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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 6 Nov 2007

Vol. 640 No. 6

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 5, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 6 to 43, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 44 to 51, inclusive, answered orally.

Departmental Staff.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

52 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of staff dealing with aquaculture licence applications in Clonakilty; and the number in this section previously who have relocated. [27135/07]

There are currently 15 staff dealing with aquaculture licensing within my Department. This does not take into account work-sharing activities.

One member of staff previously working in this area has transferred to the Clonakilty Office.

Native Livestock Breeds.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

53 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the assistance available from her Department to assist the increase in numbers of native rare breeds of cattle and sheep. [27094/07]

My Department is very aware of the need to conserve native rare breeds of cattle and sheep and actively participates in conservation programmes at National, EU and International levels. Conservation of rare breeds of farm animals is crucial in achieving sustainability of livestock production.

My Department supports on-farm conservation of genetics resources in a number of ways.

The REPS 4 Scheme contains a voluntary Supplementary Measure which rewards farmers who keep native cattle and sheep breeds (Cattle — Kerry, Irish Moiled, Dexter; Sheep — Galway). A payment of €234 per livestock unit is paid to farmers under the scheme.

My Department also operates the Kerry Cattle Preservation Grant Scheme, whereby a grant of €76 is paid per live eligible calf. The objective of the scheme is to encourage the maintenance and development of Kerry Cattle in Ireland.

National conservation of endangered genetic resources is also supported in other ways. Approximately €200,000 of Exchequer funding has been allocated to projects that assist with the conservation of Kerry cattle and Galway sheep. Examples of this work includes the collection of semen from Kerry bulls and Galway rams, the development of websites for the Galway and Kerry Cattle breed societies (to provide information and increase awareness of the breeds), and the development of a long-term conservation strategy for Kerry Cattle and Galway Sheep. More recently, funding has been provided for the collection of semen from Irish Moiled bulls.

Ireland has also availed of funding from two EU Programmes to assist with the conservation of genetic resources — the 1994 and 2004 programmes. Under the most recent programme my Department secured approximately €20,000 to assist in the development of a national inventory of animal genetic resources. This web-based database contains important population and breed data on all of Ireland's domestic animal genetic resources, including native cattle and sheep breeds.

Internationally my Department also participates in conservation activities for animal genetic resources, particularly through the Food and Agriculture Organisation. In September 2007 Ireland, along with 109 countries, adopted a Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources, the first internationally agreed framework to halt the erosion of livestock diversity and support the sustainable use, development and conservation of animal genetic resources. Development of national conservation policies to preserve our native animal breeds will take full cognisance of the policies in this Global Plan.

Animal Vaccination Scheme.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

54 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she proposes to introduce a national plan for vaccination against bluetongue; if so, the proposed arrangements for administering the vaccine; and the costs involved. [27051/07]

The bluetongue virus (serotype 8), which emerged in northern Europe in 2006, re-emerged this year and, in September, an outbreak of the disease was confirmed in Britain for the very first time. Cases of the serotype 8 strain have now been confirmed in nine European countries.

Since the disease was first confirmed in August 2006, my Department has been developing contingency arrangements, in the first instance, to minimise the possible introduction of the disease to Ireland and, secondly, to deal with an outbreak in this country. In both regards my Department is working very closely with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland in the development of an all-island approach.

As part of my Department's contingency arrangements, we have produced a comprehensive Bluetongue Contingency Plan for Ireland. My Department's contingency arrangements are kept under constant review and revised as appropriate by reference to the developing disease situation or in the light of legal or other developments, particularly at EU level.

In terms of minimising the risk of the disease being introduced to Ireland, my Department has had in place a ban on the importation of live susceptible animals from bluetongue-restricted areas in Europe. Since 1 November, however, a new Commission Regulation allows for the possibility of movement of susceptible animals from bluetongue-restricted areas under defined conditions that are detailed in the Regulation. However, imports of such animals from Great Britain remain banned under FMD-related measures.

My Department has advised importers of live animals to assess carefully the risks involved in importing animals from bluetongue-restricted areas and to import animals from such areas only where absolutely necessary. My Department is also finalising a risk analysis on other possible routes of introduction of the disease. Arising from that risk analysis, I will consider whether any additional mitigating controls ought to be put in place.

As regards vaccination, there is no vaccine yet available for the particular strain of the disease that is present in Britain and across northern Europe. Three pharmaceutical companies are currently involved in the development of an inactivated vaccine. I understand that such a vaccine may become available by the summer of 2008 though, even then, there will be production issues and a huge demand for the vaccine given the cattle and sheep populations of the countries affected to date.

My Department has been in contact with the three companies involved in relation to the timeframe for the availability of a vaccine and the provision of an adequate supply to ensure that we can put in place a comprehensive and effective vaccination programme. The logistical arrangements associated with securing and administering the vaccine are currently being actively considered within my Department. In the absence, to date, of a vaccine, the Deputy will appreciate that it is not possible, at this stage, to predict what the cost of the vaccine or of a comprehensive vaccination programme will be.

Furthermore, my Department is actively involved with the European Commission and the other Member States in relation to the possibility of developing an overall Community-wide vaccination strategy. The Commission has scheduled a bluetongue symposium to be held in Brussels on 16th January 2008 and, in preparation for that, the first in a series of working group meetings took place yesterday, at which my Department was represented.

I have also discussed the current disease situation in continental Europe and in Britain with my colleagues in the European Agriculture Council and have also discussed it, and will again later this week, with Minister Gildernew, in the context of the development and maintenance of an all-island approach. Indeed, at the September Agricultural Council, a number of Ministers called on the Commission to develop a bluetongue control strategy and I strongly support this approach.

Departmental Bodies.

Denis Naughten

Question:

55 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the date and agenda of her last meeting with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27065/07]

I met the Chief Executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland on 11 September 2007. We discussed the importance of ensuring compliance with food labelling requirements especially in relation to the country of origin to beef sold in the retail and catering sector.

My Department is in regular contact with the FSAI. We established the Food Safety Liaison Unit in my Department in 2001 to coordinate the relationship between the various line Divisions in the Department and the Authority. A high level Steering Group which is jointly chaired by the Secretary General of my Department and the Chief Executive of the FSAI meets twice a year to oversee the working arrangements between the Department and the Authority, the last such meeting took place on 5th October 2007.

Decentralisation Programme.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

56 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the situation regarding the proposed relocation of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara to Clonakilty. [27133/07]

Under the Government Decentralisation Programme the Fisheries Divisions of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as well as an Bord Iascaigh Mhara are to be co-located in Clonakilty. The Department opened an interim decentralised office in Clonakilty in July 2006 and there are currently 80 civil servants from the fisheries Division of the Department working in that office.

In addition, some of the former staff of the fisheries divisions of the Department now work in the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, which was established on the 1st January 2007. There are 28 public servants working in the Clonakilty headquarters of the Authority at present. To date none of the (90) posts due to relocate to Clonakilty have moved, pending resolution of a range of matters that have arisen in the context of the decentralisation of the State Agencies.

The Minister for Finance has asked his Department to engage at central level with the unions representing staff in State Agencies on the full range of industrial relations issues relating to the decentralisation of State Agencies. Once the central issues are resolved, meaningful negotiations can occur with BIM staff and Trade Unions towards implementing the decentralisation of BIM's Head Office to Clonakilty.

A contract has been placed by OPW in August of this year for the construction of the new decentralized offices for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and BIM. Construction commenced in September 2007 with an anticipated construction period of eighteen months.

Afforestation Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

57 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will honour her pre-election commitment to the forestry sector on re-afforestation after harvesting. [27093/07]

My Department has completed a comprehensive review of the Forestry Act 1946 and draft Heads of a new Forestry Bill have been prepared. The proposed legislation will address many of the issues raised during the extensive consultation process undertaken by my Department. As I stated in May, allowing a change of land use in certain limited circumstances will be one such issue.

In drawing up the new Bill it is proposed to take a more flexible approach regarding the question of replanting after harvesting. The general principle of replanting after felling will remain in order to ensure that the national forest estate is not progressively eliminated. The draft Scheme of the new Forestry Bill will be submitted to Government shortly for approval to send to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting.

International Agreements.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

58 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her views on the decision by the European Union to award $114 million to help Argentina with its animal health and phytosanitary regime in order that it can develop its exports to Europe; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27080/07]

I am not in a position to confirm the details set out by the Deputy. I am seeking information from the European Commission, which is responsible for EU bilateral aid agreements, and I will issue a detailed response in writing when I have more information.

Plant Protection Products.

Liz McManus

Question:

59 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if her attention has been drawn to the decision by the European Parliament on the regulation of plant protection products which will have devastating consequences for yields and income in tillage farming; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27085/07]

I am aware of the position recently adopted by the European Parliament regarding the proposed legislation on the marketing and use of Plant Protection Products.

This area is subject to Co-decision procedures and, while the EU Parliament has adopted a position, Council has not yet completed a first reading of the legislative texts concerned. Consequently there is no agreed EU position at this time.

My Department is actively participating in the discussions at Council, and is acutely aware of the possible negative consequences for Irish farming of the EU Parliament's agreed position.

We are negotiating to ensure:

that any additional controls proposed are justified,

that any use restrictions are based on scientifically valid risk assessments and

that environmentally sensitive agricultural production is sustainable.

Meat Imports.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

60 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps she has taken to ensure that all meat imports into this country from whatever source comply with national and European standards in regard to husbandry, processing and hygiene; if all traceability standards have been complied with; if she intends taking further initiatives in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27114/07]

Detailed EU legislation lays down the conditions that Member States must apply to the production of and trade in products of animal origin as well as to imports of these products from third countries.

It is a requirement that animal products imported from third countries meet standards at least equivalent to those required for production in, and trade between, Member States. All such imports must come from third countries or areas of third countries approved for export to the EU.

My Department has responsibility for the operation of public and animal health control in the area of third country import of food of animal origin, including meat. These are carried out in co-operation with Customs Service. Import control forms a part of the EU's integrated policy of guaranteeing that the food produced and placed on to the market is safe and that animal and public health is not put at risk. They are a part of the EU's hygiene package the implementation and monitoring of which is carried out by the relevant competent agencies under Service Contracts by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland since 1999.

The EU Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) carries out inspections to ensure that only establishments that meet hygiene and health standards equivalent to those operating within the EU are approved. Where the FVO considers that public health requirements are not being met, an establishment may be removed from the EU approved list. If outbreaks of animal diseases occur in a third country, approval to export to the EU is suspended for the infected regions of the country, or the whole country, as appropriate, until the disease risk has been eliminated.

I have consistently pointed out at EU level that produce imported from third countries must meet standards equivalent to those required of Community producers. In this context I have been in regular contact with the EU Commissioner for Health, Mr. Markos Kyprianou. The Commissioner has assured me that the Commission will not hesitate to take the appropriate protection measures if a product, imported from a third country or produced in the domestic market, represents a risk for the health of EC consumers, livestock or plants.

I should add that in WTO discussions in the Council, I have always emphasized the need to take account of the non-trade aspect of market access, which I regard as a crucial element in the overall negotiations.

International Agreements.

James Reilly

Question:

61 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the international diplomatic and political initiatives planned to bring about a synchronisation of the regulatory and approval mechanisms of the US FDA, the EFSA and the FSAI. [27131/07]

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) signed an agreement, last July, designed to facilitate the sharing of information in relation to food safety. This marks the first formal step to promote cooperation between the two agencies aimed at facilitating the sharing of scientific information and setting the tone for future cooperation. It is hoped that the difficulties associated with the lack of synchronization in the GM authorization processes between the EU and the US can be addressed as part of this agreement.

Food Safety Standards.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

62 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will demand the publication of the report of the EU Food and Veterinary Office’s visit to Brazil in March 2007, and that there be an independent observer included in the party for the next EU visit to Brazil. [27084/07]

I would welcome the publication of this report at the earliest possible date. However it is important to note that the FVO have procedures which can involve protracted correspondence on their draft report with the national authorities in the Member State or Third country concerned. The time taken for the publication of this report is above the average but there are instances where up to 8 months elapsed between the FVO mission and the date of publication of the final report.

The Food and Veterinary Office is part of the EU Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection. It conducts missions to Member States and third countries to check on compliance with the requirements of EU food safety and quality, animal health and welfare and plant health within the EU and on compliance with EU import requirements in third countries. The Commission report on their findings to the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health. I would remind the Deputy again that the Commissioner has personally assured me that he will not hesitate to take appropriate protection measures if a product, imported from a third country represents a risk for the health of EU consumers, livestock or plants.

Animal Vaccination Scheme.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

63 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she is taking steps to obtain a priority supply of vaccines against bluetongue in view of Ireland’s dependence on agriculture; and the discussions that have taken place on an all Ireland basis with a view to an island wide vaccination scheme. [27052/07]

There is, currently, no vaccine yet available for the particular strain of the disease (serotype 8) that is present in Britain and across northern Europe. Three pharmaceutical companies are currently involved in the development of an inactivated vaccine. I understand that such a vaccine may become available by the summer of 2008 though, even then, there will be production issues and a huge demand for the vaccine given the cattle and sheep populations of the countries affected to date.

My Department has been in contact with the three companies involved in relation to the timeframe for the availability of a vaccine and the provision of an adequate supply to ensure that we can put in place a comprehensive and effective vaccination programme. The logistical arrangements associated with securing and administering the vaccine are currently being actively considered within my Department. In the absence, to date, of a vaccine, the Deputy will appreciate that it is not possible, at this stage, to predict what the cost of the vaccine or of a comprehensive vaccination programme will be.

Furthermore, my Department is actively involved with the European Commission and the other Member States in relation to the possibility of developing an overall Community-wide vaccination strategy. The Commission has scheduled a bluetongue symposium to be held in Brussels on 16th January 2008 and, in preparation for that, the first in a series of working group meetings took place yesterday, at which my Department was represented.

I have also discussed the current disease situation in continental Europe and in Britain with my colleagues in the European Agriculture Council and have also discussed it, and will again later this week, with Minister Gildernew, in the context of the development and maintenance of an all-island approach. Indeed, at the September Agricultural Council, a number of Ministers called on the Commission to develop a bluetongue control strategy and I strongly support this approach.

Apart from the political contacts, my officials are in regular contact with colleagues in the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland in the context of maintaining an all-island approach to the threat posed by the spread of the disease, particularly following the recent outbreaks in Britain.

Milk Quota.

Michael Creed

Question:

64 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in view of expected milk quota increases of 3% for 2008 and the eventual abolition of quotas, she will take initiatives to ensure the viability of the maximum number of family dairy farms. [27090/07]

Ensuring the viability of the maximum number of family dairy farms means improving efficiency and competitiveness right across the sector, at both producer and processor level, at a time of increasing exposure to global market forces.

At producer level, greater efficiency and competitiveness can only be achieved through the attainment of increased economies of scale and the reduction of costs. This quite simply means getting more milk quota into the hands of active, committed dairy farmers. The Report of the Agri Vision 2015 Committee highlighted the need for greater flexibility in the movement of quota from those exiting milk production to those who needed to expand in order to maintain viability and withstand competitive pressures. I acted on this at the end of last year by bringing a more open-market approach to the transfer of quotas through the introduction of a new Milk Quota Trading Scheme.

Replacing the old Restructuring Scheme, the new Trading Scheme has been responsible in its first year for the transfer of 200 million litres of quota, and we have seen that much greater volumes of quota have made their way into the hands of active milk producers than would ever have been possible under the Restructuring Scheme. The Trading Scheme is currently under way in respect of the 2008/2009 milk quota year, and my intention is to continue to build on its success to the maximum extent possible.

From a processing perspective, in April of this year I announced details of 19 capital investment projects that were awarded Government grant assistance of over €114 million under the Dairy Investment Fund, which will in turn generate an overall spend of nearly €300 million in the sector. I am confident that this will assist in particular the production of added value products and the delivery of cost efficiency programmes, which will in turn help to achieve my objective of developing a modern, competitive food sector in Ireland, as envisaged in the Agri Vision 2015 Action Plan.

Departmental Bodies.

Billy Timmins

Question:

65 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of people employed by An Bord Bia; the location and roles of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24839/07]

An Bord Bia currently has a staff complement of 92 people of which some 72 are based in headquarters and the remainder located in eight overseas offices, mainly in Europe but also in the US and Russia. The role of Bord Bia, which is fulfilled by its staff, is to provide market development, promotion and information services to the Irish food, drink and horticulture industry.

Farm Improvement Scheme.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

66 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of applications for the farm improvement scheme for 2007; the time-frame in which she expects these applications to be expedited; and if the programme will continue in 2008. [27087/07]

The Farm Improvement Scheme was introduced by my Department in July 2007 and funding of €79 million for the Scheme was agreed under the Partnership agreement, Towards 2016, as part of an overall programme of investment in the agri-food sector.

I announced last week that as applications had reached the level of funding available for the Scheme, the Scheme was closed to new applications for now. Over 12,600 applications were received up to the closing date of the Scheme and my Department will process these applications up to the level of funding available. Payment of grant-aid will issue in respect of all approved projects in due course when the work involved has been completed and I expect that a substantial number of payments will therefore issue to farmers under the Scheme in 2008.

Food Labelling.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

67 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her views on introducing legislation that will empower An Bord Bia to visit food production plants to enforce labelling. [27071/07]

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland, which comes within the remit of the Department of Health and Children has overall responsibility for the enforcement of all food legislation including food labelling in Ireland. It would not be appropriate for a promotional agency such as Bord Bia to undertake statutory enforcement responsibilities.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

68 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she plans to address the anomalies in the REP scheme where commonage land does not qualify for the mixed grazing supplementary top-up of €1000; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27082/07]

Commonage land must be farmed to the farming conditions set out in the relevant Commonage Framework Plan and attracts an enhanced payment rate of €282 per hectare on up to 40 hectares in REPS 4.

The mixed grazing supplementary measure is available to farmers who engage in a mixed cattle/sheep livestock farm enterprise in which at least 20% of the livestock units (on average) grazing the holding must be made up of the second livestock type. The livestock must graze the same sward either together or in a leader–follower grazing system.

It is not possible to undertake this measure on land which is not under the sole control of the farmer, which excludes commonage. A farmer with commonage and non-commonage land may however apply for the measure on his or her non-commonage land.

Sheep Sector.

Joe Costello

Question:

69 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if her attention has been drawn to the recent FAPRI analysis stating that sheep production here will decline by 14% between 2006 to 2016; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27075/07]

I am aware of the recent FAPRI analysis concerning projected sheep production between now and 2016. The Deputy will be aware that likely production and market trends were taken into account in the Sheep Strategy Report of 2006 and its subsequent Implementation Report that I received last April. The Implementation Report sets out a number of measures to improve the performance of the sector and to ensure that we remain competitive on export markets. Whereas most of the recommendations fall to the industry itself to implement, my Department is providing assistance in a number of areas including sheep breeding, processing facilities and quality assurance. Teagasc is also providing support to the sector through technology evaluation and transfer.

Sheep farmers are also eligible for various schemes operated by my Department. A new supplementary measure aimed at sheep farmers has been introduced under REPS 4. A budget of €28 million per annum has been allocated to fund the new measure at an overall cost of €170 million up to 2013. The sheep sector is also the beneficiary of on-going work to promote Irish lamb on home and export markets, which is undertaken by Bord Bia.

The implementation of the Sheep Strategy Report and the other measures outlined above will provide a sound basis for the future development of the sector.

Fish Exports.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

70 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the quantity of fish caught in Irish waters and exported in an unprocessed state; and the proposals to increase onshore processing. [27134/07]

The total landings of fish into Irish ports by Irish vessels amounted to 190,253 tonnes in 2006. The estimated quantity exported in an unprocessed state, including high value whitefish and some shellfish which command their highest value in fresh form, amounted to some 36,000 tonnes.

The Report of the Seafood Industry Strategy Review Group —Steering A New Course — Strategy for a Restructured, Sustainable and profitable Irish Seafood Industry 2007 -2013 sets out a range of measures to deliver a restructured seafood processing sector with appropriate scale and operational efficiency to compete in the international market. The strategy focuses on R&D and value-added development to meet customer demands and take advantage of new market opportunities. The Government is committed to the efficient and effective implementation of this strategy and an Implementation Committee has been established under the independent chair of Dr Noel Cawley and comprising industry representatives, State Agencies and the Department to oversee its implementation..

Fisheries Protection.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

71 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the measures she proposes to deal with the high level of fish being discarded and bycatch being dumped; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27132/07]

The issue of high levels of discards in commercial sea fisheries is a global problem and is on the agenda of all major international organisations who deal with the development of sustainable sea fisheries and protection of marine ecosystems.

At a European level, Community legislation allows the discarding of fish in certain circumstances. Fish discards are a complex problem and are a feature of most fisheries particularly in mixed fisheries such as those which prevail in Irish waters. Fish are discarded mainly because they are not the target species, are undersized, are not a commercially viable catch or are over quota.

Ireland has been to the forefront in pressing for action on this issue at European level. The Irish Presidency in 2004, chose as its theme in relation to the fishing sector "fast tracking the development of environmentally friendly fishing methods" as its key focus. A major international conference was held in Dundalk involving EU member states, Norway and Iceland with the key focus on how to reduce discards in commercial fisheries.

Following further consideration, a Commission Communication on "a policy to reduce unwanted by-catches and discards in European fisheries" was presented to Council in June 2007. The Council adapted a range of conclusions on the Commission proposal and these will determine the agenda at European level on this issue for the immediate future.

I will continue to press for progress on this issue and am confident that significant improvements can be achieved in this area. The current Programme for Government commits to increasing supports to assist fishermen make the change over to more environmentally friendly fishing gear, and I am confident that this will assist in reducing the incidence of discarding in key fisheries.

Decentralisation Programme.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

72 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if her Department’s decentralisation programme is on target. [27095/07]

The Government decision on the decentralisation of my Department is that the headquarters will move to Portlaoise, involving some 600 staff; the local offices in Cork city will move to Fermoy, involving up to 100 staff; and the laboratories in Cork and Limerick will move to Macroom, again involving up to 100 staff.

The Department's Decentralisation Implementation Plan allowed for a phased movement to Portlaoise, i.e. the transfer of functions and posts over a number of years. The 2005 and 2006 phases of decentralisation to Portlaoise are now complete and the 2007 phase is in progress. Also, to facilitate the Government decision on decentralisation all new activities within the Department, particularly work relating to the Single Payment Scheme (SPS), are being focused in Portlaoise. In total there has been an increase of some 200 full-time posts in Portlaoise to some 400 since early 2004. Therefore, to date, the decentralisation of my Department is ahead of schedule.

The original estimate for completion of my Department's new headquarters in Portlaoise was 2008. As the OPW has revised this estimate to the end of 2009, an additional advance move of staff is now being prepared for 2008. When the 2008 phase is complete it is envisaged that, in advance of the final move, up to 50% of the original target will be in Portlaoise.

Implementation plans for Fermoy and Macroom are in place and the Department is liaising with the OPW regarding specifications for the offices and identification of sites. The recruitment process for Fermoy has begun.

EU Regulations.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

73 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her views on removing the deadline imposed on farmers for slurry spreading in view of the fact that the changing climate is having a detrimental effect on this practice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27078/07]

The prohibited periods for the spreading of fertilizers are set down in the European Communities (Good Agricultural Practice for the Protection of Waters) Regulations 2006, made by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The objective of the Regulations is to provide statutory support for good farming practices to protect waters from potential pollution from agricultural sources. The prohibited periods vary slightly depending on the type of fertilizer in question and the part of the country, or zone, in which a holding is located.

The zones and prohibited periods are based on scientific research and advice, taking account of factors such as growing seasons, climate and Irish farming systems. These issues were finalised following wide-ranging consultation with interested parties and submitted to the European Commission by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government as part of Ireland's Nitrates Action Programme in 2005.

Farm Consolidation.

James Reilly

Question:

74 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the measures she proposes to facilitate farm consolidation. [27130/07]

The Government has a number of incentives in place that encourage greater levels of land mobility and farm consolidation. These include:

An Early Retirement Scheme pension of up to €15,000 for a period of up to 10 years on farms transferred by gift, sale or lease.

An installation aid grant of €15,000 for young trained farmers.

Capital Gains Tax — Retirement Relief for farmers over 55 years.

A rental income tax exemption of up to €15,000 for farmers over 40 years who lease out land for a period of 7 years or more.

A rental income tax exemption of up to €12,000 for farmers over 40 years who lease out land for a period of 5 to 7 years.

A 90% Agricultural Relief from Capital Acquisitions Tax.

The provision of full Stamp Duty relief for young trained farmers.

Stamp Duty relief for land swap for the purpose of farm consolidation between two farmers.

Budget 2007 included a number of provisions to further encourage land mobility and farm consolidation. The measures include a third rental income exemption threshold of €20,000 for leases of 10 years or over; stamp duty relief for farm consolidation where only one farmer is consolidating his holding; and a provision whereby farmers who are leasing out land can still, subject to certain conditions, qualify for Capital Gains Tax retirement relief. With regard to Stamp Duty, further reform by way of relief for land swap for the purpose of farm consolidation, which would facilitate consolidation between more than two farmers, is awaiting EU State Aid approval.

All these measures help to improve land mobility through early farm transfer or by encouraging greater levels of leasing, land swaps or farm consolidation.

EU Directives.

Joe Costello

Question:

75 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the progress of applications for derogations under the Nitrates Directive above the 170kg/N. [27076/07]

Some 5,450 applications for derogations in respect of 2007 have been received by my Department. Applications are currently being processed and all applicants will be informed of the outcome of their applications in writing in due course.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Bernard Allen

Question:

76 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will organise a national debate on the commitments in the Programme for Government on establishing a genetically modified free island. [27097/07]

I am currently engaged in discussions with my Cabinet colleagues on how best the commitment in the Programme for Government to seek to negotiate the establishment of an all Ireland GM free zone can be effected. I will of course be eliciting the views of all stakeholders directly involved in the agricultural and food sectors.

Horticulture Industry.

Joan Burton

Question:

77 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she has plans to encourage the growth of new crops such as grass, soybean and grapes for winemaking in view of the fact that many of the staple fruit and vegetable crops here are under threat due to the warming climate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27073/07]

My Department monitors ongoing research on climate change and its likely impact on Irish Agriculture. It is represented on the inter-Departmental team established to oversee implementation of the National Climate Change Strategy.

There is no evidence to suggest that there is any major threat to our staple fruit and vegetable crops here due to the warming climate at this time. Indeed the impact on horticulture crops generally is likely to be positive in the short to medium term.

There are no plans to encourage the growth of new crops such as grasses, soyabeans or grapes. However, research is ongoing to identify possible new crops and varieties of existing crops which might be suited to drier and warmer conditions.

Farmers’ Markets.

Joan Burton

Question:

78 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in view of the growth of the slow food movement, she will encourage through her Department the growing awareness of this movement and support local producers to sell within local markets. [27074/07]

This Government is committed to supporting local and regional food and both Towards 2016 and my Department's Agri-Vision 2015 Action Plan include measures in this regard.

Bord Bia, which operates under the aegis of my Department has worked closely with other State and local agencies to exploit the growing opportunities for markets, providing a guide to farmers markets, advice and mentoring assistance.

A comprehensive "Guide to Selling Through Farmers' Markets, Farm Shops and Box Schemes in Ireland" will be launched this month to assist local producers wishing to sell their produce in the local area.

I believe it is crucial to raise general awareness of the local concept. In that regard my Department in co-operation with Bord Bia organised a series of regional food fora which took place over an eighteen month period from late 2005 to early 2007. These events brought together regional, speciality and artisan producers along with relevant state agencies. The aim was to increase awareness of emerging market opportunities and encourage best practice in developing regional and local excellence in food. It also provided a forum for these producers to raise issues of particular concern.

As a follow up to the regional food fora my Department in conjunction with Bord Bia is holding a conference on the topic of Local Food, exploring the opportunities, in Mullingar on the 13th November at which my colleague Trevor Sargent will be presiding. This event aims to raise awareness of local food and to highlight the benefits of local food initiatives for both the consumer and the producer. It will also provide relevant information and support for those involved in local food production.

Grant Payments.

Simon Coveney

Question:

79 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason for the tight deadline for REP scheme four applicants; when first payments under this scheme will issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27129/07]

Farmers may apply to join the REPS 4 scheme at any time of the year by submitting an application and farm plan to my Department's Local AES Office. I have recently introduced more flexible rules for farmers in REPS 3 who may wish to transform to REPS 4 before finishing their five-year contracts in REPS 3. Previously, such farmers would have had to get their REPS 4 applications in before their anniversary dates, but they now have two months after the anniversary to do so.

While farmers may continue to apply to join REPS at any time of the year, changes in EU regulations which take effect in January 2008 will mean that applications for payment under the Scheme must be made within the same period allowed for the submission of the Single Payment Scheme application. In practical terms this means that first-time applicants for REPS will need to submit their REPS 4 plans before the Single Payment application deadline to ensure that they get their first REPS payment within the same calendar year. First-time REPS applications received after the closing date for SPS applications will be given a REPS commencement date in the normal way but the first REPS payment backdated to that commencement date will not issue until the following calendar year. Second and subsequent payments under REPS will not be affected and payment will issue in the normal course. These changes will have no impact on farmers remaining in REPS 3.

Applications for REPS 4 are already being processed and I expect the first payments to be made shortly.

Horticulture Industry.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

80 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the mushroom growers who have received investment aid under the scheme of investment aid for the development of commercial horticulture since the scheme started here. [27079/07]

Under the National Development Plan 2000-2006, my Department operated a grant aid scheme for the development of the commercial horticulture including the mushroom sector. Over the period 2000-2006 a total of €5.011m was paid to 190 mushroom growers. The following schedule shows the breakdown per year to mushroom growers for the period of National Development Plan 2000-2006.

Year

No. of growers

Amount of grant paid

€m

2001/2002

66

0.834

2003

43

0.567

2004

30

1.137

2005

31

1.433

2006

20

1.040

Totals

190

5.011

Potato Sector.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

81 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she plans to launch an initiative to support the International Year of the Potato by the UN in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27081/07]

Details of support for the International Year of the Potato (IYP) were announced by my colleague Minister Sargent on 18 October. My Department will provide significant funding to support the activities of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which is the lead United Nations' agency for the IYP. I have already made an initial payment of $150,000 to FAO and the total contribution from my Department will be $300,000. Throughout the world, governments, scientists, farmers and others will focus on the potential of the potato to improve food security and nutrition and to reduce hunger and poverty. The FAO activities will include information generation and dissemination through conferences and symposia to review research policies and chart the future direction of the sector. It is hoped to encourage action throughout the developing world to focus on potato systems including crop yields, extension training on improved varieties and production systems.

To mark the IYP at home, a national programme of events is being organised for 2008 by a committee comprising representatives of the trade, an Bord Bia, Teagasc and my Department. The emphasis of the programme will be on nutrition. The programme will include activities for schools and in particular a primary school competition that aims to promote both the awareness and the growing of the potato. In addition there will be a website devoted to the potato and throughout the year agricultural show and heritage centres will feature the potato. The programme, which has not yet been finalised, will primarily be funded by the industry and an Bord Bia.

Milk Quota.

Michael Creed

Question:

82 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will review the operation of the milk quota regime whereby farmers who lose a land or quota lease are barred from assistance from temporary leasing if they have received previous assistance under various quota schemes administrated by her Department if that assistance exceeded prescribed amounts. [27091/07]

A farmer who has lost a land and quota lease is treated as a priority category in the allocation of quota under my Department's Temporary Leasing Scheme. The allocation takes place according to certain criteria, which for example in the case of a producer whose lease expired on 31 March 2007 meant that quota would have been allocated under the first phase of the 2007/2008 scheme on the following basis: 80% of the milk quota leased with land, less

(i)any additional quota granted under the Agenda 2000 Schemes,

(ii)any permanent quota granted by the Milk Quota Appeals Tribunal since the 2001/2002 milk quota year,

(iii)any quantity purchased under the 2007/2008 Milk Quota Trading Schemes.

Some concern has been expressed that because all quota bought in the Trading Schemes, and not just that bought from the priority pool, is being taken into account, the total amount deducted from the 80% entitlement may leave some applicants with effectively no entitlement at all. While I think that these cases are few in number, and notwithstanding the fact that the current practice is the same as that operated in previous years when the amount purchased under the Restructuring Schemes rather than the Trading Schemes was deducted, my Department is reviewing the matter ahead of the second phase of this year's Temporary Leasing Scheme.

Afforestation Programme.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

83 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will revise the conditions of the forestry environment scheme to make it more attractive to farmers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27083/07]

The Forestry Environmental Protection Scheme, or FEPS, has already proven very attractive to many farmers since its launch as a pilot scheme earlier this year. The Scheme provides an opportunity for REPS farmers to plant high nature-value woodlands on their farm with the support of a very attractive grant and premium package. To date, my Department has granted Preplanting Approvals for nearly 2,500 hectares with a further 1,500 hectares currently at application stage.

My Department has carried out a review of the Scheme and arising out of this, certain adjustments are being examined.

Animal Welfare.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

84 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will assume overall responsibility for animal welfare in her Department; and if so, the areas of responsibility that will be transferred from other Departments. [27092/07]

The Programme for Government contains a number of animal welfare-related commitments, all of which are currently being advanced in my Department. Among those commitments is one to consolidate responsibility for the welfare of all animals (including non-farm animals) within my Department.

At present, a number of other Departments/Agencies have animal welfare responsibilities and work is progressing on identifying the actions required to effect the transfer of those responsibilities to my Department. My Department is also drafting a comprehensive Animal Welfare Bill, which will update existing legislation and ensure that the welfare of animals is properly protected and that the penalties for offenders are increased significantly. Where it is necessary to transfer statutory responsibility for animal welfare to my Department, the necessary statutory provision will be made in the forthcoming Bill.

Rural Development Programme.

Billy Timmins

Question:

85 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amount of funding that has been received from the EU under the Modulation Programme; what has happened to this funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24840/07]

Modulated funds of €225.5m are an integral part of the overall funding available for Ireland's 2007-2013 Rural Development Programme. The total funding for this programme amounts to €5.778bn from three sources: EU co-funding €2.114bn, Modulation €0.225bn, and Exchequer €3.439bn. The programme addresses three priorities, competitiveness, the environment and the wider rural economy, and encompasses the following main measures: REPS, compensatory allowances, early retirement, installation aid, and farm modernisation. The funding provided for these farmer payment schemes took full account of the amount available from modulation and was agreed with the farm organisations in the social partnership agreement. The Programme was approved by the EU Commission in July of this year.

It should be noted that the Rural Development Programme includes only those measures that are co-funded by the EU. The National Development Plan includes additional measures which are funded entirely by the Exchequer. The total value of the NDP agri-food package is €8.7 billion.

Agrifood Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

86 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her short, medium and long-term plans to sustain and develop the beef, lamb, pig meat and poultry industries here with particular reference to the need to compete on home and worldwide markets; if she has identified the difficulties facing these sectors at the present time; her intentions to address these issues at an early date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27115/07]

For the meat sector and the agri-food industry as a whole, I subscribe to the vision set out in the Agri-Vision 2015 Action Plan. That foresees an industry obtaining optimal levels of efficiency, competitiveness and responsiveness to the demands of the market while respecting and enhancing the physical environment. The Action Plan points out that the short-to-medium term goal of the meat sector, especially beef, is to ensure that high market penetration in the EU is consolidated and developed, while also recognising the importance of access to commercially attractive third country markets.

The challenges facing the meat sector are varied. They include increased competition for beef and sheepmeat on the EU market to the higher costs of feed for the pig and poultry sectors. I am committed to assisting the industry to address these issues and I have already taken a series of actions with that in mind. I am glad to summarise these on a sector-by-sector basis.

Beef:

Firstly, I was delighted to recently announce the €250 million Suckler Cow Scheme. The suckler herd is the source of much of our high-quality beef and this measure is consistent with the aims outlined in the Agri-Vision 2015 Action Plan. I anticipate that over 60,000 herdowners will participate in this scheme. While the measure is primarily aimed at improved animal welfare, it will also contribute to the improved viability of suckler holdings.

Secondly, I announced in April a Capital Investment Aid Scheme for the beef and sheepmeat sector designed to support capital investment, which will increase added value at the processing level and improve efficiencies. This investment package will, I am confident, ensure the strategic and coherent development of the sector into the future and ultimately position our producers to avail of export opportunities. This also complements and underpins the existing quality assurance schemes and the advances in breed improvement programmes being developed by ICBF.

Thirdly, in order to publicise the response of the beef industry to an ever-evolving market, Bord Bia is intensifying its efforts to promote beef over the coming months. The aim is to build on the already well-established marketing and promotional activities being undertaken by Bord Bia and the industry. An extensive promotional campaign commenced in September involving 30 supermarkets across 13 European countries in 10,000 individual outlets. In addition Bord Bia is completing a new Irish beef marketing strategy. This follows consultation with industry as to how to best use the promotional resources available over the period 2008 to 2013.

I have also established a Market Access Group to focus efforts on the re-opening of markets for Irish beef and other meats. The recent re-opening of the Saudi Arabian and South African markets are welcome developments in this respect.

Pigmeat:

By far the main difficulty facing the pig sector is the very high cost of feed. The rise in feed prices can be attributed to a number of factors such as (i) heavy demand for cereals in Asia (ii) the increased demand for feed materials from the biofuel industry and (iii) unfavourable weather conditions which affected many of the major cereal growing countries.

The EU Council of Agriculture Ministers has, in response to the pressures on the international cereal and feed markets, agreed to suspend the obligation to set 10% of arable land aside. This will ensure that more arable land is available for cereal cultivation in 2008.

A scheme of financial assistance for the private storage of pigmeat has been in place since October 29. This was adopted by the European Commission in response to a request from me and some other Member States. I have also impressed on the Commission the desirability of export refunds for fresh and frozen pigmeat and this will be kept under consideration.

Pigmeat features prominently in Bord Bia's programme of promotion on the home and export markets. I have asked the Bord to intensify its Autumn pork and bacon promotion campaign in order to ensure that the market remains firm over the coming months. Additional funding is being made available for this. The Bord Bia quality assurance schemes are also a good tool in maintaining consumer confidence and, in this context; the pigmeat scheme is well established and managed.

On the export front, Irish pork has access to important markets worldwide and pork is included in overseas promotion drives and market access initiatives.

I am working with the Minister for Health and Children towards the introduction of legislation to provide better information to consumers on the origin of pigmeat and other meats.

Other initiatives aimed at sustaining the pig industry that I have introduced include the extension of the farm waste management scheme to the pig sector and my Department's programme of financial assistance for the transition to welfare-friendly sow housing.

Within the framework of the EU common agricultural policy, I will continue to ensure that pig producers' problems are highlighted with a view to suitable action.

Poultry:

The Irish poultry industry is an extremely important element within our domestic agri food sector. It is worth in excess of €150 million to producers and is an important contributor to economic and social development, particularly in certain areas. Overall, it is my policy that this industry should develop to its full potential and be in a position to meet the demands of today's consumers and withstand the very strong competition from abroad.

An Expert Group to advise on steps to ensure the future success of the industry will finalise its work shortly and I look forward to receiving its report. That report is likely to cover areas such as production, marketing and promotion, environmental protection and animal welfare.

I should also point out that Bord Bia, working in conjunction with the poultry industry and my Department, have in operation the very successful Chicken and Egg Quality Assurance Schemes which are viewed by consumers as a guarantee of quality and I am confident that the market position of our poultry will be enhanced as a result. It is important that consumer confidence is maintained and I believe that the Quality Assurance Schemes will be a valuable tool in this regard.

Sheepmeat:

The Sheep Industry Development Strategy Group issued its report in June 2006. This is a comprehensive study of the sheep industry that sets out a Development Plan for the sector. I decided that the best way to implement these recommendations was to set up an Implementation Group comprised of representatives of all sectors in the industry, including the relevant state bodies. This Group reported to me in April this year. Most of the recommendations in the Strategy Report fall to be implemented by the industry itself and it is too early at this stage to assess their impact. The recommendations are supported by my Department through assistance for breeding and management, processing facilities, mechanical grading and quality assurance. Sheep farmers are major beneficiaries of various schemes being operated by the Department such as REPS.

I believe that all these measures, combined with our high levels of food safety standards, will contribute to underpinning the viability of the meat sector and best position it to maintain and improve its competitiveness on EU and international markets.

Climate Change Strategy.

Liz McManus

Question:

87 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she plans to introduce measures to address the problems in farming resulting from climate change such as bluetongue disease, higher crop and tree diseases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27086/07]

The effects of climate change are anticipated over a long period and are not expected to have a significant impact on Irish agriculture in the shorter term. Arrangements for dealing with animal diseases continue to be kept under review and the contingency arrangements and the legislative basis for dealing with possible outbreaks of exotic disease are updated where required. For the most part, EU legislation provides the framework for dealing with such diseases.

Close monitoring for possible new crop and forest pests resulting from climate change is carried out by plant health control officers. The existing EU phytosanitary regime which covers all of Europe provides an adequate framework for dealing with potential threats.

Organic Farming.

Bernard Allen

Question:

88 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the measures she proposes to increase organic output. [27096/07]

There are significant financial supports in place to encourage producers to convert to and remain in organic production. The new Organic Farming Scheme was launched in August 2007 as part of the new Rural Development Programme, which will run from 2007 to 2013. The objective of this Scheme is to deliver enhanced environmental and animal welfare benefits and to encourage producers to respond to the market demand for organically produced food. Payment rates have increased by approximately 17% compared to comparative rates under the Supplementary Measure in the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS). Under the new Organic Farming Scheme, it is now possible for organic farmers to obtain organic support payments without having to be in the REPS Scheme as was previously the case. This is designed to encourage small-scale horticultural producers to convert to organic production and conventional tillage producers to convert part or even all of their holdings. Both of these areas are very much in deficit production-wise and there is a readymade market for the organic product. Organic producers will still, of course, be able to join REPS as well, and I would encourage them to do so.

As a further incentive to encourage non-REPS farmers solely involved in tillage production to convert to organic farming, there is an additional payment of €240 per hectare available in the in-conversion period, up to a maximum of 40 hectares, provided they grow green cover crops during that period.

My Department also offers significant development grants both to farmers and to processors under the Schemes of Grant Aid for the Development of the Organic Sector. Grant aid is available for investments by farmers and processors in equipment and facilities. The Schemes provide grant aid of 40% of the cost up to a maximum grant of €60,000 in the case of on-farm investments and €500,000 for investments off-farm. I am pleased to note that applicants are showing significant interest in these Schemes.

Other initiatives include the recent appointment by Teagasc of three additional specialist organic advisor posts, an enhanced demonstration programme and the extension of agronomist expertise to include the pig and poultry sectors this year.

We will continue to raise awareness among consumers about the benefits of organic food and the third National Organic Week took place recently with that specific purpose in mind.

It is clear that all stakeholders will have to play a proactive role to enable the challenging target of 5% of agricultural land under organic production by 2012 to be realised. To this end I have asked for and received submissions from the organic farming bodies with their proposals for the development of the sector. I have also asked the National Steering Group for the Organic Sector and its two sub-groups, the Partnership Expert Working Group and the Organic Marketing and Development Group, to give me their considered views on the best ways to move towards the Programme for Government target.

My Department also recently arranged two training seminars for REPS Planners who wished to expand their expertise to include the preparation of organic conversion plans. Officials from my own Department, as well as staff from the Organic Certification Bodies conducted these courses. Almost 50 planners attended these courses and hopefully the knowledge and detail imparted will help these planners identify potential clients for future conversion to organic production methods.

Departmental Staff.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

89 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach if he will detail and itemise the performance based bonuses or other bonuses paid to Secretary General and Assistant Secretaries in the Office of the Attorney General in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26890/07]

In the case of the Office of the Attorney General, the Committee for Performance Awards approved awards in May 2007 in respect of 2006 to the Deputy Director General and two Advisory Counsel Grade I totalling €45,800.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

90 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach if he will detail and itemise the performance based bonuses or other bonuses paid to Secretaries General and Assistant Secretaries in his Department and Offices in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26891/07]

The scheme of performance-related awards in the civil service applies to Deputy and Assistant Secretaries and equivalent grades. It does not apply to Secretaries General. Details of awards to individual officers under the performance related scheme are not disclosed on the basis that they are confidential to the officer concerned. However, I can say that during 2007 awards totalling €51,200 were made to 4 officers in my Department in respect of 2006 (as shown on page 10 of the CPA report for 2006). Details of the operation of the scheme are available in the report of the Committee for Performance Awards which can be accessed on the website of the Department of Finance (www.finance.gov.ie).

Ministerial Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

91 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the number of staff in his constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27213/07]

The number of staff in my Constituency Office, their costs to the Exchequer and expenses for the full year ended 31 December, 2006* are listed in the table below.

Taoiseach's Constituency Office

Number of Civil Servants

8

Number of Non-Civil Servants

1

Salaries: including allowances and overtime for Civil Servants

€249,750

Salaries: including allowances and overtime for non-Civil Servants

€36,276

Travel and Subs expenses for Civil Servants

Nil

Travel and Subs expenses for non-Civil Servants

Nil

*Last full year for which information available.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

92 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the number of staff in his private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27228/07]

The number of staff in my Private Office, their costs to the Exchequer and expenses for the full year ended 31 December, 2006* are listed below.

Taoiseach's Private Office

No. of Civil Servants

13

No. of non-Civil Servants

0

Salaries of Civil Servants (incl. allowances & overtime)

€663,983.43

Salaries of Non-Civil Servants (incl. allowances & overtime)

Nil

Travel & Subs expenses for Civil Servants

€2,453.19

Travel & Subs expenses for Non-Civil Servants

Nil

*Last full year for which figures are available.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

93 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27243/07]

There are two Ministers of State assigned to my Department — the Government Chief Whip, Mr. Tom Kitt, T.D. and the Minister of State for European Affairs, Mr. Dick Roche, T.D. Only the Government Chief Whip's Constituency Office is based in my Department. The Constituency Office of the Minister of State for European Affairs is based in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The number of staff in Minister of State Kitt's Constituency Office, their costs to the Exchequer and expenses for the full year ended 31 December, 2006* are listed in the table below.

Minister of State (T. Kitt, T.D) — Constituency Office

No. of Civil Servants

3

No. of non-Civil Servants

1

Salaries of Civil Servants (incl. allowances & overtime)

€116,931

Salaries of Non- Civil Servants (incl. allowances & overtime)

€43,091

Travel & Subs expenses for Civil Servants

Nil

Travel & Subs expenses for Non-Civil Servants

€1,661.22

*Last full year for which information is available.

Note: This does not include 1 Private Secretary and 1 Clerical Officer who support Minister Kitt in his role at the Department of Defence and who are located in this Department but are the staff of the Department of Defence.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

94 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27258/07]

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

95 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Taoiseach the numbers and grades of staff employed in the Chief Whip’s Office; and the annual cost of those staff. [27268/07]

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

96 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Taoiseach the number and grades of staff employed in Minister for State with special responsibility for European Affair’s Office; and the annual cost of those staff. [27273/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 to 96, inclusive, together.

There are two Ministers of State assigned to my Department — Government Chief Whip, Mr. Tom Kitt, T.D. and the Minister of State for European Affairs, Mr. Dick Roche, T.D.

The number of staff in each of the Private Offices of those Ministers of State assigned to my Department, their costs to the Exchequer and expenses for the full year ended 31 December, 2006* are listed in the tables below.

Office of the Government Chief Whip (Private Office)

Number of Civil Servants

4

Number of Non-Civil Servants

Nil

Salaries: including allowances and overtime for Civil Servants

€215,297

Salaries: including allowances and overtime for non-Civil Servants

Nil

Travel and Subs expenses for Civil Servants

Nil

Travel and Subs expenses for non-Civil Servants

Nil

Office of the Minister of State for European Affairs (Private Office)

Number of Civil Servants

3

Number of Non-Civil Servants

Nil

Salaries: including allowances and overtime for Civil Servants

€112,376

Salaries: including allowances and overtime for non-Civil Servants

Nil

Travel and Subs expenses for Civil Servants

€1,488

Travel and Subs expenses for non-Civil Servants

Nil

* Last full year for which information is available.

Please note that Mr. Noel Treacy T.D. was Minister of State for European Affairs during this period.

Early School Leavers.

Brian Hayes

Question:

97 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Taoiseach if will provide a county by county breakdown of the 3,679 fifteen year olds that have ceased full time education as a result of information obtained in the most recent census taken in April 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27411/07]

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

It should be borne in mind that the figures for persons aged 15 years may be affected by the fact that this age was used in a filter question on the Census questionnaire, resulting in a possible over-statement of the number of 15 year olds who have ceased education.

County

Number of 15 year olds whose education has ceased

State

3,679

Carlow

54

Dublin City

368

South Dublin

289

Fingal

195

Dún Laoghaire Rathdown

126

Kildare

161

Kilkenny

82

Laoighis

64

Longford

35

Louth

109

Meath

134

Offaly

71

Westmeath

101

Wexford

120

Wicklow

109

Clare

110

Cork City

94

Cork County

313

Kerry

118

Limerick City

40

Limerick County

112

North Tipperary

57

South Tipperary

74

Waterford City

36

Waterford County

47

Galway City

48

Galway County

153

Leitrim

21

Mayo

110

Roscommon

41

Sligo

36

Cavan

73

Donegal

136

Monaghan

42

Beef Imports.

David Stanton

Question:

98 Deputy David Stanton asked the Taoiseach the country of origin and respected amounts of imported beef, lamb and sheep meat, pig meat and poultry into the State in 2004, 2005 and 2006 respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27530/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is presented in the table below.

The table shows total meat imports by country (top ten in each meat category).

Imports of Meat

2004

2005

2006

Country of Origin

€000

Tonnes

€000

Tonnes

€000

Tonnes

Beef

Great Britain

33,231

12,413

37,476

16,124

41,725

13,344

Brazil

16,396

6,587

20,462

6,867

20,905

6,320

Netherlands

2,949

703

8,757

3,667

12,198

5,171

France

1,733

1,044

1,941

1,018

2,374

1,133

Northern Ireland

172

177

2,874

923

8,386

1,961

Germany

2,530

680

1,783

478

2,375

482

Ireland*

1,275

546

1,045

559

1,629

415

Belgium

854

219

1,054

247

2,366

603

Argentina

139

64

1,065

270

500

141

Italy

579

106

482

178

507

97

Other

1,132

520

929

408

2,124

925

Beef Total

60,990

23,059

77,868

30,739

95,089

30,592

Pork

Great Britain

50,426

18,165

51,157

17,105

60,863

20,854

Ireland*

26,133

10,459

23,639

9,172

28,114

10,026

Germany

23,457

7,166

24,668

7,778

30,613

8,436

Denmark

21,224

8,382

22,030

8,900

14,813

5,275

Netherlands

13,952

5,179

15,550

5,777

22,364

7,017

France

12,074

5,277

13,641

5,566

13,697

4,788

Northern Ireland

7,026

2,264

6,724

2,201

4,125

1,278

Italy

1,513

1,347

3,363

1,545

2,920

1,466

Austria

428

333

3,424

1,914

3,591

1,338

Belgium

3,756

1,079

3,998

1,346

3,396

800

Other

3,205

874

3,248

1,031

6,780

2,664

Pork Total

163,194

60,525

171,442

62,335

191,276

63,942

Poultry

Great Britain

82,183

22,533

103,989

33,656

90,093

24,867

Netherlands

45,225

12,276

47,919

13,325

56,540

18,199

Northern Ireland

27,661

6,724

29,524

7,729

26,339

6,360

Belgium

11,045

4,028

12,945

4,532

13,461

4,657

Thailand

8,506

2,836

11,879

4,656

12,467

4,822

Germany

7,526

1,996

12,542

3,469

19,927

5,482

Brazil

5,061

1,728

8,621

2,854

6,091

2,229

France

11,416

2,699

6,070

1,631

6,239

1,603

Italy

4,958

1,646

5,915

1,840

7,610

2,335

Ireland*

2,157

1,059

2,550

641

3,173

821

Other

3,074

949

5,498

1,748

5,968

1,963

Poultry Total

208,812

58,474

247,452

76,081

247,908

73,338

Sheep/lamb

Great Britain

6,021

1,686

5,952

1,391

7,288

1,656

New Zealand

1,386

628

1,029

280

1,102

328

France

370

155

201

74

580

204

Northern Ireland

103

22

834

209

1,544

183

Netherlands

212

44

147

37

363

112

Germany

90

29

197

74

Turkey

323

85

Belgium

137

41

4

1

92

33

Ireland*

108

38

99

13

Australia

141

39

3

1

Other

105

23

161

82

237

56

Sheep/lamb Total

8,996

2,790

8,525

2,148

11,308

2,586

Grand Total

441,992

144,848

505,287

171,303

545,581

170,458

*The table reflects Country of Origin rather than Country of Consignment, hence Imports from Ireland.

Further information is available from the Trade Helpdesk at trade@cso.ie.

Review Body on Higher Remuneration.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

99 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the persons who are the members of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration and by whom are they appointed; the qualifying criteria applied to appointments; the period of tenure; the emoluments, including expenses, paid to members of the Review Body and by whom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26881/07]

The Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector which was established in 1969 is an independent standing body whose primary function is to advise the Government on the general levels of remuneration appropriate to certain top public service posts. The members of the Review Body are appointed by the Government.

The current members of the Review Body are:

Tony O'Brien, Chairman of the Review Body

Appointed 12 April 2005.

Chairman of C&C Group, plc: Former non-Executive Director of CRH plc and chaired the Remuneration Committee: Former member of the Civil Service Committee for Performance Awards: Former Chairman of Anglo Irish Bank Corporation, plc and chaired the Remuneration Committee. Past President of IBEC.

John Doherty

Appointed 12 April 2005.

Employers' member of the Labour Court.

Brian Hillery

Appointed 22 December 1999

Currently Chairman of Independent News and Media plc, UniCredito Italiano Bank (Ireland) plc and Providence Resources plc: Commissioner, National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission: Former TD and Senator: Former Professor, Graduate School of Business, UCD.

Vivienne Jupp

Appointed 29 March 1995

Chair, Accenture Institute for Public Service Value: Former global managing partner in Accenture: Member of the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland: Board member of the UCD Smurfit Graduate School of Business: Chaired the Information Society Commission from 1996 to 2000.

Peter Malone

Appointed 29 March 1995

Director and former CEO of Jurys Doyle Hotel Group: Chairman of National Roads Authority. Chairman CBRE: Chairman Business Tourism Forum.

Noel O'Neill

Appointed 22 December 1999

Workers' member of the Labour Court.

No formal qualifying criteria applies to the appointments. Due to the complex nature of the work it is important that the members are suitably experienced and qualified to carry out the reviews.

There is no specific period of tenure — members are appointed to carry out reviews under the standing terms of reference from time to time and such other posts as the Review Body may be asked to examine from time to time.

The following are the fees paid to the current members by the Department of Finance:

Chairman — €25,000 per annum.

Members other than the Labour Court members — €15,000 per annum.

Mr Doherty and Mr O'Neill do not receive any fees as members of the Review Body.

No expenses have been claimed or paid to any member during the current review.

Drainage Schemes.

Joe Carey

Question:

100 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position regarding a feasibility study for the upgrading and repair of the River Fergus embankments from Drumquin, County Clare to Kildysart, County Clare being carried out; if consultants have been appointed; when the report will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26908/07]

An examination into the feasibility, cost and environmental implications of upgrading the embankments referred to will be undertaken by Engineering staff of the Office of Public Works. It is expected that the study report will be completed early next year.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

101 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will continue the funding to the Office of Public Works to enable them to refurbish the embankment on the south eastern bank of the Brick River from Lixnaw Bridge to Ballinaghar Bridge to prevent the flooding of the recently built local authority housing estate (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26926/07]

A programme of refurbishment of the embankments of the Feale Catchment Drainage Scheme, which includes the River Brick, under the maintenance provisions of the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945, commenced this year. It is intended that this programme will continue and that the necessary funding will be made available.

The work is being prioritised on the basis of risk to housing and while the OPW is at present finalising its programme for 2008, it is likely that the primary focus will be on the town of Listowel next year.

The embankment on the South Eastern bank of the River Brick from Lixnaw Bridge to Ballinaghar bridge will be refurbished as soon as embankments protecting a larger number of properties have been completed.

Tax Code.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

102 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the Revenue Commissioners will assist a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 to obtain a P60. [26956/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that it appears from their records that the taxpayer commenced employment with the company in question during 2001. On 5 November 2007 a letter was sent to the taxpayer giving details of his pay, tax and PRSI deductions for the years 2001 and 2003 to 2006, in accordance with the records held by the Revenue Commissioners. No details are available for the year 2002. The details provided in the letter are those which would be included in a P60 certificate, which is issued by an employer.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

103 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the schemes currently in place to encourage workers, through tax incentives or other means to cycle to work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26992/07]

There is no specific tax scheme to encourage workers to cycle to work. There is, however, a provision in the existing Benefit-in-Kind arrangements to allow an employer to provide an employee with a small benefit to a value not exceeding €250 in any one year without applying PAYE and PRSI to that benefit. If the €250 limit is exceeded in any year the employee must pay tax on the total value of any such benefits. The purchase by an employer of a bicycle for an employee could be covered by this provision, subject to this €250 limit on the total value of such benefits in any tax year.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

104 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on introducing a cycle to work scheme similar to the UK where bicycles can be purchased through the employer with the cost being deducted from the gross salary, thus saving on PRSI and income tax in view of the fact that this would encourage more people to cycle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26993/07]

There are no plans for the introduction of a scheme of the type referred to by the Deputy. There is provision in the existing Benefit-in-Kind arrangements to allow an employer to provide an employee with a small benefit to a value not exceeding €250 in any one year without applying PAYE and PRSI to that benefit. If the €250 limit is exceeded in any year the employee must pay tax on the total value of any such benefits.

The purchase by an employer of a bicycle for an employee could be covered by this provision, subject to this €250 limit on the total value of such benefits in any tax year.

Disabled Drivers.

Noel Coonan

Question:

105 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will expand the disabled drivers scheme to take account of other forms of disability not currently eligible under the scheme; the reason for not undertaking such an expansion; the last time a review or expansion of the scheme was carried out since the scheme was introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27017/07]

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

The disability criteria for these concessions are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. To get a Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be permanently and severely disabled within the terms of these Regulations.

As the Deputy will be aware, there was an interdepartmental review of the Scheme. However, given the scale and the scope of the scheme, any possible changes can only be made after careful consideration and with regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme and the available resources. In this context, I consider any possible changes within the framework of the annual Budgetary process.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

106 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is entitled to a tax rebate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27028/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer retired from his employment on 31 August 2007 following which the taxpayer became entitled to a company pension and a State Pension (Transition). The company has confirmed to the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer's lump sum entitlement was paid tax-free on 23 October 2007. The first pension payment (backdated to his retirement date) will be made by the company on 8 November 2007. On that date, the company will make any refund of tax due on account of the adjusted income since retirement.

Barry Andrews

Question:

107 Deputy Barry Andrews asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if there will be tax incentives for owners of electric pedlec bicycles which can be purchased through their employers in order that rural workers and urban workers can avail of the tax break enjoyed by the urban workers who use environmentally friendly transport to travel to work. [27042/07]

There are no plans to introduce a scheme of the kind referred to by the Deputy. There is provision in the existing Benefit-in-Kind arrangements to allow an employer to provide an employee with a small benefit to a value not exceeding €250 in any one year without applying PAYE and PRSI to that benefit. If the €250 limit is exceeded in any year the employee must pay tax on the total value of any such benefits.

The purchase by an employer of a bicycle for an employee could be covered by this provision, subject to this €250 limit on the value of such benefits in any tax year.

Jack Wall

Question:

108 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has not received the arrears due to them in relation to emergency payment of PAYE; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27058/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer paid emergency tax in a former employment, which ceased on 1 July 2007. A new employer would normally make a refund of any tax over deducted in a previous employment following receipt of a cumulative certificate of tax credits. A cumulative certificate has issued in this case but as the taxpayer is on unpaid sick leave at present, the new employer is not in a position to make the necessary refund. In the exceptional circumstances of this case, the Revenue Commissioners have arranged to have the emergency tax repaid to the taxpayer. A notice of the repayment due, together with cheque in settlement, will issue in the coming days.

Site Acquisitions.

Michael Creed

Question:

109 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works has succeeded in procuring a site for a school (details supplied) in County Cork. [27184/07]

The Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland act as agents for the Department of Education and Science in the acquisition of sites for schools. In the case of the school in question, the requirement has been advertised three times — most recently in September, 2007. Two proposals are currently under consideration and technical assessment, as to their suitability for a school. It is expected that this assessment will be completed by the end of November and a report will be furnished to the Department of Education and Science at that stage.

Ministerial Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

110 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of staff in his constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27208/07]

The staffing of my constituency office is set out below:

Title

Number

Salary Range

Personal Assistant

1

44,314 – 56,250

Personal Secretary

1

29,093 – 46,167

Executive Officer

1

29,093 – 46,167

Staff Officer

1

33,258 – 44,407

Clerical Officer

1

23,086 – 37,652

To date in 2007, overtime, salary related allowances and other allowance payments amount to €9,567.93. The amount paid in expenses for foreign and domestic travel, official entertainment and miscellaneous for the same period was €1,163.56.

In addition to the above staff, there are 3 Clerical Officers (Salary Range €23,086 — €36,546) who provide typing and administrative support services to my private office, the constituency office and to the Department of Finance Press Office. The Personal Assistant and Personal Secretary in my constituency office are employed on a contract basis for the duration of my tenure. All of the other staff in my constituency office are permanent civil servants.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

111 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of staff in his private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27223/07]

The staffing of my private office is set out below:

Title

Number

Salary Range

Administrative Officer

1

33,439 – 59,213

Executive Officer

2

29,093 – 47,980

Staff Officer

2

33,258 – 44,407

Clerical Officer

3

23,086 – 37,652

To date in 2007, overtime, salary related allowances and other allowance payments amount to €35,131.57. The amount paid in expenses for foreign and domestic travel, official entertainment and miscellaneous for the same period was €43,282.44.

In addition to the above staff, there are 3 Clerical Officers (Salary Range €23,086 — €36,546) who provide typing and administrative support services to my private office, the constituency office and to the Department of Finance Press Office. All of the staff in my private office are permanent civil servants.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

112 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27238/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

113 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27253/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 112 and 113 together.

In relation to the Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works the information requested has been supplied in the tables below as actual expenditure on overtime and travel and subsistence expenses for the period 13th June 2007 (when the current Minister of State took up duty) to date and per annum salary rates as at 5th November 2007.

Minister of State's Private Office

Salaries

Overtime

Expenses

€168,885

€1,926.55

€665.87

4 Staff — all Civil Servants

Minister of State's Constituency Office in the Office of Public Works

Salaries

Overtime

Expenses

€196,487

€2,003.82

Nil

7 staff made up of 3 Civil Servants and 4 non-Civil Servants including 2 Civilian Drivers whose duties cover both offices.

EU Directives.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

114 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the EU Directives awaiting incorporation into Irish law in his Department; the deadline for incorporation; the date he foresees for implementation of each directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27312/07]

There is one EU Directive awaiting transposition into Irish law by my Department at the current time.

Directive 2007/18/EC makes two minor technical amendments to the Capital Requirements Directive (2006/48/EC) relating to the treatment of financial exposures to certain institutions and multilateral development banks. This Directive was due for transposition on 30th September 2007. It is currently at legal drafting stage. I expect that this directive will be transposed very shortly.

I wish to assure the Deputy that every effort is being made in my Department, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General, to ensure that Directives are transposed on time.

Garda Stations.

Pat Breen

Question:

115 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 207 of 26 September 2007, if there are problems with the site map which is delaying the re-opening of a Garda station (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27403/07]

The Commissioners of Public Works have recently received the agreed Ordnance Survey site map from the Landlord, for attachment to the Lease Agreement. The Chief State Solicitor will now finalise all legal matters relating to the Agreement and it will then be executed by both parties. Following execution, An Garda Síochána can take possession of the premises immediately.

Tax Code.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

116 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the way someone who misses a flight can reclaim the tax paid from the airline or Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27441/07]

As indicated in my response to Deputy Richard Bruton on 9 October 2007, since the £5 travel tax was abolished in Budget 2000 there have been no Irish Government taxes levied on flights into, out of or within Ireland.

Disabled Drivers.

Seán Connick

Question:

117 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the maximum rates of repayment of vehicle registration tax and value added tax on the purchase of a vehicle for a disabled driver or disabled passenger and the maximum rate of repayment of value added tax on the cost of adapting a vehicle for a disabled driver or disabled passenger have not increased in twenty years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27502/07]

Seán Connick

Question:

118 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will index link the maximum rates of repayment of vehicle registration tax and value added tax on the purchase of a vehicle for a disabled driver or disabled passenger and the maximum rate of repayment of value added tax on the cost of adapting a vehicle for a disabled driver or disabled passenger; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27503/07]

Seán Connick

Question:

119 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will review the restrictive medical criteria for recognition of a disability as recognised under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations, 1994; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27504/07]

Seán Connick

Question:

120 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will remove the engine size limits of 2,000 cc for drivers and 4,000 cc for passengers operational under the Disabled Drivers (Tax Concessions) Regulations, 1989; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27505/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 to 120, inclusive, together.

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and Vehicle Registration Tax (up to a certain limit) on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, as well as relief from excise on the fuel used in the car, up to a certain limit. The disability criteria for these concessions are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. To get a Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be permanently and severely disabled within the terms of these Regulations.

As the Deputy will be aware, there was an interdepartmental review of the Scheme. However, given the scale and the scope of the scheme, any possible changes can only be made after careful consideration and with regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme and the available resources. In this context, I consider any possible changes within the framework of the annual Budgetary process.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

121 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on introducing a measure in Budget 2008 allowing financial institutions to provide DIRT free saving accounts to young people under 25 similar to those which those aged over 65 can avail of; the estimated cost of such a measure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27544/07]

The Finance Act 2007 introduced a new scheme to allow the operation of DIRT free savings accounts. To qualify, there are two conditions: be aged 65 years of age or over and total income must not exceed the relevant exemption threshold, i.e. €19,000 (for an individual) or €38,000 (for a married couple). I have no plans to introduce a similar exemption for any other category of taxpayer. Information is not available that would provide an estimate of the cost of introducing such an exemption.

Joan Burton

Question:

122 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on increasing the rent tax allowance in Budget 2008; the estimated cost of doubling the rent tax allowance for those under 55 to €3600 for a single person and €7200 for married or widowed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27546/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the most recent year for which complete information on the cost of rent relief to the Exchequer is available is for the income tax year 2004. Using that data, the full year cost to the Exchequer of rent relief for those aged under 55 years is projected at €67 million in 2007 terms. On this basis, a doubling of the allowance could cost in the region of an additional €67 million but could be less, depending on the extent to which the additional tax relief could be absorbed by claimants and assuming no significant increase in the level of take up by taxpayers.

All income tax provisions are reviewed regularly, particularly in the context of the annual Budget. The Budget is less than a month away. It has been the practice of successive Ministers for Finance not to comment on tax changes in the run up to the annual Budget and I do not propose to depart from that approach.

National Drugs Strategy.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

123 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will make provision in Budget 2008 for additional funding for the rehabilitation of drug users including funding for additional hospital beds for rehabilitation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27550/07]

I will present Budget 2008 to the Dáil on 5 December 2007 and as is normal I will not comment on the contents of the Budget in advance of that date.

Tax Code.

Margaret Conlon

Question:

124 Deputy Margaret Conlon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if there are plans to substantially increase the stamp duty rate bands for farm land to take account of inflation in values over the past five years. [27551/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, changes to stamp duty are considered in the context of the annual Budget and Finance Bill cycle.

Margaret Conlon

Question:

125 Deputy Margaret Conlon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has plans to make a decision to treat the Diversification Fund in the context of Budget 2008 as capital rather than income, while clarifying that the capital receipt is not arising from the disposal of an asset. [27552/07]

The tax treatment of income derived from the payment of diversification aid to former sugar beet growers is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. I am informed by the Commissioners that based on the information available to them on the current proposals for the payment of such aid the payments will be subject to income tax.

As regards Budget 2008, it is a long-standing practice of the Minister for Finance not to comment in advance of the Budget on any tax or expenditure matters that might be the subject of Budget decisions.

Margaret Conlon

Question:

126 Deputy Margaret Conlon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on whether no capital grants tax should arise on the disposal of farmland to a local authority for road building or road widening purposes provided the proceeds of the compensation are re-invested in farm business assets where it can be demonstrated that the re-investment is necessary for future farm viability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27553/07]

I assume that the Deputy has in mind the re-introduction of roll-over relief.

It was announced in the 2003 Budget that no roll-over relief would be allowed for any purpose on gains arising from disposals on or after 4 December 2002. This relief was introduced when CGT rates were much higher than current levels. The abolition of this relief was in accordance with the overall taxation policy of widening the tax base in order to keep direct tax rates low.

Changes to the tax system are considered in the context of the annual Budget and Finance Bill cycle.

As the Deputy will be aware, there is already in place a generous package of reliefs that continue to be available exclusively to the farming sector.

Counterfeit Goods.

Damien English

Question:

127 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of inspectors that are employed by customs to investigate the sale of counterfeit goods to the public; the region that each inspector covers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27562/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, in accordance with Council Regulation (EC) No. 1383/2003, controls on the movement of counterfeit goods apply at the point of importation into the European Communities. Revenue has responsibility for enforcing this legislation where counterfeit goods are imported into Ireland from outside the EC. The legislation works on the basis that Rights Holders seeking protection for their goods apply to Revenue. (Currently, there are 297 such requests). When suspect goods are identified at importation, the Right Holder is contacted in order to verify the validity of the goods. If the goods are found to be counterfeit, they are liable to seizure and the persons involved are liable to prosecution. Revenue has appointed a specific coordinator in relation to intellectual property rights (IPR) to bring greater focus to these issues and to enhance liaison with traders.

Revenue Customs officials engaged in controlling goods at points of entry (ports, airports and mail centres) have primary responsibility in ensuring enforcement of legislation relating to a wide range of prohibited goods including counterfeit goods. In addition, where illegally imported counterfeit goods, or counterfeit goods on which the appropriate excise duties have not been paid, are detected elsewhere within the jurisdiction, they are liable to seizure.

The precise number of staff engaged in this activity will vary from time to time having regard to different risk priorities and the resources available, but generally in excess of 300 officers are involved in the enforcement of such controls, as part of their regular duties.

There have been 191 seizures of counterfeit goods by Customs officials so far this year (to end September) involving 24,550 items with a value of €983,980.

It should be noted that matters relating to the sale of counterfeit goods (other than excisable goods) which are not illegally imported into the EC is primarily a matter for An Garda Síochána.

Health Services.

Phil Hogan

Question:

128 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children when the €4.5 million allocated in 2007 will be agreed with the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland; if this finance will be paid in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26995/07]

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

Child Care Services.

Michael Creed

Question:

129 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide details regarding the locations of all child care facilities in County Cork funded under the EOCP. [27185/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006(EOCP) and the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), which are being implemented by the Office of the Minister for Children. A list of childcare facilities in County Cork who have received funding under the EOCP will be sent to the Deputy.

Proposed Legislation.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

130 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if forced marriage is a specific offence under Irish law; if she will introduce legislation in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27199/07]

While there is no specific provision in Irish statute law which makes forced marriage an offence, there are a number of measures which aim to ensure that marriage is entered into voluntarily and with full knowledge and consent.

The statutory provisions governing notice of intention to marry, solemnisation and registration of marriage are contained in the Civil Registration Act 2004. Section 2(2) of the Act provides that there is an impediment to a marriage if one, or both of the parties is already married; or if one or both of the parties is under 18 years of age, unless an exemption from the age requirement has been granted by the Circuit or High Court under Section 33 of the Family Law Act 1995. Section 47 of the Civil Registration Act provides that such an exemption may only be granted by a court if the applicants show that it is justified by serious reasons and is in their interests. A marriage would be void if the parties are within the prohibited degrees of relationship (i.e. if they are closely related by blood or marriage).

Section 46 of the Civil Registration Act requires parties to an intended marriage to attend at a registrar's office to give three months notice of intention to marry and to make a written declaration that there is no impediment to the marriage. This provision also gives the registrar authority to request evidence as to the names, addresses, marital status, age and nationality of the parties to an intended marriage. Notices of intention to marry may be published and are available for inspection at the registrar's office.

Section 48 of the Civil Registration Act provides for the issue of a Marriage Registration Form (MRF), without which no marriage may be legally solemnised. An MRF will only be issued if the registrar is satisfied that all of the statutory requirements for a valid marriage have been met. In addition, a marriage may not be solemnised unless one of the parties to the marriage gives the MRF to the person solemnising the marriage for examination by him or her, prior to the marriage.

Section 51 of the Act governs the manner in which a marriage shall be solemnised. A marriage may only be solemnised by a registered solemniser. A solemniser shall not solemnise a marriage unless both parties are present, two witnesses over 18 years of age are present, the place where the marriage is solemnised is open to the public and he or she is satisfied that the parties to the marriage understand the nature of the marriage ceremony and the declarations that must be made as part of the ceremony. These declarations are to the effect that (a) there is no impediment to the marriage and (b) they accept each other as husband and wife. This section also makes provision for interpretation where the solemniser, the parties to the marriage, or the witnesses do not have a sufficient knowledge of the language of the ceremony.

Section 53 of the Act provides for the establishment and maintenance of a register of solemnisers, which is open to inspection by members of the public. Religious bodies may apply to the Registrar General to have members registered in the register of solemnisers. In order to be registered, a person must be nominated by a religious body whose form of ceremony includes the required declarations referred to above. Section 55 provides for the cancellation of a registration in certain circumstances.

Section 58 of the Civil Registration Act provides for the making of objections to a marriage prior to solemnisation.

Offences in relation to the solemnisation of marriage are set out in Section 69(10) of the Civil Registration Act. An offence is committed if: a registered solemniser solemnises a marriage other than in accordance with the requirements of Section 51; a person who is not a registered solemniser solemnises a marriage; the solemniser fails to examine the MRF prior to the ceremony; a solemniser or a party to a marriage engage in a marriage ceremony where the notice required under Section 46 was not given; a party to a marriage makes a false declaration that there is no impediment to the marriage.

A person guilty of an offence under Section 69(10) shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €2,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months, or both.

By its very nature, a forced marriage is going to involve some form of coercion, threat, intimidation, physical assault or restraint, abduction or unlawful detention. These matters fall to be dealt with under the criminal law.

There is a well established legal principle in common law that a full, free and informed consent is essential for a valid marriage. Full, free and informed consent would not be present in cases of insanity or unsoundness of mind, intoxication, mistake, misrepresentation, fear, duress, intimidation or undue influence.

In view of the above, I am satisfied that all reasonable measures are in place to prevent forced marriages and to provide a remedy where full, free and informed consent is absent.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

131 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which genetically modified food or food products are imported here and to other EU countries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27512/07]

The following GM foods are authorised for sale in all EU Member States:

vegetable oil from oil seed rape;

vegetable oil from cotton seed;

maize products;

soya products;

sugar beet products.

These products are normally used as food ingredients and have been identified in a variety of products such as vegetable casseroles, gluten-free reduced sugar rusks, soya protein mince, soya protein chunks, soya biscuits and cakes, soya bran, soya flour, infant formula, soya cream, soya yogurt, soya drink, soya dessert, lecithin granules derived from soya bean and maize meal, tortilla chips, taco shells, breadcrumbs for chicken, and burger and corn snacks derived from maize. This list, however, is not exhaustive.

There is no information available to my Department in regard to the quantities of the various GM products place on the Irish market; in any event, such information is not required in the context of food safety.

Mental Health Services.

James Reilly

Question:

132 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that funds realised from the sale of hospitals and lands and assets in the mental health sector will be ring fenced for future investment in the mental health services sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27567/07]

James Reilly

Question:

213 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that funds realised from the sale of assets, hospitals and lands in the mental health sector will be ring fenced for future investment in that sector, if the Department of Finance agree to ring fence the said funds for investment in mental health services and investment plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27568/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 and 213 together.

The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, "A Vision for Change" was launched in January 2006 and has been accepted by Government as the basis for the future development of mental health services. This policy envisions an active, flexible and community-based mental health service where the need for hospital admission will be greatly reduced. It will require substantial funding, but there is considerable equity in buildings and lands within the current mental health system, which could be realised to fund this plan. "A Vision for Change" recommends that steps be taken to bring about the closure of all psychiatric hospitals and to re-invest the resources released by these closures in the mental health service.

The closure of mental hospitals and the reinvestment of the proceeds will take place on a phased basis. Hospitals can only close when the clinical needs of the remaining patients have been addressed in more appropriate settings such as additional community residences, day hospitals and day centres together with a substantial increase in the number of well trained, fully staffed, community-based multi-disciplinary Community Mental Health Teams as is recommended in a "A Vision for Change".

The assessment and realisation of the full economic value of psychiatric hospital buildings and lands is the responsibility of the HSE.

James Reilly

Question:

133 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the process that was used to arrive at the decision to relocate the Central Mental Hospital from Dundrum to the proposed prison site at Thornton Hall in north County Dublin; if expert committees, staff management or senior Health Service Executive officials were consulted on the suitability of the site for the purpose of a central mental hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27569/07]

James Reilly

Question:

209 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the process used to arrive at the decision to relocate the Central Mental Hospital from Dundrum to Thornton Hall prison site in north County Dublin; if expert committees or the relevant officers in the Health Service Executive and the management of the Central Mental Hospital were consulted on the suitability of the site for the purpose of a central mental hospital, prior to the decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27537/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 133 and 209 together.

In February 2003 the Department of Health and Children established a Project Team to progress the redevelopment of the Central Mental Hospital. The Project Team, which comprised key stakeholders, including representatives from the Central Mental Hospital, the then health boards, the Irish Prison Service and the Department of Health and Children, recommended that the hospital be relocated to a new purpose built facility in the greater Dublin area, with ready access to the M50.

In February 2004, the Government decided that the Ministers for Health and Children and Justice, Equality and Law Reform should consult on the future of the CMH in the context of the plans to replace Mountjoy Prison. In November 2004 the Government decided that in principle, and subject to further study, the CMH should be transferred to the same site as the proposed new prison. It later agreed the purchase of Thornton Hall for the provision of the prison.

In May 2006, the Government formally approved the development of a new national forensic mental health facility at Thornton Hall, County Dublin and that the cost of developing the new facility would be met from the proceeds of the sale of the existing site in Dundrum. This decision was consistent with a recommendation contained in "A Vision for Change" — the report of the expert Group on Mental Health Policy which recommended that the CMH should be replaced or remodelled to allow it to provide care and treatment in a modern, up-to-date humane setting and that the capacity of the CMH should be maximised.

The redevelopment of the CMH will constitute a separate capital development project independent of the prison complex to replace Mountjoy Prison, and will be owned and managed by the Health Service Executive (HSE). The new hospital will be built on its own campus and will retain its identity as a distinct, separate, therapeutic health facility. The new hospital will also have its own grounds with a separate entrance and address to the prison complex.

Health Services.

Brian Hayes

Question:

134 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she will take in respect of a case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24 which was brought to the attention of the Health Service Executive three weeks ago by way of correspondence from this Deputy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26866/07]

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

Child Care Services.

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

135 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Health and Children when an announcement will be made regarding an application for funding by a crèche (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26885/07]

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

152 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Health and Children when a grant will be awarded to a crèche (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26988/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135 and 152 together.

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

With regard to the application for capital grant assistance under the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 referred to in the question, I understand that it is currently being assessed by Pobal, the agency engaged to administer the grants. Following the assessment of the application, a recommendation will be made by the Programme Appraisal Committee (PAC), prior to a decision being made by the Secretary General of the Department of Health and Children.

As the Deputy will be aware the NCIP came into effect from 1 January 2006, with an allocation of €357 million for capital projects during the 5 year period of 2006-2010. This funding is allocated for each year subject to the rules governing capital expenditure and the multi-annual investment framework, which are also conditions of the sanction given by the Department of Finance each year for capital expenditure including the NCIP. Due to the success of the scheme to date, the existing capital commitments under the programme has reached the approved ceiling of €132 million for this year and it is not possible for this Office to enter into further capital commitments under the NCIP before January 2008 when the ceiling will adjust. However, should the application in question be assessed by Pobal and recommended by the PAC before the end of this year, it will be submitted for consideration and approval by the Secretary General of the Department of Health and Children at the earliest opportunity in January 2008.

To date no application for staffing assistance has been submitted by this Group.

Ambulance Service.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

136 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 148 of 17 October 2007 and the reply received (details supplied), if she will now publish the report submitted by the Military Airworthiness Authority to the Hospital Network Manager; the reports recommendations that have been implemented; when the recommendations that have not been implemented will be; if she will list each occasion that a helicopter has landed for medical reasons at either Bantry General Hospital or at the nearby airstrip; the type of helicopter used and the mission type in the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26886/07]

Neither myself, nor my Department have received the report referred to by the Deputy. Therefore since the rest of the question refers to operational issues and operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. The Executive is 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.

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

137 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position is in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if they will be seen as a matter of urgency in Naas; if this service is not available in Naas, the location where they can go to get the speech therapy they need; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26889/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy. As the Deputy may be aware an additional sum of €75m for revenue purposes was provided to the Health Service Executive for Disability Services in the 2007 Budget. This amount incorporates the 2007 element of the Government's multi-annual investment programme for the National Disability Strategy. This Strategy is committed to enhancing, the level and range of multi-disciplinary support services to adults and children with an intellectual, physical and sensory disability and those with autism, including Therapy Services.

Hospital Services.

Joe Carey

Question:

138 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Clare who is waiting to have an ICP monitor carried out in Beaumount Hospital Neurosurgery Department; if this procedure will be dealt with as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26902/07]

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.

Medical Cards.

Joe Carey

Question:

139 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will put in place a review of the conditions governing qualification for the medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26903/07]

At present, medical cards are granted primarily on the basis of means and individual circumstances. Under the Health Act, 2004, determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. Persons aged seventy years and over are automatically entitled to a medical card, irrespective of means. The HSE has discretion, in cases of exceptional need, to provide assistance to individuals where undue hardship would otherwise be caused.

Medical cards are made available to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services. In 2005 the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

Since the beginning of 2005 substantial changes have been made to the way in which people's eligibility for a medical card is assessed and these apply equally to the assessment process for a GP visit card. The income guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29% and in addition allowance is now made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, childcare and travel to work costs. In June 2006 I agreed with the Health Service Executive a further adjustment to the assessment guidelines for GP visit cards and these are now 50% higher than those in respect of medical cards. For medical card and GP Visit Card applications, the HSE now considers an applicant's income after tax and PRSI are deducted, rather than total income. Allowances are also made for expenses on childcare, rent and mortgage costs and the cost of travel to work.

Currently, my Department is preparing legislation to clarify and update existing legislation on eligibility for health and personal social services. The Bill will define specific health and personal services more clearly; define who should be eligible for what services; set out clear criteria for eligibility; establish when and in what circumstances charges may be made and provide for an appeals framework. My Department is currently examining the range of services that will be defined in legislation. It is expected that the legislation will be published in 2008.

Health Services.

Joe Carey

Question:

140 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children if and when a primary medical certificate will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26904/07]

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

Drugs Reimbursement Arrangements.

Joe Carey

Question:

141 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she has taken to resolve the dispute between the Health Service Executive and the Irish Pharmaceutical Union; if she has had discussions with pharmacists since her recent announcement in respect of the new proposals in regard to the purchase and dispensing of drugs; if so, the position regarding these discussions; her views on the impact that these proposals will have on the viability of pharmacies throughout Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26905/07]

I have previously outlined in detail to the Oireachtas the legal provisions under competition law which prevent the HSE from negotiating with the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU) on fees, prices or margins for their members. When it became clear that the HSE could not negotiate with pharmacists or wholesalers on fees or margins, a detailed, fair and transparent consultation process, including independent economic analysis and public consultation, was carried out to inform the final determination of the new reimbursement pricing arrangements for drugs and medicines under the GMS and community drugs schemes. These new arrangements were announced by the HSE on 17 September 2007.

In regard to the new reimbursement prices, the main wholesaler companies have confirmed to the HSE they will charge community pharmacists the same price for these drugs and medicines as pharmacists will be reimbursed by the HSE for these products. The HSE has been provided with no evidence to indicate that the impact on individual pharmacies will be detrimental, having regard to the totality of fees and mark-ups under the GMS and community drugs schemes.

All the evidence available to the joint HSE/Department of Health and Children team dealing with this issue indicated that the State was paying a premium for this service and that the new arrangements will save the HSE about €100 million in 2008.

To address concerns expressed by the IPU, on behalf of community pharmacists, about the implications of the legal advice on competition law on their right to negotiate fees through the Union, a process of dialogue was established, chaired by Bill Shipsey SC, to explore ways in which concerns raised by the IPU about the implications of this legal advice might be addressed.

Despite suspension of this process during the recent withdrawal by individual pharmacists of methadone services, there is now renewed engagement between the Irish Pharmaceutical Union and the HSE under the auspices of Mr. Shipsey.

Health Services.

Joe Carey

Question:

142 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to extend speech and language therapy services for children in County Clare; if she will provide additional tutoring services for children with speech and language difficulties in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26906/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, additional funding of €75m for revenue purposes was provided to the Health Service Executive for Disability Services in the 2007 Budget. This amount incorporates the 2007 element of the Government's multi-annual investment programme for the National Disability Strategy. This Strategy is committed to enhancing the level and range of multi-disciplinary support services to adults and children with an intellectual, physical and sensory disability and those with autism.

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

143 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm the rights of Members of the Oireachtas to make representations and receive detailed responses from the Health Service Executive in relation to the health repayment scheme, rather than receiving unsigned generic replies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26915/07]

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

The HSE has informed my Department that the Data Protection laws governing the repayment process are particularly strict and are primarily aimed at protecting the privacy and rights of all applicants. Therefore the Scheme Administrator cannot divulge information about particular claims to the Public Representatives. However, the Scheme Administrator have put a process in place in order to deal with this privacy issue. Firstly they correspond directly with the claimant by phoning them and updating them on the current status of their application. The Scheme Administrator also advise them of the representation by the Member on their behalf. They then write to the Member informing them that this has been done. This ensures that the privacy and the rights of applicants are maintained in a scheme where not divulging information to third parties is at the core of their processes.

The HSE have informed me that they will endeavour to provide public representatives with as much individual information where possible within the requirements of the Data Protection Legislation.

Ambulance Service.

Enda Kenny

Question:

144 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the further progress that has been made since her reply to Parliamentary Question No. 185 of 10 October 2007 regarding payments due under the final phase of the previous social partnership agreement Sustaining Progress and the first and second phase of the current social partnership agreement Towards 2016 which are due to ambulance personnel in the Health Service Executive west area who are members of SIPTU; when the National joint council will be in a position to recommend that payments be made; when these payments will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26916/07]

As already stated in the response provided to Parliamentary Question No. 185 of 10 October 2007, sanction for payment of pay increases due under the final phase of the previous Social Partnership Agreement, Sustaining Progress, and the first and second phase of the current Social Partnership Agreement, Towards 2016, was withheld in relation to ambulance personnel, HSE West, members of SIPTU, due to their non co-operation with a move to a new combined ambulance and fire control centre — Camp West (Computer Aided Mobile Project) in the HSE West.

My Department was advised by the Health Service Executive Employes Agency yesterday that this industrial relations dispute has now been resolved and that the ambulance personnel concerned are co-operating with implementation arrangements. Written confirmation of this is awaited from the joint secretaries of the National Joint Council. On receipt of such confirmation, the Secretary General of my Department will be in a position to make a final decision as to the appropriate effective date(s) for payment of the withheld increases.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Joe McHugh

Question:

145 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of applications for refunds under the nursing homes compensation scheme; the number refused; the reasons given; the numbers sanctioned; the sums due to be paid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26957/07]

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 4,353 payments totalling over €86.7 million have issued. 6,590 offers of repayment, totalling over €125.2 million, have been made.

The HSE have also informed my Department that 3,943 applications have been rejected up to 26 October 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.

The Scheme Administrator and the HSE are confident that all claims submitted by eligible applicants by 31 December 2007 will be processed within the 2 year time frame allotted for the Scheme which is due to end on 30 June 2008.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Michael Creed

Question:

146 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will clarify the situation regarding entitlement of new general practitioners practices to see clients who have GP visit cards. [26959/07]

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for arranging for the provision of general practitioner services to persons covered by the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme and persons who qualify for a GP visit card. The award of contracts for these services is normally through open competition and interview, following advertisements in national and medical newspapers. All suitably qualified medical practitioners may apply for these contracts.

Under the terms of further agreements reached in the context of the extension of medical card coverage to all persons aged 70 and over, and the introduction of the GP visit card, arrangements were made permitting GPs who at that time did not hold a GMS contract to obtain a contract in respect of providing a service to such patients, with an option to become eligible for a full GMS contract in due course.

At present the HSE is required, under the terms of the agreement negotiated with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), when deciding to fill a vacant GP patient panel or to create a new patient panel, to take account of the potential viability of such a panel under a range of headings.

I regard the existing arrangements in this regard as unnecessarily restrictive and it is my wish, therefore, that new contractual arrangements, which are to be developed for the provision of publicly funded general practitioner services, should ensure that HSE contracts for GP services are open to all suitably qualified and equipped providers.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

147 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children when BreastCheck is expected to be rolled out to County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26962/07]

BreastCheck commenced the screening process in the Southern region in October. I have allocated additional revenue funding of €8 million to the National Cancer Screening Service for this year to meet the additional costs involved in national roll-out. The full complement of 111 staff for roll-out has been approved. I have also made available an additional €26.7 million capital funding for the construction of two new clinical units and the provision of seven additional mobile units and state of the art digital equipment. The expansion of the BreastCheck programme to the Southern region covers counties Kerry, Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Tipperary South Riding. Screening in individual counties will be dictated by BreastCheck's management and operational considerations.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John Cregan

Question:

148 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children when an appointment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick for a medical appointment at University Hospital, Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26972/07]

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

Child Care Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

149 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children when funding will be released in respect of a community child care facility (details supplied) in County Mayo; if he will confirm that an application has been received in his Department from the group involved; when these payments will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26978/07]

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

The Group in question has recently been approved an interim NCIP staffing grant of €31,200 for the period to 31 December 2007. I understand from enquiries made that Pobal, who manage the day to day operation of the EOCP and NCIP on behalf of my Office, forwarded the Group's first staffing payment of €23,400 on 15 October. They will receive their remaining instalment of staffing funding when the information requested by Pobal, who have been in contact with the Group, has been received and finalised.

This Group were also approved a capital grant of €707,646 under the EOCP in March 2005. The final payment of €3,389 will be paid when the paperwork outstanding is received and finalised by Pobal.

Hospital Accommodation.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

150 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the step-down facilities that will be provided at a hospital (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26979/07]

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

Health Service Staff.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

151 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children when further posts will be available for speech and language therapists (details supplied) in County Wexford; if same will be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26980/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy. As the Deputy may be aware an additional sum of €75m for revenue purposes was provided to the Health Service Executive for Disability Services in 2007 Budget. This amount incorporates the 2007 element of the Government's multi-annual investment programme for the National Disability Strategy. This Strategy is committed to enhancing, the level and range of multi-disciplinary support services to adults and children with an intellectual, physical and sensory disability and those with autism, including Therapy Services.

Question No. 152 answered with QuestionNo. 135.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John Cregan

Question:

153 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Limerick will secure an early appointment at Cork University Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26999/07]

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.

Patients waiting more than three months on a surgical waiting list may qualify for treatment under the National Treatment Purchase Fund. It is open to the person in question or anyone acting on their behalf to contact the Fund directly in relation to their case.

Health Services.

John Cregan

Question:

154 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made by the Health Service Executive to offer suitable employment contracts to taxi and hackney drivers who are providing a transport service for patients to various HSE establishments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27008/07]

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.

Hospital Services.

Noel Coonan

Question:

155 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans in conjunction with the Health Service Executive, to establish a dedicated Alzheimer’s unit at a hospital (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27021/07]

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

156 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive payment under the health repayment scheme. [27027/07]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Finian McGrath

Question:

157 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of new employees in front-line services in recent weeks while the embargo was in place on the north side of Dublin. [27029/07]

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

The Deputy may wish to note that the current recruitment pause is a temporary measure initiated as part of the HSE financial break-even plan and will be reviewed at the end of this month. The HSE recognises that there are some critical or exceptional circumstances where appointment of staff may be necessary in front-line services. Accordingly a process has been put in place to evaluate, monitor and approve requests for derogation from the general recruitment pause. A group has been established which is meeting weekly to consider such applications.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

158 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the policy of the Health Service Executive with regard to how soon physiotherapy should begin after a person has suffered a stroke; the way this policy compares with international best practice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27030/07]

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

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

159 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [27031/07]

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. 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.

Medical Cards.

Jack Wall

Question:

160 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if medical examinations for a driving licence for persons over 70 are covered by medical cards (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27043/07]

The law provides that persons aged 70 years or more are required to undergo a medical review for driving licence renewal purposes. This requirement falls within the remit of my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

In making arrangements for the provision of publicly funded General Practitioner (GP) services, under the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme, an agreement was negotiated between the Department of Health and Children and the GP representative body, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO). The provisions of this agreement took the form of the current GMS GP Capitation Contract. This contract is a diagnosis and treatment contract and gives effect to the statutory requirement to provide GP medical and surgical services without charge to eligible persons; this includes persons aged 70 and over, who are automatically entitled to a medical card.

The contract stipulates that the fees paid to GMS GPs are not made in respect of certain certificates which may be required, for example, "under the Social Welfare Acts or for the purposes of insurance or assurance policies or for the issue of driving licences". As these non-treatment type services are outside the scope of the GMS GP contract, the question of a fee is a matter between the GP and the person seeking the particular service.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

161 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the free cervical smear programme available to traveller women in Ballyfermot was withdrawn two years ago and has not been reinstated since; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this successful programme had an estimated uptake rate of 90% of traveller women eligible in the Tallaght, Clondalkin, Lucan and Ballyfermot areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27046/07]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

162 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will request the Health Service Executive to reinstate the free cervical smear programme for traveller women in Ballyfermot, and expand it to Clondalkin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27047/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 161 and 162 together.

The National Cancer Screening Service is planning to roll out the National Cervical Screening Programme on a national basis early next year. I have allocated additional revenue funding of €5.0m to the Service this year for this purpose and an additional 30 posts have been approved. Women aged 25 to 44 years old will be screened every 3 years; women aged 45 to 60 will be screened every 5 years. The Service is planning to have cervical screening managed as a national call/recall programme via effective governance structures that provide overall leadership and direction, in terms of quality assurance, accountability and value for money. All elements of the programme, call/recall, smear taking, laboratories, colposcopy and treatment services will be quality assured, organised and managed to deliver a single integrated national service.

The specific questions raised by the Deputy regarding cervical screening for Traveller women in Ballyfermot relate to the management and delivery of health, personal and social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the matter raised.

Health Services.

Michael Creed

Question:

163 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children the situation regarding access to speech therapy at a location (details supplied) in County Cork; the number of persons on the waiting list for this service; and when she will provide a demand led service. [27100/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, additional funding of €75m for revenue purposes was provided to the Health Service Executive for Disability Services in the 2007 Budget. This amount incorporates the 2007 element of the Government's multi-annual investment programme for the National Disability Strategy. This Strategy is committed to enhancing the level and range of multi-disciplinary support services to adults and children with an intellectual, physical and sensory disability and those with autism.

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

Long-Term Illness Scheme.

Michael Creed

Question:

164 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on extending the scope of the long-term illness card scheme for people suffering from a genetic condition (details supplied). [27101/07]

Under the 1970 Health Act, the Health Service Executive may arrange for the supply, without charge, of drugs, medicines and medical and surgical appliances to people with a specified condition, for the treatment of that condition, through the Long Term Illness Scheme (LTI). The LTI does not cover GP fees or hospital co-payments. The conditions are: mental handicap, mental illness (for people under 16 only), phenylketonuria, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus, haemophilia, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophies, parkinsonism, conditions arising from thalidomide and acute leukaemia. There are currently no plans to extend the list of eligible conditions.

Products which are necessary for the management of the specified illness are available to LTI patients. Other products are available according to the patient's eligibility.

People who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. In the assessment process, the Health Service Executive can take into account medical costs incurred by an individual or a family. Those who are not eligible for a medical card may still be able to avail of a GP visit card, which covers the cost of general practice consultations.

Non-medical card holders and people whose illness is not covered by the LTI can use the Drug Payment Scheme, which protects against excessive medicines costs. Under this scheme, no individual or family unit pays more than €85 per calendar month, or approximately €20 per week, towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme is easy to use and significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines.

In addition, the Deputy will be aware that non-reimbursed medical expenses above a set threshold may be offset against tax.

Health Services.

Michael Creed

Question:

165 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite a neurological appointment for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [27102/07]

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.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Pat Breen

Question:

166 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a refund will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare in respect of nursing home charges; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27103/07]

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.

Mental Health Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

167 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps taken to provide hospital facilities to treat people affected by eating disorders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27118/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

174 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are plans to increase the number of designated specialist beds in the public mental health service for the treatment of eating disorder cases in people over the age of 18, as recommended in Vision for Change; if there is a time frame for implementing these increases; her views on whether a dedicated national adult eating disorders service is needed as a matter of urgency and must be adequately resourced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27125/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

177 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are plans to designate and fund a dedicated eating disorder service for the management of eating disorder cases arising in childhood and adolescence; the anticipated time frame for doing so; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27137/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 167, 174 and 177 together.

The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, entitled "A Vision for Change", was launched in January 2006. It provides a framework for action to develop a modern, high quality mental health service over a 7 to 10 year period. "A Vision for Change" acknowledges gaps in the current provision of services for people with eating disorders and makes several recommendations for the further improvement of these services.

Recommendations include support for health promotion initiatives that encourage greater community and family awareness of eating disorders, training on eating disorders for undergraduate and postgraduate training of health professionals, the further development of primary and community care services including the management of eating disorders in children and adolescents by the child and adolescent community mental health teams, the creation of specialist multi-disciplinary adult teams and the provision of a full multi-disciplinary team in a National Centre for Eating Disorders for complex cases that cannot be managed by local child and adolescent community mental health teams. Responsibility for the implementation of these recommendations rests with the HSE.

In 2006, €26.2 million was allocated for the development of mental health services in line with "A Vision for Change". An additional €25 million has been provided to the HSE in 2007, €750,000 of which is for developing services for eating disorders. €500,000 of this funding was provided to enhance the service in the Elm Mount Unit, St. Vincent's Hospital, Dublin which will provide a national service to support local services in addressing eating disorders. The balance of €250,000 has been allocated to HSE South to commence the development of an eating disorder service. In addition funding was provided for the development of 16 child and adolescent community mental health teams in 2006 and 2007.

Implementation of the recommendations in "A Vision for Change" and management and delivery of health and personal social services are the responsibility of the HSE.

Eating Disorders.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

168 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people who have been diagnosed with anorexia, bulimia or with other forms of eating disorders in the past five years; the number of same who have required hospital treatment or psychiatric care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27119/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

169 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if a study has been carried out to evaluate the Health Service Executive’s responses to the issue of people affected by eating disorders, regarding services and treatment, both inpatient and outpatient; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27120/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 168 and 169 together.

Figures are not available on the numbers of people over the past five years diagnosed with eating disorders and the number who required hospital treatment. The estimated annual incidence of anorexia nervosa is 10 per 100,000 population for females and 0.5 for males. All eating disorders are estimated to have an upper prevalence of 5,000 cases per 100,000 translating to approximately 200,000 in Ireland.

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

Hospital Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

170 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether it is appropriate that a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24 be released from accident and emergency rather than being referred to psychiatric care in the hospital. [27121/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

171 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24 with an eating disorder was not assigned a bed and treatment in St Vincent’s Hospital unit which deals with eating disorders when the opportunity presented itself. [27122/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 170 and 171 together.

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

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

172 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to or if she will investigate claims that a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24 had been prescribed tablets that they are allergic to while in accident and emergency recently. [27123/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

173 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason it should take two nurses to deliver four potassium tablets daily to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and the further reason opportunities to take blood samples to assess and monitor their potassium levels on a regular basis are not being availed of. [27124/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 172 and 173 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 case 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.

Question No. 174 answered with QuestionNo. 167.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

175 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Health and Children if bags for taking blood from a person (details supplied) in County Wexford with haemochromotosis will be made available to a general practitioner in County Wexford to avoid the person travelling to Dublin twice weekly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27127/07]

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

Mental Health Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

176 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of community mental health teams in existence; the way they are resourced; and the number of CMHTs that are serving children and adolescents affected by eating disorders. [27136/07]

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

Question No. 177 answered with QuestionNo. 167.

Suicide Prevention.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

178 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are plans to increase and fund suicide prevention services, including ensuring access to suicide prevention service in hospitals and provision for people affected by eating disorders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27138/07]

Responsibility for the implementation of "Reach Out" the National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention, which was published in September 2005, rests with the HSE's National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP). The Minister and the National Office are fully committed to the implementation of the strategy.

Significant additional funding of €3.05 million was provided in 2006 and 2007 which brings the total funding available to support suicide prevention initiatives in 2007 to €8 million. This funding is being used to develop and implement national training programmes, complete the availability of self-harm services through A&E departments, develop mental health awareness campaigns, implement recommendations arising from a review of bereavement services and support voluntary organisations working in the field of suicide prevention.

There are currently 32 posts of specialist nurses in Accident and Emergency Departments to respond to deliberate self-harm presentations. The National Suicide Research Foundation in Cork are currently looking at best practice in this area in order to standardise the approach to service delivery. "A Vision for Change" provides a framework for action to develop a modern, high quality mental health service over a 7 to 10 year period. It acknowledges gaps in the current provision of services for people with eating disorders and makes several recommendations for the further improvement of these services.

Recommendations include support for health promotion initiatives that encourage greater community and family awareness of eating disorders, the further development of primary and community care services and the provision of a full multidisciplinary team in a National Centre for Eating Disorders for complex cases that cannot be managed by local child and adolescent community mental health teams. Responsibility for the implementation of these recommendations rests with the HSE.

An additional €25 million was provided to the HSE in 2007, €750,000 of which is for developing services for eating disorders. Some €500,000 of this funding was provided to enhance the service in the Elm Mount Unit, St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin which will provide a national service to support local services in addressing eating disorders. The balance of €250,000 has been allocated to HSE South to commence the development of an eating disorder service.

Health Service Staff.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

179 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will prevail upon the Health Service Executive to release the ban on staff recruitment to ensure that critical front-line staff positions such as the already funded suicide prevention nurse for Tallaght Hospital, can be filled as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27139/07]

There are currently over 2,700 whole time equivalent staff employed in Tallaght Hospital. It is a matter for the hospital administration to decide on the allocation of staff to particular services.

Almost 130,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the numbers of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the health care needs of the population into the future.

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

The Deputy may wish to note that the current recruitment pause is a temporary measure initiated as part of the HSE financial break-even plan and will be reviewed at the end of this month. The HSE recognises that there are some critical or exceptional circumstances where appointment of staff may be necessary in front-line services. Accordingly a process has been put in place to evaluate, monitor and approve requests for derogation from the general recruitment pause. A group has been established and is meeting weekly to consider such applications.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

180 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when an application for home help hours will be processed for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the delays that have taken place in sanctioning hours; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27141/07]

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

Hospital Services.

James Reilly

Question:

181 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if an independent review or report has been carried out on care and conditions in St Mary’s Hospital, Phoenix Park, Dublin particularly covering the years 1995 to 2002 or thereafter; if a copy of the report will be made available to Members of the Oireachtas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27144/07]

James Reilly

Question:

182 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive has carried out a report or review on care and conditions in St Mary’s Hospital, Phoenix Park, Dublin; if her Department has received a copy of the report or been informed of the contents of the report; if so, if her Department or the HSE will make the report available to Members of the Oireachtas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27145/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 181 and 182 together.

A review was undertaken in respect of the complaints received in relation to St. Mary's Hospital Phoenix Park. A report on the matter has recently been received by the Health Service Executive and is at present under consideration by the Executive. My Department has not to date received a copy of the report. The HSE expects to be in a position shortly to advise the complainant and my Department on how the range of issues associated with this complaint can most appropriately be progressed. The question of dissemination of the report is a matter for the HSE.

Michael Ring

Question:

183 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if a decision has been made in relation to Mayo General Hospital holding on to the existing oncology services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27148/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

184 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if meetings have taken place between herself and a person (details supplied) in relation to the oncology services in a hospital. [27150/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 183 and 184 together.

The implementation of the National Cancer Control Programme is a major priority for me and for this Government. I fully support the appointment by the Health Service Executive (HSE) of Prof. Tom Keane as Interim National Cancer Control Director. The delivery of cancer services on a programmatic basis will serve to ensure equity of access to services and equality of patient outcome irrespective of geography. The decisions of the HSE in relation to four managed cancer control networks and eight cancer centres will be implemented on a managed and phased basis. The HSE plans to have completed 50% of the transition of services to the cancer centres by end 2008 and 80-90% by end 2009.

The HSE has designated University College Hospital Galway (UCHG) and Limerick Regional Hospital as the two cancer centres in the Managed Cancer Control Network for the HSE Western Region which includes Mayo. The designation of cancer centres aims to ensure that patients receive the highest quality care while at the same time allowing local access to services, where appropriate. Where diagnosis and treatment planning is directed and managed by multidisciplinary teams based at the cancer centres, then much of the treatment (other than surgery) can be delivered in local hospitals, such as Mayo General Hospital.

I have met with the person referred to by the Deputy on a number of occasions but none of our discussions have related specifically to oncology services at Mayo General Hospital.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

185 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are individuals or groups who may receive the cervical cancer vaccine on the GMS or without charge in some other way; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27175/07]

There is a common list of reimbursable medicines for the General Medical Services and Drug Payment schemes. This list is reviewed and amended monthly, as new products become available and deletions are notified.

For an item to be reimbursed, it must comply with published criteria, including authorisation status as appropriate, price and, in certain cases, the intended use of the product. In addition, the product should ordinarily be supplied to the public only by medical prescription and should not be advertised or promoted to the public. Products are considered for reimbursement on application by a supplier. Only drugs and medicines which are licensed for dispensing in a community pharmacy, on foot of a doctor's prescription, would qualify for reimbursement under the scheme. As the cervical cancer vaccine would require a clinical administration, it would not meet the criteria for reimbursement.

The most effective strategy for the prevention of cervical cancer requires decisions based on an assessment of the relative contributions of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination and cervical screening in reducing the burden of both existing and projected cervical pre-cancerous changes and cervical cancer. Issues to be examined include the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of the vaccine for different age groups and for differing levels of screening provision and uptake.

As is being done in other jurisdictions, Ireland is now considering the potential role of HPV vaccination in addressing the problem of cervical cancer prevention. The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has recently undertaken a scientific assessment of the public health value of HPV following a request from my Department. NIAC and the National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) agreed that this work needed to be complemented by a study of the cost effectiveness of the vaccine in the current Irish context. Accordingly, both organisations requested that the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) undertake this study.

One of the key functions of the Authority is the assessment of health technology, drugs and health promotion activities. When I have received the policy advice from HIQA and NCSS I will make the necessary decisions that arise from the advice. A quality assured population based cervical screening programme aims to reduce cervical cancer in Ireland by approximately 80%. The NCSS has confirmed that it will have such a programme in place from January next year. A national cervical screening programme will still be required regardless of a decision on a HPV vaccination programme.

Adoption Services.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

186 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on recent changes in adoption regulations which require sole applicants to be assessed by the Irish Adoption Board for eligibility before undergoing the Health Service Executive home study and assessment process; her views on whether such a regulation should be extended to all applicants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27197/07]

The Adoption Board approved the guidelines for determining the eligibility and suitability of sole applicants in September, 2007. These guidelines were developed by the Adoption Board in co-operation with the HSE to guide its decision making when considering whether a sole applicant is eligible and suitable to adopt in accordance with Section 10 of the Adoption Act 1991 and Section 13 of the Adoption Act, 1952. The guidelines will also be used to advise the Health Services Executive and the registered adoption agencies on how applications to adopt abroad by sole applicants are to be processed. I am fully supportive of the guidelines.

Ministerial Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

187 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of staff in her constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-Civil Service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27210/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

188 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of staff in her private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-Civil Service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27225/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 187 and 188 together.

The tables below detail the number of civil servants and other staff employed in my private and constituency offices and the grade and annual salary of each staff member. Annual salary costs identified in the tables do not include Employers PRSI or additional pension payments.

Private Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Special Adviser *

Other

136,034

Special Adviser *

Other

130,287

Special Adviser/Programme Manager *

Other

169,415

Special Adviser/Press Adviser *

Other

116,487

Personal Assistant

Other

56,859

Private Secretary (HEO)

Civil Servant

74,443

Executive Officer

Civil Servant

41,170

Executive Officer

Civil Servant

41,170

Staff Officer

Civil Servant

40,758

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,727

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

31,891

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

30,806

Clerical Officer (0.5)

Civil Servant

18,273

Clerical Officer (0.5)

Civil Servant

14,320

Constituency Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Personal Assistant

Other

57,479

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

32,974

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

30,806

*The Special Advisers identified in the above table have been appointed to me in my capacity as Minister for Health and Children and as Party Leader.

As expenses are normally claimed in arrears, my Department is not in a position to provide the information in respect of the year ending 31 December 2007 until early 2008. However, expenses amounting to €15,954.60 in respect of travel and subsistence were paid to staff working in my private office for the financial year ended 31 December 2006. No expenses in respect of travel and subsistence were paid to staff working in my constituency office for the same time period.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

189 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the number, for each Minister of State assigned to her Department, of staff in their constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-Civil Service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27240/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

190 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the number, for each Minister of State assigned to her Department, of staff in their private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-Civil service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27255/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 189 and 190 together.

The tables below detail the number of civil servants and other staff in the private and constituency offices for each Minister of State assigned to my Department.

Minister of State, Mr Brendan Smith T.D.

Private Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Special Adviser

Other

95,363

Private Secretary

Civil Servant

70,724

Executive Officer

Civil Servant

44,697

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

29,722

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,727

Clerical Officer (0.6 post)

Civil Servant

21,928

Clerical Officer (0.5 post)

Civil Servant

14,861

Constituency Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Personal Assistant

Other

45,121

Personal Secretary

Other

38,529

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,773

Clerical Officer (0.6 post)

Civil Servant

17,833

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,773

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

29,722

Minister of State, Ms Maire Hoctor T.D.

Private Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Private Secretary

Civil Servant

64,387

Executive Officer

Civil Servant

41,170

Staff Officer (0.5 post)

Civil Servant

22,204

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,727

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

30,806

Civilian Driver

Other

33,148

Civilian Driver

Other

33,148

Constituency Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Personal Assistant

Other

46,406

Personal Secretary

Other

40,734

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,727

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,196

Minister of State, Dr Jimmy Devins T.D.

Private Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Special Adviser

Other

82,016

Private Secretary

Civil Servant

69,954

Executive Officer

Civil Servant

42,766

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

28,640

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

28,640

Civilian Driver

Other

33,148

Civilian Driver

Other

33,148

Constituency Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Personal Assistant

Other

46,406

Personal Secretary (0.46 post)

Other

12,516

Personal Secretary (0.54 post)

Other

14,692

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

32,974

Minister of State, Mr Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D.

Private Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Private Secretary

Civil Servant

58,631

Executive Officer

Civil Servant

45,499

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

27,555

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

28,640

Civilian Driver

Other

33,148

Civilian Driver

Other

33,148

Constituency Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Personal Assistant

Other

52,379

Personal Secretary

Other

42,571

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

36,546

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

32,974

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

29,267

Annual salary costs identified in the table above do not include Employers PRSI or additional pension payments. As expenses are normally claimed in arrears, my Department is not in a position to provide the information in respect of the year ending 31 December, 2007 until early 2008.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John O'Mahony

Question:

191 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children the situation regarding waiting lists at Mayo General Hospital for physiotherapy appointments; and the number of physiotherapists working at the hospital. [27261/07]

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.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

192 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the performance objectives set out in respect of posts in which bonuses in her Department are paid; the way the performance is measured; and the way the performance related to the targets set. [27262/07]

The scheme of performance related awards in my Department relates to Deputy and Assistant Secretaries and the Chief Medical Officer. The Committee for Performance Awards oversees the scheme, monitors its application and brings independent judgement to bear in approving objectives for the officers concerned and in approving recommendations for awards. The Committee comprises two Secretaries General and three major figures in the private sector.

The setting of objectives, performance measurement and target setting are set out in the scheme. Details can be accessed on the website of the Department of Finance at the following link: http//www.finance.gov.ie/documents/publications/ reports/CPArep2006.pdf. The objectives set are derived from my Department’s Statement of Strategy and the Corporate Business Plan which can be accessed on my Department’s website at www.dohc.ie. Awards are based on an assessment by the Secretary General of the performance of the individuals concerned by reference to objectives agreed between the Secretary General and the individuals. I understand that the awards reflected the Secretary General’s assessment of performance.

Ministerial Staff.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

193 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Health and Children the number and grades of staff employed in the Office of the Minister for Children; and the annual cost of those staff. [27270/07]

The tables below detail the numbers and grades of staff employed in the private and constituency offices of Mr Brendan Smith T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for children.

Private Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Special Adviser

Other

95,363

Private Secretary

Civil Servant

70,724

Executive Officer

Civil Servant

44,697

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

29,722

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,727

Clerical Officer (0.6 post)

Civil Servant

21,928

Clerical Officer (0.5 post)

Civil Servant

14,861

Constituency Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Personal Assistant

Other

45,121

Personal Secretary

Other

38,529

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,773

Clerical Officer (0.6 post)

Civil Servant

17,833

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,773

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

29,722

Annual salary costs identified in the table above do not include Employers PRSI or additional pension payments. As expenses are normally claimed in arrears, my Department is not in a position to provide the information in respect of the year ending 31 December, 2007 until early 2008.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

194 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Health and Children the number and grades of staff employed in Minister for State with responsibility for Disability Issues and Mental Health’s Office; and the annual cost of those staff. [27284/07]

The tables below detail the numbers and grades of staff employed in the private and consituency offices of Dr Jimmy Devins T.D. Minister of State with special responsibility for Disability Issues and Mental Health (excluding discrimination).

Private Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Special Adviser

Other

82,016

Private Secretary

Civil Servant

69,954

Executive Officer

Civil Servant

42,766

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

28,640

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

28,640

Civilian Driver

Other

33,148

Civilian Driver

Other

33,148

Constituency Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Personal Assistant

Other

46,406

Personal Secretary (0.46 post)

Other

12,516

Personal Secretary (0.54 post)

Other

14,692

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

32,974

Annual salary costs identified in the table above do not include Employers PRSI or additional pension payments. As expenses are normally claimed in arrears, my Department is not in a position to provide the information in respect of the year ending 31 December, 2007 until early 2008.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

195 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Health and Children the number and grades of staff employed in Minister for State with responsibility for Older People’s Office; and the annual cost of those staff. [27288/07]

The tables below detail the numbers and grades of staff employed in the private and consituency offices of Ms Máire Hoctor T.D., Minister of State with special responsibility for Older People. The tables below detail the numbers and grades of staff employed in the private and consituency offices of Ms Máire Hoctor T.D., Minister of State with special responsibility for Older People.

Private Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Private Secretary

Civil Servant

64,387

Executive Officer

Civil Servant

41,170

Staff Officer (0.5 post)

Civil Servant

22,204

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,727

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

30,806

Civilian Driver

Other

33,148

Civilian Driver

Other

33,148

Constituency Office

Grade

Civil Servant/Other

Annual Salary

Personal Assistant

Other

46,406

Personal Secretary

Other

40,734

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,727

Clerical Officer

Civil Servant

35,196

Annual salary costs identified in the table above do not include Employers PRSI or additional pension payments. As expenses are normally claimed in arrears, my Department is not in a position to provide the information in respect of the year ending 31 December, 2007 until early 2008.

EU Directives.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

196 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the EU Directives awaiting incorporation into Irish law in her Department; the deadline for incorporation; the date she foresees for implementation of each directive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27314/07]

There are currently 14 EU Directives awaiting transposition in my Department. Details of the dates by which transposition is due are as follows:—

(1)2006/81/EC adapting Directive 95/17/EC as regards the non-inclusion of one or more ingredients on the list used for labelling of cosmetic products and Directive 2005/78/EC as regards the measures to be taken against the emission of gaseous and particulate pollutants from engines for use in vehicles, by reason of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania — due 01/01/07. My Department is responsible for the transposition of the first part of this Directive.

(2)2007/1/EC amending Directive 76/768/EEC concerning cosmetic products, for the purposes of adapting Annex II thereof to technical progress — due 21/08/07.

(3)2007/17/EC amending Council Directive 78/768/EEC concerning cosmetic products for the purposes of adapting Annexes III and VI thereof to technical progress — due 23/09/07.

(4)2007/22/EC amending Council Directive 78/768/EEC concerning cosmetic products for the purposes of adapting Annexes IV and VI thereof to technical progress — due 18/01/08.

(5)2007/53/EC amending Council Directive 76/768/EEC concerning cosmetic products for the purposes of adapting Annex III thereto to technical progress — due 19/04/08.

(6)2007/54/EC amending Council Directive 76/768/EEC, concerning cosmetic products, for the purpose of adapting Annexes II and III thereto to technical progress — due 18/6/08.

(7)2007/29/EC amending Directive 96/8/EC as regards labelling, advertising or presenting foods intended for use in energy-restricted diets for weight reduction — due 30/11/07.

(8)2006/142/EC amending Annex IIIa of Directive 2000/13/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council listing the ingredients which must under all circumstances appear on the labelling of foodstuffs — due 23/12/07.

(9)2006/141/EC on infant formulae and follow-on formulae and amending Directive 1999/21/EC — due 31/12/07.

(10)2006/52/EC amending Directive 95/2/EC on food additives other than colours and sweeteners and Directive 94/35/EC on sweeteners for use in foodstuffs — due 15/02/08.

(11)2006/128/EC amending and correcting Directive 95/31/EC laying down specific criteria of purity concerning sweeteners for use in foodstuffs — due 15/02/08.

(12)2006/129/EC amending and correcting Directive 96/77/EC laying down specific purity criteria on food additives other than colours and sweeteners — due 15/02/08.

(13)2007/47/EC amending Council Directive 90/385/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to active implantable medical devices, Council Directive 93/42/EEC concerning medical devices and Directive 98/8/EC concerning the placing of biocidal products on the market — due 21/12/08.

(14)2006/125/EC on processed cereal-based foods and baby foods for infants and young children (Codified version).

The Directives numbered (1) to (6) in the above list are being dealt with together and I expect that they will be transposed within the coming weeks. I expect that those numbered (7) to (13) will be transposed by their respective deadlines. While there is no deadline for the transposition of the remaining Directive (14), I expect that it will be transposed by the end of this month.

Health Services.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

197 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans she or the Health Service Executive have for the future of the Meath Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27319/07]

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. 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.

Infectious Diseases.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

198 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of cases of MRSA in hospitals that have occurred over the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27322/07]

MRSA is not a notifiable disease. However, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre of the HSE collects data on MRSA. The data is 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 on 2005 and 588 in 2006. Figures for the first six months of 2007 show that there were 292 cases.

A National Surveillance System recently has been established to collect data and provide information on a quarterly basis on four key areas, to monitor Healthcare Associated Infections (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.

Tackling HCAIs, including MRSA is a priority for the government and for the Health Service Executive (HSE). 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 healthcare facilities. Over the next three to five years, the HSE aims to reduce HCAIs by 20%, MRSA infection by 30% and antibiotic consumption by 20%. Achievement of these targets will benefit all patients who are at risk.

These targets will be achieved through the development of national and local level action plans to reduce the potential for spread of infections between persons in healthcare settings, and, in addition, will focus on reducing antibiotic use in Ireland. The Steering Group is supported by eight Local Implementation Teams which will ensure that all local facilities are focused on achieving the national targets.

The HSE has issued hygiene and infection control standards for all hospitals and has begun initiatives on reducing antibiotic consumption. In addition, the HSE has appointed a number of new infection control nurses, surveillance scientists and antibiotic pharmacists. These staff will strengthen specialist support for infection control and facilitate the development of the national surveillance system.

Each hospital has been mandated to carry out hand hygiene audits at least annually. The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has completed its first Hygiene Services Assessment Scheme incorporating unannounced hospital hygiene inspections. Its report is expected shortly. HIQA is currently working with the HSE to produce national infection control standards. When these are introduced they will have the status of approved standards under the Health Act 2007 and their implementation will be monitored by HIQA.

I have instructed the HSE that designated private beds should be used where isolation facilities are required for patients who contact MRSA. 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.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

199 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application under the health repayment scheme by a person (details supplied) in County Galway. [27406/07]

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

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

200 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the capital projects and respective costs approved for projects in County Roscommon and County Leitrim at the Health Service Executive capital steering group meeting of 25 October 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27417/07]

The Government's sustained high level of investment in healthcare has enabled the completion and commissioning of numerous new facilities in both the acute and the non-acute sectors. This year, overall capital funding of €546 million has been provided to the Health Service Executive. Responsibility for the planning and management of capital projects in the health sector, including the developments referred to in the Deputy's question are a matter for the Health Services Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

201 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to extend the health repayment scheme to people who were living in private nursing homes because they could not get a bed in a public home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27424/07]

The Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006 provides a clear legal framework to repay recoverable health charges for publicly funded long term residential care. All those fully eligible persons who were wrongly charged and are alive will have their charges repaid in full. The estates of all those fully eligible persons who were wrongly charged for publicly funded long term residential care and died since 9 December 1998 will have the charges repaid in full. The scheme does not allow for repayments to the estates of those who died prior to that date.

Recoverable health charges are charges which were imposed on persons with full eligibility under the Health (Charges for In-patient Services) Regulations 1976 as amended in 1987 or charges for in-patient services only, raised under the Institutional Assistance Regulations 1954 as amended in 1965. It is not my intention to extend the parameters of the health repayment scheme.

Health Services.

Damien English

Question:

202 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Meath cannot avail of respite care. [27470/07]

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

Health Service Allowances.

Damien English

Question:

203 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the domiciliary carers allowance of a person (details supplied) in County Meath has been discontinued; if she will re-investigate the matter with a view to restoring this allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27475/07]

My Department understands from the Health Service Executive that applicants must be notified in writing of the outcome of any decision on an application for, or review of, Domicilary Care Allowance and in the event of an unfavourable decision formal notification should be issued informing the applicant of his or her right of appeal and indicating where he or she should send the appeal. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Facilities.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

204 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the policy in respect of the provision of smoking facilities for hospital patients. [27501/07]

On 29 March 2004 most enclosed places of work — including hospitals (other than psychiatric hospitals) — became smoke-free. The primary purpose of the measure is to protect the health of employees and the public (including patients, in the case of hospitals) from exposure to toxic environmental tobacco smoke. There are no plans to permit smoking in hospitals.

Departmental Correspondence.

Seán Connick

Question:

205 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of items of correspondence from Members of the Oireachtas to her office that were received from 1 March 2007 to 1 October 2007; and the number of these that were referred to the chief executive of the Health Service Executive for response. [27506/07]

Seán Connick

Question:

206 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of items of correspondence from Members of the Oireachtas to her office, received from 1 March 2007 to 1 October 2007 and referred to the chief executive of the Health Service Executive for response that received responses from the Health Service Executive. [27507/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 205 and 206 together.

In the period between the 1st March, 2007 and 1st October, 2007 my office received approximately 6,500 items of correspondence. This figure covers all correspondence of various kinds received by my office. Each item of correspondence is tracked by surname and is not otherwise broken down by classification of the sender.

Approximately 1,300 of these items of correspondence related directly to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are statutorily a matter for the Health Service Executive and these letters were referred to the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive for a direct response. Accordingly, I have asked the Parliamentary Affairs Division to furnish the Deputy with information regarding the number of letters issued by the Executive in the period concerned, in reply to representations from Oireachtas members.

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

207 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the preparedness of Ireland to ratify the Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoption; the efforts being made to sign bilateral agreements with countries such as Russia, China and the Ukraine where many Irish adoptions occur; her proposals in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27527/07]

The Department of Health and Children is currently drafting legislation to ratify the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. Considerable progress has been made in drafting this legislation and it is expected that the Bill will be published around the end of this year.

Once the new legislation has been enacted it will be possible for Irish applicants to adopt from other countries which have ratified the Convention; or from countries with whom Ireland has a bilateral agreement based on Hague principles. Adoptions from some countries are likely to cease as a result. This situation has been anticipated and it has been agreed by my Office and the Adoption Board that bilateral agreements will be actively pursued with a number of countries.

In negotiating agreements, priority is being given to those countries with which Ireland has an existing bilateral agreement, or administrative arrangements in place which reflect the ethos and standards of the Hague Convention and from which Irish applicants have a recent history of adopting.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

208 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason inter-country adoptions from Ethiopia and Rwanda have been suspended and adoptions from Guatamala have been stopped; her views on the impact this will have on the validity of previous adoptions from these countries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27528/07]

Adoption in Ireland is regulated by the Adoption Board, which is an independent, statutory body. The Board must make decisions regarding adoptions in line with its assessment of the situation in each country, and its responsibility to ensure that all activities are undertaken with the best interests of the child as a paramount consideration.

The Adoption Board has discontinued the issuing of declarations of eligibility and suitability in respect of the adoption of children from Guatemala. There are a number of documents already in the public domain regarding concerns over the trafficking of children from Guatemala. These reports cover a long period of time in which the issue of trafficking and sale of children in the context of international adoption has continued to be raised.

I should point out that a number of other countries entered reservations regarding Guatemala's accession to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. These countries include Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom. These reservations date from 2003 and remain extant. This means that these countries do not accept that procedures in Guatemala reach Hague Standards regarding intercountry adoption, and therefore, have objected to or suspended acceptance of Guatemala's accession to the Convention and will not treat them as party to the Convention. This effectively means that these countries have a ban on adoptions from Guatemala.

In light of the long-standing and continuing international concern with regard to adoption practices in Guatemala, which have shown little sign of improvement, despite international comment and support, over the last ten years, I am of the view that the position taken by the Adoption Board is reasonable and measured. I have been assured by the Adoption Board that it is satisfied with regard to the validity of adoptions of Guatemalan children to date.

The Adoption Board is also currently examining the adoption laws of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Republic of Rwanda to determine if they meet the requirements for recognition in Ireland. This examination was undertaken as part of the preparations to ratify the Hague Convention, and it has highlighted a number of important legal issues which require further investigation. In the circumstances, and in order to protect the adoption process, the Adoption Board has decided, as a precautionary measure, to suspend the granting of Declarations of Eligibility and Suitability in respect of these two countries until the investigations are complete. Following the receipt of legal advice, the Adoption Board has been able to assure parents who have previously adopted from Ethiopia, and whose adoptions are already entered in the Register of Foreign Adoptions, that these adoptions are valid and secure. I have been assured by the Board that this issue is being dealt with as a matter of priority. I feel that the Board's decision is an appropriate one in the circumstances.

Question No. 209 answered with QuestionNo. 133.

Hospital Accommodation.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

210 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of hospital beds available in Dublin and countrywide for the rehabilitation of recovering drug addicts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27547/07]

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

Nursing Home Subventions.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

211 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the new changes being made in the near future to the nursing home subvention scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27555/07]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the new Nursing Home Support Scheme, A Fair Deal, which was announced by the Minister on 11 December 2006.

The proposed new scheme aims to remedy the inequities that exist in the current system. At present, people face greatly different costs depending on whether they are in public or private nursing homes. In addition, individual contributions in public places are based on a flat rate regardless of an individual's wealth, whereas State support for individuals in private places is based on means-testing. This means that many people in private nursing homes get no support, and even with subvention, people can face costs they cannot afford. The result is that some people are forced to sell or mortgage their homes to pay for care costs.

In contrast, the new Nursing Home Support Scheme will ensure that long-term residential care is affordable for all who need it. Contributions during a person's life will be affordable and they will not have to sell or mortgage their house to meet the contribution. Furthermore, a person's family will not have to contribute towards the cost of their care.

Under the new Nursing Home Support Scheme, people who require long-term residential care will contribute up to 80% of their assessable income, whether for public or private nursing home care. Depending on the amount of a person's assessable income, there will also be a contribution of up to 5% of a person's assets.

The portion of the contribution relating to assets, such as a person's house, may be deferred. This means that it does not have to be met during the person's lifetime and can be payable on settlement of the person's estate instead. The deferred contribution will be based on the actual number of weeks spent in residential care and on the cost of care and, consequently, may be less than 5% per annum. I would take this opportunity to emphasise that no one will pay more than the cost of their care.

In addition, where the deferred contribution applies to the principal private residence, it will be capped at a maximum of 15%, or 7.5% in the case of one spouse remaining in the home while the other enters long-term residential care. This means that after three years in care, a person will not be liable for any further deferred charge on the principal residence. It also means that 85% of the value of the principal residence will be maintained for the beneficiaries of the person's estate. This is not something that can be guaranteed at the moment.

A person or his/her family can also choose to pay the charge at the time when care is being received instead of allowing it to be levied upon the estate if they so wish. Where a spouse or certain dependants are living in the principal residence, the charge can be further deferred until after the death of that spouse or dependant, or until such time as a person previously qualifying as a dependant ceases to qualify as such.

The Department is currently preparing a Bill for the new Nursing Home Support Scheme. It is intended to publish the Bill for the scheme in November, and to have the legislation in place by 1 January 2008.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

212 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if and when home help will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who is in urgent need of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27558/07]

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

Question No. 213 answered with QuestionNo. 132.

Search and Rescue Service.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

214 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Transport if the Irish Coast Guard are able to operate helicopters in and out of Bantry General Hospital helipad; if he will list all occurrences in the past 10 years of their helicopters using or being diverted to another site or hospital and the type of helicopter involved; if the Irish Coastguard have any reservations about using the helipad at Bantry Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26887/07]

The helicopter landing facility at Bantry General Hospital does not meet the criteria laid down by the International Civil Aviation Authority, and implemented by the Irish Aviation Authority for helicopter landings of the Irish Coast Guard medium-lift helicopters. Use of the hospital grounds or the issue of diversion of helicopters has, therefore, never arisen.

Bantry Airfield, at one km distance from Bantry Hospital, is an IAA approved heliport for the Coast Guard helicopters on Search and Rescue, air ambulance and inter-hospital transfer missions. Ambulance transfer takes place between the airfield and the hospital.

Road Traffic Offences.

Finian McGrath

Question:

215 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Transport if he will not penalise the vast majority of responsible drivers on provisional licences; and if he will show common sense on this matter. [26910/07]

Enforcement of road traffic legislation is a matter for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Air Accident Investigations.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

216 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Transport if his Department has been notified in relation to an incident (details supplied); if he has raised concerns in this regard with the Dublin Airport Authority; if he has requested a report on the incident from the authorities; if he has received such a report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26938/07]

I have been advised by my Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) that no "near miss" was reported into the Unit for the 17 October 2007. Following receipt of this PQ, the AAIU contacted Shannon ATC, Cork ATC, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), BMI (Airline) and Servisair (BMI Handler) to ascertain whether such an event had occurred. All replied in the negative. If the Deputy has further details relating to this "near miss" I would request that you provide same directly to the AAIU.

Rail Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

217 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Transport the reason wheelchair bound persons cannot access trains nearest to their homes but have to hire a taxi to travel further distances at a cost to the patient (details supplied). [26939/07]

I am informed by Iarnród Éireann that access is available for wheelchair users to both platforms at Kildare station and assistance is provided upon advance request to the station manager.

I understand therefore that it is not necessary for Kildare wheelchair user customers to be diverted to Newbridge station to gain access to the rail services.

Rural Transport Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

218 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport his proposals to provide public transport to serve isolated rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27000/07]

Under my Department's Rural Transport Programme (RTP), thirty-four community transport groups around the country are being funded to address social exclusion in their rural areas arising from unmet public transport needs.

The new Programme, administered by Pobal, is building on the success of the former Rural Transport Initiative (2000-2006) by putting that pilot scheme on a permanent mainstreamed basis with significantly increased funding.

Pobal has commenced a process to extend the RTP on a phased basis with a goal of achieving nation-wide coverage in due course in line with Government policy.

The Government's continued commitment to the Rural Transport Programme (RTP) is reflected in Towards 2016 which includes phased increases in the annual RTP allocation over time to about Euro 18 million. The National Development Plan 2007-2013 — Transforming Ireland, commits some Euro 90 million to the Rural Transport Programme over its full term.

Some Euro 9 million is being provided for the RTP in 2007 which it is envisaged will lead to an increase in the frequency of existing services, extended coverage, and additional groups of customers accessing rural transport.

Rail Network.

Noel Coonan

Question:

219 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Transport his proposals in conjunction with Iarnrod Éireann to upgrade a railway line (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [27022/07]

Noel Coonan

Question:

220 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Transport his proposals in conjunction with Iarnrod Éireann to upgrade a railway line and station (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [27023/07]

Noel Coonan

Question:

221 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Transport his proposals, in conjunction with Iarnród Éireann to upgrade a railway line and station (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [27024/07]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 219 to 221, inclusive, together.

I understand from Iarnród Eireann that the railway line from Limerick to Ballybrophy via Nenagh, Co. Tipperary is currently one of the more lightly used regional passenger lines on the Iarnród Éireann network.

However the company is currently engaged in a programme of track work to reduce the number of severely speed restricted sections of track along the line.

According to Iarnród Eireann, improvements to the stations at Nenagh, Cloughjordan and Roscrea will be carried out in due course as part of Iarnród Eireann's network wide accessibility improvement programme.

Road Traffic Offences.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

222 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport the number of drivers who have been prosecuted for an offence under the Railway Safety Act 2005 section 138 (Bridge Strikes) in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27035/07]

The information sought by the Deputy is not held by my Department. Statistics on bridge strike offences is a matter for the Garda Síochána and the Courts Service.

Air Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

223 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport when and the circumstances in which the Secretary General of his Department first became aware of the proposal of Aer Lingus to remove the Shannon Heathrow slots; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27104/07]

The circumstances in which the Secretary General of my Department first became aware of the proposal to establish a hub at Belfast and the possible implications for Shannon Airport are set out in a Report recently prepared for me by the Secretary General of my Department.

This report was completed on 25 October and has been published on the website of the Department of Transport and placed in the Dail library.

Ministerial Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

224 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the number of staff in his constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27214/07]

The table attached provides the information required by the Deputy.

Constituency Office

No.

Remuneration based on current payscales

Expenses incl. overtime to date

Civil Servant

2

30,628 – 48,594 23,221 – 37,651

1,039

Non Civil Servant

3

88,261 – 108,856 44,314 – 56,250 22,064 – 42,571

Nil

Total

5

1,039

Leo Varadkar

Question:

225 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the number of staff in his private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27229/07]

The following table provides the information required by the Deputy.

Private Office

No.

Remuneration based on current payscales

Expenses incl overtime to date

Civil Servant

8

€44,314 – €56,250 plus allowance €19,690 €30,628 – €48,594 €23,221 – €37,651 × 6

€1786

Non Civil Servant

1

€82,016 – €95,363

Nil

Total

9

€1786

Leo Varadkar

Question:

226 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27244/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

227 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27259/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 226 and 227 together.

There is no Minister of State in my Department.

EU Directives.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

228 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Transport the EU Directives awaiting incorporation into Irish law in his Department; the deadline for incorporation; the date he foresees for implementation of each directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27317/07]

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

Title

Deadline for Transposition

Target Date for Implementation

Directive 2004/49/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on safety on the Community’s railways and amending Council Directive 95/18/EC on the licensing of railway undertakings and Directive 2001/14/EC on the allocation of railway infrastructure capacity and the levying of charges for the use of railway infrastructure and safety certification (Railway Safety Directive).

30 April 2006

End November 2007

Directive 2004/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 on the safety of third-country aircraft using Community airports

30 April 2006

Mid November 2007

Directive 2003/59/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15th July 2003 on the initial qualification and periodic training of drivers of certain road vehicles for the carriage of goods or passengers, amending Council Regulation (EEC) No 3820/85 and Council Directive 91/439/EEC and repealing Council Directive 76/914/EEC

10 Sept 2006

End of December 2007

Directive 2005/64/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2005 on the type approval of motor vehicles with regard to their reusability, recyclability and recoverability and amending Council Directive 70/156/EEC.

15 December 2006 (15 July, 2010 — Implementation Date for N1s — small vans).

S.I. No. 166 was signed by the Minister on 11 April 2006 for Type Approval of Motor Vehicles and the Road Safety Authority is preparing the necessary instrument in relation to Entry into Service of Mechanically Propelled Vehicles.

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

1 January 2007

Date not yet clear

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

1 January 2007

Draft regulations are under consideration by my Department and the Directive will be transposed as soon as reasonably practicable

Directive 2005/14/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2005 amending Council Directives 72/166/EEC, 84/5/EEC, 88/357/EEC and 90/232/EEC and Directive 2000/26/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council relating to insurance against civil liability in respect of the use of motor vehicles.

11 June 2007

End of November 2007

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

30 September 2007

Draft regulations are under consideration by my Department and the Directive will be transposed as soon as reasonably practicable

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

30 September 2007

Draft regulations are under consideration by my Department and the Directive will be transposed as soon as reasonably practicable

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

4th January 2008

4th January 2008

Directive 2006/23/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5th April 2006 on a Community air traffic control licence.

17th May 2008

April 2008

Directive 2006/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 May 2006 amending Directive 1999/62/EC on the charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain infrastructures.

10 June 2008

By end of March 2008

Commission Directive 2007/32/EC of 1 June 2007 amending Annex VI to Council Directive 96/48/EC on the interoperability of the trans-European high-speed rail system and Annex VI to Directive 2001/16/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the interoperability of the trans-European conventional rail system.

2 December 2007

1 December 2008

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

4 April 2008

4 April 2008

Commission Directive 2007/34/EC of 14 June 2007 amending, for the purposes of its adaptation to technical progress, Annex 1 to Council Directive 70/157/EEC concerning the permissible sound level & the exhaust system of motor vehicles.

5 July 2008

By the scheduled date

Commission Directive 2007/35/EC of 18 June 2007 amending, for the purposes of its adaptation to technical progress, Annex 1 to Council Directive 76/756/EEC concerning the installation of lighting & light-signalling devices on motor vehicles & their trailers.

9 July 2008

By the scheduled date

Commission Directive 2007/37/EC of 21 June 2007 amending Annexes 1 & 111 to Council Directive 70/156/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the type-approval of motor vehicles & their trailers

4 January 2008

By the scheduled date

Directive 2007/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 July 2007 on the retrofitting of mirrors to heavy goods vehicles registered in the Community.

6 August 2008

By the scheduled date

Air Services.

Joe Carey

Question:

229 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport if he will purchase the four Heathrow slots which are on offer from the former GB airlines and give them to the Shannon Airport Authority for their permanent use to ensure connectivity between the mid west and the rest of the world; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27404/07]

It is not open to the State to acquire slots at Heathrow airport as the applicable rules only allow for slots to be assigned to airlines. The provision of funding to any airline to fund the acquisition of slots would be constrained by the State aid rules.

Passport Applications.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

230 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of people living in Northern Ireland holding Irish passports; the number of people in Northern Ireland who have opted to hold an Irish passport since the Belfast Agreement; the number of Irish passport holders living in the United Kingdom, excluding Northern Ireland who hold Irish passports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26949/07]

The Passport Office database records and collates data on applicants by place of birth rather than place of residence. It is therefore possible only to give estimated figures in response to this question.

While it is not possible to provide details on passport holders resident in Northern Ireland it is estimated that approximately 320,000 persons who were born in Northern Ireland currently hold valid Irish passports. The level of demand from persons born in Northern Ireland has been increasing since finalisation of the Good Friday Agreement. Some 58,000 such applications were received in 2006 compared to 15,000 in 1998. Figures to the end of October suggest that the total number of applications in 2007 will exceed 63,000.

The number of current passport holders in Great Britain, is approximately 400,000.

Ministerial Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

231 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of staff in his constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27209/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

232 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of staff in his private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27224/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

233 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27239/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

234 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27254/07]

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

235 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number and grades of staff employed in Minister for State with special responsibility for European Affair’s Office; and the annual cost of those staff. [27274/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 231 to 235, inclusive, together.

The following tables set out the grades, numbers and remuneration of the personnel in my private and constituency offices and those of the two Ministers of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern, T.D. Private Office

Grade/Position

Number

Salary Scale

Special Adviser (Non-established)

1

Principal Officer standard scale €82, 016 – €101,446

Press Adviser (Non-established)

1

Principal Officer standard scale €82, 016 – €101,446

First Secretary

1

1st Secretary PPC scale — €66,302 – €82,679

Higher Executive Officer

1

Higher Executive Officer higher scale €47,000 – €58,139

Personal Secretary(Non-established)

1

Executive Officer higher scale €29,093-€47,980

Executive Officer

1

Executive Officer standard scale €29,093 – €46,167

Clerical Officer

4

Clerical Officer PPC scale €23,221 – €37,652

Total

10

Constituency Office

Grade/Position

Number

Salary Scale

Personal Assistant (Non-established) (based in constituency)

1

Higher Executive Officer standard scale €44,314 – €52,379 (excludes long service increments)

Executive Officer

1

Executive Officer PPC scale €30,628 – €48,594

Clerical Officer

1

Clerical Officer PPC scale €23,221 – €37,652

Clerical Officer (worksharing)

0.5

Clerical Officer PPC scale €23,221 – €37,652

Clerical Officer (based in constituency)

1

Clerical Officer higher scale €23,086 – €36,546

Total

4.5

Minister of State, Mr. Dick Roche, T.D.

Private Office

Grade/Position

Number

Salary Scale

Special Adviser (Non-established)

1

Principal Officer standard scale €82, 016 – €101,446

Personal Assistant (Non-established)

1

Higher Executive Officer standard scale €44,314 – €52,379 (excludes long service increments)

Higher Executive Officer

1

Higher Executive Officer standard scale €44,314 – €56,250

Staff Officer

1

Staff Officer standard scale €33,258 – €44,407

Clerical Officer

2

Clerical Officer standard scale €22,058 – €35,773

Total

6

Constituency Office

Grade/Position

Number

Salary Scale

Personal Secretary (Non-established) (based in constituency)

1

Secretarial Assistant Scale €22,064 – €42,571 (Plus a 10% attraction allowance)

Staff Officer

1

Staff Officer standard scale €33,258 – €44,407

Clerical Officer

1

Clerical Officer standard scale €22,058 – €35,773

Clerical Officer (worksharing)

0.5

Clerical Officer standard scale €22,058 – €35,773

Clerical Officer

2

Clerical Officer PPC scale €23,221 – €37,652

Total

5.5

Minister of State, Mr. Míchael Kitt, T.D.

Private Office

Grade/Position

Number

Salary Scale

Executive Officer

1

Executive Officer PPC scale €30,628 – €48,594

Executive Officer

1

Executive Officer standard scale €29,093 – €46,167

Clerical Officer

2

Clerical Officer PPC scale €23,221 – €37,652

Clerical Officer (worksharing)

0.6

Clerical Officer PPC scale €23,221 – €37,652

Total

4.6

Constituency Office

Grade/Position

Number

Salary Scale

Personal Assistant (Non-established)

1

Parliamentary Assistant scale €39,112 – €49,685

Personal Secretary (Non-established) (based in constituency)

1

Secretarial Assistant Scale €22,064 – €42,571 (Plus a 10% attraction allowance)

Clerical Officer

1

Clerical Officer standard scale €22,058 – €35,773

Clerical Officer

2

Clerical Officer PPC scale €23,221 – €37,652

Total

5

The employment contract of the non-established officers referred to in these tables is coterminous with the appointment of the relevant office holder. Overtime, travel and subsistence expenses are paid in accordance with normal Civil Service regulations. Personal Pension Contribution (PPC) scales apply where officers were employed since 6 April 1995, pay class A rate of PRSI and make a personal pension contribution.

EU Directives.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

236 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the EU Directives awaiting incorporation into Irish law in his Department; the deadline for incorporation; the date he foresees for implementation of each directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27313/07]

My Department, which has an overall coordinating role in relation to EU matters, does not as a rule have responsibility for transposing EU measures into Irish law. Currently, there are no EU Directives awaiting incorporation into Irish law in my Department.

The Government remains firmly committed to the effective and timely transposition of EU Directives into Irish law. My colleague Mr Dick Roche, T.D., Minister of State for European Affairs, has reconstituted the Interdepartmental Coordinating Committee for European Affairs (ICCEUA), a high-level group which meets regularly and, inter alia, monitors the transposition of EU legislation.

The Department of the Taoiseach, in collaboration with other Departments, has created a special data base, which monitors and coordinates information relating to EU directives. This will serve as an important tool in enabling Ireland to meet deadlines for transposing EU measures.

Furthermore, the European Commission recently published a communication entitled A Europe of Results — Applying Community Law where it has proposed a pilot project on measures to improve the application of Community Law. Ireland is engaged in discussions with the Commission with a view to participating in the pilot project.

Business Regulation.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

237 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has made a commitment on behalf of Ireland to reduce the cost to business of national regulations by 25% by 2012 at the Spring European Council; the interim targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27172/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

244 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if Ireland has made a specific commitment to reduce the cost to business of national regulations by 25% by 2012 as called for at the Spring 2007 European Council meeting; the interim targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27151/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

248 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of times the High-Level Group on Business Regulation has met since the formation of the Government; the members of the group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27155/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

253 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when he will make his first annual report outlining the progress he has made in reducing administrative burdens on business as agreed at EU level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27160/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

254 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has responded to the agreement at EU level by setting a national target for the reduction of administrative burdens on business; the details of that target; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27161/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

257 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will use the international standards cost model in assessing the impact of regulation on industry and business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27164/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 237, 244, 248, 253, 254 and 257 together.

In March this year, the European Council agreed that "administrative burdens arising from EU legislation should be reduced by 25% by 2012. Taking into account the different starting points and traditions the European Council invites Member States to set their own national targets of comparable ambition within their spheres of competence by 2008."

Prior to the Taoiseach's departure for the Spring European Council, the Government agreed that I should lead the cross-Departmental and agency drive, and put in place a mechanism under the Secretary General of my Department, to drive this agenda at national level.

Before setting a definitive target, I intend to consult with other Departments and Agencies on the extent of administrative burdens and on measures that have been undertaken or are planned to reduce that burden.

As part of the effort at national level, earlier this year, I established the High-level Group on Business Regulation, under the chairmanship of the Secretary General of my Department. The High-level Group comprises representatives of Government Departments and Agencies, the business sector and a representative of ICTU. The members are:

Sean Gorman (Chairman)

Secretary General

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Liam Berney

Union Services Officer

Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Patricia Callan

Director, SFA

Small Firms Association

Marie Daly

Head of Legal and Regulatory Affairs

Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation

Pat Delaney

Director of Business Sectors

Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation

Gearoid Doyle

Founder

Kinsale Capital

Pat Farrell

Chief Executive Officer

Irish Bankers’ Federation

Mark Fielding

Chief Executive Officer

Irish Small and Medium Enterprises

Liam Irwin

Deputy Secretary, Strategic Planning Division

Revenue Commissioners

Philip Kelly

Assistant Secretary

Department of the Taoiseach

Irene Lynch Fannon

Professor of Law

Faculty and Department of Law, UCC

Steve MacFeely

Director, Business Statistics

Central Statistics Office

John O’Connell

Assistant Secretary

Department of Finance

Tom O’Mahony

Assistant Secretary

Department of the Environment and Local Government

Breda Power

Assistant Secretary

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

The High-level Group has decided to focus initially on ways to reduce, simplify and eliminate unnecessary administrative burdens and associated costs in five priority areas and will capture the savings arising from their work on a case by case basis. The five priority areas are:

Taxation,

Statistical Reporting

Environmental Regulations

Health and Safety Regulations, and

Company and Employment Law.

The five priority areas are those identified in the report of the Business Regulation Forum (BRF), published in April 2007. The approach being taken is in line with the BRF's recommendation that "given the resource implications associated with undertaking a full baseline measurement exercise, a prioritised and selective approach is the most realistic way forward for Ireland".

The High Level Group has met twice so far in 2007, on the 26th of July and the 2nd of October.

I expect the Group to submit an initial report to me by July 2008.

Visa Applications.

Denis Naughten

Question:

238 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, further to correspondence (details supplied) he will address the issues raised and have them addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26953/07]

A holder of a Green Card who previously held a work authorization / work visa issued by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform may in certain circumstances change employer within 12 months of issue of a Green Card.

This position has been conveyed to the applicant.

Community Employment Schemes.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

239 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the cut off age for community employment schemes will be extended to sixty years in view of the ageing population here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26987/07]

Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a fixed term basis. CE helps unemployed people to re-enter the open labour market by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to a work routine and to assist them to enhance/develop both their technical and personal skills.

The upper age limit for CE participants is 65 years.

With effect from 10 November 2004 those aged 55 years of age and over are eligible to participate on CE for a maximum period of 6 years, based on participation since 3rd April 2000. In June 2006 the participation limit for people with a disability was increased by 1 year. These measures were introduced in recognition of the fact that older participants and participants with a disability may find it more difficult to progress into the open labour market.

Work Permits.

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

240 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the case of a person (details supplied) who has applied for a green card permit will be processed as soon as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26996/07]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that a green card application was received in respect of the above named person. The permit was refused and the applicant subsequently lodged an appeal of the decision. The appeal was successful and a Green Card Permit has now been issued.

Job Creation.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

241 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures being taken to encourage new industry into a county (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26998/07]

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 individual industrial undertakings, or from giving preference to one area over others.

Through its range of overseas offices, IDA Ireland is actively promoting Co. Wexford for new and expansion investments. In line with the National Spatial Strategy, the Agency is concentrating its resources on the hub town of Wexford, as the location with the greatest potential to develop first class facilities for attracting overseas industry. At present in County Wexford, there are over 1,900 people working in 11 IDA supported companies. The Agency is actively engaged with its existing base of manufacturing companies in the County highlighting the importance of upskilling/reskilling and the need to add high-value activities in order to ensure their development and sustainability for the long-term.

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 terms of job creation, the Agency's activity is focused 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. Enterprise Ireland has 163 client companies in County Wexford, which employ a total of 3,603 people.

The Wexford County Enterprise Board (CEB) assists micro enterprises in the county and, during 2006, the Board grant-aided 28 projects resulting in the creation of 36 jobs.

I am satisfied that the co-operation between the State agencies, together with the roll out of the National Development Plan 2007-2013, will continue to bear fruit in terms of job creation and investment for the people of Wexford.

Employment Support Services.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

242 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the new programmes or approaches to training and employment for people with mental health problems that have been adopted or are definitively planned bearing in mind the high level of unemployment among people with mental health problems and the recommendations of the National Mental Health Policy Framework A Vision for Change. [27048/07]

FÁS offers a comprehensive menu of vocational training and employment supports for people with disabilities, consistent with current mainstreaming policy. People with disabilities are encouraged to apply for training and the appropriate supports are put in place to meet their particular individual needs. If people with disabilities cannot meet the requirements of mainline vocational training, with training supports, then the individual is referred to Specialist Training Provision contracted by FÁS. This is done on the basis of an occupational guidance interview with a FÁS Employment Services Officer as Employment Services are the "Gateway" for all FÁS services.

As of 1st November 2007, all clients with a disability presenting to FÁS will be registered with Employment Services. This will enable FÁS to track and support clients with a disability in a more systematic way with the objective of providing better labour market outcomes. Accordingly they will deal with a named Employment Support Officer/Local Employment Service mediator in all their contacts with FÁS. Their applications are considered priority for FÁS training courses, access to additional supports under the High Support Process and under FÁS's Technical Employment Support Grants.

A working group has been established to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the Indecon Report. It relates specifically to services contracted out to specialist training providers by FÁS. The focus of this working group is on achieving greater efficiencies and value for money in relation to the significant levels of public funding being allocated to such training providers each year.

The recommendations in the recently published "Framework for the Training and Employment of People with Mental Health Difficulties", published by the Mental Health Forum, are being considered for implementation. In this regard FÁS will be giving particular attention to:

The introduction of new supports, or the adaptation of existing ones, with a view to further improving training options available to people with disabilities.

Introducing bridging programmes to assist the transition between rehabilitative and open vocational training and

Enhancing the prospects for the placement of people with disabilities in the open labour market.

EU Directives.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

243 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will report on Ireland’s progress in transposing the EU internal market directives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27149/07]

A fully functioning Single Market is of crucial importance for growth, competitiveness and employment in Europe and, in this respect, the timely and correct transposition of EU Internal Market Directives into national law plays a vitally important role.

The European Commission's Internal Market Scoreboard, published twice a year, highlights how successful each Member State has been in conforming to the transposition deadlines of Internal Market legislation. At the moment, each Member State is required to have 98.5% of its Internal Market Directives transposed by the due date, i.e. a deficit of no more than 1.5%. The European Council has imposed a new deficit target of 1% to apply from 2009.

Ireland's transposition deficits since the first Internal Market Scoreboard was published in November 1997 are set out in the table below. It is anticipated that Ireland's deficit rating for the December 2007 Scoreboard will be under the 1.5% target.

Internal Market Scoreboard — Irish Deficits

Date

Deficit Rating

Date

Deficit Rating

%

%

Nov 1997

5.4

May 1998

5.4

Nov 1998

5.8

May 1999

3.9

Nov 1999

4.4

May 2000

4

Nov 2000

3.6

May 2001

3.3

Nov 2001

2.4

May 2002

2.4

Nov 2002

2.6

May 2003

3.5

No Scoreboard

July 2004

1.2

No Scoreboard

July 2005

1.6

Dec 2005

1.8

July 2006

2.0

Dec 2006

1.2

July 2007

1.7

Dec 2007

Question No. 244 answered with QuestionNo. 237.

Single Market Review.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

245 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the EU single market review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27152/07]

The Internal (or Single) Market is one of the European Union's most significant achievements. It has created jobs and stimulated growth. It has created an agreed set of rules for businesses that now have access to a market of 500 million consumers. It has generated high quality safety standards and has offered consumers (including business consumers) a wider choice of goods and services at lower prices. Despite its achievements, however, it is still not a fully functioning entity.

The Commission's Interim Report on the Single Market, entitled A Single Market for Citizens, was presented to the March 2007 European Council. It stressed that the Single Market must be a market for consumers and citizens; for an integrated European economy; for a knowledge society; for a well-regulated Europe; for a sustainable Europe; and for a Europe that must be open to the world.

The Commission's Final Report is likely to state that the internal market should focus on issues that affect the everyday lives of consumers and businesses, such as telecommunications, energy and retail financial services. It is likely to refer to the need to support SMEs due to the difficulties that small businesses often experience in negotiating the Single Market. It is also likely to refer to the need for more progress in the area of services, including the transposition of the Services Directive. It is likely to make reference to the social and environmental dimension of internal market policy. In that regard, new approaches are necessary (for example, transition towards a low-carbon economy) if the EU's citizens are to be able to meet the challenges of the future. The Report is also likely to refer to the international dimension of the Single Market, which would make Europe more attractive for foreign investors and allow Europe to take a leading role when global rules and standards are being defined.

Ireland has contributed to the Review through our participation in the various European fora at which it was discussed. In addition, my Department asked Forfas to undertake a critical assessment of the Single Market from an Irish perspective. The study addresses where the real barriers are and what is preventing Irish businesses and consumers from exploiting the Single Market to its full potential. The study, which will be available to my Department shortly, will contribute to Ireland's position in the discussions following the publication of the Report.

I look forward to the publication of the Commission's Final Report, which is expected to be published later this month. As a trading nation, we can only benefit from a fully functioning Single Market that addresses the remaining areas that need to be tackled and whose rules are applied in a fair, transparent and timely fashion. A fully functioning Single Market will also increase the confidence of citizens, consumers and businesses in the institutions of the EU generally and in its future.

Company Law Review.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

246 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, with regard to the on-going review of company law, he will implement any amendment to company law with regard to residential management companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27153/07]

The Government has approved the drafting by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel of the Companies Consolidation and Reform Bill along the lines of the General Scheme prepared by the Company Law Review Group.

The General Scheme was designed to provide an appropriate framework for the formation and operation of companies and is framed primarily with private, commercially operating, companies in mind. The underlying philosophy behind the proposals in the General Scheme is to simplify company law for the benefit of business operators and company law practitioners.

Recognising the role that company law could play in relation to property management companies, the Company Law Review Group consulted widely on its proposals and gave specific consideration to that aspect. As a result, the General Scheme contains a number of provisions with the express intention of facilitating the use of the company structure by multi-unit developments. For example, the membership limit of 99 which will ordinarily apply to the most common company type, the private company limited by shares, will not apply in the case of a residential management company. Also, the membership of a residential management company will be deemed to transfer from the vendor to the purchaser upon the sale of the underlying property to which the membership relates. These proposals represent very specific carve-outs from the general provisions concerning the standard private company limited by shares.

Export Licensing.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

247 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has committed to implementing all the recommendations of the Forfás report on the export of armaments and dual-use items with particular reference to the non-legislative recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27154/07]

As indicated by my colleague, Minister McGuinness, in the Dáil debate on 4 October on the Control of Exports Bill, my Department has acted on the non-legislative recommendations of the Forfás review on the export licensing of military and dual-use goods in Ireland.

The export licensing function has remained with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, as recommended by the review. However, much has been done to improve coordination with the other Government Departments and state agencies in particular the Department of Foreign Affairs which is consulted on all licence applications with foreign policy considerations and the Customs authorities of the Revenue Commissioners. In this regard, an official has been seconded by the Department of Foreign Affairs to a senior managerial role in the Licensing Unit of my Department.

It is my intention to transform the Inter Departmental Group established to oversee production of the Report this group into a standing Inter Departmental Committee which will take forward responsibility for coordinating the work of the Departments and agencies in the area of export control. A priority of the Inter Departmental Group is the establishment of a Technical Advisory Panel to act as a specialist resource for my Department on technical questions related to the licensing process.

Acting on the recommendation of the Forfás Review, a project to develop an online export licensing system has been underway for the past year and the system, OELAS, will be released to exporters in the next few weeks. My Department has developed an outreach to industry programme for export control. A good working relationship has been established with individual companies and with appropriate umbrella organisations and they are regularly briefed on the latest developments in this sector. My Department organised the first ever export control seminar for exporters of controlled goods in June 2006 in Farmleigh, at which a Users Guide and Customers Charter to Export Licensing was launched.

In conclusion, I would like to reassure the House that I remain committed to implementing the recommendations of the Forfás report.

Question No. 248 answered with QuestionNo. 237.

EU Directives.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

249 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the Services Directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27156/07]

The Directive on Services in the internal market (Directive 2006/123/EC) is a major piece of internal market legislation. It creates a "single market" for commercial services and is a key provision of the Lisbon Agenda. It provides a framework for service providers to become established in another Member State or to provide services there on a temporary basis. It strengthens the rights of consumers as users of services. It establishes legally binding obligations for administrative co-operation between Member States in connection with the activities of service providers availing of the Single Market outside their own Member State.

The Directive has significant implications for the development of the services sector in Ireland. Trade-related services, other business services and recreational services will benefit from the opening up of the European market. Some services sectors will face competition from abroad, which will spur greater innovation and productivity in those sectors. Indeed, much of the benefit of the Directive will result from increased competition in the European services market, which will create new export opportunities for Irish service providers and make services available to Irish consumers (including business consumers) at lower prices. The overall effect will be beneficial for the Irish economy, including its competitiveness.

Transposition of the Directive is currently underway in my Department. There will be extensive consultations with stakeholders, including the social partners, over the next twelve months. A Regulatory Impact Assessment is also being prepared on the Directive. The target date for the transposition of the Directive is 28th December 2009.

Work Permits.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

250 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount his Department has accrued in fees paid with respect to work permit applications and renewals for each of the past five years; if he has plans to increase or reduce the level of these charges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27157/07]

I set out below receipts for employment permit fees paid for each of the past 5 years:

Year

€m

2002

14.509

2003

20.216

2004

12.864

2005

11.603

2006

10.624

I have no plans at this time to increase or reduce the fees applicable for employment permit applications.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

251 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the length of time it takes on average for his Department to issue a work permit from the time the application has been received; if he is satisfied with the length of time taken; if he will introduce measures to speed up the process; if he has set targets or benchmarks in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27158/07]

The following table illustrates the current processing time for Employment Permits applications. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that we are meeting our customer service targets for Green Cards and Intra Company Transfers. The current processing time for Work Permits is 18 days and for Spousal Permits 22 days. Staff have been redeployed in the last 3 days to process Spousal Permits and Work Permits in order to bring these Employment applications within our target processing times.

Permit Type

Customer Service Target (days)

Position at 02 November 2007 (days)

Work Permits

15

18

Spousal Permits

15

22

Green Cards

15

13

ICTs

15

2

Regulatory Impact Assessments.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

252 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the mechanism used to calculate the cost to business of new regulations when his Department carries out a regulatory impact assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27159/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

256 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the section of his Department responsible for carrying out regulatory impact assessments; if he will explain the process and methodology used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27163/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 252 and 256 together.

Regulatory impact assessments are carried out by the Section responsible for the regulation in question. In so doing, the Section draws on the Regulatory Impact Analysis Guidelines published by the Department of the Taoiseach in October 2005, which includes guidelines on cost/benefit analysis. Within my own Department a dedicated toolkit has also been prepared to help Sections to undertake the RIA process.

Questions Nos. 253 and 254 answered with Question No. 237.

EU Directives.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

255 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when the UCITS Directive will be transposed into Irish law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27162/07]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the most recent amendment of the UCITS directives, namely EU Commission Directive 2007/16/EC of 19th March 2007 implementing Council Directive 85/611/EEC on the coordination of laws, regulations and administrative provisions relating to undertakings for collective investments in transferable securities (UCITS) as regards the clarification of certain definitions.

Member States are required to transpose this amending Directive into national law by 23rd March 2008. Ireland expects to complete the necessary transposition process ahead of this deadline by the end of 2007. The earlier UCITS directives have already been transposed into Irish law.

Question No. 256 answered with QuestionNo. 252.
Question No. 257 answered with QuestionNo. 237.

Ministerial Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

258 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of staff in his constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27206/07]

The breakdown of the staffing complement of those currently employed in my constituency office is outlined in the Table below together with the total annual salaries, and total annual allowances pertaining to each category, i.e. civil servants and non civil service staff. Expenses relate to the period 01/01/07 up to the present day. Costs do not include any overtime which may be worked.

Staff

Number & Grade

Total Annual Salaries

Total Annual Allowances

Expenses

Civil Servants

2 Clerical Officers 1 Clerical Officer, w/s (.8)

102,967.00

290.19

Non Civil Servants

1 Personal Assistant 1 Personal Secretary, w/s (.6) 1 Personal Secretary, w/s (.5)

102,587.00

4,174

Leo Varadkar

Question:

259 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of staff in his private office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non-civil service staff; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27221/07]

The breakdown of the staffing complement of those currently employed in my private office is outlined in the Table below together with the total annual salaries and total annual allowances pertaining to each category, i.e. civil servants and non civil service staff. Expenses relate to the period 01/01/07 up to the present day. Costs do not include any overtime which may be worked.

Staff

Number & Grade

Total Annual Salaries

Total Annual Allowances

Expenses

Civil Servants

1 Private Secretary (HEO) 2 Executive Officers 5 Clerical Officers

278,496.00

19,690.08

4,727.13

Non Civil Servants

1 Special Adviser 1 Policy Adviser 1 Press Adviser

266,325.00

8,895.00

8,011.64

Leo Varadkar

Question:

260 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number, for each Minister of State assigned to his Department, of staff in their constituency office; the number of these who are civil servants; the number who are not; the cost to the Exchequer of the salaries and expenses in a full year for the civil servants and non civil service staff; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27236/07]

The breakdown of the staffing complement of those currently employed in the constituency offices of the three Ministers of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is outlined in Table 1 below.

Table 1

Minister of State

Civil Servants

Non Civil Servants

Office of the Minister of State for Labour Affairs (Mr. Billy Kelleher T.D.)

Nil

1 Personal Assistant 1 Personal Secretary

Office of the Minister for Innovation Policy (Mr. Michael Ahern T.D.)

1 Clerical Officer

1 Personal Assistant 1 Personal Secretary