was considered necessary to enable services to continue to make their services accessible to disadvantaged parents. This continuation funding was subject to the condition that tiered fee structures were implemented by the services in question.

As signalled at the launch of the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), the successor programme to the EOCP, a new scheme to support community childcare services with a focus on disadvantage will be introduced on 1 January 2008 and will continue to complement the universal supports in place for all parents. The Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) has been allocated €153 million over the next 3 years representing a 16% increase in funding over the EOCP staffing scheme. Under the new scheme, services will be grant aided according to the service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from their service. As part of their application for funding under the new scheme, services will be required to ask parents using their services to complete a simple declaration form which will be included in a return to my Office and on which basis the level of subvention for each service will be determined. The subvention received by services will, in turn, be reflected in the reduced fees for parents who qualify as disadvantaged under the scheme.

In practice, this will mean that parents with children in such services and in receipt of most social welfare payments (or participating in a scheme such as Community Employment which demonstrates an underlying entitlement to same) will see a €80 weekly subvention in respect of full daycare (with pro-rata reductions in respect of shorter hour services). Parents in receipt of Family Income Supplement (FIS), will see a €30 weekly subvention in respect of full daycare (with pro-rata reductions). A further subvention of €30 per week will be paid where the subvented child is a baby, in recognition of the higher costs associated with the care of children aged under 1 year. Parents who do not qualify under either of these categories will be charged the cost price for their childcare service, however, as community not-for-profit services will, generally, have availed of capital grant aid under the EOCP or NCIP removing the requirement to cover rent or a mortgage, and as the services are run on a not-for-profit basis, this should still be significantly below the market price.

It is considered that the new scheme will provide an effective framework for the continued targeting of additional resources towards disadvantaged parents and their children while continuing to support community childcare services generally. The scheme has been informed by and takes account of a number of enhancements recommended by the report of the Value for Money Review of the EOCP. These include the fact that the subvention to services will be more responsive to the level of service provided as well as the degree of parental disadvantage supported and the ceiling for funding, which existed under the previous scheme, is being removed. Account will also be taken of all of the operational costs of the service rather than staffing costs alone. Services, including full-time, part-time and sessional ones, which at present are, in some cases, inaccessibly priced for disadvantaged parents, will be available to them at more appropriate rates under the new scheme.

The new scheme has clear advantages over its predecessor. There is an increase in the level of funding available under it, and a majority of services will benefit from the changes it introduces. Existing EOCP staffing grant recipients who enter the new scheme will continue to be funded at their current levels until July 2008. My Office has engaged in a series of meetings with existing grant recipients to outline to them the details of the new scheme and to gather feedback from the services themselves. A meeting with representatives of the City and County Childcare Committees has also taken place.

Transitional arrangements have been made under which existing grant recipients will continue to be funded at their current levels until 1st July 2008. This is to ensure that existing childcare services are facilitated to adjust to the new scheme, including making any adjustments necessary to their fee structures. As signalled when I announced the new scheme in July this year, the transitional period between now and 1 July 2008 will also be used to monitor and review the impact it will have on individual groups, on the basis of the more detailed and comprehensive data which will be generated under the new grant application process. If appropriate, any adjustments necessary to the scheme to secure the best outcomes for childcare services and for disadvantaged parents and their children will be considered on the basis of this data and well in advance of the commencement of the new funding levels in July 2008.

Health Service Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

265 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount paid by the Health Service Executive for taxis under all headings in County Meath in 2006; the amount paid to each named firm or person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23804/07]

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

Health Services.

Damien English

Question:

266 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress to date in County Meath in providing services to people with cystic fibrosis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23805/07]

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

Health Repayment Scheme.

Dan Neville

Question:

267 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when she will instruct her Department to issue payment to relatives of people who were in public nursing homes; if she is still accepting claims for the long stay charges national co-ordinating unit; the number of claims received to date; the reason for the delay in processing the claims; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23849/07]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for administering the scheme in conjunction with the appointed scheme administrator KPMG/McCann Fitzgerald.

The Health Service Executive has informed my Department that over 30,000 applications have been received to date. The scheme is progressing as speedily as possible and every effort is being made to complete repayments. The HSE has indicated that the delays in making repayments under the scheme have been due to legal and technical issues. Firstly, over 13,400 estates who lodged claims to date had not extracted a grant of representation in respect of the estate of the deceased patient. In these instances the person entitled to extract the grant of representation has to be identified before an application can be processed and to date over 6,800 certificates of entitlement permitting individuals to apply for a repayment have issued.

Secondly, there has been a high incidence of claimants providing insufficient information and these claims have taken longer to process as the scheme administrator must be provided with certain information in order to ensure that the correct person and correct amount is repaid. Thirdly, it has been necessary for the scheme administrator to visit over 330 HSE facilities to scan records which form the basis for the calculation of repayments. The format in which this information is held varies widely between institutions and usually includes a mixture of paper files, handwritten files and computer files.

The closing date for receipt of applications is 31st December 2007 and the HSE has indicated that final repayments should be made by mid 2008.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

268 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children when the application for a high sided cot for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15 will be approved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23866/07]

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.

Proposed Legislation.

John Deasy

Question:

269 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in reference to Parliamentary Question No. 268 on 9 October 2007, the legislation currently being prepared by her Department will define specific eligibility of medical card holders for chiropody services; when that legislation will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23867/07]

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. My Department is currently examining the range of services that will be defined in legislation. It is expected that the legislation will be published in 2008.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

270 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children when special shoes will be provided for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23868/07]

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.

Joe Carey

Question:

271 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite the provision of a wheelchair for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23869/07]

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.

Public Health Issues.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

272 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received a copy of the report, Making Diabetes Count, What does the future hold, published by the Institute of Public Health in Ireland; her views on same; if she will implement its recommendations, in particular that a comprehensive system be developed for monitoring the prevalence of overweight and obesity and an all-Ireland approach toward population prevalence estimates and forecasts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23876/07]

I welcome this important piece of work including the population prevalence estimates. The recommendations are generally in line with work already being undertaken by an Expert Advisory Group at the Health Service Executive. The 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. Diabetic retinopathy screening, to prevent eye diseases in diabetes sufferers, is currently being rolled out in the Western region and will be expanded in 2008.

With regard to the population prevalence estimates, the Department is generally supportive of an all-Ireland approach to this issue and will be exploring this further with the Northern Ireland Minister for Health.

The HSE is currently in the process of developing a system, based on best practice, which will monitor prevalence and trends in overweight and obesity in our younger population. Relevant in this context are the findings from the Irish Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) 2006 which show that fewer children are eating sweets and drinking soft drinks on a regular basis when compared to the findings of the HBSC Study 2002.

Child Care Services.

Joe Carey

Question:

273 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will reverse the abolition of the staffing grants for community based child care providers which is being replaced by the NCIP community child care subvention scheme 2008 to 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23879/07]

The main supports the Government makes available to parents to assist them with their childcare costs are Child Benefit and the Early Childcare Supplement. The latter payment, which is in recognition of the higher childcare costs of pre-school children, is the responsibility of my Office, and it alone amounts to expenditure of over €400m in a full year. These payments are universal and benefit all parents, regardless of their income, labour market status or the type of childcare they choose and regardless of whether they live in urban or rural areas. In addition to these universal supports, Government childcare policy has also recognised the need to target additional supports towards disadvantaged families.

Under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP), which is co-funded under the EU Social Fund (ESF), targeted support was provided through the staffing support grant scheme whereby community based not-for-profit childcare providers with a strong focus on disadvantage were awarded grant aid towards their staffing costs to allow them to operate reduced fees to disadvantaged parents. Funding under this scheme was originally awarded for a limited period during which services were expected to move towards sustainability. This funding was subsequently continued to the end of 2007, where it was considered necessary to enable services to continue to make their services accessible to disadvantaged parents. This continuation funding was subject to the condition that tiered fee structures were implemented by the services in question.

As signalled at the launch of the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), the successor programme to the EOCP, a new scheme to support community childcare services with a focus on disadvantage will be introduced on 1 January 2008 and will continue to complement the universal supports in place for all parents. The Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) has been allocated €153 million over the next 3 years representing a 16% increase in funding over the EOCP staffing scheme. Under the new scheme, services will be grant aided according to the service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from their service. As part of their application for funding under the new scheme, services will be required to ask parents using their services to complete a simple declaration form which will be included in a return to my Office and on which basis the level of subvention for each service will be determined. The subvention received by services will, in turn, be reflected in the reduced fees for parents who qualify as disadvantaged under the scheme.

In practice, this will mean that parents with children in such services and in receipt of most social welfare payments (or participating in a scheme such as Community Employment which demonstrates an underlying entitlement to same) will see a €80 weekly subvention in respect of full daycare (with pro-rata reductions in respect of shorter hour services). Parents in receipt of Family Income Supplement (FIS), will see a €30 weekly subvention in respect of full daycare (with pro-rata reductions). A further subvention of €30 per week will be paid where the subvented child is a baby, in recognition of the higher costs associated with the care of children aged under 1 year. Parents who do not qualify under either of these categories will be charged the cost price for their childcare service, however, as community not-for-profit services will, generally, have availed of capital grant aid under the EOCP or NCIP removing the requirement to cover rent or a mortgage, and as the services are run on a not-for-profit basis, this should still be significantly below the market price.

It is considered that the new scheme will provide an effective framework for the continued targeting of additional resources towards disadvantaged parents and their children while continuing to support community childcare services generally. The scheme has been informed by and takes account of a number of enhancements recommended by the report of the Value for Money Review of the EOCP. These include the fact that the subvention to services will be more responsive to the level of service provided as well as the degree of parental disadvantage supported and the ceiling for funding, which existed under the previous scheme, is being removed. Account will also be taken of all of the operational costs of the service rather than staffing costs alone. Services, including full-time, part-time and sessional ones, which at present are, in some cases, inaccessibly priced for disadvantaged parents, will be available to them at more appropriate rates under the new scheme.

The new scheme has clear advantages over its predecessor. There is an increase in the level of funding available under it, and a majority of services will benefit from the changes it introduces. Existing EOCP staffing grant recipients who enter the new scheme will continue to be funded at their current levels until July 2008. My Office has engaged in a series of meetings with existing grant recipients to outline to them the details of the new scheme and to gather feedback from the services themselves. A meeting with representatives of the City and County Childcare Committees has also taken place.

Transitional arrangements have been made under which existing grant recipients will continue to be funded at their current levels until 1st July 2008. This is to ensure that existing childcare services are facilitated to adjust to the new scheme, including making any adjustments necessary to their fee structures. As signalled when I announced the new scheme in July this year, the transitional period between now and 1 July 2008 will also be used to monitor and review the impact it will have on individual groups, on the basis of the more detailed and comprehensive data which will be generated under the new grant application process. If appropriate, any adjustments necessary to the scheme to secure the best outcomes for childcare services and for disadvantaged parents and their children will be considered on the basis of this data and well in advance of the commencement of the new funding levels in July 2008.

Regulatory Impact Assessments.

Denis Naughten

Question:

274 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of regulatory impact assessments produced by her Department since the adoption of the policy by Government; the number of appropriate decisions made by her Department which did not include such assessments; the reason for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23911/07]

My Department has produced five Regulatory Impact Assessments (RIAs) to date. RIAs were not carried out in three instances for the following separate reasons:

the measure involved a minor technical amendment to existing legislation;

significant components of the RIA were dealt with in the Memorandum for Government;

emergency legislation was involved.

Health Service Staff.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

275 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of staff employed by the Health Service Executive with a breakdown by grade and programme. [23928/07]

Almost 130,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the numbers of doctors, nurses and other 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 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.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

276 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the difficulty that many newly qualified physiotherapists are having finding employment in their field; the actions she is taking to remedy this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23941/07]

Almost 130,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the numbers of doctors, nurses and other 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.

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 has been the expansion of the supply of therapy graduates. Training places for physiotherapists have increased by 137.5% since 1997. This Department has worked closely with the HSE in the provision of clinical placements for these students which are an essential component of the physiotherapy degree programme.

I am aware that an issue has arisen whereby some 2007 physiotherapy graduates have had difficulty in obtaining employment. My Department is addressing this situation in a proactive manner and is chairing a working group with representatives from the HSE, the therapy managers and IMPACT. This group has finalised an action plan and has started to implement priority actions.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

277 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people employed by the Health Service Executive with a breakdown of the same by position and grade; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23942/07]

Almost 130,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the numbers of doctors, nurses and other 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 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.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

278 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people who were employed by the health boards and Eastern Regional Health Authority at the time of their abolition with a breakdown of the same by position and grade; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23943/07]

Under Part 10 of the Health Act 2004, the health boards were dissolved and their functions and employees transferred to the Health Service Executive. 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 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 to the Deputy.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael McGrath

Question:

279 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application under the nursing home charges repayment scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [23968/07]

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.

Departmental Correspondence.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

280 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she received correspondence of 19 September 2007 from a person (details supplied) in County Clare; if she has responded to the correspondence; if action has been taken on the complaint made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23974/07]

My Department, on receipt of the correspondence referred to, requested the Health Service Executive to arrange to have the matters raised investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the person in question. My Department is advised by the Health Service Executive that the Patient Services Manager at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital has been in direct contact with the individual referred to, in relation to this matter, and that a report will issue to the person directly on completion of the investigation into this case.

Question No. 281 answered with QuestionNo. 246.

Care of the Elderly.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

282 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that while the Health Service Executive, or some other body, sent a booklet to all old age pensioners assuring them that home help was part of the service available to them, the HSE is now advising such people that no home help is available and only carers are available and carers are not allowed to help with domestic work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23992/07]

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.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Thomas Byrne

Question:

283 Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people availing of the National Treatment Purchase Fund from County Meath since its inception; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24065/07]

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.

Thomas Byrne

Question:

284 Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people availing of general practitioner visit cards from County Meath since their inception; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24066/07]

The GP visit card was introduced in 2005 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 assessment guidelines for GP visit cards and these are now 50% higher than those in respect of medical cards.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for these benefits, it is the appropriate body to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

285 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of civil servants based in Dublin who have applied for decentralisation, who have been transferred to their decentralising post and are actually in position in the decentralised location outside of Dublin; and the locations and the number of civil servants transferred from a Dublin post who are at such locations. [24434/07]

Joan Burton

Question:

286 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of civil servants and other public servants who have relocated to locations outside of Dublin under the Government’s decentralisation programme; the estimated number of each category who will have relocated by the end of 2007; if she will break each set of figures down in terms of those who are relocating from Dublin and relocating from elsewhere; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24448/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 285 and 286 together.

As the Deputy will be aware my Department is not one of the Departments scheduled for decentralisation under the Government's Decentralisation Programme. To date forty seven civil servants have transferred to decentralising Departments from my Department. Further details in respect of the transfer of these officers is available from the decentralising Departments and I understand that the Deputy has also tabled questions to the relevant Ministers.

The Health Information and Quality Authority which was formally established this year is encompassed by the Decentralisation Programme. Its headquarters is located in Cork.

Air Services.

James Bannon

Question:

287 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine if the Government appointed representative on the board of Aer Lingus reported to the Government prior to the announcement of the termination of the Shannon/Heathrow route; and if not, the reason for same. [23375/07]

It has been widely reported that the decision to withdraw the Shannon Heathrow service was taken by the management of Aer Lingus and not by the Board. I had no contact with the Government representative on the Board prior to the announcement of the decision.

Road Network.

Michael McGrath

Question:

288 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the basis used by his Department in deciding the allocations to each local authority under the non-national roads restoration programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23801/07]

The provision and improvement of non-national roads in its area is a matter for each individual road authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State grants.

Road grants for non-national roads are allocated annually under a number of grant categories. These include grants for a pavement restoration programme. A total of €306 million was allocated for this purpose in 2007. Grants for the restoration improvement works element of the programme are allocated on the basis of the length of regional and local roads in each county and the results of a Pavement Condition Study on non-national roads which was carried out by consultants and completed in 2005. That study assessed the condition of the network, by county and nationally, and estimated the type and extent of works required to restore the network to an acceptable condition. Grants for restoration maintenance works are allocated on the basis of the length of regional and local roads in each county.

Light Rail Project.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

289 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine when it is considered that construction work will commence on the Luas line BX; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23348/07]

Tony Gregory

Question:

307 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the timescale for the construction of the Luas line to Liffey junction, Dublin 7; and if he will make a comprehensive statement on all aspects of this proposal. [23896/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 289 and 307 together.

Dublin City Council is currently undertaking a traffic modelling exercise as part of its examination of revised traffic management arrangements in the city centre, which will be required for the delivery of the Luas city centre link (line BX), the further extension to Liffey Junction (line D) and also Metro North. In addition, the RPA is considering ways of streamlining and combining construction works on these projects in order to minimise the impact on the city centre.

Following completion of further detailed design work and subject to a satisfactory outcome to the city centre traffic management planning work, the RPA plans to submit a Railway Order application for Luas Line BX to An Bord Pleanála next year. This will influence the timing of Luas Line D, the route which will be decided having regard to the route of Line BX.

Rail Network.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

290 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine when it is considered that construction work will commence on metro north; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23349/07]

The RPA is planning to commence construction work on Metro North in 2009, subject to having an enforceable Railway Order in place.

Road Safety.

John O'Mahony

Question:

291 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the number of motorcyclists who have died of serious injuries in each of the years 2000 to 2006; the number who were injured as a result of making impact with wire barriers on motorways; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23385/07]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No 477 of 2006) responsibility for the collection of structured information on road safety, including the publication of the annual Road Collision Facts Report, now lies with the Road Safety Authority. The most recent report is in respect 2005 and is available on the Authority's website.

Public Transport.

Richard Bruton

Question:

292 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the number of additional passengers envisaged once the 170 additional buses are operational on quality bus corridors by 2008; when real time passenger information at bus stops will be implemented; and when a fully integrated ticketing system using smart cards will be operational. [23401/07]

Dublin Bus has informed me that the 100 additional buses (not 170) currently being brought into service have a capacity — seated and standing — of 9,400 with projected passenger carryings for a full year of 6.5 million passengers.

The position in relation to real time passenger information at bus stops is that Bus Éireann and Bus Átha Cliath are both proceeding with the introduction of automatic vehicle location technology on board buses. This technology will create the platform for the deployment of real time passenger information. Bus Átha Cliath has put forward proposals for funding for a roll-out of real time passenger information via electronic displays at bus stops. The Department is seeking further information from the company.

The position in relation to integrated ticketing is that the Integrated Ticketing Project Board has agreed a timeline for the delivery of an integrated ticketing system in the Greater Dublin Area. This involves the integrated ticketing system being launched initially on the scheduled services of Dublin Bus, LUAS and Morton's Coaches, a private bus operator, within 27 months of the decision to proceed with the project, i.e. by end-August 2009.

Iarnród Éireann's DART and commuter rail services will be included within a further 12 months, and Bus Éireann will implement a pilot scheme on one of its commuter routes in the Greater Dublin Area. It is also envisaged the other private bus operators will also join the integrated ticketing system over this timeframe. In the meantime a number of magnetic strip integrated tickets which allow transfer between bus and DART/commuter rail, bus and LUAS, and LUAS and DART/commuter rail are currently in place.

Richard Bruton

Question:

293 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine his proposals for the public transport markets regarding new competitors and the schedule of delivery of these changes. [23402/07]

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to improve bus services under Transport 21 by reforming bus licensing to facilitate the optimum provision of services by providing a level playing field for all market participants. The new licensing regime will be designed in a manner consistent with the recently adopted new EU Regulation on Public Service Obligations in the transport sector.

While it is not possible at this time to indicate a precise time as to when the legislative proposals on regulatory reform of the bus market will be published, applications and notifications from bus operators will continue to be processed under the provisions of the Road Transport Act 1932, as amended, or the notification system with reference to the Transport Act 1958, as appropriate.

Rail Services.

Barry Andrews

Question:

294 Deputy Barry Andrews asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine if he has been consulted by Iarnród Éireann regarding its decision to restrict access to mainline rail services on certain routes to no more than two bicycles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23423/07]

I have not been consulted by Iarnród Éireann in relation to this matter which is a day to day operational matter for the company.

Public Transport.

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

295 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the progress with the granting of a licence to Dublin Bus to enable it to collect and drop off passengers in Holywell/Gorse Hill area of Kinsealy and Swords along the very successful 142 bus route from Portmarnock/Malahide via the port tunnel into Dublin city. [23497/07]

On the 18th May 2007 Dublin Bus notified my Department of its proposal to introduce a new service from Portmarnock to Palmerston Park, Rathmines via the Port Tunnel. On the 21st May, 2007 Dublin Bus was advised by my Department that it could proceed with the introduction of the service. However, a decision had to be deferred on the provision of services on the section of the route from the Swords/Malahide Road Roundabout down as far as Feltrim Hall. It was considered that the introduction of the service on this part of the route would give rise to competition with a proposed service for which a licence had been sought by a private operator.

My Department has informed Dublin Bus that it has no issues in relation to the company operating within the Holywell Estate. However, I understand that there are problems in relation to transport access within the Estate itself and that Fingal County Council is in consultation with the Estate developer in relation to the matter.

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

296 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the progress of delivering new bus services to and from Swords; and the progress with the granting of a licence to expand the 41X bus service to Dublin city via the port tunnel. [23498/07]

On the 22nd March, 2007, Dublin Bus notified my Department of its proposal to re-route four of its existing Route 41X services from Swords via the Port Tunnel. At that time, my Department advised the Company that the proposal was in conflict with a prior application from a private operator for a high frequency bus service from Swords via the Port Tunnel to the City Centre. Therefore, in accordance with normal Departmental procedures, Dublin Bus was advised that a decision on its proposal was being deferred until the prior application was finalised.

Consideration of the prior application has been completed and my Department has recently issued a licence to the private operator concerned in accordance with the Road Transport Act, 1932. It is a condition of all licences that the services authorised must be in operation in their entirety within four months from the date of issue of the licence. My Department is now considering the Dublin Bus proposals for the Route 41X taking into consideration the newly licensed service.

Ministerial Transport.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

297 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the amount of money awarded in domestic mileage to each individual Minister of State in his Department for each of the past four years and to date in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23515/07]

The tables provides details of the sums paid to each Minister of State by my Department for each of the past four years and to date in 2007.

Mr Jim McDaid, T.D.

Year

2004 Mileage

18,430.00

Mr Ivor Callely, T.D.

Year

2004 Mileage

12,753.00

2005 Mileage

34,430.00

Mr Pat ‘The Cope' Gallagher, T.D.

Year

2006 Mileage

32,492.00

2007 Mileage

11,260.00

Road Safety.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

298 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine if legislation is required to give gardaí the power to carry out mandatory breath testing of drivers involved in an accident where there are no clear signs of alcohol consumption; if he will introduce such legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23517/07]

Current Road Traffic legislation, in respect of the roadside testing for alcohol of drivers involved in accidents, provides that a member of the Garda Síochána may require such a driver to provide a preliminary breath specimen. The discretion is provided in acknowledgement of the fact that urgent medical attention for seriously injured victims must take precedence over breath testing.

My Department is aware that the Garda authorities have issued directions to the effect that it is expected that all drivers involved in serious road traffic collisions are tested unless there are overriding medical circumstances. Following representations received from various bodies, my Department proposes to engage with the Office of the Attorney General to establish how the current legislation can be amended to achieve roadside testing of drivers involved in serious accidents subject to overriding medical circumstances.

Departmental Advertising.

Niall Collins

Question:

299 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine if he will implement a request (details supplied) for inclusion in all scheduled advertising and public awareness campaigns by his Department. [23531/07]

My Department's Press Office has made contact with Limerick Community Radio 102FM and the relevant details for the radio station have been added to the Press Office circulation list.

Departmental Nomenclature.

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

300 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine if it is proposed to change the name of his Department in line with the announcement on the formation of Government. [23532/07]

In view of the decisions that have been taken by Government to transfer certain sea fisheries and foreshore functions from the former Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and to maintain the current role of the Department of Transport in relation to ports, shipping and maritime safety functions that were transferred to the Department in January 2006, a change in the name of the Department is not considered necessary.

State Agencies.

Richard Bruton

Question:

301 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the remuneration package of each of the CEOs of State agencies reporting to his Department including pay, pension and ancillary benefits. [23735/07]

It is the responsibility of the Boards of the relevant bodies under the aegis of my Department to agree terms and conditions (including remuneration) of their respective Chief Executives. Details of remuneration are generally published in the Annual Reports.

Public Transport.

Richard Bruton

Question:

302 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the estimated number of passengers per year who will be served in respect of each of the cost benefit project analyses indicated in his reply of 4 July 2007; the benefit to cost ratio calculated in the analysis; the internal rate of return; and the minimum acceptable ratios and rates of return which his Department would accept on such a project. [23736/07]

The requested details in respect of the rail projects referred to in my reply of 4 July 2007 are set out in the table.

Project

Benefit to cost ratio

Internal rate of return

Estimated passenger numbers (per annum)

Luas Line B1 from Sandyford to Cherrywood

3.33:1

13.2%

12.2 million

Luas Line C1 from Connolly station to the Point

1.08:1

6.1%

2.95 million

Luas Line A1 to Citywest

2.02:1

12.4%

5 million

Purchase of 33 intercity railcars

1.85:1

12%

250, 000

Integrated ticketing*

1.53:1

Greater than 5%

Applicable to over an estimated 200 million passenger journeys per annum

* Appraisal of the integrated ticketing project was carried out in 2002 and updated in 2007. The updated financial analyses indicated there continues to be a positive net present value for the project before wider socio-economic benefits are taken into account.

Each of the projects was appraised in compliance with the Department of Finance's Capital Appraisal Guidelines and Value for Money criteria. In examining requests for funding for capital projects, my Department takes account of the guidance on cost benefit analysis and internal rate of return set out in the Capital Appraisal Guidelines. The minimum benefit to cost ratio which is generally compliant with the Guidelines is one greater than 1:1 and the minimum internal rate of return generally accepted is 4%.

However, the Guidelines do not preclude a Minister, under the delegated sanction arrangements set down by the Minister for Finance, from approving projects independent of the details of these Guidelines. Recognising that it is not always possible to monetise all the social and economic benefits of transport projects, it may be possible, in exceptional circumstances, to approve projects with a less favourable ratio or a lower internal rate of return, which confer these wider benefits.

Road Network.

Richard Bruton

Question:

303 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the number of kilometres of road of different carriageway specification completed under Transport 21. [23737/07]

The NRA has informed me that since the establishment of Transport 21 on 1st November 2005, 21 national roads projects have been completed with a combined total length of 180 kms. This can be broken down as: 24 kms of motorway, 106 kms of high quality dual carriageway, and 50 kms of single carriageway.

Public Transport.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

304 Deputy Beverley Flynn asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the steps that have to be taken by bus operators to bring their buses up to standard before the DOE test in 2008; and if his Department will be providing grant assistance to bus operators in this regard. [23784/07]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) the issue of bus licensing and operations is a matter for the Road Safety Authority.

Railway Stations.

Damien English

Question:

305 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the plans in place to provide a new train station at Navan, County Meath or if a renovation of the existing station is planned in order to facilitate the completion of the proposed phase two of the Navan Dublin rail line; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23806/07]

The re-opening of the Clonsilla to Navan line is proposed under Transport 21 in two phases: Clonsilla to Pace by 2009 and Pace to Navan by 2015. The current position is that Irish Rail submitted an application for a Railway Order for the first phase to An Bord Pleanála in September. The company is targeting a late 2008 start (subject to Railway Order) and a Spring 2010 completion. The proposed line from Clonsilla to Pace includes three stations at Hansfield, Dunboyne and a major Park and Ride at Pace.

In regard to the Pace/Navan phase, the position is that the feasibility work has commenced. A scoping survey is currently underway to survey the alignment and establish what engineering and technical issues are likely to be encountered in the subsequent work to construct and open the line. This work is expected to be completed shortly. The location of stations on the rail network is an operational matter for Irish Rail but the company has informed me that it is premature at this stage to make a decision on the precise location of the station at Navan.

Road Safety.

David Stanton

Question:

306 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the number of persons that were injured as a result of road accidents each year since 2000 to date in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23835/07]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No 477 of 2006) responsibility for the collection of structured information on road safety, including the publication of the annual Road Collision Facts Report, lies with the Road Safety Authority. The most recent report relates to 2005 and is available on the Authority's website. I understand that the statistics relating to 2006 are being analysed and authenticated in preparation for publication. The statistics for 2007 will not be analysed until next year.

Question No. 307 answered with QuestionNo. 289.

Regulatory Impact Assessments.

Denis Naughten

Question:

308 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the number of regulatory impact assessments produced by his Department since the adoption of the policy by Government; the number of appropriate decisions made by his Department which did not include such assessments; the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23915/07]

Three screening regulatory impact assessments have been produced by the Department since 21 June 2005, concerning the Roads Act 2007, the proposed Dublin transport authority Bill and the Merchant Shipping (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2007. Proposals to amend Directive 2002/59/EC, establishing a Community shipping vessel traffic monitoring and information system, and the recasting of EU Directive 95/21/EC of 19 June 1995 to reinforce and improve the effectiveness of Port State Control were submitted for Oireachtas scrutiny in January and February 2006. While a formal screening regulatory impact assessment was not produced at the start of the negotiations at EU Council Working Group, due to the fact that the Department was in the early stages of implementation of the RIA process, consultations with relevant stakeholders were held at that time.

Public Transport.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

309 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine if he will permit and fund the purchase of additional buses by Dublin Bus in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23952/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

310 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the number of new additional buses, not replacement buses, given to Dublin Bus in 2007 and for each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23953/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 309 and 310 together.

Dublin Bus is bringing into service the balance of 100 additional buses for which Exchequer funding of €30 million was approved in September of last year. Some 50 of the buses are in service and the remainder will be in service in the coming months. A further €15.04 million has been approved towards the cost of 100 replacement buses for the Dublin Bus fleet in 2007. Some 50 of the replacement buses will be tri-axle buses which offer greater passenger carrying capacity. Some 23 additional buses were added to the Dublin Bus fleet in 2001, 20 additional buses were added to the Dublin Bus fleet in 2005 and 100 additional buses were added to the Dublin Bus fleet in 2006. This brings the Dublin Bus fleet to 1,182, up from just over 900 in 1997. The capacity of the Dublin Bus fleet, taking into account the 100 additional buses is now over 106,000 — an increase of more than 34% on the 2000 capacity. Many of the new buses purchased have a higher capacity than the smaller, single decker buses being replaced.

Light Rail Project.

Michael McGrath

Question:

311 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the position regarding his plan to establish a feasibility study for a Luas or light rail system for Cork. [23969/07]

My Department recently asked the Cork local authorities to include in their current review of the Cork Area Strategic Plan a consideration of the feasibility of introducing light rail transit and/or bus rapid transit.

Air Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

312 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the measures he will put in place to safeguard the Heathrow slots at Shannon, Cork and Dublin Airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24063/07]

Arrangements to safeguard Heathrow slots are built into the Company's Memorandum and Articles of Association. The effect of these arrangements, at present, is that any disposal of Heathrow slots can be prevented by 30.4% of the votes cast at an Extraordinary General Meeting. 25.4% of the shares in the Company are held by the Minister for Finance on behalf of the State. Also, under the memorandum and articles of association, the State is entitled to appoint three directors to the board of Aer Lingus. Currently, there is only one State appointed director serving on the board and it is now proposed that two further appointments will be made.

The State appointees will seek to ensure that all future decisions of the company that have implications for wider Government, aviation or regional development policies are considered and decided at board level. This will give the State appointees the opportunity to raise the public policy implications of each decision and to ensure that the full commercial implications for the company are taken into account.

Pat Breen

Question:

313 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the costs incurred to date by the Government in the privatisation of Aer Lingus; the costs paid to consultants, finance and legal officials; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24064/07]

The total costs incurred by the Government in respect of the Aer Lingus IPO amounted to €6.2 million. The bulk of these costs relate to fees paid to the underwriters and financial advisors amounting to almost €4 million. Legal fees amounted to €1.4 million and additional ancillary expenses amounted to €800,000.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

314 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the number of civil servants based in Dublin who have applied for decentralisation, who have been transferred to their decentralising post and are actually in position in the decentralised location outside of Dublin; and the locations and the number of civil servants transferred from a Dublin post who are at such locations. [24438/07]

Joan Burton

Question:

315 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the number of civil servants and other public servants who have relocated to locations outside of Dublin under the Government’s decentralisation programme; the estimated number of each category who will have relocated by the end of 2007; if he will break each set of figures down in terms of those who are relocating from Dublin and relocating from elsewhere; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24452/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 314 and 315 together.

Some 35 civil servants from the Department of Transport have relocated to new Departments and are due to move out of Dublin under the Government's decentralisation programme. The transfer of these staff to their decentralisation location is a matter for the new parent Departments. In addition, 6 staff have already relocated to their decentralised location in Loughrea as either Department of Transport or Road Safety Authority staff. In addition to the above 41 posts, a further 39 officers in the Department of Transport are awaiting relocation and it is expected that 4 of these will relocate before the end of 2007. All staff that have already relocated or are awaiting relocation are from Dublin locations. No public servants have been relocated by this Department.

Passport Applications.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

316 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reason the Irish Embassy in Kuala Lumpur took five weeks to deliver a passport to the Phuket consulate office in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23346/07]

The initial application in this case was lodged at the Honorary Consulate in Phuket and received by the Irish Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on 26 March 2007. Checking of the application by Embassy staff highlighted a number of difficulties with the application. In particular, the name of the child entered on the form differed from that on his birth certificate and Thai passport, there were discrepancies in the dates concerning witnessing of parental consent and the photograph provided did not meet the requirements specified on the form. The applicant's mother was informed through the Honorary Consulate of these difficulties and told she needed to submit a new application.

A new application was submitted through the Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to the Passport Office on 15 May and this was processed the same day. The passport was sent by diplomatic bag to the Embassy on 21 May where it was received on 23 May and sent to Phuket the same day. The passport was collected in Phuket on 25 May. The speed with which the passport was issued once the properly completed application was received highlights the quality of the passport service provided by the Department. Honorary Consuls, such as the official in Phuket, are not full-time officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs but are honorary appointees who undertake, in addition to their normal work, to provide consular services to Irish citizens where there is no Irish Embassy. This is an invaluable service for our citizens who require assistance abroad in popular tourist destinations.

Departmental Advertising.

Niall Collins

Question:

317 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will implement a request (details supplied) for inclusion in all scheduled advertising and public awareness campaigns by his Department. [23527/07]

From time to time, the Department uses print and broadcast media for an advertising or public awareness campaign. It recognises the important role local and community radio stations can play in such campaigns. I understand that campaigns are carried out by commercial advertising agencies which advise on the best approach with regard to the subject matter and the need to reach the widest possible audience in the most cost-effective manner. The use of local and community radio stations in the Department's advertising and public awareness campaigns depends on the nature of the particular campaign and the need to achieve value for money.

I have brought the details supplied by the Deputy to the attention of the relevant sections in the Department. The Department is making increasing use of its website, www.dfa.ie, for public awareness campaigns. Following a recent upgrade, there is now an extensive range of information freely available to the public from that source, including on matters such as passport application procedures and travel safety overseas. In addition, a separate website maintained by the Department’s Development Aid Directorate, www.irishaid.gov.ie, gives extensive information on Ireland’s overseas development aid programme. The Department encourages local and community radio stations to raise public awareness of these valuable information resources.

State Agencies.

Richard Bruton

Question:

318 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the remuneration package of each of the CEOs of State agencies reporting to his Department including pay, pension and ancillary benefits. [23730/07]

Four bodies are operating under the aegis of my Department — the Advisory Board for Development Co-operation Ireland; the Development Education Advisory Committee; the Díon Committee, which advises on support for our emigrant communities in Britain; and the Board of the Ireland-United States Commission for Educational Exchange, also known as the Fulbright Commission. While it is not a State Agency, the Fulbright Commission has an Executive Director who is on secondment from the National Museum of Ireland. The executive director's salary is €87,294, the employer's PRSI, Income Protection and Death in Service payments come to €1,721 and pension contributions come to €19,786 and the executive director's potential bonus, which is subject to performance review, is €3,112. None of the other bodies under the aegis of my Department have a CEO or equivalent, as they are serviced by officials from my Department.

Nuclear Safety.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

319 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the response of the British Foreign Secretary, Mr. David Miliband, to new evidence that there were many more cancer deaths from radioactive fall out from the Windscale/Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in Britain than first thought; if the British Foreign Secretary explained the conduct of the then British Prime Minister in ordering a cover-up of the disaster; the actions that were promised by the British Foreign Secretary in relation to these matters; and the further action he will take in this case. [23786/07]

The Government's deep concern about the Sellafield plant, and its firm view that it should be closed down, is well-known to the British authorities and is subject to ongoing discussion with them. I have consistently emphasised, as Minister and as Deputy for Louth, the risk Sellafield poses to public safety and the environment. During my recent meeting with the British Foreign Secretary, Mr. David Miliband MP, which covered a wide range of bilateral and international issues, I conveyed the Government's concern about the fresh and disturbing revelations broadcast in the television programme on the 50th anniversary of the Windscale fire. The Deputy can be assured that the Government's concerns about Sellafield will continue to be actively pursued in every possible way.

Middle East Peace Process.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

320 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the action he has taken to defend the human, religious and cultural rights of Christian communities in the Middle-East with particular reference to Egypt, Syria, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23873/07]

The Christian communities in the Middle East comprise a large number of often very ancient churches. They are for the most part comparatively small communities, geographically dispersed among the much larger Muslim societies in which they live. Along with other minority communities, they are particularly vulnerable in times of war or tension. The number of Christians across the region has fallen in recent years, due to a combination of economic, political, security and sectarian pressure. Minority Christian communities feel increasingly vulnerable to the consequences of the instability in the Middle East. I share the concern about their situation and have followed developments through our diplomatic missions and my own contacts, including the Holy See which maintains close links with many of these communities. I have raised the problems facing the Christian communities with my EU colleagues during our regular discussions on the Middle East.

The difficulties facing Palestinian Christians are a direct result of the absence of a lasting and peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is estimated that in 1948, Christians represented some 20%, or 350,000, of the population of the Holy Land. There are now no more than 50,000 Christians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. I observed the difficulties facing the Christian population of Bethlehem when I visited the town earlier this year. The promotion of a viable two-state solution which will secure the rights of all Israeli and Palestinian citizens is a foreign policy priority for the Government. A vital element in any such solution will be agreement on the status of Jerusalem, a city of central importance to the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths.

The position in Egypt is unusual in the Middle East, as approximately 10% of the population are members of a single large Christian church, the ancient Coptic Church. There are also a number of much smaller other Christian communities. I am aware of the increased pressure felt by Egyptian Christians in recent years, primarily as a result of the rise in fundamentalist groups strongly opposed to the Egyptian Government. The overall human rights situation in Egypt is kept closely under review within the EU. Our concerns are raised under the structures of the EU-Egypt Association Agreement, and the EU-Egypt Action Plan agreed earlier this year.

The EU has continued to raise human rights issues with the authorities in both Syria and Jordan. It is important to note, however, that there have not been widespread reports of particular difficulties experienced by Christian communities in these countries. Both Syria and Jordan are currently providing refuge to very large numbers of refugees from the conflict in Iraq, including many Iraqi Christians. The threat to Christian communities in Iraq is particularly grave, often as a result of wider sectarian tensions not specifically directed at them. Many feel that as members of widely dispersed minority communities, they have no option but to flee the country.

I am gravely concerned for the future of these communities, which have existed in Iraq almost since the beginning of the Christian era. Their security will not be assured until there is a political solution in Iraq based on national reconciliation and regional co-operation. In the meantime, there is an onus on the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to the needs of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons. In January, I announced an additional €3 million in assistance through UN agencies and non-governmental organisations, and we are considering what additional assistance we can provide.

On a broader level, Ireland, and its EU partners consistently champion the right to freedom of religion or belief in all relevant bilateral and multilateral contacts. We have always strongly supported resolutions at the UN on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination on the basis of religion or belief. Most recently, in March this year, Ireland co-sponsored a resolution on religious intolerance at the UN Human Rights Council. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights both guarantee the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the right to have and adopt a religious belief. Ireland believes that constitutional and legislative systems should provide adequate and effective protection of these rights to all without distinction and that effective remedies should be made available where violations of such rights occur.

Undocumented Irish.

Thomas Byrne

Question:

321 Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress in relation to reform in US immigrant legislation; and the action being taken to address the concerns of undocumented Irish citizens in the US. [23888/07]

The failure of efforts by the United States Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation earlier this year was a major disappointment and a setback for the thousands of undocumented Irish people in the United States and their families in Ireland. Given the present very difficult and divided environment in Congress on immigration, it is widely considered that such comprehensive legislation is unlikely to be back before Congress in a meaningful way in advance of the next US Presidential and Congressional Elections. In the aftermath of this disappointment, I made clear my determination to actively review the situation and to explore possible alternative options, including bilateral arrangements. In the months since the collapse of the comprehensive reform bill, my Department and the Embassy in Washington have been engaged in a wide range of consultations with Congressional, Administration and Irish community figures to assess how best to proceed.

My recent visit to the United States provided me with the opportunity to discuss the situation with senior members of the Administration and with some of the key central players in Congress. In this regard, among those with whom I had meetings were the US Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, the Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, Dr. Paula Dobriansky, Senators Edward Kennedy, Charles Schumer, Patrick Leahy and Lindsay Graham, as well as the House of Representatives Friends of Ireland Group. While they emphasised the present extremely difficult environment for making progress on immigration reform in Congress, I was pleased that they were willing to work with us in exploring further possible ways of resolving the position of our undocumented citizens. This work will be pursued by the Ambassador and his staff in Washington and will be reviewed by me on an ongoing basis.

I also reviewed the situation with the Irish lobby for immigration reform and subsequently briefed it on my discussions in Washington, including the considerable challenges seen by our friends in Congress in achieving a breakthrough at this time. Finally, I had a detailed discussion on the situation with the Secretary for Homeland Security, Mr. Michael Chertoff, and had a meeting with members of our undocumented community in New York.

Regulatory Impact Assessments.

Denis Naughten

Question:

322 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of regulatory impact assessments produced by his Department since the adoption of the policy by Government; the number of appropriate decisions made by his Department which did not include such assessments; the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23910/07]

Since the introduction in June 2005 of Regulatory Impact Analysis, my Department has carried out Regulatory Impact Analysis screenings, on the British-Irish Agreement (Amendment) Act 2006, which related to the mandate and functions of the Special EU Programmes Body, and on the recently published Passports Bill 2007. The Department has sponsored two pieces of EU-related legislation since June 2005: the European Communities Act 2006, which provided for our ratification of the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU, and the European Communities Act 2007, which improved and modernised the way EU legislation is transposed into Irish law. As a consequence of their nature, it was deemed that formal Regulatory Impact Analysis was not required in either case. Government approval of the Bill in 2004, which led to the Diplomatic Relations and Immunities Act 2006, preceded the introduction of regulatory impact analysis. As their scope and impact were of minor significance, a Regulatory Impact Analysis was not required for any of the four Government Orders subsequently made under this legislation.

Missing Persons.

Dan Neville

Question:

323 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his Department’s commitment and his embassy’s contribution in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry who has been missing in Paris since 9 September 2007 when he left his hotel to take a walk; his and his embassy’s previous contact with the French police; and if they have agreed a continuing arrangement for the search for the Irish citizen. [23917/07]

I have taken a close personal interest in this distressing case since first being made aware of it. The Taoiseach and I met the wife and son of the person referred to by the Deputy on 22 September in our Embassy in Paris. During this meeting, we assured them of our ongoing support and continued determination to provide all possible consular assistance. I understand that the family also met the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on 21 September.

Our Embassy has been in daily contact with the missing person's family since the day of his disappearance and our Ambassador has met family members on several occasions. Embassy officials remain in regular contact with the missing persons unit of the French police and have accompanied the family to all of their meetings with the police. Our Ambassador met senior officers in the unit to emphasise the importance my Department attaches to the case. At the family's request, Embassy officials also secured agreement from the police to conduct searches of particular sites and areas. The Embassy has also made regular contact with the central office for unidentified persons in French hospitals and direct contact with hospitals in the greater Paris region.

A description of the person referred to by the Deputy has been sent to every hospital in Paris and the Ambassador has written personally to 102 hospital directors with relevant information. Assistance has also been provided by my Department in raising public awareness in France about the case. The family and the Embassy prepared a poster in English and in French with the missing man's photograph and a request for assistance. Over 1,000 copies of this poster have been distributed to hospitals, Irish bars and English speaking businesses in Paris. The poster also appears prominently on the Embassy's website and was distributed on all Ryanair and Aer Lingus flights to Paris during the Rugby World Cup period.

I regret that despite these extensive efforts, there has been no indication of the whereabouts of the individual concerned. I assure the Deputy that my Department will continue to remain in close contact with the family and to provide them with all possible consular assistance.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

324 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of civil servants based in Dublin who have applied for decentralisation, who have been transferred to their decentralising post and are actually in position in the decentralised location outside of Dublin; and the locations and the number of civil servants transferred from a Dublin post who are at such locations. [24433/07]

Joan Burton

Question:

325 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of civil servants and other public servants who have relocated to locations outside of Dublin under the Government’s decentralisation programme; the estimated number of each category who will have relocated by the end of 2007; if he will break each set of figures down in terms of those who are relocating from Dublin and relocating from elsewhere; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24447/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 324 and 325 together.

Under the Government's decentralisation programme, the Development Co-operation Directorate of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is Irish Aid's Headquarters, will decentralise to Limerick. This is scheduled to take place in early 2008 on completion and fit-out of the permanent premises in Henry Street. It will involve the relocation to Limerick of 124 posts. Good progress has been made and personnel have been assigned to, or identified for, 100 posts or approximately 81% of the 124 posts scheduled to be decentralised. An advance party involving 53 staff has already decentralised to interim office premises in Limerick. Some 48 of them were Dublin-based applicants and the remaining five were from provincial locations. It is expected that one additional Dublin-based applicant will transfer to Limerick before the end of 2007.

The latest figures available — in July 2007 — indicate that some 184 officers from across the Civil Service have chosen Limerick as their first preference for decentralisation. However, other officers may have chosen Limerick as a lower preference i.e. anything from 2nd to 10th preference. It is in the nature of the process that the numbers involved change over time as more applications are received and as assignments are made, or as some of those who applied withdraw or amend their applications.

Work Permits.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

326 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding the application by a person (details supplied) for the renewal of a work permit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23357/07]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department has informed me that a work permit was issued recently in this case.

Research Funding.

Richard Bruton

Question:

327 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will conduct a review of enterprise support schemes for research and development to ensure they are relevant and fully absorbed as recommended in IBEC’s publication Vision for Dublin. [23400/07]

The new Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation, which was launched in June 2006, provides the means to achieve convergence, coherence and complementarity in the national innovation system and ensure that maximum economic and social benefits are derived from the Government's commitment of €8.2 billion to the area under the National Development Plan. The Strategy envisages changes to innovation policy that will ensure it remains relevant to the needs of business and contains a number of proposals which specifically address issues which are the subject of recommendations on innovation in IBEC's Vision for Dublin document.

Of particular relevance are proposals to streamline and simplify research and development supports to firms, which have been undertaken under the umbrella of the strategy implementation group, Technology Ireland. The new streamlined schemes are at an advanced stage of development. Following completion of the notification process of the schemes under the new Community Framework for State Aid for Research and Development and Innovation to the EU Commission, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland expect to be in a position to put in place revised simplified research and development offerings from 2008. Indeed, I expect to be in a position to launch Enterprise Ireland's new scheme later this year.

A number of new schemes that specifically address the needs of business are being devised or are in a start-up phase. These include a programme for the establishment of industry led Competence Centres designed as a new and important bridge on the spectrum of taking basic research to commercialisation. This industry-led research centre scheme has attracted significant interest with 25 industry groupings responding in May to the first call for Expressions of Interest. Competence Centres will fill a gap on the continuum from often academic-led basic research to applied or company-led research while ensuring greater commercialisation opportunities.

The recently launched Innovation Voucher scheme offers companies an opportunity to explore a business opportunity or problem with a public research body, thereby facilitating knowledge transfer to their business. These new mechanisms encourage increasing innovation in a manner which is directly related to the needs of business. With regard to the need to ensure that supports for research and development are fully absorbed, the industrial development agencies work closely with clients to encourage firms to become more engaged in research and development activity and to the maximise the uptake of the supports available. A significant number of clear quantitative and qualitative goals have been set for the Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation. Progress towards the attainment of these targets will be regularly tracked and monitored by an interdepartmental committee operating under the aegis of my Department.

Industrial Development.

Phil Hogan

Question:

328 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding approval that he gave in May 2007 to a company (details supplied) to take occupancy in the IDA park in Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23426/07]

Under the Industrial Development Acts, IDA Ireland is independent of the Minister of the day in the exercise of its functions relating to the purchase, disposal or leasing of property. However, ministerial consent for the disposal or granting of a lease is required in certain circumstances. In the case of the company mentioned by the Deputy, ministerial consent under section 3(4) of the Industrial Development Act 1995 was required because it was not an IDA or Enterprise Ireland grant-aided company and therefore not a qualifying entity for the purposes of section 16 of the Industrial Development Act 1986.

On the advice of IDA Ireland, I signed the necessary order on 3 May 2007. The issuing of ministerial consent allowed the owners of the BES office facility in the IDA Park to proceed to agree terms concerning the lease of office space in the building to the company. However, in August 2007, the owners of the office facility informed IDA Ireland that negotiations with the company had not been successful and that the company's interest in the facility has terminated.

Ministerial Transport.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

329 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount of money awarded in domestic mileage to each individual Minister of State in his Department for each of the past four years and to date in 2007. [23509/07]

I will outline details of the mileage expenses paid to Ministers of State in my Department in respect of travel within Ireland for each of the past four years and to date in 2007. The former Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, was paid €26,872.56 in 2003, €15,461.30 in 2004 and €12,923.40 in 2005. The Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ahern, was paid €20,003.37 in 2003, €21,294.71 in 2004, €31,430.34 in 2005, €26,132.18 in 2006 and €23,713.49 to date in 2007. The Minister of State, Deputy Killeen, was paid €40,965.60 in 2005, €31,711.94 in 2006 and €21,456.50 to date in 2007. The Minister of State, Deputy Kelleher, has been paid €7,694.05 to date in 2007. The Minister of State, Deputy McGuinness, has been paid €6,078.12 to date in 2007.

Departmental Advertising.

Niall Collins

Question:

330 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will implement a request (details supplied) for inclusion in all scheduled advertising and public awareness campaigns by his Department. [23524/07]

My Department considers the print media more suitable than the broadcast media for its scheduled advertising. In the case of public awareness campaigns undertaken by my Department, its practice is to use a specialist advertising company chosen by public tender which advises the Department on the most appropriate media to be used, based on the main criteria of value for money and effectiveness of geographical coverage.

State Agencies.

Richard Bruton

Question:

331 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the remuneration package of each of the CEOs of State agencies reporting to his Department including pay, pension and ancillary benefits. [23727/07]

The remuneration packages of the CEOs of Agencies reporting to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment are sanctioned by the Department of Finance and are in line with recommendations of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector Report — No. 38, 1998. In addition, the CEO of Science Foundation Ireland is paid an allowance in the nature of pay on a personal basis, as approved by the Department of Finance in recognition of his international research experience and expertise.

Each CEO is a member of the superannuation scheme of his or her respective Agency. CEOs of Agencies are eligible to apply for performance related bonus awards of up to 20% of their annual salaries. The CEOs of each of the following Agencies under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment have the use of a car for official business: FÁS, Forfás, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and Shannon Free Airport Development Company.

Employment Rights.

Denis Naughten

Question:

332 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of prosecutions taken by his labour inspectors in each of the past five years; the corresponding figure to date in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23752/07]

The number of prosecutions initiated by Inspection Services for each year from 2002 to 2006 and to date in 2007 is set out in the table that follows this reply. The primary role of Inspection Services, encompassed within the new National Employment Rights Authority, in the case of breaches of employment rights legislation is to seek compliance and rectification of any breaches identified, including redress for the individuals concerned and payment of any arrears due to employees. In this regard Inspection Services recovered arrears of pay amounting to almost €1.4 million from 349 employers in 2006. Almost €2 million has been recovered to date in 2007.

In the majority of cases, breaches are rectified and associated arrears are paid without recourse to legal proceedings. The Deputy should be aware that the Rights Commissioners service of the Labour Relations Commission, which is independent of my Department, also hears complaints about breaches of certain employment rights legislation. Unions may make a complaint to the Labour Court under section 32 of the Industrial Relations Act 1946 in relation to breaches of a Registered Employment Agreement. Section 45 of the 1946 Act provides that employees may initiate proceedings in respect of any failure to comply with the minimum wage conditions of an Employment Regulation Order.

Prosecutions initiated by Inspection Services

Year

No. of Prosecutions

2002

25

2003

20

2004

14

2005

25

2006

7

2007 (to date)

16

Industrial Development.

Enda Kenny

Question:

333 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the land banks owned by the IDA in all locations in County Mayo; the extent of such land banks; the extent of each such land bank unused at present; his plans for each such land bank in the coming period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23778/07]

The management of IDA Ireland's industrial property portfolio, including the purchase of land and the creation of business parks, is a day-to-day operational matter for the agency and not a matter in which I have a function. I have been informed by IDA Ireland that it owns a total of 64.3 hectares of land in County Mayo, of which 17.24 hectares are unused and being marketed. The table that follows this reply lists the location of the individual properties.

In line with the National Spatial Strategy and the National Development Plan, IDA Ireland has focused on developing quality business parks in gateway and hub locations, and in a number of county towns to meet the express needs of its clients. In County Mayo IDA Ireland has developed world class business and technology parks in Castlebar and Westport, while discussions are ongoing between the Agency and Mayo County Council about the acquisition of industrially zoned land on the Sligo Road in Ballina. IDA is actively marketing Mayo through its network of overseas offices and it is continuing to work with its existing base of overseas companies in County Mayo to encourage them to grow and expand.

Table showing the location of lands owned by IDA in County Mayo

Location

Total Hectares

Hectares available

Ballina (Bunree Industrial Estate)

10.29

2.12

Ballinrobe Business Park

1.54

NIL

Ballyhaunis Business Park

2.55

NIL

Castlebar Business & Technology Park

11.18

4.33

Castlebar Business Park

5.19

NIL

Castlebar (Gorteen)

1.62

NIL

Charlestown Industrial Park

0.71

NIL

Claremorris Industrial Estate

2.87

NIL

Foxford Business Park

1.46

0.68

Killala Business Park

1.09

1.09

Knock Business Park

0.49

NIL

Westport Business and Technology Park

25.31

9.02

Total

64.30

17.24

David Stanton

Question:

334 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the companies that have received start up grants from State agencies to date in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23834/07]

The provision of grant assistance for individual companies is a matter for the development agency or body concerned, and not one in which I have a direct function. Enterprise Ireland has primary responsibility for Irish companies in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors, and supports companies employing 10 or more people, and start-up companies which have the potential to employ 10 or more people and reach or exceed €1 million in exports over three years.

In broad terms, last year Enterprise Ireland supported the establishment of 76 new export-focused high potential companies. The 76 export-focused start-ups, all in knowledge intensive sectors, are expected to grow rapidly and to create over 1,260 new high skilled jobs and generate exports worth €110 million over the next two years. Enterprise Ireland invested €17.5 million of the total €47.5 million investment in the 76 new start-ups. There was a good regional spread among HPSU companies established in 2006. Of the 76 new companies, the majority at 41 are located in regions outside of Dublin, with 35 companies being located in Dublin.

The Enterprise Ireland's Annual high potential start-up firms showcase event will take place in the first quarter of 2008. This event showcases all high potential start-up firms created with Enterprise Ireland support in the previous year. There has been one public high potential start-up announcement this year to date. The company concerned is Eirebloc, which is set to invest €16 million in a Macroom Facility with support from Enterprise Ireland. Some 73 New High Value Jobs are set to be created. While other enterprises are in the process of receiving start up support from Enterprise Ireland, it is not possible due to commercially sensitive reasons to list them in detail. It is anticipated that a comparable number of high potential start-up firms will receive start-up support from Enterprise Ireland in 2007, as in 2006. Details of these success stories will be publicly available in due course and highlighted in Enterprise Ireland's showcase event.

I understand from consultation with Shannon Development that ABC Nutrition Limited, which is based in the Shannon Free Zone, received a start-up grant (feasibility) of €29,945 in 2007. Companies in receipt of assistance from any of the 35 County and City Enterprise Boards are outlined in the boards' Annual Reports. The Annual Reports of the CEBs in respect of 2007 will be available in early 2008.

Niall Collins

Question:

335 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of business parks and industrial sites (details supplied) in County Limerick. [23863/07]

Responsibility for development of property solutions for enterprise promotion within County Limerick lies with Shannon Development. Details of the number and location of vacant business parks and industrial sites in County Limerick are as shown in the table.

Breakdown of Spaces in County Limerick

Location

SFADCo. Undeveloped Land

SFADCo. Buildings

Status

Abbeyfeale Enterprise Centre

9.8 acres

2 EC Units 1 Factory Bay

All buildings occupied or allocated. Greenfield Site.

Shanagolden Enterprise Centre

5.2 acres

4 EC Units

3 occupied, 1 vacant. Greenfield Site.

Newcastlewest Industrial Estate

None

5 EC Units 2 Factory Bays

1 Factory Bay vacant

Newcastlewest Business Park

17 acres

None

1 building complete, 2 buildings under construction. Completed building vacant. Ongoing business park development.

Dromcolliher Enterprise Centre

4.96 acres

None

Greenfield Site

Askeaton Enterprise Centre

4 acres

None

Greenfield Site

Askeaton

228 acres

None

Greenfield Site

Patrickswell Enterprise Centre

5.4 acres

None

Greenfield Site

Kilmallock Business Park

13 acres

3 EC Units 1 Factory Bay.

All occupied. Greenfield Site.

Kilfinnane Enterprise Centre

0.7 acres

2 EC Units 5 Workspace Units

1 Workspace unit vacant

Knocklong Enterprise Centre

1.8 acres

1 EC Unit

Occupied

Hospital Enterprise Centre

2.78 acres

2 EC Units

All occupied

Oola Enterprise Centre

1.27 acres

2 EC Units

2 units vacant

Doon Enterprise Centre

2.4 acres

2 EC Units

All occupied

Annacotty

14 acres

None

Greenfield site.

Raheen Industrial Estate

150 acres

6 Large factory Bays Food Centre — 12 Units

1 Bay vacant 7 Occupied 5 vacant (three of which are under refurbishment) 20 acres serviced — remainder unserviced

Breakdown of Spaces in Limerick City

Location

SFADCo. Undeveloped Land

SFADCo. Buildings

Status

Crossagalla Enterprise Centre

None.

4 EC Units

All Occupied

Galvone Enterprise Centre

None.

8 EC Units & 9 Workspace Units.

All 8 EC Units Occupied. 2 Workspace Units Occupied 7 vacant.

Thomondgate Enterprise Centre

None.

2 EC Units.

All Occupied

Killmallock Rd. Enterprise Centre

0.9 acres.

18 EC Units.

6 Occupied 12 Vacant.

Mungret St. Enterprise Centre

None.

1 EC Unit

Occupied.

Dock Rd — Corcanree Business Park

None.

2 Factory Bays.

1 Occupied 1 For Sale

Moyross Enterprise Centre

11.1 acres.

5 EC Units.

All Occupied

Childers Rd Enterprise Centre

None

7 EC Units.

5 Occupied 2 Vacant

Dominic St — Tait Business Centre

None.

Multi tenant facility.

Fully Occupied or allocated.

Dominic St Enterprise Centre

None

9 EC Units

2 Occupied 7 Vacant

Towlerton

20 acres.

None.

Greenfield Site

Rosbrien

47.7 acres.

None.

Greenfield Site

Roxboro Enterprise Centre

None

None

Shannon Development managed estate

National Technology Park

Location

SFADCo. Undeveloped Land

SFADCo. Buildings

Status

International Science Centre — Block 1

None.

20,000 sq ft Multi tenant facility.

All occupied or allocated.

International Science Centre — Block 2

None.

20,000 sq ft Multi tenant facility.

All occupied or under fit-out.

International Business Centre — Block 1

None.

10,500 sq ft Multi tenant facility.

6,000 sq ft occupied balance vacant.

International Business Centre — Block 2

None.

25,000 sq ft Multi tenant facility.

All occupied or allocated.

Park House

None.

Single tenant office accommodation.

Occupied.

Factory Bay

None.

Large factory manufacturing unit of 100,000 sq ft.

Vacant.

National Technology Park — Hi-tech Units

None.

8 Small to medium sized units for 2nd generation companies.

All occupied.

Enterprise House — Incubation Centre

None.

23,000 sq ft Multi tenant incubation centre for 1st generation companies.

All occupied or under refurbishment.

Land Bank — National Technology Park

224 Acres.

All buildings as above

45.9 acres serviced remainder unserviced.

Gillogue

88 Acres.

None

Greenfield Site

Enda Kenny

Question:

336 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of IDA visits arranged for towns (details supplied) in County Mayo in the past five years; the number of such visits that were followed up and resulted in jobs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23898/07]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland and its regions. The marketing of individual areas for new or expansion foreign direct investments and jobs is a day-to-day operational matter for the Agency. While I may give general policy directives to the Agency, I am precluded under the Industrial Development Acts from giving directives regarding individual undertakings or from giving preference to one area over others. In the period 2002 to date in 2007 IDA Ireland hosted a total of 24 site visits by potential investors to the towns of Ballinrobe, Ballina, Claremorris, Castlebar and Westport as set out in the following tabular statement. One of these visits resulted in the establishment of an industry in County Mayo. There were no site visits to Ballyhaunis, Belmullet or Crossmolina in that period.

A central goal for IDA Ireland is the achievement of balanced regional development. In line with the National Spatial Strategy IDA Ireland seeks to attract Foreign Direct Investment into the gateway and hubs, as well as a small number of additional locations, throughout the West, and particularly Mayo through the linked hubs of Ballina and Castlebar, and Westport. IDA Ireland's sectoral emphasis is on attracting new knowledge intensive projects in the Medical Technologies, Life Sciences, Information Communications Technology and International Services sectors. In addition, the Agency is actively working with its existing base of overseas companies in County Mayo to encourage them to grow and expand. The Agency is also investing significantly in the provision of planned and focused property solutions in the County tailored to specific key sectoral targets. Ultimately decisions on where to locate are matters for the investing companies.

Number of Site Visits per Year

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007 (to date)

Ballinrobe

1

2

Ballina

1

3

2

Westport

1

2

1

Claremorris

1

Castlebar

1

2

4

1

1

1

Regulatory Impact Assessments.

Denis Naughten

Question:

337 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of regulatory impact assessments produced by his Department since the adoption of the policy by Government; the number of appropriate decisions made by his Department which did not include such assessments; the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23907/07]

Since the adoption of the policy by Government to carry out Regulatory Impact Assessments on 21st June 2005, the following Regulatory Impact Assessments have been undertaken, or are currently underway, within my Department:

Regulatory Impact Assessments

1.In the pilot phase of RIA, prior to its roll out across all Departments, a screening RIA was carried out in 2005 on the Control of Exports Bill.

2.A full RIA was carried out, under the aegis of the Company Law Review Group (CLRG), as an integral part of its review in the latter half of 2005 of Section 45 of the Companies (Auditing and Accounting) Act 2003.

3.A full RIA was completed on the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2006.

4.A full impact assessment was undertaken by the ESRI on the proposed increases in the National Minimum Wage contained in S.I. No. 667 of 2006 — National Minimum Wage Act 2000 (National Minimum Hourly Rate of Pay) Order 2006.

5.A full RIA was carried out in respect of The Protection of Employment (Exceptional Collective Redundancies and Related Matters) Act 2007.

6.In advance of the publication of the Consumer Protection Bill, a screening RIA in relation to the legislation was conducted by my Department. All the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act with the exception of sections 48 and 49 were commenced in May 2007. My Department is currently conducting a limited regulatory impact analysis in relation to certain aspects of sections 48 and 49.

7.A Screening RIA was undertaken on Regulations to implement Directive 2005/32/EC establishing a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-using products (EUP). (SI 577 of 2007 — European Communities Ecodesign Requirements for Certain Energy-using Products Regulations 2007).

A screening RIA conducted on the proposed draft Regulations concluded that there was no need to undertake a full RIA as the purpose of the new legislation was to consolidate three existing Regulations and to establish a national framework for future implementing measures proposed by the EU Commission. These new implementing measures, which will set out the eco-design requirements for specific energy-using products, will be subject to the regulatory impact assessment process.

8.A screening RIA was carried out on the General Scheme of the Companies Consolidation and Reform Bill.

9.A full RIA is being carried out on the Services Directive, which was adopted in December 2006 and which must be transposed into national law by 29 December 2009.

10.A draft screening RIA was undertaken in the context of the negotiation of Directive 2007/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council ("Shareholder's Rights Directive").

Appropriate decisions made by my Department which did not include such assessments

1.The European Communities (Electromagnetic Compatibility) Regulations 2007 transposed into Irish legislation Directive 2004/108/EC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to electromagnetic compatibility. These Regulations were not subject to a Regulatory Impact Assessment as the Directive was published in the Official Journal of the European Union in December 2004, i.e. before the Government Decision of June 2005. The RIA process in regard to EU legislation is intended to apply to Directives before they are agreed at EU level.

2.The European Communities (European Public Limited-Liability Company) (Employee Involvement) Regulations 2006 were signed into law on 14 December 2006 (S.I. No. 623 of 2006). They transpose Directive 2001/86/EC of 8 October 2001 supplementing the Statute for a European Company with regard to the involvement of employees. This Directive also pre-dates the Government Decision of June 2005. Furthermore, these regulations were not deemed to be significant in accordance with published guidelines on RIA. The Social Partners were consulted in advance of the regulations being finalised.

3.The European Communities (European Cooperative Society) (Employee Involvement) Regulations 2006 were signed into law on 29 May 2007 (S.I. No. 259 of 2007). They transposed Directive 2003/72/EC of 22 July 2003 supplementing the Statute for a European Cooperative Society with regard to the involvement of employees. This Directive also pre-dates the Government Decision of June 2005. Furthermore these regulations were not deemed to be significant in accordance with published guidelines on RIA. The Social Partners and relevant bodies were, however consulted in advance of the regulations being finalised.

4.The European Communities (Transnational Information and Consultation of Employees Act 1996) (Amendment) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 599 of 2007) transposed Directive 2006/109/EC of 20 November 2006: An RIA was not carried out in relation to these regulations as they were not deemed to be significant in accordance with published guidelines on RIA.

5.S.I. No. 8 of 2006. Industrial Relations Act 1990 (Code of Practice on Access to Part-Time Working) (Declaration) Order 2006: This Code of Practice was introduced in accordance with section 42 of the Industrial Relations Act 1990. That Section provides that the Labour Relations Commission shall prepare draft codes of practice concerning industrial relations for submission to the Minister, either on its own initiative or at the request of the Minister. Before submitting a draft code of practice to the Minister, the Commission must seek and consider the views of organisations representative of employers and organisations representative of workers, and such other bodies as the Commission considers appropriate. In these circumstances, given that the draft Code of Practice had been agreed by the Social Partners, it was not considered necessary to undertake a separate RIA.

6. (S.I No. 239 of 2007) Industrial Relations Act 1990 (Code of Practice on for Protecting Persons Employed in Other People's Homes) (Declaration) Order 2007: This Code of Practice was introduced in accordance with section 42 of the Industrial Relations Act 1990. That Section provides that the Labour Relations Commission shall prepare draft codes of practice concerning industrial relations for submission to the Minister, either on its own initiative or at the request of the Minister. Before submitting a draft code of practice to the Minister, the Commission must seek and consider the views of organisations representative of employers and organisations representative of workers, and such other bodies as the Commission considers appropriate. In these circumstances, given that the draft Code of Practice had been agreed by the Social Partners, it was not considered necessary to undertake a separate RIA.

7.Investment Funds, Companies and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2006

While a formal RIA was not undertaken, all appropriate considerations arising were brought to the attention of Government relating to each of the provisions contained in the Act.

8.A formal RIA was not undertaken on the Competition (Amendment) Act 2006. Consideration of the issues giving rise to this Act were in train prior to the Government's decision of June 2005 relating to Regulatory Impact Analysis. On the 8th November, 2005 I published "The Restrictive Practices (Groceries) Order 1987 — A Review & Report of the Public Consultation Process" which is based on an evaluation and assessment of over 560 submissions received following a public consultation announced on 19 May 2005. The Report is also based on my own Department's research and examination of the issues involved.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

338 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of civil servants based in Dublin who have applied for decentralisation, who have been transferred to their decentralising post and are actually in position in the decentralised location outside of Dublin; and the locations and the number of civil servants transferred from a Dublin post who are at such locations. [24431/07]

Joan Burton

Question:

339 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of civil servants and other public servants who have relocated to locations outside of Dublin under the Government’s decentralisation programme; the estimated number of each category who will have relocated by the end of 2007; if he will break each set of figures down in terms of those who are relocating from Dublin and relocating from elsewhere; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24445/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 338 and 339 together.

My Department is required to relocate 250 posts to Carlow under the Government's Decentralisation Programme and this is planned to occur by the end of 2009. In order to accommodate staff who wished to move earlier than the projected building completion date of late 2009, officials of my Department, in consultation with the Department of Finance and the OPW, as well as decentralising staff and Business Units, opened an advance office in Carlow on July 30th 2007.

The number of posts in this decentralised advance office is 98. No change is expected in this number before the end of 2007. Of the staff in place in this office, 36 were decentralised from locations outside Dublin with the remainder decentralised from Dublin. The number of posts in Business Units decentralising to Carlow is 288. As well as the 98 posts already decentralised to Carlow, my Department has 47 staff due to decentralise in the substantive move scheduled for 2009, with a further 40 Carlow-bound applicants yet to be assigned from other Departments. It is hoped to have all decentralising posts filled in sufficient time to ensure that staff are adequately trained in advance of the move to Carlow. Ninety-nine staff currently in my Department have applied to decentralise with other Departments. Of these staff, 16 are based outside of Dublin.

Ministerial Transport.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

340 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount of money awarded in domestic mileage to each individual Minister of State in his Department for each of the past four years and to date in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23504/07]

There has been no Minister of State appointed to my Department since its establishment in June 2002.

Departmental Advertising.

Niall Collins

Question:

341 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will implement a request (details supplied) for inclusion in all scheduled advertising and public awareness campaigns by his Department. [23519/07]

The West Limerick Community Radio 102FM news desk is already included in the group listing of email addresses for Limerick correspondents retained by my Department's Press Office. Local press releases for the Limerick area are circulated to all addressees on this list. Advertisements placed by my Department are usually placed in national newspapers through Brindley Advertising Ltd, who hold the GSA awarded contract for print advertising services on behalf of Government Departments. My Department has not, to date, placed any advertisements on radio. But it is an area of communication that I will ask my Department to keep under review.

State Agencies.

Richard Bruton

Question:

342 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the remuneration package of each of the CEOs of State agencies reporting to his Department including pay, pension and ancillary benefits. [23722/07]

The details of the current remuneration packages of the CEOs and Directors of the bodies under the aegis of my Department are set out below. The salaries of the CEOs and Directors of the following bodies are based on the salary scale of the Civil Service Principal Officer Grade 1. The bodies in question are the Chester Beatty Library, the National Library of Ireland, the National Museum of Ireland, the Arts Council, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Irish Film Board, the National Concert hall, the Irish Sports Council and the National Sports Campus Development Authority. In addition, the incumbents are members of the relevant bodies' pension schemes except in the case of the Irish Sports Council where, with the approval of my Department and the Department of Finance, contributions are made to a private pension scheme. A bonus scheme of up to 20% of salary, subject to specific objectives being met is in place in the case of the Irish Sports Council, the Irish Film Board and the National Concert Hall.

The CEO of the Irish Film Board and the Director of the Irish Museum of Modern Art are provided with accommodation. The CEO of Fáilte Ireland has a salary of €161,346 and is a member of the bodies' pension scheme. In addition a performance related bonus of up to 20% of salary is in place subject to specific targets being met.

In the case of the two commercial bodies under the aegis of my Department the remuneration packages are as follows: The salary range of the CEO of Horse Racing Ireland is €141,916 to €177,391. He also has access to a fully expensed motor vehicle. The salary range of the CEO of Bord na gCon is €124,664 to €155,833 and he has a car allowance.

Under the pay arrangements approved by the Government in 1999 for the CEOs of Commercial State Bodies, (generally referred to as ‘Hay' contracts) a superannuation scheme, separate from any other commercial State body schemes, applies for the period of service as Chief Executive. Such a scheme is drawn up on the basis of guidelines approved by the Government. Performance-related pay, not exceeding an overall annual limit of 25% of basic pay, is also payable to the CEOs of these bodies determined by reference to performance criteria drawn up by the Board in consultation with my Department.

The Crawford Gallery is also an agency under the aegis of my Department and the salaries of the staff, including the CEO, continue to be paid by the Vocational Education Committee. Details of the remuneration package of the CEO of Tourism Ireland, a North-South Body, are contained in Tourism Ireland's Annual Report.

Tourism Promotion.

Seán Barrett

Question:

343 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if separate funds will be provided to Tourism Ireland to implement the recommendations arising from the current review of the Ireland tourism brand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23884/07]

Seán Barrett

Question:

344 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has plans to increase the marketing budget for tourism in 2008 to ensure a significant increase in resources to take account of the changing tourism market and increased competition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23885/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 343 and 344 together.

This year saw record levels of Exchequer investment for Tourism services — a total of almost €159 million. In particular, the increased Marketing Fund of €45 million, an increase of 12.5% on the 2006 provision, enabled the Tourism Agencies to significantly step up their marketing activities. Next year's budgets for Tourism will be decided in the context of the Estimates process which is, as the Deputy is aware, a matter for which the Minister for Finance has lead responsibility. Obviously in allocating resources, the Government must balance competing demands from every part of our economy and society.

As Minister with responsibility for tourism, I am committed to seeking the optimum funding, including funding for international tourism marketing and development, for the tourism sector to help ensure that the impressive performance in recent years is maintained in the years ahead. In that context, I will seek to secure an appropriate Southern funding contribution to Tourism Ireland for the implementation of its 2008 Business Plan which itself requires approval by the North South Ministerial Council.

Seán Barrett

Question:

345 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on the problem of the continuing diminution of competitiveness in the tourism sector stemming from high Irish inflation, interest rate increases and high local authority charges and taxes; his proposals to address this continuing problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23886/07]

In considering the competitiveness of any industry, a key measure is the extent to which it can maintain and increase market share. The Irish tourism industry is continuing to do that, if we look at the hard data — with results so far in 2007 continuing to build on our record-breaking performance in 2006. For the first eight months of 2007, reports from the Central Statistics Office show that visitor numbers are up by over 4% on the corresponding period in 2006. The revenue associated with overseas visitors for the first half of the year is up by nearly8%. This performance is broadly in line with industry targets for the year.

Of course, there are real challenges facing us in the marketplace. Maintaining and enhancing competitiveness is a major issue for Ireland as a whole and tourism in particular. In dealing with that issue, it is important to bear in mind that competitiveness is about more than price movements and costs. It encompasses a wide range of factors. These include productivity, exchange rate movements, taxation policy, education training and skills, public and private infrastructure and innovation. In particular, productivity means the effective use of resources and innovation to increase the value-added content of products and services.

The question of competitiveness in tourism, like any other productive sector, must be seen in that broader light. In terms of the more efficient use of resources and energy costs, I believe that the Tourism sector will, like many other sectors, have to increasingly adopt sustainable solutions. Ireland is not promoted or sold as a ‘cheap destination' but our selling proposition has to be competitive; by that I mean the combination of price, product quality and service quality. There will be less and less place for poor product and poor service.

The Tourism Agencies continue to monitor Ireland's competitiveness as a tourism destination and I will encourage them to assist the industry in responding to changing conditions through a variety of programmes in marketing, human resource development, quality enhancement, product development and productivity. Tourism is just one part, albeit a significant part, of the overall economy. There is a competitiveness challenge for the economy as a whole and that challenge will be addressed by the Government's wider competitiveness agenda.

Seán Barrett

Question:

346 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has proposals to introduce an efficient energy in hotels programme, appropriate tax incentives and financial support for investment costs to adjust to more efficient and more sustainable methods; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23887/07]

Tax incentives are a matter for the Minister for Finance. In looking at how businesses of any kind, including hotels, can make more efficient and sustainable use of resources, there are a range of players who can and do contribute. Of course, it is the business itself which is primarily responsible for its own commercial operations.

The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, which falls under the aegis of my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, has among its main responsibilities the promotion of environmentally sound practices through the use of environmental audits, eco-labelling, environmental quality objectives and codes of practice on matters affecting the environment; and the promotion and co-ordination of environmental research. In that regard, I understand the EPA has programmes in place to support businesses, including hotels, in adopting more sustainable practices.

Within the tourism sector, I am advised by Fáilte Ireland that it has developed a range of business tools aimed at helping tourism enterprises become more efficient, competitive and profitable, under the name of Performance Plus. The emphasis is on saving money and improving profits but it also encourages good environmental behaviour for the benefit of the community at large. A European Eco-label for Tourist Accommodation was introduced across the Member States in 2003 by the European Union. Commonly referred to as the "EU Flower", it sought to take a holistic approach to achieving excellence in overall environmental management, not only in energy efficiency but also for water management and waste disposal and the systems and procedures that support this. I understand that Fáilte Ireland, in close liaison with the Environmental Protection Agency, is assessing the appropriateness and associated implications, to the Irish hotel sector, of the current iteration of the Label.

Regulatory Impact Assessments.

Denis Naughten

Question:

347 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of regulatory impact assessments produced by his Department since the adoption of the policy by Government; the number of appropriate decisions made by his Department which did not include such assessments; the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23902/07]

My Department has not carried out any regulatory impact assessment since the policy was introduced. The government approved a number of specific actions to be taken in relation to the key recommendations of the Dalton Report which was an independent assessment of certain corporate governance and anti-doping issues affecting Bord Na gCon. No formal regulatory impact assessment was carried out in relation to the drafting of the legislation required to implement these specific recommendations. However, a regulatory impact assessment will be carried out at a future date in the context of the root and branch review of the Greyhound Industry Acts 1958-1993 decided upon by the government with a view to bringing legislation dealing with the greyhound industry into line with best current practice.

In the context of the establishment of an Irish Institute of Sport, Government approved the drafting of legislation as a priority to amend the Irish Sports Council Act 1999 to enable the Irish Sports Council to establish the Institute of Sport and the National Coaching and Training Centre as subsidiaries of the Irish Sports Council. A regulatory impact assessment is currently being prepared for the next stage of the legislative process.

Sport and Recreational Development.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

348 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his Department’s position on Tallaght stadium; the actions he has taken to resolve the dispute; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23933/07]

In response to approaches from South Dublin County Council, the FAI and Shamrock Rovers FC, a commitment was given that funding would be provided towards the completion of Tallaght Stadium as a soccer stadium.

I understand that a local GAA club has sought a judicial review of the decision of South Dublin County Council to develop the facility as a soccer facility. It is unfortunate that the matter could not have been resolved between the parties without seeking recourse to the courts and it is my belief that the money and energy being spent by all sides on this judicial review would be far better employed in providing much needed sports facilities in the Tallaght area. My hope has been that the parties involved would resolve this matter amicably and come up with a workable solution whereby sport will be the winner. If I can be of assistance I remain happy to use my good offices to try to resolve this impasse. However as the matter is now before the courts it would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment.

Sports Capital Programme.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

349 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the various ways in which local sports clubs can secure public funding both for capital and current costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23934/07]

Under the sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country towards the provision of sporting facilities. The programme is advertised on an annual basis. It is open to sporting and community organisations, should they have a project which satisfies the terms and conditions of the programme, to apply when the next round of the programme is announced.

The date of the next round of the Programme has not yet been decided. As in previous years, advertisements announcing the next round of the Programme will be placed in the national press and application forms will be available at that stage. As regards current funding, I am advised by the Irish Sports Council that Local Sports Partnerships provide a small amount of funding to clubs for club development and/or coaching courses.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

350 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of civil servants based in Dublin who have applied for decentralisation, who have been transferred to their decentralising post and are actually in position in the decentralised location outside of Dublin; and the locations and the number of civil servants transferred from a Dublin post who are at such locations. [24426/07]

Joan Burton

Question:

351 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of civil servants and other public servants who have relocated to locations outside of Dublin under the Government’s decentralisation programme; the estimated number of each category who will have relocated by the end of 2007; if he will break each set of figures down in terms of those who are relocating from Dublin and relocating from elsewhere; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24440/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 350 and 351 together.

Under the Central Application facility, 82 civil servants based in Dublin applied for decentralisation with my Department to Killarney. The number who have been transferred to their decentralised posts and are in position in Fossa, Killarney is 69. Of these, the number of civil servants who have transferred from Dublin is 24. No public servants in the agencies under the aegis of my Department who are scheduled to decentralise will have transferred by the end of 2007. The agencies in question are the Irish Sports Council, Fáilte Ireland and the Arts Council and the designated locations are Killarney, Mallow and Kilkenny, respectively.

While these bodies have not been identified as "early movers", the agencies have all prepared decentralisation implementation plans and the Office of Public Works is actively seeking suitable locations for them in the towns to which it is proposed they will transfer. My Department is keeping the situation under continuous review and requires the agencies to report progress on a regular basis.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Damien English

Question:

352 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to increase the rate of rent allowance available to a single person in shared accommodation in County Meath from €70 per week as this no longer reflects prices in the marketplace due to the significant increases in rent for private residential units; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23815/07]

Damien English

Question:

353 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to increase the rate of rent allowance available to a couple in shared accommodation in County Meath from €70 per week as this no longer reflects prices in the marketplace due to the significant increases in rent for private residential units; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23816/07]

Damien English

Question:

354 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to increase the rate of rent allowance available to a single person applicant in County Meath from its current level of €115 per week as this no longer reflects prices in the marketplace due to the significant increases in rent for private residential units; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23817/07]

Damien English

Question:

355 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to increase the rate of rent allowance available to a couple with no children in County Meath from its current level of €140 per week as this no longer reflects prices in the marketplace due to the significant increases in rent for private residential units; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23818/07]

Damien English

Question:

356 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to increase the rate of rent allowance available to a couple with one child or one-parent family with one child in County Meath from its current level of €175 per week as this no longer reflects prices in the marketplace due to the significant increases in rent for private residential units; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23819/07]

Damien English

Question:

357 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to increase the rate of rent allowance available to a couple with two children or one-parent family with two children in County Meath from €190 per week as this no longer reflects prices in the marketplace due to the significant increases in rent for private residential units; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23820/07]

Damien English

Question:

358 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to increase the rate of rent allowance available to a couple with three children or one-parent family with three children in County Meath from its current level of €200 per week as this no longer reflects prices in the marketplace due to the significant increases in rent for private residential units; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23821/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 352 to 358, inclusive, together.

The purpose of rent supplement is to assist eligible people who are unable to provide for their immediate accommodation needs from their own resources and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. Rent supplement is subject to a limit on the amount of rent that an applicant for rent supplement may incur. These limits take household size into account. The objective is to ensure that rent supplement is not paid in respect of overly expensive accommodation. Setting maximum rent limits higher than are justified by the open market would have a distorting effect on the rental market, leading to a more general rise in rent levels. This in turn would worsen the affordability of rental accommodation unnecessarily, with particular negative impact for those tenants on lower i incomes.

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

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

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

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

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

In January 2007 a review of the maximum levels of rent which a person may incur and still be eligible to receive a rent supplement was completed. The purpose of the review was to inform the process of setting new limits, applicable from January 2007 until 30th June 2008. The review included consultation with the HSE, the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Private Residential Tenancies Board and voluntary agencies working in this area. This process ensured that the new rent limits reflect realistic market conditions throughout the country, and that they will continue to enable the different categories of eligible tenant households to secure and retain suitable rented accommodation to meet their respective needs.

Arising from the review rent limits were adjusted upwards for a number of household types in 14 counties, including Meath, with effect from January 2007. Rent limits in Meath were increased for 4 different household types by amounts ranging from €10 to €25 per week. There are 854 rent supplements in payment in Co. Meath of which 427 were awarded since January 2007. These statistics show the rented accommodation is available within the current rent limits in Meath and elsewhere. All limits will be reviewed next year. Any revision found to be necessary will be implemented from 1 July 2008.

Departmental Correspondence.

David Stanton

Question:

359 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the circumstances in which his Department uses registered post to notify customers of his Department of various decisions and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23333/07]

It is my Department's policy to issue all customer communications through the standard postal service. Other postal services e.g. registered, express and courier are only used where there is a necessary business need. Such need is determined by management of each business area.

Social Welfare Code.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

360 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has plans to increase the cap on rent allowance in view of the fact that rents have increased by approximately 30% to 40% and it is very difficult to find suitable accommodation within the limits set by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23334/07]

The purpose of rent supplement is to assist eligible people who are unable to provide for their immediate accommodation needs from their own resources and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. Rent supplement is subject to a limit on the amount of rent that an applicant for rent supplement may incur. These limits take household size into account. The objective is to ensure that rent supplement is not paid in respect of overly expensive accommodation.

Setting maximum rent limits higher than are justified by the open market would have a distorting effect on the rental market, leading to a more general rise in rent levels. This in turn would worsen the affordability of rental accommodation unnecessarily, with particular negative impact for those tenants on lower incomes. Notwithstanding these limits, under existing arrangements the Health Service Executive may, in certain circumstances, exceed the rent levels as an exceptional measure, for example:

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

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

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

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

In January 2007 a review of the maximum levels of rent which a person may incur and still be eligible to receive a rent supplement was completed. The purpose of the review was to inform the process of setting new limits, applicable from January 2007 until 30th June 2008. The review included consultation with the HSE, the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Private Residential Tenancies Board and voluntary agencies working in this area. This process ensured that the new rent limits reflect realistic market conditions throughout the country, and that they will continue to enable the different categories of eligible tenant households to secure and retain suitable rented accommodation to meet their respective needs. Arising from the review rent limits were adjusted upwards for a number of household types in 14 counties, including Cork.

There are currently over 58,600 rent supplements in payment and some 21,760 have been awarded since the current rent limits were set in January 2007. This shows that rented accommodation is available within the current limits. The limits will be reviewed next year. Any revision found to be necessary will be implemented from 1st July 2008.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

361 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of people his Department has written to in order to advise them they may be eligible for the half rate carer’s allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23493/07]

The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2007, provided for new arrangements whereby people in receipt of certain social welfare payments, who are also providing full time care and attention, would, subject to meeting means criteria, be able to retain their main welfare payment and receive another payment. It is estimated that approximately 18,000 carers will benefit from this measure at a cost of some €57 million in a full year.

My Department notified some 57,000 customers regarding the new improvements and their possible entitlement to half rate Carer's Allowance. The breakdown of the customers notified is as follows:

Number of people notified regarding half rate Carer'sAllowance

In receipt of

Number notified (approx)

Carer’s Allowance

29,900

Respite Care Grant

6,100

Carer’s Benefit

2,000

Domiciliary Care Allowance (paid from the HSE)

19,000

Total notified

57,000

My Department also ran a media advertising campaign on radio and television to raise public awareness of half rate Carer's Allowance. The media campaign commenced on 27th December and ran for 1 week.

Departmental Advertising.

Niall Collins

Question:

362 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will implement a request (details supplied) for inclusion in all scheduled advertising and public awareness campaigns by his Department. [23530/07]

The purpose of my Department's advertising and public awareness campaigns is to ensure that all citizens are made aware of their rights and entitlements and that they are kept informed of changes and improvements in schemes and services as they occur. Each campaign is designed to meet specific requirements and is subject to a separate public procurement process. Contracts are awarded to the successful advertising company who are then responsible for placing advertisements in the appropriate media, including local and community radio stations.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Ring

Question:

363 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo did not receive jobseeker’s benefit from the date they were made redundant to the date they secured alternative employment. [23704/07]

The person concerned applied for jobseeker's benefit on 7 September 2007. He also applied to have his claim backdated for the period 11 August 2007 to 6 September 2007. A Deciding Officer awarded him jobseeker's benefit at the weekly rate of €185.80 from 11 September 2007, but disallowed the retrospective claim on the grounds that he had not shown good reason for not making his claim on time. It is open to him to appeal this decision and a form for this purpose has issued to him.

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.

State Agencies.

Richard Bruton

Question:

364 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the remuneration package of each of the CEOs of State agencies reporting to his Department including pay, pension and ancillary benefits. [23733/07]

The State Agencies currently operating under the aegis of my Department are the Pensions Board, the Citizens Information Board (formerly Comhairle), the Family Support Agency and the Combat Poverty Agency. In addition the Pensions Ombudsman also comes under the remit of my Department.

The Chief Executive of the Pensions Board is on an annual salary of €143,194 and is a member of the Board's Superannuation Scheme. The Chief Executive of the Citizens Information Board is on an annual salary of €121,825 and is a member of the Board's Superannuation Scheme. The Chief Executive of the Family Support Agency is on an annual salary of €108,856. He is currently on secondment from the Health Service Executive (HSE) and he remains a member of the HSE Superannuation Scheme.

The salary for the post of Director in the Combat Poverty Agency is linked to the Principal Officer Higher Scale in the civil service and would normally include membership of the Agency's Superannuation Scheme. The position is currently being filled on an acting basis. The Acting Director is on a salary of €72,000 per annum, which takes account of public service pensions already in payment. The Acting Director is not a member of the Agency's Superannuation Scheme.

All of the above post holders are also eligible to be considered for a performance related bonus payment of up to a maximum of 20% of basic salary. The Pensions Ombudsman is on an annual salary of €125,042. He is a member of the Model Pension Scheme for State Sponsored Bodies. All are entitled to standard travel and subsistence allowances and recoupment of other vouched expenses incurred wholly, properly and exclusively in the performance of their duties.

Social Insurance.

Denis Naughten

Question:

365 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on the fact that a person who pays a D stamp contribution is prohibited from paying S stamp contributions on farm earnings; his plans to rectify this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23787/07]

Workers are insured under the Social Welfare Acts as either employed or self-employed contributors. All workers, both employed and self-employed, are obliged to pay PRSI contributions as a percentage of their personal reckonable income. These contributions provide entitlement to a range of contingency-based payments under various social insurance schemes — including pensions.

Employments that are insurable at PRSI Class D are classified as modified employments. PRSI Class D provides social insurance coverage for permanent and pensionable employees in the public service — other than those who were recruited after 6 April, 1995, or doctors and dentists employed in the Civil Service, Gardaí, commissioned army officers and members of the Army Nursing Service. Contributors insured at PRSI Class D are not eligible for social insurance-based pensions on retirement. This reflects the reduced rate of social insurance contribution that these workers have been paying (i.e. 3.25% as opposed to employees, who, together with their employers, pay a total social insurance contribution of 14.05% under PRSI Class A — excluding levies) and the fact that modified employments are covered under Civil Service regulations for both sick pay during illness and occupational pensions. As such, social insurance protection for these payments is not required. These regulations also stipulate that modified employments cannot, by their nature, be tied to any scheme that builds additional entitlement to short-term benefits and contributory pensions.

It should also be noted that under Section 4 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 2005, any employment specified in regulations as being of such a nature that it is ordinarily adopted as subsidiary employment only and not as the principal means of livelihood is to be an excepted employment. Such employments are insurable at Class J and consequently are covered for occupational injuries only. As a result, as mentioned by the Deputy in his question, a modified contributor is prohibited from simultaneously paying PRSI Class S contributions, or any other rate of social insurance contribution, on farm earnings. There are no plans at present to review or alter the arrangements outlined above.

Social Welfare Code.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

366 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to increase the rate of the living alone allowance paid to pensioners; the increases that have occurred in this allowance in every year since 1995 to date in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23833/07]

The living alone increase 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 who are 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. In 1995, it was paid at the rate of £4.90 (€6.22) per week. This was increased to £6.00 (€7.62) per week in 1996 and rounded up to €7.70 per week in 2002 following the introduction of the Euro.

The priority in relation to support for pensioners has been, for many years, to increase the personal rates of pension rather than supplements like the living alone increase. The objective is to use resources to improve the position of all pensioners to the fullest extent possible rather than focusing on particular groups. This approach was continued in Budget 2007 with increases of up to €16 and €18 per week granted on personal rates.

Departmental Properties.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

367 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he is committed to the reopening of the social welfare branch office in Dunmanway; the steps that have been taken by his Department to ensure that the social welfare branch office in Dunmanway will be re-opened; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23878/07]

Due to the sad and untimely death of the Branch Manager in Dunmanway an arrangement had to be put in place immediately to ensure continuity of service to customers. The number of customers involved include approximately 230 in receipt of a jobseekers payment and a further 120 on farm assist, back to work and pre retirement allowance. These customers are being facilitated by neighbouring local offices and branch offices closest to where they live.

In keeping with normal procedures when a branch office post becomes vacant, a review of the delivery of social welfare services in the area served by the branch office is undertaken to determine the most effective way of providing these services in the future. The review in respect of Dunmanway is expected to be completed in a month or so.

Regulatory Impact Assessments.

Denis Naughten

Question:

368 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of regulatory impact assessments produced by his Department since the adoption of the policy by Government; the number of appropriate decisions made by his Department which did not include such assessments; the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23913/07]

My Department has produced three Regulatory Impact Analyses (RIAs) since the Government Decision to introduce this policy. These related to the Citizens Information Bill 2006; the inclusion of trust-based Retirement Annuity Contracts under the relevant provisions of the Pensions Act; and amendments to provisions relating to the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme. My Department is fully compliant with all of the requirements under the RIA process.

Social Welfare Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

369 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the new debt management strategy promised by his Department to control overpayments and avoid future write-offs; and when his Department proposes to adopt it. [23929/07]

The overall goal of my Department's Debt Management Strategy is to actively pursue the recovery of debt to maximise recovery levels, with due regard to value for money and with particular emphasis on recovery from people no longer dependant on welfare payments. The objectives of the strategy are

To maximise the recovery of overpayments

To efficiently record, report and monitor the occurrence and recovery of overpayments

To fulfil statutory, accounting and reporting obligations

To conduct overpayment and debt management as efficiently as possible

One of the key elements to the strategy is the introduction of the Overpayment and Debt Management (ODM) computer system which will record all overpayments and debt recovery data and will allow for timely and efficient management of debt. The new ODM system is now in operation in a number of areas in the Department and is being rolled out on a phased basis to all other sections. It is expected that all areas will be using the new system by the second quarter of 2008.

The debt management strategy will be achieved by the introduction of a strengthened policy on overpayments and debt management in the Department and by making the organisational and procedural changes necessary to achieve this.

Departmental Properties.

Michael McGrath

Question:

370 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding the establishment of a social welfare local office in Carrigaline, County Cork. [23970/07]

My Department identified a requirement for a social welfare local office in Carrigaline and requested the Office of Public Works which has responsibility for the provision of all new office accommodation for my Department to provide this. The OPW is following up on this request and it is hoped to have a new office in Carrigaline in 2008.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

371 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of farm families or individual farmers who were receiving farm assist on 31 December of each of the past five years; the number in receipt of same at present; the reason pressure is being put on farmers to withdraw to receive lower incomes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23979/07]

The farm assist scheme, which introduced special arrangements for farmers on low incomes, was provided for in the Social Welfare Act, 1999 and came into operation with effect from 7 April 1999. The statistics requested by the Deputy are set out in the table.

End 2002

End 2003

End 2004

End 2005

End 2006

No. of recipients

8,498

8,703

8,601

7,880

7,500

There are currently 7,390 farm assist customers and the average weekly payment is €196.87. There has been a steady decline in uptake of the scheme. This is due to the significant increase in off-farm employment in recent years and the take up of the Rural Social Scheme which is operated by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and which also specifically targets low-income farmers. As with all social welfare schemes, claims for farm assist are reviewed periodically and customers are required to show that they continue to satisfy all the conditions of the scheme.

The farm assist scheme has brought about a worthwhile improvement for low income farmers and particularly for those with children. It also provides increased payments to farming couples without children and to single farmers on low income. The farm assist scheme makes a valuable contribution to supporting those who are at the lower end of the farm income spectrum.

Decentralisation Programme.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

372 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when he will implement his Department’s commitment to decentralise 85 personnel to Carrickmacross; the status of that agreement; when the personnel will be in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23994/07]

Under the Decentralisation Programme, the Department is to relocate 85 posts to Carrickmacross. According to figures received from the Central Application Facility (CAF), through which all applications for decentralisation locations must be submitted, 64 applicants applied for Carrickmacross before the priority application date of 7 September 2004. Since this date, there have been 12 new applications.

The Commissioners for Public Works have advised that they are in discussions with Monaghan County Council to provide a building for the Department of Social and Family Affairs in Carrickmacross, which will be part of an overall town centre development. The indicative timeframe for completion of the building is mid 2009.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

373 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position of the appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Kerry regarding their one parent family payment claim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23997/07]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the appeal from the person concerned 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. Appeals Officers are statutorily appointed and are independent in determining appeals. I have no role in relation to such determinations.

Questions Nos. 374 and 375 withdrawn.

Charities Legislation.

Richard Bruton

Question:

376 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the high frequency of requests to householders to donate second hand goods to charities, where the requesting organisation offers no address and only a mobile phone number, leaving the suspicion that they are not true charities; if he will introduce legislation that would govern the advertising by charities to ensure such appeals can be easily verified as genuine by the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23352/07]

When the Charities Bill 2007, which is currently before this House, is enacted and commenced, charitable organisations wishing to operate in Ireland will be required to register with the proposed new Charities Regulatory Authority. The Bill also provides that registered charitable organisations must state they are so registered in all public documents or such other publications as may be prescribed by regulations. It is intended that the register will be available to the public, so people will be in a position to verify whether a particular organisation is registered. The Bill further provides that a person who holds out a body that is not registered as being a charity will be guilty of an offence punishable on conviction by a fine of up to €300,000 or 5 years in prison, or both.

Institutes of Technology.

Enda Kenny

Question:

377 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the funding allocated under all headings to institutes of technology here from Údarás na Gaeltachta in each of the past five years; the level of assistance provided by Údarás na Gaeltachta to individual national universities in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23763/07]

My Department is in contact with Údarás na Gaeltachta in regard to the information sought by the Deputy and this will be forwarded to him as soon as possible.

Ministerial Transport.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

378 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount of money awarded in domestic mileage to each individual Minister of State in his Department for each of the past four years and to date in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23506/07]

No such payments were made by my Department in the past four years or in the current year to date.

Departmental Advertising.

Niall Collins

Question:

379 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will implement a request (details supplied) for inclusion in all scheduled advertising and public awareness campaigns by his Department. [23521/07]

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department schedules advertising and public awareness campaigns only for specific targeted purposes. The particular community radio station referred to by the Deputy will be considered in this context.

Irish Language.

Michael Creed

Question:

380 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will clarify the situation regarding the function of Údarás na Gaeltachta when it comes to promoting employment for persons in the Gaeltacht; if a working use of the Irish language is a prerequisite for employment in companies assisted by Údarás na Gaeltachta; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23658/07]

The functions of Údarás na Gaeltachta and its powers in relation to financial assistance for industrial purposes are set out in sections 8 and 10 of the Údarás na Gaeltachta Act 1979 and the Údarás na Gaeltachta (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1999.

I understand from Údarás na Gaeltachta that standard grant agreements with companies being grant-aided contain provisions aimed at ensuring that native Irish speakers are employed or, if native Irish speakers are not available, that persons with fluent Irish are employed. Other language-related conditions are included as appropriate, for example, the implementation of agreed language development plans. It is recognised, however, that many companies, particularly those located in areas where the predominant language is not Irish, experience difficulties in recruiting sufficient Irish speakers with the required skills for the number of jobs available.

Advice and practical assistance are provided by an tÚdarás on an ongoing basis in order to ensure a positive attitude to the Irish language in companies. Support is provided to facilitate employees willing to improve their Irish language competence and companies are also encouraged to initiate activities within the company and in the local community to promote the use of Irish.

I understand also that preparations are at an advanced stage for a replacement programme for "Fondúireacht an Údaráis", a scheme designed to encourage a competitive element to the promotion of language-based initiatives within companies.

State Agencies.

Richard Bruton

Question:

381 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the remuneration package of each of the CEOs of State agencies reporting to his Department including pay, pension and ancillary benefits. [23724/07]

Current CEO packages of agencies within the ambit of my Department are as follows:

Western Development Commission

Annual Salary: €103,602.

The CEO of the Western Development Commission is a member of a defined benefit pension scheme.

Údarás na Gaeltachta

Annual Salary: €148,295 (which includes €7,415 paid by the CEO as a pension contribution to the Superannuation scheme operated by An tÚdarás, which is a defined benefit pension scheme).

A bonus scheme under which an annual bonus of up to 20% of salary may be paid is in operation. The CEO is also provided with a company car, which is subject to benefit in kind tax.

Foras na Gaeilge, The Ulster Scotch Agency and Waterways Ireland

The current salary details, subject to review, for the CEOs of the above three agencies is as follows:

Foras na Gaeilge: €116,362

Ulster Scotch Agency £STG49,800 (based in Belfast)

Waterways Ireland £STG88,755 (based in Fermanagh)

The CEO's of Foras na Gaeilge, the Ulster Scots Agency and Waterways Ireland are part of the North South Bodies Pension scheme. A bonus scheme, which provides for an annual bonus of up to 10% of salary applies to these posts.

Oifig an Coimisinéir Teanga

The Coimisinéir Teanga is paid at the minimum of the Assistant Secretary grade in the civil service and is employed in a pensionable capacity.

Bórd na Leabhar Gaeilge

The Stiúrthóir is graded at Higher Executive Officer level and is paid accordingly.

Pobal

I have no statutory function in relation to the remuneration package of the CEO of Pobal. However, for the sake of completeness, I understand that the annual salary of the current CEO is €136,034. The CEO is part of the 10% Employer Contribution pension scheme, which is the standard employer contribution that Pobal makes to employees pensions.

Leibhéal Dífhostaíochta.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

382 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Dinny McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén dul chun cinn atá déanta ag comhlacht (sonraí tugtha) maidir le fostaíocht a chruthú i gCill Chártha, Contae Dhún na nGall; cén líon post atá i gceist; cén tráth ama atá i gceist; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [23861/07]

Tuigim ó Údarás na Gaeltachta go bhfuil an comhlacht atá i gceist ag an Teachta le tús a chur lena chuid gníomhaíochtaí i gCill Chartha ag tús 2008 le 40 post, a bheidh lonnaithe i spás oifige sealadach atá cóirithe ag an Údarás dó. Tuigim chomh maith go bhfuil réamhchéimeanna tógtha ag an Údarás maidir le foirgneamh tionsclaíoch iomlán a chóiriú don gnó seo agus go bhfuiltear ar tí dul i mbun na hoibre athchóirithe sin anois. Tógfaidh an obair sin bliain nó mar sin le cur i gcríoch. Tá measta ag an Údarás go gcruthófar suas le 110 post sa chomhlacht nuair a bheidh sé faoi lán-seol.

Regulatory Impact Assessments.

Denis Naughten

Question:

383 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of regulatory impact assessments produced by his Department since the adoption of the policy by Government; the number of appropriate decisions made by his Department which did not include such assessments; the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23904/07]

As the Deputy will be aware under section 9(1) of the Official Languages Act 2003, I may make regulations in relation to the use of the Irish language, or the Irish and English languages together, on stationary, signage, advertisements and live and pre-recorded oral announcements.

Following the decision by Government in 2005, that Regulatory Impact Assessments should be produced by all Departments, a screening RIA was prepared by my Department in 2006 with respect to draft regulations that I intend to make under section 9(1) in relation to stationary, signage and pre-recorded oral announcements. It was considered that having regard to the content and nature of this regulation a full RIA was not appropriate. The draft regulations have since been published and approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas and I intend to make the regulations shortly.

In 2007, a screening RIA was prepared by my Department on the Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2007. Having regard to the content and nature of the Bill, a full RIA was not considered appropriate. This Bill was passed in summer 2007. I should add that in 2003, prior to the drafting of the Charities Bill, my Department also prepared a screening RIA to determine the best approach to be taken in respect of regulating the charities sector in Ireland. The Bill is currently at Second Stage in this House.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

384 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of civil servants based in Dublin who have applied for decentralisation, who have been transferred to their decentralising post and are actually in position in the decentralised location outside of Dublin; and the locations and the number of civil servants transferred from a Dublin post who are at such locations. [24428/07]

Joan Burton

Question:

385 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of civil servants and other public servants who have relocated to locations outside of Dublin under the Government’s decentralisation programme; the estimated number of each category who will have relocated by the end of 2007; if he will break each set of figures down in terms of those who are relocating from Dublin and relocating from elsewhere; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24442/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 384 and 385 together.

To date, 73 officers from my Department have transferred to an interim location in Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo. Of those, 42 officers transferred from posts in Dublin. It is planned to fill a further 30 posts in Tubbercurry early in 2008 and it is envisaged that the majority of those officers will be transferring from posts outside Dublin. 10 officers are in place in Na Forbacha, Galway, 5 of which transferred from Dublin posts. It is planned that 2 more decentralised posts will be filled in Na Forbacha by end 2007 fulfilling the Department's commitment in that location. At this stage, it is not possible to indicate whether the officers filling those posts will be Dublin or provincial based.

Pobal have filled 22 posts in Clifden, Co. Galway. The posts concerned were in respect of new business and all posts, except 1, were filled by way of local recruitment. Pobal plans to fill a further 8 posts in Clifden by end 2007 by means of local recruitment.

Michael Creed

Question:

386 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the situation regarding proposals to decentralise the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to Portlaoise, County Laois. [23659/07]

The Department's Decentralisation Implementation Plan allows for a phased movement to Portlaoise, i.e. the transfer of functions and posts over a number of years. Involving over 150 posts, the 2005 & 2006 phases of decentralisation to Portlaoise are now complete and the 2007 phase is in progress. Planning and preparations are ongoing for 2008 and subsequent phases. To facilitate the Government decision on decentralisation all new activities within the Department, particularly work relating to the Single Payment Scheme, are being focused in Portlaoise. In total there has been an increase of over 200 full-time posts in Portlaoise since the programme was announced, bringing the current complement to over 400 staff.

To cater for the increase the Department has taken temporary accommodation in Portlaoise. The OPW currently estimate that construction of the new permanent headquarters will be completed by the end of 2009.

Afforestation Programme.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

387 Deputy Beverley Flynn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo who planted their land in forestry between 1984 and 1988 under the western package afforestation scheme did not receive an annuity which was given to landowners who participated in the same scheme in the 1990s; and if the farmer is entitled to sell a site from the section he had planted. [23326/07]

I understand that the person in question received a number of afforestation grants under the Western Package Scheme between 1984 and 1988. Unlike the current afforestation scheme, no provision for payment of premiums existed under that particular scheme. In relation to selling part of the plantation, while I am not in a position to comment on whether any individual is entitled to sell a site, I can confirm that there are no additional burdens on these lands because of their forestry status. Any proposed tree felling or uprooting must, however, be undertaken in accordance with the provisions of the 1946 Forestry Act.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme.

Billy Timmins

Question:

388 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow who is waiting for payment of their disadvantaged payment; if this will be granted as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23329/07]

An application under the 2007 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 3 May 2007. Payments under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme commenced on 20 September, with payments issuing in respect of those cases cleared for payment at that stage. Payments continue to issue as further cases subsequently become clear. The application of the person named has now been fully processed and the payment of €3,434.77 is scheduled to issue to the person named today, 16 October 2007.

Advance payments under the Single Payment Scheme are scheduled to commence today; it will be recalled that the governing regulations provide for a payment date of 1 December under the SPS. However, following my approach to the EU Commissioner, agreement was forthcoming on the early payment of advances from 16 October, with balancing payments to be made from 1 December. The advance payment under the SPS is due to issue to the person named today, 16 October 2007.

Question No. 389 withdrawn.

Food Labelling.