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 17, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 18 to 73, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 74 to 83, inclusive, answered orally.

Work Permits.

Liz McManus

Question:

84 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he plans to take to establish the number of people from other countries working illegally here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25391/07]

The Employment Permits Acts 2003 and 2006 provide for a large number of obligations and offences. These include: offences relating to the employment of foreign nationals except in accordance with an employment permit and forgery, fraudulent alteration or fraudulent use of an employment permit.

Under the 2006 Act, data in respect of certain matters may be exchanged between my Department and the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Revenue Commissioners. This has significantly enhanced the enforcement capacity of these Departments and agencies.

In order to ensure the satisfactory enforcement of the provisions of the Acts, authorised officials of my Department's Employment Permits Section may utilise information on compliance with employment permits legislation to refer cases for prosecution to the Chief State Solicitor's Office.

It is intended that an Employment Prosecution Unit will be set up within the Department where authorised officers under the Employment Permits Act 2006 will utilise information on compliance with employment permits legislation to refer cases for prosecution to the Chief State Solicitor's Office. They will also liaise closely with the National Employment Rights Authority in ensuring that legally employed non-nationals enjoy the full range of statutory employment rights entitlements.

Article three of the International Labour Organisation's Labour Inspection Convention (C81), ratified by Ireland states that: There are currently 50 Labour Inspectors and a further 40 should be recruited by the end of 2007. It is essential that all employers abide by the Laws of the State.

Job Creation.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

85 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the efforts he has made through his Department, or a State agency related to it, to encourage industry into the Border regions, in particular Counties Cavan and Monaghan; his views on whether, in recent years particularly with the successful settlement in Northern Ireland, in the case of County Monaghan in particular, with the virtually completed restructuring of the N2 to Monaghan Town and with the provision of leisure facilities and good hotels there is no excuse that towns such as Monaghan, Clones, Ballybay or Castleblayney should not be as attractive as anywhere else in the country for high tech employment; if he will provide a commitment to re-energise the organisations to ensure that the Border regions receive a fair opportunity in view of the historic deficit in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25363/07]

The marketing of the regions for job creation and investment is a day-to-day operational matter for the development agencies and while I may give general policy directives to agencies, I am precluded under the Industrial Development Acts from giving directives regarding individual undertakings or from giving preference to one area over others.

Through its network of overseas offices, IDA Ireland is actively marketing the counties of Monaghan and Cavan for new and expansion investments. In line with the National Spatial Strategy, the Agency is concentrating on the hub towns of Cavan and Monaghan.

In the case of Cavan, IDA is working to secure new investment in the medical devices area for Cavan Town as it believes that the town is particularly suited to such a sector.

As regards Monaghan, the Agency is promoting its Business Park in Monaghan Town for new knowledge intensive inward investment. The completion of the new Monaghan by-pass has vastly improved access to the existing IDA Park and the ongoing work on the N2 is improving access to Dublin Airport and city. This, combined with the ongoing improvements to the Town's shopping and recreational facilities, continues to add to the attractiveness of the location for new inward investment.

Enterprise Ireland is committed to delivering on its regional mandate and continues to support the development of entrepreneurship in the region in collaboration with other State agencies and educational establishments. In addition E.I. is working strategically with Invest Northern Ireland and Intertrade Ireland for the benefit of their client companies.

Enterprise Ireland currently works with 138 client companies in County Monaghan, which employ a total of 4,695 people, while in County Cavan the Agency works with 96 client companies employing 6,590 people.

In January of this year, Enterprise Ireland and Invest NI secured funding from the Special EU Programmes Body for a Cross Border Enterprise Incubation Programme, which is known as the Transform Programme. This Programme, which commenced on 11th September, is a nine month full time programme intended for potential entrepreneurs who wish to set up a new export orientated knowledge intensive business. The Programme covers the six Counties in the Border Region of the Republic of Ireland and the six Counties of Northern Ireland.

Cavan and Monaghan County Enterprise Boards also play an role in the development of indigenous enterprise in the micro sector in the Border region. This support is available through both direct financial assistance and non-financial assistance. In 2006 Cavan and Monaghan CEBs paid over €497,000 in grant aid and assisted in the creation of 222 net jobs in the two counties.

All of the development agencies are committed to a pro-active approach to balanced regional development as outlined in the National Development Plan and I am confident that the policies in place are the correct ones to deliver sustainable investment and jobs for the region.

Insurance Industry.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

86 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of cases currently before the Personal Injuries Assessment Board; the number of cases for which rulings have been given since its inception; the number of these cases that have been referred to the courts for further action or appeal; the number of staff currently employed by the PIAB; the intended total number of staff to be employed by the PIAB; the date by which he expects the PIAB to be fully staffed; the date on which a review will be undertaken on staffing levels in the PIAB; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25392/07]

The Personal Injuries Assessment Board was established in April 2004 as part of the Government's insurance reform programme, with the aim of allowing certain classes of personal injury claim, where liability is uncontested, to be settled without the need for the costs associated with litigation. The threat of rising insurance costs at the time posed serious risks to Irish business and the economy generally.

Since its establishment the PIAB has successfully fulfilled its legal obligations: the PIAB is now assessing many claims three times faster and four times cheaper than under the old litigation system. To the end of Q2 2007, the PIAB had made actual savings to date of €51 million on awards totalling €228 million, when compared with the old, unwieldy, adversarial and litigation-based system. This is quite an achievement in such a short space of time, and can only be good news for accident victims, for business and for consumers generally who have seen, and should see further, reductions in their insurance premiums.

The PIAB has pared down the personal injury claims process in a wholly positive way. In 2003 it is estimated that the number of personal injury cases going through the Irish Courts system was in the region of 32,000 cases whereas the estimated figure for 2006 is 15,900 cases. The effects are felt throughout the Court system where valuable time has now been freed up to deal with cases that should more properly reside there.

At the end of September 2007 there were 4,815 cases with the PIAB in the 90-day "consent to process" period i.e. PIAB has received a claim and has issued formal notice to the responding party and is awaiting consent to process from that party. There were a further 6,325 cases in the nine-month statutory assessment process, where the responding party has indicated that liability is not contested and damages are being assessed.

Approximately 13,300 assessments have been made to date, 6,500 of these having been issued by the end of 2006. Of the assessments issued 7,533 have been accepted, 4,707 have been rejected and authorised to proceed to litigation, and responses are awaited on the balance.

Delivery costs are 4 times cheaper than under the old system

Average delivery costs at approx €1,383 flat fee equating to approx 7% as against old system of 46%, e.g. a €15,000 award in the old system would have attracted costs of an additional €7,500 approximately. Under the Personal Injuries Assessment Board these costs would be €1,350.

Some of the rejected assessments will have been resolved since PIAB involvement and others will proceed to the Courts. The PIAB would not be aware of the number of these cases which actually proceed to litigation, although it is believed that a significant proportion are settled outside of the Courts once an authorisation issues from the PIAB.

The Board currently employs 81 staff members (up from 53 in May 2006) and is in the process of recruiting to bring numbers towards the staffing level of 85 agreed with my Department. There are no plans at this time to further review staffing levels in the PIAB.

Food Prices.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

87 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on reports of recent increases of up to 22% in a range of food prices and forecasts that food prices will rise further by the end of 2007; if he is satisfied that sufficient protection is available to protect consumers against unwarranted price increases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25386/07]

I am aware of recent media reports of increases in certain food prices. However, the September 2007 Consumer Price Index as published by the Central Statistics Office shows that annual rate of food inflation is 2%. This compares with an overall rate of inflation of 4.6%.

Rising food prices are being experienced right across the world. Such increases are due to a number of different factors including climatic, economic and demand reasons. A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation has identified that the rapid expansion of the global bio fuel industry is causing fundamental changes to agricultural markets and is likely to keep the prices of agricultural commodities high over the next decade. The loss of potential food-producing land has in turn pushed up the cost of the animal feed used by dairy farmers. This has also coincided with surging demand for meat and dairy produce in India and China, as their economies and diets become more westernised. In Ireland, persistent rain this Summer has had a significant effect on crops such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli with up to 50% of some growers' yields being severely affected. Grain prices in Ireland continue to rise with the realisation that wheat harvests in most regions did not deliver as expected which in turn has increased the price of barley.

In so far as the price of food to Irish consumers is concerned, Government policy is focused on providing competitive markets which benefit consumers and the economy as a whole.

The Groceries Order was abolished in March 2006. This Order was in place for 18 years and had the effect of keeping the price of groceries artificially high. Whilst the market will take some time to adapt to the changed legislative environment, the removal of the order should stimulate competition, drive increased efficiencies at all levels of the distribution chain and produce a consequent downward pressure on retail prices from which consumers will ultimately benefit.

As regards the experience since the Order was abolished, the Consumer Price Index shows that the prices of products previously covered by the Groceries Order rose by 1.8% in the period from September 2006 to September 2007. During the same period however, prices of products not covered by the Groceries Order rose by 2.3%. The Consumer Price Index for September shows products previously covered by the Groceries Order (GO) are up 0.1% in the month and non Groceries Order items are up 0.4% in the month. It is clear, therefore that the abolition of the Groceries Order has had a significant moderating effect in terms of food inflation.

Following the abolition of the Order, the Minister asked the Competition Authority to review and monitor developments in the grocery sector in light of the new regulatory environment. Under Towards 2016, the Competition Authority has been asked to assess, over time, the impact of the new regulatory environment in the context of abuse of a dominant position including both excessive and predatory pricing. As part of this process the Authority has been asked to report to the Government periodically and to make any recommendations it considers appropriate having regard to its findings.

Work is continuing on the Grocery Monitor Project. Since April 2007 one year's worth of post Groceries Order data have been available for analysis. Later this year the Authority intends to publish an analysis of developments in the sector focusing on pricing trends, market structures and barriers to entry.

Departmental Applications.

Denis Naughten

Question:

88 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the different types of applications processed by his Department; the average waiting time to process each application; the steps he is taking to speed up the processing time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25129/07]

My Department processes a wide variety of different applications from Employment Agency Licenses to Grants for Trade Union Amalgamations, from Insolvency Payments, Redundancy Lump Sums and Rebates to Export and Import Licenses and from Employment Permits to Applications for the approval of the prospectus for a proposed Business Expansion Scheme (BES), to name but a few.

We operate a Customer Charter under which ambitious targets are set for the processing of various applications under a wide variety of schemes. My Department strives under the Charter to deliver a Quality Customer Service to all our customers. Where a sudden increase in demand for applications under a particular scheme results in a longer processing time than provided for, we endeavour to take corrective action at the earliest opportunity to bring our Customer Service back into line with Charter Commitments.

Naturally, given the wide range of schemes we operate, the targets we set for processing individual applications vary considerably under the different schemes. For example, Import License applications are generally processed within 2 days whereas an Export License application may take between 5 and 25 days to process depending on whether the Department of Foreign Affairs and/or other EU Member States have to be consulted.

In addition to the many and varied schemes operated by my Department, the Companies Registration Office and the Office of Patents, Designs and Trademarks, which both come under my Department's remit, also exercise a number of statutory functions under which a variety of applications are made to both Offices. In this regard, both Offices also endeavour to process all applications as efficiently as possible. However, as Minister, I have no role to play in the exercise of those statutory functions.

My Department seeks to operate as speedy a decision-making timeframe on all applications as possible consistent with our obligations to examine carefully every single application under whichever scheme we receive. To this end, and as part of the eGovernment agenda, my Department has utilised information technology solutions to increase the efficiency and quality of internal work processes and also to provide a wider choice of access points to customers in terms of making applications online. My Department will continue to introduce further technologically-based solutions as appropriate.

Finally, the following tabular statement details the specific processing times currently applying is the various schemes administered directly by my Department. These can vary depending on demand. If Deputy Naughten has any specific details of delays in processing any specific applications I would be happy to have the matter investigated and report back to the Deputy.

List of Applications Processed by the Department

Type of Application

Average Waiting Time to Process each Application (i.e. time to reach decision on application)

Steps being taken to speed up processing time

Grant for Trade Union Education, Training and Advisory Services

1 working day

Not applicable

Employment Agency new licences

8 weeks

Not applicable

Employment Agency licence renewals

2 weeks

Not applicable

Grant for Trade Union Amalgamations

36 working days

Not applicable

Application for Funding under the Workplace Innovation Fund

9½ weeks

Liaison with the Social Partners

Insolvency Payment

4.4 weeks

Review of procedures

Redundancy Lump Sum Application

4 weeks

Encourage greater use of online Redundancy Payments System (RPS) by applicants / liquidators

Redundancy Rebate Application (online)

6 weeks

Encourage clients to use the “online” RPS

Redundancy Rebate Application (Manual)

10 weeks

Encourage clients to use the “online” RPS

Employment Permits

15 days

The customer service target for issuing Employment Permits is 15 working days. Currently, all Employment Permit applications under the various schemes are within that target.

Freedom of Information Act

Dealt with within the statutory time frames

Not applicable

Data Protection Acts

Dealt with within the statutory time frames

Not applicable

Enterprise Areas Certificate (2-3 per annum)

Following approval by an Interdepartmental Monitoring Committee, the certificate is usually issued within 15 working days (which includes seeking the formal approval of the Minister for Finance as required by legislation).

Not applicable

Export Licence

(1)5 days, if no outside consultation required; (2)15 days, if the Department of Foreign Affairs or other EU Member State has to be consulted; and (3)25 days if both the Department of Foreign Affairs and other Member States have to be consulted.

Introduction of OELAS electronic application system.

Import Licence

2 days

Not applicable

Application for the approval of the prospectus for a proposed Business Expansion Scheme (BES)

2 Weeks

Current processing time is regarded as reasonable

Application for alignment of annual return dates of a subsidiary company with its parent

2-3 weeks depending on the information furnished with the application

Applicants are being encouraged to provide supplementary information via email.

Exemption from requirement to have all directors names on company’s headed paper

2-3 weeks depending on the information furnished with the application

Applicants are being encouraged to provide supplementary information via email.

Occasional Trading Licences

1 Day

Not applicable

Media Merger Directions

8 Days — Under Section 23 of the Competition Act 2002 the Minister has 10 days to issue a direction to the Competition Authority. The Minister has processed 14 applications since 1st January 2007.

Current processing time is regarded as reasonable.

Departmental Funding.

Joe McHugh

Question:

89 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if there are plans to increase the funding for people setting up new businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25320/07]

The thirty-five County & City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) are the principal initial point of contact for people seeking support in setting up a new business. Their role is to provide support to micro-enterprise in the start-up and expansion phases, to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate entrepreneurship at local level. The CEBs provide both financial and non-financial assistance.

The forms of financial assistance which are available, subject to certain restrictions, include Capital Grants, Employment Grants and Feasibility Study Grants.

Capital grants are available at up to a maximum of 50% of the cost of capital and other investment or €75,000, whichever is the lesser; a portion of the grant in excess of 40% (in the BMW Region) or 35% (in the S&E Region) to be in refundable form.

Employment grants are available in exceptional circumstances at a level of up €7,500 per new job at a maximum of 10 new jobs per project.

Feasibility study grants are available up to a maximum of 60% (in the BMW Region) or 50% (in the S&E Region) of the cost of a feasibility study and business plan subject to an overall limit of €6,350 (in the BMW Region) or €5,100 (in the S&E Region).

Non-financial assistance from the CEBs covers a wide range of competitively priced "soft support" Programmes. These include Start-Your-Own-Business Programmes, Management Capability and Development courses, Sales and Marketing courses, IT Skills training as well as the successful Mentoring Programme offered by most CEBs. Through the availability of an appropriate suite of both financial and non-financial supports the CEBs are central in assisting people to set up their own business as well as assisting existing small businesses to expand and grow.

I am confident that the current level of financial assistance available from the CEBs, to any individual intending to set up a new businesses, is appropriate and that, in particular, the range and quality of "soft supports" on offer is highly valuable to any potential entrepreneur the significance of which should not be underestimated.

I have made available over €22 million in 2007 to the CEB network to directly assist micro-enterprise in Ireland in both the start-up and the expansions phases. This is a significant level of state intervention and is separate to the interventions available from other State agencies, including Enterprise Ireland, who also have a role to play, albeit at different levels, in assisting entrepreneurial activity in Ireland.

I have also made available over €21m through the Community Enterprise Scheme for investment in community based business infrastructure. A first call for proposals issued recently and applications are presently being assessed by Enterprise Ireland.

Enterprise Ireland also manage the Seed and Venture Capital Scheme which provides an injection of €175m to support private venture capital funds investing in start-up and early stage companies. It is expected to leverage a further €1bn for investment.

Support of High Potential Start-Up companies is one of the key activities of Enterprise Ireland. These are start-up companies that have the potential to grow relatively quickly and build internationally. Enterprise Ireland assisted 150 such companies over the last two years.

Labour Inspectorate.

Joe Costello

Question:

90 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of inspections carried out by the labour inspectorate and the number of prosecutions initiated by the inspectorate in respect of the years 2002 to 2006 and to date in 2007; if there are plans to increase this number during the remainder of 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25381/07]

The number of workplace inspections/visits undertaken by the Inspection Services (during and after normal business hours) and prosecutions initiated in respect of the years 2002 to 2006 and to date in 2007 are set out in the following tabular statement. I am pleased to say that almost 8,000 inspections/visits have been undertaken in the year to date.

I am advised by the Director of the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA), which has assumed responsibility for Inspection Services, that a focused employment rights compliance inspection campaign has been underway for the past two weeks in sectors covered by the National Minimum Wage. Such targeted campaigns, accompanied by awareness and promotional activities, will be a significant feature of NERA's future employment rights compliance and information strategy.

The primary function of the Inspection Services is to seek compliance and rectification of any breaches identified, including redress for the individual/s concerned and payment of any arrears due to employees. In this regard Inspection Services, in 2006, recovered from some 349 employers arrears of pay amounting to almost €1.4 million. To date in 2007, over €2 million in arrears has been recovered.

The inspection services have referred 15 cases to date in 2007 for prosecution. It should be noted that in the majority of cases employers rectify the breaches and pay arrears due to employees without recourse to prosecution. However, Inspection Services reserve the right to initiate prosecutions in respect of breaches of certain employment legislation. Decisions in relation to prosecutions are made in the light of, among other matters, the particular circumstances of the case and the willingness of employees to give evidence in court proceedings.

The Deputy should be aware that Rights Commissioners of the Labour Relations Commission, a body independent of my Department, also hear complaints concerning breaches of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000, the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, the Carer's Leave Act, 2001, the Parental Leave Act, 1998 and the Payment of Wages Act 1991. In addition, 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 while Section 45 of the 1946 Act provides that employees may initiate proceedings in respect of failure to comply with the minimum wage conditions of an Employment Regulation Order.

In accordance with commitments given under Towards 2016, the Social Partnership Agreement, the number of Inspectors is scheduled to increase to 90, from the starting position of 31, by the end of 2007. Fifty one Inspectors currently hold appointments as Inspectors with the National Appointment Rights Authority (NERA). The Public Appointments Service's recruitment and selection process for 10 Inspectors with specific language skills is at an advanced stage at present while the competitions for the remaining Inspector positions are being progressed.

I met recently with the Director and senior management of NERA and am encouraged by the progress made to date in relation to the recruitment and training of additional Inspectors and in the enhancement generally of our employment rights compliance and information provision capability.

Employment Rights Compliance Inspections and Prosecutions Initiated: 2002-2007 (to date)

Year

Inspections/Visits

Prosecutions Initiated

2002

8,323

25

2003

7,168

20

2004

5,160

14

2005

5,719

25

2006

15,885

8

2007 (to 12/10/07)

7,849

15

County Enterprise Boards.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

91 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will establish a one stop shop to assist entrepreneurs with business start ups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25349/07]

The role of the thirty-five County and City Enterprise Boards is to provide a source of support for micro-enterprise in the start-up and expansion phases, to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship at local level. The CEBs can provide a single point of contact at local level for new and established small businesses. The CEBs can support individuals, firms and community groups provided that the proposed projects have the capacity to achieve commercial viability. However, they must give priority to manufacturing and internationally traded services.

In addition, the BASIS (Business Access to State Information Services) website is a cross-departmental e-Government initiative managed by my Department which delivers Government Information and Services from a single reference point. It provides a one-stop shop for information and services that are relevant to the business community, including entrepreneurs with business start-ups. Details provided for example include information on starting a business, funding, employment issues, taxation, legal and regulatory and environmental issues.

While acknowledging that entrepreneurs and small owner/managers in Ireland currently have access to a very wide range of information sources, nevertheless the Small Business Forum Report recommended the development, launch and promotion of a first-stop "Knowledge Base", which would be a comprehensive central resource of relevant, up-to-date, user-led business information for entrepreneurs, owner/managers and their advisers.

The Forum recommended that the "Knowledge Base" as envisaged would be substantially different from anything currently available from public or private sources, but would build on the best of those sources.

The ongoing implementation of the recommendations of the Small Business Forum, to the maximum extent possible, remains a priority for Government. Considerable progress has already been made on the implementation of many of these recommendations.

The development of a "Knowledge Base" along the lines envisaged by the Small Business Forum, would require cross-departmental and cross agency support and private sector commitment at the highest level during the initial stages of development, the gathering of the content and the key task of keeping it up to date. My Department is in the process of setting up a Steering Group of stakeholders in such a project, including representatives of Enterprise Ireland, Forfás, the County Enterprise Boards, the Business Information Centres and my Department to consider how this might best be advanced.

Employment Rights.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

92 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made in the establishment of the Office of the Director of Employment Rights Compliance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25378/07]

The Government is committed to delivering the key package of measures agreed under the chapter dealing with Employment Rights and Compliance in Towards 2016 In this regard the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) has been established on an interim basis since February 2007. NERA has Department of Finance sanction for 141 staff, including an increased complement of 90 Labour Inspectors. An allocation of €8.553 million was provided under Vote 34 for the year 2007.

Three units which were formerly part of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, have been subsumed into NERA — the Employment Rights Information Unit, the Labour Inspectorate and the Prosecution / Enforcement Unit.

The Director of NERA was appointed and took up duty on 12 February 2007. The Director is supported in his role by a management team, including legal and accounting expertise, and administrative staff who are now in place.

Recruitment of the additional Inspectors is also progressing. The number of Inspectors has increased from 31 to 51 and interviews for a further 10 inspectors with specific language skills are scheduled for the 5th November.

Competitions for recruitment of the remaining 29 Inspectors have been advertised and it is proposed to hold interviews for these positions early in November. I am pleased with the progress made to date and I am confident that all 90 appointments will be made by end of 2007, in accordance with the commitment under Towards 2016.

As part of the Government decentralisation programme, NERA established its headquarters in Carlow at the end of July 2007. The Social Partnership Agreement "Towards 2016" also provided that the Labour Inspectorate, now part of NERA, would be established on a regional basis and in this regard, the new regional structure of the NERA Inspectorate is being progressed. In addition to Inspectors located in NERA headquarters in Carlow, regional offices of the Inspectorate will be located in Dublin, Cork, Shannon and Sligo. At this time, Inspectors are operating out of the NERA headquarters in Carlow, Dublin and temporary accommodation in Cork. In consultation with OPW, permanent premises have been identified in Cork and Sligo and leases are being finalised. In relation to Shannon, temporary accommodation has been identified and the permanent premises are currently under construction.

In line with the commitment under Towards 2016, joint investigation activity and exchange of information activity has commenced between Inspectors from NERA, the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The necessary legislative provisions to enable the exchange of information between the three bodies came into effect on 30th March.

An information provision and public awareness campaign is being actively planned and a series of meetings with stakeholders has been undertaken to initiate structured dialogue between NERA and stakeholders.

The necessary legislation to give statutory authority to NERA is being progressed through the preparation of the Employment Law Compliance Bill which will be published this year. I am pleased with the progress made to date.

Decentralisation Programme.

Billy Timmins

Question:

93 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the situation with respect to the decentralisation of the NSAI to Arklow, County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23739/07]

Under the Government's decentralisation programme the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) is due to relocate to Arklow, Co. Wicklow. The current NSAI implementation plan anticipates a target date of April 2009 as the completion date for its decentralisation programme; however, this is highly dependent on the resolution of matters at central level concerning the transfer of staff within the public service and other staffing related issues. The accommodation requirements for the NSAI in Arklow are being addressed by the OPW but to date there has been no progress in identifying and securing suitable office accommodation in the Arklow area.

The Deputy will be aware from my written response to PQ 24134/07 on 17 October that issues concerning the suitability of the accommodation occupied by NSAI in Glasnevin, which have been ongoing for some time, have given rise for an immediate requirement for suitable office accommodation to enable the Authority to provide its services in an efficient manner. The Authority recently decided to proceed with the consideration of securing office facilities in the north Dublin area to accommodate the staff currently based in Glasnevin. Leasing agreements will provide for break clauses in accordance with normal business practice. At this point the NSAI has initiated a building selection process with a view to occupation in early 2008.

I can assure the Deputy that notwithstanding changes in the NSAI's existing office accommodation it continues to be part of the decentralisation programme and will continue to engage in preparations for relocation to Arklow.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

94 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which he or his Department have examined the underlying reasons for a growing lack of competitiveness in the Irish economy; the conclusions reached; his proposals to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25453/07]

Ireland unquestionably faces competitiveness challenges, but to categorise it as becoming uncompetitive would be wrong. Rather the economy's competitive advantages are changing. This reflects the dynamic economy that Ireland is today. The structure of enterprise and the nature of job creation is changing. No modern economy is static and Government policies reflect this. Well balanced, pro-enterprise measures are helping the transition from an economy that was dominated by low cost manufacturing to one where international traded services, advanced manufacturing and an expanding research and development sector are now providing the impetus for employment, as well as foreign and indigenous investment.

Many Irish jobs are dependent on what we produce for world markets. Exports grew by an annual average of 5.2% between 2000 and 2006. For the first half of this year, export growth has been much stronger, increasing by 7%. Furthermore our services exports continue to be exceptionally strong. In 2000 Ireland's share of world trade in services was about 1.3%. Today it is about 2.6%. This is a sector that requires skill and a particular commitment to customer understanding.

These two factors alone show that Ireland has strong credentials when it comes to competitiveness. When it comes to either investing here or buying from companies that are based here, international markets and investors look for value for money and a return on investment. Ireland provides this.

Undoubtedly recent problems in global financial markets and the surge in the value of the Euro against the US dollar and dollar linked currencies will make it harder to win international business. Likewise our cost base has been moving out of kilter with many of our leading partners. Nevertheless, through our enterprise development agencies we are providing an extensive range of measures to help enterprise compete on the basis of higher productivity, innovation and research. There will be no diminution in my Department's commitment to strengthening the enterprise sector through its agencies. Government equally, through its own prudent management of the economy and finances, as well as through the Social Partnership process, will seek to secure a better equilibrium in the cost base of the economy.

Furthermore policies to strengthen competitiveness will continue to be informed by the analysis and suggestions of the National Competitiveness Council and the broader evaluations that are part of the work programme of Forfás, which advises me on enterprise, science and trade related issues.

Question No. 95 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

Job Losses.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

96 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the recent announcement that 178 jobs are to be lost at a plant (details supplied) in County Clare; his plans to ensure that replacement jobs are found for the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25375/07]

On 26 September 2007, the company in question notified me that it was proposing collective redundancies in order to streamline and improve operating efficiencies. The company employs 200 staff. I understand the redundancies will take place between January / February 2008 and September 2009. However, some 20 jobs will be retained in research and development and engineering / project management. Accordingly, there is a possibility of future growth in these activities at Shannon.

I am very conscious of the effect that the proposed job losses will have on the workers involved and their families as well as the community in the surrounding area. I wish to assure the people concerned that the relevant State agencies will provide every support they can. The priority will be to find alternative employment for those involved at the earliest opportunity. The industrial training agency FÁS has already been in contact with the company regarding the assistance available from the agency. The full range of support services available from FÁS will be provided to the workforce. The full range of support services provided by FÁS include:

Intensive interviews, individually and/or in groups, with affected workers to outline the range of supports and services available;

Preparation of a Skills Analysis Report by FÁS based on identified workers' needs, and local opportunities;

Referral by FÁS of redundant workers to jobs, training courses or other options;

Establishment by FÁS of special or customised training courses where necessary;

On-going support and action to keep redundant workers in touch with the labour market.

There is a strong diverse manufacturing base existing at Shannon. Shannon Development has now commenced a process, in conjunction with this company's phased downsizing, where it will bring Shannon Free Zone and regional potential employment opportunities to the attention of the company. In addition, the new Westpark Business Campus development will assist Shannon in winning new investment in key sectors into the future.

As part of an integrated mid-West strategy, IDA Ireland is actively promoting County Clare for foreign direct investment in line with its objective to pursue balanced regional development. The agency's strategy for the region involves a transition to the knowledge economy by winning new foreign direct investment in innovation driven, high value sectors and working with its existing company base to expand their presence in Ireland.

Enterprise Ireland continues to support the existing business base in County Clare. An extensive high potential start-up company promotion campaign will commence in the area. Indeed, Smithstown Industrial Estate near Shannon Airport is the location of a significant cluster of Irish owned manufacturing companies.

The Government and the State Development agencies, in partnership with other key players, recognize the need to provide high value employment opportunities in County Clare that provide sustainable long-term jobs. I am confident that the strategies and policies being pursued in the County, together with the ongoing commitment to regional development, will maximise the flow of potential investors for the area and convert these into investment and job opportunities.

Question No. 97 answered with QuestionNo. 83.

Job Creation.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

98 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans to attract investment into the Cork region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25431/07]

State support for enterprise and job creation is channelled through the industrial development agencies. While I may give general policy directives to the development agencies, I am precluded, under the Industrial Development Acts, from giving directives regarding industrial undertakings or from giving preference to one area over others.

Through its range of overseas offices, IDA Ireland is actively promoting Cork City and County to prospective investors across the full range of IDA targeted sectors, such as Pharmaceuticals, Medical Technologies, Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) and Internationally Traded Services. In 1997, there were 107 IDA companies employing 11,903 people,in 2006 there were 133 companies employing 19,977.

Recent announcements include companies such as Amazon, Blizzard, Netgear, Apex Funds, Citco. These are companies with significant investments who have announced expansions also, such as Pfizer, Eli Lilly and GSK.

In line with the National Spatial Strategy, IDA is concentrating on the gateway city of Cork and the hub location of Mallow. The Agency actively promotes other towns in the County such as Fermoy, Clonakilty and Youghal. The attractions of the region include a young skilled population, the presence of a University and Institute of Technology with a student population of approximately 30,000 and the availability of first class business parks, good infrastructure and an international airport. The success of IDA's marketing strategy for the region is evident in the results which the Agency has achieved over the years.

At present, there are currently 133 IDA assisted companies in County Cork employing almost 20,000 people. A total of nine Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) projects have been announced for Cork City and County since the start of 2007, with an estimated 1000 jobs to be created at full operation. In the last 3 years over 3,100 jobs have been announced by companies that have announced their arrival or expansion in Cork City/County — Netgear, Amazon, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Citoc and Blizzard.

In terms of job creation, Enterprise Ireland activity is focussed on the creation of new jobs through supporting entrepreneurs setting up new High Potential Start-Up Companies, the retention and creation of new jobs in existing companies and in enhancing the innovation capability of Ireland at a national and regional level through support of research in companies and third level institutions.

The Agency's activities are aimed at assisting its client companies to compete and grow by working in partnership to develop their key capabilities in internationalisation and export growth. Enterprise Ireland also supports the third level colleges in the Regions to foster links with industry thereby encouraging industry to increase its use of technology.

Enterprise Ireland's success in this area has been demonstrated by recent announcements of investment/expansion plans in such companies as Eirebloc, Dairygold, Carbery Milk Products, Safeheaven and Epic Solutions. To date in 2007, Enterprise Ireland has approved almost €50m and made payments to client companies of €5.4m in County Cork.

I am confident that the co-operation between the state agencies, educational establishments and local authorities together with the roll out of the National development Plan will continue to bear fruit in terms of investment and employment for the people of Cork.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

99 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of persons who undertook FÁS training courses in 2006; the percentage of those who were unemployed, who were in part-time employment and who were employed full-time; his plans for FÁS for 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25395/07]

A total of 69,000 persons commenced FÁS training courses in 2006 with roughly 35% of those attending training unemployed and 65% who were in employment.

In addition, in 2006, 176,000 persons attended Safe Pass and Construction Skills training and a further 9,000 persons attended Evening Courses. A training element was also included for the total of 32,300 persons who participated on Community Employment and Job Initiative schemes at some stage in 2006.

Statistics in relation to those in part-time employment who are participating in training are not available. The development of the Irish economy into one that is both knowledge-based and innovation-driven is crucial to the State's on-going prosperity. Labour market policy, and FÁS as the key labour market agency, plays a significant role in this going forward. In this regard two policy areas are particularly important. First we must continue to increase our focus on up-skilling those in the workforce, and secondly we must equip those not yet in the labour force to play their full part in it. FÁS' high priority goals set out in their latest Strategy Statement: `Entry to the Labour Market,' `Workforce Development,' and `Social Inclusion' focus on these policy areas.

In relation to up-skilling those already in the workforce through Workforce Development, the FÁS One Step Up initiative is crucial in this going forward. This initiative helps to up-skill our workforce and encourages the process of lifelong learning. In particular it focuses on lower skilled workers in SMEs, as that is where the greatest need lies. This is borne out by studies conducted by FÁS and other agencies, which suggest that it is in the lower to middle range of occupations, especially those in the services sector, that the greatest need exists to improve skills and productivity.

FÁS, in collaboration with the relevant departments and agencies as well as other key partners and employers, will continue to assist individuals and groups experiencing exclusion from training and employment opportunities. It will lead by example by continuing to raise its own levels of inclusion, equality and diversity among its own workforce and by demonstrating the benefits to both customers and stakeholders alike.

FÁS's plans for the future include extending the apprenticeship system to those trades already identified as suitable for apprenticeship as well as applying the apprenticeship approach to other occupations, including those outside the normal "skilled worker" area. FÁS will also maintain the increased resources allocated to company/ employee training and support targeted interventions to up-skill the employed, particularly those with low-level skills and older workers so that they will acquire more portable skills. In this context FÁS has approved six strategic alliances with representatives of the Trade Union sector to support employment prospects through raising skills levels, particularly through training those with low level skills and workers in vulnerable employment. The cost of this training is €8.8 million and it is expected that it will provide for the delivery of 21,870 training days to a total of 3,470 employed people.

FÁS's training provision for the unemployed will maintain a clear focus on jobs, either delivered through skills training on courses closely related to work or through foundation training courses with high probabilities of progression to more specific work/job related training.

Unemployment Levels.

Joe McHugh

Question:

100 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if there are plans to tackle the increasing problem of unemployment in County Donegal, in particular a town (details supplied) which is reeling from the loss of several industries over the past two decades; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25321/07]

While it is recognised that Donegal has suffered particular difficulties in the past due to the demise of traditional industries such as agriculture, fishing and textiles, there is clear evidence that the county is successfully engaged in a transition to the new economy. Live register figures at 8,340 and 8,370 for September 2006 and 2007 respectively, are lower then any year going back to 1993. The Interdepartmental Group Report on Donegal, which I launched last year, identified the various infrastructure developments required to support enterprise development in the County. The report identified, not just that much progress had been made, but also that there were financial provisions available to complete major new infrastructure projects, such as roads. These will further equip Donegal going forward, as a location for enterprise development.

Donegal is a key target location for IDA with the County now competing for a different type of business to the labour intensive manufacturing, which we so successfully won over the past four decades. Investors are, in the main, seeking a large urban base with third level education facilities, well developed infrastructure, as well as top quality business services that are international in focus. In line with this, IDA Ireland has adopted a focused approach in the County with Letterkenny as the main location for IDA development efforts. Milford, some 20 kilometres from Letterkenny, will benefit from the growth of this gateway and through the creation of high calibre jobs within easy commute of the town.

The IDA strategy fits with the national Spatial Strategy, which sets out a framework for use in planning and investment in the public and private sectors. The Strategy seeks to enhance the performance of strategically placed ‘Gateways', in Donegal's case the linked gateway of Letterkenny and Derry. This Gateway will create the conditions necessary to drive economic growth and will be at the heart of extending balanced regional development to the region. Small villages and rural areas will draw strength from, contribute to and complement the Gateway, as in the case of Milford. The strategy also recognises the importance of improving the attractiveness of towns and villages through community and other activities, such as urban and village renewal schemes and urban design initiatives by local authorities, which many locations in Donegal are benefiting from.

Progress has been made by IDA in securing new investments from Pacificare, Pramerica, SITA and Abbott Diabetes with approximately 1,200 new jobs being added in the County by overseas firms over the last five years. These companies continue to recruit and are actively seeking new staff.

As regards Enterprise Ireland, during the years 2004 to 2006, a total of 1,156 jobs were created in Enterprise Ireland client companies in County Donegal as against job losses of 980 leaving a net gain of 176 jobs.

Since the beginning of 2004 Enterprise Ireland approved over €15m in support to its client companies in Co. Donegal and made payment of over €7.5m.

Enterprise Ireland's policy objectives for balanced regional development are reflected in the structure of its funding offer whereby funding for existing company expansion and start-up businesses is biased towards regions. The maximum grant level is higher than in Dublin and the Mid-East and a higher proportion of this funding is also non-repayable.

In addition to the foregoing, the role of the Donegal County Enterprise Board, funded by my Department, is to provide support to micro-enterprises in the start-up and expansion phases, to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship at local level. Through the provision of both financial and non-financial support the Board supports individuals, firms and community groups provided that the proposed projects have the capacity to achieve commercial viability.

Financial support is available in the form of Capital Grants, Employment Grants and Feasibility Study grants. From the Board's inception in 1993 to-date they have paid out over €6.7m in grant assistance to over 300 clients, which has assisted in the creation of 1,385 jobs.

I can assure the Deputy that funding supports and initiatives for enterprises in County Donegal is, and will remain, a priority for the State development agencies under the auspices of my Department.

National Minimum Wage.

Shane McEntee

Question:

101 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the impact the most recent minimum wage increase has had on employment, small business and competitiveness; if his Department has carried out a study of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25351/07]

In November 2006 the Labour Court recommended that the Minimum Wage should be increased to €8.30 per hour from 1 January 2007 and to €8.65 from 1 July, 2007.

The Minister for Labour Affairs decided that, having regard to the fact that it had been 20 months since the minimum wage had last been increased and having regard to the period for which the new rates could be expected to remain in force, the increases would provide for a reasonable annual rate of increase over the period 2006 to 2008 as a whole. The increases were given effect by statutory Order in December 2006.

In September 2007 the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment invited tenders for the conduct of a national survey of firms to obtain data on the ongoing impact of the National Minimum Wage. The principal objective of this survey will be to deliver data that allow for the continued monitoring of trends in relation to the minimum wage and related matters.

Previous surveys (reports of which are available on the website of the Department) have provided data on such matters as the numbers of people on the minimum wage, the sectors in which they work, how many workers on the minimum wage are working part-time/full-time, the number of men/women on the minimum wage, the age of those on the minimum wage and the country of origin of low paid workers.

The surveys have also asked respondent firms to record their perceptions of the impact of the minimum wage on employment practices and procedures in the workplace, whether or not they feel that in the absence of the minimum wage legislation they would be employing more or the same number of people and the effect of the minimum wage on prices and profit.

The Report arising out of the next survey will also be made available publicly on the website of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Consumer Information.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

102 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of prosecutions taken in each of the past five years under the Consumer Information Act 1978; the nature of the prosecution in each case; the number of convictions which were secured; the penalty imposed in each case; if he is satisfied that the law in regard to consumer protection is being applied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25385/07]

Prosecutions under the Consumer Information Act 1978 Act were essentially initiated by the Director of Consumer Affairs. Details of the proceedings taken by the Director under that Act can be found in the various annual reports of the Director's office. Should the Deputy require further information on these cases it can be obtained from the National Consumer Agency.

The Consumer Information Act 1978 was repealed in its entirety on the enactment of the Consumer Protection Act 2007 in May this year. The 2007 Act updated and modernized a significant element of the existing framework of consumer protection law, including the provisions of the Consumer Information Act 1978. The responsibility for enforcing the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act lies with the National Consumer Agency, which on its establishment effectively subsumed the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs. The new Act gives the Agency a much greater suite of enforcement options including the ability to issue fixed payment notices, accept undertakings, seek prohibition orders etc. as well as providing for greater fines and penalties for breaches of consumer law.

I am satisfied that the Consumer Protection Act gives the National Consumer Agency the necessary additional powers to ensure that traders comply with their obligations under consumer law and also provides for significant penalties for those traders convicted of breaches of the law.

Job Creation.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

103 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his Department has undertaken an assessment of the implications for industrial development and job creation generally in the west and mid west regions of the plan by Aer Lingus to end its Shannon Heathrow service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25376/07]

I share the sense of regret and disappointment voiced by business leaders and public representatives in the west and mid-west that Aer Lingus intends to cease its scheduled air service between Shannon and London Heathrow.

Shannon Development and the City and County Enterprise Boards have a key role to play in promoting the development of the mid west region in line with the Government's policy objective of ensuring balanced regional development and the implementation of the National Spatial Strategy.

I have met business leaders in the region and fully appreciate their concerns about the implications of the decision and the merits of the business case made for a Shannon — Heathrow service, not least because of the connectivity available to European and long-haul destinations from Heathrow. I have also asked the relevant agencies to work closely with the companies affected to explore means of overcoming the obstacles presented by the Aer Lingus decision.

My Department was represented on the Senior Officials Group set up by the Department of the Taoiseach to examine the implications for the region of the Aer Lingus decision and has also contributed to the preparation, by the Department of Transport, of an Economic and Tourism Development Plan for the Shannon Airport catchment area. The purpose of the plan is to ensure that the region is well placed to respond to the challenges and opportunities emerging in the context of full liberalisation of the transatlantic aviation market and the phasing out of the Shannon Stop as envisaged under the EU-US Open Skies Agreement. I understand that the Plan is nearing finalisation.

Having regard to the findings of the report by the Senior Officials Group and the actions outlined in the Economic and Tourism Development Plan, the enterprise development agencies will continue to work in partnership with other stakeholders in the region to identify and bring forward new initiatives, projects and programmes to maximise the development potential of the west and mid west.

Job Losses.

Willie Penrose

Question:

104 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of redundancies notified to his Department to date; the way this compares with the same period in each year from 2002 to 2006; his views on the reported increase in the number of redundancies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25373/07]

The numbers of actual redundancies notified to my Department for the period 1 January to 30 September for the years 2002-2007 are as follows:

Actual Redundancies 2002-2007

Year

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Actual

19,073

19,170

19,631

17,325

17,324

19,218

This compares with the full year figures for the years 2002-2006 which were:

Actual Redundancies 2002-2006

Year

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Actual

24,432

25,769

25,041

23,156

23,684

These figures show the number of employees who actually qualified for statutory redundancy lump sum payments. They do not reflect those who lost their jobs with less than two years service in an employment. I have no control over the number of redundancies that occur at any given time. The number of redundancies over the period in question have fluctuated year on year. The final figure for 2007 will be available early in the new year.

The number of people in employment has increased significantly since 2002. Redundancy is a risk associated with employment and the risk has increased from an average annual risk prior to 2002 of 0.787% to 1.34% for the period 2002 to 2006.

EU Directives.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

105 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of EU Directives for which his Department has responsibility remaining to be implemented; the directives that are overdue; the number of reasoned opinions received from the EU Commission since 2002 to date in 2007 regarding delays or non-implementation of such directives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25393/07]

There are currently a total of twelve Directives due to be transposed by my Department up to 2010. One of these Directives is overdue and the following is the position with regard to implementation progress: Directive 2006/139/EC amending Council Directive as regards restrictions on the marketing and use of arsenic compounds for the adapting of its Annex I to technical progress. The transposition deadline was 30 June 2007 and the expected date of transposition is 10 November 2007.

Another two Directives are due for transposition during the remainder of 2007 and nine further Directives are scheduled to be transposed in 2008 and subsequent years.

My Department has received 24 Reasoned Opinions from the European Commission related to Directives since 2002. The outstanding issues concerning all but two of these Directives have been resolved satisfactorily.

Corrective measures are currently being taken in the context of legislation to introduce a public lending right to address a European Court of Justice ruling against Ireland for incorrect transposition of Directive 92/100/EC related to rental rights and lending rights in the field of intellectual property. In that regard, the Copyright and Related Rights (Amendment) Bill 2007 passed the final stages in the Seanad on 11 October and will shortly be introduced to the Dáil.

The European Commission issued a Press Release on 17 October 2007 announcing its Decision to issue Reasoned Opinions against twelve Member States, including Ireland, concerning the implementation of Council Directive 96/82/EC on the control of major accident hazards involving dangerous substances as amended by Directive 2003/105/EC (known as the Seveso Directive). Measures will be in place to ensure compliance by the end of this year.

Employment Rights.

Phil Hogan

Question:

106 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of cases and prosecutions that have taken place against employers for violations of immigration and employment law under the Employment Act, 2003 and the Employment Permits Act, 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25352/07]

Under the Employment Permits Acts 2003 and 2006, it is illegal to employ a non-EEA national without an employment permit where one is required.

These Acts provide for a large number of obligations and offences including those relating to:

The employment of foreign nationals except in accordance with an employment permit

Refusal to cooperate with inquiries of An Garda Síochána

Forgery, fraudulent alteration or fraudulent use of an employment permit

Misuse by employer or employee of employment permit e.g. transfer to another person.

Any prosecutions initiated under these Acts are a matter for An Garda Síochána, who come under the auspices of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I am informed that the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has made enquiries with the Garda authorities in relation to the number of prosecutions but it has not been possible in the time frame available to obtain the statistical information requested. This information will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Company Law.

Willie Penrose

Question:

107 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has plans to consolidate the Companies Acts in order to allow companies to better understand their rights and obligations in regard to company law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25372/07]

The Company Law Review Group published its General Scheme of the Companies Consolidation and Reform Bill in July 2007. The Government subsequently approved the drafting of a Bill along the lines of the General Scheme and the Office of the Parliamentary Council is at present drafting the legislation. As the Office of the Parliamentary Council has indicated that its work on the Bill is expected to take a minimum of 12 months, the Bill is unlikely to be published before late 2008.

The proposed legislation will consolidate the existing 13 Companies Acts, dating from 1963 to 2006, as well as other regulations and common law provisions relating to the incorporation and operation of companies, into a single Act, comprising over 1,200 sections. In summary, the provisions cover the incorporation of companies, corporate governance, duties of directors and secretaries, financial statements and auditors, receivers, reorganisations and examinerships, windings-up and compliance and enforcement. The provisions are brought together in a coherent manner which will facilitate business people in incorporating and operating companies on a day-to-day basis.

The General Scheme also modernises company law to reflect modern business practice. Given that 90% of companies in Ireland today are in the form of a ‘private company limited by shares', the General Scheme sets out all of the provisions relating to that type of company in sequential sections. In subsequent sections the provisions for the ‘private company' are modified for other company types such as public limited companies (PLCs).

Furthermore, to promote compliance with the law and to protect investors and creditors, the General Scheme also sets out clearly the corporate governance duties of directors, company secretaries, auditors etc. The General Scheme also sets out the functions of the Companies Registration Office, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and the Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority in ensuring compliance with the law and brings together the provisions relating to compliance and enforcement such as company investigations, compliance and protective orders, disclosure orders, disqualification and restriction of directors and prosecution, offences and evidential matters.

Question No. 108 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

Departmental Funding.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

109 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the funding supports or initiatives in place for small and medium enterprises in County Monaghan; if his Department will provide additional funding supports or initiatives for them in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25362/07]

Small and Medium Enterprises are generally recognised as firms which employ between 0 and 250 employees. Enterprise Ireland (EI) is the national development agency with primary responsibility for assisting the development of indigenous SMEs in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sector. Enterprise Ireland currently works with 138 client companies in County Monaghan, which according to the latest Forfás Annual Employment Survey employ a total of 4,695 people.

The full range of EI supports is available to SMEs in County Monaghan. These range from employment and training grants to productivity improvement funding to innovation and R&D funding.

As part of its regional development role Enterprise Ireland works in collaboration with other development agencies, such as the County Enterprise Boards in County Monaghan to develop the business infrastructure. EI also works with Community Groups in the County to develop Community Enterprise Centres in order to foster micro enterprises, which can in time grow into larger companies.

The thirty-five County & City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) are the principal initial point of contact for people seeking support in setting up a new business. Their role is to provide support to micro-enterprise in the start-up and expansion phases, to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate entrepreneurship at local level. The CEBs provide both financial and non-financial assistance.

A total of €22.4m has been allocated to the CEBs for 2007 for Capital expenditure. This level of funding enables the CEBs to deliver on their primary role of assisting and supporting the small business sector through the provision of both direct grant aid and soft support measures.

Since 2004 Enterprise Ireland has approved over €13m in funding to its client companies in County Monaghan to assist them with their business development. In the same period payments of over €6.4m have been made to these companies.

Enterprise Ireland is currently recruiting for participants for the Enterprise Start Programme, which is due to commence in early November. A number of Information Sessions were held recently. The closing date for receipt of applications is Wednesday 24th October 2007. For the Enterprise Start Programme, Enterprise Ireland is seeking Innovative, Technology based projects with export potential in either manufacturing or internationally traded services. In addition to financial support, EI provides a range of non-financial support to its client companies.

Enterprise Ireland and Invest NI are currently running a Cross Border Enterprise Incubation Programme, which is known as the Transform Programme. The Transform programme, is an enterprise development programme for potential entrepreneurs, delivered over 1 year to 40 participants (50/50 North/South).

InterTrade Ireland, the cross-border body, focus its attentions on stimulating cross-border trade (Acumen Programme), knowledge and technology between industry and academia (Fusion Programme), all island collaborative R&D (Innova Programme), benchmarking (Irish Benchmarking Forum), graduate placement, sectoral studies, the All Ireland Supply Chain Forum and the development of the equity markets and Business Angels networks on the island of Ireland. EI will continue to assist and advise the International Fund for Ireland and the Ireland Funds on the assessment of business related proposals as required.

I am satisfied that the strategies and initiatives currently in place for the development of County Monaghan are the most appropriate and will lead to productive and sustainable employment for the people of the region.

Average Wage.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

110 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the average industrial wage earned by a male worker and female worker respectively; the average male earnings and average female earnings generally; if he plans additional measures to help bridge the male/female earnings gap; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25394/07]

Data from the CSO quarterly industrial survey show that average industrial earnings per hour for male industrial workers on adult rates in March 2007 was €16.44. For female industrial workers the average rate was €12.53.

From the CSO National Employment Survey, March 2003, average hourly earnings were €17.74 for males and €14.93 for females. These latter figures cover the entire economy (excluding employees in agriculture, forestry and fishing).

The gender pay gap has fallen consistently and is now below the EU average of 15%. The most recent official figures from Eurostat (2005) put the gender pay gap at 9%, placing Ireland fourth lowest among the EU27. This compares with a rate of 14% in 2003, showing a drop of 5% in two years.

Primary responsibility for policy in relation to the gender pay gap is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Addressing the factors behind the gender pay gap is, however, a multi faceted task involving a number of Government Departments and agencies as outlined in the National Women's Strategy, 2007-2016. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment undertakes the following actions.

I am responsible for the National Minimum Wage legislation. The national minimum wage was introduced in Ireland in April 2000. Since its introduction there have been six increases to the minimum rate. The most recent increase saw the minimum wage increase to €8.65 per hour, which is the second highest in the EU. The introduction of the national minimum wage in 2000 has had a positive impact on women who previously were more likely to have received very low wages in sectors which were predominantly female. Prior to the introduction of the minimum wage, the gender pay gap was at 22%.

My Department is responsible for chairing and providing the secretariat for the National Framework Committee on Work/life Balance Policies. This Committee, which was established under the social partnership process, comprises representatives from IBEC, ICTU, the Equality Authority and a number of Government Departments. The Committee has undertaken and continues to undertake a range of activities to raise awareness and encourage the provision of work/life balance at the level of the enterprise, including the provision of financial assistance to organisations, information dissemination activities, seminars, research etc.

"Expanding the Workforce", which is run by FÁS, is aimed at proactively encouraging women to return to work. The initiative facilitates women returnees by ensuring that training is provided in a flexible manner and is tailored to meet business requirements and skills needs of employers.

National Minimum Wage.

Joe Costello

Question:

111 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of inspections carried out by the labour inspectorate during 2006 and to date in 2007 to check that the minimum wage was being paid; the number of breaches detected in these inspections; the number of prosecutions that followed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25380/07]

The tabular statement sets out, insofar as sectors covered by the National Minimum Wage Act, 2000 are concerned, the number of inspections/visits, the number of inspections/visits during which breaches were detected and the number of prosecutions initiated for breaches of that Act for the year 2006 and to date in 2007.

The primary role of the Labour Inspection Services, now encompassed by the National Employment Rights Authority, or NERA, in the case of breaches of employments rights legislation, is to seek compliance and rectification of any breaches identified, including redress for the individual/s concerned and payment of any arrears due to employees.

It should be noted that in the majority of cases employers rectify the breaches and pay arrears due to employees without recourse to prosecution. However, Inspection Services reserves the right to initiate prosecutions in respect of breaches of certain employment legislation. Decisions in relation to prosecutions are made in the light of, among other matters, the particular circumstances of the case and the willingness of employees to give evidence in court proceedings.

The Deputy should be aware that Rights Commissioners attached to the Labour Relations Commission, a body independent of my Department, also hear complaints concerning breaches of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000.

Finally, a focused employment rights compliance inspection campaign has been underway for the past two weeks in sectors covered by the National Minimum Wage. Such targeted campaigns, accompanied by awareness and promotional activities, will be a significant feature of NERA's future employment rights compliance and information strategy.

National Minimum Wage Act, 2000: Inspections/Visits, Breaches and Prosecutions

Year

No. of Inspections/ Visits

No. of Inspections/ Visits during which breaches were detected

No. of Prosecutions Initiated

2006

2,002

104

1

2007 (to 12/10/07)

871

95

0

Question No. 112 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

Proposed Legislation.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

113 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the campaign by SIPTU for legislation to provide equal treatment to agency workers; and if he will introduce legislation along the lines proposed. [25418/07]

Martin Ferris

Question:

126 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will bring in legislation to provide equal treatment to agency workers; and his views on a European Directive to give effect to equal treatment across the EU. [25416/07]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

128 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the concerns raised by union representatives that employers are using the growing phenomenon of obtaining staff through employment agencies to undermine and dismantle agreements on standards, pay and conditions. [25413/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113, 126 and 128 together.

As part of the Government's commitment under the partnership agreement — Towards 2016 — I am currently considering the final elements of proposals for the draft Scheme of a Bill to regulate the employment agency sector. I intend to submit a Memorandum to Government very shortly seeking approval to have the Bill drafted by the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government.

The Bill as drafted will reflect the commitment, in Towards 2016, to a licensing system where, to be licensed, employment agencies will be required to comply with the terms of a Statutory Code of Practice which will set out the practices and standards which employment agencies would be expected to follow. A Monitoring and Advisory Committee will advise me on the Code of Practice and on other matters related to this sector of our economy. Other elements in the Bill are aimed at further strengthening and enhancing the effective enforcement of the employment rights of agency workers.

As regards the stalled EU Directive on Temporary Agency Workers which has again been placed on the table for discussion by the Portuguese Presidency, Ireland will continue to adopt a constructive role in these discussions. Some key outstanding issues include the review of restrictions and prohibitions that apply regarding the use of temporary agency workers and the duration of the "grace period" or qualifying period with regard to the principle of equal treatment. Ireland and several other EU Member States have argued that a qualifying period of six weeks is far too short and that pay parity should only apply after a longer waiting period to be agreed in negotiation between the Member States. In this regard Ireland is seeking to obtain a balance between promoting more flexible forms of work organisation while not undermining the employment rights of agency workers. Our aim is to better reconcile flexibility and job security and create more and better jobs which is a fundamental goal of the Lisbon Strategy.

In the course of consultations on the proposed Bill some parties have been trying to negotiate matters not included in the current partnership agreement, including pay parity from the commencement of employment. This demand is outside the scope of measures agreed in Towards 2016 and, in any case, does not have due regard to the complex arrangements in other Member States.

My Department has engaged with ICTU regarding assertions that agency workers are being used increasingly to undermine basic labour standards and are precipitating a so called "drive to the bottom". However, the Department has not been supplied with specific evidence supporting this thesis and the argument to date has hinged on anecdotal evidence. We would be interested in seeing any hard evidence in this area.

Finally, I should point out that Ireland's comprehensive body of employment rights legislation provides that employee protection applies to migrant workers in Ireland and also to agency and posted workers who have entered into a contract of employment that provides for him or her being employed in the State or who works in the State under a contract of employment. This means that irrespective of nationality or place of residence, such persons have the same rights under employment rights legislation as Irish employees. Indeed this is acknowledged by SIPTU which has included a full listing of such entitlements in an information leaflet on agency workers of June 2007.

With regard to enforcement, Labour Inspectors pursue allegations of worker mistreatment and when evidence of non-compliance with the relevant employment rights legislation is found, the Inspectorate seeks redress for the individual/s concerned and, if appropriate, a prosecution is initiated. It should be noted also, that in many cases, Employment Rights Legislation has provisions whereby workers who believe that they have been denied their entitlements, or otherwise unfairly treated, can take the matter before dispute settling agencies such as the Rights Commissioner Service, Labour Court and Employment Appeals Tribunal. I urge anyone who has evidence of the mistreatment of agency workers to furnish all the relevant details and any related materials to the Inspectorate with a view to pursuing the matter.

OECD Project.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

114 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason he refused to provide funding to the OCED for its study entitled Internal Assessment of Adult Competencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25347/07]

The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) is a project of the OECD together with a number of member countries for the development of a new generation of household-based surveys of adult skills in selected domains of measurable ability.

Ireland declined to be involved in the OECD's PIAAC due to a number of concerns. These included the high cost of participation, reservations concerning the proposed methodology, the unclear gains in terms of additional knowledge that participation in the programme would provide, the lack of participation by virtually all EU Member States, resulting in limitations in terms of comparability at EU level and concerns regarding value for money of participating in the PIAAC.

This decision reflected advice from within my own Department, Forfás and FÁS.

Job Losses.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

115 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on current trends in relation to job loses; the reasons therefor; and if he has proposals for dealing with same. [24952/07]

There were 2,095,400 persons in employment at the end of May 2007. This represents an annual increase of 78,400 or 3.9%.

The pre-budget outlook forecasts employment to grow by 70,000 or 3.5% in 2007 and 26,000 or 1.25% in 2008. The ESRI forecasts employment to grow by 50,000 or 2.5% in 2007 as a whole and by 12,000 or 0.6% in 2008. In both cases we are forecasting continued employment growth, albeit not at the exceptionally high rates achieved in recent years.

There is a significant churn in employment. Traditional low cost industries are under pressure leading to some downsizing and closure. However, services and high-end manufacturing are now providing much employment. The Government has recognized the effects of globalization. The response is to ensure Ireland remains attractive for investment and enterprise growth. We now have a benign tax and regulatory environment, a better-educated workforce, an improving infrastructure and a commitment to world-class standards of research, development and innovation. Maintaining and improving on our standards is key to sustaining Ireland's competitiveness. The ability of an economy to create new and better jobs to replace those that are lost is the real test of competitiveness.

In a market orientated and vibrant economy, like Ireland's, there will always be job losses. That is the nature of the market economy that has brought extensive benefits and prosperity to the country over the past decade. Sensible economic and enterprise policies, supported by our Social Partnership process, have enabled our economy to grow. As the robust employment data showwe have consistently generated more jobs than have been lost, while the economy has been operating at full employment for a number of years.

A significant part of my job is to help create the conditions and context for growing high value jobs in Ireland in the medium to long term. Increasing international competition is creating pressure for improvements in efficiency, quality and productivity and a growing need to innovate. It requires forward-looking steps to develop a knowledge-based economy, to achieve real strategic change and show tangible results. The Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation, addresses these very demanding challenges, and the NDP commitment of €8.2 billion over the 2007-2013 period provides the wherewithal to give concrete effect to the SSTI goals of stimulating knowledge creation and diffusing and applying such knowledge for purposes of Ireland's economic development.

Finally, insofar as individual company closures or downsizing is concerned, FÁS provide an integrated support service for people being made redundant because of company restructuring or closures. This involves information sessions, skills analysis, training/retraining courses and job placement. In the delivery of these services, FÁS liaises with other relevant agencies such as Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, the City/County Enterprise Boards and the Department of Social and Family Affairs. FÁS also works closely with the agencies to identify and support individuals who wish to start their own business.

Consumer Protection.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

116 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his proposals for a consultation process regarding the prohibition of credit card and other relevant methods of payment surcharges to consumers; when he expects the process to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25384/07]

The issues raised by the Deputy relate to Sections 48 and 49 of the Consumer Protection Act 2007. My Department launched a public consultation in the summer in relation to the commencement of these provisions of the Act. To date almost 50 submissions have been received. I am currently considering the detailed issues raised in the various submissions.

Website Development.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

117 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason the BASIS website is so out of date; the action he will take in relation to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25346/07]

The main objective of the BASIS website is to provide a single point of access to public sector information that is relevant to the business community. The content for the BASIS website is currently sourced from the websites of over 50 public sector organisations and is presented in a consistent format, with links back to the appropriate websites.

My Department monitors the links on BASIS on an ongoing basis to ensure they are up to date. However, it is for the public sector organisations themselves to ensure that the information on their websites is current and to notify the BASIS administrator of any relevant changes.

My Department is considering some further maintenance of the site as well as a marketing campaign but, in the long-term, the future development of BASIS will depend on the establishment of any alternative Government Portal to consolidate and enhance the information available to the business community.

Work Permits.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

118 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is satisfied at the length of time it is taking for work permit applications to be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25348/07]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department has a customer service target of processing all valid employment permit applications within 15 working days. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that this target is currently been met in the categories of Green Cards, Medical Permits and Intra-Company Transfers. The current processing time for Work Permits is 16 working days and for Spousal Permits is 17 working days.

I would like to draw the Deputy's attention to my Department's website where the processing times for valid employment permit applications are displayed. This information is updated on a daily basis.

Consumer Protection.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

119 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps being taken to implement the commitment in the Programme for Government that steps would be taken to ensure that consumer codes of conduct are published by businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25389/07]

The Consumer Protection Act 2007 gives the National Consumer Agency specific functions to publish guidelines applicable to traders in relation to matters of consumer welfare and practice and also to review and approve codes of practice submitted to it by businesses or their trade associations.

In this regard, I am advised that the Agency has already had some preliminary engagement with a number of businesses and representative bodies in relation to possible codes of practice. I am further advised that one particular trade association has submitted a draft code of practice to the Agency for consideration and that discussions to advance the draft code are progressing.

The Agency is keen to establish a strong relationship with business in order to encourage traders to develop a high standard of consumer protection and to promote voluntary compliance by business with consumer legislation. In this regard, I understand that when exercising its statutory function in relation to reviewing codes of practice submitted by businesses, the Agency intends that the approved codes would be published.

Labour Inspectorate.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

120 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of labour inspectors currently employed by the labour inspectorate of his Department; the number of labour inspectors currently available for assignment on normal duties; the number of labour inspectors currently in training following recruitment; the status of the recruitment campaign to increase the Labour Inspectorate to 90 inspectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25379/07]

The delivery of commitments on employment rights under Towards 2016 is a key priority for Government. The necessary resources to ensure their delivery have been provided.

In relation to the Labour Inspectorate, the Social Partnership Agreement "Towards 2016" provides that the number of Labour Inspectors would be progressively increased from 31 to 90 by end-2007. Recruitment of the additional Labour Inspectors is progressing.

In addition to the 31 serving Labour Inspectors, six new Labour Inspectors were appointed in April 2007 and have undergone intensive training and are now available for assignment on normal duties.

Fourteen more Labour Inspectors were appointed in September and October 2007. Six have completed their intensive training and have commenced on the job training. The remaining eight are still undergoing intensive training.

Selection of the ten Labour Inspectors with specific language skills is progressing. Final interviews are scheduled for the 5th November 2007. Appointments are anticipated shortly thereafter. When these appointments are made, there will be 61 Labour Inspectors appointed.

Competitions for recruitment of the remaining 29 Labour Inspectors have been advertised. The closing dates for these competitions are 26th October and 1 November and it is proposed to hold interviews for these positions in early November.

I am pleased with the progress made to date and I have confidence that all assignments will be made by end of 2007, in accordance with the commitment under Towards 2016.

Labour Force Upskilling.

Martin Ferris

Question:

121 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the training that has been put in place to upskill vulnerable workers in the construction sector to facilitate them accessing alternative employment in the event that they lose their jobs due to the decline in that sector; and the number of workers that have availed of such training to date. [25417/07]

The Government is committed to improving the skills levels of workers. The State's key providers of training continue to offer appropriate and relevant training programmes to all those in the workforce with a particular focus on the low skilled and workers employed in vulnerable employment.

FÁS as the National Training and Employment Authority, is currently reviewing the employment trends within the construction sector and the impact of its related training programmes. A FÁS Board committee has recently been established to oversee the development of a suitable plan for the construction sector that will be informed by projected future developments and how best to respond to them.

While there is now insufficient definitive and contemporary data available to FÁS on this specific issue, there is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that there has been a recent increase in the number of redundancies in the construction sector. This is based on the number of job-seekers with a construction background who are presenting to FÁS Employment Services Offices, the number of clients who are making contact with the FÁS National Contact Centre regarding alternative job possibilities and the number of clients referred to FÁS by the Department of Social and Family Affairs under the National Employment Action Plan (NEAP).

FÁS provides a range of support services to people, including construction workers, who have been made redundant. The overall approach taken is to offer a tailored service as early as possible to the workers affected with a view to assisting them access alternative employment. Redundant workers may also avail of the Technical Employment Support Grant which provides a flexible fund to support the training and other employment related needs of clients where these are not immediately, conveniently or directly provided by FÁS itself.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Liz McManus

Question:

122 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps being taken to implement the commitment in the Programme for Government to expand the role of FÁS and Enterprise Ireland to increase the employer commitment to training, particularly in the SME sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25390/07]

Both FÁS and Enterprise Ireland are taking the necessary steps to expand their role in increasing employer commitment to training, in accordance with the commitment in the Programme for Government.

The FÁS budget for the training of the employed has been substantially increased, including that for training and development owner/managers and employees in SMEs. This has allowed FÁS to enter into Strategic Alliances with third party organisations, including employers, associations to deliver training. Three of these Alliances specifically target the SME sector including:

a project on providing a range of business skills appropriate to meet the growth related needs of Irish SMEs,

an alliance with the Small Firms Association to establish a National Centre of Excellence for SME training and

the development of a Scholarship Programme and SME training courses with ISME.

Earlier this year FÁS further expanded their offerings to the SME sector by approving a range of management development programmes for SMEs at a projected cost of €10m for 8,200 owners/managers. The IMI, Chambers Ireland, the Small Firms Association, ISME and others will deliver these programmes.

In relation to Enterprise Ireland their overall mission is to accelerate the development of world-class Irish companies to achieve strong positions in global markets, resulting in increased national and regional prosperity. Developing the leadership and management capabilities in Irish companies, including SMEs and encouraging the acquisition of critical skills within those companies is vitally important to this overall objective.

Recent developments by Enterprise Ireland to build up its offering to client companies in this area include the Leadership 4 Growth Programme, provided in conjunction with Stanford University in the US. The follow on to this programme involves individual management development and training investments in these companies supported by Enterprise Ireland.

A programme for CEOs in the software and life sciences sector has recently begun and work is in progress on a leadership programme for CEOs in the construction sector.

Enterprise Ireland currently offer Management Development Programmes that will enable the owners/managers/CEOs to build their ambition and capability and with this experience to go on to build the skills at all levels within the companies. Enterprise Ireland also offers the International Selling Programme and the MSc in International Business, to their clients, which aim to develop employees key competencies and skills vital to succeeding in global markets.

Earlier this year I also established the Management Development Council upon which both FÁS and Enterprise Ireland are represented — the Council will, over the next three years, focus on ensuring the provision of management development opportunities for all SMEs. The Council has been charged with examining the existing provision of management development provision for SMEs, to determine if there are any gaps in this provision and propose solutions to address these gaps.

The Council also has responsibility for developing a coordinated approach to building appreciation in the SME sector for the value and need of leadership and management skills. It is hoped that by convincing SME managers and owners of the benefits of training, this will act as a gateway to increasing their commitment to the provision of training for their employees.

Employment Rights.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

123 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans to consolidate the Employment Acts and regulations in order to allow employers and employees to better understand their rights and obligations in regard to employment law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25398/07]

As I have already advised the house, my priority is to secure the enactment of the Employment Law Compliance Bill 2007 and the Employment Agencies Regulation Bill 2007, so as to give effect to commitments for new legislation in Sections 11 to 16 and 21 of Part 2 of "TOWARDS 2016" — 10 Year Framework Social Partnership Agreement 2006-2015. Work on preparing both Bills is advancing for their publication as quickly as possible.

I propose to follow-up with an Employment Law Consolidation Bill in 2008, to simplify and codify employment law spanning more than 40 years, pursuant to Section 16.3 of Part 2 of "TOWARDS 2016". Preparatory work has already started on this.

Labour Force Upskilling.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

124 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on proposals put forward by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions for the introduction of paid learning leave to enable workers to up-skill. [25419/07]

I have noted with interest the proposal put forward by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions for the introduction of paid learning leave to enable workers to up-skill.

Earlier this year I asked the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs to examine paid learning leave and wage compensation so as to determine if it would be an appropriate mechanism to stimulate demand and participation for training and upskilling in Ireland. The Expert Group are currently discussing this issue and they are likely to come to a view on it over the next couple of months.

In addition, FÁS are currently undertaking paid learning leave pilot programmes. They are focused on workers in the manufacturing sector with low skills and who have received no training or qualification in the past 5 years with the same employer. It is still too early to determine the success of these programmes but a full evaluation is due in February of next year. That will provide an important input to determining the most appropriate response in this area and the emphasis and scope of any such response.

Employment Rights.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

125 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the practice of false contracting being used across a wide range of industries in order that employers can avoid many of their duties towards employees; if he will engage in a public information campaign to highlight the legal situation surrounding false contracting and the methods available for reporting it; the number of false contracting cases identified in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25396/07]

I am aware of the allegations referred to by the Deputy in relation to false or bogus self-contracting within certain sectors. The Government recognises that an effective response to these allegations requires a whole of Government response across the relevant agencies and in particular the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the new National Employment Rights Authority.

In most cases it will be clear whether an individual is employed or self-employed. Where there is doubt in relation to the employment status of an individual the relevant Departments and Agencies have regard to the Code of Practice for Determining Employment or Self-Employment Status of Individuals.

A number of criteria are set out in that Code for determining whether an individual is an employee or self-employed. These include whether the person is under the control or direction of another person, owns his/her own business, supplies labour only, receives a fixed wage, is exposed to financial risk, assumes responsibility for investment and management, supplies materials for the job, can sub-contract the work, works set hours or a given number of hours per week/month, etc.

A revised edition of the Code of Practice, reflecting the outcome of recent discussions involving the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the National Employment Rights Authority, or NERA, and the Social Partners, will be issued shortly and extensively promulgated.

The Department of Social and Family Affairs and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners will have details of the number of bogus self-contractors identified in 2006 in the context of their specific responsibilities. It is the practice of NERA's Inspection Services to refer suspected cases of bogus self-contracting to those bodies for definitive determination in order to ensure consistency in terms of enforcement generally. For example, NERA encountered a claim in 2007 by an employer that workers were engaged on a sub-contract basis and were not, therefore, subject to employment rights legislation. In this case NERA's Inspection Services referred the question of the employment status of the workers concerned to the Scope Section of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Should it be determined that the workers are employees, NERA will seek to ensure that the employment rights entitlements of these workers are observed.

A major package of measures has been agreed by the parties to Towards 2016, the new Social Partnership Agreement, to provide for enhanced public confidence in the system of employment rights compliance. New legislation will be published this year to provide for enhanced employment rights measures, including the establishment of the National Employment Rights Authority on a statutory basis. The provision of greater clarity in the application of employment rights legislation to employees is under consideration in the context of that legislation.

The Social Welfare and Pensions Act, 2007, which came into operation on 30th March, 2007, provides for the disclosure of relevant employment data between the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs and the National Employment Rights Authority/Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. This legislation effectively enables NERA's Inspectors to join with inspectors from the Department of Social and Family Affairs and/or the Office of the Revenue Commissioners to work together in joint investigations. Such investigations, a number of which have already taken place, have a particular focus on the employment status of workers. In addition, since the enactment of the legislation, ongoing exchange of information is taking place between the bodies.

The package of measures provided for under Towards 2016 will be supported by enhanced employment rights promotional and educational efforts. The Social Partners and other organisations such as the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners will be invited to bring their knowledge and networks to bear on the design and delivery of this education and awareness programme which, it is anticipated, will also address the issues associated with bogus self-employment.

The Relevant Contracts Tax (RCT) declaration form is currently being revised to require additional specific information as to why a proposed contract is considered by the parties not to be a contract of employment. The Revenue Commissioners will require those completing RCT forms to return them to the Commissioners in certain circumstances, including where the tracking of the pattern of employment suggests a disproportionate level of self-employment. The information accruing from RCT returns is to be shared in the context of the exchange of information with the National Employment Rights Authority and the Department of Social and Family Affairs. This will be a useful tool in terms of identifying potential cases of bogus self-employment.

Finally, the National Employment Rights Authority has joined the re-launched Hidden Economy Working Group and is working within that Group with the Revenue Commissioners, Department of Social and Family Affairs and the Social Partners in examining issues such as bogus self-employment.

Question No. 126 answered with QuestionNo. 113.

EU Directives.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

127 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the correspondence or contacts that have been entered into between the EU Commission and his Department in relation to the transposition of the EU Posting of Workers Directive into Irish law; when it is proposed to transpose the Directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25400/07]

Directive 96/71/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 1996 concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services was transposed into Irish law by the Oireachtas by Section 20 of the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 which came into effect on 20th December 2001. For the purposes of the Directive and the transposing legislation a posted worker means a worker who, for a limited period, carries out his or her work in the territory of a Member State other than the State in which he or she normally works. Section 20 of the 2001 Act provides that all employee protection legislation on the statute book in the State applies to posted workers in the same way as it applies to Irish workers.

There have been numerous routine contacts from the EU Commission requesting factual information from my Department in relation to transposition of the Directive by way of questionnaires.

The most significant contact from the EU Commission about transposition of the Directive was a letter of 27 June 2006 requesting the observations of the Irish authorities on the fact that the transposing Irish legislation applied all employee protection legislation to posted workers and thus went beyond the nucleus of mandatory legislation applying to posted workers under Article 3(1) of the Directive. The Commission pointed out that the first indent of Article 3, paragraph 10 of the Directive stipulated that the Directive does not preclude the application by Member States, in compliance with the Treaty and on a basis of equality of treatment, of terms and conditions of employment on matters other than those referred to in Article 3(1), in the case of public policy provisions.

Ireland replied to the Commission by letter of 14 July 2006 by stating that not to apply all employee protection legislation to posted workers could possibly lead to discrimination cases being taken by posted workers under equality legislation on the grounds of nationality or race. Ireland also pointed out in this letter that in pursuing the above course we took into account the provisions of article 3(7) of the Directive which provides that paragraphs 1 to 6 of Article 3 of the Directive shall not prevent the application of terms and conditions of employment which are more favourable to workers.

Question No. 128 answered with Question 113.

Semi-State Bodies.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

129 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the recent proposal from the Ulster Bank Group chairman that the IDA should merge with its Northern equivalent, Invest NI. [25415/07]

As the Deputy is no doubt aware, the proposal he refers to was just one of a number of recommendations made by the Chairman of the Ulster Bank Group on how to deliver the future of the Northern Ireland economy.

The Comprehensive Study on the All-Island Economy published last year, examined the joint marketing of the island for Foreign Direct Investment. That Study concluded that the package of incentives offered by North and South differed in certain critical respects. On this account, a marketing campaign based only on common elements of the offerings could not be anything other than a lowest common denominator. However, the Study suggested, and I concur, that the position be kept under review.

I might mention that there is already close liaison between the two agencies. Joint board meetings between IDA and Invest NI already take place and there is increasing contact at executive level. As a result of these meetings, IDA and Invest NI have agreed that the present focus for collaboration would be around the business operating environment (eg Communication, Infrastructure, Skills, Legislative Policy, Business Environment and Knowledge/Research) and the examination of how they can work together to jointly influence and/or change the business environment in a manner that would increase the attractiveness of the whole island for Foreign Direct Investment.

I should add that a key criterion in progressing North/South initiatives, is that they demonstrate clearly that they will result in mutual benefit.

Finally, I would refer the Deputy to the fact that InterTradeIreland, the all-island trade and development body established under the Good Friday Agreement is a joint North/South agency promoting the all-island economy. It has established an impressive track record across a broad range of initiatives. I am committed to ensuring that the full potential of North/South economic cooperation is realised.

Workplace Accidents.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

130 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of deaths and injuries arising from workplace accidents generally and specifically in regard to the construction industry for 2006; the way these figures compare with 2003, 2004 and 2005; the additional steps he will take to reduce such accidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25382/07]

Figures published by the Health and Safety Authority, show that in 2006 there were 50 recorded fatalities in Ireland as a result of work-related accidents, compared to 74 work-related deaths in 2005, 50 in 2004 and 68 in 2003. The same industry sectors of construction and agriculture remained the most dangerous throughout this period. As regards construction, there were 12 fatalities in 2006 and 23, 16, and 20 for the years 2005, 2004 and 2003 respectively.

Last year saw the introduction of significant legislative change in the construction sector with the introduction of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 504 of 2006) from 1 November.

The Construction Regulations 2006 build on design and management requirements introduced in earlier Regulations and also on the duties related to construction work set out in section 17 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.

To improve health and safety standards on construction sites, the Health and Safety Authority has to date in 2007—

carried out a focused programme of 5,229 construction site inspections covering appointment of competent designers, project supervisors and contractors, safety and health plans and safety statements, work at heights, traffic management and vehicle- reversing safety, welfare arrangements, and slips, trips and falls on a level,

carried out 90 inspections of designers concentrating on design risk assessments for work at a height and the provision of slip resistant floor surfaces,

held 2 Construction Campaigns focusing on work at heights, safe use of ladders, working platforms, vehicle safety, traffic management, health surveillance and Safe System of Work Plans awareness,

produced information notes and guidance on Work at Height Regulations and in particular the Safe Use of Ladders and Working Platforms,

developed a Code of Practice on Safety Statements for employers of three or less in construction,

developed a Code of Practice for Scaffolding, Overhead Lines,

updated existing Codes of Practice and Guidance to reflect the 2006 Construction Regulations,

developed in conjunction with the Local Authorities a Safe System of Work Plan for Road Maintenance.

National Consumer Agency.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

131 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will make a statement on the work to date of the National Consumer Agency. [25383/07]

The National Consumer Agency which was established as a statutory entity on the 1st May was given a significantly expanded remit with specific functions in areas such as consumer advocacy, research, information, education and awareness and enforcement.

Notwithstanding that the Agency has only been statutorily established for a number of months, it has already undertaken a significant amount of initiatives in a number of different areas. In the area of consumer awareness, in July the Agency published the results of a pilot study comparing prices of branded grocery products across a range of retailers. I am advised that the Agency intends to conduct regular surveys so as to raise awareness in relation to prices available in different retail outlets. In addition the Agency also conducted an awareness campaign in relation to consumer scams targeted at different nationalities currently living and working in Ireland.

In the area of information regarding consumer rights, the Agency has undertaken a number of different initiatives including the development of two consumer information websites, namely consumerconnect.ie which provides comprehensive information on consumer rights and NCA.ie which is the corporate website of the Agency. In addition to these web-based initiatives, the Agency also operates a dedicated lo-call consumer helpline (lo-call number 1890 432 432) which is available to consumers with queries or complaints in relation to their rights. The Agency has also published a total of 8 guides dealing with specific areas of consumer protection and rights. Copies of these guides are available from the Agency's consumer website.

In the area of consumer research, the Agency recently announced that it had commissioned an independent study into the home construction industry and the consumer in Ireland. The study will assess consumer welfare in home construction, purchase, repair & renovation related matters. As part of the study the Agency has engaged in a public consultation process inviting comments and submissions from all interested parties. I am advised that the Agency expects to conclude this study in early 2008.

In the area of consumer advocacy, I would advise the Deputy that in March 2007 the Agency established a Multi-Unit Development Stakeholder Forum to agree voluntary actions to be undertaken by key stakeholders in the sector to address ongoing consumer concerns relating to buying and living in multi-unit developments in Ireland.

With regard to the enforcement of consumer protection laws, I understand that the Agency intends to adopt a risk-based approach to enforcement and will primarily focus on areas of significant consumer detriment. One particular priority identified by the Agency is in the area of car clocking. I understand that the Agency has a multi-faceted enforcement campaign underway, supported by a public information campaign in relation to this area.

I wish to congratulate the National Consumer Agency on the various initiatives it has undertaken to date. I am confident that the dynamic approach of the Agency will ensure that the consumers will have a strong advocate and the interest of the consumer will be represented at all levels of national policy.

Question No. 132 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

Consumer Information.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

133 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action being taken to implement the commitment in the Programme for Government that steps will be taken to ensure that prices of goods are labelled and transparent in order that the consumer is well informed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25387/07]

Price display law is covered by Orders made under Section 19 of the Prices Acts 1958 to 1972 and under the European Communities (Requirements to Indicate Product Prices) Regulations 2002, Statutory Instrument No. 639 of 2002. The various Price Display Orders made under the Prices Acts 1958 to 1972 cover Drinks Display in Licensed Premises, Hairdressing Services, Petrol and Diesel and Restaurants. The European Communities (Requirements to Indicate Product Prices) Regulations 2002 requires retailers to display the selling and where appropriate the unit price (the price per litre or kilo) for all products covered by the scope of the Regulations.

The National Consumer Agency whose function it is to enforce consumer laws, regularly undertakes surveillance exercises and enforcement proceedings in the Courts when necessary.

My aim is to review and improve price display law when required. With this in mind in July 2007, my Department published a consultation paper on the Consumer Information (Advertisements for Concert or Theatre Performances) Order 1997 which contained proposals designed to broaden the scope and enhance the transparency of the price information provided to consumers about concerts, theatrical performances and other events. Follow-up meetings have been held with a wide range of interested parties and I hope to be in a position to introduce new Regulations in this area before the end of the year.

It was my intention to undertake a similar review of the Consumer Information (Advertisements for Airfares) Order 2000. As a proposed European Union Regulation on Air Transport Services contains specific provisions on price transparency for airfares, there was little point in amending domestic legislation in this area prior to, or independently of, the adoption of new Community rules.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

134 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which Ireland is competitive and successful in achieving inward investment leading to increased employment; if Ireland’s position relative to other European countries has altered in terms of competing for such investment in the past 10 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25454/07]

The level of foreign direct investment in Ireland, relative to the size of the economy, is one of the highest in the world. Today, more than 1,000 overseas companies have substantial international operations in Ireland. These include many of the leading companies in Information & Communications Technologies, Life Sciences, Globally Traded Businesses and Financial Services. There are strong and irrefutable reasons why this is so. While having the lowest effective corporate tax rate in the EU is widely known there are other indicators that help explain why we continue to be successful in winning more than our fair share of high quality and sophisticated FDI. For example, in key sectors such as chemicals, medical devices and electronics average productivity is higher than in many of our competitors. We have the lowest tax wedge in the OECD and it has fallen faster in Ireland than in most of our competitors.

Just last week a major Irish bank published the first edition of a new foreign direct investment performance index. This compares Ireland's performance at attracting inward investment compared to leading destinations globally. It shows that Ireland continues to attract a high share of global investment projects. In the words of its Chief Economist "Ireland continues to punch above its weight when it comes to attracting mobile foreign investment". The Index put Ireland at number 2 in the EU-15 for FDI inflows.

There continues to be huge changes in the world economy and of Ireland's relative position in it. China and India are now more fully integrated into the world economy and, with the rest of Asia and Central and Eastern Europe, they provide strong competition for many activities. Our relative costs now are higher than before. We have responded nationally to these changes by positioning ourselves as the location for more advanced activities, with more qualified and better paying jobs. This is why the proposed investments, structures and policies set out in the National Development Plan 2007-2013 and National Spatial Strategy are so important.

Our focus has moved to winning research and development investment as well as specialised investment in high value services and manufacturing. All these require a labour force that is skilled, adaptable and educated. We are successful in this market because Ireland's 25-34 year-olds are more highly qualified than most of their counterparts in the OECD. Our educational performance is higher than the EU-15, the US and the OECD in this area.

I am satisfied that the policies being pursued by Government, together with the activities of the development agencies will continue to enable us to maintain the enviable position which we hold in terms of attracting foreign direct investment.

Consumer Rights.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

135 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps being taken to implement the commitment in the programme for Government to introduce on the spot fines for breaches of consumer law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25388/07]

The commitment to introduce on-the-spot fines for breaches of consumer legislation has been met by the Consumer Protection (Fixed Payment Notice) Regulations 2007 which came into effect on 13 October 2007.

The Regulations permit an authorised officer of the National Consumer Agency to serve a fixed payment notice in respect of breaches of the European Communities (Requirements to Indicate Product Prices) Regulations 2002 and of the various price display orders made under the Prices Act 1958 and retained by the Consumer Protection Act 2007. The Regulations provide that a prosecution for an alleged offence under these enactments will not be instituted if, during the period of 28 days from the issue of the fixed payment notice, the person alleged to have committed the offence makes a payment of €300 to the National Consumer Agency.

By simplifying the enforcement procedure for relatively minor breaches of consumer legislation, the new Regulations will permit the National Consumer Agency to devote greater resources to tackling more serious breaches of the law.

Labour Force Upskilling.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

136 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will provide further details on the commitment in the programme for Government to support up-skilling of low-skilled workers in the manufacturing sector by investing more than €2.8 billion over the next six years in up-skilling; and the action that has been taken in this regard to date. [25414/07]

The commitment contained in the Programme for Government reflects the National Development Plan's intention to invest €2.8 billion in the upskilling of the workforce over the next six years. This includes the training for people in employment, upskilling those affected or likely to be affected by industrial restructuring including those in the manufacturing sector, improving and enlarging the apprenticeship system and providing opportunities for school-leavers.

The Government is fully committed to upskilling and this year the State will invest approximately €70 million in the training of those in employment. This represents a significant increase in investment in comparison with other years. As a result of this increase there has been expansion in publicly funded training and development programmes for managers and workers, including those working in the manufacturing sector participating in these programmes.

Several FÁS in-company training programmes contain specific sectoral training initiatives to support the Food, Clothing, Engineering, Print and Packaging, Construction industries. FÁS plan to continue to further expand these in the future to continue to meet the needs of industry.

FÁS have also arranged ‘Strategic Alliances' with IBEC/SFA, ISME, Chambers Ireland, ICTU and DIT. These are delivering high volume training to indigenous small and medium sized companies, of which approximately 25% are in the manufacturing sector.

In September FÁS approved six more Strategic Alliance projects to support employment prospects through raising skills levels, particularly through training those with low level skills and workers in vulnerable employment. The cost of this training is €8.8 million and it is expected that it will provide for the delivery of training to a total of 3,470 employed people.

Skillnets, the other key provider for training for those in employment, continues to support enterprise-led training on a broad basis and are seeking to encourage an increase in training for those with lower basic skills by offering higher levels of support for projects, which include training for those with lower basic skills. They will invest €24 million this year under this heading and are expected to train approximately 28,500 people.

Tax Code.

John Perry

Question:

137 Deputy John Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will confirm that an organisation (details supplied) in County Sligo has charitable status which is necessary to obtain derogation on stamp duty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25532/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a list of bodies who have been granted charitable tax exemption under section 207 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 is available on the Revenue website at www.revenue.ie. The organisation referred to by the Deputy has charitable tax exemption.

Electronic Payment System.

Richard Bruton

Question:

138 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has considered introducing incentives to encourage people to move to cashless systems of payment and transactions which would bring considerable administrative savings as well as savings in security costs; and his estimate of the savings on administration costs within the public service that would be obtained when a person switches to receive payment electronically. [25677/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, there is a general move in favour of electronic payments from cash and paper-based payment methods. The Government has been proactive in supporting this change through its payroll and scheme payments policies. Indeed, methods to facilitate cashless payments by and to Government Departments and Offices have been well established for a number of years.

The Department of Social and Family Affairs offers electronic payments options in respect of most of its schemes. In fact, EFT now accounts for about 56% of all welfare payments, up from 34% in 2004, and growing by about 1% per month. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food makes payments to some 66,000 farmers (about 50% of the total) via EFT and this is likely to increase to about 90% under EU regulations. The revenue Online Service (ROS) allows self-employed individuals and small businesses to meet certain of their tax obligations online, and there has been extensive take-up of this option by taxpayers.

The Government's adoption of electronic payment methods reflects an assessment that such methods offer efficiency gains and also provide the State's customers with a convenient service. However, there is no reliable method of assessing the savings on administration costs that accrue from the switch to cashless payments available at this time.

On a wider front, the national Strategy for the Implementation of eProcurement in the Irish Public Sector, approved by government in 2002, recognised the necessity for enabling electronic marketplaces to facilitate electronic procurement of goods and services including electronic invoicing, processing and payment.

Implementation of financial management systems supporting electronic Purchase-to-Pay (P2P) functionality is essential to facilitate electronic invoicing and payments and such systems are being implemented across the public sector. A project is currently underway in my Department to assess the status of implementation and usage in all public sector bodies.

One of the EU's eGovernment targets anticipates 100% eProcurement capability by 2010 in all member states — this includes eSourcing (eTendering), eOrdering, eInvoicing and ePayment. Progress on this initiative is being monitored by the Department of the Taoiseach for regular reports to the European Commission.

Of course the bulk of day-to-day payments take place in the private sector. Most employers now pay their staff via EFT to their bank accounts. With EFT applying to salary and a considerable proportion of State payments, it is clear that the demand for cash is not so much on the ‘income' side, but rather on the ‘expenditure side. A very considerable proportion of point-of-sale transactions are made in cash. The Irish Payment Services Organisation (IPSO) Ltd. is the representative body for the payments industry. It is active in promoting the ePayment agenda, engaging with all public and private stakeholders.

Tax Code.

John Deasy

Question:

139 Deputy John Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties that have arisen as a result of section 116 of the Finance Act 2007 which will have huge tax implications for co-habitating couples in long term relationships where the house owning partner wishes to transfer their property into joint names; if it was his intention that people who may not have great financial resources may now on the death of the house owning partner be levied with high capital acquisition tax on the family home; the plans he has to revisit this section of the Finance Act 2007; if he will introduce an amendment to ensure that partners and children in this situation are protected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25758/07]

Section 116 of the Finance Act 2007 amends section 86 of the Capital Acquisitions Tax Consolidation Act 2003 by providing that (with some exceptions) relief will not be available where a donee lives in the principal private residence of the disponer and subsequently that residence is gifted by the disponer to the donee. This is intended to prevent a son or daughter being gifted a house by his or her parent free of capital acquisitions tax where that son or daughter was, until shortly before the time of the gift, still living in the parental home.

The section also requires that the gifted house must be owned by the disponer during the 3-year period even if it, or any house that it replaced, was not his or her principal private residence. This is to counter a claim for relief where an individual sells his or her principal private residence to his or her parent for full value and the house is then gifted back to that individual by his or her parent. It also counters the use of family trusts in gifting houses to children.

It will be noted that the amendments in the Finance Act 2007 apply only to gifts of houses. No changes have been made to the conditions applying to houses acquired by way of inheritance. The position of partners and children in the situation outlined in the Deputy's question has not, therefore, been affected in relation to houses acquired by way of inheritance.

Social Insurance Fund.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

140 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the rate of returns on the investment of the social insurance fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25760/07]

The bulk of the accumulated surplus of the Social Insurance Fund is invested by the National Treasury Management Agency in euro denominated deposits and government bonds, subject to guidelines from the Minister for Finance. In 2006 the rate of return on the funds managed by the NTMA was 2.72% and the annualised return (to 19 October 2007) for the current year was 3.80%.

Foreign Adoptions.

Billy Timmins

Question:

141 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the situation with respect to a protocol with Belarus with respect to the adoption of children; if the proposed protocol is deemed to be unconstitutional; the grounds for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25529/07]

The Adoption Board entered into an informal working arrangement with Belarus in 1999, to facilitate the adoption of children from Belarus to Ireland. In 2005, the Belarusian Authorities sought to formalise this arrangement in a draft Protocol. The Adoption Board referred this draft Protocol to the Attorney General's Office, and were advised that it was not compatible with Irish law as it contained terms which conflict with the Constitution of Ireland.

Unfortunately legal advices preclude agreement by Ireland on the terms which are being required by Belarus. Due to Constitutional difficulties an agreement with Belarus is very unlikely and, in that light, negotiations have concluded.

I appreciate very much that this is disappointing for the prospective adoptive parents involved. However, the authorities in Belarus, as in all "sending" States, must retain the absolute prerogative with regard to what children may be adopted, and what requirements must be satisfied to ensure children's best interests have been central to any decision regarding their placement and adoption at home or abroad. The Deputy will appreciate this is the same prerogative and minimum standard we require within the Irish State in respect of Irish children being placed for adoption in Ireland.

Ambulance Service.

Pat Breen

Question:

142 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the strength of the ambulance service in County Clare; if this is sufficient in the event of major accident or emergency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25488/07]

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

Health Services.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

143 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of finance that has been allocated during 2007 for home care packages in County Westmeath; the amount of such packages that have been sanctioned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25510/07]

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

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

144 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of finance that has been allocated during 2007 for home care packages in County Longford; the amount of such packages that have been sanctioned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25511/07]

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

Mental Health Services.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

145 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will approve funding for the Health Service Executive south towards the Waterford befriending project which provides ongoing training and support for persons with mental health difficulties by volunteers who are given comprehensive training in this field; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25526/07]

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

Child Care Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

146 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will consider reviewing the NCIP scheme (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25533/07]

The main supports the Government makes available to parents to assist them with their child care costs are Child Benefit and the Early Child care Supplement. The latter payment, which is in recognition of the higher child care 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 child care they choose and regardless of whether they live in urban or rural areas. In addition to these universal supports, Government child care policy has also recognised the need to target additional supports towards disadvantaged families.

Under the Equal Opportunities Child care 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 child care 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 a proviso under the EOCP community based not-for-profit child care providers were obliged to provide information on the level of disadvantage being catered for by their facilities in order to obtain staffing grant assistance.

With the closure of the EOCP in December 2007, to continue to support community child care services to provide affordable child care to disadvantaged parents, the Community Child care Subvention Scheme (CCSS) is being introduced from January 2008 under the Exchequer funded National Child care Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), the successor programme to the EOCP. The CCSS has been allocated €153 million over the next 3 years, representing a 16% increase in funding over the EOCP staffing scheme, and will continue to support community child care services to provide reduced child care fees for disadvantaged parents, complementing the universal supports in place for all parents. Under the new scheme, it will be possible to ensure that the level of grant aid which individual services qualify for will reflect the actual level of 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 as a result of the information provided 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 child care 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 child care 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 Child care 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 child care 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 is due to be received from applicants in November. If appropriate, any adjustments necessary to the scheme to secure the best outcomes for child care 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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

147 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the report of the investigation into a residential centre (details supplied) in County Galway has not been published; when it is intended to publish this report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25545/07]

I understand from the HSE that it is finalising a report into allegations of abuse at the Brothers of Charity Services at Kilcornan, Clarenbridge, Co Galway. I am informed by the HSE that this report is due to be completed before the end of the year.

Health Services.

John O'Mahony

Question:

148 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has had individual transport withdrawn from them in view of the danger of cross-infection; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25549/07]

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

Nursing Home Subventions.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

149 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money that has been paid out to date in refunds under the nursing home repayment scheme; the amount due to be repaid currently; the number of applications made to date for a refund; the number of those applications that have been accepted; the number that have been rejected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25550/07]

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

The HSE has informed my Department that since the commencement of the scheme over 30,000 claims have been received and to date over 3,800 payments totalling over €77.3m have issued while 6,375 offers of repayment totalling over €119.8m have been made. The HSE have also informed my Department that over 3,183 applications have been rejected up to 12 Oct 2007.

Based on the projected level of repayments to be completed by the scheme administrator in 2007, an allocation of €150m will be provided for the scheme in the estimates for 2008. All eligible applications received prior to the closing date will be repaid in full and an appropriate provision will be made as necessary to meet any costs arising under the scheme.

Child Care Services.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

150 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the potential damage that can be done to child care projects around the country by the introduction of the new staffing grants system and that a significant number of families who are just over eligibility for social welfare payments and who are on very low incomes will be precluded from using the facilities; if her Department has studied the effects that this particular proposal will have on small rural communities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25690/07]

The main supports the Government makes available to parents to assist them with their child care costs are Child Benefit and the Early Child care Supplement. The latter payment, which is in recognition of the higher child care 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 child care they choose and regardless of whether they live in urban or rural areas. In addition to these universal supports, Government child care policy has also recognised the need to target additional supports towards disadvantaged families.

Under the Equal Opportunities Child care 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 child care 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.

With the closure of the EOCP in December 2007, to continue to support community child care services to provide affordable child care to disadvantaged parents, the Community Child care Subvention Scheme (CCSS) is being introduced from January 2008 under the Exchequer funded National Child care Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), the successor programme to the EOCP. The CCSS has been allocated €153 million over the next 3 years, representing a 16% increase in funding over the EOCP staffing scheme, and will continue to support community child care services to provide reduced child care fees for disadvantaged parents, complementing the universal supports in place for all parents. Under the new scheme, it will be possible to ensure that the level of grant aid which individual services qualify for will reflect the actual level of 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 child care 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 child care 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 Child care Committees has also taken place.

The Community Child care Subvention Scheme will not discriminate against rural services and the number of parents in rural areas supported by the new scheme is not expected to be lower than in urban areas. Per capita, the majority of the social welfare benefits which are referenced by the new schemes are availed of by more people outside the Dublin area than in it and parents in receipt of Farm Assist will attract the higher level of subvention. Data available from EOCP grant applications also suggests that the costs of running a rural service, and therefore the costs charged to parents, are lower than those for services in urban areas.

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 child care 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 is due to be received from applicants in November. If appropriate, any adjustments necessary to the scheme to secure the best outcomes for child care 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.

Food Safety Authority.

Finian McGrath

Question:

151 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the person who is the final arbiter when it comes to the regulation of sanitary accommodation for a premises where seating is provided for patrons (detailed supplied). [25697/07]

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) is responsible for enforcing food law — including provisions relating to the availability of toilets for the use of patrons. A food business operator who fails to comply with general hygiene requirements is guilty of an offence and may be prosecuted — generally by the Health Service Executive acting under a service contract with the FSAI. The final arbiter in any such case is the court where an alleged offence is prosecuted or a court to which a conviction is appealed.

Hospital Procedures.

Michael Ring

Question:

152 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for an MRI scan. [25702/07]

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.

Health Services.

James Reilly

Question:

153 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the nursing home refund scheme for the repayment of illegal nursing home charges; the number of claims received and completed to date; the amount refunded to date; the number of applications that have been rejected; the reason they have been rejected; the cost of the scheme; the cost of administering the scheme; the average time for an application to be processed; when she expects the scheme to complete its work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25703/07]

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

The HSE has informed my Department that since the commencement of the scheme over 30,000 claims have been received and to date over 3,800 payments totalling over €77.3m have issued while 6,375 offers of repayment totalling over €119.8m have been made. The HSE have also informed my Department that over 3,183 applications have been rejected up to 12 Oct 2007. There are a variety of reasons for applications being rejected and these include instances where the relevant person died prior to 9 December 1998, where the relevant person resided in an institution not within the scope of the scheme and where duplicate applications were received on behalf of the relevant person.

Based on the projected level of repayments to be completed by the scheme administrator in 2007, an allocation of €150m will be provided for the scheme in the estimates for 2008. All eligible applications received prior to the closing date will be repaid in full and an appropriate provision will be made as necessary to meet any costs arising under the scheme. The HSE has estimated the administrative costs associated with the scheme to be approximately €23m.

Mental Health Services.

James Reilly

Question:

154 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of catchment area teams that have been established in relation to the vision for change strategy; the number that are fully staffed; the geographic area covered by these catchment areas; the population of each of the catchment areas; the name of the person with managerial responsibility for mental health services in each of the catchment areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25704/07]

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 including the organisation and management of catchment areas. The Executive is, therefore the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Accommodation.

James Reilly

Question:

155 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of acute hospital beds, both public and private, in each of the hospitals for 2005, 2006 and to date in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25705/07]

In 2001, the year of the publication of the Health Strategy, the average number of in-patient beds and day places available in the 53 public acute hospitals was 12,145, based on information supplied for the Department of Health and Children's Integrated Management Returns. At the end of 2005, this figure had increased by 1,199 to a total of 13,344, involving an additional 719 in-patient beds and 480 day places. This expansion of capacity represents an increase of 300 beds and places on average per year.

My Department will forward the detailed information on each hospital requested for 2005 directly to the Deputy.

During 2006 the Health Service Executive undertook an extensive survey of capacity across all acute hospitals, including in-patient beds, day beds and other treatment placements, on a speciality by speciality basis. I understand that the HSE intends to publish the results of the survey in the near future.

I have asked the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive to supply the information requested by the Deputy for 2006 and 2007 directly to him as soon as it is available.

Nursing Home Accommodation.

James Reilly

Question:

156 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of nursing home beds, both public and private, for each of the years 2001 to date in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25706/07]

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. The 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.

James Reilly

Question:

157 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of beds closed as a result of the cutbacks and recruitment ban; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25707/07]

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.

Medical Cards.

James Reilly

Question:

158 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of full medical cards issued as at year end 2006; the number issued to date in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25708/07]

James Reilly

Question:

159 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of general practitioner visit medical cards issued as at year end 2006; the number issued to date in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25709/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 158 and 159 together.

Details of the numbers of medical card and GP visit card holders are provided to my Department each month by the Health Service Executive's Primary Care Reimbursement Service. The figures are provided on a net basis showing the balance after new cards have been issued and other cards, as appropriate, have been deleted from the Executive's database, e.g. following a review of an applicant's circumstances. The following table shows the number of medical cards and GP visit cards as at the 1st December, 2006 and as at the 1st October, 2007.

Month

No. of Medical Cards

No. of GP Visit Cards

1st December, 2006

1,219,829

47,550

1st October, 2007

1,264,434

73,644

James Reilly

Question:

160 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the income thresholds for qualification for a full medical card and for a general practitioner visit card indicating the thresholds for single persons, married couples and single parents; the way in which they vary between age categories and the category of married couples, one of whom is over 70 years and one whom is not, and that of dependent children; her plans to review income thresholds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25710/07]

Medical cards are made available to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services. In 2005 the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP. Persons aged 70 and over are statutorily entitled to a medical card, regardless of income. In all other cases an assessment of means is undertaken.

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

My Department and the HSE monitor the number of medical cards and GP visit cards on an ongoing basis and the need for changes to the guidelines is kept under review, having regard to factors such as changes in income levels generally, the nature of typical household outgoings and also changes to the various social welfare schemes.

The Programme for Government commits to the following:Indexing the income thresholds for medical cards to increases in the average industrial wage; Implementation of an annual publicity campaign and making applications easier so as to increase uptake amongst those who are eligible for Medical Cards and GP Visit Cards; Doubling of the income limit eligibility of parents of children under 6 years of age, and trebling them for parents of children under 18 years of age with an intellectual disability; Allowing people with disabilities to work without losing key essential medical card cover after 3 years.

My Department is at present considering the steps required to enable these commitments to be implemented. My Department is also examining the steps necessary to give effect to the Towards 2016 commitment to review the eligibility criteria for the assessment of medical cards in the context of medical, social and economic/financial need with a view to clarifying entitlement to a medical card.

The following table gives details of the financial guidelines used by the Executive to assist it in determining if a person qualifies for a medical card or GP visit card. Table showing allowed weekly net income, after income tax/PRSI and allowable mortgage/rent, child care and travel to work expenses are taken into account.

Medical Card

GP Visit Card

Single Person Living Alone

Aged up to 65 years

184.00

276.00

Aged between 66-69 years

201.50

302.00

Single Person Living with Family

Aged up to 65 years

164.00

246.00

Aged between 66-69 years

173.50

260.00

Married couple/Single Parent Families with dependent children

Aged up to 65 years

266.50

400.00

With 1 Child

304.50

457.00

With 2 Children

342.50

514.00

With 3 Children

383.50

575.00

With 4 Children

424.50

637.00

Aged between 66-69 years

298.00

447.00

Aged between 70-79 years (see Footnote)

596.50

895.00

Footnote

This is the weekly rate used to assess a couple where one person is aged 70 years or over and the other has not yet reached 70 years.

Hospital Services.

James Reilly

Question:

161 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of high dependency patients in acute hospital care in hospitals (details supplied) who need to be transferred to more appropriate nursing home care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25711/07]

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.

Care of the Elderly.

James Reilly

Question:

162 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people in receipt of home care packages as per Health Service Executive area for each of the years 2005, 2006 and to date in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25712/07]

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

General Practitioner Co-operatives.

James Reilly

Question:

163 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department is in negotiation with groups to form out of hours general practitioner services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25713/07]

Out of hours cooperatives allow general practitioners to put in place arrangements to provide services to their patients, while their surgeries are closed in the evenings, on weekends and bank holidays. The development of GP cooperatives is in line with the overall health service policy of strengthening primary care services and ensuring that to the greatest extent possible, people's care needs are met in the primary care setting.

Out of hours cooperatives are now in place in all Health Service Executive (HSE) areas, providing coverage in all or in part of all counties. In 2007, almost €37 million is available to the HSE to fund the operation of GP out of hours services. This figure does not include the fees of the participating doctors.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for this service, it is the appropriate body to provide the information sought by the Deputy. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

James Reilly

Question:

164 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures she has taken to enhance direct access of general practitioners to diagnostic services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25714/07]

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

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

Accident and Emergency Services.

James Reilly

Question:

165 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures she has taken to improve cleaning services and enhance security measures for accident and emergency departments as outlined in her accident and emergency ten point plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25715/07]

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.

Care of the Elderly.

James Reilly

Question:

166 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of the 32 local health office areas of the Health Service Executive that have an elder abuse officer who has been appointed to that position in a permanent capacity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25716/07]

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

Health Service Executive.

James Reilly

Question:

167 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of complaints received by the Health Service Executive under its complaints system up to 30 September 2007; the number deemed to be valid; the number acknowledged within five working days of their receipt; the number resolved on an informal basis; the number withdrawn; the number of complaints officers involved in the investigation of these complaints; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25717/07]

Section 6 of the Health Act, 2004 states that the Health Service Executive is a corporate body. In view of this, the number of complaints received by the Health Service Executive under its complaints system and the breakdown of these complaints is a matter for the HSE.

Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to respond directly to the Deputy.

James Reilly

Question:

168 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of complaints received by the Health Service Executive under its complaints system up to 31 July 2007; the number received; the number investigated by a complaints officer; the number of complaints that were investigated and concluded within the 30 day time-frame set out in the regulations; the number of cases in which the complainant sought a review of the recommendation of the complaints officer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25718/07]

Section 6 of the Health Act, 2004 states that the Health Service Executive is a corporate body. In view of this, the number of complaints received by the Health Service Executive under its complaints system and the breakdown of these complaints is a matter for the HSE. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to respond directly to the Deputy.

James Reilly

Question:

169 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of cases in which the Health Service Executive assigned its functions in relation to reviewing any recommendation made by a complaints officer to another body; the identity of the body to which it has assigned such functions under Section 49 (4) of the Regulation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25719/07]

Section 6 of the Health Act, 2004 states that the Health Service Executive is a corporate body. In view of this, the number of complaints received by the Health Service Executive under its complaints system and the breakdown of these complaints is a matter for the HSE. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to respond directly to the Deputy.

Ambulance Service.

James Reilly

Question:

170 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the areas where there are identified deficiencies in the ambulance service; the steps she proposes to take to deal with the identified deficiencies in this important service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25720/07]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

James Reilly

Question:

171 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the location of acute medical admission units; the stage of delivery these facilities are at; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25721/07]

James Reilly

Question:

172 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the proposed location of acute medical admission units; the stage of delivery these facilities are at; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25722/07]

James Reilly

Question:

173 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the acute medical admission units proposed for Beaumont Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25723/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 171 to 173, inclusive, 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 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.

Accident and Emergency Services.

James Reilly

Question:

174 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there are no spare trolleys available for ambulance use at accident and emergency departments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25724/07]

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.

Nursing Home Standards.

James Reilly

Question:

175 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children when the National Standards for Nursing Home Care will be completed and published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25725/07]

In January 2007 the Minister for Health & Children published a new set of draft national standards which will apply to all nursing homes. The standards were developed by a working group chaired by DoHC and included the Health Service Executive, Social Service Inspectorate and the Irish Health Services Accreditation Board. As the Health Act, 2007 provides that the enhanced inspection function will be taken over by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), the draft standards were formally referred to Health Information & Quality Authority for consultation and finalisation. The Authority established a wide-ranging Working Group to finalise the draft standards. The terms of reference of the Group were to: review and develop the draft standards; establish a process for targeted and public consultation; oversee the public consultation process; consider feedback from the public consultation process; and finalise the draft standards for publication and inspection. The group held its first meeting on 30th January and have met on a regular basis since.

On 8 August, 2007 the Authority published their draft for public consultation prior to finalising the standards. Members of the public, service users, their families, service providers and all those with an interest in residential care for older people were invited to submit their views on the draft before Monday 17 September 2007.

The results of the public consultation were discussed at the most recent meeting of the HIQA Working Group on Friday 19th October. The final report of the Consultation has now been sent to HIQA and will be distributed to the Group in the coming days. It is proposed to hold 2 further meetings of the Working Group to finalise the standards. The next step in the process will involve the standards being referred to the Minister for approval. Following this, Regulations will be drafted to give statutory underpinning to the Standards.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

James Reilly

Question:

176 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the way, in relation to the NTPF intention to negotiate the cost of private beds on behalf of the Health Service Executive, she expects the NTPF to achieve this in the absence of nursing home care standards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25726/07]

Currently, private nursing homes are registered in accordance with the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 and are subject to inspection on the basis of the standards set out in the Care and Welfare Regulations 1993. The NTPF will negotiate with registered private nursing homes on this basis.

However, the Deputy will be aware that the Health Act 2007 provides for the registration and inspection of all nursing homes — public, private and voluntary. As the Act provides that the enhanced inspection function will be taken over by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), draft standards (prepared by a Working Group chaired by the Department of Health and Children) were formally referred to Health Information and Quality Authority for consultation and finalisation. The Authority established a wide-ranging Working Group to finalise the draft standards. The group held its first meeting on 30th January and have met on a regular basis since.

On 8 August, 2007 the Authority published their draft for public consultation prior to finalising the standards. Members of the public, service users, their families, service providers and all those with an interest in residential care for older people were invited to submit their views on the draft before Monday 17 September 2007.

The results of the public consultation were discussed at the most recent meeting of the HIQA Working Group on Friday 19th October. The final report of the Consultation has now been sent to HIQA and will be distributed to the Group in the coming days. It is proposed to hold 2 further meetings of the Working Group to finalise the standards. The next step in the process will involve the standards being referred to the Minister for approval. Following this, Regulations will be drafted to give statutory underpinning to the Standards. In the interim, the HSE will continue to inspect private nursing homes using the 1993 Care and Welfare Regulations.

The ongoing work regarding the introduction of the new nursing home standards under the 2007 Act does not impact in any way on the NTPF negotiations surrounding the introduction of the new Nursing Home Support Scheme — A Fair Deal.

James Reilly

Question:

177 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number, in relation to the NTPF intention to negotiate the cost of private beds on behalf of the Health Service Executive, of these beds that will be standard beds; the number that will be medium and high dependency beds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25727/07]

Under the proposed new Nursing Home Support Scheme — A Fair Deal — the NTPF will negotiate prices for long-term residential care with private providers. The Fair Deal scheme is a voluntary one. In order to qualify for State support under the scheme, a person must be assessed by the HSE as requiring long-term residential care and then avail of such care in a nursing home registered with the HSE and where a price has been negotiated and agreed with the NTPF. This price will inform the maximum level of State support payable on behalf of a person who qualifies under the scheme.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

178 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25751/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Sheltered Housing Charges.

Bernard Allen

Question:

179 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the application made by a person (details supplied) in County Cork for repayment under the Health Service Executive repayment scheme in respect of payments made by them in sheltered housing over 15 years. [25766/07]

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.

Infectious Diseases.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

180 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of deaths recorded from MRSA or MRSA type infections in respect of each of the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25781/07]

Tackling Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs), including MRSA, is a priority for my Department and for the Health Service Executive (HSE).

MRSA is not a notifiable disease. However, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre of the HSE collects data on MRSA. The data are collected on the first episode of blood stream infection of MRSA per patient per quarter. This system shows that there were 445 cases in 2002, 480 cases in 2003, 553 cases in 2004, 592 cases in 2005 and 588 cases in 2006. Figures for the first six months of 2007 shows that there were 292 cases.

A National Surveillance System has been established recently to collect data and provide information on a quarterly basis on four key areas, to monitor HCAIs in our healthcare system: Staphylococcus bacteraemia; Antibiotic consumption; Alcohol gel use; MRSA surveillance in Intensive Care Units. The first report is expected shortly and eventually 52 hospitals and 30 local health offices will report into the system.

The HSE has established a National Infection Control Action Plan. The Infection Control Steering Group is chaired by Dr. Pat Doorley, National Director (Population Health) and is responsible for reducing infection levels in Ireland's health care facilities. Over the next three to five years the HSE aims to reduce HCAIs by 20%, MRSA infections by 30% and antibiotic consumption by 20%. Achievement of these targets will benefit all patients who are at risk. The Steering Group is supported by eight Local Implementation Teams which will ensure that all local facilities are focused on achieving the national targets.

It is difficult to identify the number of fatalities attributable to MRSA as many people also have significant co-morbidity factors.

While accepting that not all HCAIs are preventable, I am satisfied that significant steps are being taken to reduce the rates of infection and to treat them promptly when they occur.

Drug-Related Deaths.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

181 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of deaths attributed to overdoses or abuse of illicit drugs in respect of each of the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25782/07]

The General Mortality Register, the main source of information on drug-related deaths prior to the establishment of the National Drug Related Deaths Index in 2005, shows that the number of direct drug-related deaths was 113 in 2000; 93 in 2001; 90 in 2002; 96 in 2003; and 112 in 2004 — the latest year for which data are available. Direct drug related deaths refer to those due to intentional or unintentional overdose. The figure of 113 such deaths in 2000 represents a decrease on the 122 recorded in 1999. Sixty percent (60%) of the direct drug related deaths between 2001 and 2004 were as a result of opiate overdose.

The statistics in the General Mortality Register are collected by the Central Statistics Office which measures — as it is required to do — direct drug-related deaths based on an international classification system. It does not have a reliable measure of deaths which are indirectly related to drug use and so does not provide the full picture of drug-related deaths. For example a death through an infectious disease contracted through drug use may not feature in the General Mortality Register as drug-related.

To remedy these limitations, the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform jointly asked the Alcohol and Drug Research Unit of the Health Research Board to establish and maintain a National Drug-Related Deaths Index.

This index was established to comply with Action 67 of ‘Building on Experience: National Drug Strategy 2001-2008'. The index is a census of drug and alcohol-related deaths and deaths among substance users in Ireland which is one of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction's (EMCDDA) key indicators to measure the consequences of the drug situation. The data for the Index are drawn from a number of sources including the General Mortality Register; the Coroner's Service; the Hospital In-patient Enquiry (HIPE); and the Central TreatmentList.

A committee, co-chaired by the two above-mentioned Departments, provides general and technical advice on the development of the index. The first publication from the index is scheduled for 2008.

Air Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

182 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if his Department’s Press Office brought press reports relating to the establishment of a hub by Aer Lingus in Belfast to his attention; the response given; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25736/07]

My Department's Press Office did not bring press reports relating to the establishment of a hub by Aer Lingus in Belfast to my attention before my office was made aware of this possibility at the end of July.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

183 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport when he first became aware of the decision of Aer Lingus to end the Shannon Heathrow service; the person who informed him of this fact; the actions he took including contacts, meetings and formal or informal discussions with Aer Lingus employees or Aer Lingus board or former board members, civil servants, employees of State or semi State companies, public representatives or others; if meetings took place ,the dates of such meetings and with whom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25737/07]

An email was sent to my Private Secretary by an Assistant Secretary in my Department which stated that Aer Lingus intended "to announce the new Belfast base on 8th August. This will involve the reallocation of Shannon-Heathrow slots to Belfast from early 2008".

A meeting with the Chairman and Chief Executive was arranged for the earliest opportunity — 3rd August. At the meeting, which was also attended by officials, the Chairman and Chief Executive informed me of the decision to open a hub in Belfast and to reallocate all of the Shannon Heathrow slots to a new Belfast-Heathrow service.

In the aftermath of the decision I had contacts, direct and indirect, with the Chairman of Aer Lingus during which I conveyed the Government's views to him.

I had a more formal meeting with the Chairman and Chief Executive on August 28th the details of which I outlined to the House on 18th October. Since 3rd August I have spoken to Aer Lingus board members, civil servants, public representatives and many others.

Insurance Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

184 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which motor insurance costs here compare with those within the European Union and within the Eurozone; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25775/07]

Motor insurance costs throughout the European Union are not comparable. In Ireland it is the driver who is insured whereas on the continent, it is the vehicle which is insured. Other differences include size of motor insurance markets, competition, level of litigation and legal costs. Social welfare and health support systems also have a bearing on motor insurance costs. The cost of motor insurance in Ireland has reduced by over 38% between April 2003 and September 2007.

Road Network.

Michael Ring

Question:

185 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Transport if funding will be made available for a road (details supplied) in County Mayo; if so, the amount of funding that will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25543/07]

The provision and improvement of non-national roads in its area is a matter for Mayo County Council to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State grants. In 2007, Mayo County Council was allocated €31,625,821 in non-national road grants. Following the issue of road grants for 2007, Mayo County Council sought additional funding for the upgrading of the R312 Castlebar — Belmullet Road. The Council was informed on 5 March 2007 that the 2007 non-national road grant allocations had already been notified to local authorities and accordingly there were no funds available from which further grants could be made available for this project. The Council was also informed that the design stage of the project would be considered for funding in 2008, having regard to, inter alia, the overall funding available for non-national roads and competing demands from other local authorities. To facilitate future consideration of the proposal, the Council was asked to submit details of the proposed scheme, including confirmation of the proposed works, a draft expenditure profile and details of the Council’s proposed own resources expenditure on the scheme and possible funding from other sources. This information is awaited from the Council. The 2008 non-national road grant allocations to local authorities will be announced early next year.

Public Transport.

Joe Costello

Question:

186 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Transport the procedure whereby Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann and the private bus sector acquire permission to park buses on the public street; the way an area (details supplied) in Dublin 1 has become a bus depot; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25561/07]

Under section 85 of the Road Traffic Act 1961, it is the function of the Garda Commissioner to direct, by the issue of a notice in writing, that specified points on a bus route shall be stopping places (bus stops) or stands (termini) for buses. The procedure is that the operator of a bus service must contact the Garda authorities in relation to any location where a bus stop or bus stand (terminus) is sought. The operator must await the issue of a notice containing a direction from the Garda Commissioner to specify the points to be stopping places and to specify the places to be used as stands for buses. The operator can only operate the service in compliance with a direction given.

Road Safety.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

187 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if proper barriers will be erected on the M1 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25695/07]

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme element of Transport 21. The implementation of individual national road projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority under the Roads Act 1993, in conjunction with the relevant local authorities concerned.

Air Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

188 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport if the recent completion of the EU/US Open Skies agreement will mean a reduction in direct US services from Shannon Airport; if there is a reduction in the number of US direct services for the winter period October 2007 to March 2008 compared to the winter period from October 2006 to March 2007; if he expects a reduction in the number of scheduled US direct services through Shannon Airport for the summer of 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25699/07]

Pat Breen

Question:

189 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport the steps he will take to protect Shannon Airport's transatlantic business following the recent decision by Aer Lingus to end the Shannon Heathrow service. [25728/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 188 and 189 together.

From 30 March 2008, the transatlantic aviation market will be fully liberalised. American and European airlines will be free to develop and operate transatlantic services on a fully commercial basis, without restrictions which persist under the existing system of bilateral agreements. Experience has shown that the liberalisation of aviation markets results in a greater level of competition among airlines, lower fares and the development of a wider range of services. I understand that several studies have projected that the Open Skies agreement will lead to considerable economic benefits for Ireland, the business sector, the tourism industry and the air transport industry itself. For Winter 2007 there will be 28 direct flights and seven indirect flights between Shannon and the US each week. I understand that Aer Lingus will operate daily direct flights to Boston and New York and daily flights to Chicago via Dublin. It is also understood that Continental Airlines will continue to operate a daily service to Newark Airport while Delta Air Lines will continue to operate a daily service to New York. American Airlines has withdrawn its daily Chicago service this winter and it is understood that it will not operate out of Shannon next year. Delta Air Lines will not operate the Shannon — Atlanta service for Winter 2007-08 but it is envisaged that this service will recommence for Summer 2008. The summer 2008 schedule of direct services for Shannon/US routes has not yet been finalised.

I understand that Aer Lingus is putting into place an agreement with US carrier JetBlue allowing passengers to and from Shannon to interconnect with services to and from over 50 cities in the US, Caribbean and Mexico. It is understood that Shannon Airport is making every effort to ensure that year-round transatlantic services are maintained. I am confident that the Airport Authority, with the continued support of business and tourism interests in the region, can respond to the challenges and opportunities presented by Open Skies. It should also be borne in mind that the new direct gateway services by Aer Lingus from Washington, San Francisco and Orlando and the potential for additional services by US carriers, provide the opportunity to substantially grow more North American business to Ireland. Traditional travel patterns and the attractiveness of the tourism product in the West, suggest that over 50% of such incremental business will involve visits to Ireland's Western regions.

Ministerial Appointments.

Denis Naughten

Question:

190 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the dates on which he held meetings with a person (details supplied); the agenda for each meeting and the topics discussed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25734/07]

Denis Naughten

Question:

191 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the dates on which a document (details supplied) was completed; when it was presented to him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25735/07]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

192 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the details regarding his initial briefings from civil servants when he was appointed; the dates such meetings took place; the agenda and the list of those present; and ifhe will make a statement on the matter. [25741/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 190 to 192, inclusive, together.

The Secretary General of my Department is compiling a report on these issues.

Air Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

193 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the nature of the contact his Department had both formal and informal with Aer Lingus regarding the proposed Aer Lingus hub at Belfast; the level of such contact and dates of same; if meetings took place, the attendees, agenda and outcome of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25742/07]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

194 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the nature of the contact his Department had both formal and informal with Aer Lingus regarding the proposed withdrawal of the Shannon Heathrow service; the level of such contact and dates of same; if meetings took place, the attendees, agenda and outcome of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25743/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 193 and 194 together.

The nature of the contact my Department had with Aer Lingus regarding the proposed Aer Lingus hub at Belfast and the withdrawal of the Shannon Heathrow service will be dealt with in the context of a report currently being prepared by the Secretary General of my Department. I expect to receive that report within the next week and to make it public.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

195 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the nature of the contact his Department had both formal and informal with the Dublin Airport Authority regarding the proposed Aer Lingus hub at Belfast; the level of such contact and dates of same; if meetings took place the attendees, agenda and outcome of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25744/07]

On 13 June, an official of my Department had contact with the Dublin Airport Authority in order to determine the performance, in terms of passenger numbers and load factors, of the Shannon Heathrow route. The initial contact was followed by some email exchanges. The approach was made in the context of separate contacts between the Department and Aer Lingus concerning the media coverage of a possible Belfast base. The discussion with the DAA was on a confidential basis since it concerned commercially sensitive information about Aer Lingus.

Emigrant Support Services.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

196 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has had an opportunity of discussing the plight of the undocumented Irish in the United States during his recent visit there; the people and organisations he met with; if he will report on progress; and ifhe will make a statement on the matter. [25507/07]

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 for their families in Ireland. Given the present very difficult and divided environment in Congress on immigration, it is now 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 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky, Senators Edward Kennedy, Charles Schumer, Patrick Leahy and Lindsay Graham as well as with the House of Representatives Friends of Ireland Group. While they all emphasised the present extremely difficult environment for making progress on immigration reform in Congress, I was pleased that they were very willing to work with us in exploring further possible ways for resolving the position of our undocumented citizens. This work is being pursued by the Ambassador and his staff in Washington and will be reviewed by me on an on-going basis.

I also reviewed the situation with the Irish lobby for immigration reform, and subsequently briefed them 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.

Diplomatic Representation.

Finian McGrath

Question:

197 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding developing Ireland’s social economic and political relationship with Cuba. [25759/07]

As I informed the Deputy in my response to Parliamentary Question Number 517 on 26 September 2007, relations between Ireland and Cuba have developed in recent years, particularly since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1999. Our Ambassador in Mexico City is accredited to Cuba. In 2001, Cuba established a resident Embassy in Dublin, which has been headed by a resident Ambassador since October 2005. Prior to that the Embassy was headed at Chargé d'Affaires level, with the Cuban Ambassador to Ireland resident in London. The Cuban Chargé d'Affaires and, subsequently, the Cuban Ambassador have been very active in seeking to promote links between our two countries based, inter alia, on people-to-people contact and cultural activities.

My Department and our Embassy in Mexico City also support the development of such links. In July 2005, the International Joyce exhibition, commissioned by my Department, was opened for display at the National Library in Havana and a donation of Spanish translations of the plays of Samuel Beckett was also presented on the occasion. And of course, many Irish people have visited Cuba in recent years. I welcome these developments and I would certainly wish to see the bilateral relationship between Ireland and Cuba develop further.

As the Deputy will be aware, the European Union's 1996 Common Position on Cuba remains the basis of both the European Union's and Ireland's approach to relations with that country. The overriding objective of Ireland and our European Union partners in our relations with Cuba is to encourage, but not to enforce by external coercion, a process of transition to pluralist democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Common Position was most recently reviewed at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 18 June 2007, at which I participated. The Council's Conclusions deplored the fact that the human rights situation in Cuba has not fundamentally changed, and noted that the Cuban Government continues to deny its citizens internationally recognised civil, political and economic rights and freedoms. We also recognised the right of Cuban citizens to decide independently about their future. While the European Union will continue to pursue its dialogue with Cuba's civil society and to offer to all sectors of society practical support towards peaceful change in Cuba, the Council also emphasised the Union's willingness to resume a comprehensive and open political dialogue with the Cuban authorities on all areas of mutual interest. In order to sound out the potential for such a dialogue, which should take place on a reciprocal and non-discriminatory basis, the Council decided to invite a Cuban delegation to Brussels.

The Council Conclusions represent a balanced approach, which is in accordance with the principles of the Common Position. The decision which we took in Council to invite a Cuban delegation to Brussels would provide an opportunity for establishing an open political dialogue with the Cuban authorities. The Cuban authorities have rejected this invitation. However, we remain hopeful that such a dialogue will be established in the future. In this regard, on foot of a further initiative of the European Union, a Ministerial-level meeting between the European Union Troika and Cuba was held en marge of the 62nd United Nations General Assembly in New York on 24 September 2007.

Work Permits.

Chris Andrews

Question:

198 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of an application by a person (details supplied) for an employment permit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25553/07]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department has informed me that an application for a Work Permit was refused and the applicant notified accordingly. An appeal of this decision was subsequently lodged and this is currently under consideration. It is anticipated that a decision will issue in the next 7 days.

Semi-State Bodies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

199 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of representatives of small and medium sized businesses represented on the boards of FÁS and Enterprise Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25522/07]

The Board members of FÁS and Enterprise Ireland are respectively appointed under the Labour Services Act 1987 and the Industrial Development (Enterprise Ireland) Act 1998. The Board of FÁS has four employers' members, including representation from the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, who represent the interests of industry, including small and medium sized businesses at both individual and association level.

The Board of Enterprise Ireland includes several members from industry and serves to progress the functions of the agency, including developing industry and enterprise and strengthening the skills base of industry including small and medium sized businesses.

Job Losses.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

200 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs lost to the economy due to relocation or closed down for other reason in each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25767/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

202 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of new jobs created here in each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25769/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 200 and 202 together.

Table 1 sets out details of jobs created and job losses in the enterprise development agencies under my remit in the period 1997 to 2006. In that period 294,713 new permanent full time jobs were created while job losses amounted to 236,057 giving a net increase in employment in these agency firms of 58,656. It is not possible to quantify how many of the job losses incurred in the period were due to relocation or company closures. Many of the job losses incurred in the period were situated in low value added manufacturing and these losses have been more than offset by jobs created in higher value added manufacturing and the financial and international services sectors.

While enterprise agency assisted firms play an important role in creating employment they are just one element of the economic activity impacting on employment and as Table 2 indicates over 600,000 jobs have been created in the economy since Q2 1998. This represents an outstanding performance over the period outperforming many of our European counterparts and is a testament to the resilience of the economy in terms of job creation.

Ireland is no longer a low cost economy and manufacturers in particular are facing increased competition from producers in lower cost economies. The model of manufacturing in developed countries is changing and Irish enterprises are adapting to those changes and engaging in higher value added activities in order to compete in the global marketplace. This has been achieved as a result of increased productivity, technology levels and sophisticated skills of Irish employees. Competition for foreign direct investment (FDI) is also relentless but Ireland continues to punch above its weight when it comes to attracting overseas investment. While costs are higher, we have responded by positioning ourselves as a location for more advanced activities, with more qualified and better paying jobs.

The Programme for Government contains a range of commitments focused on maintaining and enhancing our framework competitive conditions, and promoting new areas of competitive advantage, including by developing our R&D base, investing in critical physical and communications infrastructures, and promoting tertiary education and lifelong learning. Over the period of the new National Development Plan the Government will provide €3.3bn investment specifically to support the development of the indigenous and FDI enterprise base in addition to NDP investment in infrastructure and skills.

Table 1: Job Gains and Job Losses in Enterprise Agency* Assisted Companies

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Change in Period

Job Gains

29,215

30,597

36,825

43,465

28,861

25,782

22,818

24,415

26,904

25,831

294,713

Job Losses

-13,743

-16,526

-20,289

-20,086

-31,914

-34,230

-30,092

-25,298

-23,680

-20,199

-236,057

Net Change

15,472

14,071

16,536

23,379

-3,053

-8,448

-7,274

-883

3,224

5,632

58,656

* Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and Shannon Development.

Source: Forfás Business Information System.

Table 2: QNHS Data Persons in employment (Thousand) Quarter 2 1998-2007

1998Q2

1999Q2

2000Q2

2001Q2

2002Q2

2003Q2

2004Q2

2005Q2

2006Q2

2007Q2

Change in Period (,000)

% increase over period

1494.0

1589.1

1671.4

1721.9

1763.9

1793.4

1836.2

1929.2

2017.0

2095.4

601.4

40.3

Source: CSO Database Direct.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

201 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the countries to which jobs have relocated from here in the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25768/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

203 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his proposals to address the issue of rising costs with resulting lack of competitiveness affecting employment here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25770/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

205 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which he has identified the rising costs which tend to deter foreign inward investment; his proposals by way of action to address these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25772/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 201, 203 and 205 together.

It is not possible to provide a list of countries to which companies have relocated from Ireland. While the Department's enterprise development agencies collect, on an annual basis, employment data in their client firms, no data is gathered on a similar basis of the new location of companies that relocate their Irish operations. Companies allocate their resources and plant location strategies for many practical and business reasons such as to be closer to key customers, to have access to specialist skills, to address market needs or customer relationship requirements. Firms do not necessarily relocate because of cost issues alone.

In key aspects Ireland remains a strong competitive and efficient location for many sectors. Our competitiveness is robust in the new enterprise sectors on which we are building a growing international reputation. This is borne out by the successful pipeline of R&D projects that IDA Ireland is winning in the face of exceptional competition from other developed countries. It is interesting to note that analysis undertaken by Forfás shows that Irish cities are more cost competitive for key positions in biopharmaceutical and medical device sectors than similar cities in developed economies. These are key areas of the economy and among ones we are targeting to drive future economic growth. They are closely linked with the significant investment in R&D and related infrastructure that this Government is undertaking to strengthen our international competitiveness in high technology and high reward sectors.

In October alone three major, world class companies selected Irish universities with whom to undertake collaborative R&D. These projects are in areas that are critical to the future product development of these firms. Two relate to research in medical technologies at Galway and Dublin involving GlaxoSmithKline and Smith & Nephew and the other was a decision of Nortel Networks to significantly invest in R&D and innovation at its Galway centre. The decision to select Ireland for strategic investment in corporate R&D clearly demonstrates our growing reputation, competitiveness and success for the foreign direct investment we are seeking to attract to Ireland.

This Government has always been focussed on addressing competitiveness issues as they emerge. There will be no diminution of our commitment to making the economy one of the most important locations in which to build businesses in high technology and internationally traded services. The Government has introduced a number of non-inflationary budgets in recent years, has set up the Anti Inflation Group under the terms of Towards 2016 and responds to the regular advice on the competitiveness agenda provided by important bodies such as the National Competitiveness Council.

These policies have promoted employment growth because they recognise that economies are dynamic and always evolving. The ability of an economy to create new and better jobs to replace those that are lost is the real test of competitiveness. Last year total employment in the country exceeded 2 million for the first time and net job creation in agencies such as IDA and Enterprise Ireland, was the highest since 2000. The last Quarterly National Household Survey on the labour market showed that the pace of employment growth actually accelerated slightly and employment over the year was up by 3.8%. This means there are nearly 2.1 million employed in Ireland — an increase of 78,000 on the same quarter in 2006.

In addition to broad, pro enterprise policies, my Department has given a strong mandate to its development agencies to deliver a wide range of measures to help strengthen their clients capacity to undertake more and better innovation, research, technology acquisition and skills development. These are the competitive characteristics on which Ireland will grow. They will be consistently improved and developed to match the changing needs of business.

Question No. 202 answered with QuestionNo. 200.
Question No. 203 answered with QuestionNo. 201.

Job Creation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

204 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs created on foot of foreign inward investment here in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25771/07]

In the 5 year period from 2002 to 2006 (the latest date for which figures are available) a total of 54,750 jobs were created in IDA supported companies. The number of jobs created in each of those years is set out in the tabular statement.

The level of foreign direct investment in Ireland, relative to the size of the economy, is one of the highest in the world. Today, more than 1,000 overseas companies have substantial international operations in Ireland. These include many of the leading companies in Information & Communications Technologies, Life Sciences, Globally Traded Businesses and Financial Services.

The global economy, and Ireland's position in it, is changing rapidly. China and India are now more fully integrated into the world economy and, with the rest of Asia and Central and Eastern Europe, they provide strong competition for many activities. Our relative costs now are higher than before. We have responded nationally to these changes by positioning ourselves as the location for more advanced activities, with more qualified and better paying jobs. This is why the proposed investments, structures and policies set out in the new National Development Plan and National Spatial Strategy are so important.

In the 1990s the number of jobs created was the key criterion of success. Today, it is the quality and value of the activities undertaken here that matters. IDA Ireland has for many years followed a strategy of active engagement with its client companies to move more of their strategic and higher value activities to Ireland. The Agency continues to be very successful with this strategy as is evidenced by the very strong investment achievements in 2006, when IDA supported 71 new business projects with combined investments of over €2.6bn.

In addition to these direct benefits, FDI has multiplier effects throughout the economy, creates demand for high skills, advanced management and business processes, and guides national developments in education, science, telecommunications and other infrastructure. The roll out of the National Development Plan 2007-2013, which provides for strong investment in infrastructure and knowledge-driven activities is critical to underpin our continued success in attracting FDI.

The number of jobs created in IDA supported companies Ireland over the past five years.

Year

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

Jobs Created

11,846

12,032

10,972

9,399

10,501

Question No. 205 answered with QuestionNo. 201.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

206 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs created in each of the regions on an annual basis over the past seven years; the number of jobs lost in the same areas during the same period; if any, all or none of these were relocated and for what reason; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25773/07]

Table 1 shows the numbers of jobs created and job losses by region for the period 2000-2006 in firms assisted by the enterprise development agencies under my remit. In total 198,076 new jobs were created in all regions while job losses amounted to 185,499 giving a net increase of 12,577 over the period. It is not possible to quantify how many of the jobs lost in the period were relocated.

In the period covered by this data it is noticeable that the Border and Mid West Regions have suffered net losses in terms of employment in agency assisted companies particularly in the period post 2001. However the Border Region has seen a net gain of 1,273 jobs since 2004 while there has been a net increase of 1,100 in the numbers employed in agency assisted companies in the Mid West region over the last two years.

Direct support from the Enterprise Development Agency is, however, only one element of the economic activity impacting on employment and as Table 2 shows 424,000 jobs have been created in the economy since Q2 2002 with substantial employment gains in all regions. For example in the Border region employment has grown by 32.4% in the period.

The Government is committed to achieving balanced regional development and a key regional objective included in the NDP is to support the creation of conditions necessary to extend the process of employment and productivity growth in higher value added functions to all regions. In that regard, we have made significant progress in working towards maintaining and enhancing our framework competitive conditions, and promoting new areas of competitive advantage, by developing our R&D base, investing in critical physical and communications infrastructures and, promoting tertiary education and lifelong learning. Clearly the strategies set out in the new National Development Plan, which support the continued implementation of these policies, will play a crucial role in maintaining the attractiveness of the regions as investment locations.

The enterprise agencies aim to support sustainable, high value added enterprise, in all regions through the provision of mentoring and developmental supports, the enhancement of management capabilities and critical workforce skills in client companies, support for the creation and implementation of strategies for market entry, development and growth, and strong supports for innovation and for research and development. Furthermore, we are continuing to pursue policies to promote lifelong learning and up-skilling to improve labour market flexibility and, where necessary, ensure that appropriate training supports are provided for workers in sectors that are no longer competitive, and who may need to find alternative employment.

*Table 1: Employment Gains / Losses in Enterprise Agency Assisted Firms by Region

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Total

South East

Job Gains

2,215

2,510

2,743

2,308

1,798

1,754

2,298

15,626

Job Losses

-2,091

-2,043

-2,434

-2,492

-2,377

-2,326

-1,829

-15,592

Net Change

124

467

309

-184

-579

-572

469

34

Border

Job Gains

2,971

2,870

2,346

2,329

2,416

3,212

2,840

18,984

Job Losses

-3,113

-3,976

-2,808

-2,946

-2,328

-2,084

-2,283

-19,538

Net Change

-142

-1,106

-462

-617

88

1,128

557

-554

Mid West

Job Gains

3,761

2,210

1,790

1,680

1,906

2,181

2,640

16,168

Job Losses

-1,996

-3,513

-4,155

-2,470

-2,012

-1,934

-1,787

-17,867

Net Change

1,765

-1,303

-2,365

-790

-106

247

853

-1,699

South West

Job Gains

7,525

3,750

4,189

2,851

3,316

3,113

3,892

28,636

Job Losses

-2,087

-3,375

-4,649

-3,292

-2,259

-2,873

-4,102

-22,637

Net Change

5,438

375

-460

-441

1,057

240

-210

5,999

Dublin

Job Gains

17,773

11,595

9,275

7,966

9,482

10,308

9,210

75,609

Job Losses

-6,794

-13,129

-13,493

-13,331

-11,042

-9,829

-5,643

-73,261

Net Change

10,979

-1,534

-4,218

-5,365

-1,560

479

3,567

2,348

West

Job Gains

3,961

2,110

1,619

1,888

2,152

2,566

1,793

16,089

Job Losses

-1,475

-1,927

-3,323

-1,854

-1,867

-1,451

-1,685

-13,582

Net Change

2,486

183

-1,704

34

285

1,115

108

2,507

Mid East

Job Gains

3,944

2,297

2,310

2,783

2,106

2,387

1,744

17,571

Job Losses

-1,284

-2,481

-2,079

-2,454

-2,250

-2,774

-1,787

-15,109

Net Change

2,660

-184

231

329

-144

-387

-43

2,462

Midlands

Job Gains

1,310

1,512

1,509

1,013

1,236

1,381

1,414

9,375

Job Losses

-1,246

-1,470

-1,289

-1,248

-1,160

-409

-1,083

-7,905

Net Change

64

42

220

-235

76

972

331

1,470

All Regions

Gains

43,465

28,861

25,782

22,818

24,415

26,904

25,831

198,076

Losses

-20,086

-31,914

-34,230

-30,092

-25,298

-23,680

-20,199

-185,499

Net

23,379

-3,053

-8,448

-7,274

-883

3,224

5,632

12,577

* The data contained in this Table is compiled in respect of firms assisted by Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and Shannon Development.

Table 2: Numbers in Employment (Thousand) by Region*

2000Q2

2001Q2

2002Q2

2003Q2

2004Q2

2005Q2

2006Q2

2007Q2

Increase over Period (,000)

% increase in period

State

1671.4

1721.9

1763.9

1793.4

1836.2

1929.2

2017.0

2095.4

424.0

25.4

Dublin

528.4

542.7

545.9

548.2

550.2

574.3

595.4

614.7

86.3

16.3

South East

170.3

176.0

184.6

188.1

192.2

200.3

213.6

221.2

50.9

29.9

Mid East

178.0

188.0

194.2

201.6

204.2

217.3

225.6

241.1

63.1

35.4

Midlands

88.7

91.0

96.9

100.7

102.9

110.1

115.2

121.2

32.5

36.6

South West

241.8

247.1

250.4

253.7

264.1

277.9

292.3

304.4

62.6

25.9

Mid West

145.4

144.3

151.0

152.9

156.7

163.9

174.2

173.5

28.1

19.3

West

154.6

159.8

167.3

170.8

176.2

187.6

195.5

201.8

47.2

30.5

Border

164.2

173.1

173.5

177.4

189.7

197.8

205.2

217.4

53.2

32.4

*Source: CSO Database.

Insurance Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

207 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which public liability insurance costs here compare with others within the Eurozone; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25774/07]

When the National Competitiveness Council looked at general insurance in its 2005 Annual Competitiveness report, it found that of the 16 countries benchmarked, Irish expenditure on non-life insurance was the fourth highest. However, the NCC also found that the rate of growth in the cost of insurance has slowed down substantially in recent years. This can be attributed to the series of initiatives the Government has pushed through to reform the insurance sector. The action taken by Government to ensure healthy competition in the insurance sector had already seen benefits for consumers.

Data from the CSO shows motor insurance costs for May 2007 had dropped to levels last seen in May 1997. This data also shows the cost of home insurance in May 2007 has dropped below November 2001 levels. In November 2006, it was the view of IBEC that employers' liability insurance costs do not represent the burden which they once were.

Under the Central Bank Act 2003, supervision of insurance is the responsibility of the Financial Regulator (formerly known as the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority). The Financial Regulator has a wide regulatory remit covering consumer protection and prudential supervision of practically all of the financial services industry, including insurance, and the services provided by it. The Financial Regulator comes under the aegis of my colleague the Minister for Finance.

Job Creation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

208 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the growth or loss on an annual basis of jobs in the manufacturing and services sectors here over the past seven years; the prospect for the future if trends continue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25776/07]

The following tables 1 and 2 set out the number of full time permanent created and job losses in manufacturing and services in Enterprise Agency (Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and Shannon Development) assisted firms for each of the years between 2000 and 2006. Over the period approx 17,000 net jobs were lost in manufacturing firms supported by the enterprise agencies while 30,634 net new jobs were created in the Financial and Internationally Traded services sector. In the wider economy 27,500 jobs were lost in manufacturing in the period 2000-2006 while employment in the services sector grew by 288,200 in the same period (Table 3).

Over the last number of years there has been a significant churn in employment and recent losses are unwelcome, but these have occurred in the midst of an historically phenomenal period of job creation; with well over half a million jobs created in the last 7 years. According to the latest Quarterly National Household Survey there were 2,095,000 people in employment for the 2nd Quarter of 2007. This represents an outstanding performance over the period, outperforming many of our European counterparts and is a testament to the resilience of the economy in terms of job creation. While overall economic performance remains strong, the Government is committed to increasing the number of high-paid jobs and knowledge intensive investment needed to sustain our performance into the future.

Ireland is no longer a low cost economy and manufacturers in particular are facing increased competition from producers in lower cost economies. The model of manufacturing in developed countries is changing and Irish enterprises are adapting to those changes and engaging in higher value added activities in order to compete in the global marketplace. This has been achieved as a result of increased productivity, technology levels and sophisticated skills of Irish employees. Therefore while employment in manufacturing has fallen, productivity has increased by 35% in the period 2000-2006. Competition for foreign direct investment (FDI) is also relentless but Ireland continues to punch above its weight when it comes to attracting overseas investment. While costs are higher, we have responded by positioning ourselves as a location for more advanced activities, with more qualified and better paying jobs. For instance, during 2006 the IDA successfully marketed the country as a location for 71 new investments, valued at over €2.6billion over the next few years; the agency also successfully negotiated 54 Research & Development projects representing an investment of almost €470 million. Ireland is now a global competitor for Research and Innovation investment from multinational companies and leading research institution.

In terms of job creation, Enterprise Ireland activity is focused on the creation of new jobs through supporting entrepreneurs in manufacturing and internationally traded services companies who are setting up new High Potential Start-Up Companies, the retention and creation of new jobs in existing companies and in enhancing the innovation capability of Ireland at national and regional levels through supporting innovation and R&D in companies and third level institutions.

Looking to the future, neither the Government nor my Department is complacent or unaware of the varied challenges facing the country's economy. One of our main tasks is to ensure that Ireland remains an attractive place to do business, and to support the development of economic competencies higher up the value chain. In that regard, we continue to work to maintain and enhance our framework competitive conditions, and promote new areas of competitive advantage by developing our R&D base, investing in critical physical and communications infrastructures, and promoting tertiary education and lifelong learning, in line with the NDP and the Programme for Government.

Table 1: Full-time Manufacturing Jobs in EI and IDA assisted firms

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Gains

25,641

17,153

15,278

14,329

14,084

15,316

14,686

Losses

-15,606

-24,221

-23,901

-21,715

-17,825

-15,834

-14,468

Net

10,035

-7,068

-8,623

-7,386

-3,741

-518

218

Table 2: Full-time Jobs in Services in EI and IDA assisted firms

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Gains

17,824

11,708

10,504

8,489

10,331

11,588

11,145

Losses

-4,480

-7,693

-10,329

-8,377

-7,473

-7,846

-5,731

Net

13,453

4,108

214

265

3,041

3,910

5,643

Table 3: Numbers employed (Thousand)*

2000Q4

2001Q4

2002Q4

2003Q4

2004Q4

2005Q4

2006Q4

Change 000s

Manufacturing Industries (NACE 15-37)

248.4

243.2

232.9

224.8

218.8

218.5

220.9

-27.5

Services

1088

1128.2

1162.9

1207.6

1253.2

1324

1376.5

288.2

*Source: CSO Database Direct.

Job Losses.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

209 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the manufacturing and services jobs created in County Kildare in each of the past seven years; the number in both categories lost in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25777/07]

The following tables set out the number of full time permanent jobs, between manufacturing and services in Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland assisted firms in Co. Kildare for each of the years between 2000 and 2006. Overall in the period in question over 7,000 new manufacturing jobs were created while job losses amounted to 4,276. In addition Kildare County Enterprise Board assisted in the creation of 203 net new Manufacturing jobs over the period, giving an overall net increase in Manufacturing employment in Kildare of 2,979.

With regard to Services employment, 1,065 new jobs were created by Enterprise Ireland and IDA, while job losses amounted to 1,045. In addition Kildare County Enterprise Board assisted in the creation of 132 net new Services jobs over the period, giving an overall net increase in Services employment in Kildare of 152.

Kildare has in recent years attracted some world class manufacturing companies such as Intel, Braun Oral-B and Hewlett Packard. These companies continue to invest in the area. This is reflected in the 2006 announcement by Hewlett-Packard Financial Services of the expansion of their EMEA headquarters in Leixlip. Similarly Intel announced in 2007 its plans to establish the Technology Research for Independent Living (TRIL) Centre in Ireland. Approximately $30 million will be invested in the TRIL Centre over a period of three years and Intel will collaborate with several leading Irish universities, including UCD, TCD and NUI Galway to create one of the largest research efforts of this type in the world. IDA Ireland is also working to attract the International Services, Software, Financial Services and Pharmaceuticals sectors.

The enterprise development agencies are committed to promoting Kildare as a location for investment as part of an integrated East Region, with access to a population base of 1.5 million people, as well as supporting and developing businesses already present in the county.

In general, IDA Ireland's strategy for County Kildare is to:—

Progress the development of a knowledge economy;

Encourage increased co-operation between foreign direct investment companies and third level institutions in the county; e.g University College Maynooth and the establishment of the Innovation Value Institute;

Work with the existing client base in the county to expand its presence;

Provide modern property solutions with supporting infrastructure;

Work with Local Authorities and relevant infrastructure providers to influence the delivery of appropriate infrastructure to the county.

Enterprise Ireland activity is focused on the creation of new jobs through supporting entrepreneurs in manufacturing and internationally traded services companies who are setting up new High Potential Start-Up Companies, the retention and creation of new jobs in existing companies and in enhancing the innovation capability of Ireland at national and regional levels through supporting research in companies and third level institutions. Since the beginning of 2003, EI has approved over €12m in support to companies in Kildare to help them grow their sales and exports and improve innovation and new product development in order that they can compete on world markets.

New companies — now leaders in the consumer products market — have been established and have created new employment. The consumer foods sector in particular, has shown rapid growth in recent years. Over the last two years we have seen significant investment by Green Isle Foods and Dawn Farm Foods Ltd, both supported by Enterprise Ireland, leading to significant employment increases in both of these state of the art facilities.

Table 1: Full-time Job Gains & Losses in Enterprise Agency Assisted Firms in Manufacturing: Co. Kildare

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Change over Period

Job Gains

2,143

608

882

843

1,020

773

783

7,052

Job Losses

-277

-951

-499

-747

-733

-382

-687

-4,276

Net change

1,866

-343

383

96

287

391

96

2,776

Table 2: Full-time Job Gains & Losses in Enterprise Agency Assisted Firms in Financial and Internationally Traded Services: Co. Kildare

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Change over Period

Job Gains

321

81

145

141

84

166

127

1,065

Job Losses

-43

-254

-403

-132

-79

-107

-27

-1,045

Net change

278

-173

-258

9

5

59

100

20

Data in these tables relates to Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland only.

Source: Forfás Business Information System.

Employment Statistics.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

210 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs relocated from County Kildare in the past seven years; the reason for the relocation; the action taken to address such reasons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25778/07]

Statistics on job relocation are not compiled by the Industrial Development agencies. However, I understand that the number of jobs lost in agency assisted companies (IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland) over the last seven years in Co. Kildare is 5,321. In the same period, these two agencies created a total of 8,117 jobs.

Over the seven-year period from 1999 to 2006, permanent jobs in IDA Ireland assisted companies increased by 1,967 to 10,869 in County Kildare. Permanent employment in Enterprise Ireland assisted companies in the County increased by 829 to 5,430 in the same period.

There has been a significant turnaround in the nature of employment in recent years. The most significant areas of new employment are services and high-end manufacturing rather then traditional low-cost industries. The Government has recognised the changes taking place across the world markets for both trade and investment. The emphasis is now on enterprise policies that equip companies with the ability to compete better in world markets, capture the opportunities provided by globalisation and build competitive advantage in innovation and knowledge.

According to the latest Quarterly National Household Survey which is for the second quarter of 2007, approximately 425,000 people have been added to our workforce nationwide since the corresponding quarter in 2000. This represents unprecedented growth with more than two million people now in employment. Job relocations, which inevitably arise in the globalised marketplace, have been far exceeded by new job creation, usually accompanied by higher skilled and better paid employment. I expect this to continue.

Pre-Budget Submissions.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

211 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the proposals he has to meet the concerns of the Irish Hotel Federation in regard to Budget 2008 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25745/07]

I have met with representatives of the Irish Hotels Federation on a number of occasions since my assumption of the Tourism portfolio and discussed its pre-budget submission and related matters. Such discussions were useful in understanding the concerns of the industry as the Government progresses its own work on the preparation of the forthcoming budget and the Departmental Estimates for 2008.

Electronic Payments System.

Richard Bruton

Question:

212 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has considered introducing incentives to encourage people to move to cashless systems of payment and transactions which would bring considerable administrative savings as well as savings in security costs; and his estimate of the savings on administration costs within the public service that would be obtained when a person switches to receive payment electronically. [25676/07]

It is government policy to facilitate the greater use of electronic payment systems in the economy in the interests of developing a world class payments environment in Ireland. In this context, the National Payments Implementation Programme Advisory Group, under the aegis of the Department of the Taoiseach, monitors the growth in electronic payments, the reduction in cash transactions and any new payment mechanisms which come on the market. My Department is represented on this group.

The objective of my Department's payment strategy is to ensure that cost effective arrangements are in place for making payments to social welfare customers using a range of payment options and that new payment facilities are made available to customers as they arise. Customers opt for a particular payment method having regard to their own personal circumstances.

Currently some 50% of customers receive their payment electronically direct to their bank or financial institution, or electronically at their local Post Office. The remaining customers are paid by paper based payment instruments — cheques or personal payment order books.

The mix of paper and electronic payment methods in operation, limits the level of savings from electronic payments. The full benefits of these payment types will be achieved as they are rolled out to all customers over the coming years.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Finian McGrath

Question:

213 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding a query (details supplied); and if he will ensure that this person is receiving all of the benefits they are entitled to. [25698/07]

The supplementary allowance (SWA) scheme, including rent supplement, is administered on my behalf by the Community Welfare division of the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The person concerned applied for rent supplement in September 2007. Her application is held pending determination of her entitlement to participate in my Department's Back To Education Allowance (BTEA) scheme. The question of whether or not she is entitled to BTEA will have a bearing on her possible entitlement to rent supplement.

My Department is awaiting additional information from the person concerned regarding her participation in an approved course of study for the purposes of this scheme. Once this information is received, her application for BTEA will be determined and the Executive will then be in a position to make a decision in relation to her rent supplement.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

214 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the basis for discrimination in rates of child benefit paid in respect of twins, in three households where twins are joint first and second oldest, joint second and third oldest, joint third and fourth oldest; the reason these children are not being treated equally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25746/07]

Child benefit (CB) is a universal payment, paid in respect of children up to the age of 16 years. It continues to be paid in respect of children up to age 19 who are in full-time education, or who have a physical or mental disability.

Studies have shown that poverty is concentrated in larger families. In recognition of this, the child benefit scheme is designed to ensure that additional resources are targeted at larger families through the existence of a higher rate of payment in respect of the third and subsequent qualified children. CB rates are currently €160 per month for each of the first two qualified children and €195 per month in respect of the third and subsequent qualified children.

In the case of twins, a special rate of 150% of the normal monthly CB rate is paid for each child. Twice the normal rate is paid in respect of all other multiple births. In addition, a special grant of €635 is paid in respect of all multiple births at three stages: at birth, at the age of four years and again at the age of twelve.

The amount of CB payable to any family is determined solely on the basis of the number of qualified children in the family. It is not determined on the basis of the place of each individual child within the family. Accordingly, the rate of payment which applies in respect of an individual child depends on that child's place among the qualifying children in the family.

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Niall Collins

Question:

215 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason an application by a person (details supplied) for a back to school allowance was not processed in the normal fashion. [25752/07]

The Southern Area of the Health Service Executive has advised that they have no record of this application. The executive further advises that if the person concerned contacts the Community Welfare Officer at her local health centre in Kilmallock (phone: 061 98411), the matter will be dealt with without delay.

Grant Payments.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

216 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Donegal County Council has approved counter-funding for the sea wall at Tory Island and is awaiting funding from his Department; and when this funding will be made available. [25487/07]

As the Deputy will be aware from my response to Parliamentary Question No. 227 on 4 April 2007, Donegal County Council had previously indicated that the work in question could not be afforded priority status, as protection of public property did not arise. Accordingly, the project was not included in the islands works programmes for Donegal which were drawn up for 2007 and for which grant assistance totalling €352,495 was allocated by my Department.

No official application has been received in my Department in the interim seeking funding for the project.

I can assure the Deputy that if an official application is received, it will be given due consideration in the context of other applications on hand and available funding.

Áiseanna Oileáin.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

217 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Dinny McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an dtuigeann sé an geárghá atá ann an balla cosanta i mBaile Thiar Oileán Thoraí a chríochnú chomh luath agus is féidir mar tá tithe i gcontúirt faoi láthair; an bhfuil deontas ceadaithe ina leith; cad é méid an deontais sin; an bhfuil cómhaoiniú ceadaithe ag Comhairle Chontae Dhún na nGall agus cén uair a bhfuil súil aige go gcuirfear tús leis an obair. [25515/07]

Mar is eol don Teachta ó mo fhreagra ar Cheist Dála Uimh. 227 ar 4 Aibreán 2007, bhí curtha in iúl ag Comhairle Chontae Dhún na nGall nach dtabharfaí tosaíocht don obair áirithe ós rud é nach raibh cosaint maoine nó áiseanna poiblí i gceist. Dá réir sin, ní raibh an togra curtha san áireamh nuair a bhí cláir oileánda Dhún na nGall á gcur le chéile do 2007, cláir ar cheadaigh mo Roinn €352,495 ina leith.

Níl iarratas oifigiúil faighte ag mo Roinn san idirlinn i ndáil le maoiniú an togra seo.

Ach iarratas oifigiúil a fháil, déanfar é a bhreithniú i gcomhthéacs líon na n-iarratas atá ar láimh agus an mhaoinithe atá ar fáil.

EU Directives.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

218 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason a penalty has been imposed regarding the nitrates directive on a person (details supplied) in County Galway in view of the fact that they were informed they would not have a penalty applied on their REP scheme for exceeding the nitrogen limit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25685/07]

My officials have determined that there was no breach of the REPS nitrogen limits and consequently no REPS penalty will apply in this case.

Alternative Farm Enterprises.

Martin Ferris

Question:

219 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of acres devoted to the growing of energy crops; and the projected growth for this sector over the next five years. [25731/07]

The area of oilseed rape, which is used to produce liquid biofuel, increased from 12,350 acres in 2006 to 18,500 acres in 2007. A further 1,900 acres of willow and miscanthus were planted in 2007. The increase in area planted can be attributed to the developing Bioenergy market and the introduction of incentives at farm level to stimulate production of energy crops. The incentives include a new national energy crops payment of €80 per hectare. This will be paid as a top-up to the EU premium available under the EU Energy Crops Scheme, subject to certain conditions. Establishment grants of up to €1,450 per hectare are available under the new Bioenergy Scheme to encourage farmers to plant willow and miscanthus.

The future outlook for energy crops depends on a number of factors, not least profitability at farm level. In the short-term, the soaring world demand for grain is likely to lead to an increase in the area devoted to conventional cereal crops in Ireland and elsewhere in response to the current high grain prices. More long-term projections are difficult to forecast at this stage. Much will depend on the rate of development of production and consumption patterns for biofuels over the next number of years.

Schools Building Projects.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

220 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science if there is an application from a school (details supplied) in County Donegal for renovation and extension; when such application was received in her Department; if same is being considered; when it is expected that a decision will be made to approve funding to carry out the necessary work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25508/07]

The school referred to by the Deputy made an application for capital funding towards the provision of additional accommodation. An assessment of projected enrolment trends, demographic trends and housing developments in the area was carried out in order to inform the determination of the long term projected staffing on which the school's accommodation needs will be based. This has been finalised and notified to the school. The building project required is being considered in the context of the multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Fee-Paying Secondary Schools.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

221 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of students currently attending fee-paying secondary schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25518/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

223 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science the estimate of the amount of money saved to the State in capitation fees and other school supports with respect to pupils who attend fee-paying second level schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25520/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 221 and 223 together.

There are currently 56 fee-charging second level schools in the country, of which 21 are Protestant, 2 Inter-denominational, one Jewish and the remainder Catholic.

The number of students enrolled in fee-charging schools in the 2006/07 school year was 26,463. Enrolment figure for the 2007/2008 school year are not yet available to my Department.

Fee-charging schools, with the exception of the Protestant and Jewish fee-charging schools for which special arrangements apply, do not receive capitation or related supports.

In the case of the Protestant schools a payment is made to the Central Protestant Churches authority — the Secondary Education Committee — of a grant (the Protestant Block Grant) for distribution among needier Protestant students to enable them to meet the cost of attending Protestant schools. The grant is calculated by reference to the number of pupils in Protestant schools, on a broadly similar basis to the per capita grant payable to schools in the Free Education Scheme. Parents make applications for assistance to the Committee which on the basis of a means test distributes the funds by individual schools on the basis of pupil needs.

In addition, Protestant fee-charging schools are eligible for payment of such grants as the transition year support grant, the secretarial grant and caretaking grant.

My Department estimates that if capitation and related supports had been paid to the fee-charging schools, with the exception of the Protestant and Jewish fee-charging schools, the cost would have been in the region of €9 million for the 2006/07 school year.

Departmental Properties.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

222 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 425 of 2 October 2007, if her attention has been drawn to the fact that no letter has been received by the legal representatives of the owners of the adjacent property as was stated in her reply; when they can expect to receive such a letter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25519/07]

My Department has been in contact with the Chief State Solicitors Office and been advised that the letter has now issued to the appropriate legal representative.

Question No. 223 answered with QuestionNo. 221.

Departmental Agencies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

224 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 435 of 2 October 2007, if her attention has been drawn to the fact that her Department was the only Department which refused to answer this question; the reason she did not answer this question; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25521/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department receives a large volume of parliamentary questions relating to education policy and services across all levels of the education system. My Department is involved in the delivery of services to nearly 1 million students, 4,000 schools and a myriad of education related bodies across the education sector. As previously advised, the information requested by the Deputy would involve an inordinate amount of administrative time to compile. If the Deputy has any queries in relation to a particular body then officials in my Department would be more than happy to discuss these with him. The Deputy will also be aware that information on staffing and budgets is available in annual reports and other documents published by various bodies. Many of these reports are available in the Oireachtas Library or can be downloaded from the websites of bodies concerned. Also information on expenditure for a number of bodies is included in my Department's Audited Appropriation Accounts published annually.

School Transport.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

225 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will approve school transport for all of the children in the Goresbridge area of County Kilkenny whose parents were given assurances by her Department that no child would be disadvantaged by the closure of a school (details supplied) and allow their parents the choice to educate their children in various schools in Kilkenny by providing additional school transport to accommodate the pupils concerned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25525/07]

Pupils residing in the Goresbridge area, where the school referred to by the Deputy was located, are eligible for school transport to Borris Post Primary Centre provided they meet the eligibility criteria set out in the Post Primary School Transport Scheme. It is not the practice under the terms of the post-primary scheme to facilitate parents who send their children to a post-primary centre outside of the catchment area in which they reside. However, children who are fully eligible for transport to the post-primary centre in the catchment area in which they reside, may apply for transport on a concessionary basis to a post-primary centre outside of their own catchment area — otherwise known as catchment boundary transport. These children can only be facilitated if spare seats are available on the bus after all other eligible children travelling to their local post-primary centre have been catered for. Such children have to make their own way to the nearest pick up point within that catchment area. The Transport Liaison Officer for County Kilkenny has advised that services are operating to capacity. Parents should continue to liaise with their local Bus Éireann office regarding availability of spare seating in the future.

Higher Education Grants.

Pat Breen

Question:

226 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25547/07]

Under the prescribed terms and conditions of my Department's student maintenance grant schemes grant assistance may not generally be awarded in respect of a repeat period of study at the same level, irrespective of whether or not funding was previously awarded. The awarding body may, however, waive this provision in exceptional circumstances — example, certified serious illness. In such cases decisions are made by the assessing authority on a case by case basis. It should be emphasised, however, that this discretion would generally only be exercised where a candidate is repeating a period of study on the same course.

My Department understands, from the information provided by the Deputy on the candidate referred to, that the candidate has already pursued year two of a two-year Business Studies course and is now repeating second year — the final year of the programme. The decision on eligibility for repeat year funding is a matter for the relevant assessing authority which I understand is County Clare VEC in this case. The assessing authorities do not refer individual applications to my Department except, in exceptional cases where, for example, advice or instruction regarding a particular clause in the relevant scheme is desired.

If an individual applicant considers that she/he has been unjustly refused a maintenance grant she/he may appeal in the first instance to the relevant assessing authority. Where an individual applicant has an appeal turned down by the relevant assessing authority, and remains of the view that the body has not interpreted the schemes correctly in his/her case, an official appeal form (available from the assessing authority) outlining the position may be submitted by the applicant to the Higher Education: Equity of Access unit in my Department.

Schools Building Projects.

John O'Mahony

Question:

227 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will sanction a new school for a school (details supplied) in County Mayo. [25548/07]

An application for capital funding towards the provision of new school building has been received from the school authority referred to by the Deputy. An assessment of projected enrolment trends, demographic trends and housing developments in the area will be required in order to determine the long term projected staffing figure on which the school's accommodation needs will be based. Once the long term projection has been determined and agreed with the school authorities the required building project will be considered in the context of the multiannual School Building and Modernisation programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

228 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the funds presently available and unallocated for the development of new build primary and post primary schools outside the greater Dublin area; the corresponding figure for the greater Dublin area; the estimated figure in both categories for 2008, excluding the recently announced new builds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25558/07]

This year is the first year of the rollout of the new NDP which will involve an investment of over €4.5 billion in school building infrastructure during the period 2007 to 2013. As the investment is delivered through a multi-annual school building programme, expenditure on individual projects is not confined to a given calendar year. Typically, new school buildings at primary and post-primary level have a twelve to eighteen month construction phase. My Department's focus with the NDP funding will be on the provision of school places in the rapidly developing areas.

Psychological Service.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

229 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a school (details supplied) in County Galway has been prevented from gaining access to the National Educational Psychological Service; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the management of the school were informed in November 2005 that the school was no longer in the NEPS scheme and that the position would be reviewed at Easter 2006, that no such review has taken place and that the NEPS scheme should be made available as a matter of urgency to this school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25687/07]

The Deputy will be aware that all primary and post primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA). Schools that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them may avail of the SCPA and have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved and paid for by NEPS. The prioritisation of urgent cases for assessment is a matter for the school principal in the first instance. NEPS is regionally based organisation with some 20 offices countrywide. Coverage of schools by NEPS psychologists is dependant upon the staffing levels in a given region and such coverage is reviewed on a regular basis within each region and office. The Deputy may be aware that since NEPS was established in 1999, we have trebled the number of psychologists in the service and that further staffing increases are provided for in the Towards 2016 agreement.

Schools Building Projects.

Brian Hayes

Question:

230 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the action her Department will take to resolve the ongoing issues that confront a school (details supplied) in Dublin 7; if her attention has been drawn to the exasperation and frustration felt by the teachers and management of this school and their recent threat to take industrial action if her Department fails to resolve the situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25691/07]

The Department acknowledges the need for a solution to the accommodation difficulties at the school to which the Deputy refers and it is committed to working to achieve a satisfactory solution as soon as possible. In this regard, the Department is considering a number of options. One of these options is the building of a permanent structure on the school's current site. A number of issues have arisen in relation to this proposal. However, it will be pursued in tandem with a number of other options being considered. In the meantime, it remains open to the school authority to apply to School Planning Section for any remedial works required in respect of its existing accommodation.

Joe McHugh

Question:

231 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science if there are funding avenues for a school (details supplied) in County Donegal to install security cameras to alleviate the vandalism problems suffered over the past couple of months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25693/07]

The Building Section of my Department has no record of an application for funding in respect of the installation of security cameras under the Emergency Works Grant Scheme from the school referred to by the Deputy. However, I have arranged for an application form to be issued to the school for completion and return.

David Stanton

Question:

232 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made in providing an extension to a school (details supplied) in County Cork; the proposed timescale in her Department in respect of the remaining stages of this project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25747/07]

Officials in the Department have completed a technical visit of the school referred to by the Deputy with a view to determining the project brief. The future progression of the project will be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Schools Refurbishment.

David Stanton

Question:

233 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science if she is in receipt of an application from a school (details supplied) in County Cork for assistance in order to repair a roof which is leaking; if and when such assistance will be provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25748/07]

The Building Section of my Department has no record of an application for funding in respect of roof repairs under the Emergency Works Grant Scheme from the school referred to by the Deputy. However, I have arranged for an application form to be issued to the school for completion and return.

Schools Building Projects.

John Curran

Question:

234 Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding a proposed building project at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 20. [25754/07]

The closing date for receipt of tenders from building contractors in respect of the project referred to by the Deputy elapsed recently and the school's Design Team is currently preparing a tender report. When this report is completed it will be forwarded to my Department for consideration.

John Curran

Question:

235 Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding a proposed building project at schools (details supplied) in County Dublin. [25755/07]

A building project for the schools to which the Deputy refers has been assigned a Band one rating under the published prioritisation criteria for large-scale building projects. The project is currently being prepared for the appointment of a Design Team following a technical inspection which will enable the finalisation of accommodation briefs. Progress on the project can then be considered in the context of the multiannual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

John Deasy

Question:

236 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary school pupils attending schools in each county council and city council area; the number of pupils in each of those areas who are in classes of 30 or over in each of the past three school years; the number of pupils in each of those areas who are in classes of 25 to 29 for the same period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25757/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is given in the following tables for the 2005/2006 school year and 2006/2007 school year. The information for the 2007/2008 school year is currently being collated in my Department.

As the Deputy will be aware, major improvements have been made in staffing at primary level in recent years. There are now 5,000 more primary teachers than there were in 2002. By the 2006/07 school year, we had reduced the average class size in our primary schools to 24, while the pupil teacher ratio was 16.4:1, including resource teachers etc. In that year, schools were staffed on the basis of a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children. Given that the national average was 24, many schools benefited from much more favourable staffing ratios than this.

Extra teachers were provided by the Government for the 2007/08 school year to improve primary school staffing so that schools would generally get at least one classroom teacher for every 27 children. Posts allocated on the basis of the improved staffing schedule are specifically for mainstream classes and should be deployed accordingly. School authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum.

A further initiative in recent years that has been of direct benefit to primary schools has been the change in the criteria for developing schools. For the current school year the threshold for getting a developing school post was reduced specifically to help schools that are seeing large increases in enrolments each year. Over 350 such posts have been sanctioned in the 2007/08 school year compared to 280 in 2006/07.

The improvements we have made in school staffing in recent years are absolutely unparalleled. The Government is committed to providing more teachers to our primary schools over the next five years. We will also continue our focus on measures to improve the quality of education in our primary schools to ensure that increased resources lead to better outcomes for our children.

Number Of Pupils By Class Size Range By County (2005/2006)

25-29

30-34

35-39

40 & Over

Totals

Carlow

2,270

1,304

142

5,539

Cavan

2,334

1,552

285

7,684

Clare

3,504

2,476

640

41

11,793

Cork City

4,193

2,754

286

13,547

Cork County

13,401

9,592

1,792

44

36,956

Donegal

5,914

3,300

185

17,246

Dublin Belgard

10,541

6,495

245

26,578

Dublin City

13,346

8,133

360

40,706

Dublin Fingal

10,775

9,021

322

24,491

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown

6,379

4,989

248

15,612

Galway City

2,066

1,366

35

5,735

Galway County

5,073

2,830

214

40

17,415

Kerry

4,969

2,898

70

14,455

Kildare

10,437

6,351

531

22,070

Kilkenny

3,332

2,383

176

9,274

Laois

3,169

1,466

72

7,190

Leitrim

953

160

146

2,971

Limerick City

1,973

1,392

106

6,238

Limerick County

5,184

2,758

212

13,348

Longford

1,292

471

71

3,610

Louth

5,260

3,731

282

13,337

Mayo

4,204

1654

186

13,190

Meath

7,827

5,220

757

18,615

Monaghan

2,126

1,139

214

6,242

Offaly

3,516

1,684

8,638

Roscommon

1,685

721

148

40

6,221

Sligo

1,911

975

143

6,437

Tipperary N.R.

2,515

913

106

41

7,339

Tipperary S.R.

2,882

1,358

284

9,224

Waterford City

2,668

1021

72

5,375

Waterford County

2,771

1,109

248

6,723

Westmeath

3,352

2,282

144

9,238

Wexford

5,922

3,503

497

15,195

Wicklow

4,621

4,222

465

13,734

Totals

162,365

101,223

9,684

206

441,966

Number Of Pupils By Class Size Range By County (2006/2007)

25-29

30-34

35-39

40 & Over

Totals

Carlow

2,373

1,403

148

5,836

Cavan

2,513

1,652

425

8,040

Clare

3,782

2,587

612

40

12,113

Cork City

4,736

2,467

70

13,655

Cork County

14,209

9,671

1,369

38,108

Donegal

6,596

3,575

177

17,684

Dublin City

13,256

7,742

288

40,891

Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown

6,672

4,854

35

15,678

Fingal

13,025

8,140

35

25,925

Galway City

1,932

1,456

5,981

Galway County

5,723

2,787

175

18,052

Kerry

5,699

2,522

253

14,749

Kildare

11,905

6,397

216

23,221

Kilkenny

3,688

2,354

322

9,576

Laois

2,505

2,184

70

7,577

Leitrim

1,129

378

76

3,147

Limerick City

2,193

1,325

35

6,329

Limerick County

5,139

3,497

211

13,654

Longford

1,375

408

74

3,859

Louth

5,373

3,778

358

13,866

Mayo

4,379

1,985

146

13,377

Meath

8,394

5,434

427

19,707

Monaghan

2,426

1,073

179

6,365

Offaly

4,024

1,584

71

8,995

Roscommon

1,969

903

70

6,428

Sligo

2,178

781

218

6,572

South Dublin

10,888

6,042

140

27,263

Tipperary N.R.

2,705

1,160

105

7,566

Tipperary S.R.

3,268

1,690

249

9,435

Waterford City

2,387

1,389

36

5,606

Waterford County

2,835

1,181

182

40

6,886

Westmeath

3,717

1,932

143

9,553

Wexford

6,468

3,302

428

41

15,618

Wicklow

4,964

3,951

287

41

14,143

Total

174,425

101,584

7,630

162

455,455

Special Educational Needs.

Brian Hayes

Question:

237 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if there is a maximum level of additional teaching and learning supports for primary students; if any primary school student in the State had or has two full-time special needs assistants assigned to them; the reason the onus is on her Department to accept recommendations by qualified educational psychologists regarding additional teaching and learning supports for students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25779/07]

The Deputy will be aware that my Department implemented a general allocation system of learning support/resource teachers (LS/RT) to mainstream primary schools in September 2005. The system is intended to cater for children with high-incidence special education needs such as borderline mild general learning disability and mild general learning disability and specific learning disability. The allocation is also intended to support those with learning support needs, that is, those functioning at or below the tenth percentile on a standardised test of reading and/or mathematics.

It is a matter for each school to identify the pupils with learning support and high-incidence special education needs that will receive supplementary teaching support. Each school will have enough resource teaching hours to provide its pupils with a level of support appropriate to their needs. The school can use its professional judgement to decide how these hours are divided between different children in the school, to ensure that all their needs are met. My Department issued a guidance circular to schools which contained detailed information on how the system operates. Individual allocations for pupils with special educational needs arising from low incidence disabilities continue to be made by the Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs).

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through the local SENO, is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs (SEN) supports such as resource teaching and special needs assistant (SNA) support. The teaching and SNA support allocated are intended to enable schools to meet the needs of pupils as outlined in psychological and other reports.

In fulfilling this obligation, the NCSE requests the submission of relevant reports from psychologists and other professionals with applications for SEN resources. The criteria for allocation of such resources are set down in my Department's circulars having regard to the recommendations of the Report of the Special Education Review Committee, 1993, also known as the SERC Report. My Department's Circular SP ED 02/05 lists the low-incidence disability categories that require the submission of supporting professional reports. The Circular also specifies the eligibility criteria used by the NCSE in respect of these disabilities. Evidence to show that this criteria has been met must be included in the professional's report to enable the granting of the appropriate level of support. The requisite levels of support that may be sanctioned in respect of each low-incidence disability are also outlined in Circular SP ED 02/05.

There is no onus, per se, on my Department to accept the recommendations of a qualified educational psychologist in the allocation of additional teaching and learning supports for students. However, there is an onus on my Department and its agencies to give careful consideration to such recommendations within the terms of Department circulars, save in the most exceptional circumstances.

The extent of supports allocated to individual students as requested by the Deputy is not retained by my Department. I will forward the Deputy's question to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply in the event that they hold such information.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

238 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of homicides, detections of homicides, prosecutions of homicides, and convictions for homicides since 1998 to date in 2007 broken down by age and sex of victim, location of the offence and the means by which the homicides were carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25494/07]

In the time available it has not been possible to obtain the statistics sought by the Deputy for the period in question. I will be in contact with the Deputy when the information is to hand.

Garda Stations.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

239 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations here; the number of stations functionally operational; the number of stations permanently closed; the number vacated on a temporary basis due to the need for renovation or replacement; the number of stations open for a limited period every month; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25495/07]

Charles Flanagan

Question:

240 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of green men in place in Garda property here; the number that are operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25496/07]

Charles Flanagan

Question:

243 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations in rural Ireland; the number of rural Garda stations with residential accommodation included or attached for the use of gardaí; the number of Garda stations with used, and with unused, residential accommodation for the use of gardaí; the Government policy on the provision of residential accommodation in stations for Gardaí; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25499/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 239, 240 and 243 together.

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that there are a total of 703 Garda Stations in the State. A full list of Garda Stations, listed by Division, is available at www.garda.ie. The Deputy will be aware that in accordance with section 22 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 decisions on the opening or closing of Garda Stations are for the Garda Commissioner in the first instance in the context of his Annual Policing Plan. I expect the draft Annual Policing Plan to be presented to me shortly and it will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas in due course.

With regard to residential accommodation in use by the Garda authorities, there are a number of official residences for garda use mainly in rural areas. The allocation of the accommodation is a matter for the Garda authorities. As is the case with all Garda accommodation, such residences are maintained by the Office of Public Works. I am advised that the Garda Síochána plan to prepare a new garda accommodation strategy and I expect that the requirements for official residential accommodation in the future will be examined as part of that strategy.

The remainder of the very detailed information which the Deputy has requested is not readily available and An Garda Síochána will need to dedicate resources to its collection. As soon as the information is to hand I will communicate it directly to the Deputy.

Garda Strength.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

241 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí per division; the civilian populations in each division; the crime rates broken down by division; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25497/07]

As of the 30 September last, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the personnel strength of each Garda Division is as follows:

Division

Strength

DMR South Central

768

DMR Southern

609

DMR Northern

683

DMR West

743

DMR North Central

697

DMR Eastern

611

Louth/Meath

589

Longford/Westmeath

306

Leix/Offaly

305

Carlow/Kildare

398

Wexford/Wicklow

365

Waterford/Kilkenny

412

Tipperary

355

Cork City

655

Cork North

281

Cork West

291

Kerry

315

Limerick

564

Clare

314

Galway West

417

Galway East/Roscommon

269

Mayo

307

Sligo/Leitrim

295

Donegal

478

Cavan/Monaghan

403

I understand that the Central Statistics Office is currently preparing the Small Area Population Statistics (SAPS) based on the 2006 census. It is not expected that these SAPS figures will be available until mid-November 2007. It is, therefore, not yet possible to provide the population per Garda Division based on the 2006 Census figures.

Following the submission in 2004 of a report and recommendations by an expert group on crime statistics, it was decided that the compilation and publication of crime statistics should be taken over by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, from the Garda Síochána. The Garda Síochána Act, 2005 consequently makes provision for this and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose.

Following the setting up of the necessary technical systems and auditing of the data from which the statistics are compiled, the CSO is now compiling and publishing criminal statistics and has published provisional headline crime statistics since the third quarter of 2006. In addition, it has compiled and published a series of quarterly and annual statistics for the period starting with the first quarter of 2003. I understand that the CSO are examining how the crime statistics published might be expanded and made more comprehensive.

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

Charles Flanagan

Question:

242 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí excluding members of the Reserve Defence Force working on the beat in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford during the night-time shift of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. on 31 December 2006, 28 February 2007, 24 May 2007 and 7 October 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25498/07]

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that for security and operational reasons, it is Garda policy not to disclose the number or percentage of personnel on duty at any specific area or over any given period of time.

It is the responsibility of the Garda Divisional Officer to allocate personnel within his or her Division taking everything into account. The situation will be kept under review by the Garda Commissioner and when additional personnel next become available the needs of all Garda Divisions will be fully considered by him within the overall context of the needs of Garda Districts/Divisions throughout the country.

Question No. 243 answered with QuestionNo. 239.

Garda Stations.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

244 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of police stations in the 26-county area now comprising the State on 1 January 1922, 1 January 1960, 1 January 1980, 1 January 2000 and the 18 of October 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25500/07]

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that there are a total of 703 Garda Stations in the State. A full list of Garda Stations, listed by Division, is available at www.garda.ie. I am advised by the Garda authorities that the historical data requested by the Deputy is not readily available and would require a manual search of archived records. The compilation of such information would involve a disproportionate amount of Garda time and resources which could not be justified in the circumstances.

Residency Permits.

John Curran

Question:

245 Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made regarding an application for residency by a person (details supplied) in County Dublin. [25504/07]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that a decision in relation to the application for residence in the State based on EU Treaty Rights issued to the person in question by registered post on 16th July 2007.

Illegal Fireworks.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

246 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of seizures of illegal fireworks made in the years 2005, 2006 and to date in 2007 together with the value of each consignment. [25506/07]

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that, each year, particularly in the lead up to and during Hallowe'en, an Garda Síochána puts in place special operations to address the illegal importation of fireworks. This involves the gathering of information and appropriate follow-up action by the Gardaí aimed at the seizure of illicit fireworks and involves close liaison with local authorities. Operation Tombola was launched again in September this year. The following table details the number of seizures of illegal fireworks and approximate value in 2005 and 2006.

Year

No. of Seizures

Estimated Value

2006

76

115,286

2005

126

454,760

I have asked the Garda Authorities to compile corresponding figures, in the next couple of weeks, when the traditional season for the use of fireworks is over and I will forward them to the Deputy when they are available.

Public Order Offences.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

247 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of behaviour warnings which have issued in respect of adults and children in Athlone and surrounding areas of County Westmeath under the ASBO legislation. [25512/07]

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

248 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of behaviour warnings which have issued in respect of adults and children in Mullingar and surrounding areas of County Westmeath under the ASBO legislation. [25513/07]

Niall Blaney

Question:

251 Deputy Niall Blaney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of behaviour warnings issued in County Donegal since their introduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25544/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 247, 248 and 251 together.

Part 11 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which provides for civil proceedings in relation to anti-social behaviour by adults, was commenced on 1 January, 2007. Part 13 of the Act relating to anti-social behaviour by children was commenced on 1 March, 2007. These provisions set out an incremental procedure for addressing anti-social behaviour by adults and children. With regard to children, these range from a warning from a member of An Garda Síochána, to a good behaviour contract involving the child and his or her parents or guardian, to referral to the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme and to the making of a behaviour order by the Childrens' Court.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that up to 30 September, 2007, 264 behaviour warnings to adults and 80 behaviour warnings to children were issued. There have also been two formal good behaviour contracts, which are used only in the case of children, agreed.

I am further informed these figures include the Longford/Westmeath Garda Division, which includes Athlone and Mullingar Garda Districts, where three behaviour warnings issued to adults and the Donegal Garda Division where one behaviour warning issued to an adult. Figures are provisional, operational and liable to change.

Garda Investigations.

Billy Timmins

Question:

249 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if charges (details supplied) were brought in this country; if the investigation is ongoing; the current situation regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25530/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda investigation into this matter is ongoing and that a substantial investigation file has been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The directions of the DPP are awaited.

Importation Licences.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

250 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of licences for the importation of fireworks issued in 2004, 2005 and 2006 and to date in 2007; if he is satisfied with the criteria for the importation and possession of fireworks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25535/07]

In accordance with the Explosives Act, 1875, fireworks are deemed to be explosives. Accordingly, fireworks may not be imported into the State except under an importation licence granted by my Department. It is a long standing policy that these licences are granted only for organised displays conducted by competent and professional operators.

I am fully satisfied that the current restrictive policy for the granting of importation licences for fireworks and the criteria for same goes a long way towards protecting the public from the inherent dangers of fireworks while at the same time ensuring that they are not deprived of the spectacle of fireworks.

The following table outlines the number of importation licences issued in recent years.

Year

Number of importation licences issued

2007

353 to date

2006

376

2005

387

2004

356

Question No. 251 answered with QuestionNo. 247.

Citizenship Applications.

Chris Andrews

Question:

252 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 14 for citizenship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25551/07]

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

On examination of the application it was determined that the person concerned did not satisfy the residency requirements as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. A letter informing him of this was issued on 24 July 2007.

It is open to the individual in question to lodge a new application if and when he is in a position to meet the statutory residency requirements applicable at that time.

Chris Andrews

Question:

253 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6 for citizenship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25552/07]

I am informed by officials in the Citizenship Section of my Department that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy.

Chris Andrews

Question:

254 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application by a person (details supplied) in County Dublin for citizenship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25554/07]

I am informed by officials in the Citizenship Section of my Department that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy.

Irish Prison Service.

Denis Naughten

Question:

255 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an approach has been made to the Irish Prison Service regarding an access road (details supplied); the response from the Irish Prison Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25557/07]

I am informed by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that a meeting has taken place between officials from the Irish Prison Service and Roscommon County Council in relation to this matter. The Prison Service advised the County Council that it will need further details in relation to the proposal in order that it can be evaluated with regard to prison security issues.

Citizenship Applications.

Joe Costello

Question:

256 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress on the application for naturalisation by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25560/07]

I am informed by officials in the Citizenship Section of my Department that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy. The reference number provided by the Deputy is a generic number assigned to persons who have submitted application forms for naturalisation which are defective in some way. These forms are returned to the applicants either for amendment or for resubmission of freshly completed application forms, depending on the nature of the defect.

Mattie McGrath

Question:

257 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of applications for naturalisation by persons (details supplied) in south Tipperary; and when a decision will be made on their applications. [25692/07]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the third-named person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in February 2007. On examination of this application it was determined that the applicant did not meet the residency requirement as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. A letter informing him of this issued on 28 June 2007. It is open to the person concerned to lodge a new application if and when he is in a position to satisfy the statutory requirements applicable at that time. Officials in the Citizenship Section of my Department have advised me that there are no records of applications for certificates of naturalisation from the other three persons referred to by the Deputy.

Public Transport.

Tony Gregory

Question:

258 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the role the Gardaí had in designating a location (details supplied) in Dublin 1 as a bus terminus; if they considered the security concerns of residents and pedestrians obscured from public view by parked buses along a badly lit park area; and if the Gardaí will review this matter in view of local concerns. [25733/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that An Garda Síochána is consulted on the location of bus stops in the Dublin Metropolitan Region following the issue of a licence for a route by the Department of Transport to Dublin Bus.

I am also informed that each bus stop is assessed for suitability by An Garda Síochána and Dublin Bus. The assessment considers the safe access and egress for all passengers using buses, the accessibility of the location, whether buses can stop safely and parallel to the footpath and whether public lighting is adequate at the bus stop site.

The bus stop at the location in question is situated at the kerb on the footpath adjacent to a green area. The stop has a designated stopping area which is clearly marked on the roadway. Buses can access the stop safely and stop parallel to the footpath and the stop is safe for passengers. The area can accommodate a number of buses at any one time. Additional public lighting has been installed. No incidents have been recorded by Gardaí in the area concerned in recent months. An Garda Síochána does not consider that the parking of coaches at the location referred to gives rise to safety concerns.

Citizenship Applications.

John Curran

Question:

259 Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when it is expected that a decision will be made regarding an application for citizenship made by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 20. [25756/07]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in October 2006. Officials in that Section are currently processing applications received at the beginning of 2005 and have approximately 9,800 applications on hand to be dealt with before that of the person concerned. These are generally dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. It is likely, therefore, that further processing of the application will commence in the first half of 2009. I will inform the Deputy and the person concerned when I have reached a decision on the matter.

Residency Permits.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

260 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) in County Louth will be granted permission to remain and obtain employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25780/07]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that there is no record of an application for permission to remain from the person referred to by the Deputy. The person concerned should contact the Immigration Division of my Department, General Immigration, 3rd Floor, 13/14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2, outlining their future intentions in the State and enclosing supporting documentation.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

261 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that no more funding is available to the Health Service Executive towards the cost of home adaptations for the elderly and disabled; and if he will make available additional funding for this scheme. [25514/07]

Funding towards the cost of home adaptations for the disabled is currently provided through the local authorities under the Disabled Persons Grant scheme. My Department recently announced a new Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability and this will come into operation on 1 November, 2007. The new grant may cover up to 95% of the cost of works and the maximum grant is being increased from €20,320 to €30,000.

In the case of urgently needed remedial works to the homes of the elderly, my Department advised the Health Service Executive on 19 October, 2007, that an additional €7.132 million has been allocated to the Special Housing Aid for the Elderly scheme. This brings the total allocation for 2007 to €19.132 million.

National Heritage Issues.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

262 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason the Office of Public Works intend to remove the famous historical Turoe Stone from its present position at Bullaun, Loughrea to Galway City; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the family who own the land around the stone would provide sufficient space free of charge for a proper cover to be erected, that the same landholder will provide their services free of charge as a caretaker to the stone and that the Heritage Council do not agree with its removal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25688/07]

I refer to the replies to Questions No. 188 of 27 September 2007 and No. 488 of 2 October 2007. The position remains unchanged. The expert advice available to me is that the erection of a cover over the Stone would not be adequate to address the serious deterioration in its condition in the longer-term and that it is essential to move it to an environmentally controlled indoor location, where conditions such as temperature and humidity can be stabilised. The Heritage Council has advised my Department that it has had no involvement in this matter.

Management Companies.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

263 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if legislation governing management companies will facilitate the transfer in newly completed housing estates of responsibility for essential public services such as water, sewage, roads, lighting and common open spaces to the control of the local authority and restrict the use of management companies in traditional housing estates. [24730/07]

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 95 and 142 of 10 October 2007. The introduction of legislation in relation to the governing of management companies is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Fire Stations.

James Bannon

Question:

264 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position in relation to the new fire station in Edgeworthstown, County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25682/07]

Under the 2007 Fire Service Capital Programme, approval in principle was given by the Department for the construction of a new fire station at Edgeworthstown, County Longford.

It is a matter for Longford County Council, as fire authority, to progress the project. I understand that detailed costs and design drawings are being prepared for submission to the Department.

Local Authority Staff.

James Bannon

Question:

265 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the way the provision of better local Government can be delivered with embargoes on staffing levels still in place, as it is misleading to the public to issue directives requiring extra work and not allow the necessary extra staff to be engaged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25683/07]

I refer to the reply to question No. 305 of the 10 October, 2007. Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, it is a matter for the City or County Manager concerned to make such staffing and organisational arrangements as may be necessary for the purposes of carrying out the functions of the local authorities for which he or she is responsible.

Water Quality.

James Bannon

Question:

266 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures being taken to eliminate the risks of cryptosporidium in the country’s water supply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25684/07]

On 17 September 2007, when publishing the Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009, I outlined the measures being taken by my Department, in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to develop a systematic and accelerated response to the cryptosporidium risk, as well as to persistent E-Coli failures, in public water supplies. These measures include a new contingency funding arrangement to deal with priority infrastructural upgrades.

My Department and the EPA are examining the latest drinking water quality results with a view to cataloguing those supplies at greatest risk from cryptosporidium and also supplies that are subject to continuing E-Coli or other chemical exceedences. This analysis is expected to be completed within the next few months. The objective is to develop an action programme that identifies an appropriate solution in each case. This may involve, inter alia, abandoning or replacing sources, upgrading treatment facilities or improving operational and maintenance arrangements. The contingency funding arrangement will apply where infrastructural works are urgently required that have not already been provided for in the current or previous phases of my Department's Water Services Investment Programme. The EPA will oversee implementation of any necessary remedial actions as part of its enhanced supervisory function under the European Communities (Drinking Water) Regulations (No. 2), 2007 (S.I. No. 278 of 2007).

In the immediate term, local authorities have been asked by my Department to review the operation of all water treatment plants (and associated infrastructure) to ensure that the installation of continuous chlorine alarms and turbidity meters at appropriate locations at the treatment plant or in the distribution network (including at reservoirs) is progressed without delay. Authorities have also been asked promptly to complete and return an amended Cryptosporidium Risk Assessment to the EPA. Reliable risk profiling of individual schemes will be available following completion of the joint Departmental/EPA examination referred to above and submission of amended Cryptosporidium Risk Assessments by all local authorities.

Housing Grants.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

267 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when approval will issue to Kilkenny County Council for funding towards the cost of a housing project (details supplied) and where all information requested from the County Council has been submitted to his Department. [25696/07]

The local authority made an initial submission to my Department in respect of the development in question on 10 July 2007. Following consideration of this submission in my Department, a request for a clarification on a number of points issued to the authority on 20 August 2007. A response in this regard was received from the local authority on 22 October 2007. This is currently being considered by my Department and a decision will issue shortly.

Broadcasting Services.

Michael McGrath

Question:

268 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if RTE is obliged in law to provide a television signal of reasonable quality to citizens who pay the television and radio licence. [25486/07]

Section 28(1) of the Broadcasting Act 2001 requires RTÉ to provide a national television and sound broadcasting service free-to-air, insofar as it is reasonably practicable, to the whole community on the island of Ireland. This is a function in which the Oireachtas has provided statutory responsibility to RTÉ and in which I have no role.

Liz McManus

Question:

269 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on difficulties faced by television owners in Roundwood, County Wicklow to receive a reception of Irish television channels while at the same time getting a reception from BBC Wales; if his attention has been drawn to other areas in the country that experience similar difficulties; the details of same; if he will provide an update for the publication of the Broadcasting Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25509/07]

Reception issues associated with terrestrial reception of the national broadcasting channels are a matter for RTÉ.

There is currently overspill of UK analogue TV broadcasts from Wales and Northern Ireland into Ireland. This overspill may be received in the South East of the country and along the border with Northern Ireland. This is expected to cease in the next few years as the UK switches off its analogue terrestrial network and progresses to a digital terrestrial television platform. This is a matter for the Government of the United Kingdom.

The draft general scheme of the Broadcasting Bill was submitted to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in September 2006 for the purposes of public consultation under the eConsultation initiative. The Joint Oireachtas Committee published its conclusions on the draft general scheme in April 2007.

It is proposed to publish the consequent Broadcasting Bill in early 2008, having considered the Joint Oireachtas Committee's conclusions on the outcome of the eConsultation process, with a view to ensuring the appropriate regulatory structure for the growth and development of public service, commercial and community broadcasting in Ireland.

Telecommunications Services.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

270 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when a person (details supplied) in County Galway and others in that community will get a broadband service; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the lack of this service is mitigating against the creation of jobs in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25686/07]

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for the private sector. Broadband service providers operate in a fully liberalised market, regulated, where appropriate, by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, (ComReg).

The role of the Government is to formulate regulatory and infrastructure policies to facilitate the provision of high quality telecommunications services, by competing private sector service providers.

The widespread provision of broadband services continues to be a priority for the Government. In that regard my Department has undertaken initiatives to address the gaps in broadband coverage. These include providing grant-aid under the recently concluded Group Broadband Scheme and investment in Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs).

There are a number of platforms for delivery of broadband, and service providers are now offering broadband by wireless, satellite, fibre or standard telephone cable in most areas of the country. My Department operates a dedicated website, www.broadband.gov.ie, where potential broadband customers can ascertain the availability of services in their area. The information on broadband availability and pricing on this website is provided by the broadband operators.

There are still some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband services. Accordingly, the procurement process for a National Broadband Scheme (NBS) is under way. The NBS will provide broadband services to areas that are currently unserved and will ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband in unserved areas are met.

The first phase of the procurement process, the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) phase, is now complete and four candidates have pre-qualified. As my Department indicated on 2 September 2007, the four candidates are, in alphabetical order, BT Communications Ireland Ltd Consortium, eircom Ltd, Hutchinson 3G Ireland Ltd and IFA/Motorola Consortium. The next phase of the procurement process involves inviting candidates to participate in a competitive dialogue process. My Department is anticipating that the award of the NBS contract will take place during Quarter 2 of 2008, with rollout of the services due to begin as soon as possible thereafter. This timeline is subject to negotiations with candidates during the competitive dialogue phase of the procurement process.

Electricity Generation.

Martin Ferris

Question:

271 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the plans in place to facilitate net metering for those who generate small amounts of renewable energy to be incorporated into the all-island single electricity market. [25732/07]

The Programme for Government commits to developing Ireland's considerable potential for distributed generation, including micro-generation. In terms of international best practice we have a considerable distance to catch up.

The first step in implementing the Programme for Government commitment, in relation to micro-generation, is the facilitation of a ‘net metering' system whereby local producers can sell surplus electricity they generate back to the grid. This will be facilitated by the introduction of smart meters to all micro-generation sites.

My Department is working closely with the Commission for Energy Regulation, Sustainable Energy Ireland, ESB Networks and the Electro-Technical Council of Ireland, to put in place these and all other administrative, technical and safety standards and practices to underpin the widespread deployment of micro-generation technologies.

Any development of distributed generation on an all-island basis would be undertaken in full consultation with the Northern Ireland authorities in the context of the all-island energy framework.